See chapter one for disclaimers
If you haven't read chapter one as of yet, then perhaps you should, simply because it'll make this one seem so much more accessible <g> I know, I'm a condescending cow, but when you're an exhibitionist in need of exposure let's just say that integrity can be low on your list of priorities <g>
Feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org (No feedback = no more story. Like Alex, I have an affinity for emotional blackmail ;) Seriously people, I'm not being paid for my efforts and I'm the type of person who needs an incentive to get off her pert little ass and spend her day constructively. So please give me some indication if you like/loathe my story, and tell me whether my attempts at humour are - well - humorous <g> . (Contrary to popular belief, I'm not desperate... I'm just a borderline basket case in need of some support. Gee, the process of self-realisation can be such a liberating thing <g>) Anyway, here's chapter two of my would-be saga:
Women On The Rebound
For a twenty eight year old, perfectly healthy woman, afternoon naps are something of a rarity. That said, when your sole aim in life is to make time pass by that little bit more quickly, excessive sleep can be very effective. I wasn't too happy, therefore, to be awoken around five o' clock by the sound of Kerry warbling her way through one of my most treasured CDs. Rolling my eyes and suppressing a smile, I listened to her desecrate Chrissie Hynde's dulcet tones, her caterwauling almost excruciating in its intensity. Starting down the stairs in a bid to silence her, I stopped abruptly outside the kitchen, taking in the sight before me with genuine amusement. Kerry was poised over a wok, skilfully stirring her homemade concoction and blissfully unaware of my presence. Swaying her slender hips to the beat of the music, she occasionally reached for a cooking utensil and used it as a makeshift microphone, all the while trying to convince her imaginary audience that she was 'only human on the inside.' With a honed sense of stealth, I crept up behind her. My lips were inches away from her ear when I whispered, "Glad to see you're making yourself at home."
For the second time that day, Kerry visibly jumped, and the sound of my voice caused her to decorate her pristine white shirt with the jug of stock she had just retrieved from the work surface. I couldn't help but laugh, despite her evident outrage. "You know what Kerry? I seem to be pretty proficient when it comes to making you wet." I smirked triumphantly to emphasise my point.
She glared at me, yanking off her shirt before the lukewarm stock could scald her skin. "Do you have to be so fucking crude?"
I grinned, eyeing her exposed chest lasciviously. "Nice bra."
She let out a growl of frustration. "Well, I see you've progressed from a touchy kid to a horny teenager. Congratulations Alex, you might even reach adulthood yet." With that, she stormed out of the room in search of another change of clothes. I sighed, wondering what had happened to her so-called patience threshold. As I turned down the heat on the stove, surveying the contents of the wok in grudging appreciation, an ingenious idea suddenly occurred to me. Remaking the stock, I poured it over the chicken stir-fry, attending to our would-be dinner until it appeared ready. Serving it up on to three separate plates, I sampled a mouthful and nodded my approval, a mischievous smile gracing my countenance. Setting aside the plate I had allocated for Kerry, I proceeded to add a few extra ingredients to Richard's dinner, as well as my own, humming to the music playing softly in the background. When Kerry emerged from the upstairs bathroom, she was moderately surprised to see Richard and myself already seated at the table, poised to eat what looked like a delicious dinner. Eyeing me suspiciously, and forcing a smile for Richard, who was watching the proceedings attentively, she settled down at her allocated place and tentatively sampled a forkful of her dinner. Blatant surprise registered on her features when she realised that it hadn't been laced with cyanide.
"This looks wonderful Kerry," Richard gushed, shovelling the stir-fry into his mouth with an enthusiasm he would later regret. I had already taken a bite of my own, steeling myself for what would ensue. When the burning sensation began to eat away at my throat, I launched into an exaggerated gagging motion, tears streaming down my face. As Kerry looked on, horrified, both Richard and I spat out the remnants of her first ever home-cooked meal, making a beeline for the kitchen and the cold-water tap.
"I know they say appearances can be deceiving, but fucking hell!" I gasped out as soon as I was able, just to enhance Kerry's mortification.
Kerry's eyes widened at my insinuation, and she was rendered momentarily speechless. "I didn't, I wasn't..." Although her untimely stuttering didn't help her cause, the blonde's bewilderment was painfully obvious and after regaining his composure, Richard turned to me, his bloodshot, watery eyes narrowing in accusation. "I see you've managed to stoop to a new level of depravity."
"ME?" I choked out, convincingly outraged. "Do you honestly think I'd do this to myself? I mean, come on Richard, if suicide appealed to me I would have slit my wrists a long time ago." I glared at Kerry defiantly. "It would seem to me that your home help is more of a health hazard. Unless those were the qualities you hired her for in the first place. I know you'd just love it if I asphyxiated before your very eyes."
"How can you stand there and spout such a load of adulterated crap?" Kerry regarded me with an uncanny mixture of awed resentment. "You know I had nothing to do with this." Her eyes were brimming with barely suppressed tears, and I silently acknowledged that I had fulfilled objective one with hours to spare. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because she's a sick bitch who tries to drive everyone she meets to the brink of insanity. Don't let her get to you." Richard regarded me with palpable distaste, attempting to wrap a comforting arm around Kerry's waist. To my surprise, she hastily recoiled, eyeing him sharply. "The question was directed at Alex, not you."
I shrugged nonchalantly. "Look, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." I offered her a twisted smile. "No pun intended." I turned to leave the room, but a small hand halted my departure.
"I'm not going anywhere." The words were spoken with quiet conviction, and Kerry's emerald eyes shone with sheer determination. "So you can either make both of our lives a living hell or call a truce. It's your choice."
I eyed her intently; making sure animosity was oozing from my very being. Seeing a small shiver run the length of Kerry's spine, I offered her my most intimidating, and enigmatic smile. "Fine. You'll just have to learn the hard way that I have an aversion to ultimatums."
"Suits me," she retorted defiantly, not willing to succumb to my faintly veiled threats. As I held the gaze of my would-be rival, I couldn't help but feel a begrudging respect for her impudence. Even more disconcerting were the trappings of remorse decrying my puerile actions. Guilt had, for a very long time, become a foreign concept to me. To have it thrust upon me so unexpectedly was not a pleasant sensation. Realising that, for the first time in my life, I wasn't capable of having the last word in an argument I myself had instigated, I retired to my bedroom, allowing sleep to appease my anxieties.
Richard had already left for the airport when I awoke the next morning. I wasn't hurt that he hadn't said good-bye, I just regretted missing my opportunity to offer him a heartfelt "good riddance." So, I was officially alone with Kerry, for an indefinite period of time. After our hostile exchange the prior evening, I wasn't really sure if I could stomach another encounter with her before breakfast, but as fate would have it, I didn't really have a choice in the matter. I was on my way to the bathroom when I passed Kerry's bedroom, and my keen hearing detected her almost inaudible sobs. Years ago, I made a bid never to become emotionally attached to anyone, so imagine my horror when I felt a pang of concern for my supposed adversary, who I had barely known for twenty four hours. Dismissing my newfound empathy, I continued towards the bathroom, so used to being alone that I customarily declined to lock the door. I was in the middle of drying myself after a brisk shower when Kerry, her face tear streaked and her hair tousled, burst into the bathroom. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of my naked body, which, if I do say so myself, is far from repugnant. Seizing a towel to preserve what was left of my modesty, I regarded her wryly, demanding in a tone more defensive than I'd intended: "Is nothing sacred?"
"Sorry," she whispered, with uncharacteristic meekness, virtually running from the bathroom as her face crumpled with a fresh onslaught of tears. My instinct was to leave her be - consolation was never my forte - but curiosity, and admittedly, concern, drew me back to her bedroom. The sobs were louder this time, and I silently wondered if I'd been a little too hasty in professing the merits of my birthday suit. Deciding that it was probably safer to leave her to her own devices, and not wanting her to misconstrue my half-assed attempts at comfort, some inane part of me decided to save her the effort of making breakfast. Of-course, I was soon to realise that once you've resorted to poisoning yourself just to prove a point, people aren't overly keen on accepting food made by your own fair hands, even when you have their best interests at heart. So, as Kerry looked at me warily from across the kitchen counter, carefully buttering her own toast after meticulously analysing the bread, I decided to be adventurous and instigate a conversation.
"Why were you crying this morning?"
Kerry regarded me sharply, evidently not impressed with my forthright manner. "It wasn't because of you, so don't flatter yourself."
I offered her a sheepish smile. "You made me a little self-conscious, actually. I was starting to wonder just how awful I look first thing in the morning."
"Yeah, well I'm sorry for barging in on you like that, but if you didn't want an impromptu interruption, you should have locked the door."
"Hey, there's no need to apologise." I offered her a rakish grin. "All it takes is a quick game of strip poker and then we're even."
Kerry raised her eyebrows. "You know, I often find it hard to discern whether you're trying to flirt with me or offend me."
"I suppose that would depend on your reaction."
"And how would you like me to react?" Kerry asked the question without really expecting an answer, but true to my unpredictable nature, I gave her a brutally honest reply.
"Well, it's all about submission. If I flirt with you and you respond, you're effectively giving in to my charm offensive. If I offend you and you leave, then I still get my own way."
"And if I decide to ignore you completely?" Kerry ventured, smiling good-naturedly.
"I can pretend that you're not here and get on with living my life." I regarded her intently. "But obviously, you're not about to let that happen."
Kerry sighed. "Alex, I know you seem to think that Richard hired me to make life awkward for you, but regardless of his motives, that's not what I'm here for. I know your quality of life hasn't exactly been great over the last few years, but if you're willing to swallow your pride, I could change that."
"Really?" I feigned intrigue. "I didn't realise you were a miracle worker." On seeing the exasperation return to her emerald eyes, I laid my sarcasm to rest, deciding to convey to this painfully naïve girl just what a lost cause she was dealing with. "Kerry, I've spent my life festering in chronic boredom. I have no friends, my family have disowned me and I can't socialise with anyone within a ten-mile radius because they're all convinced that I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I've never had a stimulating conversation, my mind is virtually numb from being underused and I've forgotten what it's like to laugh." I paused for breath, surveying her features for the pity I detested. Though her eyes were clouded with empathy, she wasn't regarding me as though I was some kind-of charity case, and I took that as a positive sign. Having found a new method of catharsis, and somewhat shocked by the realisation that I actually enjoyed hearing the sound of my own voice - probably because I had an attentive audience for the first time in my life - I decided to continue. "So, now I get my kicks from making people feel as shitty as I do, and the nicer they are to me, the more I relish destroying them. I don't want to do that to you."
"You don't have to. Not if you learn to trust me, not if you acknowledge that I can be more than just a thorn in your side." Her tone was almost pleading, and I desperately wanted to relent. Despite myself, I did genuinely like the woman and the thought of hurting her made me feel, for a reason I wasn't yet willing to acknowledge, physically sick. Even so, I had spent years building up my emotional barriers and the thought of baring my soul to a virtual stranger, as well as opening myself up to the heartache that could ensue, was terrifying.
"I can't." I whispered, my dejected tone conveying my regret.
Kerry sighed. "So we're destined to be at loggerheads for the next few months."
"Not if you leave."
She laughed, without mirth. "I have to admire your determination, Alex, but I've told you, I'm not going anywhere. I'm sticking this out, with or without your co-operation, and the sooner you reconcile yourself to that fact, the less repetitive our conversations become."
"Ohhh, an Authoritarian. It's like living with my father all over again," I teased, smiling despite of myself. "Only he wasn't such a sucker for punishment."
Kerry shook her head, grinning. "No, I'm just a moderately assertive woman on an extremely complicated mission."
"And what, may I ask, are your objectives?"
"Well, first and foremost, I'm planning to make you smile a lot more."
"How clichéd." I rolled my eyes, eliciting a laugh from my striking acquaintance.
"But you look so much more attractive when you're baring your teeth," Kerry protested, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
"That's not what Richard said when I went through my Rabid Dog phase," I deadpanned, an unbidden smile gracing my features as Kerry doubled over with surprised laughter. Maybe I need to get out more, but at that moment, her beauty seemed almost blinding in its intensity. Besieged with the overwhelming urge to make contact with her, I laid a hesitant hand on her arm, feigning sobriety. Dancing emerald eyes met my own, and with a barely suppressed smile, I issued another empty threat. "You shouldn't laugh, you know, you've got all of that to come."
"C'mon, are you really going to subject me to the same treatment as Richard?"
"Kerry, pretty little thing though you are, you'll come to realise that I take no prisoners." My grin widened. "And besides, you've already had your reprieve. I didn't douse your dinner in red hot chilli peppers, did I?"
"No, you just came close to convincing Richard that I was trying to poison the pair of you." Kerry sighed, clearly fighting to retain the light-hearted atmosphere I had managed to sustain for all of a minute. "You never did tell me why you felt the need to humiliate me like that."
"It was a juvenile act of rebellion, and I'm sorry." I spoke the words with sincerity, and as Kerry realised that I had the capacity to apologise, her features began to soften again. I silently wondered why I hadn't encouraged her anger, because the way we were currently interacting was almost frightening me. Nonetheless, I felt I owed her an explanation. "It was nothing personal. I just don't appreciate having a baby-sitter, and I decided to vent my frustration in a typically petty fashion. Besides, I knew Richard would never believe me; I was just aiming to throw him off kilter for a while. Predictability breeds boredom." I shrugged, hoping to be forgiven.
"So, I'm safe to resume my normal eating habits, then?" Kerry ventured, with a tentative smile.
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, I promise not to poison you, OK?"
"Good, because being a borderline anorexic really wouldn't suit me."
A comfortable silence settled over the household as we finished our breakfast, and I have to say, I found the lack of tension almost disconcerting. I wasn't used to feeling at ease around anybody, probably because I'd convinced myself that everyone, regardless of how amiable they seemed, always had ulterior motives. Unfortunately, all my instincts were telling me that Kerry simply wasn't like that, and my life became more complicated because of it.
When the phone rang a few minutes later, we both jumped, sharing a sheepish smile as I stood to answer it. Unsurprisingly, Richard was calling to check that Kerry was still alive and well, and true to my mischievous nature, I just couldn't resist confirming his worst fears. Sheer panic infiltrating my tone, I spoke hysterically into the receiver. "Oh God, Richard, thank fuck you've called. I don't know what to do; I didn't mean to hurt her, honestly. I mean, how was I supposed to know that she was allergic...." I trailed off, a feigned sob hitching in my throat. "You're going to send me back there, aren't you? Please don't send me back there, you know it'd kill me."
Across the room, Kerry was shaking her head, trying desperately hard not to laugh. As I fought to keep up the act, Richard, at first deathly silent, seized the opportunity to speak. "What have you done?" His voice, an octave higher than usual, emanated alarm. When I fell purposely silent, his tone became more urgent. "You stupid fucking bitch, what have you done?"
"Nothing," I replied, in a singsong voice, handing the receiver to Kerry with a companionable wink. Taking a moment to compose herself, Kerry bit her lip, bracing herself against Richard's litany of expletives.
"Richard. No. No, really, I'm fine, Alex was just exercising her warped sense-of-humour again, that's all." She backhanded me gently across the stomach to emphasise her point. I raised my eyebrows at the unexpected gesture, continuing to eavesdrop as Kerry made a valiant effort to ease Richard's palpitations. "No, actually, she's been the perfect hostess, no trouble what-so-ever."
I rolled my eyes. "Ruin my reputation, why don't you?"
A pink tongue extended defiantly in response, and I reached for the scissors on the kitchen counter, snapping them shut in mock outrage. Kerry's giggle amalgamated into a cough, and she turned her attention back to my bewildered husband. "Really Richard, there haven't been any problems." She gave a short laugh. "And no, she's not holding me at gun point."
"Put ideas into my head, why don't you?" I grinned unceremoniously, bringing the scissors to rest lightly against Kerry's tender neck, using the cold metal to trace an ominous line across her jugular. I was hoping to raise another adorable smile, and was totally unprepared for the look of sheer terror that ensued. Within seconds, Kerry's face had turned a ghastly shade of grey, and only my lightning quick reflexes prevented the phone from tumbling to the floor. The abrupt end to the conversation served to renew Richard's anxiety, but I purposely ignored the tirade that ensued, turning to gaze questioningly at my companion. Kerry, however, had made a hasty retreat.
Swallowing audibly, I realised that my hands were shaking, and I was forced to acknowledge my utter stupidity. For someone as blasé as myself, self-depreciation can be a relatively healthy thing, but Richard's stream of insults were not helping me to regain my composure and I finally grew sick of his heckling.
"Shut the fuck up," I hissed into the phone, slamming the receiver onto its cradle and yanking the cord out of its socket, effectively ridding myself of his malignant presence. I should have been grateful for the silence that ensued, but the sense of solitude was not as liberating as I'd hoped. Instead, I found myself tearing off my sweatshirt and stepping out into the blazing sunlight, hurrying after Kerry in the hope of making amends.
To be continued....