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Category Archives: The Opposite of Homeless

The Opposite Of Homeless (XIII)

 (Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first twelve 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 ,Part Eleven , and Part Twelve)

It’s about ten minutes work, cleaning the house.  While they’re cleaning, James explains that he keeps the security system on if he sleeps there, so that the beeping will wake him up should Debbie arrive unexpectedly, giving him at least a few seconds to get up and run.

“How serious do we need to be about cleaning.  I guess pretty serious, with no one else here to blame anything on.”

“Well, yes,” he agrees.  “But nothing too crazy.  I’ve never been fingerprinted, so it’s not like you have to wipe everything down or anything.  But yes, Debbie will notice if there’s a glass of Dr. Pepper sitting on the coffee table.  She doesn’t drink carbonated beverages at all.”

“But she chain smokes,” Rose says.

“Yes,” James agrees.  “There’s that.”

They consolidate all of the garbage into the pizza box, and then James goes out to the garage and pulls the truck around, and they drive into town in it, listening to nineties music on the radio, not talking much as the rain rattles against the windshield.

When they get to campus, James is quiet, putting the truck in park at a parking meter, not looking at her, not looking at anything in particular. 

Rose says, “It’s been a great night, James.”

“What do you have to do?”  He blurts out, the desperation and jealousy as sudden and unpleasant as a serious fart would be, in these close quarters.

“There’s just a group of us,” Rose tells him.  “We watch out for each other.  Watch out for some other people.  Strength in numbers, I guess.  And it’s not pleasant, James.  We call ourselves The Grims for a reason, and it’s not as cool as what you have going, but at least I can keep my dignity.  You don’t know what I went through, James, before I joined The Grims.”

But James’ eyes tell her that he knows plenty about suffering and indignity and old-fashioned terror.  He’s a skinny guy, and he’s been on the street a while.  When he was sixteen, there probably wasn’t much of a difference between him and a girl.  Her heart aches for him, and yet she’s trained it so well.  She won’t reach out for him, won’t tell him that she feels anything at all.

Instead she says, “I’m sorry, James.  That wasn’t fair, I don’t know what you’ve been through either.  Kim and Brian, and whatever they did…”

He winces at their name, and shakes his face as if to dislodge their names from his ears.  He says, “Rose, I’m going to get out of this.  I’m going to have my own place within a month, and I’ll take you with me.  You can come with me.  You don’t have to be my girlfriend, just my friend – and it won’t be grim or awkward.  You can forget about all those people and whatever they make you do.”

“They don’t make me, James.  That’s the point.”

And he winces again, still knowing nothing, still operating entirely from his imagination.  “All right, Rose.  Whatever.  Just go do what you have to do.”

“James…”

“Just go, Rose.  Seriously, I’m tired of begging you to let me treat you with a little respect.  I guess you don’t care about that sort of thing.”

And there it is, they always start hitting you one way or another, once you failed to jump on their arms.  Failed to become an accessory like a scarf or a necklace.  She searches the cab of the truck for whatever it is that she wants to say to him, and she gives up, exasperated.  Gathers up the pizza box and the empty two liter, and the rest of the garbage, and opens the door of the truck.

She says, “I’ll drop this stuff in a dumpster.  Are you going to meet met at the Pizza-By-The-Slice place tomorrow?”

He stares ahead, his hand on the top of the steering wheel, not answering for several moments, then finally he says, “Yes.  Yes, I’ll see you there.”

Rose glances over he shoulder at the damp alley, the garbage blowing around it, and she longs for a stranger’s living room, for the sanctuary that James finds in the gaps of other people’s lives.  The alley seems very stark and lonely, and for a very serious moment, Rose believes she is about to get back in the truck.

Instead she turns back to James and tells him softly, “It’s not a boyfriend.  It’s not stripping and it’s not sex.  It’s just grim, James.  Grim, but nothing that would hurt you.  Nothing that you should feel threatened by.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” James replies, and Rose closes the door, and watches him drive off into the rain.

.

(Note.  This was the first chapter in an ongoing work of fiction.  The second chapter will begin soon, and I will link to it here.)

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (XII)

 (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.”

.

(Continued Here)

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (X)

 (Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first nine parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four , Part Five , Part Six, Part Seven , Part Eight and Part Nine)

Rose tells him she’ll wait in the hallway and James says, “I’ll be right back.”

He disappears into the dim apartment, and creaks around in there, making some rustling and thumping sounds.  A drawer opens and squeaks as it closes again.  Then he returns, jingling his keys.

“A lot of servers keep their change in big milk jugs by their beds – they get tipped in change and it accumulates.  They probably don’t even know how much they have.” 

He locks the door and then takes her wrist and slaps her hand against his thigh, startling her.  Then she realizes his pocket is bulging with coins.  They thump back down the stairs and when they get outside James says, “So I just went in there and picked up five or six bucks in change from each of them, and three dollar bills from each of them.  They’ll never miss it, and if they do, they’ll blame each other before they’ll blame a stranger.”

Rose says, “It seems like it’s just a matter of time before your luck runs out, James.”

“It almost did today, but not quite.  Not quite.”

“Okay, so where to now?”

“Now we get on a bus.”

A city bus.  They catch one just a few streets over – James seems to have the bus schedule memorized – and he pays their fares in change and they ride the bus south, off campus and down into an older, undeveloped section of town.  They switch buses, heading east, and end up on and old, dreary street at the edge of town.

It’s dusk as they start walking, James leading the way, still looking confident.  A whole different neighborhood, and though his demeanor hasn’t changed, he still looks right at home.  Still blends right in.  How is that possible?

This is an area with a lot of vacant lots, and a lot of new construction.  They’ll have this place cleaned up and looking good in five years, but for now the old, vaguely seedy element still hangs in there.  Even the signs and storefronts are rusty, dingy, made for another era and never replaced.

The people have the same look, like they’re lost in time.  Something about affluence lends itself to graceful aging – maybe it’s the clothes, the health care, the peace of mind.  Out here the old folks walk bent over, their faces sucked in half the time, bulging the other half.  And they don’t look at you, not ever.

Rose and James pass a couple of toddlers in a wide, fenced yard, one of them shirtless and chewing on a pacifier, his face smeared with orange popsicle, the other a little girl who isn’t finished with her popsicle yet.  Hers is blue. 

The two kids are pretty blunt about the flat stares they give the passing strangers.  The kid with the pacifier has something in his hand – it might be a live toad.  Behind them, a tired-looking woman smoking a cigarette watches them from a lawn chair on a simple concrete stoop.

James picks up the pace a little, trotting across the street to a wide lane leading out of the city.  There’s even a sign, telling them they just left the city. 

It’s another half hour’s hike – across a vast field crunching with withered corn husks and then into a wooded ravine.  They finally emerge behind a single, two-story house with red siding, a lightpost bathing it in harsh light.  The woods are thick around them, the old trees clicking and tapping in the purple breeze. 

“That’s Debbie’s house,” James announces, scrolling through his phone.  “She’s a nurse at St. Catherines, works twelve hour shifts.  She just started ten minutes ago.”

He shows the phone to Rose; it displays a daily calendar showing Debbie’s schedule.  She says, “I see you.”

“We’ll just swing by the garage and make sure the Elantra’s not here.  She’s got a little Nissan truck, too, but she drives to work in the Elantra.”

“You have any idea how creeped out people would be if they found out even a little bit of what you do all the time?”

James shrugs.  “Well, Debbie shouldn’t get freaked out.  A few weeks ago she put a Lean Cuisine in the oven – her microwave broke – and then she forgot about it and went to work.  If I hadn’t come in and smelled it, probably would have burned her house down.”

They walk right up to the garage window, crunching across the gravel to peer inside.  “Nope,” James says.  “She’s at work.”

He takes out his giant ring of keys and jingles them around as they crunch back across the driveway to the back door, which has a small white patio table arranged around a single chair and a few gardening tools and a small clay flowerpot doubling as an ashtray, two thirds full of sand and cigarette butts.

“A chainsmoking nurse,” Rose observes.  “Nice.”

“I feel bad for her,” James replies as he unlocks the back door.  “Husband left her for an actual stripper, moved down to Florida.  That was three years ago, just her and the teenage daughter, Meggan.  Now Meggan’s in college down in Florida, the old man gets to see her all the time – and he still lives with the same stripper!”

He cocks his neck to look back at her, getting a pursed-lipped series of very slow blinks from her, for being creepy.  Then he pushes open the door, and a sudden noise gets a little jump out of her.

A beeping.  Some kind of regular, computerized beeping coming from inside the house.

“Is that a security system?”  Rose asks.

“It sure is,” James tells her.

(continued here)

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (IX)

 (Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first seven parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four , Part Five , Part Six, Part Seven and Part Eight)

.

It’s a long walk to campus, and a lot of traffic on the bike path, joggers and people with dogs.  The bicyclists call out, “On your left!” as they pass – there’s some kind of system for where you’re supposed to walk and where you’re not. 

Whatever the system is, they’re doing it wrong.  James and Rose eventually abandon the path altogether, walking instead in the grass among the pine cones and the turds. 

It’s getting breezy and the air starts smelling like rain, and the first of the leaves are already on the ground, still a little green at the stems.  They move along in no particular hurry, pausing to pet dogs and point at ducks and occasionally dodge out of somebody’s way.

The crowd is distinctly suburban, like a half-assed Gap commercial going on all around her.  Rose is surprised by how easily she blends into them, with just a single, nonsensical word down her sleeve.  This is a part of town she would normally avoid – they can smell fear in places like this.  It’s like a horror movie.

She normally hurries through an area like this, her arms crossed over her chest and she looks down while she walks.  It’s not a chicken-or-the-egg thing, either.  Sauntering around casually was the first thing she tried out on her own, and at first it worked.

But the time wears the normal off of you.   You don’t shower regularly, no one does your hair.  You’re scared all the time.  You don’t sleep.  Pretty soon no amount of casual sauntering will allow you to blend in with the civilized.  They simply reject you, like a bad organ or a virus.

So she also knows that it’s not just the Aeropostale shirt she’s wearing.  It’s James.

He wears their clothing.  Not just in style, but literally – he walks into their houses and puts it on, and leaves it there later for someone to launder.  He eats their food and access their computers and God knows what else, so they accept him.  Like they smell their own urine on him or something.

Whatever it is, he’s used to it.  He doesn’t merely walk among them, he walks like them as well.  The way they manage to sort of look around at the tops of buildings and glance at their phones and wink at each other as they stroll along.  Right there on the street, as if nothing bad ever happens there at all.

They stop on bench on the edge of campus and eat their bananas and cereal bars, and James springs for a Pepsi from the hot dog guy, with laundry money.  Then they hike all the way across campus to the clusters of apartments on the other side, where James pauses in front of a massive old Victorian house, gets out his phone and makes a call.

They stand their on the sidewalk trying to find things to look at for thirty seconds, then James puts the phone away and says, “Okay, let’s go.”

They climb the steps to the porch, where a mountain bike with no seat is chained to a metal railing, and then they walk right in the front door of the house.  James cracks up as they cross the entryway to a set of stairs.  He says, “That front door is supposed to be locked, but it only is about two thirds of the time.”

Rose frowns at a door on the first landing as they pass it.  As they mount the next flight she asks, “So, what were you going to do if it was locked?  Kind of a long walk.”

James turns and lowers his voice.  “I have a key.  I just didn’t at first.  Keep your voice down, the dude on the first floor is not too sharp, but he’s home.”

Rose concentrates on the next flight of steps and then at the top of them asks, “How’d you get the key?” 

James points to the door’s hinges, shaking his head.  “The hinges are on the outside.  Can you believe that?  They cut these old houses up into apartments, and they just don’t think it through or something.  I don’t know.  I just waited til they all went to work, then I came in here with a tool belt on, carrying a tool box.  Took the door off it’s hinges, pulled it out of the deadbolt.”

He fishes a key ring out of his pocket.  Rose gives him a flat smile until he looks up at her, and she says, “You some kind of janitor or something?”

“They’re numbered,” he tells her.  “Look.”

She looks, and indeed they are numbered, little roman numerals up into the twenties.  “What’d you use a Sharpie?”

He unlocks the door and leans inside, “Hey, Erica?  Kara?  You guys home?”

Then he walks on in, saying, “I spent less than a minute finding a spare key.  Almost always there’s one in the kitchen junk drawer, this one was on a giant Hello Kitty key ring.  I put the door back on, locked it, went down to get a copy made, came back and returned it.”

(continued here)

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (VIII)

 (Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first seven parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four , Part Five , Part Six and Part Seven)

.

Rose sticks with her jeans but adds a snug, gray top with Aeropostle written down the arm.   She puts her sweatshirt, a pair of plain white panties, and a clean bra – her size! – in the duffel bag and then on an impulse, she takes the green dress, too.  She won’t want to wear it around the other Grims, but maybe sometime…

Downstairs it takes her a moment to find James in the laundry room, where he’s going through pockets and coming out with a little cash.  He grins at her as she leans against the doorway, and he says, “House like this, the laundry room is like an ATM.  Also, you see any cash just laying around – take it.  Two kids in the house, all they’ll do is blame each other.  Just don’t steal anything valuable, and don’t go for the bedroom stash.”

“The bedroom stash?”

“Yes, most parents keep some cash – and sometimes other things, liquor, drugs, porn – in a stash in their bedrooms.  Number one spot is a shoebox or other small container, top shelf of the closet.  Sometimes right there in the nightstand.  Sometimes in the inside pockets of coats or suit jackets hanging up in the closet.  Ah!  Hello…”

James holds out a small wad of crumbled bills and some coins.  Rose examines it and says, “Eight bucks!”

 He shakes his hip and makes his pocket jingle.  “Got another three fifty in change here, some of it from right on top of the dryer, some of it from the coffee table out in the living room.  Again, you want to remember that people don’t suspect burglars of stealing little things like that.  They suspect each other.”

Rose says, “Aren’t we pushing our luck here?”

James consults his phone and says, “Why, yes we are.  Yeah, Lindsey will be home in like fifteen minutes.”

They hit the pantry, grab a couple of granola bars and bananas for the road, and then go out through the back door, Rose slinging the duffel bag over her shoulder like a backpack or a large purse.  The gardening woman has gone inside and faint music plays somewhere in the sunny back yards. 

They trudge around the side of the house.  James keeps his voice low, cocking his head and says, “This is the most dangerous five seconds of the whole trip, for me.  Getting out of the yard.  Can you imagine Lindsey pulling up and here we are walking through her yard with you wearing her shirt?”

“What would we do?”

“Act like she’s crazy.  Keep walking.  Not come back for a month.”

But Lindsey doesn’t come home, and once they are a quarter mile down the sidewalk, Rose is filled with the exhilarating knowledge that there is pretty much no way to get busted now, for what they just did.

“Unless they have a nanny cam,” she mutters aloud.

“I really look for those,” James tells her, startling her since she hasn’t realized she’s spoken.  “Also web cams.  People turn on their web cams remotely, check on their kids.  I go around closing lens caps on day one, every time.  Pick up all the teddy bears and look up their butts for cameras.”

“Ever found one?”

“A nanny cam?  No.  But I had a guy come rushing home because he was positive he’d left the lens cap open.  I’m lucky he didn’t call the cops.”

“Did he catch you?”

“No.  The first thing he did was call the house, I guess thinking maybe his wife was home.  I saw it was him – he called three times – and cleared out.  Saw him barrelling down the road five minutes later when I was walking away.  I think he thought his wife was cheating on him, and actually, I think he was right, just not that time.”

Rose realizes that she’s following him, off the sidewalk and down a path along a ravine.  She says, “Where are we going?”

“I thought we’d pick up a little more cash down on campus,” he tells her.  “I know a house full of waitresses, and hold on a second…”

He scrolls through his phone, beeping and frowning for a moment, and says, “And all three of them have to work tonight.  Great thing about waitresses, they keep their tips in big milk jugs or cereal boxes, right there in their rooms.  Pizza’s on them tonight.”

The path winds all the way down the river and hooks up with a paved jogging path; they stop to let a pair of serious runners – a black dude and a white dude, looking like scowling machines and smelling like a locker room – run past them, followed by a comically attractive Japanese girl in skin tight running shorts with the word “FINE” printed on her ass.

Rose says, “People live in different worlds, you know?”

“Yes,” James tells her.  “I know.”

(Continued here)

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (VI)

(Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first five parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four and Part Five.)

.

Wade says, “I’ll let you know when I’m finished and yes, it will be pretty soon.” 

Really dwells on his consonants, Rose notices, letting Terry know how difficult it is to remain patient with him.  Terry puts his hands in his pockets and does what looks like a potty dance, twirls over to the window in a jittery pirouette and peeks out the blinds.  

Wade says, “Did you check the garage and make sure Julie’s not out there doing some yard work or something?”

“No, she’s definitely at work,” Terry says, but he leaves the room in short, hurried steps anyway. 

Rose becomes suddenly, acutely aware of James’ breath against her hair.  She gets the feeling he’s smelling it, and has to battle another intense urge to squirm, like an itch the size of her entire body that she can’t scratch.

Wade gets out a notebook and starts copying the passwords down from the cord, while Terry’s footsteps thump out to the kitchen, where the garage door creaks open then after a moment creaks shut again.  A few more footsteps and then they end abruptly – he must have gone out back to look around.

Rose thinks about the woman gardening a couple of houses down.  Does he know her?  Will he ask her if she’s seen anyone hanging around?

She watches Wade’s Captain Crunch shirt as he returns his belongings to his tool box, the room seeming suddenly very quiet without Terry in the house.  She holds her breath.  The remaining sound of James breathing in her hair seems like a lawnmower. 

Rose tries to pick up the sound of Wade’s breathing, to gauge whether or not her can hear James and is startled by how moist and loud it is – how did she miss it earlier?

Leather creaks beneath them, a distinct pop like a twig snapping the forest at night.  Rose closes her eyes, and when she opens them, Wade is on his feet, hefting his tool box with a sigh, and then he returns the wheeled office chair to its spot in front of the desk, and then he’s gone.

As his footsteps recede to the kitchen, Rose squirms away from James and glares at him, hissing, “Think you can do something about your stupid boner, James?”

“I can’t help it,” he replies, whispering into her hair.  “It’s not something you can just stop thinking about.”

“Think about dead puppies or something.”

“Shhh.”

Wade’s voice from the kitchen is faint; he’s speaking out the back door.  “I’m serious, Terry, you can’t leave it open so just pull it shut and let’s go.   Everybody lives here knows where the key is anyway.  Let’s go.”

Terry starts talking from the patio and they can’t hear him all of what he says.  “…effort getting a key made just to come here and find the back door open.”

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”

So they go.  Right out the front door, the deadbolt clicking behind them, then two bobbing shapes pass the window, casting shadows through the slats on them.  Rose opens the closet door and rolls forward on to the carpeted floor of the office, pushing herself to her feet and then turning to grab James’ outstretched hand, pulling him up as well.

He looks out the blinds for a moment while Rose tugs at her clothes in various places, straightening her bra, taking care of a bit of a wedgie, fluffing out her sweatshirt like a pillow in the middle of the night. 

“There they go,” James says to the blinds, then turns to her, cracking a grin.  “Dead puppies?”

“You’re gross.  Sitting there talking to me with a boner.”

“I think I’ve been pretty well-behaved for a guy with a boner.”

Rose blinks at that for a moment; that’s actually quite true.  She shrugs and says, “We should get out of here, right?”

James looks at his phone and scrolls through a menu.  Beep, beep, beep.

“Well,” he says.  “I’ll offer the same thing as yesterday, but you have to make up your mind now.  You have a place to stay tonight?”

Looking right at her now, right into her eyes.  Rose looks back, cocking an eyebrow at him. 

“I heard you last night, Rose,” he adds.  “We’re friends and I’m just trying to be your friend.  The truth is I’m lonely.  I can keep you safe and help you and not be lonely.  That’s all.  I’m your friend, Rose.”

She aches a little, looking at him.  His face is so healthy and honest and frightened and hurt.  So much familiarity mixed with something hard to name it’s been so long since she’s encountered it.  Something she trusted once, and lost.  It hurts to look at him because she knows that it’s only a matter of time before the earnestness fades.
.
(Continued Here…)

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless

 

The Opposite Of Homeless (VII)

(Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first six parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four , Part Five and Part Six.)

Her mother used to tell her that, so it isn’t just the streets that does it to them.  It’s just common knowledge, a fact of life.  Boys go bad like milk – a matter of time.  And when they’ve gone bad, they’re called men. 

She pushes her mother from her thoughts, but she’s been away from home for over two years.  The only male that she’s met the entire time who hasn’t eventually hurt her is right in front of her, and she’s only known him two days.

That’s sort of how it goes – you can only give them as long as you can give a gallon of milk, and then you have to keep moving.  Otherwise you’re suddenly a farm animal or a prostitute or a punching bag. 

“I’ve got kind of a job,” Rose tells him.  “Some things I have to do.  I can do what I want during the day, but I need to get downtown tonight.  I’m in sort of a…”

She throws her hands in the air and drops them against her hips.  “I have to work, James.”

He frowns.  “You’re not…”

“Hooking?  Dancing?  No.  That’s the point.  I’m doing what I have to do, to not have to do those things.”

“Doing what you have to do,” James repeats, his voice flat, his eyes wandering up to the ceiling.  “That sounds kind of ominous.”

“Grim,” Rose says quietly.  “That’s what we call ourselves.  The Grims.”

“We?  Who’s we?”

Rose cocks her head at him, not liking the sharp tone he uses all of the sudden – something else they all do.  Instantly hate the notion that anyone else ever talks to you at all. 

She says, “James, I’m just going to tell you right now, if you start acting like some kind of psycho I’m just going to disappear.  You don’t have any right to judge me or interrogate me or…”

“Protect you?  Do I have the right to care about you or protect you?”

“Why?  Because you got a boner, James?”

“No!”  He claps his hands to his forehead and runs them through his hair.  “Damn it, Rose…”

“No?  No you don’t?  Then did you have a little flashlight in your pocket in there or what?”

James drops his eyes back to hers and says, “Rose.  Let me show you this, just one night.  Let me show you how you can be safe.  I’ve got some money saved – hell, I’ll buy you dinner.  You want some dinner?”

“That’s charming, James,” Rose says, but she’s listening.  Not hungry at present, but dinner is always a question mark.  “You think I’m going to…”

“How’s this sound?”  James asks.  “We’ll watch a movie in a nice den, and have a pizza and some Dr. Pepper, and if you want to go downtown at ten o’clock, I’ll drive you there.”

Rose looks around and says, “You want to have a pizza here, after Terry and Captain Crunch just came in like that?”

“No,” James replies, looking out the window again.  “This place is a madhouse from about an hour from now until midnight, and it’s got teenagers in it.  All the good hiding places are being used by them to hide something.”

“So where?”

“First help me close this place up and let’s get out of here.  Just stick with me, and if at any point you want to leave, no problem.”

“No more closets?”

“Well,” James shrugs, his smile crooked and alive.  “I can’t promise anything – shit happens.  But next time, if it makes you feel better, I’ll sit on you.”

“You’re funny.”

They clear out of the computer room, and James takes Rose on up to Lindsey’s room and she turns out to be really close to Rose’s size. 

Lindsey’s room is a mess, and Rose gets a little weirded out again by how comfortable he is in it.  Does he hang out here, by himself, doing gross boy things?  What looking at her underwear, bras? 

James roots around in her comically cluttered closet and comes out with a tangerine duffel bag.  “I don’t know if you’re attached to that sweatshirt and jeans or whatever, but sometimes a pair of clean underwear is nice, and you could get away with taking pretty much any outfit you want out of here.”

“You don’t think she’ll miss it?”

“Oh, she’ll probably miss it, but nobody will care.  Teenage girls run around freaking out about outfits they can’t find all the time.  I literally wear clothes and then bring them back the next time, drop them in the laundry, wear something else.”

Rose peers into the closet, instantly liking Lindsey’s taste in clothes.  A green dress jumps out at her – very cute, but probably too cute.  She wouldn’t want to be too cute, not tonight.

James picks up a pair of sandals and says, “I’m going to go and put these by the table, just in case the dad says something to Lindsey about the back door.  Keep things confusing.  Pick something out and let’s go.”

(Continued here…)

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless