Last scene of previous:
Well, I think you’re wonderful.” V says, “No matter what anyone else ever told you. And it has always hurt my heart that they treated you badly. You never deserved that.”
“It’s fine.” E didn’t like people feeling sorry for her. She didn’t like the apologies.
“I never said I was sorry about it. And it is not out of pity that I say what I did.” V says, hearing it in her voice, and thinks of something to supplement it with, but didn’t want to push. Not even a compliment ought to be pushed.
Air puffs out of E’s nose as she gently laughs at that and a helpless smile smirks across one side of her cheek. “Well, good.”
Fuck, it feels good being here with V. And I want this… I need this, but it would never work out. She’ll see me for who I am, one day, and it’ll hurt like hell when she leaves. E’s stomach churned again. She always has to leave the things she loves and needs the most. The more she wants it, the further away she has to run. She didn’t think any of this would be this way. She thought it would be different, or that she could avoid it. But this was unavoidable. Care means happy, and happy always means left. That’s all E knew. Comfort is just a no-go.
V saw E’s expression slightly change. Her eyes became full of thoughts, and the smile had slipped away. For a tiny split second, she even thought E might sweat. She decided not to bring it up; she didn’t want to overwhelm her. So instead she offer that they play a game, card or otherwise, or that they go on a quiet drive, even maybe play hang-man or tic-tac-toe on a napkin.
“No.” She offered a smile, “Thank you.”
She said she might want to go back to the room in a few minutes, so they did. E sat on her bed and turned on a TV show which she more or less watched, mostly with empty expression. V couldn’t tell. But then fifteen or thirty minutes later, E got up, abruptly turning off the TV and said she was going for a walk and preferred it alone.
“Stay safe.” V said before she slipped out the door. Tears pushed at her eyes for the overwhelm in E’s head and heart. She tried to, but couldn’t imagine being E walking down that hall right now, afraid of her thoughts and feeling alone, walking away from something other than a physical place—or trying to. Trying to escape the intangible by fleeing in the tangible. She feared for where E would walk, where her numb legs would take her.
She desperately wanted to know how E was feeling, so she could at least make a better guess and somehow prepare help. She wanted to just be able to walk out into that hall and ask E to let her come, but she needed the space. V wished she could make sure E would be okay and give her space at the same time, but V is only human and she knows it, and she’s feeling a lot of those limits right now.
The TV show had not been distraction enough, and the thoughts and voices only grew louder and stronger. She was restless sitting still. E had to get up; to move; to walk away and keep walking and walking; or run, somewhere. Long enough and fast enough that she could shake them off and get them out. But she kept herself composed. Even though everything inside was going a million miles an hour, she walked only at a slightly brisk pace–she was always a fast walker.
She had grabbed her backpack from their coat hook on her way out to have some necessities. But she wasn’t sure where she was going. Not at all. But she’d figure it out. She’d figure this out just like she’d figured everything else out… along the way.
V remembered her window overlooked the front of the building… she’d at least try to see which way E went, just in case something happened. Her phone, did she take her phone? She looked over at E’s end table. It wasn’t there. She must have taken it. Good. A breath of relief.
She stood by the window and looked out, just soon enough to see E turn left, toward the parking lot; the direction they’d come from. She sat back on the bed. She knew which way E went, and E had her phone in case she needed help—she could call.
Once E was outside, she stopped for a second to ask her inner compass which way had better vibes. She decided to go left for now, her and V already went to the right last night. But once she got to the parking lot and saw how soon the city ended and the trees began on that side, she decided to cross the street and go up towards the groceries and the carnival. She sat behind a grocery store, which backed against the carnival fence.
She watched the kids run about and, from here, she could see the pony ride that V had told her about last night, and an animal petting arena; so she watched all the five and six and eight-year-olds get pony rides.
Soon enough though, hunger struck, letting her know that one half of a blueberry poptart was not enough to consider a meal. Rummaging in her backpack for a granola bar, she found V’s sketchbook. A small frown formed in one corner of her mouth. Shit, I must’ve grabbed V’s backpack in my hurry. Settling against the grocery, she flipped through the pages. An old sketch of a lake near a forest, featuring a highway overpass bridge far away on the right side; A picture of a girl sitting on the hood of a car… E recognized that picture somehow. Looking closer at the girl’s face, she realized it was herself. This was of a photo that E had given to her a long time ago; V had drawn it. When she flipped the page, she saw the photo taped to the back of it. E touched it. V had kept it after all this time. Her attention was drawn then to the opposite page, where there was featured an attempted portrait of someone—maybe from memory. And on the next page there was the sketch she had done at the spot that day, a month ago; and then there was a sunrise drawing that seemed as though it were the view out of a hotel window, a Ferris Wheel sketched into it on the right-hand side, and names of colors scribbled around the edges. Another small frown. She looked up and stared over at the Ferris Wheel, which she could see to her right. That was a fun night. Was that really only 16 hours ago?
There were other, older sketches in the front, but E didn’t go back to look through them. She sighed and dropped her head to rest against the wall and flipped the book closed. V. She frowned again. This probably was unfair to her; it wasn’t her fault that E was scared of the love that she reached out with. V had never done anything to harm her. It’s just that everyone else had.
She could walk back right now and return V’s backpack. It had been probably an hour; that’s a good length for a thorough walk, and V probably doesn’t feel hurt, yet. She could still go back and V would never know that she had meant to ditch. She could still do it, right now. Right now. But she didn’t get up. She sat and sat and sat. It’s probably too late now… Probably. I can’t go back now. I’ve already been gone too long. I can’t chicken anyways…But I guess I already chickened by leaving. Ugh. E wasn’t going to think about that, though. The whole point of this was walking away from the feelings and the fears and the scary gentleness that is V.
It had been an hour and 10 minutes since E left. V had tried to distract herself with reruns of cartoons, and playing solitaire in solitude. This little room! I could draw it now…but where did I leave my sketchbook? Her pencil lay on the windowsill, but her sketchbook wasn’t there, nor was it on the office chair by the window. I must’ve put it in my backpack before we went to breakfast. Why do I not remember doing that? She went over to her backpack on the coat hook to look, only… this wasn’t her backpack. This was E’s backpack. There was a change of clothes in it, a deodorant and water bottle, a few granola bars and a spare phone charger. Oh no. I wonder if she’s noticed yet? Maybe she’ll come back for it? V bounced over to the window again, maybe she’s on her way back, right now. But she wasn’t. She didn’t see E out the window. Just a mostly empty street, and the bustling fair mostly hidden by the groceries and strip mall.
She came back over to the beds and saw the other half of E’s poptart still inside the silver packaging, and sitting on her bed. She’d not ate enough today, not for the hour it already was. She exhaled a sigh through her nose. It was still the early afternoon, but she wondered if she should just take a nap. What else was there to do? No. I’m not gonna sit around and wait. I can’t have everything hinge on whatever she does. I’m gonna go and get me lunch. That’s what I’m gonna do.
V grabbed her car keys, even though she didn’t plan on driving when places to eat were literally down the block and across the street, and then made sure her credit card was still in her pocket. She felt for it. It was.
Once she was out of the clear doors of the Inn, she went to the right to cross the street to her left at the end of the strip mall and then cross another small street to her right to the restaurants lot. A Red Lobster, a Taco Bell, a Panera, a steakhouse and some other restaurants all framed a broad parking lot. That’s a lot of options. What she really was in the mood for was… Oh…a Dee’s homestyle-cooked meal. She thought for a minute. The steakhouse it is… if I can afford it. V had the money, but she wanted to be wise with it. If I’m paying more than $12 for a single-person meal, I’ll leave. Or I’ll order all sides and make it cheap.
E still sat contemplating going back, but now she was getting up and began considering moving on. She had found earphones in V’s backpack and was listening to her music playlist on her phone. She decided to walk along the carnival fencing, continuing along the backs of the strip mall stores. Once the buildings were ended and the intersection of the street was close by, she turned to look and saw V crossing the street from the other side. She snuck back behind the wall and watched her cross and then walk away from her across the other street to the restaurants, and head across the parking lot to the steakhouse. Oh god, steak sounds so good, right now. Shit. She could still join. She could go up right now and pretend that they had happened upon each other. No. She’d go back and swap out the backpacks, instead, pack a few more things and head back out before V got back.
E felt disappointed with her own decision. She’d rather go to the steakhouse with V than keep running away, but she’d already committed, hadn’t she? There was no turning back, or she’d never go through with it. This was her prime chance. A hotel key. Fuck! The hotel keyyy. God, I didn’t bring one! She stood on the sidewalk and grimaced. Feeling hopeless, she looked around. But there were no options or answers in sight. She turned back to the hotel. I’ll just see if they can get me a key. I know the room number, and the employee probably saw me with V. I could even get the breakfast lady to advocate for me if needed. She walked up to the front desk and puts on a peopleing voice and a smile.
“Hey! I’m sorry, I was dumb and totally forgot my room key when I walked out! It was room number 621. I’m sorry.” She half-laughs, half-pleads.
“Of course.” The front desk agent typed something into her computer and navigated with her mouse and clicked a couple times. “And when did you check in?”
“I checked in yesterday evening. I actually came with someone else. The reservation would probably be under her name,… ‘V Ellison’?”
“Okay…,” the lady scrunches her face while she looks at her screen, “Yes, two people checked in. Can I get your name?”
“Yes, it’s ‘E Colten’.” She begins to feel like she might sweat. “It’s fine if you can’t get it, I’ve worked in a hotel before, I understand.”
“Nope, that’s perfect, I see your name listed here. Let me just get a card activated for you…” She lets her voice trail off as she pulls open a drawer and gets a card from it.
“Thanks so much.” E is relieved.
“Of course!” The lady taps the card on the desk while she navigates further on her computer. “Alrighty,…” She sets the card down and inputs a number into the system before grabbing a card sleeve and slipping it in. “Here you go, miss Colten!”
“Thank you! Thanks so much. Have a good day.”
“Of course, you have a good one.”
E lets out a breath she’d been holding in and heads toward the elevators before stopping short when she sees someone she might know walking out of the far elevator door.
Continue to Part 8 –>