Chapter 10: Paint Pastel Princess
I pondered her question. It was one that I really had no answer for. After I had figured out who she was, I suppose I automatically assumed that she would know what to do, although now that I really thought about it, that didn’t make any sense at all. Why would she know what to do? After all, I was the one interrupting her normal everyday life. I felt like I had been catapulted into another world, and in a way, I had. A world where maybe I didn’t even exist anymore, at least, not in the flesh.
I shuddered at the latter thought. It was too scary to even think about. I forcibly pushed it out of my mind.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said softly, “or where to go from here, so to speak.”
She nodded silently at me and nibbled on the fingernail of her index finger. The rest of her nails were painfully short and brittle, and I deduced that she probably bit them a lot while she was thinking. Now there’s a change, I thought. Most girls I knew kept their nails perfectly manicured, and they were always painted some silly pastel color. But then again, I reminded myself, I can already tell she’s not like other girls. The thought was comforting. Suddenly she clapped her hands and stood up.
“I have an idea,” she proclaimed.
Hope fluttered lightly in my chest. “What?”
“Let’s go get something to eat.”
“Yes, eat. It’s a proven fact that you don’t think nearly as well on an empty stomach, and I’m fucking starving. I’m sure you are too, so let’s go downstairs and fix something. After all,” she smiled sarcastically, “we just went to the grocery last night.”
I had to admit, food sounded good at this point. Do ghosts eat? I wondered tersely, and then dismissed the question. I didn’t want, or need, to know the answer. She beckoned me, and I followed her slowly out the door and down the stairs to the kitchen.
Along the way, I paid careful attention to the house itself. This was the first I’d seen of it in the daytime. Paintings in gilded frames covered the walls, some of them recognizable, but others I’d never seen before. Also, there were pictures everywhere. Most of them were in frames on various pieces of furniture. I noticed that most the furniture appeared to be cherry. The couches downstairs in her living room were leather. It was very classy and sophisticated. And expensive. One painting in particular caught my attention. I studied it for a second, deciding the scene looked vaguely familiar, and then realized that it was the beautiful landscape that I had gazed at the night before in her bedroom.
“Hey,” I called out to her. “This is your backyard!”
She turned around, glanced at the painting, and nodded. “Yep.”
“Who painted it? It’s wonderful.”
I looked over at her, disbelieving. “You’re shitting me.”
She raised her eyebrows and tapped the corner of the painting lightly with her index finger. “Am I?”
I scrutinized the corner of the painting she had pointed at. Sure enough, written in tiny black letters, was the name A. Krzyzewski. Wow. I was impressed.
“Well, you did a great job,” I nodded towards the other paintings. “Are any of these others yours?”
She hesitated. “Yeah, a few… there’s a few upstairs in the study, too.”
I sensed that she didn’t feel like discussing her artwork, so I shut my mouth and followed her into the kitchen. She headed for the refrigerator and stuck her head in.
“Alright, what are ya in the mood for? Eggs and Bacon? Toast?”
I laughed. “It’s 3 in the afternoon!”
She removed her head and grinned. “And your point is what, exactly?”
I shrugged. “Nothing, it’s just, not breakfast time, I guess.”
“Well, sweetie, here in the south, we eat breakfast anytime we damn well please. But alright, I’ll fix something else. What about soup, or grilled cheese?”
“What’s wrong with grilled cheese? I eat it all the time!”
She faced me, an accusatory look on her face, and her hands on her hips. It dawned on me that for all her artistic talents, Allison was probably no Chef Emeril.
“Grilled cheese it is, then…. you sure you don’t want me to cook?”
She waved me away. “Go sit down, it’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
Twenty minutes later we were both sitting in the living room, on the plush leather couches, eating our grilled cheese sandwiches. She had fixed both of us three sandwiches, and had also brought out a large bag of potato chips and an entire two-liter of Coke. Apparently she ate like a horse.
It was kind of amusing, actually. I felt like I should be dining on filet mignon in this room, not wheat bread and processed cheese. It didn’t really fit with the scheme of things in this house. But then again, neither did she. I chewed my sandwich thoughtfully and studied her. Her hair was still a tangled mess; she hadn’t bothered cleaning up before coming downstairs. She was clad in orange silk boxer shorts (boxer shorts on a girl? I thought briefly) that only accentuated the comic skinniness of her legs. A loose purple tank top with a white 311 logo on it adorned her frame. It looked as if it had seen better days. She sat with her legs crossed and partially tucked underneath her. I had to smile. She was so childlike, especially in the context of the home she was occupying. I thought of her room, covered in posters and pictures of rock bands. It suited her personality well, I thought. The carefree, I-don’t-give-a-damn kind of personality.
“So,” I started, being careful not to accidentally wipe my greasy fingers on the couch, “is this your house, or are you renting it, or what?”
She glanced at me and smiled broadly. “It doesn’t exactly match us, does it?”
I laughed. “Well, I don’t know about your roommate, but I have to say, it doesn’t seem to be you.”
She took another bite of sandwich and nodded, quickly chewing and swallowing before she replied. “Yeah, I know. The answer to your question is both, I guess. You see, this house belonged to my father also. He rented it out to some people when we lived on Maxwell years ago. Then, he died, and I was left with the house, except I was only 13 at the time, so obviously I didn’t get to ‘keep’ it. My uncle got it temporarily, but it’s supposed to be turned over to me when I’m 21. Right now, my uncle pays most of the bills here for us. Water, electricity, all the necessities. We pay for extra stuff like cable and internet. So…. this house will be mine. It’s kinda complicated.”
She paused to finish off her sandwich, then continued. “And to comment on what you said, no, it doesn’t match us. My dad furnished this house, that’s why everything is all fancy. I mean, it’s nice and all, but not what I would choose. But I don’t want to change anything, ya know, because he did it, and I like to keep it this way, for him, I guess.”
“Well, that makes perfect sense to me,” I said. Her father must have had a lot of money. I remembered riding in that Lexus, all those years ago, thinking how nice it was. And also thinking that one day maybe we’d be lucky enough to afford one... my, how times have changed.
I took in what she said. She had only been 13 when her father died... sad. So that meant she was 18 now. Only 18 years old, and already living on her own. I chuckled to myself. It reminded me of how we teased Isaac all the time. He had a few years on her, but he seemed to not have any plans of moving out on his own in the next decade.
“So.... are you going to college, or working, or what?”
“I’m in college... junior.... double major, art and chemistry.”
“Double major? Wow. Why?”
She scratched her knee absentmindedly. “Because, to quote my high school guidance counselor, ‘Painting pretty pictures won’t pay the bills, Allison. Why don‘t you do something important with your life?’ So, art fulfills my soul..... but chemistry will pay the bills, so to speak.”
“Well, those words are kind of harsh, but what you said makes sense.”
Something didn’t add up. She was 18, or so she said. A junior in college?
“How are you a junior, if you’re only 18?”
“I skipped two grades while I was in elementary school. So, I graduated high school when I was 16.”
I laughed out loud. “Oh, yeah, I almost forgot you were a nerd. Miss Academic Team, honor roll student.”
She narrowed her eyes and threw a wadded-up napkin at my head. “In that case, you should be nice to me. Haven’t you ever seen Revenge of the Nerds? It’s a prophecy, I tell you. Now, finish this fine meal I’ve prepared for you so I can get the dishwasher started.”
As I gnawed on my remaining grilled cheese, she stood up and began collecting the trash. I handed her my empty plate and grinned.
“Give my compliments to the chef,” I joked.
She merely rolled her eyes at me. “You’re so corny.” With that, she walked back into the kitchen.
When she returned, she had two large pieces of chocolate cake. She handed me one of the paper plates, and collapsed on the couch beside me. I looked at my cake suspiciously. I felt her eyes on me, and glanced up to meet them.
“Louise made the cake, not me,” she said pointedly. “It’s very good, she’s a great cook.”
“Well, in that case...” I dug my fork in and began eating. She smacked my leg lightly.
She turned the TV on and we ate our cake silently. She finished hers quickly. Not only did she eat a lot, I decided, but she ate like it was going out of style. While I was still savoring my piece, she took the remote and flipped idly through the channels. She sighed heavily.
“There’s nothing on. There never is on Sundays, until nighttime. The Simpsons comes on at 8. Oh, and The X-files is on tonight, I almost forgot,” she spoke quietly, and I couldn’t tell if her comments were meant for me or whether she just thinking out loud. She kept flipping through. It was driving me crazy. Finally I reached over and grabbed the remote from her hand.
“Let’s just put it on MTV, Allison,” I said kindly. “Just in case.”
“Alright, alright. If you want your brain to rot, I’m not one to stop you.”
I changed the station. I really didn’t like MTV any more than she did, but I was hoping that maybe there might be something on about me.... after all, if something had happened to me while I was rock climbing, that really wasn’t too long ago. A week or two, maybe? My days were kind of running together now, without my normal schedule to keep it steady.
“What day is it?” I asked suddenly.
“June 25.” She didn’t even seem fazed by my question. She was staring at the screen disgustedly, her eyes never leaving it.
I thought carefully. My friends and I had gone rock climbing on June 10. About two weeks, I thought. I settled myself deeper into the soft confines of the couch and closed my eyes for a moment.
“You know, I have a much better idea,” she announced. “Why are we sitting here waiting for the news to come to us, when we can go online and go to the news?”
I opened my eyes and lazily rolled my head to face her. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Because you’re a blond. Things come a lot slower, you can’t help it.”
“You’re blond too !!! Hypocrite!”
“Yeah, I am... but I’m also a nerd, remember? So that cancels out the blondness,” she smirked at me and grasped my arm. “Come on, blondie. Let’s go upstairs.”
With that, we trounced up to the study to start our investigation.