Another day, another chapter from writer Mark Finn.
If this is your first time reading this book, you can find previous chapters here:
- Read Chapter One here
- Read Chapter Two here
- Read Chapter Three here
- Read Chapter Four here
- Read Chapter Five here
- Read Chapter Six here
- Read Chapter Seven here
- Read Chapter Eight here
- Read Chapter Nine here
- Read Chapter Ten here
- Read Chapter Eleven here
- Read Chapter Twelve here
- Read Chapter Thirteen here
- Read Chapter Fourteen here
- Read Chapter Fifteen here
- Read Chapter Sixteen here
One in a Million – Chapter 17
All Alone in a Time of Need
Holly turned the burner off on her giant pot of spaghetti noodles. She took the pot straight to the sink and dumped everything into the waiting colander. That done, she returned the noodles to the pot, took it back to the stove, and dumped all of the tomato sauce over them.
The buzzer sounded, and Holly ran for the door. “Hello?”
“It’s Linda,” said a familiar voice.
“You can’t come up unless you’ve got wine,” Holly said.
“I didn’t bring wine. I bought vodka.”
“Close enough.” Holly hit the button, unlocking the front door, and returned to the kitchen. The smell of garlic filled the air. She opened the oven. It was a whole French roll, cut into wedges, slathered in butter, garlic and shaved asiago cheese. Everything was hot and bubbly. She pulled the loaf out, cut the heat, and waited for Linda to come up. This meal was Holly’s comfort food. It was one of the only good meals she could cook, and it was the foundation of many a solid night of girl-talk.
When her front door opened, Linda and Leslie both walked in. “Look who I found,” Linda said.
“And I brought wine,” said Leslie.
“You can stay,” said Holly. “In fact, everyone get in here. Food is ready. Les, open that bottle. Linda, let’s add a little of that vodka to the sauce.”
The girls scrambled for plates, cutlery, glasses, and other utensils, chattering merrily away. Armed with noodles and bread, and fortified with wine and screwdrivers, the three remaining Wyrd Sisters sat at Holly’s table and ate like they were about to run a marathon. Conversationally, they were.
Everyone kept the chatter light, bantering back and forth, until the meal was over. With dirty dishes stacked in the sink and drinks refreshed, they sat in Holly’s living room in their usual places. The right side of the couch was conspicuously absent.
“Okay, Holly, what the fucking fuck?” asked Linda.
Linda started to say something, but she changed her mind and sat back.
Holly noticed, but it didn’t stop her from blurting out, “I think Larry may be crazy.”
“Crazy how?” asked Linda. “Like ‘never serious, always joking’?”
“No, more like ‘he needs meds because he’s schitzophrenic’ kind of crazy.”
“Oh, shit,” said Leslie.
“Don’t panic, Holly,” said Linda. “Your evidence?”
Holly recounted hearing Larry talking to Stercutus through the bathroom door to her friends. They listened, wide-eyed, saying nothing.
When Holly had finished, Linda took a long swig of her screwdriver. “Whoa,” she finally said. “Um…well…that sure beats my complaint.”
Leslie said, “What’s wrong with you?”
“Not me. It’s Burt.”
“What about Burt?”
Linda made a face. “Oh, it’s nothing, really. It’s not the same thing. This is bullshit compared to what Holly’s dealing with,” she said.
“Thank you, Linda,” said Holly.
“So, what are you going to do?” Leslie asked. “He’s moving in at the end of the month. From the looks of it, he’s already started.”
“I don’t know,” Holly said. “This has never come up before.”
“You’ve never put Larry in a pressure situation like this before, either,” Linda pointed out. “I mean, you met him when he was pretending to be this Stercutus guy, and then you went out on three dates, trying to get him to open up, and when he didn’t, you bailed. Then he called you, six months later, from an Arizona jail and after that, you guys have been trying to suck each other’s face off. That about the size of it?”
“Basically, yeah,” said Holly.
Linda put her hand on Holly’s. “What do you really know about him?”
“After six months?” Holly shrugged. “It feels like we’ve always known each other. It’s going so fast, you know?”
“You’re in love,” Linda said, not unkindly.
“I know, but what do I do if he’s got a medical condition? What if he’s off his meds? There’s things he’s never told me about, you know.”
“Example,” said Linda.
“I’ve asked him several times about Stercutus, and that stunt at MagicCon, and whatever possessed him to come up and grab my ass in the first place…and he’s never talked about it. Claims he doesn’t remember, or tries to change the subject.” Holly gulped at her wine. “What if I’m dating the Geek Sybil?”
She turned to Leslie. “And why won’t you say something?”
“Yeah,” Linda said, “chime in.”
Leslie shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m just worried about Rhonda.”
“What?” Holly exploded. “Rhonda?”
Linda frowned. “Holly’s right here, and she’s got real concerns. She could be in danger, you know?”
“So could Rhonda, Linda,” Leslie said. “You were with me the other night when D.J. called the guys. I don’t get it.”
“That was the other night,” Linda said. “before I got the story from Burt about how Turk gets weirdly obsessive over girls and freaks them out. He’ll do the same thing to Rhonda, and then that will be all with that.” She waved her hand at Leslie. “It’s a passing thing.”
“Are you kidding?” Leslie sputtered. “Let me ask you: how many subscribers does Rhonda have right now?”
Linda glanced at Holly as she said, very quiet, “Almost a million.”
“Fuck off,” said Holly. “That’s not possible. This is Rhonda we’re talking about.”
“Hey, she’s my friend,” said Leslie. “Stop running her down like that.”
“Okay,” said Linda, “forget I said anything. She’s a saint with children and a genius with food additives, all right? Sheesh.”
Leslie stood up. “Look, you’re supposed to be her friends. I thought you were my friend. She’s in trouble. Real trouble. I know it doesn’t look like it, but she is. I think she’s in serious danger. And I think it’s going to take all of us to make her realize that.” She gathered up her purse.
“Where are you going?” Holly asked.
“Yeah, we’re not finished here.”
“You two can work it out. When you want to help me with Rhonda, give me a call.”
“Leslie, don’t go,” said Holly.
“I think I should,” she said. “I’ll text you later.”
She practically ran for the door.
“Was that weird?” Linda asked.
“With the four of us? I don’t even know what’s weird anymore.”
Linda nodded glumly.
“So, what’s the deal with you and Burt?”
Linda sighed and put her head in Holly’s lap. “Let’s figure out how you’re going to ask Larry if he’s crazy, first. Then we’ll figure out why Burt hasn’t jumped me yet.”
D.J. was in his kitchen, trying like hell to figure out where the girls had put his cereal bowls and his spoons. There was a big box of Cinnamon Life calling his name, and being that he was now a man on his own, he saw nothing wrong with making that part of a nutritious dinner.
He finally located all of the necessary components and was literally hovering his milk carton over the full bowl of cereal when there was a banging on his door.
“Errgh,” he growled, stomping to the door. He didn’t even bother with the peep hole, instead flinging the door wide. “What…?”
Leslie, tears streaming down her face, ran into his surprised arms.
“Hey, hey, Les…” D.J. awkwardly patted her back. “Is everything okay?”
She pulled her head back and kissed him. Her lips were salty with her tears. He tried to talk to her, but she was kissing him again, and then again, and suddenly, D.J. couldn’t remember what he wanted to say in the first place. “I’m very…this is sorta…”
Leslie kicked the door closed. “Come on,” she stopped kissing him just long enough to whisper. “I want to see how the gray walls look in your bedroom.”
“But I’ve got milk on the COUNTER!” Leslie’s hand was on the front of his jeans.
“Fuck the milk,” she whispered. “Fuck me.”
“I…Okay.” D.J. let Leslie show him to his bedroom. The lights were off, but the gray walls made it not so dark. He saw everything. Everything.
Leslie laid beside D.J. under his flannel sheets and toyed with his hair. “I needed that,” she said.
“That was awesome.” D.J. was hoarse. “I think I blew out my larynx.”
“Yeah, you were pretty vocal.” She propped up on one elbow. “Can I ask you a delicate question?”
“Was that your first time?”
“No,” D.J. said. “It was my second.” He rolled over and looked at her. “Was it that bad?”
Leslie chuckled. “No, it was fine. It’s pretty hard to mess up ‘Tab A goes into Slot B, insert and repeat.’ Seriously, you hit the right spots.” She yawned and stretched.
“Oh, good,” D.J. said. He stared up at the ceiling.
“First time was pretty awful, huh?” said Leslie.
“Yeah. It happened on prom night. My date. We were in debate class together, and it was…I dunno.” He looked at Leslie quickly. “I mean, it felt great, but it felt, what’s the word? It was physically great, but…”
“You didn’t love her,” Leslie said.
“No, I didn’t.” D.J. went back to gazing at the ceiling. He could just make out the texture on the ceiling tiles. His mind started making faces and shapes. “So, is this going to be weird, now?”
“I hope not,” Leslie said. “I know you don’t love me. Not like that, anyway. I knew that’s why we didn’t go farther when we dated.”
“But Les, you’re the coolest girl I know,” D.J. said. “You made me think I could someday get married. And this was…really great.”
“I have given my heart to someone else,” D.J. said. “She doesn’t know I exist. But I really think I love everything about her.”
Leslie said, “I won’t lie to you, Deej; I just wanted to feel something different tonight. I was in a terrible mood and I needed a little help vis a vis some sex endorphins to get me over it.” She kissed his forehead. “I’m sorry. It was wrong to jump you like that.”
D.J. put his arm around her. “It’s cool. If it makes you feel any better, you’ve helped me to answer four questions that have plagued me for a long time. As long as we’re still friends, and nothing more, then this was totally worth it.”
“What were the four questions?” Leslie asked.
“No, I’m not going to tell you. It’s embarrassing.”
“You’ve seen me naked!” she yelped. “What’s left?”
D.J. grinned in the half-light and looked away. “Well, I always did wonder what your rack looked like.”
“I know! It’s embarrassing! That’s why I didn’t want to tell you!”
Leslie covered herself. “I can’t believe you…”
“I’m a man, Leslie,” D.J. said. “I can’t help it. It’s second nature to wonder.”
“What were the other three.”
“The other big one was if I could, you know, please a woman.”
Leslie smiled. “Yes you can.”
D.J. smiled and nodded. “Good to know.”
“Uh, hey there, Deej,” Leslie said. “Is there something you’d like to say to me?”
“Oh, sorry,” D.J. said, rolling away from Leslie. “He does that sometimes.”
“Does he?” Leslie rolled over on top of him. “I think he just needs a little help.”
“You’re a good friend, Les.”
“So are…Oh…you, Deej.”
After round two, D.J. was too weak to walk, so he fell asleep hungry. Leslie drifted off shortly after, feeling comfortable and guilty at the same time.
She was sleeping heavily, like she always did after sex, when the door to D.J.’s bedroom began to glow with white light. She sat up in bed as it burst open.
Rhonda was bathed in a yellow-white light. She looked radiant and terrible. Hyper sexualized, like a tattoo artist’s drawing of a woman. Her hair was red-orange and it flowed around her face in a wind Leslie couldn’t feel.
“Wake up, Leslie,” said Rhonda. “You’ve been a bad girl.”
“Rhonda, you look great.”
“NO!” Rhonda shouted. The alarm clock fell of D.J.’s nightstand and shattered. “You don’t get to be lovey-dovey. Not while you’re on my shit list!” She smiled sweetly and continued. “You’re talking about me behind my back. Trying to get Holly and Linda to go against me.”
“Rhonda, you’re scaring me,” Leslie said. “This isn’t you.”
“Oh, it’s me, baby.” Rhonda shook her hair and grinned. “This is all me. Rhonda likes the new Rhonda. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away and keep your mouth shut.”
“Hey, is that Deej?” came a voice out of the light behind her.
“Yes. It seems little Leslie is trying to build a power block of her own to shut me down. Too little, too late.”
“Rhonda, I don’t want—”
“Shut up, Les. Just shut up. I’m the Wyrd Sister, now. The original, baby. Tell Holly and Linda, too. I’m taking the Castro for my own. If you’ll just shut the fuck up, and pledge the proper sisterly loyalty, I’ll let you stick around.”
“You’ll let me stick around?” Leslie started. “Listen, you little asshole, you can’t talk to me like…”
Something blasted Leslie backward, into the bed. She cracked her head against the wall and cried out.
“Silence!” the voice from the light shouted. “Show proper respect to the one true Rhonda.”
“Turk, I got this,” Rhonda said. She floated over the bed, until she was literally on top of Leslie.
“You get that one for free. Because we’re friends. But any more acts of sedition and you will be dealt with. Harshly.”
And all at once, the light was gone. Leslie reached up and felt the lump on the back of her head and a cold panic swept over her. D.J. stirred.
“What happened? Earthquake?” He glanced around. “Oh, shit. What happened to my clock?”