It was a loud pounding on the door that woke Stephanie Michler from her afternoon nap. Technically it was a continuation of the morning/after breakfast nap. If you call an apple and a glass of iced tea breakfast.
“Not again.” she groaned as she shuffled to get a bathrobe.
Her phone buzzed loudly on the bed side table. The text read: “I’m outside, AGAIN. It’s been six months. If you don’t open the door I am going to call the police AND the fire department to come over here and open it for me.” More pounding. “Don’t think I won’t call!” Stacey announced loudly through the intercom. “I love a man in uniform, I may wind up with a hot date.”
Stephanie rolled her eyes and pressed the intercom button next to her bedroom door. “Fine! Don’t get your panties in a twist”.
She pulled on her bathrobe as she walked to the front door and began opening a series of locks. Leaving the last lock in place, she opened the door as much as the chain would allow.
Her best friend, Stacey, stood there with a cigarette in one hand and the other on her hip, sunglasses perched on the tip of her nose. “Really? What was that 5 locks? Please open the door Cookie. Don’t make me go the fire and rescue route.”
“I knew you were bluffing. Are you alone?”
“What? Yes. Please let me in. It’s been six months.”
Stephanie closed the door. She sighed heavily as she undid the chain lock and stepped back as Stacey pushed her way through.
“Are you hungry ? I brought Bread Co.”
“Yes, I see that.” Stephanie replied flatly as she looked out the front door, her eyes darting around the perimeter. “Did you happen to bring any whiskey or weed?”
“Ignoring that. What are you doing? I said I was alone, who are you looking for?”
“Just making sure the mothers aren’t with you”. She closed the door and began to re-lock the sequence on the door.
Stacey looked Stephanie in the eyes and placed her hand lightly on her friends arm.
“Aw Steph, I would never bring your mom here, you know that. Your mother-in-law is a different story. She seems like she could be scary. C’mon let’s eat. I got broccoli cheddar soup and bread bowls!”
Stacey made her way to the kitchen of the three bedroom ranch. She hurried about setting the table, while Stephanie sank into a chair.
“I see you’ve been cleaning.”
“Not much else to do when you’re alone except read, sleep or masturbate. I’ve already read all the books in the house, I sleep 20 hours a day and I currently have no interest in masturbation.”
“Okay….” Stacey took a deep breath and poured two glasses of iced tea.
“Look Cookie, I know you don’t want to hear this, but friends have to tell each other the truth in order to help each other. Firstly, you are not alone. You have a ton of people who love you and are ready to support you if you’ll just let us. We all lose people. Secondly..”
“Stop right there! If you say I’m not the only one whose lost someone here or other people are hurting too, I will punch you in your face.” Stephanie stood up exasperated, her breathing got heavy as she clenched up her hands into fists. “Most people don’t lose their husband and three sons in one fell swoop, so don’t say we all lose people. It is not the same!” She spun herself round and punched a hole in the pantry door. “GOD DAMMIT!” She shook her now throbbing hand and tried to collect herself. “You see! This is why I’m staying away from everyone Stace. Really, I am going to end up punching somebody I love in the fucking face!”
“Hey! Hey hey hey, easy there tiger, let’s bring it down a notch, you’re scarin’ me. You’re right, it’s not the same. I’m sorry. Could we just eat and talk, about something else? Something that doesn’t result in broken fingers? I miss you Steph. We all miss you. Look, I also bought the ginormous and ridiculously overpriced rice crispy treats.”
“Well jeez Stace, why didn’t you say so in the first place. I would’ve opened the door a lot sooner.”
The two women smiled and both felt the tension start to melt. “I don’t think anything is broken.” She reached into the freezer for a bag of frozen corn to soothe her scraped and swollen hand.
They ate quietly. Stacey not wanting to push Stephanie back into shut down mode. She glanced around the kitchen trying to think of what to say that wouldn’t trigger another trip to the dark side. Ceiling to floor the place was spotless and meticulously organized. No clutter, no excess.
“Wow you’ve been cleaning a lot. It looks like a display home in here, are you selling the house?”
As soon as the words left her lips she wished she could hit 10 second rewind. Shit! You’re an idiot.
Stephanie’s tired smile was replaced by a grimace. She choked back tears and inhaled deeply to steady herself.
“There’s no one around to make a mess.” she replied stiffly. “I couldn’t bear to look at their things. So I, um”, she paused and steadied her self again. “Stace, thanks for coming, really, it was nice to not have to cook a meal. But I’m really exhausted now.”
“It’s only six o’clock.”
“Yeah…I haven’t had this much interaction in a long time, you know so, it was really good, good to see you. I think that I’m just going to lie down for a while now.”
“Yeah, sure…. okay honey. Just promise me we’ll keep talking. Please? Okay?” Stacey gathered her belongings, she wanted to get out of there at that point almost as much as Stephanie wanted her to leave. “It’s just that you’ve been ignoring everyone’s calls. We’re all worried about you. It’s not good for you to be alone so long. Tomorrow I’m going to call you and you’re going to pick up alright? Promise me, don’t roll your eyes.”
“Okay, yes I will pick up the phone when you call tomorrow. Scouts honor. I just I’ve got to ease my way back to people Stacey. You know I hate people.”
“I know you hate people. Okay I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I thought we were going to talk on the phone.”
“You hate talking on the phone.”
“That’s true. Touche. Okay I’ll see you tomorrow…… for a limited amount of time.”
“It’s a start. I’ll take it.”
“Please bring whiskey and weed.”
“Ignoring that. Goodnight Cookie.”
Stacey let out a slow exhale after sliding into her car. She lit a cigarette and turned on the car’s bluetooth.
“Okay Google, send group email Michler sisters.”
Hello ladies. Well she let me in, after I threatened to call fire and rescue.
It’s not what you thought. She seems like she’s eating even though she’s lost a considerable amount of weight, she’s not looking malnourished. Her fridge was filled with fresh fruits and veggies, I saw a cooler for a grocery delivery service. She’s taking her meds, she had current prescription bottles on the counter.
It doesn’t look like an episode of hoarders in there. In fact it’s spotless, I mean eat off the floor clean. I’m surprised her fingers weren’t bleeding type of clean. And sparse. She has no trace of Steve or the boys visible in the house.
When I commented on the lack of mess, she shut down. I did get her to promise I could visit tomorrow. It’s a start.
Look, I know you’re all grieving, but she’s the type of person who needs to process this stuff in quiet solitude. She knows she’s going to lash out and hurt someone and she wants to avoid that. If you push her she may cut you out permanently. We’ve just got to take baby steps.
Also, don’t ask me to gather intel for you again. I feel completely dirty now. She’s my friend, I know her best. Just let her be. She’ll contact you when she’s ready.
Stephanie watched her friend from living room window. It felt like forever before the car pulled away. She collapsed into the couch and put her head in her hands. After a long while she got up and made her way to the bathroom medicine cabinet for a Xanax. She turned out the lights and got back in bed. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to relax enough to get back to sleep. “Don’t trust anyone.” she whispered to herself. “You can’t trust anyone.”
copyright 2015 Madamfickle. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely unintentional. Blahbity blah blah blah.