Seeing At Dusk

What to Care About

A/n: This is pretty long. I'm sorry. If you strain your eyes too much for too long, I will help pay for your surgery.

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I was taking a break from yelling for my mother with her maiden name tagged on and had begun eating some Cocoa Puffs in a bowl. Drenched in milk.

The crunching and slurping from my mouth created loud bangs and disruptions in the silent atmosphere. I just, at least, wanted to hear Bridget crying. I hoped she was crying and not asleep.

I was watching the telephone on the wall. My reasoning could've been that I wanted my sister or Marge or Helen to call up, but it was about Weston. It was always about Weston.

I prepped myself on answering, hearing his breathing, and then pegging him with an "I know about your dad. Everything." It was a lie, but sometimes to get the bigger picture one had to create it.

After putting the bowl in the sink and going past the clock remains, I reached my mom's door and tongued my teeth for left behind soggy chocolate.

"Bridget?"

I recovered a puff piece in my back molar. "You're here, I know. Did you break the clock?" Clearing my throat, I put both hands on the rigid wood. "Mom, did you break the clock?" I stared at the door. At the big block of wood proving to be just another thing standing between me and my mother."Can you tell me?" There wasn't a trace of edginess or dissatisfaction in my tone. Just awareness. "I'd like to know. I'd like to know if it was one of your boyfriends or if-"

"Don't call them that. That makes me feel like shit and you know that." Her voice was right up against where I was right up against and I pictured her crouching between the frame. She was angered with a worn-out, fuzzy type of anger. I knew she was alone.

"Who broke our clock?"

"Why are you doing this right now?" She spoke through bubbles in her throat.

"I don't mean to be annoying."

"Okay. It's not your fault. Just leave it alone tonight."

I said, wonderingly, "Is it your fault, Mom? Is it Dad's fault?"

"What's wrong with you?"

"Everything," I said like answering what two plus two was.

She groaned. "You're not five. Stop being a brat. Go back to your friend's house, please. Do me a favor, please."

"I can't be here?"

"Not like this. Not when you're doing this."

I wanted to curse at her for breaking that clock. "Bridget." But it was only submission on my part.

For her it was derisiveness. "Rosalie."

"I want to tell you something," I said, "but I think I'll just leave. I'll just leave it alone."

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It was either rounding on morning or already there and blossoming into an early afternoon time.

I wasn't tired or just didn't allow it.

Maybe it was the insomniac in me who thought of the idea to sneak up to Morris Graverly's window from his back yard. Maybe it was just the broke-down me.

I knocked, expecting the wrath but not quite fearing it. Morris was intimidating, however there was an implicit line between the two of us -a line that he respected enough not to cross verbally. The line equaled Weston.

Tapping and knocking and beating and thumping, I prayed Morris was in his room and that I wasn't disturbing Mrs. Brady.

"Wes?" He threw open his window with the drapes behind him and he hissed into the creamy-dark outside. "Wes? Man, is that you?"

I held up my hand and waited until disappointment and shock came to his features. He gazed upon me – me, standing on tip-toes over a dirt pile.

I said through my teeth, "I feel stupid."

"Well, you. You are. You're trespassing." He wasted no time in immediately closing the window. The drapes fluttered back into place.

I experienced a calm disbelief and then the misery of the entire night snuck up on me. I stared at the passage into his room through my big bloated eyes. I felt the strenuous tears well up and they were so damn unwelcome.

I was so damn unwelcome.

So I cried. Still standing there, I cried for the umpteenth time that night. And my shoulders were jerking.

Being rejected was the theme and I just wanted out of the story. So I cried more.

My feet sunk into the dirt pile in Morris' in-progress yard and I knelt down into it, feeling the powder flanked by my fingers. I would've buried myself alive, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about that. Would one start with the feet and then work one's way up?

"The Princess has cracked," Morris surveyed behind me.

His arms curled around my waist and he uncouthly pulled me up. The soil sifted from my body. I didn't experience freshness. He plopped me on the solid ground, keeping me centered as my legs got used to it.

He said, "You keep coming back."

I said, "I know."

Then my chest tightened and I turned into him with my head under his chin. He was ready to let go but I just wanted some security. I clutched onto his baggy t-shirt and masked my bleakness with his broad body. He was uncomfortable and I knew that, but he did his best to stiffly pat my back.

It wasn't a nightmare holding Morris. It wasn't a dream. It was just in his backyard. Simply.

"It's okay," he calmed me. "It's fine." He talked to me on the same level as he talked to Weston, except the adoration was replaced with sympathy.

Sniveling and clawing at the wall he was made up to be, I recognized that it was too late to be embarrassed.

"You're in shambles," he said almost apologetically.

I basked in the strength he delivered me and wished I didn't need any deliverance of that kind. Morris never cried, I knew. Vulnerability was losing it all.

But right then, I was saying "Forget it" to that.

"Never thought I'd see you like this," he mumbled.

I said back, muffled, "You and me both."

"What was that?"

Winded, I pulled up my face. "You've got muscles," I stated. Not a compliment of course, but it was something I'd never known.

I sensed him rolling his eyes. "I do."

"How?"

"I help out at my dad's work. Lifting stuff."

"I knew you were too busy pouting to make time for a work-out." I sniffled and smiled. Was a joke a little more than we were supposed to share? Right then, of all times?

He didn't smile as I let myself step back unsteadily and look up at his face. No anger, no deadliness, either.

Regaining composure wasn't as easy as actresses made it seem. Because he scrutinized me as I tried to rise up. "I'm sorry."

He leaned forward and I'd never been so close to the gloom and secrets he had in his atmosphere. He stared at me head-on. "You are?" He wasn't curious and he paused. "Come on."

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Mattie opened the door, still like the sleazy young man I remembered – but brighter. "Holy hell." He grinned at me. "What'chu doin' 'ere? And who's this?"

Morris shoved by rigidly.

I remained in the hotel hall and took the arm Mattie extended to me. "I brought one uh muh girls, Cherry, up 'ere yestahday and she shit 'erself," he explained proudly. "Nobody expe'ted me to stay at the Sheraton."

"I don't know." I grinned. "I think this suits you pretty well."

It was nice and spiffy. Wide main room with the conventional television and large window. A mellow sort of brown was the basic color for the walls and it matched the darker furniture.

The bathroom door was open to the right and two other sets of doors were past the couch.

"Yuh came tuh admire the crib at this time uh night?" Mattie said, releasing me and flopping down on the long L-shaped sofa.

"Yes," I said. I detected that Morris wasn't around. "Hopefully I didn't wake you up by knocking."

"Nah, nah." He patted the spot beside him. "Yuh gonna stay awhile?"

"Merely need to talk to Weston."

Mattie smacked his lips. "Whatevuh. He's in that room."

"Thanks."

I reached the first door past the living room area and picked up voices inside. It reminded me of the closet occurrence because I stopped and put my head conveniently closer.

Weston sounded muddled and dozy. "Muscles?"

"I shouldn't have even told you. I just thought it was sort of funny."

Weston's laughter was winded. "I can't believe you've turned into a pretty boy."

"Ah, hell." Morris chuckled raucously. "I wasn't flattered. And you're the one whose dream is to be mistaken for Fabio on the streets or something."

He said, "Not now, man. After I grow my hair out. And Fabio's not pretty, he's gorgeous."

I scoffed and felt extremely relieved that it was light talk. It seemed to be a good moment to open the door.

Weston was sitting at the end of the bed in only lime colored boxer shorts and Morris was beside him, smirking. His long black coat was discarded on the ground. He stopped smirking.

I stepped inside and suddenly regretted it. I was breaking up their guy-talk. I was probably creating an ulcer in Morris's stomach. It was obviously only Dude-and-Man time.

Weston stood up with his hair twisted and threading down. He was going to say something.

I held up my hand and thought fast. I didn't want to be a nuisance. "Hello. I'm here and now I'll go watch television with Mattie. Good day."

I hurried out of the door and desired cold, cold water. He really did do something to me, made me speculate about lust being a cause for death.

"That was a quick talk," Mattie said at my return.

"Yes, I sup-"

Skinny arms wrapped around my waist almost as Morris's had done earlier. His bare chest crushed my back and his lips flounced around my ear. "Good day?" His teeth near one of my curls, he said, "Dolly, good day?"

"Guess it ain't done." Mattie turned up the volume with the remote.

I twisted around and he kissed my lips hungrily. The idea of telling him about his father was becoming less and less appealing as he smoothed his hands over the front of my sweatshirt. His tongue touched mine and took control of it, directing the whole performance.

"You're not wearing a bra," he murmured.

"You're not wearing a shirt," I countered.

"Does that mean we're thinking the same thing?" He dragged his palms in circles around my shoulders and then down some.

"Break it up," Morris demanded, seemingly paying me back for my previous intrusion.

Weston moved back and I squirmed under the expression he gave me. Eager and biting his bottom lip, he made it awfully hard for me to stop touching him.

"Horny much?" Morris snorted and he flicked his hand in Mattie's direction. "No one wants to see that."

"You gonna stay?" Wes targeted at him. "Just forget the parents and all?"

"Yeah." Morris trudged to the couch. "The Gill excuse shall do."

"Dolly." Weston arched his fingers around my fingers. "Would you like to go talk?"

It was hard to substitute Weston's lips, Weston's lips in my head with the topic of Jordy Kimble. But I knew what I had to do. I didn't know what he'd do.

"You guys have ten minutes," Mattie informed us loudly.

"Sure thing, pal," said Weston.

He led me into the medium sized room of his and I saw new clothes scattered all over and a shiny black laptop computer atop one of the bed stands. His sudden possession of money made me feel prickly.

"Have you cried a lot tonight?" He closed the door with his bare foot and escorted me to the bed.

I recited to myself a chant about not answering him and being impish as I thought he behaved. He really did behave impish. I recited it and recited it.

But somewhere between the floor and the ceiling, I forced myself to nod. "Yes, but it's dense of me."

He slung his arm around my neck and took my other hand. "It's your adult isn't it? I know it's her." He wanted it to be her. All because of her. It'd be easier that way, for him at least.

"I messed up, Wes. I really, really made a big mess. I can't . . . I can't cry anymore. But it's such a mess."

"Nothing you can't clean up," he said.

"Kaiya." I lived through everything she'd said to me over again briefly. "Oh, jeez, she was screaming at me like a lunatic and I couldn't stop crying."

"What'd she say to you?"

"That . . . that egg analogy. It made illogical sense I think. Just ramblings of a deeper thought she couldn't articulate. She wasn't saying it right. But I got it. See, nothing made sense."

"Egg analogies." He was considering it.

"She told me I was a fraud. And I know she was being irrational but it felt like that word just fit right. Me and my cape, maybe she had the right aim."

"It wasn't about you, Dolly. I bet it had nothing to do with you."

I was sounding squeaky and smothered, but I wanted him closer. "The hotline and the house-calls, that doesn't prove anything. I think of myself as some kind of a God, don't I? Like I can snap my fingers and then . . ."

"Not you," he said gravely. "You work hard and you're always wanting to work harder. Kaiya was trying to tear you apart because she's probably been ripping at the seams since or before I remember her."

I said, "I shouldn't have thought I could make her life good. I shouldn't have thought that because she and I wanted it so much, that it would just happen. I set her up for failure."

"I don't think so. I know that you think you've failed but, Dolly, she and all of them have failed you."

"Failed me? I was supposed to handle it for her and I couldn't do that. I had to help her and make her happy and I couldn't. I was the one who fell through."

He said crossly, as if defending me to someone else, "This is the first time you thought you'd made a mistake. Your first experience with disappointment. How is it fair that you have it harder than the people you're saving?"

He sighed and said, "You're getting used up. When's the last time someone you helped wanted to repay the favor?"

"That's not why I do it," I said. "Don't make it sound like I'm getting ripped off. And if I get used up into nothingness-"

He squeezed my hand. "I won't let that happen."

No eye contact. "I'm worried that Kaiya's going to just shrivel into nothing."

"Of course." In an abrupt motion, he was up. "Of course you are."

I rubbed my eyes redder and redder.

"I just don't know why . . ." He ended with an 'I've-accepted-it' whine.

I had nothing. I was busy rubbing my skin raw.

He gripped my wrists and lowered them. I blinked away the pesky white dots.

"Don't feel so guilty, Dolly. I know we all forget sometimes that you're human – but you are."

I shook my head. "I shouldn't have-"

"Kaiya shouldn't have just made you the keeper of her happiness. She made believe you could snap your fingers and fix it all up. If she doesn't come to her wits, I can talk to her." He was a frenetically earnest boy.

"Oh and you'll just handle everything?" I said, mocking his confidence.

His kissed my knuckle. It didn't matter which one. Just that he did it. "Screw Handling It. Screw that. We can deal just fine. We don't need a handle."

I gave him a smile attempt.

"You're tired."

"I think I might be," I said. "What time is it?"

He looked at a plain digital clock beside his laptop. "Thirteen o'clock." Then he slid on the bed beside me, rubbing his feet over my feet.

"I feel like it's fourteen o'clock."

He leaned over and kissed my cheek in a swift movement. He scooted back to the pillows and crossed his legs, acting like he was taking in the sight of me. Taking me in gradually. Taking in my fluffed hair and inflated face.

I gazed back at him. "Thank you. Weston." And I wanted him to 'You're Welcome' me sincerely right back for some normalcy. Then we'd just be in peace.

But Wes was already off of the bed and walking past. "I'll be right back."

I sat on the rim, bending my legs over it.

Kaiya had been ripping apart. It'd been happening for a long time. Every time she had tightened those shoe laces. Maybe it was just how it had to be. The seamstress couldn't fix the fabric so she tore it apart to start again. Anew. Whether that included me or not.

It wasn't like I was losing a friend. A client, maybe. A lunch time companion, probably.

As I fell backward, I thought about what I was doing here. Why I was here. I thought about the sick hold I had on Weston. I was dangling the option of a different ending right in front of his face. Trying to get what I wanted with the suggestion that he'd get what he wanted. But nothing would be different. I still didn't know what I wanted and I still knew what I'd never want.

Commitment ruined people. Commitment somewhere down the line was the reason those people called me and was the reason they came – dragging their feet.

On the other line it was one of those billion versions of the same story. Some boy told her "I love you" while he meant "I love your face" or his parents told him "We love each other" while they meant "Your mother wants custody" and "Your father's a prick". Love was just a median. Between 'like' and uncertainty. Maybe it was used just to cover up the malice in people, with their fears and their selfishness. And no one ever correlated love with malice. People correlated it with some kind of a need. And everyone thought they needed it. Weston thought he needed it.

I believed that he really wanted to need it and that was somewhat sickening. To want that kind of obligation. For me, what I believed was what I established as legitimacy because I had never believed in the Tooth Fairy and I had never believed in the kisses my mother and my father used to give each other.

I realized Weston was taking his time doing whatever and also that it was getting harder not to flip down the lights mentally. I released consciousness as I visualized my mom sweeping up the clock in her night gown.

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Zane was a British guard in the corner with a bowl of steamy chicken noodle soup in his oven mitt clad hands.

"Good morning." I noticed the covers over me and the stickiness of my Levi jeans.

"I've had to heat it up twice," he told me. "Didn't know when you'd wake up."

"That's tremendously thoughtful." Adjectives covered for people better than umbrellas.

"Yeah, Dylan's scrambling eggs in the kitchen but I figured you'd like this. Sometimes I'm too sentimental, I guess."

"That's a good thing. I certainly, definitely appreciate it. Except I'm quite allergic." Cue repentant bob.

"Hunh. Too bad."

"Yes."

I waited until he was gone all of the way. No one else was there. No one wrapped around me or breathing through their nose. No one resting their head on their propped up hand. No one playing with my hair. Not even a groove in the mattress.

I stepped out of bed and let out a squeal. Then slapped my hands to my face. Just slapped and slapped like Moe and Curly would have respected. I needed to smack the fragility off of myself and just get alert.

"Jeez. Jeez. Jeez."

I quit the slapping and slinked outside into the hall. Made a quick trip into the bathroom. Made the stay much longer as I tidied up my hair and drenched my face.

"You look like a zombie," Morris said as I entered the kitchen.

"Maybe didn't get much sleep." Dylan had shaved his goatee and about a year off of his appearance. His hair was shorter. He was unquestionably striking and I flushed as he jabbed my side.

"Don't worry. I got plenty." I took a seat at the counter of a tidy and miniature white kitchen.

"You're probably hungry." Dylan went to the stove. "I'm cooking up another batch and Zane said you were allergic to the soup. That sucks."

"I'm managing."

"So you want yours with pepper?"

"Yes, please." I was tempted to ask about his wife but the atmosphere was so cheery that I couldn't put weight on that.

Mattie was watching television and Zane had joined him.

"Weston went out," Morris said to me, egg bits tumbling down his chin.

"Do you know why?"

"Probably to buy you a castle."

Dylan slid a plate in front of me and then followed it with a fork. "Ketchup's coming right up."

I said to Morris, "I don't think I told you this last night, but your muscles . . . they're nice." I kept somber.

He started eating his eggs again, a hint of a smile there. I found myself childishly treasuring the hint as if I'd achieved something by earning it and I understood why my sister went mad to get one targeted at her. Just to get a clue.

I scooped up the eggs and ate a heap of them, letting morsels plummet down my own chin.

He lifted his brows and gave me a look that asked, "is that so?" and then he said with his vocal cords, "Handsome's back."

I spun myself on the stool to catch Weston cut straight from the door into his room. There was a bam, bam as doors were thrown closed and then not even a thank you, ma'am.

"His outing didn't go well," I assumed.

"Why don't you go kiss it and make it all better?" Morris said.

I let my ass slide down. "I actually think I'll just say goodbye. We have school tomorrow and I have work and I still have homework to-"

"Yeah, then get on it." He didn't care. Of course. And even if he wasn't resentful toward me, he would continue not to care. About a lot. The ozone, babies, endangered species, etcetera. He was just that guy.

I went to him, Weston, and it was the kind of movement where one doesn't remember how one gets there but suddenly one is sitting beside The Handsome.

"What happened?" I said. "Where did you go?"

He was hunched over, his hands suctioned to his face. His hair was short and straight at the nape of his neck, glistening with sweat.

"You were so beautiful last night," he said through sticky fingers, making a stretching sound with his lips. "I finally got to see you sleeping -in person. You weren't just in my head and you're so beautiful."

". . . Wes, thank you, but something's happened. I can tell." Steering him toward my concern wouldn't have an affect, but I had to try. "What happened?"

"I didn't sleep beside you," he said because that boy would talk about what that boy wanted to talk about. And I was meant to listen to what I was meant to listen to. "I slept on the couch. I didn't-" He cleared out dust from his throat with a revving type of cough. "I didn't think I'd be nice if I was next to you like that. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be good. Like I wasn't nice when I was with you in the cab after you fainted."

"I had felt you on my neck," I said heavily. "In and out of my slideshow."

"Your slideshow?" I saw him move a thumb and a corner of his eye peeked out at me.

"Clips of the night," I said. "A fast, blurred slideshow."

"I see."

And damn, did he ever. Anytime I knew he was concentrating on me, there'd be an uncontrollable frisson that'd shoot through my body.

"After that night I'd talked to you about safety, although when you were the most vulnerable, I had tasted your skin over and over again like a deranged golden retriever. I am such a creep. But I was sick of my mouth being so dry. I felt like I had to." He said, "And so last night I just tucked you in and I left before it got bad."

I had a weird sensation where I almost laughed, but I swallowed it. "You are good, Weston. You're a good person. I don't think you're creepy."

"Tasted your skin over and over . . ."

"I'm not. Not to everyone."

I explained, "No one is nice to every-"

"Not to Gavin."

"Um . . . oh." Was it time to make an escape?

"He makes me feel callous and sinister. I get evil," he said noxiously.

I advised shamefacedly, "You should try getting to know him."

"Any bad thing that happens to me, I think about him. And I think I hate him," he said monotonously.

My jaw was clenched. "So that's what this is about," I deducted. "Did you see him? After you left? You ran into him?"

"No," he responded. Really responded.

I said, "But you seem bothered by-"

"It comes back to him. I probably, deep down, blame him for every war this country's been involved in and when I stub my toe too. Why the hell are the most crucial things sometimes the least life threatening? And the stuff that could get you killed, well, you'd rather not live thinking about." He was cryptic. "You can't force yourself to feel a certain way, which doesn't take a genius to figure out . . ."

I asked with dread in my abdomen, "What do you mean about getting killed? What does that mean?"

"Dolly." He squished against me then and he buried his unseen face into my lap, sighing and sighing. I felt the heat from him. "Can you hold me for a little bit?"

"I'm worried," I whispered, sliding my hand over his shoulder blade. I felt something shoot through his body that time. "I'm worried about you."

He said, "Just for a little bit."

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Morris hailed a taxi after ten minutes on the sidewalk and when it pulled up, I waited to get in until he was settled at the back seat. He told the driver his address first.

"That really is a nice hotel," I said.

He found the world outside his window much more interesting.

"Dylan's a nice guy, huh?"

He must've been pretty captivated.

"He's getting everything back on track."

Really captivated.

"All he has to do now is get his wife back and start his way up to be a head chef at some grand restaurant. He really does have the talent."

Or maybe ignoring me.

"After that he'd have his life set all in place which is what he deserves."

Then Morris spoke. "It's just that easy, right Rosalie?" It was snappy.

"No, I mean, it won't be easy."

"Oh, but for you it is."

"What is?" I asked indignantly.

"Just getting everything you want." He might as well have been whistling with just how at ease he was staring out his window and saying it all to me.

"Morris," I huffed, "you're a cretin."

"Yeah, well you're a tease."

"Why do I bother with you? I don't know why I bother to try. Why I think there's a smidgen of a decent person in there."

"Yeah well." Immediately he was daggering me head on. Stormy weather ahead. "I want to know why you are doing this. Now. Tell me why."

"Why what?" I found myself slowly dwindling back intothe fetal position.

"You know why."

"I do?"

"You do. Tell me." Lightning bolts made his face even more alight. Not in a radiating-sunshine way; in a flashlight-through-the-chilling-darkness way. He said unrelentingly, "Tell me. Tell me your half-ass reason for going to see him. Give it to me."

I would've brazened out right back at him but we were in a small space and he was so furious. He was the guy who didn't care about babies; he probably didn't care about hitting females. He probably had no problem with kicking their ribs to bits in a trench somewhere. We were passing a lot of trenches.

"Come on feisty," he urged sternly. Everything from his neck down was immobile. "You're not in love with him. You don't love him at all. You've already proved you can break his heart once and you have no interest in what he wants to give you. So why do you keep flaming that burning infatuation he has with you?"

The driver was watching in the rear view mirror. Squinting, evaluating. Maybe supervising. I couldn't tell how old he was.

"You're Wes's biggest weakness and you just don't get it."

I held my breath. The dramatic kind of holding one's breath where one's cheeks puff out.

"He's so in love with you that everything else fucking him over in the world just rolls off his back. And there's so much fucking him over. He doesn't need you blinding him."

The cab stopped and there was the Graverly mailbox.

He was getting out. "Look, it may be hard to completely dislike you. But I like a challenge."

The driver started up again, no longer looking back at me.

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A/n:

Luvlygrl85 (yeah, her feelings are kind of unclear. But she does think of him a lot. Insensible stuff is the most interesting anyway), cbprice25 (Wow, thank you. I've read your poems and have been meaning to review because they leave me wordless. I wish I could write poems like that. Jeez, girl), A-train (ohh, you're lucky then. One of my friends is mixed and I think she gets sick pleasure out of inviting me to go tanning with her, because it actually has an affect on her – not me), Die Eis-Konigan (the same name? Cool, I really like it a lot and that's why I picked it for her. That's good you weren't too surprised then), Anatidaephobiac(I'm glad people weren't frustrated or rolling their eyes at Kaiya's big blow up. Intriguing is good, I like that), MidnightOwl(oh, I've noticed that too. Tons of stories about girls being totally screwed over by the world. Loving the updates and Ahh I love this too), toastsnatcher(I completely agree. It got stuck in a ditch or something at the part about Kaiya. I read her whole explosion part over and over again and it made me cringe. I'm glad you think everything else was smooth).