Reader, I must, unfortunately, inform you that brevity will soon become a staple in our friendly, albeit one-sided conversations. Those times that, with no small amount of self-indulgence, I have jerked you through my history will also fade into the background. My story is nearing its end, and the need for my commentary is on a steady decline. I will continue to shed my insight as needed, but in much more concise, brief statements.
I cannot thank you enough for suffering with me through my plight. I assure you that my honest interpretation of my perception will continue as always.
November 30th, 2012
Rebecca’s long, soft hair shimmered in the dim, morning sunlight that peeked through the cracks in the blinds. Shimmering red strands of hair tickled my skin as she buried her head in my pale, bare chest, shielding her eyes from the sun. My skin tingled as she pulled herself closer to me, shivering in the morning cold. She let out a quiet yawn and rubbed her eyes with her wrist.
“Good morning,” she said. “Did you sleep well?”
“I guess,” I responded.
As Rebecca drug her finger softly up and down the center of my chest, thoughts raced through my head.
“You’re so warm,” she said, softly, as she defied the laws of physics by pulling our bodies closer together. “How long can I lay here with you?”
“Until I leave for work in a few hours,” I said.
Sandy claimed that if I were to ask Rebecca about their camaraderie, she would give me an honest affirmative. His bold offer, at the time, seemed like a bluff; but, as I sat and stared into her amber eyes, I ached to know the truth.
I know, I thought, that Sandy will do anything in his power to demolish my grip on reality. If she is with him, but lies to me, I can’t prove it. If she isn’t with him and tells me the truth, I might assume, since her truth does not agree with my preconceived notions, that she is a liar—that she is really with him. If she admits to being with him, I would have to choose to respond with placidity or violence, the latter of which has not fared well for me in my previous conflicts with Sandy’s kith. If she isn’t with him, but, in some convoluted attempt at a joke, tells me that she is, and if I respond with violence; then, she is another innocent soul who will die—another name on my rapidly growing list of victims. The distracting knowledge that Sandy must have considered each of these possibilities stifled my interrogation.
Rebecca and I lied in my bed for hours, huddled close together under the warm, blue quilt. She grazed my arm, torso, and neck with her soft fingers, and, finally, traced the outline of my face with her index finger, lightly tapping the tip of my nose when she finished.
At 4:30PM, I crawled out of bed and started dressing for work. Rebecca sprung out of the bed and dressed behind me. I watched her step into the bunch of olive skinny jeans that she had thrown on the floor and watched her shimmy into them over my shoulder.
My eyes followed her spine as she buttoned her pants. As I watched her dress, in pangs of lust, the perfect question ran through my head.
“Rebecca,” I said.
“Yeah?” she said, glancing over her shoulder as she reached for her shirt.
“There’s something I need to talk to you about when I get home. I don’t know the best way to articulate it right now, but I wanted to warn you so that you have time to think about it.”
“That’s fine,” she said, as she threw her white blouse on the bed. “Can I borrow a shirt? Mine’s filthy.”
I threw her a red, v neck shirt, and she slipped it on.
“I have something I want to ask you, too, M,” she said.
“Can it wait ‘til tonight?”
“It’s a simple question,” she said, with a wide grin as she began to inch towards me. I backed towards the door, away from her encroaching steps in feigned nonchalance. She followed me to the top of the stairs. After I had started down the steps, I turned towards her and stopped her where she stood. I leaned over and grabbed her feet.
“Don’t trip me,” she said, smiling.
“What do you want to ask?”
“Why won’t you kiss me?”
“We’ll talk about it tonight,” I said, turning away from her, heading down the stairs. She stood at the top and shouted down the dark stair-well:
“It’s not a hard question.”
I ignored her as I put a Newport red between my lips and twisted the doorknob.
“See you tonight, Matthew Broderick,” she said, chuckling.
November 30th, 2012 5:00PM
When I arrived at work, Gillespie and Todd were huddled up in conversation. Gillespie looked up at me and said Fenton wanted to see me in the dining room.
He was seated in a wooden booth in the empty dining room, with his hands folded in his lap. He stared through one of the glass windows that surrounded the front of the building. A puff of smoke lifted into the air and dissipated in front of him. He heard my approaching footsteps and spun his head towards me.
“Hey, M,” he said, enthusiastically, while picking up the cigarette that was burning in the ashtray.
“Have a seat.”
I slid into the seat and reached for my pack of cigarettes.
“Take one of mine,” he said, holding his opened pack towards me. “I don’t want to cut you off, or keep you from asking questions, but I’m probably going to be talking for a while. Is that alright?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. You’re the boss,” I said.
“M, I want to ask you about Luke and Annie.”
A knot formed in my throat that kept me from speaking. Fenton continued:
“Annie and Luke haven’t stepped out of their house for weeks. I usually wave goodby to Annie when I step out for my morning cigarette, but every morning that I’ve stepped out, I wait for the garage door to open, but nothing happens.”
He paused and stared at his burning cigarette.
“After the first few days, I started getting really worried, so I went over there, and…”
He leaned back in the booth and stared up at the ceiling tile that was directly above his head.
“Fuck,” he growled. “I went over there, and I noticed everything was trashed. Broken dishes were lying on the floor; ash trays, chairs, liquor bottles and a bunch of other shit was scattered around. And, one of Luke’s paintings was taken off the wall. I wouldn’t have noticed, but—“
He choked up with sad laughter and continued, and I rested my hands on the table:
“there was an outline in the paint that was yellowed from all of Luke’s cigarette smoke. I’ve been in their house, and I’ve seen the painting before, so it took me off guard when I saw it hanging over the bookshelf in your living room.”
A familiar ringing had started in my ears; in front of the ash tray, a smoldering pile of ash, which had fallen from the cigarette that was still in my hand, had collected. I didn’t attempt to think of a response. Fenton maintained the same faux calmness he had been wearing for the entirety of our conversation.
“I know why,” he said. “It’s because you stole it from their house after you…you did something with them. I’ve known for weeks. They were my friends—our friends—but you…whatever you did…”
With his last fragment, Fenton started unraveling. He covered his eyes for a minute and forced himself to maintain composure.
“A few days after I found out they were gone, you came to my house. You asked me to get things for you—things that, normally, I wouldn’t have a problem getting; but, you were not yourself, dude. Your eyes were cold and glazed over and, considering the nature of what you wanted, I didn’t know if you could be trusted with the stuff you wanted. I was still trying to decide what I needed to do with you.”
Fenton’s cigarette went out. He pulled another one from the pack, lit it, and stared out at the setting sun before continuing.
“I should’ve stopped you right then, but I’m too fucking soft. I gave you everything you asked for.”
A stinging mixture of confusion and anger poisoned my thoughts; Sandy tried to steal my focus.
“Leave. Kill him, or leave. Don’t listen any more, M. He knows what you’ve done–he’s a loose end. He’ll ruin you, M boy. Listen to me.”
Sandy lacked his usual belligerence, and did not take control of my actions, so I stayed in my seat, listening.
“I should’ve stopped you. I tried to convince myself that I should confront you about this for weeks, but it took me so long to find the strength to do what I was planning on doing. When I finally decided to ask you about it–”
Fenton blew a thick puff of smoke against the windowpane.
“I came to your house–you were covered in blood.”
“Ow, fuck!” I said. The smoldering tobacco had gone out, and the fire of my cigarette started creeping down the filter. The fire burnt my fingers and I threw the butt into the ashtray. Sandy, barely whispering, repeated his plea.
“Listen to me.”
Fenton, seeming to notice my internal distraction, shot a sidelong, uneasy glance at me and went on:
“When I walked in, I saw you covered in blood. You were standing over a huge, red puddle, talking to yourself, I thought. When I approached you, you told me to leave.”
Sandy’s voice echoed in a plea, a command, and a scream; I ignored the throbbing in my head.
“Please, calm down, Miles,” Fenton said. “You said something about Sandy. ‘Sandy made me do this, Fenton, I swear.’ You kept saying that over and over. I went over to my house immediately and grabbed my camera. When I came back, you were on your knees in front of the puddle. When I moved towards you, you told me to leave again, and you started saying something—you were talking to someone who wasn’t there, M.”
I got out of the booth immediately and shouted at Fenton.
“You don’t fucking get it, Fenton! If you would ask me, instead of assuming you understand what’s going on, you wouldn’t have to make assumptions about me! I’m not talking to imaginary friends, you fucking dick! I’m not insa—“
Fenton jumped out of his chair and punched me in the face. I fell on my back. As blood poured out of my nose, I stared up at Fenton. He hovered over me; the knuckles of his clenched fist was stained by fresh blood.
“Get your ass up, M; and, sit the fuck down. We’re going to have a civil conversation, and you’re not going to snap at me. I’m not your fucking enemy, M. Right now, I am your boss; but, M, I’m trying my hardest to be your friend. I want to help you. You are making it very hard to be the good guy; but, that’s fine: if you want to take the low road, then let’s make our fucking way. You are going to listen to every goddamned word I say. If you try to leave—if you even squirm in your fucking seat–I will end you, do you understand? You’ve killed people, Miles. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but if you won’t cooperate with me, then I have to take responsibility for you.”
I reached for my handkerchief, to wipe the blood from my nose, but it was gone.
“I took your handkerchief. That’s not all I have. Get back in your seat. Now.”
Fenton didn’t bother to help me up. I pulled myself up on my hands and knees, facing the floor.
Sandy’s voice erupted in a rabid, vile solo, but Fenton’s shouting drowned it out.
“Get the fuck up, M! Stop sniveling! Get off of your fucking knees!”