The warm water down my face, down my body, I feel the grease and grime drizzling to my feet, mixing into the water, separating to the top. I should really stop this late shift, working until 4am is ridiculous. I open my mouth to bellow out a line from the last song that was on the radio on my drive home; “IF YOU WANT TO DESTROY MY SWEATER, WOHAOAOA…” Wendy is at Tom’s so I don’t have to worry about waking her. Another night, just the cats and I. My energy is still rampant. I just need to relax so I can get some sleep. I pull the latch to plug the tub and lie down with the shower still running over me in a sheet of warmth. There’s a scratch at the door followed by little white paws. I reach over the side of the tub and crack open the door. Malaki comes tumbling in with Levi on top of him gnawing at his fuzzy grey ear. I push Levi off Malaki and close the door behind the two.
I close my eyes and let my sore muscles melt in the warmth that embraces me. I hear a loud click that makes me jump a bit, listen for a second. I must have dosed a bit of just imagined it, or maybe the apartment’s just settling. I notice that the water level is getting a little too high, I sit up to turn off the water and perk up my ears.
Did I remember to lock the doors? What am I saying? The only reason I lock the door is for Wendy, anyway, and she’s not home. Tom gets so mad when we leave the doors unlocked. He starts his rant about two beautiful girls in an open apartment. He’s so sweet with how he’s not just protective over Wendy, but also me.
There’s a rustle followed by something hitting the floor coming from my room. Without raising my head I mutter something about those ‘darn cats’. There’s a hiss right next to me that makes me look over to see Levi attacking Malaki again. I sit upright and splash Levi to get him to stop so I can listen. All I hear is the sound of screeching silence for what seems like forever. I know I heard something, I was not imagining it.
Then proof that my sanity is not in question comes: a floorboard creaks right outside the door. I can’t lock myself in for security; the lock on the door doesn’t work. Should I say something? I’ll feel so stupid if it’s all just my imagination, talking to the door, allowing myself to get worked up.
I can’t think of who would be coming to my place at this hour. I stand up, dripping water from every pore. I step out of the tub and put on my pajamas without even drying off, I don’t want to risk the time. My clothing clings to me. I pull the door open quickly and am engulfed by a breeze that sends shivers down my spine and through my whole body making me tense as my flesh erupts into goosebumps. I peer out the door to see nothing.
I step out into the hall, click on the light and look quickly through all the rooms in my sight. The cats run past me, brushing my ankles. I look into my room firs and jump as someone walks into the doorway, facing me.
“Rich, what are you doing here? How did you know where I live?” I click on the lights without letting my eyes leave his blue eyes that seem to be glowing in a sea of red from being bloodshot. I feel another chill and wrap my arm over my breasts and pull my clinging pajamas from my body to loosen them from exposing me too much, especially in this cold.
His gaze makes me uncomfortable; I glance behind him to make sure everything is intact in my room.
“How did I know? It’s easy to find things out.” His eyes bore into me, apparently looking to see if my shock at seeing him is positive or negative, I laugh a little bit from nervousness. “I heard you say you were moving to Curtis Place, I hear you talk, I hear people talk about you. I listen. If you don’t want your co-workers knowing where you live, you shouldn’t talk about it.”
“Most of my co-workers wouldn’t break into my house at 4:30 in the morning; I should hope none of them would. What are you doing here?” I try to soften my tone and be as light hearted about the situation as I possibly can, just in case there’s something wrong, but I feel invaded, and exposed, I can’t seem to fathom the right thing to do in this situation. He looks so sad. “What do you want?”
“Don’t you know? I thought it was obvious.” He takes a step towards me and touches my forearm, Out of impulse, I step back, a tango in a way. His mouth purses a bit and his eyes look as though they’ll flood over as they fill with tears.
“Rich, you don’t want me. Think about what you’re doing here. What are you doing here?” My body is tensing in preparation from adrenaline and I start to shake either from the cold or from the rush.
“I came for you. I came to show you… I thought maybe you felt the same. Why didn’t you ever bring up the message I left on the phone for you? You did get the message, right?”
“Rich, I didn’t know what to say about the phone call. So I blocked it out. I try to watch myself with people so stuff like this doesn’t happen. You’re a nice guy, but, I don’t see anything romantic between us working out.”
“What do you mean? I would be so good to you. I would do anything for you.”
I cough back a little startled laugh at the irony of his statements; “That’s nice, Rich. I just don’t know what to say, or do. I don’t know that I can’t date you or anything, even anything casual or shallow. I just don’t see you like that. It’s just…”
“Casual or shallow?” I’ve angered him, he’s too tense, I need to calm him. “Is that what you think I want from you? CASUAL OR SHALLOW. What am I to you? Is this how you think of me? I would come into someone’s house for something… is this a game to you?” A tear, grasping to his eyelash lets go and trails down his cheek.
“I didn’t say that… I didn’t mean it like that… You’re a nice guy and all, it’s just that you and I
don’t belong together. I don’t want this to affect our work relationship or anything. And I am sorry. I think you should leave now. It’s late and…”
He grabs me hard by both my arms; I kick him in the shin as a reflex and start squirming, trying to think of my self defense. Smiling a bit because my nerves are taking over and I’m getting into defense mode, I have to stop smiling, this isn’t funny, what’s he going to do? He holds tighter. I can feel blood vessels breaking under his grip, I know I’m bruising, but I don’t care. “What are you doing? Let go!” He doesn’t even loosen his grip. I don’t want to fight him. I just want to get him out of my apartment.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. I would do what I could to make you happy. I would do what I could to deserve you. I need you.”
“No, you don’t. Please, Rich, just stop now and make this easier on both of us. We can go back and act like nothing happened. Everything’s cool.” My mind is spinning and feels like the real has merged with the surreal. I want to say the right thing that will get him to leave and never bother me again.
“Everything isn’t cool. I can’t act like I don’t feel like this for you. I can’t hide my emotions and pretend for the rest of my life, or for as long as you’re around, that nothing happened and everything’s cool.”
“Rich, let go of me so we can just talk a bit. You’re hurting me.” I know I’m on the verge of crying from pain, which doesn’t often happen. I hate crying and will find myself laughing instead usually.
“What will you do if I let go?”
“Nothing, we’ll just talk.” He looks into my eyes to see if I’m telling him the truth or not. I don’t even know the truth, everything seems so obscure. I know screaming won’t do any good, no one lives close enough or would probably not respond anyway if they did hear screaming coming from a college apartment. His grip loosens a bit, but not enough to let me move. The blood starts flowing down my arms again, I feel the tingling in my fingers as they start to gain circulation back. “Thank you, that’s a little better.”
“What do you want to say?” His face softens into a more hopeful look, I can’t help but feel guilt overcome me for leading him on unintentionally.
I try to choose my words as carefully as possible; “I’m in no place for a romance right now, especially with someone from work. It wouldn’t be smart. The timing is off and we, well, it would be the biggest mistake of both our lives. We don’t belong together” His grip grows stronger again and I realize I didn’t do too good of a job, I said something wrong.
“We’re meant to be together. I’ve told you you’re the most amazing person I know. I’m crazy about you. It wouldn’t be a mistake. You have to believe me.” The desperation is so evident, so overwhelming.
I let out another nervous laugh. This infuriates him. He grabs my hands tightly into one of his hands and pulls back. I see what’s coming but I can’t stop laughing. I wish I could, but it’s not happening. He starts hitting me to make me stop. I can’t stop myself, I’m so nervous that this is how my body’s reacting, I can’t show weakness. I’m so scared, but, I can’t stop myself. I try to hit him back but he has both m hands together and I can’t get free no matter how much I squirm. He hits me hard on the head once… twice… I can’t count… he’s still hitting me… everything turns to tunnel vision, I feel moisture down my face, am I crying… all I see is white. I feel warm all over… as if I’m almost in a dream, but not, this can’t be happening… my ears are ringing… nausea starts to set in… I’m wobbling… weak on my feet… but everything’s so light. Everything’s so light and airy… nothing can be wrong…