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The Cellar City Chronicles

By Oru Manna All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Scifi

Chapter 16: A Friend in Need

Before her guest was satisfied, Lenora had made three more cans of soup for him. She knew he tried not to show it, but he seemed more excited with each flavor she cooked up. He ate them with a juvenile sort of desperation, and an almost unsettling glee. When he was finished, there was nothing left in either of their bowls, and Lenora took both of them to the sink and filled them with water to sit over night.

It’s him, just… a different him. Other than the initial outburst with the knife, he had made no threatening gesture towards her. But the flash of memory that she saw in his face had been for this past night… not ten months ago. It had hurt something inside of her to be so forgotten, but what did she expect? She did not believe for a second that she was the only person he had saved in his long career of violence towards the violent.

Lenora turned back to the kitchen island to find him peering at her past a short drape of sandy hair. His eyes were still blue – but not the blue she remembered, not from last night. They were now just a normal blue – like an afternoon sky turning to dusk.

“Now what?” He mused, flashing teeth with his next smile. “Will we go on a date?”

Lenora quirked her eyebrows up at the suggestion, her heart skipping in its rhythm. “N-no, why?”

The man shrugged, lifting his arms and stretching them lazily above his head. Lenora found her eyes were drawn to his scars again – so unusual, like stars…

“What are you looking at?” He snapped, arms lowering again, palms resting on the table. One hand rested calmly on the chef’s knife he had slammed down earlier.

Lenora pretended not to notice. “Your scars.”

The man eyed her suspiciously. “Why? What about them?”

Lenora scanned his face and found shades of anger and insecurity. Perhaps this was a topic better discussed later. She shrugged instead, and turned towards the fridge. “Just saw them, that’s all.”

She heard a dry chuckle from him as she popped the door open to the freezer. Please God let me have some left, Please God I hope David didn’t eat them all…

As she searched the stuffed freezer, the man spoke again. “Just saw them. Clever. Quick little Bunny.”

Lenora felt a chill run down her spine but ignored it. Instead she praised the heavens and brought out two iced cream sandwiches.

“Here. Try it.” Lenora held the foil wrapped dessert out to him, and he eyed it.

When her fingers started getting uncomfortably cold she put it down where his soup bowl had been and then claimed her own stool once more.

Without looking at him, she started unwrapping her own. From the corners of her eye, she noticed him watching her and then repeating her motions.

Did he not know what to do with it? She thought absently. That was silly, it was an iced cream sandwich, and they were pretty commonplace.

Once she had peeled away about half of the wrapper, she ran her tongue over the ice cream part, and gingerly nibbled a corner. From her peripherals she saw him do exactly the same.

She felt a certain kind of pity go out to him, but instantly stifled it. Here was someone who would not appreciate pity in any capacity. But she could feel sad for him, and that she did. What was his youth like that he had never had an iced cream sandwich?

“I don’t know where I am.” The man said, tinfoil now a clump on the table.

Lenora finished hers slower, and eyed him from her side of the island. “You’re on Hanover street. District 7, Complex 8, Apartment 2C.”

He nodded mechanically.

Lenora picked up his wrapper and her own and moved to the little wire garbage bin she had there. After she tossed them in, she turned her eyes back on the stranger.

“I should leave.” He said, smile suddenly vanishing from his face.

Lenora’s eyes went wide, and she felt her heart flutter with panic. What if she never found him again? She still didn’t know how she could thank him or repay him for what he had done for her, and if he left now she may never again have the opportunity.

Lenora took one quick step towards him and stopped. Instead of being frantic, she ran both hands over the smooth hair of her ponytail and then rubbed her palms on her thighs. “You should probably stay.”

The man snorted. “Not likely.” He smirked and put his elbows up on the table. He propped his chin in his hands and blinked at her.

“The police will be out in force tonight.” She hazarded, sliding calmly onto her stool again.

The man shrugged, eyes glinting with mischief. “They don’t even know I exist. What do I care?”

What is that supposed to mean? Lenora nodded, pretending to understand.

“Your wound should have time to heal.” She added.

He chuckled, wiggling around on the stool. “Nope. I’m fine. Healthy as a horse.” He seemed momentarily confused, like his own words were unfamiliar.

Her heart went out to him.

He was staring at her now, and she knew he was waiting for another reason. “Your clothes –“

“-Are on top of that laundry basket there.” He concluded, eyes not leaving her own.

She felt her heart racing. “I –“

“You what?” He pushed, leaning forward over the island.

“I’d like it if you stayed.”

The man got up from the stool and Lenora watched him. His expression went from playful to dark in moments.

Faster than she thought he could move in such condition, he had darted towards her. Lenora instinctively held her hands up in defense, but he merely used them to pull her from the stool and push her roughly up against the fridge.

Every cell in her body was screaming.

“Oh yeah?” He hissed, anger thick on his tongue. “You’d like it if a killer was in your home? A cold-blooded murderer? Do you know how many people I have killed?”

With every question he squeezed her wrists, pinned as they were above her head, and with every sentence he slammed them there.

“No.” Lenora stated, barely a whisper above her own frantic heartbeat.

“How about I tell you?” he breathed, head bowing to whisper into her ear.

“No.” Lenora’s eyes were wide and staring. She felt every one of her nerve endings explode with adrenaline, but couldn’t figure out what to do with it. He was stronger then he looked, and she didn’t want to scare him away.

You are sick, Lenora. Sick.

“So what is it then? Are you some whore wanting to score? Score with the killer?” His teeth were bared with anger, and Lenora could feel the tiniest electric shock from his hands, prickling the little hairs on her arms.

“NO!” She hissed back at him, suddenly angry.

“Then what is it? What do you want from me?” He slammed her wrists again, blue fire raging in his eyes like a hurricane. “Everybody wants something from me! You are no different!” His tone was getting louder, angrier, and she swore she saw frazzled light snap out of his eyes once or twice.

“NO!” Lenora shouted back.

The man slammed her against the fridge twice more, the rage that trembled on his skin unchecked by reason or purpose.

Lenora’s fears crept to the surface, and before the tears would spring to her eyes of a hope shattered and lost, she turned her head to the side and shut her eyes against the violence sure to come.

But it never did.

A strangled sound came from the man as he abruptly dropped her wrists and bumped roughly into the kitchen island.

When Lenora opened her eyes and lowered her wrists in front of her to rub the soreness that had gathered there, she saw him curled halfway on top of the stool, one hand holding the front of his skull as if something threatened to fall out.

His eyes were watching her and yet looking through her.

They stood like that for a very long moment before Lenora dared speak. When she did, her voice trembled almost as badly as her hands. “I… I know you. I’ve seen you before.”

She looked down at her feet, suddenly embarrassed by the admission. “You helped me.”

“There’s a woman… with black hair…” He took his hand away from his face and rubbed his forehead. He shook his head abruptly, recognition fading from his eyes. “…Fuck.”

Lenora dared not look back up.

Another long silence stretched between them, neither one of them willing to speak. Much to Lenora’s surprise, it was the stranger who spoke next.

“Why help me? I like it. I laugh.” His voice came out very low, and half strangled.

Lenora glanced up very quickly and then back down. “…Because you kill bad people.”

More silence.

Lenora broke it this time. “What is your name?”

The man moved, and she watched him from her peripherals. He slouched over the island, arms in his lap and eyes fixated on her.

“I don’t know.” He responded with a shrug.

Lenora looked up at him.

He shifted with obvious discomfort, and she looked back down at the floor.

“You can call me X.” He muttered.

Lenora felt that ghost of a smile forming on her lips, but she dared not say anything.

“…I could call you dark hair. Or green eyes. Or crazy-soup-person.” He pondered, mild irritation in his voice.

His voice couldn’t hide the fact that he was smirking though. Lenora looked back up at him and returned the smirk with a small smile. “Lenora.”

He nodded. “Lenora.”

Lenora felt serenity wash over her at the sound of him saying her name. It spoke to her of safety and home and a strength she did not possess. It banished those last trembling fears about this man and burned away any residual doubts.

Lenora did something incredibly stupid. She knew it was stupid – the way this man moved, how he acted spoke of someone far more used to abuse then she.

Lenora waked towards him and took his hand.

She felt him tense at her touch, but he did nothing else. She felt his eyes on her, and she lifted hers to meet them.

They were wide with fear.

“Hello, X.” She smiled at him.

His face contorted into a grimace, and for the strangest reason, she felt like this fear was not his own – but a fear for her.

“I…” He started, eyes moving over her like he was trying to remember something.

Lenora shook her head, and started tugging him towards the futon. He gave her no resistance, and slumped his shoulders as he cast his eyes towards the floor.

His hand was cold and a little clammy – he still wasn’t well. He needed his rest. She didn’t care what he said about his wound, she had seen it. He had also lost a lot of blood – she had been surprised to see him up at all tonight.

“It’s okay.” She said softly, pulling him beside her when she reached the edge of the futon. “You have to get some rest. I’m glad you ate. You looked like you needed it.”

They both stared at the futon for a minute, neither one moving, and neither one retracting their hand. He did not grip her hand back, but he didn’t take it from her either.

Her heart beat strong and steady with triumph. She knew she was doing the right thing.

“Go on. Lay down.” She gestured slightly with her free hand, and gave his a gentle squeeze.

She saw him flinch out of the corner of her eye, but he nodded mutely.

Without argument or retort, X climbed onto the futon, and curled up on his good side towards her. Lenora released his hand for him to get comfortable, and then she pulled the blanket off the floor and draped it over him again.

“Sometimes the heat comes on and off, so it might get cold.” She explained. Her voice was no more than a whisper, but she said it because she could feel him looking at her again. She wanted to stare back at him, but was unsure of what she would find. Frankly, it didn’t matter.

She would help him no matter what he said or felt.

Once he was tucked in and warm, Lenora went to the kitchen and filled a plastic cup with cold water to leave next to the bed. Again, he watched her every move. Lenora found that she didn’t mind.

She wanted to ask him questions, hundreds of them, but they would have to wait. She was confident now that if he wanted to talk, he would talk. She had given him the opportunity, and he had to be the one to take it. She would force nothing on him.

After she placed the glass of water, she crouched next to the mattress and peered at him.

His eyes were already closed and his breathing was even and calm. Smiling, Lenora tentatively reached out and brushed a strand of loose hair from his face. He murmured something that she did not catch, so she leaned forward.

Though deep in her heart of hearts she had hoped to hear ‘thank you’, all she received was ‘Arrowhead.’

She pondered what that could mean, but soon dismissed it.

Feeling safer than she had ever felt in her life, Lenora returned to her bedroom and crawled under the covers of her own bed.

She knew she would not be plagued by nightmares tonight, and the thought brought a serene smile to her face. It didn’t matter if he remembered who she was or not, not really. As long as he was all right.

Peace at last.

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16. Chapter 16: A Friend in Need