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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Something I Said
I hobbled up the stairs and to my apartment, wanting only a hot shower and sleep. I didnt even feel like calling the dispatch service to see whether I would be paid for the trauma Id been through on what I was now considering the worst day of my life.
After soaking under the water until I looked like a prune, I flopped down on the couch and turned on the news to see what bad things had happened to other people in the world today. As luck would have it, I had missed the world news but was just in time for the local report.
A plastic looking commentator was fake smiling at the camera, getting ready to tell us all how to be safe for the coming holidays. I snorted, figuring she would be the type with a big, burly boyfriend at home who would do everything for her because shed break a nail if she lifted a finger.
My malicious grin faltered, however, when a painfully familiar two-story house on the screen caught my attention, along with two familiar figures working on the roof and the ground. My mouth gaped open as it slowly seeped into my brain what the Barbie doll was saying.
"And folks, especially those of you entering the decorating contest like these guys, please be careful setting up those decorations. This pair was caught on camera by a neighbor earlier this afternoon trying to get their house ready for the upcoming event when a freak accident left them literally hanging on for dear life."
As if to emphasize what she was talking about, good old Mr. Carson was now sliding down the roof at me, then hanging on to the rain gutter while I hung on to his feet. I could see myself yell at Mrs. Carson, then the both of us toppling to the ground. The camera rushed to me and showed the boy pulling my legs, and then eventually digging me out. And it didnt take a rocket scientist to see what I had said when I looked up.
"Fortunately the pair was unharmed after this accident, as was moments later confirmed by medical technicians on scene. But it just goes to show that good judgment is imperative in this snowy weather to make your holiday safe and memorable."
I shut the television off and sat in stunned silence, only to be interrupted seconds later by Elmers unmistakable cackle next door. In my miserable state, I had completely forgotten about him coming home that day.
Donning my worn sheepskin slippers and a Sundays sweatshirt, I headed for his apartment. I was anxious to see how he was doing after spending the night in the hospital.
"Hey old man," I called as I banged on the door. I reached for the doorknob to let myself in. "I see youre feeling better than you were-"
I immediately forgot what I was saying because the door had already opened and it was not Elmer standing there to greet me. It was the stalker. And after looking at me, she was laughing hysterically. Apparently, my bad day was not over.
"You!" I spat as the shock of recognition wore off. I took a step back in case she made any sudden moves, angry that I was the object of her laughter.
"Me?" she shot back after sobering up, pointing an index finger at her chest.
I narrowed my eyes and stepped forward, shoving past her to get into Elmers apartment. "Wheres the old man? You better not have done anything to hurt him!" I threatened her with a raised fist.
"Whats going on here?" I heard him ask from behind me.
"Elmer!" I exclaimed as I spun around. "Thank God youre okay!"
He raised his hands as I opened my mouth to continue. "Easy, fall girl. Whats all the commotion about?" I could see his eyes dart back and forth between psycho girl and me, and, if I wasnt mistaken, that was a smile he was trying to conceal under the hand now covering his mouth.
"Whats she doing here?" I demanded and wiped my nose. I wondered if there was something hanging out of it because Elmer was sure acting funny.
"I might ask the same of you," Ellison challenged from behind me.
"Me?" I turned back and moved so I was standing directly in front of her in the most menacing gesture I could muster. "Im here because hes my friend and I care about him. I came to see if hes all right after what happened yesterday. Now, what are you doing here?"
"Conner, its alright!" Elmer came up behind me and put a hand on my back. "Thats my Mary. She picked me up from the hospital today."
"Thats Mary?" I asked, staring at him in disbelief. "She told me her name was-"
"Ellison Woodrow," she interrupted coolly. "I didnt think I knew you well enough to tell you my middle name."
I turned back to Elmer, who was nodding amusedly, and rolled my eyes. "Poop fudge on a pancake," I muttered, not missing his efforts to conceal the fact that he was laughing at me.
Suddenly, I had had enough. I had had a horrible day, Mary or Ellison or whatever her name was had tap-danced across my last nerve, and Elmer couldnt seem to quit laughing at me.
I took a deep breath, and then spoke as calmly as I could. "What exactly is so funny?" I glowered at him and crossed my arms over my chest.
Ellison snorted and I cast a withering glare in her direction. She looked away and pursed her lips in an effort to contain her laughter.
"Now Conner, dont go getting all bent out of shape. We was just- er, laughing, you know, cause somethin was funny."
He shrugged as if it was nothing but I knew better; the two of them had done nothing but laugh at me since I had been there. I called him on it and tapped my foot impatiently on the ground, letting him know Id accept nothing less than the truth.
"All right then, Ill tell you whats funny." He scratched at his stubbly chin and went on. "We were watching TV before you stopped in. The news."
I opened my mouth to ask what could possibly be funny on the news, but stopped before I could get the sentence out.
I didnt get a chance to say anything else because when they figured out that I knew what they were talking about, Elmers living room was drowned in raucous laughter.
"Rusty herpes on a Leprechauns ass!" I bolted for the door, tripping over Jackrabbit on the way and nearly falling on my face. Flinging the door open, I retreated to the safety of my own space, locking he door behind me. I leaned on it with my eyes closed against the tears that were already making their way down my face.
A sob erupted from my throat and I staggered to the couch before I could fall. Letting the tears of hurt and anger burn down my cheeks, I felt more alone than I had in my entire life.
Before Elmer came along, I was used to feeling alone. But to have a friend and grow to trust him and let him into my heart, only to be laughed at, was more than I could bear.
I was sure it had everything to do with my Tourettes; well, that and his evil granddaughter. He had never once laughed at anything that had befallen me when she wasnt around. It hurt me more than I cared to admit that our friendship was so circumstantial.
A soft knock at the door stirred me from my thoughts and I sniffed loud enough for whoever was at the door to hear.
"Conner?" It was Ellison. Her voice was gentle and hesitant, enough so that for a moment I really thought she was concerned. But only for a moment. I quickly remembered that mere minutes ago she had been laughing her bitch flapping guts out at me. That memory gave me the incentive I needed to keep quiet so she would leave me alone. If only things worked out the way we wanted them to.
Several minutes passed quietly by and I thought she might have left when she knocked again, only this time louder and more insistent.
"Conner please! I know youre in there. Will you let me in? Its freezing out here."
I didnt buy it, not for a second. In my book, it was hard for someone to freeze who was already as cold as ice. So I continued my silent vigil.
Another moment went by and she knocked again. Gods, did this woman ever give up?
"Dammit Conner, Ill stand out here all night and freeze to death if I friggin have to! You want to be responsible for my death? Fine! Im not going anywhere."
I groaned and got up. If there was anything that pushed my buttons, guilt was it. I had no doubt that shed do exactly what she said. I would have made a great Catholic.
After making my way to the door I flung it open and headed back for my ratty couch. I didnt bother to see if she followed. I soon had my answer when my view of the blank wall in front of me was obscured by a set of blue jeans and a green turtle neck sweater. My eyes traveled up her body to lips pursed in anger and emerald eyes with fire burning in their depths.
I swallowed hard.
"So glad you could acknowledge me." Her voice was sarcastic and she shifted her weight to one leg and put a hand on her hip.
"So glad you could finally stop laughing at me," I shot back, surprised by the amount of hurt I could hear in my voice. I looked away after my unwitting confession, feeling more than a little naked. I desperately wished one or more of my cockroach friends would come scrabbling out and scare her away.
I saw her kneel down in front of me out of the corner of my eye and was startled by the kindness I saw on her face when I finally met her soft gaze.
"Hey," she whispered and touched my knee. I squirmed, unaccustomed to the touch of another person. She took her hand away, obviously sensing my discomfort. There was a cold spot where her hand had been.
"Im sorry about that. It was wrong of me to laugh at you. We didnt know you d be so upset about it."
I looked back into her eyes, searching for any hint of insecurity I could find. There was none, and I didnt know how to deal with it. So, I did what I do best in stressful situations.
"Rabid hemorrhoids on a rotten sphincter! What in seven shades of hell did you think I would do? Ive been ridiculed and ostracized my whole life! My whole bird shit in a windshield life!" I yelled as I got to my feet and paced the small living room. "Then the only person that I ever considered a friend jumps on the bandwagon and you cant understand why Id be upset. Well now you know."
I stopped pacing and stared hard at her. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew there was a possibility I was overreacting but by then I was so raw I didnt know how to stop the rant I was on.
Ellisons expression slowly transformed into a shy smile. "Now I know," she repeated softly, as if tasting the words in her mouth. "Now I know because you stopped hiding behind that paranoid exterior long enough to talk to me like a real human being instead of a stalker. Thank you," she added with a soft smile.
My mouth fell open at her words; I was speechless. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room by some invisible vacuum and I had forgotten my oxygen tank.
"Youre welcome," I finally answered in a small voice.
She sat forward and grinned at me. "Now what do you say we go over and talk to Elmer? He has something he wants to say about the apartment."
"Uh, doesnt he like it?" I asked, getting up and following her to the door. I didnt want to know the answer but I didnt want to stay home either, so I let her lead the way to the apartment with a mysterious smile on her lips.
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