In a dark room, where not even the walls could be seen, a candle lit up a piece of paper stretched in front of Jack. Holding the sleeve of his navy blue robe with one hand, he dipped his brush in a bottle of black ink. He moved the brush over the paper, ready to inscribe the first words of his letter.
"First rule of apology letters: Sincerity is key. Don't let your surroundings dictate how you write your letter. Make the paper reflect nothing but your true feelings!"
With a confident grin, Jack brought the brush to the paper, making grand strokes as he crafted his masterpiece.
"Second rule of apology letters: Don't assign blame. This is not her fault. This is not your fault. Only God determines when a quarrel between lovers will erupt!"
Jack's tongue hugged the side of his mouth as his pace increased, always careful to make the right strokes.
"Third rule of apology letters: Humility. You are not too proud to seek forgiveness, but you are above groveling. Fight this battle like a real man!"
He cautiously dabbed at every bead of sweat that formed on his brow or trickled down his face to keep it from soiling the page.
"Fourth rule of apology letters: Formality. You are not a sloppy grade-schooler anymore. If you really love this woman more than life itself, you will cross your T's and dot your I's without complaint!"
The candle flickered as Jack quickly went back to the jar to dip his brush.
"Fifth rule of apology letters: Decisiveness. There are no vagaries or wishy-washy answers here. She will never know your true intentions until you tell her what you want from this relationship!"
Jack gave a sigh of relief as he used his sleeve to wipe off the sweat on his forehead. David flicked on his bedroom light overhead. David, wearing a bathrobe in the absence of more formal robes, looked at Jack on the floor and gave him thumbs-up. Jack nodded with a grin on his face. He picked up the paper he had been writing on and admired it.
"Want to take a look?" Jack asked.
"No, no," David said, shaking his head. "This letter is a work of art, made by you and only meant for the eyes of the woman you love."
"Letter?" Jack looked over the paper at David with a quizzical raise of the eyebrow. "I was just writing down everything you said." He turned the paper around, showing David the numbered list entitled "Rules of Apology Letters." David sighed tiredly as he turned around and flicked the lights off again.
The sky was still bright in the west, but it increasingly grew darker in the east. On the empty forest path that Michy and Jill now walked along, it was almost pitch-black. They could only barely see each other through the grey. Both girls looked back and forth as they walked. There was nothing but black trees on either side of the path, and no sign of R-Kelley. They had followed him this far, but he seemed to vanish as the darkness deepened.
"Michy, this place is giving me the creeps," Jill whispered as if the trees were listening. Aside from the sound of their tennis shoes hitting the dirt, the forest was completely silent. She tucked her chin under the collar of her sweatshirt as her eyes shifted hastily from left to right.
"R-Kelley's probably just up the path a little further. We can't quit now," Michy said. A cold gust of wind tossed her blonde ponytail. She couldn't say whether she shook from the chill or if Jill was getting to her. Michy's heart rate picked up.
There's nothing to be afraid of up here. This place isn't any more dangerous during the night than it is during the day. There aren't any bears or wolves in this area. The most threatening animal around would probably be a rabid raccoon. But that's not to say that there aren't any creeps running around, waiting in the darkness, ready to run at us with knives. Michy swallowed hard at the thought.
R-Kelley wouldn't let that happen. He'd come save me just like he did before. I don't know how he found me that first time. Does he even know I'm here? I'd feel safer if he did. Just come down the trail with that stupid smile already! We'll have no choice but to walk back with you.
No. Michy clenched her fists. He can't know we're here. If he does then we won't be able to see what he's doing. R-Kelley, are you just out for an evening stroll or are you really up to something? I have to know!
"Come on, Michy," Jill whispered. "We can continue the investigation tomorrow. It's getting late, and I don't want to get lost out here." Jill fidgeted within the front pocket of her sweatshirt. The sweatshirt kept her toasty, but the sweat that dampened her face made every gust of wind very cold.
"Ahem," Michy said, "Can you tell me who it was that suggested this little field trip? I seem to have forgotten. It's right on the tip of my tongue. Oh, that's right! It was you!" Michy smiled wryly at her friend next to her.
"And you're taking advantage of my kindness!" Jill pulled her chin out of her sweatshirt and yelled. "Seriously, if I wasn't the most awesomest friend ever, then I wouldn't have spent even half of this crazy day with you. Girl, you should be thanking me. I demand repayment for all of my services, you know. With interest!"
Michy took a breath and smiled. Thanks Jill. A little bit of your craziness will calm my nerves. Wait! Michy's eyes widened when she saw a dark figure move along the path thirty yards ahead of them. It was hard to see, but it couldn't have been an animal.
"Hurry up," Michy said, "I see R-Kelley. And keep quiet." Michy picked up her pace, and Jill was right on her heels.
"Are you sure it's him?" Jill whispered loudly.
"No, but here's hoping," Michy said.
The girls jogged up the hill, following the path to where Michy thought she had seen someone. There was no one at the top of the hill, and the next fifty yards went straight down and revealed no one on the path. They both panted as they looked around. There were trees densely surrounding both sides of the path. The little remaining light lit the trail, but once someone stepped into the woods it was impossible to see. Michy grimaced at the thought that maybe R-Kelley or whoever she had seen was just hiding behind a tree, waiting to jump out and scare them.
"Hey, look at that," Jill said. The dark-haired girl pointed to a small pine tree on the very edge of the path. A dirty, slightly crumpled sheet of notebook paper was nailed to the thin trunk. On the paper was a black circle drawn with an X over it. "So creepy," Jill muttered. Her sweatshirt was now up around her nose.
"It's just for construction or something. They're probably going to cut this tree down," Michy said, shaking her head at Jill's overreaction. "Don't worry about it."
"But don't they usually use paint to mark which trees they're cutting down," Jill asked in a squeaky voice.
"Maybe they ran out of spray paint or something," Michy said. "I don't have an answer for everything, Jill." Michy turned and began walking down the trail.
"And that's exactly why we shouldn't be out here alone at night," Jill said, refusing to move another step that would take them further from home. "Something bad is going to happen. I can just feel it. Please Michy, let's go back."
Michy sighed through her nose and turned back around. She walked up to Jill and placed her hands on the older girl's shoulders. "Jill, I love you. You're a great friend. I'll be fine on my own. Go on and head back." Michy then started stepping down the hill, careful not to trip on any rocks or roots that plagued the dirt path.
Jill stood there dumbfounded for a moment. "Hey, you little brat," she finally yelled, "what kind of friend would I be if I just turned my back on you now?" With a wry smile, Jill ran to catch up with Michy. "And don't ever think of leaving me on my own out here again! Got it?" she lectured.
A ways back down the trail, Frankie was walking slightly behind Rosaline. She was really moving, and despite the ache in his legs from his fast walk, Frankie didn't want to have to run to keep up with her. She was eager to track down David again. They had seen David and Jack follow Jill and Michy onto the dirt path that led into the hills outside of town, and now Rosaline wanted to waste no time in finding her small blonde roommate.
"What exactly led you to believe David was a masochist?" Rosaline's big blonde roommate asked. "And please don't say it was freakin' obvious."
"I just used my awesome detective skills," Rosaline said over her shoulder. "He wasn't reacting to my insults like he used to. When he would freak out, it was obvious that he didn't like it. So logically, if he doesn't freak out, it means he does like it."
"So you think he's developed feelings for you because no one heaps abuse on him like his good pal Rosaline?" Frankie asked.
"Exactly," Rosaline said, looking back over her shoulder at Frankie. "And that's why we have to slap some sense into him. We can't just let slime like him running wild. I don't want him taking pictures of me while I shower or touching me in my sleep." She gave an over-exaggerated shiver to display her disgust.
"What makes you think David would do any of that?" Frankie asked.
Rosaline finally stopped, shook her head and turned towards Frankie. "Frankie, Frankie, Frankie," she said, "I'm not proud of it, but I'll admit that I have watched some of that anime stuff that Pervy likes so much. And what I found was disturbing. It's a breeding ground for fetishists. It's nothing but big-boobed catgirls, men going around punching nuns and little girls in erotic situations."
Makes me wonder what she watched, Frankie thought.
"Pervy's going to grow up to become a child molester or a male stripper or something," she continued. "Masochism is just the starting point. We've got to nip this in the bud before he seriously hurts someone. I mean, he and his creepy friend are probably running an illegal prostitution ring out here in the forest right now!"
Frankie smirked. It seemed she had forgotten that she had been hitting on David's creepy friend only a few days ago. Jack was apparently pretty forgettable.
"And how are you going to prove David's love this time?"
"I'm going to punch his nuts until he admits it," Rosaline said, turning around and continuing her ascent up the trail.
Frankie sighed and followed, hoping she wasn't serious. As he walked, something someone said came to mind. Not only are you making your friends suffer, but you're hurting Rosaline in the long run. Frankie scowled at the thought. It's nothing we can't handle, Frankie told himself. But Michy's unhappy words still gnawed at him, as they had since she spoke them several days ago. As much as he hated it, there was some truth in what she said.
"You know, Rosaline," he said, "David's not all that bad. Just because he may watch some perverted stuff doesn't mean he's a pervert. Don't you think we should give him the benefit of the doubt?"
Rosaline laughed. "Frankie, Frankie, Frankie," she shook her head again. "You're too trusting. I wish I was as sweet as you, but someone has to be on the lookout for these things. This is for everyone's best interest. Just trust me." She grinned and winked at him just as she had earlier that day.
Frankie sighed again and kept walking. He could look at that face for hours. That rare bit of cuteness warmed his heart, despite his better judgment screaming at him.
Next Time: David and Frankie have an awkward moment.