TITLE: Two Steps Forward, No Steps Back
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
NOTE: The following part has been brought to you by those deep dark corners of my currently severely muddled brain that nobody in his or her right mind should really travel for an extended period of time. I apologise for any misplaced silliness that might follow.
Another day, another lunch break. And during this break Brooke, Lily and Carmen were sitting at a rather large table feeling moderately depressed. This may not be a very big surprise since they had all been moderately depressed for quite some time now. Their little trip into the dark cloud above their heads was interrupted when a large shadow fell over the empty table. The three girls looked up and saw Mary Cherry and her butt-kissing followers. Mary Cherry looked fairly annoyed.
“Where am Ah supposed tah sit?” She asked, as if the answer should be fairly obvious.
And it was. To Brooke, Carmen and Lily who saw five empty chairs the answer was very simple. Immediately the Cult of Mary Cherry started moving and apologising.
“A thousand apologies, Oh Great One.”
“Please forgive us, Oh Most Magnificent Texan One.”
One of the Cult, who thought he had a little authority, stood up boldly. “Fetch the throne!” He yelled.
“The throne!” A few other chorused. “Get the throne!”
Meanwhile, Mary Cherry kept standing, angrily tapping her foot. Carmen slowly leaned in to Lily.
“Is it just me or are you having a Buffy flashback here as well?”
“That’s the one I meant.”
After several minutes four Cult members entered the cafeteria. They were brandishing a solid gold throne with a lot of red velvet pillows.
“Here you are, Oh Wielder Of Every Credit-Card On The Planet.” One of them said, putting the throne down at the table and opposite to the other three girls.
“Please, by all means, we beg of you to set down your most beauteous teenage bottom, Oh Wealthy Siren.”
Mary Cherry sat down, seemingly oblivious to all the flattery.
“Leave us.” She said.
The Cult looked at each other, very much confused. One girl hesitantly spoke up.
“Excuse me, Oh Great And Radiant One?”
“I said ‘leave us’!” Mary Cherry snapped. “It’s fairly simple!”
“Leave your side, Most Divine Being? But… but…” The girl and the rest of the Cult turned slowly towards the rest of the rather full cafeteria. A hundred eyes watched the exchange with great interest.
“Do Ah have tah repeat mahself?” Mary Cherry said.
There was a collective swallowing of fear, pride and courage from the Cult. Slowly, they shuffled away from the table towards the centre of the cafeteria. To any biologist they looked like a group of helpless little bunnies surrounded by an insanely hungry pack of wolves carrying machineguns. And in that moment one collective thought hung in the air of the cafeteria. It was shared by every jock and every nerd, every popular cheerleader and every ugly wallflower, every devout Catholic and every alternative lifestyle. They all looked at their food-trays and grinned.
Completely oblivious to all of this were Mary Cherry, Brooke, Carmen and Lily. And they remained oblivious to all of this when the people started shouting and the food started flying.
“So Mary Cherry. To what do we owe the honour?” Brooke asked, skilfully avoiding a stray tomato.
“Well, it has come tah mah attention that dear Spammy is in a wheelchair!”
“Dear Spammy?” Carmen whispered.
“Mary Cherry, with all due respect, but this isn’t very big news.” Lily said.
“Ah know that, but…”
Mary Cherry was interrupted when, with one great shout, a Cult member covered in all kinds of things that are supposedly nutritious flew onto the table.
“My, tah insolence!” Mary Cherry shouted. “Ah thought Ah did not want to be disturbed!”
“I beg your forgiveness, Most Forgiving One. But I assure Your Greatness that these circumstances are completely outside my control.”
“Does it look like Ah care?” Mary Cherry asked.
“Err… no, Your Holy Oneness.”
“Just get outta here!”
A jock and a rather fat girl jumped up the table and grabbed the unfortunate Cult member by the shoulders.
“It would seem I am soon out of your way, Oh Mighty Texan.” He said, before sliding off the table at an alarmingly fast rate.
“Now, where was Ah? Oh yeah! Spammy! Ah heard she sacrificed everything jus’ tah save you!” Mary Cherry exclaimed, looking at Brooke.
Brooke poked at her food with a fork and remained quiet.
“Now, if it were me she nobly gave up her bodily functions for Ah’d… probably laugh in her face. But Ah’m bettin’ you’d just go around wallowing in remorse and possibly relapse in old dieting habits.” Mary Cherry ranted on.
“Is this ever going to make its way into a point?” Carmen asked.
“Ah’m gettin’ thar. Ah… oh hi Joe!”
Three heads suddenly snapped to the right, glaring at Harrison. Hesitantly, Harrison sat down. He was about to say something when a well-placed crop of lettuce knocked him unconscious.
“Oh thank God.” Brooke whispered. “At least I won’t have to deal with him today.”
Mary Cherry pouted briefly, saddened that Joe’s attention span was even shorter than her own. The fact that Joe was completely unconscious eluded her for a moment.
“You were saying?” Lily asked, getting Mary Cherry’s attention back to where it belonged.
“Oh yeah! Well, Ah have also heard that the McQueen/McPherson household was, for some mysterious and undoubtedly Communist reason, unable tah relocate Spammy’s bedroom to the first floor. So Ah have hired the best damn carpentry company in all of Texas tah do something about it!”
Three girls looked at Mary Cherry in a sort of stunned amazement. Had they even noticed the food massacre going on all around them before, now they wouldn’t even notice that.
A thousand feet marched over the scarred battlefield. Sam could almost hear the tearing sound of a skull broken underfoot. A little while away, in those vast fields of red, the battle raged on. But here all was quiet, except for the sounds produced by her marching infantry and the soft humming of the hovertanks. The defences of RazorWing City had been swept away by her forces and now nothing stood in the way of her advance towards the Usurper capitol.
“Take that, Marr!” Sam cried triumphantly. “That’ll teach you to stand in the way of the Data Angels!”
The feet marched on and were about to enter the smoking husk that remained of the city when all of the sudden, disaster struck:
The doorbell rang.
Cursing violently, Sam saved her game, shut down her laptop and made her way towards the door.
“What?” She asked a little tactlessly as she yanked the front door open.
“Samantha McPherson?” A man in a blue overall asked.
“That’s me.” She answered.
The man turned around. “OK boys! This is the place! Start unloading!”
Sam looked on in amazement as three vans and one truck opened up and men and material started pouring out. On the side of the truck there was written in large letters:
‘Carpentry Inc. The Best Damn Carpentry Company In All Of Texas.’
NOTE: OK, back to the seriousness. At least for the moment.
Jake Anderson led an small, quiet, uneventful life. And he was pretty happy with it. After dropping out of school and a string of low-paid jobs he now worked at a restaurant. Here too the pay was low, but it kept him and his girlfriend fed and clothed and it paid the rent. All in all, Jake didn’t really need anything more.
But recently a small sort of mystery had entered his otherwise uneventful life. Every day at work, he would look up at the clock. And every day it would be three o’clock. And then, about ten seconds later, the bus would stop outside the restaurant and a blonde girl would step out. The girl would then walk over to the nearest lamppost, lean against it and stare at the asphalt.
Today was no exception when Jake looked up and noticed it was 15:02. A few seconds later he heard the distinct sounds of a stopping bus and the all too familiar sound of high heels. Jake stopped what he was doing for a moment to look at the girl. The blonde was once again staring at this one piece of asphalt. Unmoving, unresponsive, totally oblivious to the world around her.
“Hey Pat.” Jake said, not taking his eyes off the girl.
“You know who that girl is?”
Patrick stepped next to Jake and looked out the window as well.
“Well… she comes here every day around three and just stares at the road.”
“Yeah. So I was wondering if maybe you know something about it.”
“Nah. Well, maybe.”
“Well a couple of months ago some girl got hit by a car outside.”
“Like at the point where that girl’s looking?”
“Somewhere around there, yeah.”
“Well, I don’t know the full details. But I think it was some blonde girl that stood in front of that car. And then suddenly this brunette runs up, jumps and pushes her out of the way. The brunette gets smacked by that car, which races away might I add.”
“Well what do you think? Panic, mayhem, ambulances. You know.”
“So… you think that’s the girl who got pushed outta the way?”
“Who else? Probably reliving her personal trauma every single day.”
“Jesus. Hey, you know what happened to that other girl?”
“Who? The brunette?”
“I don’t know. But look at her. What do you think?”
Jake looked at the girl. He could only draw one conclusion. The brunette was dead and the blonde couldn’t bring herself to visit her gravestone.
Jake sighed, shook his head and continued his work.
Sam was very much aware of the noise and the dust and the rubble. The carpentry crew turned out to be part wrecking crew. It seemed that in order for her to get a ground level bedroom the had to smash a wall. Possibly two. Sam had tried to convince the workers that she never asked for a room. To which the reply was ‘Well then, I guess your parents wanted to surprise you’. So now Sam, still being very aware of the noise and the filth tried hard to focus on the small laptop screen.
Sam looked up. It was one of the workers. He was probably a little older than she was. He wore a dirty blue overall and his face was covered in all kinds of dust. But Sam had to admit, he was kind of cute with his honest, smiling face and his unkempt hair.
“Hi.” Sam said, smiling.
The carpenter leaned over Sam’s shoulder and stared at the screen.
“Playing a game?”
“Yeah. It helps when I try to ignore the noise.”
“You shouldn’t stay in here playing games. They’ll rot your brains, you know. You should go out or something.”
Sam smiled. “Yeah, well, I _was_ planning to strip naked, run outside and frolic in the garden while the sun slowly tans my glorious naked body, but hey, I can’t.”
The guy looked at the wheelchair as if noticing it for the very first time. “Oh man. Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
“No really, I mean it.”
“It’s OK.” Sam said, a little more slowly, a little more threateningly.
“OK, shutting up now. So, games it is, huh?”
“Games it is.”
The guy stared at the screen a few moments longer. “So… is anything going to happen there or something. ‘Cuz I don’t get it.”
“Don’t you have work to do or something?”
“I’m taking a break. So when is there something going to happen?”
“As soon as I figure out what to do.”
“What do you mean? I say blast the lot of them. That’s the way those things work, right?”
“Right.” Sam said slowly. “You know what, maybe this isn’t such a good time for this.” She said, closing her laptop.
“I said something stupid, right?”
“It’s no big.”
“I’m Edgar, by the way.” The guy said, offering his hand.
“Sam.” Sam answered, taking it.
“Hey Sam… err… I don’t really know anyone in this since I’m from… well… Texas and whoever hired us also got us all motel rooms and since we’re probably gonna stay here a while… well… care to show me around town someday?”
“Maybe.” Sam said smiling. “Lemme think about it.”
“Well when you make up your mind, you know where to find me.”
“Yeah, over there, knocking the walls out of my house.”
“Exactly. Now you know that break I’m on right now?”
“It’s entirely fictional. So I’d best head back to the salt mines now. Later Sam.”
Edgar walked off. Sam remained seated, smiling a little to herself. She had already admitted to herself that Edgar was cute. And he also seemed to be a real nice guy. But on the other hand, she didn’t really want any kind of a relationship right now. Even if it was just a meaningless fling.
Sam heard the sound of the front door closing, soon followed by a cry of terror. A few moments later a very bewildered Brooke stormed into the living room.
“Our house is missing a wall!” She yelled.
Sam smiled. She hoped it was a reassuring smile.
“I can explain. Well, actually I can’t, but I can try.”
“Don’t bother, I think I know.” Brooke said.
“Oh. Well can you explain me then?”
“I can try.” Brooke said, walking over to the couch.
The blonde launched into a story. Sam knew the vague glints in Brooke’s eyes that told her that it would take the blonde some time to get to the point. Sam quickly glanced over to the clock.
It was 15:02.
NOTE: Lots of dialogue in this part. Lots of crappy writing as well. Sorry about that.
“How long have they been sitting there?”
“At least half an hour.”
“And in that time they haven’t moved at all?”
“Nothing? Nothing at all?”
“Well… maybe Mike’s mouth has opened just a little further, but other than that…”
Brooke nodded in understanding and looked at Mike and Jane. The two adults didn’t see her. They stared off into space, not seeing anything, not moving a muscle. It would seem to the casual observer that their minds had been frozen. To the casual observer that watched a lot of sci-fi this would have been the work of malignant aliens that want to take over the planet using some form of mind-control. To Sam and Brooke, however, this brain-freeze had been induced by the knowledge of the how and why their house was missing a wall.
“How long do you think they’re gonna stay like that?” Brooke asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s just say I think we have to make our own dinner tonight.”
All of the sudden the noise around them stopped. The sudden absence of noise startled Sam and Brooke a little, since they had been gotten used to it. The foreman of the carpentry crew walked up to the two girls, since he also saw that their parents were not in a talking mood.
“OK, me and my men are done for the day. We’ll come back tomorrow.”
“OK.” Sam said.
“Uhm… do you know how it’s going to take for the work to finish?” Brooke asked.
The foreman turned around and looked at the rubble and the carpenters packing up their things for the day.
“A week. Maybe two. We’ll be done fairly quickly.”
“That’s good.” Brooke said.
“Well then,” The foreman said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And with that he left.
“Two weeks.” Brooke said.
“Could be worse.” Sam said.
“But what if they don’t return to normal until the work’s done?” Brooke asked, indicating Mike and Jane.
Sam looked at her frozen parents. “Good point.”
Sam looked up to see Edgar walking up to her.
“I guess the boss already told you that we’re going to go now. So I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yep.” Sam answered. “I would guess so.”
“You will think about what we talked about, right?”
Edgar smiled. “Great. See you tomorrow.”
Brooke waited carefully until Edgar has left the vicinity.
“OK, who was that, why was he talking to you, what was he talking about and why is he so cute?” She asked in an excited rush.
“That was Edgar, one of the carpentry crew, I think he likes me, he has asked me to show him around town and I guess he was born that way.”
“Oh my God, Sam, you lucky devil!” Brooke shouted delighted.
Sam quirked an eyebrow. “You seem more excited about this than I do.”
“Well hello. Have you taken a good look at him? The guy’s like… majorly cute!”
“I know.” Sam said. “So what?”
“So what? So what!? Sam, you should totally say ‘yes’. I mean, this we’re talking winning lottery ticket here.”
“OK, now you’re scaring me. Why’re you so eager to hook me up to some guy who’s gonna be gone in two weeks?”
“Oh come on! He looks adorable!”
“That’s not it, Brooke.” Sam said calmly. “You and I both know it. There’re more cute guys like him out there and you never got so worked up about any of them.”
“Well…” Brooke paused and let the sentence remain unfinished.
“I think the reason you’re so excited is that people in wheelchairs don’t date very often period. So now that a guy comes along that shows at least some interest in me one would expect me to instantly jump his bones or something, right?”
“And now I’m wondering whether or not he’s thinking that as well. I mean, yeah, OK, he looks nice and he certainly does have the cuteness going for him, but that’s it. For all we know he’s just looking for someone to screw while he’s away from home and he thinks I’m easy.”
“Sam!” Brooke yelled.
“What? It’s true, ain’t it? Wheelchair-people are pathetic and without a social life. Therefore, picking one up is really, really simple. Just pretend to be a little friendly with them and their legs open up like that.” Sam said, snapping her fingers at the last word.
“Sam! Don’t talk like that!”
“Fine. I won’t. Maybe I’m just paranoid.”
“Exactly.” Brooke said. “I mean, not paranoid, but just a little… you know… a little distrusting.”
“Or maybe I’m just listening a bit too well to a couple of stories I heard at school.”
Sam sighed. “Face it Brooke. People consider us to be weak just because we’re disabled. And as sick as it may sound, raping a handicapped is real easy.”
“Sam! Stop talking like that!”
“Sorry.” Sam muttered. Then she sighed and looked at her parents. “Well, I don’t see them moving any time soon.” She said with a forced chuckle.
“Yep.” Brooke said, obviously relieved at the change of topic. “I think I’ll get some smelling salts or something.”
“You do that.” Sam said. “As for me, I think I’ll just sneak out.”
“Hey, great idea.” Brooke said. “Can I come?”
Sam hesitated. “Or maybe we should stay here to keep an eye on Mac.” She said.
“Oh yeah… right.” Brooke said. “Well, maybe Lily can come over to baby-sit. I bet she won’t mind.”
“That sounds very much like not OK.”
“Well… The place I was planning to go to… It may not be entirely your thing.”
“Well for one thing it’s like the local handicapped club. It’s the only place one can come in a wheelchair and not have a whole lot of difficulty all night.”
Brooke waved her hand dismissively. “I’m sure they won’t mind a walker like me.” She said confidently.
The brunette in the wheelchair hesitated. “Right…” She said.
The music was loud, the dance floor was full, the drinks were cold and non-alcoholic. Sam and Brooke looked around the club. People here obviously knew Sam. Some of them would come up to her and chat for while, before moving back into the crowd. Brooke also saw that Sam was right when she called it the local handicapped club. At least half the people here seemed to have some sort of handicap. But there was something else here as well. Something Brooke couldn’t quite place her finger on until she inspected the dance floor a little bit more.
“Sam.” She whispered urgently.
“What?” Sam asked.
“Exactly what kind of club is this?”
“It’s a club with no stairs, no thresholds to speak of, enough room to move your wheelchair around, tables of the right size, a bar that’s a little high, but not too high and very adequate toilet facilities.” Sam answered.
“That’s not what I meant.” Brooke said.
“I know. But when it comes to going out, I don’t exactly have a whole lot of choice, do I?”
“Sam!” Brooke shouted. “Just answer me this: Is this a gay bar or not?”
Sam hesitated a little. “I told you this might not really be your thing.”
“Is it yours?” Brooke asked.
“What?” Sam asked, confused.
“Is it your thing? I mean… you know… are you gay?”
“Brooke, I told you, this is the only place in town I can go. At least half the people you see here are not gay.”
“OK… sorry… I… never mind.”
The girls drank their drinks in silence for a few moments. After those few moments a girl with red hair, green eyes and clothes that seemed to be just a little bit too revealing sat down at the table.
“Hey Sam.” She greeted.
Sam smiled. “Erin, hi.”
“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Erin asked, quickly indicating Brooke with her eyes.
“Erin, this is Brooke. Brooke, this is Erin.”
“Hello.” Brooke greeted hesitantly.
“You’re Sam’s stepsis, right?” Erin asked.
“Not yet, but one day, probably.”
“So Erin, who’s Linda?” Sam asked.
“I don’t know.” Erin said quietly. “We kinda broke up.”
“Ouch.” Sam said. “Sorry.”
“It’s no big.” Erin said. “She ran off with some guy. So if we stayed together longer… well.. it would’ve been even more painful I guess.”
“Hey, wanna dance?” Sam offered.
Erin smiled. “That’s sweet of you, but no thanks. I think I’ll just head over to the bar, drown my sorrows in tequila, pass out and wake up with a hangover.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Sam said.
Erin stood up, nodded to Brooke and walked over to the bar. Sam looked at her for a while before returning to Brooke.
“Brooke, you OK?” Sam asked, seeing the blonde’s rather depressed look.
“Right.” Sam said. “Once more and this time actually try, please. What’s wrong?”
Brooke sighed. “I think I just realised something.”
“I don’t know who you are.”
“Excuse me?” Sam asked.
“Before… I knew you. I think I had you pretty much figured out. But now… not only do you know other people but you seem to be thinking differently.”
“I had to go to another school Brooke. I was bound to meet people you don’t know. And about the thinking differently part, I think I’m still the same I always was.”
“No Sam. You’re not.” Brooke said. “When I go shopping I think about which stores have clothes I like. You wonder which stores have changing booths your wheelchair fits in. When I want to go to a club I wonder which one plays music I like. You wonder if you’re able to get inside.” The blonde sighed. “Do you understand what I’m getting at?”
“I think so. But I still don’t get why you suddenly think you don’t know what I think. If you get what I mean.”
“It’s just… your world and mine have become so totally different. Even when we still hated each other’s guts, the world revolved around basically the same things for both us. But not any more. Now…” Brooke halted. “I think I just wanna go home now.”
“Are you sure?” Sam asked jokingly. “Because I’ve seen some pretty cute girls check you out.”
“Sam.” Brooke said tired.
“Just trying to cheer you up.” The brunette defended her actions. “But if you really want to go.”
“I really wanna go.”
“Then we’ll go.”
NOTE: Yes, I know, it’s short. But to me it seemed like I couldn’t just continue this part with a sudden change of scene and characters. So, sorry for the shortness.
The sun’s rays seemed to be aimed directly at Nicole’s seat. Outside the temperature was maybe 12 degrees Celcius, but the glass window amplified the heat a hundred times. To make matters even worse some fat lady sat next to her, chatting about her own life, giving Nicole all kinds of details she had really no interest in. In short, Nicole felt miserable.
But then, she had felt miserable for a really long time now.
The blonde reached down into one of her pockets, then noticed the stickers in front of the bus.
‘Don’t talk to the driver’
‘Don’t listen to music’
‘Don’t use your cell phone’
Nicole sighed, took her empty hand out of her pocket again and placed it in her lap. She looked over to the fat lady, still rambling on in a loud and annoying fashion.
((They should’ve put up a ‘Don’t murder your fellow passengers’ sticker up there as well.)) She thought.
If this had been about half a year ago, Nicole would’ve shut that fat lady up. Beginning, of course, with several snide remarks about her size, weight and overall appearance. Then, based in the woman’s reaction, Nicole would dig out any other weak spots and viciously attack those as well. After that she would keep tearing into the woman, until all that remained of her was a quivering pile of flesh with no human mind to speak of. All that so that Nicole Julian would have a quiet ride.
But that was then.
Now, she just remained silent and waited, wishing she was anywhere but here, wishing she was going anywhere but there.
At long last the bus stopped at the right bus stop and with an incredibly large sigh of relief, Nicole got out. She walked over to the nearest lamppost, leaned against it and fished a pack of cigarettes of her pocket. She quickly lit on, inhaled deeply, and slowly blew out the smoke again. Then she looked over at that one spot asphalt. There she saw the large stains of blood that existed only in her mind.
After a while, she became aware of someone next to her.
“It’s three o’ clock and she appears.”
“Tell me something, because I really want to know, why do you come here every day?”
Nicole didn’t answer. Instead, she just smoked her cigarette.
“You really should quit.” Sam said.
“Those things’ll kill you.”
“What do you mean ‘so’?”
“The world’d be a better place without me, right?”
“At one time, maybe. But not any more.”
“Well, whatever. It doesn’t matter.” Nicole said, dropping the cigarette to the ground and extinguishing it with her right foot.
“It matters to me.”
“Why? I’m the one who turned you into road-kill, remember?”
“All the more reason.”
“So how are you? I mean, apart from the all-consuming guilt.”
Nicole shrugged. “As well as can be expected I guess.”
“Settling in nicely I take it?”
“Mom threw a whole lot of money at ‘em. I got a pretty nice room. Good view too.”
“And you’re allowed outside for at least a couple of hours a day.”
“Yeah.” Nicole said. “I’m not considered to be dangerous or something.”
Sam nodded. “I can see that.”
“How are you?”
Sam shrugged. “As well as can be expected.” She answered.
“That’s good I suppose.”
“Well, I’d love to stay and chat,” Sam said. “But I really have to go now.”
“See you around then.”
“But before I go, just one more thing…”
“Quit smoking. If not for you, then at least for me.”
Nicole nodded. “I’ll try.”
“OK then.” Sam said. “Later Nic.”
Sam put her hands in the pockets of her jacket and walked off, into the light.
|Section 3||Jos Mous||Popular||Main Index|