For disclaimers see part one.
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Many thanks to those reading. Heres part 11
Something I Said
Elmer jumped to his feet like a man forty years his junior. "Im sorry bout yer nose, but the good Lord works in mysterious ways! He musta wanted you to stay home from work today. Now you git cleaned up an come on over. And dont worry about bringing nothin, you done plenty already."
He patted me on the back and I groaned at the jarring sensation it caused in my head.
"Come on, Mary, we got work to do!" he called to her as he headed out the door.
"Im coming," she mumbled but didnt move from where she still stood by the bathroom door.
I looked up at her, curious as to why she was hadnt gone with Elmer. I thought about how she had been the first one to come over that morning and was going to ask her about it when she spoke.
"Are you all right?"
I snorted and immediately regretted it. "I guess Ive been through worse," I told her through a grimace of pain. I ignored it and studied Ellison and the curiously shy look on her face. It was quite becoming and I hated myself for thinking such a thing. I bit my tongue and looked away.
"I think your eyes are going to be black."
I chuckled wryly at that, wondering what difference it made to her. "It wouldnt be the first time they looked like that. I bet I look like something out of one of those scary stories you write, huh?"
Her eyes narrowed and she frowned. "How do you know about that?"
I shrugged. "I saw one of your books the day I got thrown in jail. It surprised me so much that my mouth started going and scared those poor girls into hitting the panic button."
I didnt know why I was telling her about that. I guessed that some part of me wanted her to feel bad for it. I felt guilty for mentioning it but it was too late to do anything about that.
"I see," Ellison spoke finally, her face settling into a stoic mask. "Well, I guess I better go help Grandpa. Hell be wondering where I am."
Before she could get all the way out the door I stopped her. "Why did you come over this morning, anyway?"
She paused, not turning to meet my eyes. "I wanted to warn you that Grandpa was coming over to invite you to dinner, to give you time to figure out what you would say to him. I thought youd want to stick to your plan." With that she closed the door and returned to Elmers.
I dabbed at my nose with the stained towel. The flow of blood had almost completely stopped and I had a horrible taste in the back of my throat. But that didnt compare to the nasty taste Ellisons last words had left there.
"Stick to my plan," I muttered and tossed the towel to the floor. "I thought thats what you wanted!" I yelled in frustration though I knew the only thing to hear me would be the cockroaches that had hidden until Ellison and Elmer left.
I didnt know what Ellison wanted from me and I was getting weary trying to figure it out. When it came to her, I was so confused that if I had Alzheimers it would be easier to figure out what was going on with her. And then I was supposed to go over there and like everything was normal?
"Good grief," I mumbled in disgust. "Whats next?"
I almost didnt want to know.
Forty minutes later, I had showered and cleaned the bloody murder mess in the bathroom. The more I thought about the day ahead of me, the worse my nerves were acting up. I had been blurting out obscenities for the past twenty minutes, even when nothing was happening. I only hoped that I would be struck mute before the day was over.
As I ran a brush through my unruly raven hair, I marveled at the dark circles already forming under my eyes. Yep, I would definitely be the neighborhood raccoon. Probably a rabid one at that. I envisioned myself hissing at the neighbors if they got too close and laughed. Maybe they would call the animal police and I would be rescued from this cat fart on a stick nightmare. A loud banging on the wall brought me back to reality. Yeah right. Like I would ever get that lucky.
"Im coming!" I yelled and took one last look in the mirror before going to Elmers apartment.
"Its about time!" he complained when I let myself in. "Ellison had to go to the store an git some butter and I need help stuffing this bird before Christmas is over!"
I approached his work station at the counter cautiously, sure something would jump up and come after me. The sight of the raw turkey made my stomach churn and I took an involuntary step back.
"Dont think fer one second that the look on yer face is gonna get you outta helpin. Now wash up and git over here."
The look on his face left no room for debate so I went to the sink and washed my hands. After drying them on my pants, I went to his side and grimaced.
"You actually want me to touch that thing?"
"Yep. And thats not all."
I rolled my eyes and watched as he used his hands to stir the stuffing mix. I waited for him to continue his rant.
"First, get a hand full of that stuffing and shove it inside that bird til its full. Second, explain to me why Ellison was so upset when she came back from your place last night. I thought you two were supposed to work things out." He eyed me suspiciously before moving to another counter covered in various fresh vegetables.
I stopped, a hand full of stuffing half way to the birds nether parts. I felt like a gangrenous deer in the headlights.
"Keep stuffing!" he scolded. "If you wanna eat today that bird has to get done. Now what happened?"
My hand continued on its obscene journey and I dared glance at Elmer long enough to see the old man had started chopping the vegetables in a deadly manner. I could just imagine what must be going through his mind and I gulped.
"Well- I thought we did work things out."
"Nonsense. If things was worked out, how come she was so upset when she came back? And why are you acting like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs?"
My shoulders slumped. This was going to be difficult.
"I dont know why she was so upset, Elmer," I answered through a sigh. "I told her what I thought she wanted to hear. I guess that wasnt good enough," I muttered as I unceremoniously crammed the last of the stuffing into the hideous beast.
"What do you mean, what she wanted to hear?"
I turned around and faced him. His back was still turned to me and I leaned against the counter, holding my gross hands up so they wouldnt touch anything.
"Come on, old man. You know she hates me. Every time were around each other something else happens. You said so yourself."
He stopped hacking the vegetables and looked at me. "What did you tell her that you thought she wanted to hear?"
I let out a deep breath. "I told her that wed pretend everything was okay and that Id make it a point to not be around here when she was. That way there would be no more fighting if we didnt have to see each other."
I looked sheepishly at the floor. Hearing that solution out loud reminded me how asinine and juvenile my solution really sounded.
"Well no wonder she was upset," he mumbled and turned back to the pile of veggies hed been murdering for dinner.
"What?" I asked with narrowed eyes. Something about the way hed said that made no sense at all.
"Nothing. Just leave it be."
"No, I wont leave it be. What do you mean?" I moved quickly to his side and grabbed the hand he held the knife with, forcing him to look me in the eye.
"Connor, if it was any more obvious it would be tattooed inside yer eyelids," he grumbled irritably. "She doesnt hate you."
I opened my mouth to protest when the subject of discussion came in the front door carrying a large grocery bag. When she saw me she looked at the ground and stopped what ever it was she had been about to say.
"Hi honey, did you get everything all right?"
"Sure Grandpa," she answered softly and deposited the brown bag on the table. "What do you want me to do next?" she asked as she took off her coat.
I watched their interaction for the next few minutes, Elmers words ringing in my head like a broken telephone. It was completely insane. Ellison didnt like me any more than she liked the crap that usually poured out of my mouth when I was around her. The old man must have finally flipped his bean- it was just plain impossible. But something inside wouldnt let me quit stewing over it. A spark inside had been lit that I didnt think would quickly die out. It was the spark of hope, and as ridiculous as it sounded, I didnt have the courage to stamp it out. Shaking my head, I washed my hands and helped finish dinner.
As the day wore on, I kept a silent vigil over Ellisons actions. I caught her looking at me more than once and when I did, she would look quickly away. And once, during dinner, our hands touched as she passed me the salt shaker. Her face turned the cutest shade of red as Im sure mine did- it was like an electrical current had run through my body.
When dinner was over, I helped clean the kitchen and put food away, stuffed from a great meal. Elmer fixed a plate for a less fortunate neighbor and went out to deliver it, leaving Ellison and I momentarily alone. We were sitting on opposite ends of the couch watching TV when Ellison spoke.
"Is there anything in particular youd like to see?"
"Uh, Im not really picky," I answered, finding it nearly impossible to concentrate with her so near anyway. "Whatever is fine with me."
She became silent again as she began to search through the channels. I was so uncomfortable that I was about to crawl out of my skin and start cussing again. The urge to say something to cut through the thickness of the air was overwhelming.
"Dinner was pretty good, wasnt it?" I managed to choke out.
Oh good one dork, I chastised myself the minute the words left my lips.
"Yes, it was."
When she said nothing more I began to pray to whatever gods were listening that Elmer would hurry up and get back before I made a complete ass out of myself.
"Are you staying for dessert? Grandpa makes some mean pumpkin pies."
I wasnt sure what to think about that question- I couldnt tell if she asked because she really wanted me to stay or because she wanted me out of there. But I was glad that she was at least talking.
"Im sure full," I answered in confusion, "but I think I have enough room for dessert."
She chuckled and totally disarmed me. "When I was a kid, it didnt matter how much dinner I ate. I always had room for Grandpas pies. Mom used to bribe me with them to get me to eat!"
I smiled. "Elmer told me your family used to have big get-togethers. It sounds like they were a lot of fun."
I could not believe it- two intelligent sounding sentences and not a bit of profanity in sight. What was happening to me?
"They were. What about your family? What did they do at the holidays?"
So much for good conversation.
"Uh, well We had big dinners and all." I didnt want to have to tell her how they really went so I didnt offer any more information in hopes that she would get the picture. No such luck.
"Really? Did you have a lot of family around?"
I grew silent as my mind whisked me back to the days when I had still lived with my parents. Family functions were some of my worst memories, and I wasnt sure I wanted to tell someone that I didnt get along with about them. Before I could open my mouth to tell her that, Ellison beat me to it.
"Look, I was just trying to make conversation. If you dont want to talk about it, just tell me!"
The anger flashing in her eyes did me in. I couldnt even think of what to say to the woman without her getting defensive and starting an argument. So much for believing what Elmer had said about her not hating me. I decided to let her have it.
"No, you look, Ellison Woodrow! Nobody said anything about not wanting to talk. You jumped to that toe jam on a band-aid conclusion yourself! So let me tell you what it was that I didnt want to talk about!"
I took a deep breath, got to my feet, and plunged forward before she could a word in edgewise. "My family functions consisted of a bunch of rich, snobby assholes who didnt give a horse shit on a park bench about anything but themselves and this perfect image they were supposed to have. Imagine my parents disappointment when their only daughter couldnt make it through a meal without causing some sort of disturbance and ruining everyones perfect Christmas! And then, when dear old Mother decided I was dong it on purpose because I had some crotch rot vendetta against her, that was the last straw. I didnt spend the holidays with my family after that! I spent them with some crazy nanny who could have taught Hitler a few things about torture!"
I was yelling at that point but I didnt care. All the old emotions had come flooding back and I didnt care what the memory of my childhood was doing to the now of my life. I didnt even care about the look of utter horror plastered to Ellisons face.
"So next time you think that someone doesnt want to talk to you, you should make damn sure it isnt because something might be hard to talk about!"
I stood there panting when it dawned on me that I had just spilled my guts in front of both Ellison and Elmer. I hadnt heard him come in and both of them appeared to be feeling really sorry for me right about then.
That was more than I could handle. My instincts were screaming at me that it was time to get out of there because I was turning into the charity case of the year right before my very eyes. I looked frantically back and forth between the two of them, the urge to run overwhelming me. I was turning for the door when Elmers stern voice stopped me.
"Connor! Dont you dare run off."
"I stood perfectly still, letting the echo of his voice in my mind wash over me and still me and hold me in place.
"Ellison! Whyd you have to pick at her?" he scolded her as he led me to the couch and sat me down.
"I didnt pick at her, Elmer," Ellison retorted hotly.
"Mary, you watch yer tone with me!" he shot back irritably.
I didnt dare look at either one of them, afraid my raw emotions would unwind the rest of the way and leave me boo-hooing mess. Instead, I rubbed my palms over the material of my green sweats and took a deep breath.
"Elmer, she didnt pick at me," I mumbled. They continued arguing until I spoke again.
"She didnt pick at me!" I yelled and stood up again.
Elmer and Ellison were both silent as they watched me stand, probably wondering what in pickled goose bumps on an aardvarks nose I was going to do next. I didnt even know what that would be. I just knew that the constant bickering between Ellison and I was getting the best of me. Or should I have said the worst? I wanted to know if what Elmer said was true, and I wanted her to know that there was a better person inside of me if she could just get past well, me. Perhaps there was a chance we could be friends after all. I knew she would never like me as more than that. I felt a strange compulsion to reach out.
Taking a deep breath, I said, "Look, Ellison, Im sorry I snapped at you. Its just that the holidays have always been a hard time for me and I didnt really want to talk about it. I should have just said that instead of letting you jump to your own conclusions."
Ellisons mouth opened and closed then opened again. She looked quite taken aback. I think the look on her face summed up how I felt about the whole situation.
She raised an eyebrow and scratched her head as she spoke to me. "It- its okay, Connor. I- I suppose I should have given you a chance to explain before I got upset."
I smiled at her and Elmer. "Now that we have that worked out, maybe we could have some of that grasshopper poop in a whore house pumpkin pie?"
Elmer grimaced and Ellison politely covered the beginnings of a grin with her hand. I guess not everything could be perfect, but it was a start.
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