A/N: I realize this was also the name of an old TV show, but I felt the title appropriate for the story line. At any rate, this is a new style of writing I'm attempting here, so bear with me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Barbie or Mattel.
It was as if I'd been shrunken to the size of some near microscopic proportion and jammed in the back of someone's freezer. With the snow crunching in protest beneath my heavy boots like that layer of slimy ice that forms on the bottom of an unkempt freezer and the frosty air biting at my exposed cheeks and nose it certainly seemed that way. Were it not for the quaint little houses lining the streets in a sign of civilization, and thus, of reality, I might have been tempted to give into this delusion... Or maybe the world really was trapped in the back of some giant alien's icebox.
Grinning, I tilted my head back, eyes trained on the silver heavens overhead as I related this theory to Laura, who strode steadily beside me. I was met with a disapproving frown.
"That makes no sense," she snarked in typical Laura fashion. "Half the world is experiencing their summer now."
"True... so maybe it's just this town! Maybe we were all unwittingly placed in an alien freezer for observation! This snow here? I bet it's just alien laundry soap they randomly sprinkle in so we don't suspect the truth."
"And the rest of the world? And our contact with them?" came the ever-logical retort.
"World?" I questioned, the word slipping out from my lips in a soft whisper. "World!" this time, a little bit louder. I swung around suddenly so that I was walking backwards and waved my arms in a way I imagined much resembled an angry chicken... Assuming that chickens ever got angry. "You mean there's actually a world beyond this place?" I shouted melodramatically while spinning around in gesture to the frostbitten suburban hell around us. "You mean this isn't an inescapable purgatory for people that were murderous samurai warriors in a past life? This isn't the asshole of the universe, or a dark and terrible pit in some twisted dimension that slowly eats people alive?!"
Laura didn't bat an eyelash at my theatrically delivered monologue. "I told you before, you were not a samurai in a past life. You never had a past life. Besides, if you were a samurai, that means you were a man in a past life."
I shrugged, having quickly regained tranquility after my little speech. "So I was a gay samurai. Big deal. You stopping in for dinner?" I wondered, coming to halt at my driveway.
She shook her head, honey-tinted locks flying about her face. "I have... um, homework. And a lot of laundry. Got to wash my hair and cook dinner for the family, too. Uh, yeah, schedule's all full for the evening, sorry."
I was tempted to tell her that if she was going to lie, she should at least do it well, but I knew the comment would only make her angry. As much as it tickled me to see that little vein near her temple bulge out from her skin, I was in no mood at the moment for amusement. After all, it hurts when no one will come to your house for dinner because they're terrified of your family.
"Well then, see you later," I sighed, thoroughly disheartened. If I couldn't even find a friend willing to put up with the craziness festering within the walls of my house, how would I ever find a boy willing to put up with it... and me, too? No, that would be asking far too much.
"Bye, Ria," she flashed a smile faker than the current hottest pop star's breasts and scurried down the side walk to her own home.
"Like I need you anyway," I muttered, trekking across the snow-covered lawn. "I have dust mites in my room with more imagination than you."
I didn't mean it of course... well, not completely. Laura was nice enough, in that she hung around with me and didn't attempt to stage intervention for my 'obvious drug problems' like a few other people I could name, but won't just because I'm lazy. Yes, that's kids today for you. They're so dull-minded that any spark of creativity is a sure sign that you must be a stoner.
While pondering this and wondering if there was some anti-thinking disease that had been secretly spreading for centuries, my foot struck on something that was decidedly neither snow nor dog droppings. I glanced down in mild interest, expecting to see another naked, headless Barbie doll that my sister buried in the snow, but instead was treated to the sight of an ice-encrusted hand... a human hand mind you.
A jumped back with incredible agility, thanks to my past experience as a battle-weary samurai, and let loose a screech that a chimpanzee would envy. Pointing to the pale flesh that broke the soft pattern of snow on the ground, you know, just so any invisible people wandering past at the moment would know just what I was screaming about, I wondered vaguely if the Brat known as my sister Emily had graduated from slaughtering plastic dolls to the real deal. But no, Emily would be smarter than to bury the body in the front yard.
Calming myself just as quickly as I had been startled, I knelt down to see that body attached to the hand was not buried at all. Mustering up what courage I could, I lifted a trembling hand and pressed it against the body's neck. The heart was beating slowly, but the person was very much alive. And very much male. And very much nude. On my front lawn of all places, my prayers had finally been answered!
Okay, okay, now isn't the time to be joking around. I quickly ran to the front door, unlocked it and poked my head inside, screaming for a family member. And of course, no one answered. Oh sure, they're always present to tell about the time when I was a snot-nosed brat and I ate some glue, then came home crying because I thought my insides would get stuck together, but no, naked unconscious guy in the front yard and they've conveniently disappeared.
Well, I couldn't just leave him out there. He'd die, and the neighbors would ask questions. It wouldn't be a pretty situation at all. Sprinting across the yard, I grabbed him around the shoulders, ignoring the ache of his scorchingly cold skin against my body, and half dragged, half carried the poor guy up to the doorstep. I did a neat little trick, balancing him none too comfortably against my knee while opening the door and using my body to prop it open while I pulled him the rest of the way in. The door still caught his feet, and I winced on his behalf, since he wasn't able to do it for himself at the moment. I'm the sympathetic type, you know.
So I dumped him in a heap in the middle of the living room floor. What, you expected me to put some strange guy up on the furniture, much less a naked one? Who knows where his body parts have been? Who wants to know? If that isn't the biggest case of 'information that shouldn't be shared' I don't know what is. Oh right, I should be tending to that unconscious body on my floor, huh?
With a fair amount of heat flooding my cheeks, I inspected (for the sheer sake of medically assessing his health, you pervs) the male specimen sprawled out on my mom's beloved burgundy carpeting. It suddenly occurred to me what an awkward situation this would be if he were to suddenly wake up. Scratch that, this was awkward enough with only myself being aware of what was happening. At any rate, his body was a faintly blue color, but he didn't appear to suffer from frostbite. Of course I was busy writing up a theory on inter-dimensional travel when they went over this in life management class, so I could be wrong. Either way, I grabbed a large, heavy blanket from the closet in the hall and draped it over him, but not before I got a good eyeful of his chest. Yeah, yeah, it was muscular, sculpted and generally drool-worthy, which is what I know you're dying to hear about, but what really caught my attention... or what caught my attention after a few moments, anyway, were the numerous scars that broke the oh-so-smooth pale skin. The temptation to reach out and trace them took temporary control over my right hand, but I smacked it away with my left and properly scolded it for its lustful ways.
So there I was, kneeling in the living room floor with a defenseless, handsome stranger laid out before me... When the yeti attacked! Or at least this is when it would have if this were one of those lame horror movies. I say stupid things like this only because I know it's annoying, and because it was a while before anything worth telling about happened. I made some hot tea for when he woke up, then sat on the couch and watched him for what had to be hours. All kinds of thoughts ran through my head at the time... Who is this guy? Why was he here? Where are his clothes? Where are my mom and sister? What caused all those scars? Will that stain our puppy made before he was house broken ever come out of the carpet?
I must've fallen asleep myself at some point, because when my eyes discovered the world again, my mom was looming over Mr. Nameless as he shall be called for the time being, and glaring at me as if her eyes would suddenly jump out from their comfortable sockets, grow fangs and swallow me whole. I thought she was angry with me for using one of her favorite bed comforters to cover Mr. Nameless until she went from raging to teary-eyed.
"Oh, Ria... I thought you were going to wait for your wedding night," she murmured in clear disappointment. "Or at least until you were engaged."
Looking back now, I wish I'd have had a mirror so that I could see and accurately describe the look of 'What-the-fuck' I know must have contorted my face, but at the time I was too sleepy to go get one. All I managed to do, in fact, was squeak out a "Huh?"
"And in the living room, of all places?"
Emily, who stood at her side with an amused grin, said, "Yeah, Ria, how could you be so careless as to fall asleep in the living room? You could have at least hidden him in your own room."
I looked down at Mr. Nameless rather stupidly, for the fog of mid-sleep had sent my critical thinking skills out for a coffee break, and said, "Oh, him. Yeah, he's naked," with every ounce of the genius I'm known for.
And so returned the cannibal eyes... That is, the eyes that sought to devour me in the most painful way imaginable.
"How can you be so casual about all of this?" Mother Dearest demanded.
"Well I admit I was sort of freaked out by how blue he was and all," I yawned.
"Oh my God, he has some kind of disease!" came the horrified cry. "At least tell me you used protection!"
I yawned again and flopped back on the couch. "That's what the blanket is for," I mumbled. Yes, those thinking skills of mine were taking their sweet time coming back to work.
She put a hand to her mouth in melodramatic soap opera fashion and whispered out, "I'm so... upset with you right now!"
"For saving the boy's life?" I wondered, coherence slowly returning like an old, welcome friend. "I couldn't leave him outside to freeze to death."
"And this was how you warmed him up?!"
"With the blanket, yes. You see, blankets are magical things that warm people when they're cold." Thus returned my other old friend, Sarcasm.
"Wait... what exactly is going on here?" she asked, much calmer now than before.
"I came home from school, found him passed out and nude in the front yard, brought him in, covered him up, and fell asleep waiting for him to wake up. Now, it might do for you to check and see if he's still alive."
"O-oh..." my mother stuttered in embarrassment of her mistake. She quickly kneeled down and felt his pulse. "He's alive, but..." her hand flew to his forehead and she cringed. "He's running a bad fever. If it gets any worse we'll have to take him to the doctor."
"And tell them he was some guy we just dragged in?"
"We'd be getting involved in something complicated for sure," I answered, my eyes falling upon Mr. Nameless and wondering how he would feel about two strangers deciding what would happen to him next.
"What makes you say that?"
"He was naked and scarred. Not something that shows up on your doorstep everyday. Something strange is going on. And look at him, he can't be much older than me. I sense some kind of child abuse case lurking beneath the surface."
"Well, you have a point but- wait, how do you know he's scarred? You must've been studying him."
I waved it off. "Doesn't matter, I didn't do anything with him and you love me so drop it."
She sighed. "At any rate, we'll have to go through all of that eventually, anyway. It's not like we can keep him."
"Aww, why not? He's so cute! I promise I'll potty train him better than I did Puck." Puck is my adorable welsh corgi who proudly claims the aforementioned stain on the carpet.
Mom scoffed. "And I suppose you'll want to put a leash on him, too?" As she said this I happened to notice movement down on the floor and glanced down to see that Mr. Nameless was awakening. "Will you promise to clean up after him and walk him regularly?" she joked, and I smacked a hand on my forehead.
I leaned down from the couch, extending my hand for a friendly shake. "Hi, I'm Ria. I have no idea who that woman over there is."
He only blinked up at me with awe-inspiring silver eyes, a look of confusion pulling his lips into a frown. He hesitantly reached a hand up and touched my hand, although he didn't move to shake it as I had intended. Of course, he could've ripped the thing off for all I cared at the moment. Something burning, electrical, almost painful in the most pleasurable way shot from my hand and through my arm.
Leave it to my mom to ruin the moment. I slowly withdrew my hand and smiled sheepishly. He was still looking at me like I had a gibberish-speaking second head that was molesting him with its eyes. Well... I may have been guilty of the last one myself, but still...
My mom bent down with her hands resting on her knees so she could look at him better, but his eyes were still locked on mine. It was as if someone had poured concrete into my chest, and it was slowly becoming solid. My heart beat more slowly, my lungs were heavy and it was so much harder to breathe... that gaze...
My mom gently tapped his shoulder, and this caused him to jerk as if someone had just smacked him with an electrical cattle prod. He turned to look at her, a startled expression faintly gracing his face, and for the briefest of moments I felt a sense of loss now that his eyes were no longer turned in my direction.
"Hey there," Mom smiled with the same maternal warmth she offered me when I was young and I'd run to her crying because I'd scraped my knee. "What's your name?"
He turned away from her, eyes trained on the front door as wisps of raven hair fell across his face. I wondered for a moment if she'd somehow offended him with her motherly tone, but after a moment he mumbled out, "Name... An identity? Do I have one?"
Mom chuckled, and there was a hint of nervousness shining through. Even I had to agree it was an odd question, though between me and my sister one would think she'd be used to that by now.
"Of course you do. Don't you remember it? Do you know who your family is?"
"A family... a group of people that you're related to," came the soft reply in a voice that sent butterflies moshing in my stomach like a bunch of drunken frat boys at a Limp Bizket concert.
"Yes, that's what a family is, but who-"
"I don't believe I have one," he interrupted. "I can't remember one. Or a name."
"Amnesia," Mom diagnosed. "I really think we better call someone about this."
"Wait," I spoke up, holding out a hand as if it would stop her train on thought. "If my earlier theory is correct... do we really wanna hand him right back over to such a place?"
"We'll have to eventually."
"All right, all right. Why don't we at least give him a couple days to rest first? He looks like he's been through enough for now without having to go through all that legal mumbo jumbo, too," I reasoned. What can I say, he was something interesting, something different in a place where monotony was mandatory... And dammit, he was cute! I wanted to keep him here as long as possible.
The entire time we were discussing this, he merely sat there, as if he either didn't know or didn't care that we were deciding for him. I felt sort of guilty doing that, since I knew I wouldn't like it if someone did the same thing to me. I gently brushed his bare shoulder to get his attention. His now tepid flesh trembled beneath my fingertips, and I wondered why anyone would react that way to such a simple contact, especially with me. I was neither intimidating nor particularly exciting, after all.
"Um... what do you want to do?" I asked, my voice shrinking into a timid little whisper.
"Do you want to stay here for a few days, or do you want us to call the police and see if they can find your parents?" Mom clarified.
His eyebrows furrowed in an adorably perturbed expression as he considered his options. There was a look of lost, boyish innocence behind those amazing eyes that was at once alluring and troubling. How could someone his age, and so bodily damaged at that, retain some form of innocence?
"I would have to talk to a lot of people, wouldn't I?" he wondered softly.
"Probably," I answered. "You don't want to talk to them?"
He quickly shook his head. "I... don't want to be around a lot of people."
"Are we bothering you?" I couldn't help but inquire.
"No, it's fine. There's only a couple of you, and you must be nice people."
I laughed just a little. "What makes you say that?"
"You took me in, and you don't even know me... do you? I don't remember any of you, but I don't remember anything else either."
He said this all in a quiet, monotone voice, stating everything so matter-of-factly it was startling. How can you come to the realization that you don't remember anything about yourself, not even your name, and not be scared, or worried? The only time he'd sounded even the slightest bit apprehensive was when he said he didn't want to be around a lot of people.
"Then it's settled. You'll stay here for a couple of days, and in the mean time I'll keep tabs on the news for any missing person alerts," Mom decided. She reached out and touched his forehead once more, and this time he didn't seem to want to shy away as much as before. "You're still running a slight fever, but it has come down a bit. You need to rest some more."
"He also needs some clothes," I pointed out, then mentally stomped on my own mental foot. Stupid Ria! You want him unclothed.
Mom bit her lip for a moment and nodded. "I think some of your father's clothes may still be up in the closet. I'll go see what I can find."
I could immediately see the change in her eyes at the mention of him, and wished I hadn't said a word. I should've known she would think of his clothes, after all. Mr. Nameless would've looked rather funny with his broad shoulders squished into one of my mother's dresses.
I stifled a giggle at the image this train of thought brought up and watched as my mom stood and headed for her bedroom. My body tensed at the thought that I was now alone with him, but the delicious anxiety that was conjured up instantly crashed back into the pit of my stomach as Emily came wandering back in.
"If no one claims him, may I use him in my studies? Those plastic dolls are not anatomically accurate."
I rolled my eyes at the eight-year-old. "Tell me about it."
"Use me for studies?" he repeated, that tone of concern present once more. This time, I understood perfectly.
"Don't worry, I'll protect you from Em," I explained laughingly before turning to the tawny-haired demon spawn. "You can stick to your dolls for now. They're cheaper to replace when you decapitate them."
The uneasiness within him had increased ten-fold, and I was pretty sure he was wondering if he was as safe in this household as he had at first thought. "So your name is Em?" he spoke finally, surprising me that he didn't instead say something to the effect of, 'So, you're the product of a dysfunctional family?'
"Emily," the child corrected promptly. "Em is only a nickname used by my relatives because they are too lazy to pronounce my entire name. And I wouldn't decapitate him. He would be far too valuable."
"Emily, stop, you're going to scare him," I reprimanded. I turned to look at him again and realized that I could make a hobby out of it and never be bored. "Never mind her. She's a little strange, and a little scary, but she won't hurt you unless you were manufactured by Mattel."
"I see," he nodded, any trace of emotion now gone. "And your name... you said you were Ria, right?"
"Yep, that's what they call me."
"And that woman? Do you know her name?"
"Of course, she's my mom. Her name's Lorraine."
That bemused expression dropped into place once more. "I thought you said you didn't know her."
"I wasn't being serious," I explained, beginning to wonder if his critical thinking skills had taken a permanent coffee break. "I was just joking."
"Joking, I see. I'm sorry, I don't remember how to tell when someone is joking or being serious."
"Hmm... You must have quite a bad case of amnesia, then. But that's okay, nothing to apologize for. Just so I understand, though... You know what joking means, by definition, but you don't know how to tell when someone is actually doing it?"
He thought for just a moment, bringing his knees, which were still covered beneath my Mom's good comforter up to his chest. "Yes, I believe that's what it is."
"Odd, very odd," Emily observed. She turned and headed for her room. "I must look further into this."
"You'll have to get used to me joking, I do it quite a lot," I found myself explaining. "But... I'll try and tell you when I am, if it will help you learn again."
"I would appreciate that, thank you," he accepted, and the corners of his lips tugged just slightly upward in a ghost of a smile that melted those moshing butterflies into warm, fuzzy jelly. Yes it sounds nasty, but trust me, it was a beautiful thing. It was strange though, it looked as if he really wanted to smile, but his face simply couldn't remember how.
It was at this point that my mother chose to return, a pair of pants and an old gray T-shirt slung across her arm. She dropped them in his lap and pulled me from the couch. "We'll step out of the room so you can put these on. I'll be back to check on you in a moment."
I grudgingly allowed her to pull me into the kitchen, where she proceeded to throw out the now cold tea I'd made hours ago and make new tea, as well as start a pot of soup.
"Poor thing," she sighed. "I wonder what could've happened to him."
I shrugged. "It's all very strange. But I have a good feeling about it. My psyche says that this is a very fortunate thing for us." I smiled as she rolled her eyes at my truthful declaration. I really did feel this was a change for the better. "What will we do for tomorrow, though? I have school and you have work."
"I can't take another day off. I spent all my vacation time home when you were sick from sitting out on the rooftop most of the night trying to signal airplanes with a lighter."
"I was bored," I defended. "Well, there's nothing major going on at school, so I could take the day off."
"I don't know... he seems harmless enough but..."
"I can handle myself," I interjected.
"He seems weak right now... would he be able to handle you?"
"I'm not gonna jump on him. I do have my dignity, you know."
"You mean you reclaimed it after that one incident in the department store when you jumped on top of one of the counters and demanded they ventilate the place because the old lady smell was making you dizzy?"
"Ah, good times, good times... The look on that woman's face was priceless..."
"Everything will be fine," I assured her, glancing into the living room where Mr. Nameless was now tugging the old gray shirt down to full length. His chest was no longer available for my eyes to feast on, but I could still easily see his neck. I sighed, somewhat dreamily. I could devour that neck, and not in a gory way.
"You know, I think Emily will stay here, too. I know she'll take any opportunity to tell on you if you do something you shouldn't."
I sighed at the lack of trust between us and felt sympathetic for Mr. Nameless. Alone with my sister and me? If he wasn't a mental case all ready, he would be after tomorrow.
A/N: Well, how bad is the damage? Review and I'll love you forever... in a strictly platonic way, of course. For the most part, this will be written with air of levity and humor, though it will have it's share of serious moments, with a teaspoon of angst for flavor. Next chapter, we'll learn more about our strange story-teller with the psychotic family, and Mr. Nameless will finally get a name.