It had been a month since she'd left me, and the sting of heartbreak seemed like some dull burning now. I suppose ten years with someone will leave a real impact on your life, but now it was just getting old. When you're not used to depression, you get sick of it quickly, but it just sticks to you like sidewalk bubblegum. I decided it was time to buy some new shoes.
The woman behind the bar looked me over for a moment before sliding a glass right in front of me. I could smell the rum, mixing with the stale vomit and cheap cologne scent already clinging to the air. Bars are the worst. Why people spend so much time in them is beyond me. The barrista didn't seem to notice it, though, and I tried to push it out of my mind as the glass emptied itself into my throat, burning hellfire deep in me. With a gasp, I set the glass down and fumbled with my wallet.
"On the house," the woman said, refilling my glass. "I know those eyes." She smiled, and I tried to reciprocate weakly. "You're gonna need to work on that smile, buddy. Faker than a pawn shop diamond ring."
I let out another sigh and finished the second glass, the burn slowly rising to my head. What am I doing here? I had no answer, so I left a scrap of paper that had once resembled currency and shuffled out. The Sky is Crying popped into my head, and I mumbled the Stevie Ray song to myself as the tears of heaven pelted me.
An hour later, I found myself walksing past a Junior High school. I happened to glance up and saw that the sun was fighting to get out from behind dark clouds, pelting the building with straggling rays. A girl was crying somewhere, and I heard some unpleasant sounding laughter as a group of boys walked into the school. As I made my way along the sidewalk, I wondered where my car was. My eye caught sight of a white blur, and I looked up in time to see a little girl run straight into me, bawling her eyes out. There was a dull ache as my ass landed on the pavement, and my ears were ringing. The girl was staring at me, her eyes blurred with tears as she tried to apologize, though all she could get past her lips seemed to be a series of quiet whimpers.
She was in a white shirt and skirt, the edges smeared with dirt, and her shoulder-length blonde hair flowed perfectly around her face, only a few strands clinging to her tear-drenched cheeks. Green eyes looked out from her thin face with a look I'd seen in the mirror on my way to the bathroom every morning since ... since...
She started to turn away, and I saw that her soft legs had bruises and scratches along her inner thighs. I called out, slurring a couple words as I tried to stop her from leaving. She looked warily through her tears as I got myself to my feet, my head pounding. She must have seen something I didn't mean to show, because her eyes flashed recognition, and she slowly helped me to a bench. "Who hurt you?" she whispered shakily, causing me to wonder at her words.
"You ... knock ... down ... ask who..." My mouth and my brain didn't seem to be on speaking terms, and nothing I said would come out right.
"No ... I'm sorry for running into you, but you were already hurt. Who hurt you?" Damn, she was more perceptive than I had expected, and I was in no shape to lie my way out. The understanding in her eyes was painful to look at, so I tried my best to focus on the ground.
"D'sn matter," I deflected, shaking my head. "Gone now..." My eyes caught her wavy hair bouncing on her shoulders as she nodded, her own eyes on the ground as well. "You hurt?" I asked, my hand barely tracing her leg. She blushed and pulled away instinctively, and realizing what I had just done, I turned away, my hands going to my pockets. "Drunk ... sorry..." I whispered. Like this girl didn't have enough on her hands.
But she just nodded slowly and turned to look at the school. "Some guys ... don't know what 'no' means," she managed, her eyes welling up again. I looked up and she smiled weakly. "They didn't get far, but..." she trailed off, her hand slowly raising her skirt to reveal a gash along her thigh. It looked like someone had tried to fuck her with a stick. Children are horrible.
She gave me the same smile I remembered giving a bartender a little while ago, and got up to go back into the school. Before I knew what I was doing, I had my hand around her arm, and she was staring down at me. "I ... help you?" I offered, and she just melted my heart with her eyes. Nodding slowly, she helped me to my feet, and after a few attempts, figured out where I lived, walking slowly down the road. I remembered her asking me something about a street name, and then saw my door in front of me. I guess I'm a real lightweight when alcohol's involved.
We struggled with the keys together, and eventually got into my home, if it could be called that anymore. The girl didn't seem to mind as we made our way through stacks of pizza boxes and dirty laundry. She found her way to the bathroom, and in a few moments, I was lightly pressing a cotton ball soaked in peroxide against her soft thigh. "You're pretty trusting to just let me bring you home like this," I told her. Apparently, my mouth had made a peace treaty with my brain.
She looked down at me and smiled, her teeth grinding against each other as chemicals burned away at her scrapes. It looked oddly comforting. "Those guys ... I could see what they wanted. I don't see that in you," she replied, gasping in pain as a fresh swab cleaned her wounds. "You wouldn't hurt me. You wouldn't hurt anyone."
I looked up at the girl for a moment, flooded with conflicting feelings. "What's your name?" I asked, forcing back tears as her little body shook from the sting of sterility. Her legs, aside from the gash, were two of the most beautiful things I had seen in a long time. They started at her slender feet, slipping up to muscular calves and full thighs. She looked like the woman I had first fallen in love with ten years ago, and I could feel the tug of lust for just a moment as her lips parted.
"Erica," she replied, lifting her leg slowly as I wrapped a bandage around her thigh. "My name's Erica, and I really appreciate this, Daniel." My eyes jumped to hers as she said my name.
"How..." I began, but she only smiled and lifted my wallet, showing me my ID.
"You don't even remember handing this to me, do you?" she asked. "I've seen some drunks, but whatever happened to you must have been horrible..." I tried to turn away, but a gentle hand pulled my face back to her, her slender fingers digging through the fuzz on my face. Amazing how fast hair grows in a month. She slipped my wallet into my pocket, leaning forward until her lips caressed my temple. "Thank you," she whispered softly before getting up to leave me dreaming on the bathroom floor.
When I woke up, my head was pounding, and my house was clean. The front door was locked, the pizza boxes gone, and not a sign anywhere that I had been a zombie for the last month. A note was tagged to my refrigerator, and I read it as I made myself a pot of coffee.
Thank you for taking care of me. I hope you won't mind, but your house looked like it could use some cleaning up. You were out of some cleaning products, so I bought them for you. Don't worry about paying me back. If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to come see you again.
She had left her number, a cell by the look of it, and I found that my dishwasher and washing machine were both finished. The soaps looked pretty expensive, and I felt a tang of guilt as I loaded the dryer. I didn't deserve this kindness.
My headache was dulling after a few cups of brown sludge, and checking a clock, noticed it was Saturday morning. I had slept for two days on a tile floor, but I felt better than I had since that bitch had told me I wasn't worth another moment of her time. I sighed and glanced at the phone, then to Erica's note. 'Affectionately, ' she had written. What did she mean by that? Was calling her going to be a mistake?
I shrugged off my fears, reasoning that a junior high girl wouldn't ever go for a guy a decade older than her. That sort of thing only happens in fantasy stories. Her phone rang a few times, and my heart jumped a little until I recognized her voice as a pre-recorded message. "Hi, this is Erica's phone. Leave me some love and I'll try to get it back to you soon!" it giggled at me.
"Um," I mumbled after a beep. "This is Dan. I wanted to thank you and make sure you got home okay. My door's always open to you." I hung up and stared out my window. The grass outside reminded me of some fields I had seen in a forest a long time ago...
A couple hours later, a knock at my door pulled me from a dream that would have shamed a porn star, and I got up groggily. Standing in the doorway was a young lady in a blue dress, smiling up at me. "Erica?" I asked, and her smile only widened.
"You remembered me!" she squealed with all the joy of a young teenager. I just smiled weakly and stepped back to let her in.
.... There is more of this story ...