T H I R T E E N
My spidey-senses are tingling.
Even deep in sleep, I sense this.
Wake up, Dani. Something’s wrong. Get up.
My body betrays me by snuggling deeper into my blanket, wanting me to return back to my unconscious state.
Open your eyes. You need to open your eyes.
Go back to sleep Dani. You’re overreacting, everything is fine.
I can’t help but slowly fade off into slumber once more.
There you go. There’s nothing to worry about.
My thoughts shrink away one by one until all that’s left is dark emptiness.
Sleep is right on my doorstep and I’m about to fully let it envelop me but the faintest noise makes me pause.
Where is that noise coming from?
Rustle..... Rustle Rustle
It seems so far yet so close.
Almost like it’s... right in front of me.
“Daaannniiiii,” the voice says right next to my ear, “my beautiful doll, wake up.”
All I want to do was sleep, why couldn’t they just leave me alone, my sleep is precious.
The voice chuckles softly, their minty breath fanning my face. “You mumble out loud when you’re tired, it’s so freakin adorable.”
“State your business or leave me alone,” I mumble, wanting the talking to stop.
I’m trying to keep up with what’s going on but my brain is still trying to powerup from sleep mode so everything I’m hearing is bouncing right off my eardrum like a bird hitting a window. I understand the situation I’m in but I’m too tired to connect this to the idea that there might be an intruder in my home.
I feel a warmth on my cheek before the voice speaks again. “Can you open those beautiful eyes for me first love?
Beautiful? No, I will not be tempted by the sweet words of a criminal.
“I don’t negotiate with burglars. Please come back at a later time.” Hopefully, they’ll get the hint and leave.
A deep rich laugh booms from in front of me making me feel warm all over.
My eyes shoot open, I only know one person who has a laugh that was solely crafted by the Lord himself.
“There are those pretty eyes that I love so much.” A grinning Alex is squatted before me, his hand still cupping my cheek. “You’re very tough to wake up, you know that?”
I blink. “When did you get in my house?”
He snorts and tries to compose himself by wiping a hand over his mouth, but the smallest bit of a smile still peeks out.
My eyes narrow in confusion. Looking around the living room all the lights are off except for the television illuminating a purple hue from the Roku background.
Nothing seems to be out of place, well, except for the giant blonde in front of me.
“I drove you home from work yesterday, remember? We watched a few movies but I guess we both fell asleep sometime during the night.” He scratches the nape of his neck.
All I can do is stare blankly, my brows arching in question.
Alex continues in a nervous ramble. “I didn’t mean to overstay my welcome or anything, didn’t even realized I dozed off until I woke up about twenty minutes ago and you looked way too stunning that I didn’t want to leave without waking you, but now that I think about it I probably should’ve left you alone because you look like you’re about to fall asleep at any moment.”
Wow, that was a lot to process. Okay, okay, just breathe and form the words you want to say. Put them in a sentence and use your mouth to verbalize them. “Is there any way,” I start off calmy, “that you could restate everything you just said? I understood basically none of the words that just left your lips.”
I’m a hassle to deal with when I first wake up, and I own that, I just feel bad for everyone else who has to manage me after I freshly wake up from sleep.
He shakes his head but his smile never fades. “I have to go back home doll.”
Go back home at this hour? Squinting, I look out the living room window, seeing the dark sky greeting me back.
Pointing to the glass pane I say, “It’s still night time,” stating the obvious.
His eyes light in amusement. “I know my love. It’s a long drive to get there and I still have to pick up supplies before I leave.”
“Oh, okay, I understand.” No, I don’t. “Will you be back soon?” I ask, leaning into his hand and closing my eyes.
“I’ll try and come as soon as I can, but I can’t make any promises doll.”
I nod. “Drive safe. Text me when you get there,” I try and say through a yawn.
He can probably tell he’s slowly losing me to sleep so he doesn’t say anymore. I feel myself being laid back down on the couch and my discarded blanket is placed up to my shoulders. “Goodnight doll.”
The last thing I feel is a warm peck on my forehead before darkness takes me away.
I wake to the sound of loud screeching seagulls outside my window.
Of course on my day off I still get woken up at an ungodly hour.
The morning light streams into my living room, glaring right at my face making me groan and rollover.
Why am I even on the couch, didn’t I get into bed last night?
Last night...what happened last night?
My cheeks heat up as memories start to flood my mind. Alex driving me home, us making out in his car, me inviting him inside due to the storm, us making out again but on the couch, and then blank. I can’t believe he was that forward, heck, I can’t believe I was that forward and tried to push for more.
Just thinking about it has me giggling like a love-sick fool.
A small smile pulls on my lips, remembering when he stopped me as things were getting heated. He knew I wasn’t ready and he put my own needs before his, knowing it was the right thing to do. How could such a kind guy be so hated on?
My phone chimes from the coffee table. Kicking off my blanket I stretch my back out, waiting for it to pop and crack before picking up the mobile device.
1 Message 7:48 a.m.
Brunette Wifey: I’m sorry for what happened last night. I was out of line and what I said was uncalled for. Can I come over so we can talk this out?
I make a face. It’s way too early for this.
Me: Sure. Let yourself in, you know where the key is.
Sighing, I throw my phone on the couch and walk around the corner into my bedroom. Grabbing an extra-large sweater, a pair of pajama shorts, and underwear from my drawer I walk into my bathroom and close the door behind me.
Setting my clothes on the counter I turn on the shower and wait for it to warm up. When it reaches what I deem the perfect temperature I strip out of my clothes and step inside, its firm pellets instantly soothing my muscles.
Making sure to get my hair thoroughly soaked, I pour a dollop of shampoo into my hand and wash my curly locks. Jasmine and honey instantly fills the moist air. Rinsing it out I do the same process with my conditioner. After getting my hair out of the way I quickly wash the rest of my body, making sure to shave areas where I feel stubble, and I get out. Grabbing the Lilo and Stitch towel on the other side of the curtain, I wrap it around my body and step out of the shower.
I make sure I’m completely dry before dropping the towel and pulling my new clothes on. I grab the semi-wet cloth and squeeze out the moisture from my hair before throwing it up into a messy bun to dry.
Just as I finish going through my bathroom regimen I hear the front door whine open.
“Dani? It’s me, where are you?” Claire’s voice rings out.
“In the bathroom,” I reply back. Time to get this over with.
Her flip-flops smack against the floor, ever so slowly coming closer to my room. I look and see her standing in the door frame of the bathroom.
“You cleaned your apartment,” she says as a statement, not a question.
I tilt my head in confusion. “What do you mean?” The last time I cleaned was weeks ago when I realized I had an ant infestation and had to spray, wipe down, and disinfect all of my things which Claire helped me do. I can still feel their tiny little legs walking over my toes.
“The last time I was here the house was in disarray. Ya know, papers were all over the ground, vases were broken, creepy doll, the whole shebang. I would’ve helped you but it seems like you did a pretty good job on your own.”
I still. This is the first time I’ve been home since the incident. I was too wrapped up in Alex and his hunkiness that I didn’t even realize that my house was spotless, looking better than it did before it was trashed.
Claire looks at me concerningly. “You okay? You got a little pale there.”
This snaps me out of my thoughts. I shake my head and take in a shaky breath, “Yea, I totally forgot that when I got home last night I cleaned the apartment. Didn’t want any remembrance of what happened.” I grab my dirty clothes and walk around Claire to my room.
Stay confident Dani, she can sense lying.
“You decided to clean your whole apartment after working a ten-hour shift last night and thought it couldn’t wait until the morning?” She questions from behind me.
Don’t pick your lip, don’t pick your lip.
“I’m just trying to enjoy my day off Claire so if you came simply to interrogate and question me then you know your way out,” I say casually hoping she’ll take the bait and drop the conversation.
She does. “You’re right. I’m sorry about what I said at the cafe last night, it was super uncalled for and I wasn’t thinking. You are going through a lot right now and the last thing you need is me getting on your back and making it worse.”
Turning around I see in her eyes she’s pleading for me to forgive her. I sigh, she didn’t even do anything wrong and she’s apologizing. “Claire, if anyone needs to apologize it’s me. I was having a terrible morning which turned into an even worse day, and you were there so I took it out on you. You didn’t deserve any of that, if anything, I was upset about the situation I was put in and my anger for that was placed onto you. I’m really sorry Claire.” And I meant it. I don’t deserve a friend as great as Claire.
With a wobbly smile, she engulfs me into a hug. “Can we just put this behind us and watch trashy reality tv shows while eating some breakfast? I brought food.”
My stomach growls making us both laugh and pull away.
“Lead the way to greatness, our food awaits us,” I say. She chuckles before grabbing my wrist and tugging me to the kitchen.
We lay on opposite ends of the couch, fully invested in an episode of Jersey Shore while slurping down a carton of noodles. I have no idea how Claire convinced someone to make us chow-mein so early in the morning but I’m so glad she did it because this is heavenly.
“Imagine being able to get your own tv show where you can act a fool and in return they pay you and you make millions of dollars. I feel like that would be my calling Dani,” Claire says with a mouth full of food.
I raise an eyebrow and stare at her. “What in the world would you even call it?”
She sits in thought for a bit before her whole face brightens with an idea. “How about Where Trashy Meets Classy? That basically sums my life up in four words.”
A laugh burst out of me causing noodles to fly from my mouth. “That’s so bad dude!”
“You mean it’s so bad its genius because I am nothing less than an intellectual mastermind.”
“Oh my lord shut up,” I giggle and throw a pillow at her.
She grabs it before it can hit her face. “Chill out, you could’ve hit my noodles.”
“You and your noodles are perfectly fine,” I state before going back to watching the show and stuffing my face.
I hear a sniffing noise come from my left. Turning, I see Claire sniffing the pillow I threw at her.
“Should I question your actions or just pretend I don’t see anything?”
She looks up. “There’s a weird scent on it.”
I frown. “What do you mean?”
“You have a certain smell to you. You could walk past me and I would instantly know it’s you because all your clothes smell like the same detergent. The same thing can be said about your apartment. But this,” she holds up the pillow, “smells nothing like you.”
Alex must’ve rubbed up against the pillow last night and left his scent on it.
“I can see it in your eyes, who does it belong to? And don’t lie to me.” Her eyes narrow.
Doesn’t seem like I have much of a choice in thematter. I’m going to have to come clean. Placing my carton on the coffee table I begin to explain.
“Well, after you left the cafe, Alex stopped by because he saw the lights and he offered to take me home. One thing led to another and we accidentally fell asleep while watching movies. He left back home earlier this morning.” I purposely leave out the kiss, not wanting to bring it up until I can gauge her thoughts.
Taking a deep breath she grabs for the remote and points it at the tv and switches it off. She pauses before speaking, “So you cleaned your apartment while he was here and then decided to canoodle while on a movie binge? You don’t actually have feelings for this guy, do you?”
I tug at the ends of my sleeve, already feeling my face heat up. “And so what if I do? It’s not really a big deal.”
“It’s a huge deal, Dani.” She faces fully towards me. “I know what you’re thinking, Oh, Claire is just being her bitchy judgemental self and is hating on Alex for no reason, but that’s not it at all. He’s bad news dude.”
I groan. Why can’t I just have a nice, relaxing, day off? The last thing I wanted to do today was argue about my choice in men.
“Look, all that matters is that he treats me right. He hasn’t done anything to make me question his personality or his person,” I shake my head and let out a sigh. Tilting my head down I continue, “why can’t I be happy? For once, Claire, I just want to be happy with the decisions I make for myself, is that too much to ask?” I question, finally looking at her.
She wants to say something, I know she does, I can tell. Her pinched lips and wrinkled brown do nothing to hide this fact. Shaking her head she averts her gaze to the ceiling, taking everything in.
“I just want you to be safe,” she says softly. “There’s been talk going on that girls from neighboring towns are going missing. No one knows what happened to them, just that they’ve disappeared. A few days ago one of them was found and surprise surprise she was dead. Chopped up like a pig at a pig farm. I didn’t want you hearing wind of this because you’re already spooked with the whole stalker thing but the last thing I need is to get the call hearing the same thing happened to you.”
So I wasn’t the only one being stalked? There were other girls going through the same thing as me, only their fate is ending up much different than mine.
“What does this have to do with Alex though? Did he do something to make you change your mind about him?” I ask softly.
She tilts her head towards me, a glimpse of fear shining in her eyes before it quickly vanishes. “He’s acting differently. For as long as you’ve lived here when has he ever stayed longer than he had to just to socialize with people? Why on this trip did he decide that he was finally going to party it up with Dani Tores? I know I was supportive of you guys in the beginning, but I’ve seen the stuff he’s been buying and the things he’s been doing doing around town and I don’t like. I think it’s time to pull the plug.”
I try and reign in my quickly flaring temper but it seems like it’s on a short leash today. “Oh whatever, Claire. He makes me feel good about myself, like I matter! You should see the way he looks at me when it’s just the two of us in the room, it’s-”
“Creepy,” she interjects.” You’re too blindsided by love to see it hun, but have you ever wondered how he looks at you when you’re not aware that he’s staring?”
Alright, I’ve had enough of this. I get up and walk away from her. “Why are you being like this! Where has my supportive friend gone because it seems like she’s checked out from reality.”
She scoffs. “Dani, clear your sinuses and smell the god damn roses right beneath your nose!” She yells, her cheeks bright with anger. Claire stands from the couch and walks in front of me, making me tilt my head up. ” You think you have everything all figured out, but you don’t. He looks at you like you’re a prize. Not winning America’s Got Talent sort of prize, but more of an I want to stuff and hang your severed head above my fireplace sort of prize, and if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself there like,” she snaps her fingers, “that.”
My eyes narrow. What in the hell did she mean by that? I barely have my shit together, when would I find the time to leisurely place everything all nice and neat together like a jigsaw puzzle so I can figure out, what’s supposed to be, my life?
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Just let me be happy!” I feel angry tears well up in my eyes.
“I’d rather you be unhappy than be dead!” She shouts, her chest rising and falling with each breath.
We stand in silence staring at each other, not knowing where to go from here. I finally look away and rub away my tears with my sleeve.
“I think you should leave Claire,” I whisper, not having the energy to talk anymore.
“Yea, I think so too.” I don’t look up as I hear her grab her stuff and softly close the door behind her.
Over 3,000 words for this chapter! I’m so happy about this chapter, it turned out better than I hoped it would.
I’m trying to change my writing style a bit to make the story flow a bit better and I feel like doing that really helped build this chapter.
But what did you guys think about it? Are you guys on Team Claire or Team Dani?
Make sure to leave a vote and comment, I would love to know what you guys think about the chapter! Hopefully I’ll have the next one out by Friday!
Hope you guys enjoyed your time in Joker’s Basement