A/N: Again, rated for strong language. And don't expect perfect grammar as few people speak using perfect grammar unless they are superb, er, speakers. Anyway. Hope you like!
Short story. Rather long. (Kind of an oxymoron, huh?)
"…and it's not even like I have a drop of caffeine in me, so that should have warned me that today was most definitely not my day, but no, I was all unprepared. This guy comes up to me and he's all, 'Whoa, babe, chill. Just want to buy you a drink.' And I'm like, 'Piss off, asshole,' and he—"
"…and then I realize he's homeless. But he still wants to buy me a drink, and I feel so bad, and so I end up taking him home. Not like that. Because he was, like, forty and I don't do the pity-sex thing, either. But I got him cleaned up and fed properly and gave him fifty bucks to get a new start—he didn't look or smell like a druggie or alcoholic or anything. And he came back yesterday, after one month, and said—"
"You've got to stop taking in these projects. But, Alex…"
"Hold on, Lily. I'm getting to the best part." Excited, childish glee. "He said that he had a job. At this Chinese take-away as a food boy—and it was all because of my help. Oh, Lily…I think all the worries in the world could be taken away if people heard that once in a while. I felt—feel—like I made a difference in the world; really and truly. I mean, I know it's happened before, with Sarah and Mark and Amy and Mark II and Elise, but it feels new every time, you know?"
"Edwidge Alexia Linborn, there's a guy dangling over the edge of that bridge."
"Sir? Sir? Do you need any help?"
"Do you want me to call the police? Or the fire department? Ambulance? Uh…just what, exactly, are you doing?"
"Committing suicide. What the hell else does it look like?"
"Alex, I'm going to call the police. Or…whoever deals with this sort of stuff. You have to keep him distracted. Talk to him. Talk him out of this. I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Better take your heels off while you're running."
"Ah…hello. Er, I'm Alex. It's very nice to meet you."
"I'm Edwidge Alexia Linborn."
Sarcastically. "How nice. I'm the fucking King of Egypt."
"Egypt doesn't have a king."
"It looks rather uncomfortable up there."
"…just a little." Mutters. "Idiot."
"So what led to it? The whole cliché of throwing yourself off a bridge, I mean." Pause; continues in a critical tone. "There are a lot of children around this area, you know. You could have traumatized them for life."
Coughs uncomfortably. "Yeah, well, whatever. I don't cater to kids. I cater to me, Courtney Baxter—shit."
"…Wow. With a name like that, no wonder you're depressed. And…" Delicately. "…angry."
"Yeah, well. It's life. It's sucks."
"And you learn to deal with it."
"Yeah—no! No. I'm tired of this. I'm tired of life."
"And just what is so terrible about your life that you feel the need to revert bacak to the good ol' Angry Teenager stage? Hm? What's so terrible about your life? Did a close family member die? Are you lost and abandoned? Let's see…are you fighting in a war? Did you kill someone? Did you see someone die? Are you starving to death? Do you have a tapeworm buried in your stomach? Do you have leukemia? Cancer? Anything? Because damn, but that should make you appreciate life more."
"…You're so effing rude. Look, my girlfriend dumped me and I got fired from my job and everything's just…screwed up." Muttered. "Why the hell am I…"
Ruthlessly. "Get another girlfriend. Get another job. God, stop being a loser."
"Eh…what…hey, don't walk away! Hey! Hey! I'm stuck hanging forty feet in the air by my fucking pants!"
"It's not funny! I have the worst fucking wedgie every experienced by anyone in this life! I'm fucking miserable. At this point, I seriously have no reason to go on. But I don't want to die with a huge-ass wedgie, okay? So can you help me?"
"What, by unpicking your wedgie for you? Ew, no. I'm not putting my fingers near your ass. Ew. Ew. Na-a-asty."
"Shit, man. Why? Why? What did I ever do to you, God? Why am I stuck with a whiny, spoiled baby on my way to hell? Why? Why does her voice have to be the last thing I hear before I die?"
"Look who's talking, you jerk!"
"My fucking boxers are stuck in my ass crack and preventing me from fucking dying! I have the right to fucking whine!"
"Stop fucking swearing!"
"And you're an asshole!"
Giggles. "Shoe's on the other foot, bitch."
Pause. "This is so unbelievably depressing."
"Shut up. I don't like you. You're not a very nice person. Get over yourself."
"What the…you…I'm…you don't talk this way to a…depressed…person…!"
"Right, you narcissist freak. So. I'm going to sit right here while you hang from your Scooby Doo boxers until the police come. And I'm going to talk your ears off and you're going to listen to me. After all, it's not like you're going anywhere." Snickers.
"Sooo…let's talk about the meaning of life."
"Go away. Piss off. Whatever will permeate your tiny, itsy bitsy brain."
"No. I'm sitting here til kingdom come. Heh. You're stuck with me, biiitch."
"Ow. Shit, you cow. Why'd you flick my head? What the hell was that for?"
"Shit! God, ow, stop that. Your nails are like freaking talons. Whore nails. Whooore."
Smack. "You're such an…asshole."
"Frankly, you're getting a little redundant."
Wail of sirens.
"Shiiit. Eff you."
Various noises; shouts; voices.
"What…no…oye, get off me! Daaaamn…damn; get off…"
Cheerily. "See ya, Courtney! Maybe when you get out of rehab! My door's always open to you! These nice policemen here will take extra good care of you!"
Footsteps. "…Alex, you didn't try to make him into one of your projects, did you?"
"He's beyond saving, Lily. Total jerk." Vicious glare. "What the…he's flipping me off!" Howls. "You jerk!"
"What? What's so funny? Stop laughing! Tell me what's so funny! Lily! Damnit, tell me!"
Two weeks later:
Groggily. "Damn…it's five in the effing o'morning…" Click. "What the hell do you—what the hell are you doing here?"
Smirk. "Hallo. I got out of rehab today."
"…and he's here. And he's taken over my couch. And I can't get rid of him because my conscience won't let me because he says he's homeless and he said to the people at the rehab center that I would take care of him and I can't just give him back to those horrible, insensitive people!"
"Alex, calm down."
"No, Lily! No, I won't calm down! He's using my television and he's eating my Oreos and he watches football when I want to watch Buffy and he's only been here for two days and you want to know something else?"
Tiredly. "What else, Alex?"
"He calls me 'Widgeon'."
"What's so bad about that?"
"He…he remembered my first name! That seven-letter combination that induces stomach pain every time I think about it…and what kind of parent names their poor baby girl 'Edwidge' anyway?"
"Apparently your parents, Widgeon."
Smack. "Shut up! And you're supposed to be on my side."
"It's a cute nickname. Like…'Pigeon'. But with a 'W'. And a 'D'. And why didn't I think of it?"
"Because you're normally a kind, considerate best friend. Lily, what do I do about him?"
Outraged squawk. "What?!"
Matter-of-factly. "Well, there's not much else you can do, from what you've told me. And you're right. You're going to have to keep him."
"No! No, I'm not right. You're my best friend. You're not supposed to agree with me. Now tell me what to do."
"Your excessive use of italics is beginning to grate my nerves."
"Shut up. What do I do?"
"Shut up and stop whining for once."
Sullenly. "You are a horrible best friend."
"But seriously; Widgeon…"
Dolefully. "Lily, I have come to a conclusion."
"I'm going to have to keep Courtney."
"Because otherwise he's going to come back and murder me in my sleep."
"If you say so."
Stiffly. "Hello, Courtney."
Monotone. "I hate my name."
"At least we have that in common."
"All right, Courtney. It has now been three days and I'm afraid we'll have to set down some ground rules—seeing as how you're aren't leaving and all."
"Um. Okay. First of all, shower rules. I have one bathroom and we'll have to determine showering schedules. Because I don't want to walk in one day and…and…and have a penis flash or something. Or for you to walk in on me. Or something. So I've drawn up a list for the times each of us are scheduled for showering."
"Er, it'll be hanging on the bathroom door. Okay. Secondly, rent. Food. Clothing. Stuff like that. Do you have a source of income?" Pause. "Uh, no? Okay. Do you have the credentials to get a proper…legal job?" Relief. "Yes? Fantastic. Um. You can pay in installments at whatever chance you get. Rent's about $330 a month."
"Fucking…three hundred and thirty bucks?"
Mildly surprised. "Oh. Okay. Third, no bringing in any friends without my prior permission. Sorry. It's just that…yeah. Anyway. Fourth, you can't eat up all the food. And you have to keep in mind that we're sharing bills, too. Fifth, you will not come into my room. Sixth…you need to tell me why you're here. Exactly. Because…because even I'm not sure. You weren't exactly nice to me that day."
Dangerous pause. "It comes to mind, Widgeon, that there are no rules for you. As we are now flatmates, would it not make sense that the same rules apply to both of us?"
Flustered. "Well, I—"
"It strikes me as rather…hypocritical, wouldn't you say? So let me put in some rules for you. All of the above apply to you, as well. Thing is, however, I don't have a private room. I've got the couch. So my privacy could be invaded at any time, which really doesn't seem fair to me given your Room Rule. Are we going to have to close off the living room? And as for the reason I'm here…why, just to torture you, Miss." Charming smile.
Explodes. "Just so you remember, Courtney, this is my apartment. My couch. I'm letting you stay here out of the purity of my Good Samaritan soul. You," brandishes TV remote, "are merely an intruder. I could kick you out any time I wanted, but instead I'm letting you live here for an excellent rate. Your deal is so much better than that of some other people I've known, okay? So much better. So don't try to set up rules for me, Moocher. Don't you dare." Pause. "And just so you know, your little sarcastic reason isn't even funny."
Gritted teeth. "Fine. Fine."
Five minutes later:
"…Okay. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said any of that."
"It was rude and uncouth and insensitive of me." Mournfully. "If I was a good person, I wouldn't have said any of that. I would have let you stay for as long as you needed to get back on your feet. It's just that…I kind of have limited funds, you know? But I'm sorry."
"…It's okay." Gruffly. "I guess I understand."
Threatening tone. "Just so you know, Widgeon, this doesn't mean we're friends."
Blithely. "I know." Beams. "But now this means you get garbage duty."
"You manipulative little—"
Happily. "Careful, Courtney."
"But I really am sorry."
"I'm trying to brush my teeth!"
"And you're fucking spraying toothpaste into my eyes! And fuck, you just got some of your toothpaste into mine!"
Innocently. "Whoops. My bad."
"Aah! Damnit, you just made me poke mascara into my eye. Ow…ow ow ow…"
"Heh. You're crying."
Congested. "Well, yeah, asshole. What'd you expect? That these would be happy tears?"
"…Wow. Is that what you look like underneath all the make-up?"
Smack. "Go away! Shut up! You're so annoying!"
"Oh my God, Lily. You have no clue how obnoxious he is. He never puts the toilet seat down, either, and his man-stuff is all over my apartment. It even smells like man!"
"Does it smell bad?"
"Well, no, because at least he bathes regularly…but it still smells like man in my apartment. I bet that if anyone walked by, they'd immediately be able to tell that there was a man in there. And he left hair in the shower. It's disgusting."
"Wow." Pause. Tentatively. "Hey, Alex…have you taken in any projects recently? 'Cause…I don't know. You haven't told me about them lately and I—never mind. Shut up. I'll shut up."
Mock-tearily. "You…you really like them?"
"No. No. I said no! Shut up!"
"Eh? That's got to be a record or something. No projects in over a week?"
"Shut up. It's just that Courtney's taking up a lot of my time. I've freaking installed security cameras in the house just in case he decides that jumping out the window and splattering his intestines on the sidewalk would be a splendid idea. And then I can lock the windows and the door using this little button here—"
"Shit, Alex. How much did this cost?"
"Um. A couple…thousand…"
Chokes. "You spent that much money on some weird hobo who showed up at your apartment one day and declared he was going to live with you?"
Defensively. "Well, yeah. I don't want his death on my hands, you know. And he's not so terrible."
Amused. "Despite the man-smell and the toilet seats and the mascara incident and his takeover of the television and his perpetually obnoxious manner and his tendency to pity himself and…I could go on."
Irritated. "Yes, well, he does have those qualities. But he's still human." Muttered. "Barely. Besides, he'll probably be out of my house in, like, a month. He'll get sick and tired of me soon."
"Why the hell not? The game is on tonight!"
"And I couldn't care less. I have a movie to watch and I'll see you in hell before you stop me from watching it."
"That can be arranged."
Smack. Smack. Smack. Smacksmacksmacksmack.
"Ow. Ow. Owowowow."
"Ha. You're so whipped. Now be a good boy and make me popcorn and maybe I'll let you have some." Generously. "I'll even let you watch the movie with me."
Grudgingly. "…What movie?"
"Pride and Prejudice; the six hour version. It's very romantic."
"You're such a loser. Why do I even bother putting up with you?"
Brightly. "Because you live with me, bitch."
Fading away. "Correction! You're living with me!" Bedroom door slams.
Ten minutes later:
"Here's your fucking popcorn."
"Why, thank you, Courtney. How nice of you. I see those lessons at dog school are really paying off. Ow! Hey, boys don't hit girls, you bastard!"
"Heh. It was only a poke, you wuss." Munching. "So, how's the movie?"
"You're going to have to watch it to tell, dumbass."
Five and a half hours later:
"It wasn't too bad."
Gloatingly. "Told you."
Ring. Ring. Ri—
"Alexia Linborn here; how may I help you?"
Irritated sigh. "Yes, Courtney? AndItoldyounottocallmeatwork!"
Smug. "Guess what."
"Um…you've decided to move out?"
"Don't sound so hopeful, brat. I got a job."
Stunned silence. Squeals. "Oh my God, Courtney! You got a job? Where? How much? Is it nice? What're the hours? When are you going to pay the rent? Do you like the job? Ah! We're going out tonight, okay? And celebrating! I know this great Italian place. This is so great! I'll call you back, okay? Bye! This is so fantastic!"
Half an hour later:
"I think I just asked Courtney out."
"This is so uncool."
Ring. Ring. Ri—
"Courtney? It's me. And stop answering the phone that way."
"Yeah. Um. Just so you know, this isn't a date."
"Wasn't thinking about it that way, you self-centered, vain little poof."
Mortified. "Shut up!"
"You know it's true."
"Well…well…anyway, this isn't a date. It's a celebratory party between flatmates. And you're paying for half of it."
"What? What? You cheapskate, it doesn't work that—"
"—way…" Pause. Chuckles. "…She's such a bitch."
"So, Courtney, what's the job? Is it nice? How much do you get paid? How—"
Mutters. "What is this, the effing Spanish Inquisition?"
Indignantly. "No. I'm just curious. Is that a crime?"
"It's nothing special. Just…I'm working at a museum."
"Wow. A museum…that's awesome. I've always wanted to work at one…I think I'd like being an archaeologist too, though. Finding things, fixing them. I think I'd like that."
"Yeah. I'm just giving tour guides, but…" Shrugs. "Makes good money. And it's kind of fun, freaking out the little seventh graders on their field trip to the city."
"You're so awful!"
"I know. Heh. My girlfriend—" Pause. "Um. Never mind."
"No, go on. I mean, don't if you don't want to. Sorry. I shouldn't…"
"Nah, it's all right. You have the right to know, I guess…" Smirk. "Seeing as how you're paying for all this."
Sighs. "Fine. My ex-girlfriend used to think I was the most wonderful thing on the planet…wouldn't let anyone insult me without getting all blubbery of shooting to my defense—poorly, yeah, but…it was kind of sweet at the same time. I don't know. Stop looking at me like that."
"Like…with your big brown eyes all gooey and gah! Stop it! I don't need you to feel sorry for me, okay? I'm fine. She just…we just…things got screwed up. And so we split, and I lost my job, and…I don't know. It was just shitty there for a while."
"Yeah. And it shouldn't have been so bad. I've gone through worse. Like…my dad. Wasn't the greatest person. But something just crashed that day and so I ended up dangling by my belt buckle off a bridge. Something just happened and sometimes I think it all ends up back at my dad. Because he hit us, sometimes—me and my mom. And he…he was sort of this bigot bastard, and he wasn't so great, so maybe it does all trace back to him and it's all his fault…it's just…when I was a really little kid, I didn't want to eat my spinach, you know? Kids don't like spinach. And so I didn't eat it because my mom wasn't there to make me, and so he walked five blocks to MacDonalds—and it was nine o'clock at night, and it's not safe out there—and got me some fries because he said potatoes were a vegetable and so I might as well have some that tasted good. And some guy took his wallet that night. Left the fries, took the money. And my dad just walked back and fed me and it's memories like that that make me think maybe he wasn't such a bad person and—"
Smiles. "It's okay. We're here to celebrate your new job scaring seventh graders on their field trip. I didn't bring you here to talk about your demons, and I don't want to force them out of you. So let's talk about seventh grade field trips. Let's talk about archaeology."
Pause. Subdued. Grateful. "Okay."
Tilts head. "Thing is, though, Widgeon…you can't fix everything."
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ri—
"Hello, Lily Nook speaking, how may I help you?"
"Alex?" Urgently. "What's wrong?"
Teary. "Nothing, it's just that…Oh God, Lily…Courtney isn't getting out of bed."
Relieved. "What? That's all you're worried about? Come on, he's probably just tired and you're just bothering him."
"No, no, it's not that." Deep breath. "Today's his first day of work. And he wouldn't miss it for the world. And it's not only that he's just lying in bed…I've gone in and he's just staring at the wall. And he isn't responding to me and maybe his depression's come back but he was doing so well. And, oh God, Lily…"
"Alex. Calm down. It's okay…he's going to be okay. Maybe he's just having a bad day. Give him lots of liquids, fruit, try to get him some fresh air…"
"Shit, Lily, that isn't going to help him! He doesn't need food…shit, I don't know what he needs. I don't know him that well yet. I need years to know this stuff about someone."
"Okay. What could have possibly triggered this?"
Pause. "I think…remember I told you that I was taking him out for a celebratory dinner in honor of his new job?"
"Well, he told me some stuff. Some pretty depressing stuff; I don't know. Maybe it brought back memories. Maybe all those memories are flooding in and shutting off all his systems or something and…"
"Just…Alex. Alex. Are you listening to me? Alex, stop hyperventilating. Now. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out. There's a good girl…okay, Alex, are you listening? You have to stay with him. I think he can't be left alone right now…hold on, at least that's what my books are saying…just try it. Alex?"
"What if he doesn't get better? Lily, I've gotten used to him. I've gotten used to the man-smell and the fact that he leaves his dirty clothes all over the place and the fact that he's a total jerk. What if—"
"Alex, I'm serious. You have to calm down. You have to—Alex! Calm down! Widgeon!"
Bursts into tears.
Sigh. "Okay. If that's how it's going to be. Now, we're going to have a talk. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing most of the speaking, but that's all right."
"Um. Courtney, whatever's brought this on, it's okay. I'm serious. It can't be so terrible…and it's the past. I dunno…what's it that they always say? Look to the future. Looks kinda pretty right now, doesn't it? You've got a home. You've got a job. You've got a fantabulous flatmate, hahaha…hem." Timidly. "It's…it's not really so terrible when you put it into perspective."
"Fine. Fine. Be that way, you total jerk. You know, this is completely selfish and pointless. You're wasting away in bed while you should be at work. You are an adult, not a petulant child. Welcome to the fucking real world, Courtney. Things don't always go so perfectly but that's no excuse for your behavior right now. So…fine. Fine. I'm done."
"Ha! Yes! I got a reaction out of you! Yes, yes, yes! Oh, I am good!"
Roars. "Good and fucking dead when I get my hands on you!"
Giggles. "Okay, here's your clothing and here's your lunch and here's your shoes. Get it on, pack it up, and get the hell out of here. You're late on your first day of work, you loser!"
Drowsily. "So I was just thinking…"
"Now that we've watched three chick flicks in a row and now that 'Love Actually' is done, we could watch my kind of movie. As a reward for sitting through hours and hours of brain-degenerating fluff."
"You sound just like Lily."
"…that girl could totally kick my ass any time she wanted."
"And I live with a flatmate who keeps slapping me around. I should call the police and have them arrest you on charges of domestic abuse."
"Don't you have to be married for that to apply?"
"Let's go to Las Vegas and get married, then."
Cackles. "Oh, God, you should have seen your face! Oh, wow. That was a Kodak moment, right there. Wow. Heh. That was fantastic. That was great."
"Fine! I challenge you to a marathon of scary movies—see who gets shocked then. By the time I'm through with you, you'll be weeping like a fucking baby."
Gleefully. "I win!"
"Shut up! I hate you! You—aaagh! There's a face in the window!"
"And you're delusional, as well. Maybe you're the one who should be committed instead of me."
Quietly. "I don't mind, you know. It's not an issue that needs to be avoided—you were there too, so it's not as if it's a huge secret or anything." Shrugs. "I tried to throw myself off a bridge. Didn't work. Got stuck on my pants. It's okay, you know."
Sharply. "It's not okay."
Exasperated. "Why not?"
"Be-because…because it's not okay to want to throw yourself off a bridge."
"Bullshit. Everybody's wanted to at some point or another; yes, even you, Miss Sunshine. I just happened to follow through with that desire—or at least tried to."
"Shut up. Shut up; I don't want to hear this."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because. Because it hurts. Because it's gotta hurt when you talk about it, too. Is this just another part of your masochism, Courtney? It's not fucking healthy."
"Yeah? Well, life hurts. But do you see me jumping out of windows or throwing myself in the pathways of moving vehicles, Alex? Do you? No. Because I don't want to anymore. So fuck this. Whatever. I couldn't care less anymore."
"So you're just going to make me listen to this? You're going to make me hurt for you, you fucking coward? Damn you, Courtney, because I don't…because I want…because…"
"Because you don't want to hear about my demons, is that it? You want everything to be fine and dandy and sunshine and daisies. Well, you know what? Look around. The world isn't fine and dandy and it isn't black and white. The world is Technicolor. And it sucks, sometimes, but it's better than being blind."
Sigh. "What's the number for the pizza place, Widgeon? Let's get pizza."
Long pause. Softly. "…Okay."
"Ack! Sneeze somewhere else!"
"Courtney, you're on the opposite end of the room. No snot particles will reach you there, I promise. And stop brandishing that tissue box in my direction!"
"I don't want to catch whatever ugly virus you have. I hate being sick. I hate it when my nose clogs up and my face swells into this giant red, sweaty globe and I hate it when I'm hacking out my lungs like you are. So…bon voyage to moi. Have a nice day. I'll see you when I get back from work."
"Ah. I see you've gotten sicker while I was away."
"Yea, doh thanks to you, asshobe."
Mildly intrigued. "Wow. You're not looking too hot right now, are you? Hey! Watch where you're throwing that box of tissues!"
"Bleeeech." Blows nose. "Argh."
"…eat it. My germs are all over that pizza, you intellectually-challenged moron."
"Oh." Dubious stare. Shrug. "Damn good pizza, though."
"You're such a hypocrite. Won't come near me but will eat my pizza. Ha. Watch me blow my nose into your pillow, asswipe."
"Are you delirious? You're talking like a man. You're like…a manly woman. EheheheOW!" Glare. "You're so cruel!"
Weepy. "You're so mean. And sometimes I seriously hate you. I seriously do. And sometimes I don't even know why you're still here because it doesn't make sense. And…and…and you're so mean to me and you…" Hiccup. "you aren't getting much better because you're still an asshole and…and…and you're mean."
Softly. "Widgeon, I think you should go to bed. How high is your temperature?"
"No. No, I don't want to go to bed. What if I wake up like you one day and I won't be able to get up? What then, you fucktard? What do I do then? You won't help me. You'll just order pizza or…or…get a movie or…or something and you won't help me and I'll be left on my own and you won't help me and—"
Sternly. "Widgeon. Of course I'll help you. I'll drag in al the doctors in the world and all the shrinks in the world and I'll buy any medication in the world if it'll help."
"Doh. Doh…that's not helbing. That's fucking paybent for by services. Oh by God. I'b a help-whore. I've invented a whole newb professiod."
"I'm holding the tissue to your nose. Blow. Yeah, there's a good girl."
"Oh my God. Courtney pities me. Oh my God, you pity me. I'm officially a loser. Because the meanest of the mean, the asshole to rival all assholes, pities me."
"Glad to see I inspire such confidence. Now let's get you to bed."
"I don't…" Softly. "Promise me I'll get up in the morning?"
"Cross your heart?"
Pause. Broken. "…Hope to die."
Whispered. Drowsily. "Nah, never hope that. That's silly, you silly butt."
"You know, Widgeon…sometimes you're almost kinda beautiful."
Ring. Ring. Rin—
"Hello, Lily Nook speaking, how may I help you?"
"Courtney? This is a bit unusual."
"Yeah, um. I was just wondering…you know Widgeon? Er, Alex?"
Sarcastically. "Yes, Courtney, I do believe I've heard of her."
"Right. I was just wondering…you know how she takes in projects like me? I was just wondering…what…what's inspiring her to do all the shit for these strangers?"
"I don't know. I kind of…want to get to know…her…or just understand what makes her tick, I guess. Because I think fixing people is a huge part of who she is and I just want to understand it better."
Wearily. "Do you think she'd want you to know this?"
"Honestly? No. But she doesn't let people in that often, does she? I think it might…I think it might be better if—"
"How about this, Courtney? How about this…how about I'll tell you a story. What if, just say, I told you the story of a girl? Well, imagine this girl. And imagine that one day she found a bird with a broken wing, and she cried over it for hours, and tried to splint its broken little wing, and nursed it and fed it before it suddenly flew off into the sunrise? How about I'll tell you that pretty story?
"Or maybe a different one. There's another story, too. Imagine being strangled by your own requiem. Imagine having to constantly atone for something that was not your fault. Imagine searching for your own fucking redemption in a world that won't allow it. Imagine that, Courtney, and maybe one day I'll tell you the story. But for now…let's just talk about the weather."
Brightly. "Hey, Courtney."
Brusquely. "Jacoby Linborn. 1991-1997. Fell into a pond and didn't resurface. Witnesses: One elder sister who fell out of a tree when she heard his cry and broke her leg and couldn't get to her little brother in time. What did the tree look like?"
Monotonously. "Shut the fuck up."
"No. You need to get over this." Sarcastically. "It's a newfangled thing they call 'shock therapy'."
"Fuck, Courtney. It only works in movies and this bullshit's already been tried on me, and you aren't helping. Shit, Courtney…everyone has some kind of messed-up past and damnit, you can't fix mine!"
"Then what the hell do you think you're doing? Running around the city and taking in strays and patching them up and trying to make them forget…what am I, huh? I'm a stray. I'm just another stray and when I'm gone you're gonna find another bird who tried to fucking spread his fucking wings."
"Shut up. That's not true."
"The fuck it is. Remember, Widgeon? I crossed my heart, hoped to die, stuck a needle in my eye but it doesn't mean I'm blind, either. Take out those pictures, then. Take out the pictures of your dead—yes, dead, and don't cringe—brother and put them up on your wall and never fucking forget. Because you can't forget."
"Yeah, Mr. Righteous? What did you call that girl again, do you remember? Ruined her? I did my fucking research. The worst thing you could ever call someone. Go on. I'm black." Spits it. "Say it."
Shove. "Fuck you, Courtney! Say the damn word! Do you remember that girl? Do you remember how worthless you made her feel? Go on." Shove. Screams. "SAY IT!"
Pause. Hiss. "Nigger."
Sob. "God, Courtney."
Monotone. "He's gone."
"No. He's gone. That's it."
"He left a note, Alex."
"I don't want to read it."
"Lily, I don't want to read it."
Pause. Deceptively innocent. "What happened, Alex?"
"…Nothing. We just…said some things."
"Nothing! I told you. It was nothing. Just some stupid…stupid…stupid little bit of nothing."
Sternly. "Alex. Don't you dare lie to me."
"Stop playing games."
Sigh. Crumples. "It was just…Jacoby. And…and he called me something but I goaded him into it. And he didn't mean it, Lily. He didn't mean it. He just…he needed the closure. I think…I think he needed to prove he wasn't his dad. He needed to prove to himself that he could say something bad and not mean it." Wet laugh. "Heh. I don't think he even really means it when he swears."
"And now he's gone."
"Now he's gone."
Three weeks later:
"Come on now, girl. You can do it, Edw—Al—Widge—you can do it, Edwidge Widgeon Alexia Linborn. It's just…just a letter." Deep breath. "Come on, me. You can do it."
Rustling of paper.
As you might have noticed (at least, I hope you've noticed), I'm kind of…gone. I took my man-stuff and I put the toilet seat down and I cleaned up the spare bedroom. So no need to worry about it or anything. I'm moving in with someone I know, so don't worry about me, either. I'll do fine. I just think I might've been here long enough.
Okay, truthfully, I didn't want to go. I didn't. But I figured you were kind of sick of me, and…stuff…so I left. It's fine. I don't really need your pity anymore, I think. I actually think I'm going to do fine out there, on my own…it doesn't look near as scary anymore. Looks kind of pretty, actually.
(Bitch, your vocabulary has managed to sneak its way into mine.)
Remember what I said, okay? It's important. And I didn't tell you this but I lied when I said that I went to you only to torture you. Well…all I thought about when I was in rehab for those few days was you. Which totally sucked. Because you were a total bitch to me. (But I was an asshole too, so we're even.) But…I don't know. I kind of wanted revenge, I guess, for nothing in particular. It might even have just been an excuse. So I told the people that you were a close friend of mine, they checked your records, and declared that you would be the perfect person to look after me. And…well, I didn't have a place to stay anyway, so I just showed up at your door. Obviously. But…you know.
And you were kind of interesting, too, much as it kills me to say this. You were violent and you were mean and you were loud and obnoxious and made fun of me and made me feel bad and selfish for trying to kill myself when I guess I didn't really have anybody to make sad. Possibly my ex-girlfriend, but she ran off with the postman, so whatever. And then…I don't know. You kind of grew on me. Probably my fault for giving you that stupid nickname to begin with.
So…I'm leaving you a goodbye. The kind of goodbye I'm supposed to leave you. A Last Letter that maybe you can show your grandchildren one day and say 'This is from a narcissist, selfish, whiny jerk with serious issues that I saved from himself.'
I'm not going to reread over this because otherwise I probably won't end up leaving it.
See ya, Widgeon.
Signed Your friend Sincerely Love From all crossed out
"You didn't even let me use my greeting."
"Lily, you work as a private detective's assistant, yeah? Can you do something for me?"
"Find Courtney? I know where he is already."
"…you totally screwed up my big, dramatic 'Let's-find-Courtney' speech."
"You had one prepared?"
"Well, no, but it's the principle of the thing. Now get to work, woman! Tell me where he is!"
Knock. Knock. Knockknockknock—
"I'm coming! God, I'm coming already!" Click. "What the hell do you want—What the hell are you doing here?"
Cheekily. "Déjà vu, huh, Courtney?"
Growls. "Now that you mention it, this scene does seem oddly familiar."
"Courtney? Is that a girl at the door?"
Barked. "No! Go back to your TV, Adam!"
"Dude, fine, whatever. Chill."
"Is that your roommate?"
Shortly. "He seems nice."
"No. No, he's not nice. You're not to go anywhere near him, do you understand me?"
"Well, why no—"
"Dude! You do have a girl at the door!"
"Hey, I'm Adam. What's your name, gorgeous?"
"Your pick-up lines will not work here."
"Oh my God, Courtney! You're a secret Star Wars fan!"
"Dude, he so is. He made me watch the second movie three times—"
"Whatever. Adam, go away."
"No, manOW! Going, going, gone. Geez, man, what's your problem?"
Pause. "Okay, now answer the question. What're you doing here? I purposely left no way to contact me!"
Grin. "Lily works at a private detective agency."
"Life just keeps biting you in the butt, doesn't it?"
Silence. Wearily. "Seriously, Widgeon. What are you doing here?"
Pause. Smile. "Why, just to torture you, sir."
Croaked. "Hello, this is Lily Noo—"
"Alex? Alex, it's eight o'fucking-clock in the morning on a Saturday."
"I know. But we need to talk."
Sound of rolling over. "Did Courtney ask you to make babies with him?"
"No, you perverted loser. But I found him."
"And…I was thinking. Maybe I wasn't the one fixing him. Maybe he didn't really need to be fixed. Maybe he just needed fresh air and liquids and fruit. Maybe I was the one who needed fixing. Or maybe I didn't. Maybe no one needs to be fixed. Maybe I just needed—"
"Yeah, yeah, maybe you just needed him. And you're rambling. Go to sleep. Good morning."
Shyly. "I kind of missed you, actually."
"Even my man-smells?"
"Even your man smells."
"Even the way I leave my dirty socks everywhere?"
Firmly. "Yes. Even that. I just…missed you."
Slightly disappointed. "Uh. Yeah."
"…I kind of missed you too."
"Yeah. Shut up. Stop looking at me like that."
Teasingly. "What, with my big brown eyes all gooey and mmph!"
Breathlessly. "Whaddya say we go out sometime, Widgeon?"
Slyly. "What, like…a date?"
Smile. "Yeah. Like a date."
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