(Note this is a work of continuous fiction. The first eleven parts are at these links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four , Part Five , Part Six, Part Seven , Part Eight , Part Nine , Part Ten , and Part Eleven)
“No alarm, no nothing,” James goes on. “I came in to look around and found the code on the wall in the pantry within about a minute. Pulled open a junk drawer, and found a spare key in another minute. Then I went right back out the door, right back across the field, down the road into town, and made a copy.”
“Then you brought the original back later, and you had another house,” Rose finishes for him, turning from the refrigerator to clap her hand together. “Got it. So you said something about a pizza.”
“Right,” James says, taking a cordless phone from its cradle on the kitchen counter. He dials a number from memory and verifies a few toppings with Rose, then orders a large pizza and says he’ll be there to pick it up in twenty minutes.
“How are we going to do that?” Rose wants to know.
James points at a handmade key rack on the wall by the window, little kitties painted on it. A single black key on a pink plastic ring hangs from one of the pegs. “We’ll take the truck,” he tells her.
So a few minutes later, they’re driving down the country road as the wind turns to a sprinkle and then into actual rain, just as they’re entering a small crossroad town a few miles away. James swings the truck into the tiny parking lot of Angie’s Pizza, runs inside with the stolen waitress money, and then trots back out with a pizza and a two liter bottle of Dr. Pepper.
And it’s a pleasant night. They sit around in Debbie’s living room with Skyler, eating pizza and watching a movie about some kind of giant monster stomping around New York. It’s not one of the monsters she would recognize, like Godzilla or King Kong. Still it’s a good movie, and she gets more stuffed eating the pizza than she has been in a long time.
They lounge on opposite ends of the couch as the rainy night grows dark and windy, and when the movie is over, it’s nearly ten o’clock. Rose finds herself thinking about The Grims, and where she is supposed to be right now, what she’s supposed to be doing.
She says, “I have to get back into town, James. You said you’d drop me off – are you planning on using the truck?”
James doesn’t answer at first, he just flips through the channels, looking for something else to watch. At last he says, “I did say that, so if that’s what you need to do, I’ll take you there. But we can get a decent night sleep here, head back on foot around seven, and get some breakfast at that diner by the bus stop, when we came out this way.”
Rose doesn’t remember the bus stop, but it still sounds good, another true, actual meal to be eaten off a plate, like normal people do. She gets an inkling that maybe her job with the Grims isn’t necessary, when you can float around the way James does. But believing it would mean trusting James, something she wants to do – really wants to do – but can’t.
She says, “It’s a job, James. It’s a job and it sucks but I have to do it. I start skipping nights and I lose the protection. It’s different for a girl out there, James, and I don’t have twenty houses like you do.”
“I can protect you, Rose. I don’t know what you have to go do, but I can see that you hate it. I can see that something’s controlling you the way you’re afraid I will, except I’m not going to hurt you, Rose. You have to know that by now.”
And it’s true – he hasn’t made a single move on her the whole night, despite her lying back on a couch a few feet away, despite his uncontrollable pants, despite the fact that he’s a boy and she’s a girl and here they are alone.
What does he want from her? She turns to look at him as he studiously pretends not to notice, still flipping through the channels.
Rose says, “James, you want to take me out again tomorrow?”
He keeps looking at the television, but the corner of his mouth curls up just a bit. He says, “I don’t know, Rose, I’m kind of busy.”
“I’ll tell you what. Take me back to campus, the south side. Drop me off, and I’ll meet you tomorrow at three o’clock, down by the Pizzza-By-The-Slice shop. This time, I’ll buy you a slice.”
James sighs and gets to his feet, starts straightening the room up. “We need to put Skyler back in the cage and get this garbage out of here. Then I’ll get the truck out of the garage, and get you where you want to go.”