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 Nine

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Scottie Elisabeth
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PostSubject: Nine    Mon Jan 16, 2017 7:38 pm

Miriam and I stayed in the relatively same positions all day, with occasional bathroom breaks, and the occasional stroll to the fridge for a drink. By noon, we were already into the alcohol, but I appreciated the excuse to be drunk by mid-afternoon. This was just all too much, for her too, it seemed, and I was grateful I wasn’t alone.

“Did Sophie have boyfriends in the time that you knew her?” Miriam asked out of nowhere, her eyes still trained out the window.

I stretched, still immersed in the pillow, my beer bottle in my right hand, hovering just above the floor. I scrunched my face up at the thought, Sophie bringing a guy home. “No, of course not.” But after a few moments, I sat up, suddenly interested. “What, did Peggy?”

“Oh, of course she did,” Miriam giggled, raising the neck of her bottle to her lips. After a long, contemplative drink, she exhaled, her face alight with the thought of her friend. “All the time. All sorts of boyfriends.” She seemed to ponder a bit before she continued. “No one long-term. Nothing serious. I think I was too much of a hindrance for that. She wanted me with her all of the time and I feel like when a guy would want more of her, she would move on.” Her lips pursed then and she took another drink, and I understood the regret she felt. “I guess it’s selfish to get involved with them.”

I leaned back into the pillow, again turning my eyes to the ceiling. “If she loved you even a fraction as much as you loved her, she wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”

Miriam took a ragged breath then and I looked to see her crying, hiding her face behind her beer as she rested her cheek against the head of the chair. She wasn’t looking at me and I felt guilty looking at her, seeing her so vulnerable, but eventually she closed her eyes, sealing her memory with another long drink. She swallowed her tears with the bitter-tasting liquid and there was nothing I could say.

I understood. It was hard, loving a human, and Peggy still clearly had a hold on Miriam, for better or for worse. Desperate to break her train of thought, I asked a question I had no right to. “Was she the first?”

Miriam’s posture didn’t change, but her nose turned up as she thought. “No, I guess not.” She took yet another drink as she resituated, facing the window once more. “I mean, of course not. I guess there were…a dozen? Two, at a push? But Peggy was the best.”

I smirked. Sophie too.

“But no, there were others. A few women, mostly men. But nothing at all like what I had with Peggy. Just people who took me in for weeks to months to years. Everyone gets suspicious eventually, and then I move on. But not Peg.” A smile crept to Miriam’s face as she returned to happier times. “She was so beautiful and so wonderful. She loved me for exactly who I was, not who I could be for her. One day she hinted at the question, sure,” and she looked to me, searching my eyes for whether ‘the question’ was universal. And it was. “But when I told her…well, I didn’t tell her tell her, it was just…” Again, she searched me, and I nodded.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.” She repeated, grateful to not have to explain. “When I told her, she just said okay, and she hugged me, and we cried, and I was so afraid, knowing that eventually I would lose her.” Her eyes filled with fresh tears and she took a deep breath to keep them at bay. “It saved me, it being cancer. By the time she finally went, she was so sick and miserable, I was grateful for her to finally be able to go. Had it been sudden, I don’t think I would have made it.”

I nodded, unable to look at Miriam any longer. My gaze was back to the unassuming ceiling. The ceiling that didn’t pry for affirmation or ask questions. And as I thought of Sophie, her descent into what she was in the end, and I was grateful she was free. But my mind reflected to my Sophie, my wonderful, confusing, multidimensional friend, and the thought of her just not coming home after one of her girls’ nights made my eyes well up.

But the thought never crossed my mind at the time. I would sometimes be grateful that she was occupied, sometimes unfairly jealous that she was spending her time elsewhere, but she was always, always home when she told me she would be, even if it cut her fun short. Sophie always put me first. I swallowed the guilty lump in my throat, only then realizing the silence. I didn’t dare look at Miriam with tear-filled eyes, but I knew her silence meant she had noticed.

I sighed, resituating but not yet relinquishing the comfort of the couch and turned my bottle up once more, not taking another breath until it was empty.

“Why them, I wonder?” Miriam breathed, reaching forward to place her own empty bottle on the coffee table.

“Just exceptional ladies, I guess.” Before I could get lost in the memories, I sat up, suddenly stir crazy. “I think I’m going to see Lily today.”

Miriam eyed me without moving, now absentmindedly twisting her hair into a messy braid. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

I cut my eyes at her as I stood, suddenly self-conscious in just my boxers, but she didn’t seem to notice. “I don’t like you telling me what to do.”

She rolled her eyes then. A smirk teased the corners of her mouth and I waited for a response but got none.

“Well, I need to do something. I can’t just sit around all day and do nothing.”

Miriam shrugged, stretching her legs from where they had been raised beneath her. “Okay, then what do you want to do?”

My jaw locked. Did she think she was joining me? “I don’t know; I’ll just walk around until I decide.”

“Okay,” she shrugged again, starting toward the hall. “I’ll get dressed.”

I closed my eyes in frustration as I returned to the couch. I guess this was being a team. And I hated it.


To my disdain, Miriam was serious about accompanying me as I aimlessly roamed, but to my relief, she was quiet as she did so. She kept my pace without complaint, she didn’t badger me about where we were going or when we would get there, she just stayed next to me, hands in her pockets, boot heels clicking on the sidewalk.

Before I knew it, we were nearing that bar. I turned my attention to Miriam then, suddenly uncomfortable. “There,” I pointed.

“That’s it?” she asked, incredulous that I had brought her here.

“Closed; always fucking closed.”

“Collin, it’s like three.”

I eyed her then. Was that all? Were we just too early?

“What was her name?”

I shrugged. Had I even asked? Miriam rolled her eyes at that and we soldiered on, now toward the duplex.

When we arrived, Miriam understood without me explaining, and she looked to me to point out which was which. I did, and again, her brow furrowed at the mistake.

“Can we come back? When it’s dark?” she asked then and I was floored.

“To do what?”

Miriam shrugged, barely able to pull her eyes from the place. “I just think we should investigate.”

“We aren’t cops, Miriam.” I rolled my eyes, unimpressed with her new detective desires.

“Do you want to run by the office?” She excused then, clearly trying to steer me away. I was so confused by her, by her focus, by her inclination, and yet she wanted to go?

“Why would I want to do that?”

She cut her eyes at me then, annoyed that I wasn’t following her train of thought. “Your notepad.”

“Oh. Right.”

And after another quiet stroll, we were there. Miriam’s silence was heavy and I wished I could see inside her mind, to parse out what she was reluctant to vocalize, but she didn’t offer and I didn’t ask. The loan processers said their hellos as we entered, but the place was swamped as ever and nobody kept us.

Henry’s door was closed at the end of the hall. We entered my office first. Miriam helped me sift through my desk, through my filing cabinets, just to be sure I hadn’t misplaced it. But when we exhausted my personal space, we had no choice but to visit Henry’s.

I knocked on the door, Miriam on my heels, and I wanted for Henry to answer it. It was so unlike our usual, but what was usual anymore?

The man that answered was markedly older, a man of a harsh late-forties, and his eyes sliced through me the moment he saw me.

“Henry,” I sighed, trying not to look as shocked as I felt. There was no apology from either of us, he just narrowed his eyes at the secretary behind me.

“What?” His voice matched his appearance. A harsh, smoker’s voice. Had he been a smoker before the Glow? Had Miriam forced him into his natural form? I was so intrigued by her, by him, by all of this.

“Have you seen my notepad?”

He backed from the door then, returning to his desk, leaving the door open as our permission to follow.

“No,” he grumbled as we entered. I took my familiar seat across from him, eyeing the desk nearest me, just to check.

“How’s the machine?” I asked, immediately hearing Miriam’s teeth click as she locked her jaw with my apology.

“I won’t know until we try again,” he sighed, annoyed. “So whenever you get back from your PTO,” he rolled his eyes and I tried not to smirk at Miriam’s ingenuity. “We’ll give it another go.”

“Sounds good,” I offered, extending my hand to him as I stood. In the upturned world I had just found myself in, I was more than willing to let bygones be bygones. Thankfully, Henry shared my sentiment, accepting my hand with a strong shake.

“Let me know if the notepad turns up, alright?”

He waved us off then, and we obeyed, Miriam closing the door gently behind us.

“Do you think I just missed it at the house?” I finally thought to ask Miriam as we exited the building.

“Maybe,” she shrugged, the weight of my mistake heavy on her shoulders. “Do you want to go see?”

I started walking and Miriam followed. I didn’t think it was in the house, but maybe whomever had left my wallet had also tucked my notepad somewhere. And even if not, I felt cowardly for abandoning the house. I needed to be inside it again. I needed to know that it was in my control. It was what Sophie deserved.

My heart caught in my throat as I laid eyes on the place again. It looked far less ominous in the daylight, but still I felt intimidated by Sophie’s absence. Suddenly I was lost in time.

The house was lit and lively, even with Sophie as the only occupant. As we entered, she of course had the stereo too loud, and it wasn’t until we walked in on her in the kitchen that she noticed us.

“Oh, taste this!” she called eagerly over the music, immediately raising a fork to my face. I was forced to taste before I could look, as was always Sophie’s rule, and my mouth watered as the savory morsel dissolved on my tongue.

My face must have held a good enough response because Sophie smiled, her attention immediately turning to Miriam. “Who’s your friend?” she asked as pleasantly as always, and when I turned to introduce her, the music faded. The warmth faded. And I remembered that it was just us, standing in the empty kitchen, the smells and sounds and excitement sucked out of the room as quickly as they had filled it.

“Collin,” Miriam spoke softly behind me, reaching out for my hand. “Are you alright?”

I shook my head as I pulled from her, willing the memory to go. Or return? I wasn’t certain which would be less painful.

Then I heard laughter. The loud, boisterous laughter that only Sophie could muster. I followed the sound to the living room and I was so pleased to see her there, in the middle of the couch with women on either side of her, laughing along with her. Her face lit up when I entered, and she immediately focused on me, as she always did. “Oh, Col, you’ve got to hear Betty’s joke.”

We had a coffee table then, and it was here now, covered with dips and finger foods, and of course, drinks, with Sophie, even in the company of all of these women, drinking a whiskey neat.

I felt my face fall as I stared at her and Sophie’s expression turned concerned. I didn’t want to look away from her. I didn’t want to lose her again. Instead, Sophie stood from her friends, immediately approaching me to comfort me, but when I reached out to take her hand, it wasn’t there, and again the memory was stripped from me.

My eyes closed as I tried to compose myself, seeing her so clearly being almost too much for me to bear. I felt Miriam behind me, but she didn’t speak to me this time. She didn’t try to comfort me now. And I was both grateful and disappointed.

So I shoved the memory out of my mind and returned to the present. The couch was a different color now, long since reupholstered from Sophie’s fabric choices in the 70s, and I smiled thinking of that garish couch. Then I saw the card in the floor and my smile faded. I prayed it wasn’t about her.

I eyed the rooms as we passed through them, begging for the spiral of the notepad to catch my eye, but it didn’t.

When searching my own room, my heart ached. I heard my Sophie’s excited scream as she ran down the hall. I looked to my doorway, where I knew she would be, and she was, her makeup half-on from where she had gotten distracted by calling in to the radio station. She was holding the phone now, the cord totally straight in opposition to how far she had stretched it.

“Collin!” she shouted, and I tried to remember what I was doing the first time this conversation occurred, but I couldn’t. Instead, I responded how I wished to now.

“Yeah, Soph?”

“Collin, I won the tickets! We’re going to Europe!”

A feeling of annoyance washed me as I slipped further into the memory and I chastised my past self for responding so poorly to Sophie’s efforts. Just because I wasn’t excited about returning to Europe didn’t diminish it being the opportunity of a lifetime for her.

“Sophie!” I responded this time instead, wishing I could have provided her a better reaction so long ago. “That’s so great!”

Her eyes lit up and I ran to her to hug her, to be visibly proud of her for what might have been the only time, but she was gone before I got to her. And then I was in the hall, with Miriam on the couch intentionally looking away from me. I sighed.

“Will you help me?” I asked Miriam, unsettled with my struggle with reality. Of course, she complied, in the sweet, accommodating way Miriam had been complying to me lately. I tried to offer her a smile as I eyed Sophie’s door, the last room to check, but the one I wanted to check the least.

“Do you want me to do it?” she finally asked, her hand gentle on my shoulder. “I don’t mind.”

“No,” I insisted, regretting my decision as soon as I opened the door. Sophie was here, too, as she had been in her final days, and her screams for me tore through my eardrums, instantly making me squint with the pain.

But then I saw something else, something that wasn’t a memory. I watched as a faceless figure dug through my safe as Sophie screamed. I watched, frozen as they walked to her, my Sophie, and covered her mouth as her eyes widened. My knees buckled and I fell into the doorway. I barely heard Miriam’s voice but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Finally, the figure and Sophie faded like the rest and I prayed that my paranoia was unfounded.

She was old. She was sick. It was natural. Not this. Natural.

“Collin,” Miriam pulled me into the hallway, cradling me in her arms. She released me only long enough to shut the door, to give me distance from my imagination, and when she returned to me, I relished in her comfort.

My arms found her before hers found me and I was grateful for the selfless embrace she offered. The tears came before I could stop them. I was so overwhelmed to be here. But Miriam didn’t ask and I wasn’t sure she cared. She just held me as I cried for my friend the way she deserved to be missed. Miriam gave to me and let me take from her without concern. I was so grateful she was here.

And if we could only have each other, I was content to have her.

“Let’s go,” she begged me when my sobbing ceased, the warmth of her breath on my neck as she cradled me. “We can try again tomorrow, if you want.”

“No,” I insisted. “I can’t.”

“Please,” she pressed her lips to my ear then, her nose soft against my temple. “We need to go.”

“I can’t.” My voice broke, the sobs returning. Sophie’s screams were driving me insane.

Miriam hugged me tighter, her body shaking with mine as she supported me. Sophie’s music was in my head. Her screams. My name.

“Stay here,” Miriam finally whispered, releasing me to the solitude of the hall as she entered Sophie’s room, shutting the door briskly behind her.

My breath caught in my throat. I had let her down, like I always did. Sophie, my wife, the others in between. It was only ever a matter of time. If Sophie had died because of me, I would never be able to live with myself.

I closed my eyes, leaning myself against the wall. I couldn’t bear it.

“Col, what’s up?” her gentle voice called from nowhere and I squeezed my eyes tighter. Please stop.

“Collin,” it was Miriam then with the sound of the door closing behind her. “It isn’t there.” Her hands were warm as they grasped mine. I finally opened my eyes. Her soft, beautiful face was inches from mine, her lips tight as she assessed me. “Let’s go, okay?” Her hand rose to my cheek, feeling my face with the backs of her fingers.

My hand rose to hers, grabbing her wrist mid-touch. “I can’t.”

She moved to her knees then, taking my face in her hands. “What do you need?”

I tried to muster an answer. What do I need? But there was none. What I needed couldn’t be provided. I needed Sophie. I needed her voice, her touch, her smell, her companionship. I needed to see her again, in the flesh, as she was when I knew her best. I needed her to be real. I needed her to be here.

When I didn’t answer, she knew, and Miriam hugged me tighter than before, pulling me into her as she propped her chin on my head. “Collin, I’m so sorry.”

Why couldn’t I have just gone home when she asked? I’m so sorry, Sophie.


Last edited by Scottie Elisabeth on Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:57 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Nine    Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:23 pm

I stretched, still immersed in the pillow, my beer bottle in my right hand, hovering just above the floor. I scrunched my face up at the thought, Sophie bringing a guy home. “No, of course not.” But after a few moments, I sat up, suddenly interested. “What, did Peggy?” ----Gawl. Perfect. The beer bottle thing. That's fucking gorg.

Miriam took a ragged breath then and I looked to see her crying, hiding her face behind her beer as she rested her cheek against the head of the chair. She wasn’t looking at me and I felt guilty looking at her, seeing her so vulnerable, but eventually she closed her eyes, sealing her memory with another long drink. She swallowed her tears with the bitter-tasting liquid and there was nothing I could say. ----Breaking my heart with one tiny paragraph. Noted. Stolen. I say it so much, and I'll keep saying it. The way you write is so concise but also so vivid. You say exactly what he's seeing. You don't flower it up. Yet, it's much stronger for me than if you would have used a ton of flowery language. To me, that's just a out to get the emotion across. You don't need that. We observe the body language of one another. That's how we pick up emotion. And that's what I want to read, something that feels realistic. I'd much rather read what she showed Collin that let him onto her grief than you telling me that she was grieving. You know? Love .<3 <3 <3

“But no, there were others. A few women, mostly men. But nothing at all like what I had with Peggy. Just people who took me in for weeks to months to years. Everyone gets suspicious eventually, and then I move on. But not Peg.” A smile crept to Miriam’s face as she returned to happier times. “She was so beautiful and so wonderful. She loved me for exactly who I was, not who I could be for her. One day she hinted at the question, sure,” and she looked to me, searching my eyes for whether ‘the question’ was universal. And it was. “But when I told her…well, I didn’t tell her tell her, it was just…” Again, she searched me, and I nodded. ---- Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad Peg! Come back to us! Peg sounds so wonderful. I love her, and I don't even know her. Miriam speaks of her so sweetly.

“Just exceptional ladies, I guess.” Before I could get lost in the memories, I sat up, suddenly stir crazy. “I think I’m going to see Lily today.”----I know exactly the feeling that just came over him. Love how you utilized it here. I thought becoming this way suddenly was just something I did, or noticed. Love it.

---- Laughing I just love how much shit she isn't taking from him. Assertive Collin is getting his ass handed to him. Miriam is here to straighten him out, or, at least, keep him in line to keep her own ass off the line. He's such a child sometimes! Laughing He's so lucky to have her. And she's being quiet. She's not a nag. She's just a protective woman. She's bomb.com

“We aren’t cops, Miriam.” I rolled my eyes, unimpressed with her new detective desires. ---Chuckle, Chuckle. Good one, Col. I'll give you that one. It's pretty funny. See, cute little moments that break the tension.

“How’s the machine?” I asked, immediately hearing Miriam’s teeth click as she locked her jaw with my apology. <3 <3 <3 Love this, but unsure what he means by 'apology.' We'll clear it up in chat.

“I won’t know until we try again,” he sighed, annoyed. “So whenever you get back from your PTO,” he rolled his eyes and I tried not to smirk at Miriam’s ingenuity. “We’ll give it another go.” ----I love the sarcasm here. These two men being under Miriam's thumb, so to speak. Henry, you earned this. \

My face must have held a good enough response because Sophie smiled, her attention immediately turning to Miriam. “Who’s your friend?” she asked as pleasantly as always, and when I turned to introduce her, the music faded. The warmth faded. And I remembered that it was just us, standing in the empty kitchen, the smells and sounds and excitement sucked out of the room as quickly as they had filled it. ----Can I just take a moment to inform you how genius this little bit was, the whole flashback-not-flashback bit. This was the most cinematic thing I've ever read in a story that didn't come off as part of a script. You had me believing he was having a flashback, then I was confused why Miriam was there, though all along, I felt it was sort of an hallucination. But it was done wonderfully. I favor the ambiguity of it, how I was unsure if he was going to go full blown flashback or if he was just having this little moment. It's perfect.

----And you keep doing it! Sad Sad Sad Sad Wink Wink Wink It's so perfect. Especially this -----> We had a coffee table then, and it was here now, covered with dips and finger foods, and of course, drinks, with Sophie, even in the company of all of these women, drinking a whiskey neat.

I heard my Sophie’s excited scream as she ran down the hall. I looked to my doorway, where I knew she would be, and she was, her makeup half-on from where she had gotten distracted by calling in to the radio station. She was holding the phone now, the cord totally straight in opposition to how far she had stretched it. ----Noted. Stolen. Love.

{“No,” I insisted, regretting my decision as soon as I opened the door. Sophie was here, too, as she had been in her final days, and her screams for me tore through my eardrums, instantly making me squint with the pain.

But then I saw something else, something that wasn’t a memory. I watched as a faceless figure dug through my safe as Sophie screamed. I watched, frozen as they walked to her, my Sophie, and covered her mouth as her eyes widened. My knees buckled and I fell into the doorway. I barely heard Miriam’s voice but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Finally, the figure and Sophie faded like the rest and I prayed that my paranoia was unfounded.

She was old. She was sick. It was natural. Not this. Natural. }

----OMFG NO! YOU ARE NOT DOING THIS TO ME! YOU ARE NOT DOING THIS TO ME! HOW DARE YOU! NO! I CAN'T HANDLE THIS GUILT! I CAN'T HANDLE COLLIN'S GUILT! HE BETTER JUST BE FUCKING GODDMANN TITTY FUCKING PARANOID! THIS IS NOT FUNNY. SHE WAS OLD! SHE DIED! SHE WAS OLD! YOU ARE THE WORST! SHE WAS OLD! SHE DIED OF OLD AGE! SHE WAS OLD! NO ONE KILLED HER! STOP IT! STOP IT NOW! STOP! GODDAMN STOP!

*breathes.

---Okay, now that I've finished and somewhat calmed down...I still hate you for making that an option. Sophie cannot have been murdered. That is the ultimate. That will make Collin the worst person alive. I can't handle him handling that. He does care, no matter how much he pretends not to. I'M STILL ANGRY....No I'm not.....YES I AM....Okay. I'm okay.

That last line though. Wonderfully heart-wrenching/heartwarming. Is Collin finally going to start treating Mir as more than a coworker? Is he finally going to let himself indulge her selfless ways? He needs her. But damn, those memories of Sophie. That part was written so amazingly. Now that I'm at the end, and I know he's just having these vivid memories, I can't really describe how much I love it. How genius it is. How much it opens up the characters of both Collin and Sophie. Sophie is the best. Peg is the best. They are the untainted characters of this story. I love them so, because you've made it abundantly clear what the two of them were to the two MCs. It gives both Mir and Col so much more dimension.

I didn't want him to go back there, but I'm glad he did. I hope, if they are still there in the next chapter, that he finds something more. Maybe what he saw IS what he was supposed to find. I just hope it's not true Sad My heart can't take it.

Love, Bf
!!!!!!11!!!!!!
Still super jell.

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