New Years passed with a small get-together at Kim’s house. We had to leave the dogs out in the backyard again, but at least Drew didn’t seem as affected since they didn’t enter the house beforehand.
Megan and Sal had to take their husbands home early because they started hitting the tequila bottles around eight o’clock. I think Megan was more pissed then me or Kim where.
“Fucking insufferable man-children double dickers” were Megan’s exact words.
It did give me and Keith time with just Kim and Drew, which was nice. He is a corporate stooge, but at least he doesn’t act like it. He likes to surf, he likes to hike and his favorite movies are romantic comedies. I gave him endless amounts of crap for that as we got more and more hopped up.
But more then anything, I like the way he treats Kim. He was refilling her glass, constantly making eyes at her and always asking if she needed anything. Kim is such a take-charge person it’s nice to see her be taken care of for once.
I’m taking Bennett for a little walk around the neighborhood. It’s a crisp morning so I’m bundled up. Bennett loves this weather. I can only imagine how hot this poor guy gets with all that fur.
I see my house a block away. My mind flashes to the dreams of me running towards it, terrified. It’s hard for me to believe that could ever actually happen now. The stalker, the dreams…they all seem like a distant memory. My life has finally come to mean something and the joy that brings me makes all those other ghosts practically obsolete.
The situation, however, doesn’t feel resolved. But I’m choosing to spend my time not worrying about it, especially since stalker boy and dreams have disappeared.
I unlock the front door and Bennett and I step inside. The house greets me with a hug. I kick off my shoes while he gets some water from his water bowl. I toss him a treat and his slobbery mouth catches it with precision.
I check my phone and see that I have a missed call from Betsy. I immediately call her back and she answers on the second ring.
“Fu, thank you so much for calling me back!” Betsy has a great telephone voice, not too loud, not too soft and she enunciates well. Since I hate talking on the phone I try to keep the glass half-full.
“Of course, Betsy. What’s going on?”
“I wanted to touch base with you about doing another art show soon? Have you been painting?”
“Absolutely,” I exclaim, “The holidays are always a little bit of a struggle to find time but I managed okay. Now that everything has calmed down I plan on getting back to it full force.”
“Excellent. I still have people coming in asking about your show. They want more. How soon can you have something put together?”
Her complement makes me smile as I say, “I have 19 pieces right now…I was hoping to have a few more then last time…maybe 25 or 26?”
“Yes! That sounds perfect,” she pauses, probably doing the math in her head, “so how much time would you need to complete 7 more pieces?”
“I’d say a month.”
“Wonderful. I’ll tell the current artist we will extend his show a few more weeks which will make him happy. I have others in line but I want yours up now. Hope that’s okay.”
I’d have to be a jackass for it not to be okay.
“You’re the boss,” I say with a laugh.
“Okay great. Gotta run, pretty girl. Talk to you soon.”
I hang up and smile.
Looks like I need to get my ass back to work.
It’s dark outside. I’ve been painting for seven hours but it feels like only 30 minutes have gone by for all the fun I’m having. I don’t want to stray too far outside my comfort zone but I’ve been playing around with a Jackson Pollock-like approach to a few of my paintings. Bennett and I even had to run to the store to get some tarp so I don’t splatter up my nice hardwood floors.
He’s, of course, sprawled across the daybed snoozing. Usually while painting I’ll have some soft jazz or chill music playing, but since this technique is a lot more physical I have some rap playing from my stereo. “Bitches” and “Hoes” have been serenading me all day. I don’t think Bennett likes it too much since he’s been huffing and puffing in his sleep.
My phone dings at me. Keith. I smile.
- Hey cutie…working hard?
- Ha! U know me so well. Working like a slave and loving it :)
- Want me to stop by later?
- No I have no need for you :p
- Ull pay for that later >:)
- That was my intention ;)
- LOL! Had to run over the hill today for a meeting and traffic is fucked so I won’t be there for awhile.
- No worries handsome.
- See u soon Cutie ;) I love you <3
- I love you too
I actually catch myself sighing like a lovesick puppy and I don’t even care. I’m still in awe that Keith dropped $5,000 on me so I could have “Bennet.” I’ve been racking my brain trying to find a way to say thank you but short of sending him a stripper I’m getting nowhere.
A soft “woof” comes from Bennett. I look over. He hasn’t moved but I see that his paws are twitching and his eyebrows are fluttering around like little black butterflies. He must be dreaming, no doubt about sticking his tongue up my nose in a slobbery kiss.
Shattering glass makes me start so hard I drop my phone on the floor. Bennett is off the bed in one graceful leap and running out of the room like a huge black bear, “woofing” in a deep baritone I’m not used to.
I run out of the room as well, down the hall and into the living room. I skid to a stop and stare dumbly at the scene in front of me.
The large front window that looks into the living room is completely shattered. Shards of glass riddle the floor, the couch, the chairs. My mind registers that I’ll be picking glass out of my ass for weeks now. Bennett is at the door, “woofing” and clawing at it like he’s ready to charge into battle.
“Oh God, Bennett! No, sweetie!” I leap towards him, terrified for his delicate paws. Glass cuts into the soles of my feet. I bite back a scream. Fuck me Lucifer that hurts! I grab his collar and pull him towards the kitchen, leaving bloody footprints in my wake.
“Sit, Bennett! Sit!” I commend in my strongest voice. He obeys without delay. “Lay down and roll over, sweetie. I need to check your paws.” I’m so panicked I feel like my heart will burst out of my chest. If anything happens to him I’m going to go ape-shit on the first person I see. He does exactly as I say and I dive for his paws. I check each paw thoroughly, running my hands over every single pad and between each toenail. And God bless him, Bennett lets me man-handle him without complaint. His eyes never leave me, his blue face relaxed and calm.
I find no glass and I sag onto my heels with relief. I take a few deep breaths and try to calm my frantic heart. An inkling of a headache is starting at my temples. I send a prayer to the Big Man: Please, no. Please let me fix this before I’m floored. I’m begging you.
Bennett gets to his feet and starts making his way back to the living room.
“Bennett, no!” I practically scream. He stops in his tracks and looks back at me, his blue face breaking into a smile. He “woofs.”
“My brave little boy,” I whisper. As if that’s all the invitation he needs, he walks back into the living room. His eyes and nose never leave the floor.
If my dog can be so brave so can I. Despite my bleeding feet, I stand up and follow my Bennett. Each step is a small scream but I don’t give a shit. Someone busted my window, endangered my dog, fucked up my feet and I know exactly who it is.
More glass digs into my feet but I persevere. I will not be intimidated. I may lay down a few f-bombs as I bleed all over my floor, but I will not be intimidated. I scan the whole living room, which reveals nothing.
I look over and see Bennett’s nose shoved under the couch.
“There you are, you little fucker,” I whisper.
I drop to my hands and knees, not even caring that glass bites into my skin like little snake teeth. I peer under the couch and see a litany of dog hair, dust and one lone rock with an envelope wrapped around it.
“You clever fuck.”
I stretch out my arm and grab it. Bennett’s nose follows my hand. He’s growling softly, a clear indication that this is from exactly who I think it’s from. A tingle of adrenaline runs through my veins as I release the rubber band and let the rock fall to the floor.
The sick fuck even addressed the envelope to me. Miss Cindy screams up at me and I can’t stop the hysterical laugh that erupts for my mouth.
“Aren’t you fucking proper, you twisted piece of shit.”
I rip open the envelope and pull out a standard piece of printer paper, folded into thirds.
I know what the letter says but that doesn’t stop my body from shaking like a leaf as I unfold it and I stare down at the block letters that have been mocking me for months now.
YOU TOOK EVERYTHING FROM ME.
NOW I’M GOING TO TAKE EVERYTHING FROM YOU.
WELCOME HOME, BITCH.
This last line jars me. I don’t remember seeing it in any of my dreams.
I’m bleeding all over my floor. The broken window is letting the cold air in, freezing me to the bone. The note feels like it’s burning my hand but I can’t seem to drop it. I know Bennett is “woofing” at me but it feels like his voice is coming through a vacuum. I barely hear it.
I can’t move. I can barely breathe.
My gut reminds me that this was coming. But my mind feels shocked into numbness.
He’s coming for me. He hasn’t given up yet. He won’t stop.
I eye the rock on the floor. Anger explodes through me like a firework. It shocks my body into action. I pick it up and slowly turn to the window. I know he’s watching me. I can feel his eyes on me.
“You think you can take me, you sadist prick?” I scream. “I’ll go kicking and screaming and I promise I’ll fucking kill you before you kill me!”
With that I chuck the rock out the open window and watch with twisted pleasure as it sails off into the night sky.
“You won’t get me!”
I hear distant footsteps. I can only assume that the cowardly lion is running off into the night.
I stand in that same spot for I don’t know how long. My mind goes over the letter still clutched in my hand. My mind goes over the race to my house. My mind mildly registers how badly my feet hurt. My mind allows me to feel Bennett leaning into my leg. My mind feels the monster of a migraine creeping up.
It takes a strong set of hands firmly planted on my shoulders to pull me out of the daze I’ve been in.
“Fu! Fu, can you hear me?! Jesus Christ, look at me!”
My eye’s semi-focus and I’m looking at Keith. His face is a cacophony of emotions. His tie is a ragged knot around his neck and it looks like he’s ran his hand through his hair one too many times.
“Hi,” I breathe.
“Oh God, baby. What happened to you? What’s going on? What is this?” His voice is vacuuming out of my head as the migraine I knew was coming starts setting up camp.
I look up to the sky, smiling as the migraine lights up a fire.
“Thank you,” I whisper to the Big Man.
Fire is all I feel. I hear Keith’s voice outside the bedroom door, piercing daggers into my brain.
“Kim! Kim, please! Fu is having a migraine and I have no idea what to do.”
I know he’s whispering but it feels like someone taking a butter knife to my ears and slowly trying to cut my brain into clean little slices. I can’t help the whimper that escapes my mouth.
“Kim! Christ, you gotta help me! I’ve never seen a migraine like this…it’s almost like a damn seizure.”
I reach out and feel Bennett beside me. He doesn’t stick his tongue up my nose. He just lays here and lets me clutch him.
My brain is exploding out of my head. I can’t pet Bennett because it hurts. I can’t roll over because it hurts. I can’t fucking do anything because it all fucking hurts.
“Okay. Okay, got it! Get the hell over here!”
Footsteps like Paul Bunyan pound through my bedroom and I feel the reverberations in my head. A few moments (or hours) later I feel a hand under my head, trying to lift it off the pillow. You may as well try to lift a sleeping bear for how heavy my head feels.
“Fu. Baby. I have some medication for you, cutie.” I can’t really see Keith’s face. All I see are dark spots.
“Th…letter. Th batard lef a fukin letter.” Oh my god, I sound like I fucking idiot. My mouth won’t cooperate with my brain. It’s horribly annoying.
“I know, baby. We got it. Don’t think about it now, okay? Just be still. Kim is coming over soon. But please, you have to take these pills.”
I can’t even stop the vomit that explodes from my mouth. My brain feels like it’s leaking out of every orifice on my face. I’m not too far gone to worry about how embarrassing this is. Poor Keith. God knows he didn’t sign up for this.
I retch until there’s nothing left in my stomach. I zone in and out, vaguely aware that Keith is trying to push pills down my throat. I know I should take them but anything going down my throat is going to come right back up so I fight him off as best I can.
I hear a familiar voice that makes the pain ebb for a short second.
“It’s okay, Keith. She did this at the worst of her migraines. You have to get forceful.”
I smell Kim before I see her.
“Fu, babe. You have to swallow some pills for me.” Kim’s voice is soft, like she always uses when I’m having an episode.
“Can’,” I force out.
“Oh fuck…was she speaking like this before?”
“She was. Shit. It’s like her mouth won’t work with her brain.”
Kim gathers me up in her arms, completely disregarding the vomit she must be sitting in. The movement makes my head catch fire. Keith takes up camp next to her.
“Fu, sweetie. You need to take your medication,” her voice is low but forceful.
My eye’s flutter, “He…lef…letter. The batard…he back.” I feel I tear roll down my cheek. I’m so humiliated.
Kim chokes on her words. I gather she’s fighting tears of her own but I’m too far gone to notice. “I know, babe,” she croaks out.
I feel Keith grab me and crush me against his chest. I don’t even care that the movement feels like someone sticking a pickax in my head.
“Take the goddamn pills, Fu. That’s an order. And if you don’t…” he pauses, “I won’t have sex with you for a whole year.”
I guess I’m more addicted to him then I thought. He shoves a palm-full of pills in my face and I gulp them down one by one.
“That’s my girl,” he says softly as he strokes the hair from my throbbing forehead, “Just be still, Fu. I got you. Kim’s here. Bennett’s here. You’re home, cutie…and not in a bad way.”
My eyes flutter open. I notice a heavy blanket has been tacked up over the window to keep the light out. Another blanket is shoved up against the bottom of the door.
The house isn’t completely silent, though, and for that I’m grateful. I hear rummaging around in the kitchen, a baritone voice and an alto voice. Kim and Keith must still be here.
I go through my usual routine of waking up my body, testing my limbs. As I do I feel movement beside me and realize Bennett is laying curled up next to me. I reach over to find his face and start stroking him gently between his eyes. He sighs softly.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” I whisper at him. My voice sticks in my throat like I haven’t used it in months. He groans. “I know that was scary. I’m okay now.” And I am. I feel sluggish and weak but overall I feel okay.
He nudges my shoulder with his nose, like he’s telling me it’s time to get up. I ease myself out of bed. Sharp pain radiates through my bandaged feet as I stand. Fucking glass.
I walk over to the window and take down the blanket. It’s still dark out. Maybe I wasn’t out as long as I thought. I notice my bed is made up with my spare sheets and spare comforter. They cleaned up my puke. I’m touched and mortified all at the same time. I use the bathroom and pee for what feels like 45 seconds. Good grief.
I fold up all the blankets and set them in the chair. Bennett is standing by the door, ready to face the music.
I ease out into the hallway and walk slowly towards the living room. A small fire is burning in my fireplace and candles are set up around the house. I notice they used my tarp to cover my shattered window. All the glass has been cleaned up as well.
They both see me at the same time and rush over. Kim takes my right arm and Keith takes my left as they walk me over to the dining room table and ease me into the chair. Bennett is scratching at the backdoor so Kim lets him out to do his business.
“That poor dog hasn’t used the potty in ten hours,” Kim says. She starts getting my toast and tea ready. Keith stands behind and me gently rubs my shoulders.
“Ten hours?! Oh my God, why?!”
“Babe, you’ve been out almost two days,” Keith says gently.
“And he didn’t want to leave your side,” Kim tacks on.
My eyes fill with tears. My brave little boy.
“Fuck, you guys…I’m so sorry,” I hang my head.
“What the hell are you sorry for, you ding-dong?” Kim says with a smile. “You have nothing to feel bad about.”
“Uh, yeah I do. I puked all over you and then passed out for two days so you two could clean up my mess.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, cutie,” Keith says with a kiss to the top of my head. “That’s small beans compared to what you just went through.”
Kim places my toast and a steaming cup of tea in front of me and goes to let Bennett inside. He walks over, jumps into what is now considered his chair, and stares at me. He “woofs” and looks at my plate and then me again.
We all chuckle.
“Okay, Bennett. I’ll eat now,” I take a small bite and chew slowly. Who knew toast could taste so divine. “Where’s the note?” I ask.
“It and the rock are at the police station. Keith took it to them yesterday. We filed a repot for you and now the cops are involved. I seriously hope they find something on that paper because I want this guy hanging with his balls in his mouth.” Venom drips from Kim’s words.
“Nice, Kim,” Keith laughs, “Even though that image makes my balls jump up into my body, I’d have to agree with you.”
“It’s been forever since he’s done anything…why now?”
We’re all silent as we think this over.
“I’m going with because he wants to freak you out. He leaves for awhile, making you believe you’re safe and now suddenly he’s back,” Keith jaw is twitching up a storm and his eyes have death in them.
That makes sense.
I finish off my toast and hold the teacup in my hands to keep them warm.
Keith kneels down in front of me, “How’s your feet feeling, cutie? You had half the window up in that.”
“They hurt, but they’re okay. Good thing I can paint sitting down,” I say with a smile.
“A very good thing, indeed.”
We spend a few more hours sitting around the fire talking. I don’t even realize how freaking late it is until Kim lets out a gigantic yawn.
“You should go home and get some rest, Kim,” I say.
“Not a bad idea,” she laughs, “Drew’s been holding down the fort for me, but I should get home and make sure he hasn’t burnt my house to the ground.”
I walk her to the door and give her a fierce hug, “Thank you for everything…yet again.”
“If I have to take care of anyone, I’m glad it’s you,” she says, “Get some rest as well, okay? No crazy hot sex for you tonight.”
I’m still laughing when I close the door and walk, albeit gingerly, back to Keith sitting on the couch with Bennett. I sit down and Keith tucks me up against his chest and kisses my temple. His warmth, the warmth from the fire and Bennett’s furry coat all envelope me. I close my eyes.
I’m drifting off as I hear, “I won’t let him get you.”