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Untitled – Part 1: A Short Story

This is a story I wrote that had a terrible ending, so I just deleted it! Here is the first half. Hopefully the second half won’t take me too long to come up with, (but knowing me it probably will.) The second half was also where my original title came from, so for now it is Untitled (a cop out I know). When it’s finished, I’m sure a beautifully appropriate title will come to me in a dream or something…

 

Untitled (for now)

This wasn’t something I planned. It wasn’t something I expected. Sure, I’ve always wanted this to happen, but not now, not here. It was more something to look forward to, something to hope for. But it happened, and for some reason I let it happen. I still ask myself, what made me finally say yes? I’d been asked many times, and every time I would stop breathing and my ears would fill with blood. I’d hear that pounding pounding sound. It’d be so loud I’d know everyone around can hear it, wondering if someone was using a hammer in the next room over. But I would shake it off, and remember my situation. And I would say no. I’d be more depressed than ever before, but I would know I did the right thing.

But that’s in the past. And the present is far more wonderful and terrible than I ever thought. Even now I’m looking at him, and I don’t know what to feel. He’s on the couch, sleeping on a pillow, and it feels like it’s always been like this, that he’s always been here. He makes me so happy, and yet, I’m scared. I’m scared because I know he shouldn’t be here, he doesn’t belong. I’ve forced him to belong, to fit into my life, into my tiny world. He yawns and I can see his teeth. They’re perfect and sharp, but they’re not what I’m scared of. How could I be? I could never be scared of him. I might not know where he came from, how he spent his time before now, but he’s gentle, and loving, and always affectionate. How could it be wrong that he’s here? That pillow is his now, and even after he’s gone, in however many years that is, it will always be his. I will always remember how he looked stretched across it, and how he slept for hours, a paw over his eyes.

I love having a cat again.

It’s the middle of the day and I’m taping blankets to my windows. I rip the duct tape with my teeth and slap it to the wall, the blue cloth secure beneath it. Rip, slap, rip, slap, rip, slap, over and over. With every slap, the sunlight on the carpet dims, until it’s gone, and I can let out a long breath. The window is covered.

It’s the window that faces the street of the apartment complex. Now no one driving by or walking with their kids can see into my living room, but that’s not why I did it. Across the street is a building. It’s the first building I entered in the complex when I came here two years ago. It’s the building with the golf cart parked outside by the grass, hogging most of the street. It’s the building with the community room, where old people huddle together and watch even older movies, and where the garden club sits in a circle on metal chairs, discussing petunias as they shift and twist, their butts slowing falling asleep and entering numbness. It’s the building where I signed my lease and got my mail key. It’s the office, and I cannot let them see inside.

If I had known what I know now, I would have never moved here. As I pat down the blanket and check for any air bubbles under the tape, I can’t help but think about the day I wrote my initials in all the little boxes. I signed things like Satellite Dish Agreement, Lead-Based Paint Disclosure, and Crime-Free/Drug-Free Multihousing. I had no problems with these; in fact, I barely read them. They were just common sense rules to follow, and I had no problem doing just that. I remember reaching the last page, and that’s when I woke up.

No Pets Allowed Agreement.

My heart sank a little, but that was it. After all, I’d had no pets since my last cat, Maurice, had passed on. Besides, this meant I wouldn’t have to worry about stepping in dog shit on the way to my car. So I wrote LMS in that box like the others and capped my pen. A lingering thought had tried to make its way up my brain stem, but shaking my head forced it to shoot back down into nothingness. I could survive without a pet to live in one of the only apartments that had grass and palm trees. Right?

The top corner of the blanket hangs down, the duct tape flapping in the air, desperately trying to stick to something soft. I scowl and tear the tape off the wall, ready to replace it. I glance out the glass and see Ronald entering the front door of the office. Ronald. That first day is also when I met Ronald in person. He should have been my first clue to put the pen down and run.

Ronald works in the office as a leasing agent. Not only does he work there, but he lives there, too. He rents the studio that shares a wall with the office. Talk about dedication to your work. But he’s too dedicated. Not only did he reply to my “request more information” email, but he responded every day. Twice a day. For a week. Sure, I thought something was weird with him. Most of the time you’re lucky if apartments acknowledge you contacted them. But I was desperate. The rent was good, and there was grass, green grass. Not that straw shit that seems to sprout up amongst rocks and sand. But beautiful, shining, dewy grass. The kind that makes you smile as you walk by, and that you don’t mind getting mud on your feet as long as you can squish the green between your toes.

When I walked through the door, leaving a car bursting with boxes and trash cans filled with lamps and plastic cups, I looked for the desk with his name plate. Behind it was a thin man with red hair. He looked up and I saw his nose was covered in pimples, and when he smiled his teeth were crooked. Not a good start.

From that day on, he has trouble leaving me alone. He likes to lay in wait for me to get my mail or take out my trash. He likes to help me carry things form my car. He even helped jump my car when the battery sputtered out. None of these things would be all that bad, but he’s always sweating, and staring at me, and he never blinks. He stares at me and licks his lips and “accidently” brushes my hand, leaving a grease stain on my palm. I’ve been putting up with it, mostly because he lets me turn my rent in late.

But I barely think of him anymore. Now my time is spent taking care of someone. Wilson. He depends on me now, so I can’t let Ronald distract me anymore. I have to be vigilant. I stand back with my hands on my hips. The light is snuffed out completely, the windows are covered. I feel something soft graze my leg. It’s Wilson, sniffing the duct tape. I bend down, and my heart softens when I look in his green yellow eyes, and when I scratch under his chin, but my brain reminds me No Pets Allowed, No Pets Allowed, NO PETS ALLOWED! He has to be a secret. I can’t let anyone see him. When I leave for work, I lock him in my windowless bedroom, and I pray he stays quiet. When I’m sleeping, I hope to God he doesn’t chew off the tape, wanting a peek outside. I wish I could make him understand how important it is he is always quiet. I tell him to stay away from the windows, and I pull him back. I feel like it’s the cold war, and the windows are blacked out and we could be bombed at any moment. I laugh. If only things were that serious. But then I straighten my face. Things are that serious. If I lose Wilson, I lose everything.

I close the car door slowly, careful not to make a sound. I can’t help the rustle of the plastic bags I’m carrying, but I do my best to hold my arm stiff. The “Petsmart” logo is strategically facing my leg, but the red and blue are so bright against the clear plastic. I’m shaking as I start the walk to my front door, and my eyes are glued wide open. The world is silent except for the slight thump of my toes hitting the pavement and the exhale of breath through my nose. I can see the mailboxes now, I’m close. I just have to turn the corner, the corner across from the office, and I’ll be in the home stretch. I see the stairs leading up to my door, and thank God, the outside light is still broken. Just a bit closer…

“Lily! I’m glad I caught you!”

I wince when I hear the crack of his voice. I hear footsteps getting progressively louder. I plaster a smile on my face and spin around, holding my arms, and the bags, behind my back.

“Ronald, hey. What a surprise.” I back up slowly, hitting the mailboxes. My heart stops when I hear the bags crackle.

“Yeah, I was just finishing up some paperwork when I saw your car drive by.” He flattens his tie with his hands over and over, successful only in wrinkling it more. He cranes his neck from left to right. He looks like a confused giraffe. “Doing some late night shopping?”

I squeeze my hands tighter, the plastic digging in painfully. “Yes, I was. Stores are just so crowded during the day.” I grimace at my pathetic explanation. No way he’s believing that.

“Sure, sure, that’s so true. Need any help?”

“No!” I say, maybe a little too fast. “I’ll be fine.”

“Okay, no problem.” He holds his tie with both hands and just looks at me, his eye’s getting fuzzy.

I start to turn around.  “Well, I better get going-“

“Wait! I wanted to ask if you were coming to the community barbeque.”

I blink. “The what?”

“You know, it was in the newsletter. I put it on your door myself…” He trails off. His eyebrows form a triangle above his eyes.

“Oh, yes, of course. I’ll be there.” I force a smile. “I’ll see you there, I guess.” I turn around, but too fast. One of the bags catches on the end of the metal jutting out from the mailboxes. I see it happen in slow motion. The flimsy plastic handles tear in half, as if they were cut with scissors. The bag is airborne, and then crashes on the sidewalk, its contents spilling out. The small cans of Friskies roll down the incline and out on the dark street. Most of them stop in a pothole, but one hits Ronald’s dusty old shoe. It sways from side to side endlessly, like when you drop a coin. I can hear the wind swoosh past it as it rocks back and forth. Finally, it comes to rest with a booming echo, facing up.

“Oh, here, let me help you.” Ronald starts bending down.

“No!” I sound high and squeaky. Ronald looks at me half bent over, his fingertips almost touching the can. “I mean no thank you. I can get it.” I dive to the ground and gather up the small cans, my hands trying in vain to completely cover the label. I shove them all into my purse and stretch up almost too quickly. I have to blink my eyes to get rid of the dizziness. I dust off my jeans, thanking God over and over that I was successful.

I let a gasping laugh escape. “Well, thanks Ronald. I’ll see you later!” I’m halfway to the steps when I hear my name. I turn around, and Ronald is somehow closer than before. I’m annoyed until I see what he’s holding.

I’d missed one of the cans.

“Here…” He pushes his arm out, the label as bright and clear as the sun on a hot summer day. I stare at his hand longer than I should. His fingers are long and thin, almost skeletal. The hair on his knuckles is unnaturally black compared to the whiteness of his skin. His nails are yellow and far too long. His hands churn my stomach.

I rescue the can from his grasp, and thrust it in my purse with the rest. It’s safe now. But I can’t think of a thing to say. The look in Ronald’s eyes confuses me. What is he thinking about? Is he considering telling his boss, or is he daydreaming about my chest? Why isn’t he saying anything? Why is he so quiet! All I keep thinking, over and over again in my head, the phrase that echoes with my heartbeat: he knows, he knows, he knows.

“Well, have a good night, Lily.” He smiles showing his uneven teeth. He turns around and walks back toward the office. I’m left standing there in the darkness of the broken light, and I’m frozen.

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