For disclaimers see parts 1 and 2a.
Special thanks to Jessie, as always, for keeping me on track and constructive criticism. This story would be nothing without her. And my thanks to those reading and feeding.
Feedback is always welcome at email@example.comForgive the delinquency in posting- illness is something I was not planning on. On with the story.
Something I Said
The holiday season came and went without any further complications of the precarious relationship Ellison and I had. She left town shortly after New Years to promote her newest book and I went about my life as usual. I returned to work and Elmer and I got together for dinner a couple of nights a week. I thought about of asking him about Ellison several times, but never did. We had put him through enough turmoil and I thought it best to let it be.
As spring rolled around and things started greening up, I was busier than ever at the dispatch service. There were yards to be cleaned, trash to be hauled, and plenty of people who didn't want to do it themselves. I was thankful for the change in season, partly because it had been a long, cold winter, and partly because I kept so busy that I didn't have much time to think about Ellison Woodrow and the way she made me feel.
As I wandered home from work one warm evening, I stopped off at a supermarket to get something to eat. It had been a long time since I had done any real shopping and I was sure the cockroaches were getting ready to pack their bags and head for greener pastures.
As I wandered down the aisles looking for something that sounded good enough to eat, I stumbled across the paperback section. There, on the top rack, was a copy of Ellison's newest novel. I picked it up and glanced at the back cover to see what she had written about. The picture of her there distracted me and I found myself staring into her eyes. She looked so sad in the picture, and I felt my heart lurch at the thought of it. I wondered what on Earth could make her that way- after all, she was a famous writer that probably made oodles of money and didn't have to worry much about things.
"You shouldn't read that trash, it'll rot your brains out."
"Leprosy rot on a maggot's ass!" I yelped, jumping at least three feet into the air. The book went flying out of my hand into a nearby display of cracker boxes, which in turn tumbled to the floor with a clatter. A young boy tripped over one of the boxes and went flying ass over teakettle into an old woman, who naturally dropped the carton of eggs she had been holding. Along came the store manager, a mean spirited man I had hoped to never meet again, who slipped in the egg mess and landed flat on his back. When he sat up with a groan, his face was an angry shade of purple. I watched the whole ordeal happen in slow motion and it dawned on me that once again, Ellison was the cause of a total nuclear meltdown in my life.
I turned around to see the look of slack-jawed shock etched into the features I had missed so much in the last several months. I was just about to tell her so when a large hand grabbed my shoulder and jerked me roughly around. I found myself looking into the not so friendly face of the manager and the egg that was slowly dripping down the side of his face.
"You!" he growled, and I hoped the police would be able to recognize what was left of me when he was through for a decent burial. The last time I had been this close to the irate man was when I had inadvertently knocked him off a ladder while he had been restocking shelves. It wasn't my fault that a spider had picked that moment to drop from the ceiling and land on my nose.
I swallowed hard and tried to back away but his iron grip prevented that. My pathetic life began to flash before my eyes and I realized that I had nothing to show for it but the use of precious oxygen that productive members of society could have used better than I had.
"I thought I told you I didn't ever want to see your foul mouth here again!" he roared. It was a minor detail that could easily have been overlooked.
I figured that was my cue to get the hell out of Dodge before things got really ugly. I wrenched my shoulder free from his grasp and tried to bolt for the front doors, but I realized a little too late that there was another obstacle blocking my way.
I plowed into Ellison and felt myself tumbling over on top of her. My first thought was that it was some terrible cosmic joke that this was the only way I would ever know what it was like to press my weight against her. It was too bad that the only reason she was writhing beneath me was to get out from under the clumsy ass doofus that knocked her for a loop to begin with. My second thought was that I was done for. That crazy store manager would get me this time.
"Run, I'll distract him," Ellison whispered in my ear.
I stared at her, paralyzed by the goose bumps racing down my arms.
"Go!" she hissed and began to shove me off her.
I scrambled to my feet and dashed down the aisle, ignoring the shocked expressions of the shoppers who had seen the whole ordeal. Behind me, I could hear Ellison yelling at the top of her lungs that did they know who she was and that she'd never shop there again.
When I made it through the front doors I kept running. I needed the fresh air after being so close to the object of my dreams and absolute disaster all at the same time. I felt exhilarated, mortified, and alive over and over again until I thought I would explode. I cussed the whole way home and for one did not feel guilty about the things I had no control over.
After arriving at the apartment complex, I bounded up the stairs and went straight to Elmer's. I let myself in, profanity making its merry way out of my mouth as fast as I could get the words formed. The old man glanced up from the paper he had been reading, a confused look on his face.
"Usually that much cussing means trouble, Connor. But judging by the look on yer face, I'd say that wasn't so. What's goin' on?" He folded up the paper, set it down, and waited patiently for me to settle down.
I took a deep breath and related the supermarket incident to him, minus how it had felt to have Ellison trapped beneath me. I concluded by saying that I had come to his place to wait for her so I could properly thank her for saving my castrated lamb ass.
Elmer smiled at me. "I'll be damned. You two are finally getting along. Who'd have thought?"
I smiled back at him, truly happy for this newest turn of events. It brought me back to the night, months earlier, that he told me Ellison didn't hate me and told him that he had been right.
He smiled as gently as his wrinkled features would allow. "She's my granddaughter, Connor. I oughtta know."
"It wasn't that I didn't believe you," I began as I sat on the edge of the couch. "It was just… well, we could never get along. I always thought she hated me because no matter what I did, we always fought."
The old man winked at me. "Did you ever think that maybe it wasn't what you did, but what you didn't do?"
I frowned, wondering what sort of hemorrhoid on a rock statement that was. I didn't get much time to think on it because a few seconds later, Ellison burst through the door with a shit-eating grin.
"Was that guy pissed or what?" she asked in excitement as she flung her jacket over the back of the couch and sat on the arm of Elmer's recliner. "I thought he was going to kill you! Why does he hate you so much?"
I grimaced and began the tale of how the manger and I had met the last time. Elmer and Ellison were laughing hysterically by the time I finished relating the incident. I couldn't help but grin myself.
"So he told me if he ever caught me in there again, he'd have me arrested on any charge he could get me for, maybe even some I wasn't even guilty of."
"And you went back in there?" Ellison asked, her nose crinkled beautifully in disbelief.
I stammered for a moment, afraid the palpitations in my chest would drop me to the floor like a ton of turtle shit. I had to look away from her before I could speak again.
"I figured he would have forgotten by now- that was two douche bag years ago."
She chuckled and put her arm around Elmer's neck. "What do you two say to dinner on me since I was the reason Connor was almost arrested again?"
I cringed, not at all proud that she had seen some of the most unsavory moments of my life. When I looked into her eyes, I knew she meant no harm but I still had a hard time dealing with it.
"I'd love to Mary, but I already ate dinner and the horse I rode in on," Elmer answered apologetically as he rubbed his belly. "Maybe next time."
Ellison pouted and turned to me. "My treat. Come on, it'll be fun!"
I considered the ordeal I had just gone through at the store and was about to say no when I changed my mind. Who was I turn down the most stunning creature to walk the earth? Against my better judgment I agreed, and soon we were off.
After being seated at a table in a nice downtown restaurant, I heaved out a sigh of relief. Getting there had been more exciting than dealing with the irate manager from the store. Ellison's driving had left much to be desired and reminded me of a book I had been read as a child- Toad's Wild Ride, or something like that.
We had had to sit in the parking lot for twenty minutes before I dared to leave her car. I was practically foaming at the mouth and all the while Ellison was trying hard not to take offense to the vile things I was saying. She was being a real trooper about it, as far as I could tell.
"So what do you think?"
"My opinion hasn't changed- your driving still sucks."
She reached across the table and swatted my arm in mock offense. "It wasn't my fault that guy was jaywalking. Maybe next time he'll use the crosswalk." She stuck her tongue out at me and I felt my temperature rise sixty degrees.
"What do you mean, next time? He'll never walk again," I retorted dryly, trying to hide the fact that I was sweating bullets at what she was doing to my hormones.
"Funny. I meant, what do you think of the restaurant?"
"Oohhh, that." I smacked myself in the forehead. "It's nice," I commented as I glanced around and took in the plush décor and nicely dressed patrons. I felt a little underdressed, but Ellison had assured me earlier that it wouldn't be a problem. "A bit ritzy for my tastes, but at least they don't know to have the bouncers throw me out before I ever get a seat."
"You know, you're amazing," she said after a minute of silence.
I'm sure the look I was giving her made her wonder if something was hanging out of her nose but she held her ground. Her scrutiny sent color streaming into my cheeks.
"I mean it, Connor. Not everyone with your condition would be brave enough to venture out into the real world and make it like you have."
"Not every one with my condition has been let out of the loony bin, either." I wasn't sure where she was going with this and it was starting to make me fidget.
She made a face and continued. "What got you out there? Seriously."
I sat back in my chair and sighed. "That is serious."
"You don't have to tell me if it's too personal," the writer told me gently after several quiet minutes.
I was ready to tell her it was too personal when the hostess showed up and offered us menus. Ellison's gaze never faltered and somehow that comforted me. It was like I had a rock to cling to in the middle of a stormy sea. It dawned on me then that most of my stormy seas were of my own doing and I decided that sharing with someone might be the outlet I had been missing. When the hostess left, I decided it was time to set sail.
"Well, I left home at age eighteen, just like any normal kid."
"Somehow I suspect that your life was anything but normal. Really Connor, what happened?"
I let out a deep breath. How could I explain that the icing on the cake had been when I told my parents I was gay? I looked deep into her green eyes and hoped that she accept that truth about me. After all, it was my quietest personality trait.
"My parents weren't particularly pleased with this rolling bag of farts ailment of mine. It was too much for them to handle in their high class society."
Ellison raised an eyebrow and I continued. "As I've told you, my parents are rich. And bigoted. When I told them just after I turned eighteen that I'm gay, that was it." I held my breath and closed my eyes before continuing. I didn't want to see how she'd be looking at me. "They sent me packing. So to avoid the 'homes' or state check every month, I've been trying to keep a job long enough to make my own way. I haven't heard from them since the day I left."
I looked down at my hands and discovered that they had shredded the napkin I'd been holding. When Ellison's warm hand covered them, I looked up at her in trepidation.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that. It wasn't fair."
My eyes widened that she hadn't shown any sign of repulsion at my confession. She was smiling brightly and I didn't know what for. I decided to change the subject before she had time to think about it and decide it grossed her out.
"What about you, Miss Famous Author? How did you get where you are today?"
Ellison's features darkened but recovered quickly. "Lucky breaks, I guess."
"Come on, you didn't let me off that easily," I reminded her.
"You're right." She took a sip of the wine she had ordered and continued. "Okay, this is the Reader's Digest condensed version. I always loved to write, and in high school, two of my English teachers worked hard to help me fine-tune my skills. After I got into college on a scholarship for it, and got a job at a newspaper. After I graduated, I began to write horror in my spare time. It scared one of my friends so much that he suggested I try to get it published. And the rest, as they say, is on the bookstands."
She smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. I suspected that somewhere in that tale she had left out what happened to make her so touchy about her work. But since she hadn't mentioned it, I decided not to pry. I was just happy to be having a normal conversation with her and didn't want to ruin it.
Our dinner was served a short time later and the rest of the evening was spent in quiet conversation. We had had a little wine with dinner, and the fact that I never drank helped relax me a little. I didn't feel so awkward around her, and aside from a few naughty words here and there, I had managed not to ruin the meal or get us thrown out of the restaurant.
We were on our way out to the car when a woman stopped her and asked for her autograph, saying that she had read every book Ellison had ever written. By the time we made it to her car, Ellison's whole demeanor had changed. She seemed sullen and withdrawn.
I waited until we got in before I said anything. Her mood didn't seem to have any intention of improving and I was becoming more concerned by the minute.
"Are you all right?" I asked as she put the key in the ignition and adjusted her seat belt.
Ellison became very still and then let out a deep breath. "I'm all right. Really. Sometimes I just hate being known for what I do."
I frowned. It didn't make any sense to me. When she turned on the car, I guessed that the conversation was over.
The drive back to my apartment was spent in silence except for the radio playing softly in the background. Some British guy was crooning away about throwing your skinny body on the rocks below. I smiled to myself, thinking about how many times I had wanted to do just that. But the peculiar thing was that for once things were going a little better and I really didn't want to do it any more. Dinner with Ellison had improved that situation in my head.
I wasn't deluding myself by thinking that we could be any more than friends. But I did find a small sense of comfort in the fact that she at least appeared to enjoy my company a little bit. To me, that meant so much more than I could ever have asked for. I knew then that I could never let my feelings for her get in the way of that. I would bite my tongue and keep my feelings somewhere that she could never find them.
As we pulled into the parking lot for the apartments Ellison stopped the car but didn't turn it off.
"Thanks for dinner," I told her, feeling more than a little uncomfortable with her brooding silence.
"Huh?" She looked at me quizzically. "Oh, no problem. I've got an early day tomorrow so I'm going to head back to the hotel. If you see Grandpa, tell him I said goodnight, will you?"
"I'll do that," I answered and opened the door. "Good night, Ellison."
She waved as I shut the door, the car already in gear and backing out. I watched until she turned out of the parking lot before heading up the stairs to Elmer's. I didn't feel like being alone just yet.
I let myself in and found Elmer watching television. As I started to greet him, he beat me to it.
"Well, did you come to yer senses and realize this ol' man ain't as dumb about women as you thought?"
"About what?" I asked, wondering what on Earth he was talking about.
"Connor! You scared the shit outta me!" Elmer practically flew out of his chair and stood wringing his hands.
"I'll say," I muttered and stood at the door uncertainly.
"How was dinner?"
"It was good." I stuffed my hands in my pockets and watched his eyes dart about the apartment. Apparently, what ever he had been talking about wasn't meant for me to hear.
"Well, come in and have a seat."
I went and sat on the arm of the couch after seeing Jackrabbit asleep on one of the cushions. The last thing I wanted to do was wake the little devil up and get my eyes scratched out.
"Ellison said to tell you good night," I told him after more uncomfortable silence.
"Oh. Did she say she'd be by tomorrow?"
"No, she never said anything about it."
Several more minutes of silence and I was feeling really out of sorts. Elmer had never acted this way around me and I didn't know how to take it. I had to do something about it, even if it was wrong.
"So, what is it about women that you know so much about?" I asked, trying to decide what that had to do with Ellison.
He looked like a deer caught in the headlights as he tried to answer. "Er, well, you see- it's just that… Oh bloody hell," he muttered as he sat down looking defeated. He rubbed his face and looked apologetically at me.
I raised an eyebrow and risked sitting down next to Jackrabbit. Whatever this was about, it looked like it was about to start getting good.
"I guess it's time to spill the beans, Connor. I ain't getting any younger and you and Mary ain't getting any smarter." He shook his head and got up. "Want anything to drink?"
"Water's fine," I answered in distraction. I suddenly was not very sure I wanted to hear what he was about to tell me. It was especially disconcerting to know that Elmer thought whatever it was concerned both Ellison and I.
Elmer handed me a glass of water and sat down. "Mary made me promise I'd never mention this around you, Connor, and normally I'm a man of my word, but… Well, when it comes to seein' people hurtin', I just can't abide by that."
My chest tightened and my mouth went dry. I really had no idea what he was talking about, but if it had something to do with Ellison and I and someone was hurt, I could only imagine that I was the cause of it. I took a big gulp of water while my mind raced to understand what I had done to her this time.
"Ellison's gay," Elmer finally blurted out, and I sprayed water everywhere.
Before I could even process what had been said, Jackrabbit had scrambled to her feet and sped across my lap. In the process she had managed to knock the glass of water out of my hand and leave angry red scratches on my arms.
"Hairy gorillas fucking in latex suits!" I howled and shot to my feet. I bent down to retrieve the glass when it dawned on me what Elmer had said. I tried to squelch the feeling of apprehension building up in my gut but it was too late.
"She's gay?" I asked in a small voice, now forgetting about the pain in my arms and the water mess on the floor. I sat back and stared at Elmer expectantly while he wiped the water I had spit out off the side of his head.
"Yes she is. And God forgive me if she ever found out I told you that. She'd disown me."
I stared at him, unsure what to say. Part of me was screaming hurray, yet another part of me viewed this information with great trepidation. Just because she was on my team didn't mean anything. And what of the deal I'd made with myself earlier that I would keep my feelings to myself?
"So what is it about this I should be worried about?" I asked warily.
"Yer hide, if you ever tell her I said anything. I mean it, not a word!"
I sat back on the couch and raise an eyebrow in puzzlement. Okay, so I wasn't supposed to mention it. I got that. But what was he telling me for? It wasn't as if she… Shit knocker on a fart stick. It couldn't be, things like that just did not happen in my life. Ever.
Elmer looked at me with the most serious expression I had ever seen cross his wrinkled face. "Connor, I think Mary's got it bad for you."
That did it. The dinner Ellison and I had enjoyed such a short time ago came boiling up the back of my throat and into my mouth. I slapped a hand across my lips to stop it from hitting Elmer and dashed for the bathroom.
I barely made it in time to expel the contents of my stomach in the appropriate place. When my guts finally stopped heaving, I slumped to the floor and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. There had just been too damned much excitement that day and I was sure it would be the death of me.
"Was it something I said?" I heard Elmer call to me on the other side of the door.
Fuck nuts and bitch hairs. I had to be sick again.
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