[Cheerless #6] CheerSoaked: A Tale Of Two Freaks

Searching For Libby Chessler

The sun was still fairly high in the sky as I worked sand out of every crevasse on my body, hoping I- hey, stop that thinking about my crevasses! Perv. Okay, take two.

The sun was still fairly high in the sky as I showered, sad to lose that beachy smell but also not wanting to suffer any unnamed discomforts (hah). My strategy was gradually coming together, but I only had one night to cover a lot of ground. Unfortunately, one thought bogged me down perpetually: was this even going to matter? With her amazing abilities, all this effort could be futile! But I had to do something and pray to any deity that would listen that it would work, or at least help.

Fortunately, I knew just where to start - that is, I hoped I did, and desperately so as I sat there listening to the phone ring.

"Hello?"

"Ophelia!" I sighed with relief. "Thank God you answered, I need your help!"

"What, what's wrong?" she said rapidly. "Are you okay?"

"No, no," I said impatiently. "Why does everybody keep thinking I'm dying? Listen, I need you to grab Roxie and meet me over here post haste, but - and I can't stress this enough - don't bring Sabrina, or even let her know you're coming. Can you do that?"

"Well, I dunno," Ophelia said nervously. "You haven't been over here; the situation's pretty tense, and I get this cuckoo impression that Roxie doesn't like you so much anymore."

"Yeah, well, the feeling's mutual," I snapped. "Just tell her that if she comes over here for nothing, I'll... I'll let her chew on my entrails or something fun like that."

"Eww, that's disgusting!"

"Ain't it? Now please, get a move on!" Then I hung up, pushed the "ON" button on the receiver again and dialed another number, double-checking the phone book as I did so.

"Hmmnh... hello?"

"Yes, I'm looking for Harvey Kinkle?"

"This is..."

"Harvey, it's me, Libby Chessler!"

"Whanghh? Oh!" I could almost see him sitting upright, rubbing the sleep from his face. "Hey, Libby! How's it going?"

"Um, kinda good, kinda not. Listen..." I glanced around like a felon, then said, "can you help me with a small problem? It involves our favourite blonde."

"Oh... might've known it'd be about Sabrina. Sorry, I'd rather not talk about her, it's... y'know, painful."

My frown was pronounced. "I know, and believe me I wouldn't put you through this if I had elsewhere to turn, but... I desperately need a favour. And you don't have to act all secretive, I know about the witchcraft and everything."

"What, really?!" A cough. "Uh, I mean, what witchcraft? Who's a witch? What are you-"

"Cut the baloney!" Privately, I smiled; he obviously still cared about her enough to not expose her, and being that Sabrina meant the world to me all of a sudden, I was grateful. "She used some kind of transportation spell to save me from getting hit by a semi; I don't think I'll be blabbing anytime soon. But... I was wondering if you could tell me any more about this than I know."

"Oh." He actually sounded quite relieved at being able to speak freely. "Well, why don't you ask her?"

"I... I can't. She's not exactly speaking to me right now. Do you have a minute? Oh, and you may want to brace yourself, 'cause this story will take some downright Shyamalanian turns..."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

The expression on Roxie's face was less than warm. "This had better be good, or I'll be expecting your entrails served en flambé, Cheerless."

"It is, Heartless." I held the door open wide, letting the three of them walk in. Wait... three?

"Howdy doo, girlfriend!" Morgan bubbled, bouncing over the threshold and into my grandmother's home, completely uninvited, and giving me a spine-crushing bear hug. "What's all the hubbub, Lubb?"

"Uhh, hi, Morgan!" I cried, glancing over her back at Ophelia, who merely shrugged resignedly. "What are- I mean, what brings you out this way?"

"Your crisis, silly!" Without wasting a moment, she flopped down on the couch next to Roxie. "Let's get down to business; what are we doing, and how many credit cards have we maxed out?"

I clapped my hands together, plastering a fake smile across my face. "Yes, well... excuse me one moment." Pulling Ophelia aside, I hissed into her ear, "What in the flipping hell is she doing here?!"

"What she does best - or so Roxie says." Ophelia glanced over her shoulder, then turned back to me. "We tried to shake her loose, but as soon as Roxie mentioned your name she got all excited. I'm sorry, this ruins everything, doesn't it?"

"Well... not really, I suppose. Let me think a minute..."

Ophelia went back and found the armchair I had been talking to Jenny in as I paced, trying to figure out how to do this with an obstacle (What? It's true!) like Morgan there. However, when I really thought about it, this was a blessing in a highly-glossed disguise.

"Okay, Morgan, here's your assignment," I commanded, holding out a folded scrap of paper. "You are to go to the mall-"

"YAY!"

"-and get the items on this list, and those items only; then, take them to the address provided. Melchior's phone number's on there, too, so I'd appreciate it if you call him and tell him to get things rolling, as well. I'll reimburse you for all of it, don't worry." Then I thought better of it. "And while you're there, pick up a nice fragrance for Sabrina. It has to suit her, though, not just be expensive and-or trendy."

She pouted slightly, looking at the list. "Well, shnikies, take all the fun out of a shopping spree, why don'tcha?" When I only glared, she gave me this put-upon sigh. "I'm going, I'm going. What about them?"

"They're with me," I said quickly. "Now, go go go!"

"Yessir!" And - thank God - out she went.

"That was mean," Roxie commented. "Using her like that."

"Yeah, well, it would take way too long to give her the rundown, and my time is very limited." I took a deep breath to start in on the topic at hand, but I was detoured.

"Is that because you're going to try to commit suicide again?"

The room was deadly quiet. Both Ophelia and I gawked at Roxie for a few moments... before Ophelia's eyes drifted to the bandage on my wrist.

"Goddess, no..."

"Why do you do that?" I demanded of Roxie. "Jump to conclusions like a hopscotch grandmaster! Did I say I tried to commit suicide? Did you find some angsty note I-"

"Who the hell do you think you're talking to?!" Roxie shouted, jumping to her feet. "Maybe we're not as good a friends as you and Sabrina are, but do you seriously think I can't tell? 'Just a scratch' my ass - nobody says that when it really is a scratch! Your boyfriend covering for you was sweet, and suited to the moment, but it didn't fool me for a split second! You opened up a vein, didn't you?!"

"Well, I- I- fine!" Shrugging, trying not to get any angrier about this, I held my arms to my stomach and leaned against the back of the other armchair. "So I tried, but it- it was a flash of weakness, a- a lapse in judgement! We were screaming, the whole thing with Sabrina went down, and Adymm had just- just-" And I couldn't go on, but fortunately (unfortunately?), I didn't have to.

"What happened?" Roxie demanded, shaking slightly. "Adymm did what?!"

"Broke up with her," Ophelia gasped, sliding forward in her seat. "Oh, Libby..."

"It was bound to happen sooner or later." Trembling with unleaked rage and sorrow, I took several deep breaths before continuing. "He seems to have this wacked-out notion that I'm in love with somebody else, so a couple hours before I found out Gran passed away, he dropped the break-up bomb on me. Well, with everything else that was happening it was one thing too much, so I grabbed some of his gothy jewelry, and do I have to keep going?" To punctuate the end of the story, I ripped off the bandage and revealed the disfiguring scab.

"No, Libby!" Ophelia said, tearing up a little. "Why? Why would you want to leave us?"

"I- I don't," I whispered, sliding into the chair. "It was stupid, I was overtaxed. Thinking clearly, I would never throw it all away like that, but... I dunno. I'm sorry, you guys."

"You're sorry?!" Roxie sobbed. Wait, what?!

Yeah. When I looked up, tears were flowing down Roxie's face, which is a truly startling event to witness in one's lifetime. Had Roxie ever cried? Probably not, but here she was, doing it in Gran's - my - living room, trembling from the effort it must have taken to force open those tear ducts. In her defense, though, this qualified as "serious shit", that's for certain.

"Roxie-"

"How can you sit there and apologise to me when I practically KILLED you?! 'Cause... if that was the day you found out your grandmother died, then I must have just threatened you Mafia-style, which happened fairly soon after you and Sabrina had that huge fight... which happened after you had to watch Sabrina and Ophelia griping each other out in the bowling alley. Christ Almighty, how could I have thought heaping more animosity and bad vibes on you would help things?!"

Twitching, I sighed. "Roxie, it's okay, you couldn't know I was about to-"

"DIE." She was sniffling, and now I could see that she was angry about letting herself cry, especially in front of anyone. "You were about to die, dammit! Libby, I've been blaming you for everything, when obviously you're not bouncing Sabrina's heart around on a string for kicks." She looked up into my eyes. "You really do love her, don't you?"

My cheeks pinkened. "Uhh, l-let's cross that bridge when I'm not worried about falling off."

She shook her head, smiling through her pain. "Well, I can tell you do, and that's enough. I thought you were treating Sabrina like a cheap diversion, but instead you were feeling all the same pains she was the whole time. Can you forgive me for almost making you off yourself with random pagan metals?"

"Hey," Ophelia put in, "just because they're gothy doesn't mean... doesn't mean that this is the right time for that kind of comment. Shutting up, now."

"No, it's okay - both of you." I still felt horrible, but at the back of my stomach was this secret hint that things had just gotten a lot better. My hand moved to form a cross in midair as I said, "I absolve you guys of all wrongs done, great and small."

As they both laughed, I laughed, too. In fact, we were headed for a giggle fit when the doorbell rang.

"Excuse me," I said, and opened the door to reveal...

Duh.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~~*~ END Chapter Eight

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