Page 17


“I’m leaving and I’m not coming back! Rebecca was right about you, you’re nothing but a scared little boy!”

Rebecca had said that? No matter, I had to stop her. She was acting crazy. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. She didn’t care enough. She wasn’t supposed to!

I grabbed her in a panic, anything to keep her. I brought her up to me, my grip tight, trying to understand, to hold on.

“Why do you care so much?!” I yelled at her. My voice cracked over the next bit, “You told me you didn’t love me!”

With a huge gust of strength, she wrestled out of my grasp and stumbled to the door. I reached for her but she turned to me in fury. She looked me right in the eye and I saw the truth. I saw it all. And it was all too late.

“You’re not the only who knows how to lie, Dex!”

And there it was.

The truth.

She loved me. She had lied. She loved me all this time.

She loved me, me.

And I ruined it.

She left into the icy night, her anchor bracelet ripped on the floor. She was gone out of my life, out of the show. I had everything I wanted in my hands, in my actual hands, and I destroyed it before it could even become anything. I crushed everything we already had. I drove the only relationship that meant anything to me into the ground and then buried it with six feet of dirt.

I collapsed to my knees, unable to come to terms with what I had done. At the precious thing I’d lost. It was more than missing a part of me. It was feeling like there was nothing left of me to exist in her absence.

When my knees didn’t feel low enough, I fell to my side and curled up on the floor.

When the floor still wasn’t low enough, I began to cry.

I remained that way, a mess of tears in the hallway, my hand clutching the remains of the bracelet, until Jenn returned from her night out. Even she took pity on me.

Anyone would have. What else can you feel toward a man who once held the world in his hands only to throw it all away?

You think, “How can he live with himself?”

Good question.

I’ll let you know.

DEMON CLEANER

“Dex, over here!”

I scanned the restaurant looking for the source of the smooth English accent that called my name. I swear, Rebecca’s voice was on par with Morgan Freeman’s in the voices I’d like to narrate my life category.

I saw her in the corner of the room and made my way to her. The restaurant was a hipster-ish pizza joint not too far from my apartment and at six p.m. it was absolutely bustling. She looked delicious as usual, dressed from head to toe in a form-fitting black dress that gripped her hips and set off her vampire-pale skin. Any man would give his left nut to have a night with Rebecca, unfortunately for everyone she enthusiastically played for the other team.

She got out of her chair and went for a hug, her smile wider than normal. It had been a few weeks since I’d seen her last and it seemed we both were in a darker place then.

She wrapped her arms around me for a few tight seconds, then she stepped out of the embrace and placed her soft fingers around my bicep and gave another, heartier squeeze.

“So you’ve been sticking to it,” she remarked, looking proud. “Good for you. You look fantastic.”

I felt fantastic. OK, that was bullshit. But I felt better than I had in weeks.

“You look gorgeous,” I told her honestly and sat down at our cozy booth.

She gave me a coy wave, simultaneously brushing off the compliment and reveling in it as only she knew how, and ordered herself a drink when the waiter came by. I ordered a Jack and Coke, naturally.

She waited for the waiter to leave before she looked at me, surprised. “Really?”

I leaned back against the soft leather seat. “What?”

“I thought you were turning over a new leaf.”

I snorted. “I have. I’m going to the gym every day, running, I quit smoking, I quit my meds. I can’t give up all my vices. I’m not a superhero.”

She twisted her cherry red lips around. I could tell she was thinking back to Xmas, when she and Em came over to take me out for a holiday gathering at a pub. Thank fuck they had Jenn’s old key to the apartment otherwise shit could have really gotten ugly. They found me faced down on the balcony in my underwear, unconscious, a half-empty bottle of bourbon beside me.

“That’s...all done with,” I said, feeling defensive. “You know I was in a bad place at that time.”

She smiled sadly and gave me a slow nod. “I know. I’m not judging. Frankly, I don’t think I could hang out with you if you weren’t the vice-type of guy.”

“Well then you’ll be pleased to know that I’m still drinking and I’m still wanking to porn.”

“That’s my boy,” she said appraisingly. The waiter came back with our drinks and we cheersed over it.

“To friends,” she said.

“To friends,” I agreed.

I took a big slog of my drink, the bubbles fizzing my nose, causing me to tense up. With watering eyes I looked at Rebecca. She was staring at my arms with an odd look on her face.

“What?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I don’t know Dex, your arms, your shoulders...you look really good. It’s nice to see.”

“Good enough to make you switch sides?” I joked knowing she was a lesbian until the day she died.

She took a sly sip of her drink. I had missed the harmless flirting with her.

“Well you better not tell Em then,” I continued. “Actually, maybe you should tell her. See if she wants to get in on the Dex action too.” I winked at her.

She giggled. “Oh you. Once a pig always a pig. At least that hasn’t changed.”

I gave her a forced smile even though what she said stabbed at me a bit. Was that what she really thought of me? Is that what everyone thought of me now?

Her face fell, which meant I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping my emotions under wraps. It was harder now when I was off the medication. I felt everything ten-fold and it was impossible to ignore at times. I felt sorry for women for having to deal with this emotional shit most of their lives.

I cleared my throat and anxiously picked up the menu, absently looking for something to eat. Going off the meds also made me hungry – too hungry – another reason why working out was so important now.

“So how is Jenn?” I asked innocently.

Rebecca looked a bit shocked. She lowered her voice and leaned in slightly. “Do you want me to tell you or do you want the truth?”

I shot her a quick glance, trying to play it cool. “It doesn’t matter, I don’t really care.”

“She’s doing well then. I’m not too happy about it but it makes working with her easier.”

I sucked in my breath and nodded. “Oh yeah?”

Fuck Jenn. Why did I even ask that? Wait, I didn’t care.

“Yeah,” she continued, watching me carefully for some sort of meltdown. “I guess Bradley makes her happy. It’s a weird sight to see. She’s still an annoying cunt though.”

I humored her choice of words with a smile and went back to trying to pick a pizza. I was grateful that Jenn was out of my life but it still hurt to hear what Rebecca was saying. I didn’t miss Jenn, but I didn’t think it was fair that she was happy and I was absolutely miserable most hours of the day. The only time I was vaguely OK was when I was running, lifting weights or jerking off.

Rebecca reached over and placed her hand on mine, trying to get my eyes to meet hers. “You did the right thing Dex.”

“Right,” I mumbled.

“Just because...” she trailed off.

I gave her a sharp look. I didn’t want her to finish that sentence.

She didn’t. She just tapped my hand. “You know you did the right thing. You and Jenn breaking up was long overdue. You deserve someone better than that.”

I didn’t. But I appreciated the lie.

I smiled quickly and went back to the menu. I was distracting my head with the different toppings I could order when my phone rang.

I shot her an apologetic look and wondered if it was Jimmy. He had been hounding me lately about coming back to Experiment in Terror. After Perry quit and after I had my little downward spiral full of shame and loathing and Cheetos and bourbon, the show was the last thing on my mind. When Perry left, I left too. Now that I was pulling myself out of the greasy orange-stained hole, Jimmy wanted my services again. Talk about a company that sucks you back in. But without Perry, I didn’t see a whole lot of point to going forward. Without her, I wanted to do something, anything else.

I fished the phone out of my pocket and quickly glance at the screen. It wasn’t Jimmy at all. It was some other number.

My heart stopped beating. I looked at Rebecca.

“Where is area code 503?’ I asked quickly.

“Huh?”

“Area code 503!” I repeated in a panic.

Her face grew paler. “Portland.”

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. Luckily Rebecca snatched the phone out of my hand and answered it for me before the caller hung up.

“Hello?” she asked. She frowned, listening. “Yes he is. May I ask who is calling?”

I bit my lip, my chest was growing tight with lack of oxygen. She looked at me, her eyes wide, her mouth dropping a little bit.

“Hi Ada, it’s Rebecca,” she said. “What’s going on, are you OK?”

I immediately put my hand out for the phone. I still wasn’t breathing but I was functioning.

She eyed me and nodded. “OK, calm down, I’m just going to give you to Dex here.”

She placed the phone in mine and twitched her head in the direction of the doors. It seemed like it was something I’d need to take in private.

I gave her a quick smile and put the phone to my ear as I got out of the booth.

“Ada?” I asked, making my way past the crowded tables.

“Dex?” I heard her young, tiny voice from the other end.

“Hi, what’s up? Is Perry OK?” I didn’t want to ask it, I felt like I had no right to, but I couldn’t see any other reason for Ada to call. It had been too long since we had our falling out, the time to be reprimanded had past. And somewhere in my black heart, the minute I asked it, I knew that Perry wasn’t OK.

I was lucky to have made it out of the restaurant and onto the chilled street when Ada said, “No, she’s not OK. Something’s happened to her.”

I almost dropped the phone. Something had to give, so I did. I leaned against a brick wall and let my legs give out, and slid down until I was sitting on the ground.

“Dex?” she cried out. “Are you there?”

I closed my eyes and swallowed the fear. “Yes. I’m here. What happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is she hurt?” My voice cracked. I swallowed hard, shooting out little prayers in between the answers.

“Not really.”

“Ada...”

“I don’t know Dex. I shouldn’t even be calling you. I just don’t know what to do. I think she’s possessed. She’s...she’s not herself, I’ve seen things too, things that are after her. They have her strapped to her bed now.”

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