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Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman

Part 8

I leaned back against the pillows on the couch, looking into Rand’s eyes to make sure she had heard me.

"Will you get it for me?" I asked, positive what I wanted to get Cody as thanks for helping me. My friend sighed, but nodded.

"I’ll get on it tomorrow. I’ll need help," she said, her voice sounding uncertain.

"Ask Keith. He can help."

"That’s a good idea. Speaking of, have you talked to him much since the breakup?" She grabbed her bag from the floor, setting it on the bed next to her. I shrugged, sipping from the glass of water Cody had brought before she left.

"I’ve talked to him on and off, and he came to visit last week. I’m beginning to feel better about it, but come on, Rand, no one likes to be rejected." I smiled at her.

"I’m sorry, sweetie." She took my hand, squeezing my fingers gently in hers. "I really don’t know what I’d do if Peter suddenly told me, gee honey, I want to date this guy from the office instead."

"Well," I sighed. "I had a feeling, you know? It was bound to happen." I ran my good hand through my hair and took a deep breath, my brows knitting as a thought occurred to me. "Speaking of, what will you guys do when you move?"

I felt my heart break as my friend sat back, her hand leaving mine so it could join its twin in her lap. She turned away for a moment before turning a brilliant, and brave smile on me.

"We’ll manage."

"Oh, buttercup. Don’t be so brave on my account. I know how much you care about him."

"Yes, I do. But, at the same time, I can’t turn away from my dreams for love."

For some reason that made me sad. True, you do have to follow your drams to happiness, but at the same time, what if you reached your ultimate life goal, the pinnacle of your self-worth, yet were still all alone in the world?

"I’m sure you guys will figure it out, hon." I took her hand, and squeezed. She smiled at me, then with a deep breath, took her hand from mine, and turned her attention to her bag.

"Okay, here come your souvenirs." She unzipped the bag, and reached in. "First, let’s start with these little ditties that will make you gain ten pounds in as many minutes." She grinned evilly at me, then produced a small foil bag. "Here." I took the bag and read the label written in gold lettering.

"Smaggles?" I looked at her with raised brows.

"Yes, my little noodle, Smaggles it is. They’re absolutely wonderful. Here, let me help you." She took the bag from me, and tore it open. "Here." She handed me a cookie that was actually two cookies sandwiching an orange substance. I looked at her with wary eyes, then turned back to the cookie in my hand. I brought it to my nose, smelling it.

"Mm." I took a small bite, chewing thoughtfully as a swarm of tastes exploded into my mouth. "Oh, oh my god, this is so good!" I shoved the rest of the cookie into my mouth, and grabbed another from the bag. Rand chuckled.

"I happened across these at a street vendor, if you can believe it, in downtown D.C. I must have eaten twenty bags of these while I was there."

"Well, that explains a lot." I chuckled, lightly patting my friend’s stomach.

"Yeah, fuck off." She batted my hand away.

"So, what else did you get me?" I munched on another cookie while looking at her expectantly. She reached her hand into the goodie bag again, bringing out something wrapped in tissue paper.

"To add to your collection."

I unwrapped the tissue paper, not an easy task with one hand, and smiled at the double shot glass that awaited me, all sorts of sayings all over it about past and current presidents.

"‘Big dubya for a little Bush’" I read. "Oh, that’s gotta smart." I chuckled, setting the glass aside.

She reached in again, this time bringing out a larger something wrapped in tissue paper.

I tore through the flimsy wrapping and giggled at the mug I held, our current president’s ears the handles on both sides.

"They’re not very nice to him down there, are they?" I asked.

She just grinned.

I put the mug next to the shot glass and rested my hands on my lap, looking at Rand expectantly.

"What else?" This waiting stuff was for adults.

"Well, the boring stuff, pictures, which I have the next three days to show you, but here’s my pride and joy, and will also help your collection." She winked, and brought out a plush, white bathrobe. My eyes lit up.

"Oh, you stole the hotel bathrobe!" She nodded, baring her teeth with a wicked twinkle in her eyes. "Nice." I breathed as I unfolded it, and rubbed the softness against my cheek. Ever since we were in college, Rand and I had gotten into the routine of going on weekend road trips, staying in hotels and motels, and always taking something to add to our "Thelma and Louise" collection. I grinned at my friend now. "You rock, sweet cheeks."

"Aw, garsh." She looked away. "I guess you’ll want the three pads of stationary, too? And pen, of course."

"Ohhh," I breathed, taking the offered pads, and looking at their fancy lettering. I always set these by the phone for messages. A huge grin spread across my face. "Thanks, baby cakes."

"So," Rand said, tossing the bag aside, finished with show and tell, and leaning back on her hands. "How was your week with the little skater girl?" She crossed an ankle over her knee.

"Be nice, Rand. She was a wonderful nursemaid. She even cleaned my house." My friend looked away for a moment, then turned to me with a smile.

"Well, I am truly grateful to her that she got you through a week that must have been terrible for you, Brooklyn. But, I’m here now."

I looked at her, my brows drawn in confusion. Rand had always been a very straightforward woman, but I’d never known her to be so, well, mean.

"Rand, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure." She grabbed the bag of cookies she’d brought for me, and popped one in her mouth.

"Why do you hate Cody so much?"

"I don’t hate her."

"Fine. Dislike, mistrust, what ever." She finished chewing her cookie. With a sigh, she swallowed the last of it and looked me in the eye.

"I feel threatened by her," she said simply. I nearly choked on my tongue.

"What? Threatened? How?" Okay, yeah. Call me baffled. Rand shrugged.

"She’s young, cool, or so they say, different."

"Come on, Rand. This is ridiculous. I feel like I’m in the middle of a cock fight for my affections or some such nonsense." I laughed it off, but deep down I was annoyed at her reaction to Cody, who I had come to view as a friend, however unwilling she may be.

"Well, in some ways that’s true. Cheesy and immature as it is, it’s true. Yes, Cody and I are engaging in a pissing war of sorts. Brooklyn," she put her hand on my knee. "Honey, you’re my best friend, have been for so long, and well, frankly I don’t want to lose you. I see what Cody means to you, and well," she looked down with a shrug. "I don’t like it." Finally dark eyes met my own.

"Ah, sweetie," I reached out, cupping her cheek. "No one will ever replace you." She tried to duck her head, but I caught her chin, turned her so I could look into her eyes, and let her see the truth in mine. "You got it?" Finally she nodded and smiled, my old Rand coming through.

* * *

Rand had brought enough clothes to stay with me for three days, and three days she stayed. I was thrilled as I was going to miss my Rand more than I could even imagine right now once she left for D.C. The thought of her leaving, oh man, I didn’t even want to think about it, so I didn’t. Instead I concentrated on our time together now. My mother used to tell me to always stay grounded and look at the here and now, never look too far over the hill.

I was also able to take my first bath in nearly three weeks.

I trusted my friend like I trusted no one else, and I trusted her to help me wash up. Even though I wasn’t so keen on her helping my naked butt into the tub, it was worth it.

So, now with a bag tied off around my arm, and another around my leg, I lay in the hot water, my leg and arm hanging over the sides, my head back against the inflatable pillow, and my eyes closed.

A loud moan escaped my lips as the warmth soaked in, and the idea that I’d actually be clean, and not just "clean" from a quick rub down with a sponge and soap and water.

However, as I lay there, my mind begins to roam.


I hadn’t talked to or seen her since the morning she left when Rand came bursting through the door bearing gifts and a smile. The girl’s face came before my eyes, and I smiled in turn. There was still so much mystery to Cody, but I had gotten to see a side of her that I doubt many did.

As she had helped me last week, she had been so gentle with me, so kind and caring, granting my every wish and need, not complaining once.

I missed her. I missed her wit, her quiet presence. How crazy was that? This girl who did everything she could to hide herself from anyone, who may dare try and bring her down as so many had already in her young life — yet I had seen that light that was Cody shining through on more than one occasion.

As we had sat watching the Christian Slater movie, Cody munching on microwave popcorn, and me sipping my water and tossing a Sour Patch Kid in my mouth every so often, screwing my face up as the sourness spread through my mouth, only to chew happily, Cody looking at me like I was nuts.

"You know, if those things are so damn sour, why do you eat them?" she had asked.

"Cause they’re so damn sour." She had shaken her head, and turned her attention back to the movie.

Rand would be leaving today, and I decided to call Cody, and see why she had stayed away. Part of me was hurt, though I knew it was stupid to feel that way. She had done nothing wrong, but it made me wonder, hadn’t she enjoyed any of last week?

"Rand!" I called out, after washing my body the best I could. I still couldn’t wash my hair on my own, but that was okay. Rand had done her best earlier.

"Yeah?" she asked, peeking her head inside the door to the bathroom.

"Help," I muttered, reaching for her with my good hand. She pushed the door fully open, and grabbed a towel from the cabinet, ready to wrap it around me once she got me out of the water.

This was an exercise in patience for me. It was not easy, as Rand was not very big. I wasn’t either, but still, I have no doubt it was a real hoot to watch; me flopping around like a dead fish, Rand being the ever unwavering fisherman.

"So, how does PBJ sound for lunch?" she asked once she finally got me to the couch. PBJ? Hell, Cody would have made a seven course meal for lunch. Stop it, Brooklyn, I chastised myself. Instead, I smiled up at my friend.

"Sounds great. And, um, well," I looked down sheepishly as Rand stared down at me, hands on hips, weight shifted to one side. "Would you cut it into four pieces?" I finally garnered the courage to look up into amused dark eyes.

"You’re crazy."

Without another word, she disappeared through the swinging door that led to the kitchen, and with a lot of muttering, and the sounds of rattling dishes, my friend emerged victorious over the culinary arts with a plate in her hand, and a smile on her face.

"Madam," she said as she placed the sandwich, cut up as I had requested, on my lap. "Milk, lemonade or tea?"

"Oh, milk. Chocolate milk!"

"God, you’re a pain in the ass," she muttered as she headed back into the kitchen. I was terrified to see the state she’d left it in. Rand was not one to, shall we say, bother? She and Pete knew every food delivery place in town, and each maitre d’ at the restaurants knew them by name and wine selection.

Nonetheless I began to munch on my lunch, humming happily to myself as I did so. Within about ten minutes, Rand returned to sit across from me with her own sandwich and my milk.

"So," she said as she took a big bite. "Gonna miss me?" She chewed, watching me carefully with dark, expressive eyes.

"When you move?" I asked, confused by the general question.

"No, you nut," she smacked my good leg. "When I go home this afternoon."

"Oh." He he. "Yes, very much so." I popped the second square of cut up PBJ in my mouth, and began to dig in on the third. "Will you miss me?"

"Bathing your ass? Feeding your ass? Clothing your ass? Definitely." She grinned sheepishly, and I turned to mush.

"Aww, you sweetie. Come ’ere." I grabbed my old friend in a monster hug, nearly toppling my lunch onto the sheet on my couch bed.

* * *

After Rand left, but not before making sure I had everything I needed, and had peed enough times, I sat on my bed, and stared at the TV, not real interested in the nightly news. Dan Rather droned on about Iraq, and how more and more soldiers were being sent home, while more still were sent over seas. This was in part good news, but my mind was floating somewhere.

Different things went through my mind, different thoughts and concerns. I worried that I’d never be able to ride again. Tom had the awful duty of telling me that my bike had been totaled in the accident. I was so angry with myself for not getting it insured as I had planned to do. Serves me right for not following through. At the same time, I was pissed as hell. That accident didn’t have to happen. But, I realize with a sigh, it did.

So, now I get to sit here for another grip of weeks, thinking about my life and those in it. Gee, fun. I didn’t care much for self-analysis, but I didn’t have much choice, either.

Then Cody popped into mind. I missed the girl, and wanted to thank her, again, for all that she did for me last week.

Grabbing the cordless that Rand had left handy for me, I dialed the numbers, and listened to the phone ring.

"Hello?" came the familiar voice of my boss.

"Hey, Ron." I smiled into the phone.

"Brooklyn! How are you, honey?" she gushed. "I have missed you so much at work, I can’t even begin to tell you."

"Work piling up, huh?" The older woman tsked at me.

"No, silly. I miss our morning chats. What I wouldn’t give to have you back to vent to."

I chuckled, almost glad I had a break from it for a while, though I did miss her, too.

"So, how are you feeling?"

"Not bad. The swelling in my face has gone down to pretty much nothing, but my body still aches quite a bit."

"I imagine so. That was quite a blow you took, sweetie." I could hear the concern in her voice, and it warmed my heart.

"Yeah, I know. Makes me mad as all hell, too," I grumbled, flopping back into the mountain of pillows, but wincing when my arm screamed out in protest.

"I know. I’m sorry. So," Ron’s voice brightened, taking me from the dark mood I was beginning to fall into. "What’s up?"

"Well, I was actually looking for Cody."

"Oh," The surprise in her voice was clear.

"I wanted to thank her again for all she did last week."

"Oh. Well, I can see that. Well, hang on just a sec, okay?"

"’K." I waited patiently for the girl to come on. I looked down at the castle that she drew on my cast her first night here. It was big, nearly covering the entire side of my calf, complete with a dragon flying over head.

"Yeah?" came the annoyed voice over the line.

"Hey, Cody," I said, my voice quiet and unsure. For some reason, I always felt so, well, what’s the word, intimidated? when I called her.

"Yeah," she said dryly. "What’s up, cripple?" I smiled.

"Gee, thanks."

"Anytime. How’s the bones?"

"Could be better. But, have been worse."

"Shit, isn’t that the truth."

"Yeah," For just a moment Cody’s face flashed before my mind’s eye. I remember the concern in her blue eyes when she didn’t think I was looking, both here and in the hospital. How every time I woke up in that sterile, narrow bed, she was one constant, seemingly always there, though I knew she wasn’t. "Well," I began to play with the sheet that I laid on as the nervousness filled me. "I guess I just wondered why I hadn’t heard from you in the last few days." I felt like a silly school girl. I heard a snort on the other end of the line.

"Well, Brooklyn, you kind of had company."

"Yeah, so? This house is big enough for three people," I argued.

"Yeah, but Portland ain’t big enough for two of those people."

I could hear the grin in her voice, but it made me sad all the same.

"So, you stayed away because Rand was here?" I asked, brows knit.

"Well, not exactly. I mean, yeah, she’s not quite the friend to me that she is to you, but, you know, she’s like your best friend and stuff, and you don’t have much time with her anyway, right?" I shrugged, then realized that Cody couldn’t see it.

"Well, yeah, but I still, well, I missed you, damnit."

"Did you just swear?" she asked.

"Hell, yeah." I smile at the chuckle I hear. I had felt like we’d made some sort of a connection when she’d been here last week, and I had missed it.

"So, what do you want?" Cody asked, her voice serious now.

"Come over?" I asked, screwing up my nose as I waited for her refusal.

"What, need another nursemaid?" she drawled.

"Maybe." I played along.


Without further ado, there was silence on the line, finally followed by that irritating noise when the line was dead. I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it, incredulous.

"That little shit hung up on me."

I flipped through the channels on the TV for an hour, hoping something interesting would pop up on the tube. I pay for a zillion channels, yet there never seems to be anything on. What’s up with that?

My cable debate came to an end when there was a knock at the door.

"Come in!" I yelled, not really able to be the gracious hostess. I heard a skateboard being popped up by a shoe, and grabbed in a hand before the door was pushed open. Cody breezed in, leaning her beloved board against the wall, and checking the bottoms of her Vans.

"Damn," she mumbled, plopping down on the floor to untie the shoes.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Mud," she grumbled, then set the shoes neatly beside the skateboard. In stocking feet, she walked over and sat her tall frame in the chair beside the couch, typical cargos shorts, Army green today, with a white tank. She looked at me, but said nothing.

"Hi." I offered with a grin.

"Hey. What are you feeding me?" I looked at her.

"Excuse me?"

"Dude, I just boarded almost five miles. What are you feeding me?"

"Well, you can either see what’s in the fridge, or we can order a pizza-"

The word was no sooner out of my mouth before she grabbed the phone from the bed.

"What do you like on yours?" she asked, fingers poised to dial. I chuckled.

"Whatever. I’m not picky."

"Cool." She dialed, and held the phone to her ear, then ordered our dinner.

"So how’s work been?" I asked once she had tossed the phone back onto the bed and informed me of the price.

"It’s cool. Made another big sale this week." She grinned, big with lots of teeth.

"Hey, good for you!" I exclaimed, proud of her. "Bet Keith was doing a happy dance in the back room."

"Are you kidding? He was about to crap his pants when he saw the price tag on that sucker. Oh," she stood. "That reminds me." She dug her wallet out of one of the deep pockets on the side of the shorts, the attached chain hanging lifelessly as she opened up the black leather. She put it back, and leaned over, handing me a wad of bills. I looked up at her confused.

"Um, Cody, the pizza was only like twelve bucks."

"No shit, Sherlock. That’s part of what I owe you." She pointed at the money in my hand. Realization dawning, I shook my head, tossing the money to the edge of the bed.

"No, Cody. You don’t owe me anything," I said, my voice quiet in awe of this girl. She narrowed her eyes.

"Dude, take the money."


"I will not be in debt to you, Brooklyn. Take it." I could tell she was getting upset, and I didn’t want to offend her. With a deep sigh, I grabbed the wad, and counted out five hundred dollars. I looked up at her, baffled.

"Cody, this is too much."

"Call it interest."

"No, I’d call it theft. Here," I counted out two hundred, and tossed it at her. "I insist that you take this back." She looked at me for a moment, challenging me to see if I’d follow through. My gaze didn’t falter for a second. Finally, shaking her head and sighing, she picked up the bills, and stuffed them into her pocket. "So, we’re square, right?"

"Shit, I know you are." She grinned, yet again, challenging me with those eyes of hers. Just about to open my mouth, the doorbell rang. "Yum," she muttered, headed for the door, grabbing those bills from her pocket.

"Yo, no friggin’ way, Cody!" I yelled, grabbing a twenty out of the money she’d given me. "Use this." Rolling her eyes, she took the money, and paid the pimply-faced teenager who had brought our dinner.

An hour later, we sat, tummies full, and talked.

"When I was a kid, I wanted to ride horses. That was all I wanted to do," I said, smiling at the memory of the one horse we had when I was little. She had been old when we’d gotten her, and very expensive to care for. When she had died just weeks before Christmas of my seventh year, that had been it.

"So, why didn’t you? You know, be a horse trainer or something?"

"Well, after the accident, I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it again." I looked at the girl candidly. I had never talked about this with anyone since my family had been killed. "It hurt too much to even see a horse, then I got too busy with life, I guess."

"Do you still think about it?" I shrugged.

"Sometimes." I cleared my throat, taking a sip of my Mountain Dew. "What about you?"

"Yeah, if that’s not the million dollar question." She snorted.

"No, I’m serious, Cody." I set my can of pop on the side table, and studied the girl. She shrugged, looking down at her hands that were folded in her lap.

"Something with art, I guess. Don’t know what, though. Keith’s been talking to me a little about it, though." She looked up at me.

"Do you want to be an artist?" She wrinkled her nose, shaking her head.

"Nah. I’m not into the starving artist bullshit."

"Hard way to go."

"Yeah, so I’ve heard."

Conversation began to lull as we both got lost in our own thoughts, mine filled with saddles, and riding clothes, and pets of the equestrian variety.

"Oh, I have something for you, Cody."

The girl looked at me, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"It’s not a snake, for crying out loud." I laughed, a slow smile spread across her lips. Very, very carefully, and with a whole assortment of grunts, I managed to lean over just enough to reach under the bed.

"Dude, let me help you,"

"No, no, I’ve got it. I’ve got to learn to be useful at some point." With a final grunt, I brought the wrapped, heavy, mind you, box up, and plopped it on the bed. It was rectangle, measuring about a foot long, four inches deep, and six inches tall. "Here you go."

Cody looked at the gift, then at me.

"What’s this for?" she asked, eyeing the wrapped box, but not touching it.

"It’s a thank you, for how wonderful you were last week. I can never tell you how much that meant to me, Cody." I looked her in the eye, wanting her to know just how serious I was. She nodded slowly, almost as if in understanding.

"Alright," she said, though her voice still held a note of doubt. Without a word, she picked it up. "Heavy," and began to tear the brightly colored paper off to reveal a wooden box, stained a dark brown, with two bronze clasps on the top on either side of a dark, leather handle. She looked at me in confusion.

"Open it," I said, filled with part excitement and part nervousness that she wouldn’t like it, or appreciate someone else buying something like this for her.

Cody unsnapped the two clasps, and slowly pulled the box open, laying it out flat on the bed. She whistled quietly through her teeth as she studied the contents.

"Do you like it?" I asked, my voice very quiet. She nodded slowly, almost as if she were in a daze. "I had Keith help Rand pick it out. He said that those are the best charcoals and pencils out there." I reached under the bed again to pull out a large sketch pad. "This wasn’t so easy to wrap." I grinned sheepishly.

"Oh, wow," she breathed when she saw the paper. "This is the highest quality of paper you can buy," she muttered, flipping open the cover, and taking the first sheet between her fingers. "Here, feel that," I did, not knowing what the hell I was feeling for. "See how thick that is?" I nodded. She smiled at me then, a huge smile that reached from ear to ear, and up into her eyes. I was entranced for a moment by the sheer beauty of it. "This must have cost a small fortune, Brooklyn," she said, running her fingers over all the charcoals and pencils that came in the box, mounted in individual holders on the insides of either sides of the box to create an artist’s traveling case of sorts.

"Well, I told you I appreciated all that you had done." I smiled. "I’m just thrilled that you like it, at least, I hope you do."

"Like isn’t the word, Brooklyn," she said quietly. I beamed.

"Good. Anything I can do to help you with your art, Cody. You say the word and I’ll help you. Okay?" She stared at me for a moment, then finally nodded, gently closing the case, snapping the clasps in place.


* * *

I moaned slightly, the noise annoying. A pounding, beating sound that was beginning to pound into my head.

"Fucking A!" I hear growled, and I open my eyes to see Cody padding to the door in her boxers and tank. I look around, seeing the blow-up mattress on the floor near my own bed, the sheets angrily tossed aside as our sleep had been interrupted. It had been late last night, so I’d suggested that Cody bunk down here, and she did.

The door is unlocked, and thrown open to a very surprised Jodi, eyes the size of saucers as she looked at her sister.

"Oh, uh," she stumbled, looking over Cody’s shoulder to me lying in the bed. Oops. This can’t look good. I almost want to chuckle, but know it would be mean.

"What are you doing here, and why the fuck are you waking me up at," the girl glanced back at the clock on the wall. "Eight-thirty! Dude?" She looked at her twin for an explanation. Um, Cody, I doubt Jodi was expecting to find you here at all.

"Well," Jodi said, her voice calm and even, though it seemed forced. "I didn’t realize I’d be waking you up at all." She crossed her arms over her chest as Cody continued to stand in the doorway.

"Cody, let her in here," I said, trying to push myself up to a sitting position. Cody stood to the side, and Jodi breezed by her, not looking at her. The twin looked around the room, taking in clothes either thrown on the floor, or where Cody had neatly folded hers and set them in a pile next to the couch. I also realized that from where she stood at the door, Cody’s floor bed couldn’t be seen. Oops is right. Suddenly the situation just got a bit funnier.

"How are you, Jodi?" I said with a smile, happy to see the girl, as well as trying to defuse a potentially bad situation.

"Um, I’m alright. But, I think the better question is how are you?" She smiled at me, a bit more genuine this time. Cody stomped off to the restroom.

"I’m good. Cody was kind enough to come visit my poor old, decrepit butt last night, and stayed when it started to get too late." Why was I explaining myself like I was a teenager? "You know, I wasn’t about to let her head out on her skateboard at midnight." I smiled, she gave me a weak grin.

"What are you doing here, tard?" Cody asked as she came back into the room.

"Cody," I hissed. She ignored me.

"I came by to take Brooklyn out to breakfast." The sisters stared each other down, both trying to get the upper hand. Finally Jodi looked at me with a sweet smile. "I don’t imagine you’ve been able to get out of here in the last three weeks." I shook my head.

"Nope. I’ve literally stared at these same four walls."

"See that? I’ve come to rescue you." That sweet smile again.

"Aw, my hero." I heard Cody sigh, and out of the corner of my eye I could see her glaring at her twin. What the hell was going on? "If you wouldn’t mind, before taking off, I’d like to wash my hair." I ran my fingers through the oily strands, not daring to go out in public like that.

"Sure, no problem." She smiled again, sitting in the armchair by the couch. I saw her glance over, seeing Cody’s bed on the floor, and a smile slowly spread across her face, almost a smile of relief.

"Cody, would you mind?" I asked, nodding toward the bathroom door. I figured she’d been with me all last week, having to help me get through some fairly uncomfortable situations, so I might as well stick with what works.

"Yeah," she muttered, heading over to me to help get me in my chair. I was able to help a little, but the poor girl had to take most of the weight. She did it with ease and no complaining.

Once in the bathroom, Cody set up the two bathtub seats, a flat surface that mounted on the edge of the tub that older people used when they could no longer get themselves up and out of the tub, pushed together to make a sort of little table for me to lie on. Keith had brought them over to me within three days of the accident, figuring out that a normal tub just wasn’t going to cut the mustard at that point.

Cody got me laying down, my hair falling over the side of the seat closest to the faucet, and grabbed the mobile shower massager to use to rinse my hair. She said nothing as she prepared me for the washing, her jaw set, eyes focused on what she was doing. I wanted to say something, but what? I wasn’t even entirely sure what was wrong.

With a sigh, I turned my gaze to the ceiling, waiting for Cody’s hands to began washing my blonde hair, but instead had to spit water out of mouth.

Cody was near giggling as she tried to bring the massager back under control. Apparently Rand hadn’t turned the water level back down after she’d showered yesterday morning. When Cody had turned the water on, the pressure had been too much for the stunned girl, water shooting everywhere, charging out of that thing like millions of wild bulls were in every droplet.

I turned to see Cody biting her lip as she tried to get the dial to the right level, my mouth opening and laughter falling out as I took in her drenched hair, dark strands plastered to her head, falling into her eyes, water still dripping from her nose. Her tank was no more, the material sticking to her skin like a second skin.

Looking away quickly as I saw that the water was indeed cold, I looked down at myself, seeing that my shirt was also wet, though not near as wet as Cody’s.

"Oops." I grinned, looking back up into her eyes, me trying to get my laughter under control, and I could see that Cody was trying to eat her own, but it didn’t work. Suddenly her face cracked open, a full belly laugh escaped, causing my giggles to start all over again.

"What on earth happened?" We both sobered at the intruding voice of a third person. Hell, I’d forgotten Jodi was here.

"Had an accident," Cody grumbled, but there’s still a smile on her lips.

"So I see." Jodi looked around, seeing the large puddle on the tiled floor, then Cody’s clothes that were drenched. She grinned, and shaking her head, took a seat on the toilet lid, watching.

Still chuckling a little, I closed my eyes as I felt the warmth of the water surge through my hair, massaging my scalp as gentle hands pushed my hair back off my forehead where it had been pasted from the oops earlier. Those hands ran through the length, almost lulling me to sleep. I moaned softly, surprising myself, as I had no intention of making any noise, or any indication of how good it felt. Luckily, the sound of the sprayer hid my pleasure.

I could hear Jodi chattering on when Cody turned the sprayer off so she could lather my hair with the wonderful smelling Garnier Fructis. I could just inhale that stuff. So yummy.

"Whatever, Jodi," Cody said, her voice low and irritated.

"I mean, if you really want to, then go," I heard her sister say.

"No, no. Wouldn’t want to ruin the breakfast plans. You two go and have fun." I could tell Cody was pissed, but I heard no more as she turned the sprayer back on, and began to rinse the shampoo out, her touch not near as gentle as it had been earlier.

At some point Jodi had gotten up and left the room as Cody helped me to sit up on the seat, and I noticed the toilet seat was empty.

"So, you want some clothes?" Cody muttered, her eyes focused on the floor as she handed me a towel.

"Please?" I asked, unsure of how to act now. Her smiles and the fun of the water incident had been replaced by her sullen moodiness, and I didn’t know what I needed to do to stay out of the line of fire. I had the distinct feeling that Cody could bite, and she could bite hard.

"Listen, um, do you need me to do anything while you’re gone? Did Rand get you more food and stuff?"

I looked at her, baffled, head cocked to the side. Finally she looked at me, though her expression was terribly guarded.

"Aren’t you going with us?" I continued to rub the towel on my head, trying to get my hair as dry as possible. She hooked her thumb toward the other room.

"Her majesty had only planned on taking you out."

"That’s silly," I protested.

"Take it up with the princess in there."

I wasn’t sure what to do; do I tell Jodi that Cody is going anyway, and to deal? I sighed, knowing that I really couldn’t do that. This was Jodi’s invite, and I had to play it her way. Besides, I couldn’t imagine Cody being a real happy camper having to be seen in public with both her sister and the escapee from the Geriatrics ward.

"Oh, okay," I said, not sure whatever to say. "And, no. I think the food is fine, and please, feel free to raid the kitchen while we’re gone." I smiled, hopeful that I could pull her out of her funk.

"Nah, I think I’ll just head home."

Suddenly I felt panicked, then felt equally as stupid for feeling that way.

"No, Cody, please stick around. Please? I want you to show me today what you can do with those charcoals." I smiled at her, watching her face carefully. She looked at me as though she were thinking, trying to decide what to do, if anything, and then a slow smile spread across her face, and she nodded.

"Okay. But you owe me." She nodded toward the other room and her sister. I grinned.

"You got it."

It took some effort, but finally the sisters got me loaded into Jodi’s car, and we were off. I just wondered how the hell I’d get into my chair once we got to the restaurant.

"So I hope you don’t mind that Cody didn’t go," she said as she drove, glancing over at me. I just looked at her. "You know, she got to spend all last week with you, I figure I can at least nab a breakfast." She smiled, and I smiled back. I just prayed that this meal didn’t end like that last one I went to with her.

"I think it’s very nice that you saved me from another mundane day in that house. It’s nice to get out and see something other than that place, which is pretty amazing considering how much I love that house."

"Yeah, well like they say, too much of a good thing,..."


Finally we reached the little breakfast diner, though by that time, we were heading toward brunch. But, I said nothing.

With some grunts and strains, we finally got me into my chair once more, and Jodi pushed me onto the sidewalk, nearly dumping me over the curb as she tried to navigate it. She chuckled, and I grinned, trying to not show how much that had jarred my leg. Taking a deep breath, I pushed it down, determined to give the good intentioned girl a good breakfast.

Once seated, Jodi began to tell me about her summer school classes, and how much she was looking forward to the fall semester starting even though she realized that the spring one had just finished up. Personally I thought she was nuts, but that’s just me.

"Did you enjoy school?" she asked as she took a bite of her pancakes. I nodded, cutting my sausage link in two.

"Immensely. Though I have to admit, I was glad when I graduated." I stuck a piece of the meat into my mouth, chewing happily after eating TV dinners and PBJ for the last three days.

"Do you have your masters?" She sipped her coffee, then scrunched her nose, grabbing a third cream packet.

"Strong?" I asked, she nodded.

"Yeah. Old coffee."


"I know."

"Yes, as a matter of fact." Jodi looked up at me from stirring in the powdered milk.

"Really?" a look of total admiration and adoration crossed her face. Oh boy, not again. "That’s wonderful. I hope I end up with someone who’s well educated."


"I’m sure you will, Jodi. You’re a smart girl. Like speaks to like, right?" I smiled, hoping she wouldn’t put that comment within 500 yards of my backyard.

"Right." She smiled, though it was wistful and kind of sad. I felt bad for the girl. She really would make someone a great girlfriend someday; she was bright, attractive, interesting. She just had her sights set on the wrong someone. "So how long will Cody stay with you this time?"

Her question kind of threw me for a loop, and I stared at her for a moment, a bite of my Belgian waffle halfway to my mouth, maple syrup dripping slowly back to the plate.

"Well, uh, I’m not sure that she’ll be staying with me at all, Jodi." I stuck the bite into my mouth. Why did I always feel so damned guilty with these two? It was like if I wasn’t ticking one off, then it was the other. I had never liked the game of tug-of-war, and I certainly didn’t like being the rope.

I quickly moved us away from that particular conversation, and found safe ground in school once more.

* * *

Jodi got me home in one piece, and Cody met us in the driveway, helping, with much protest from her sister, to get me back in my chair, and wheeled up into the house.

Once I was parked safely in the living room, Jodi turned to her twin.

"Cody, can I speak with you for a moment?" Cody stared at her, then shrugged.

"Whatever." She led Jodi toward the kitchen, the girls disappearing through the swinging door. I sat there, almost feeling like a stranger in my own home, like I should go wait out on the front stoop, or something. Oh yeah, I still can’t walk.

With a sigh, I leaned my chin on my good hand, and looked out the front window when I heard low voices coming from the other room. I could tell them apart easily, Cody having a much deeper, smoother voice than Jodi’s higher pitched one. It sounded like little mumbles in each girl’s tone until the mumbles got a little louder, where I could almost hear what was being said, though I could make out words.

"You knew, Cody," Jodi accused. I felt bad listening, but I had few choices.

"Fuck you, I knew. Who cares? It doesn’t matter, Jodi."

"Yes it does." Jodi’s voice had gotten increasingly higher as more emotions began to sprout into it. "I told you from day one how I felt, and what I thought, but did that matter? No!"

"Dude, she’s not interested in you, okay?" Cody spat back.

"So what! So you come in and take over?"

"Take over? God, you’re such a child."

"Yes, take over. I just about socked you when you opened the door this morning. What the hell were you doing here, anyway?"

"Why, jealous?" Cody’s voice was low, dangerous.

I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I listened to the heated conversation in my kitchen from the children of my boss that revolved around none other than me! I was confused, not sure what to do. Should I stop them? Tell them both to leave? Should I-

"What if I like her too?!"

My thoughts stopped dead in their little mind tracks, and my eyes turned toward the kitchen, knowing Cody’s voice, and then thinking about her booming comment. I was struck dumb.

There was silence for a long minute, then the door swung violently open, and I immediately turned toward the window before seeing Jodi storm toward the front door out of the corner of my eye, not even looking at me before she slammed out of the house.

Oh my god.

Her car started up outside, and squealing tires peeled out of the driveway.

Holy shit!

Why does angst always get followed by religion?

Shaking my head to clear it, I turned back to look at the wall that hid the kitchen, my mind racing. "What if I like her too?!" This statement played over and over again in my mind, not sure how to take it, or what to do with it. What did she mean by that? Obviously Jodi couldn’t have liked it. But, what does it mean for me? Does it mean anything for me?

Shit! What the hell was I supposed to do now? From one sister hitting on me to both sisters liking me? How did I feel about that?

I began to dissect it as best I could in my haze of confusion. When Jodi had admitted that she liked me, then kissed me that night, I hadn’t been necessarily bothered by it, but had actually in some way been flattered by her admission. Certainly admiring her bravery.

Cody. She said she liked me, too. How do I feel about that? Truth be told, I had no frigging clue. I also had no idea what to do with this knowledge.

I froze as I heard the kitchen door slowly squeak is it opened.


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