Lanterns: Day Six

“My what?” Gerard asked, blinking as if confused.

“Your stash,” Abby said again. “Don’t play dumb, and don’t play innocent. Whatever booze or pills you have squirreled away in your little bachelor pad here. Cough it up.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I don’t have anything like that. I’m here to get better, not –”

Abby turned away, took an angry breath, and stared at the framed still-life painting on the wall opposite her — a thrilling depiction of fruit in a bowl. She tried to fight the urge to throttle Gerard as he went into the whole litany of twelve steps, and one day at a time, and what F.E.A.R. stood for, and on and on and drone and drone. She tuned him out as best she could while she sat on the corner of that industrially-lumpy mattress and fumed about the injustice of it all.

Being here in this room, temporarily safe, not having to run and scream and panic…it wasn’t calming her down. She couldn’t stop being stressed, not even in a moment of respite. An edge had built up, and it needed to be taken off.

They never understood: the judge, the faculty, the parents…when you deal with a roomful of shrieking kids all day, you have to do something about it at the end of the day. You need it.

When you have an hour commute both ways from the crapfest of school to the tedium of your cruddy efficiency apartment, you have to deal with that tension when you get home. You want it.

And when you’re trapped in a recovery center unjustly; and every day is nothing but group therapy and art therapy and gardening therapy and one-on-one counseling and nutritious meals without a hint of sweet or salty or fatty in them; and all you have to look forward to is three lousy cigarettes a day; and you’ve been spending the night running from pumpkins — pumpkins, for the love of God — that want to tie you up like a straightjacket and whisper sweet nothings in your ear…

I need it.

I want it.

And by God, I deserve it.

And this insincere, pissant quasi-hippie is keeping me from getting it.

She pushed herself off the bed, still a little shaky on standing as adrenaline kept tickling her nerve endings, and slowly walked to just out of arm’s reach of Gerard, who trailed off talking as she approached.

Abby crossed her arms. “Toilet tank,” she said.

“Huh?”

“You want to make me guess? You want to make me play Clue? Fine, I’ll play Clue.” Abby pointed at the internal door by the main door that opened into Gerard’s bathroom. “Miss Scarlet, in a plastic bag, taped inside the toilet tank.”

“I don’t — Abby, I promise you, I do not have –”

She pointed at the ceiling. “Colonel Mustard, in the light fixture.” She stalked towards Gerard, who moved out of the way. Past him, she looked at the nightstand. “Captain Peacock, taped to the back of a drawer. Mister Boddy, stuffed in a hollowed-out part of the mattress. Missus Beasley, behind the painting!”

She paused for breath, their positions reversed: him by the bed, her by the barricaded door.

“I’m telling you…” Gerard began.

“No,” Abby snapped. “No, ‘dude,'” and she made particularly vicious quote marks with her fingers as she mocked his voice, “I’m telling you. I’m telling you a little something about yourself. I’m telling you what everyone wants to tell you in Group, but is too nice to say.”

And she could feel that old familiar feeling in her chest: the sense of a seesaw tipping from one side to the other, inexorably. The feeling of when a kid in her class was misbehaving, and Abby could have just been patient and told him to play nice, but after a long day all she wanted was to be as cutting as possible.

The feeling of knowing you’re about to be much more cruel than is necessary, coupled with the feeling of not caring.

“I know your story, Gerard, your pathetic little repetitive story. You’ve been in and out of here, and places like here, dozens of times. Dozens. And you know what that tells me about you? That you don’t want to recover. You don’t want to get well. All you want is attention. Poor brave Gerard, he’s fought so hard. Will he make it this time? Oops! Better luck next go-round.”

He glared at her, jaw set, as she continued. “And you know what that tells me? That you came here planning to relapse. Planning to take your next fall, so you can have yet another triumphant rise from the ashes. Which means you came here not taking any of this seriously. Which means,” she said, “that you snuck in a little something-something to get you through the next few weeks until you can leave. You have a stash hidden somewhere,” Abby concluded, reaching out to jab Gerard in the sternum with each final word, “so give. Me. It.

After she withdrew her finger, Gerard looked at Abby for a long moment, then closed his eyes. “…Are you done?” he asked. “If you’re finally finished, I’m going to tell you something now, about why I’m here. It’s none of your damned business, but I want to see your face when I say the words. I want to see if you’re even capable of…” He opened his eyes and looked past her to the door. “I…what the…?” Gerard took a step back, not taking his eyes off the door. He stared for so long, and with such befuddlement, Abby couldn’t help but turn and look herself.

“Did I…?” he mumbled from behind her. “I didn’t just see…I couldn’t have just seen what I thought I –”

“What?” Abby asked. “What are you talking about?”

“I…there’s no way I just saw a — a — a tentacle reach under the door.”

And as Abby watched, she saw what Gerard had seen. But not a tentacle…a vine.

The thick green strand squeezed under the door, flailing this way and that, until it lashed itself around one of the legs of the chair wedged beneath the doorknob.

Slowly but forcibly, the vine began to tug the chair out of place.

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Today’s Words: 1058
Total Words: 6893

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Notes: Most fun part of tonight: coming up with incorrect “Clue” character names for Abby to spout while she was on a roll.

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I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!

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