Thirty Five: Sleepless

Alley

“Do what?!?!”  I gaped at Louise, then Taylor. Then Louise. Then Taylor. What the hell? I managed to choke out a few laughs, hoping it sounded more natural to her than it did to me. “What are you talking about?”

Louise looked at me pointedly. “I know your father raised you with better manners than that!”

“What?”

She sighed, exasperated, before walking over to Taylor and holding out her hand. “Hi. I’m Louise, Allison’s housemate.”

During our exchange, Taylor had been staring at Louise, mouth hanging open like a fish. When she offered her hand, he managed to tear his gaze away, first looking at me, then down at her hand. He didn’t accept it, just merely stared at it in horror as if it was a poisonous snake. After a few seconds she slowly withdrew, clapping her hands together. “Alrighty then....”

I needed to say something.... anything. “You.... you can see him?”

“What?”

“You can see him!”

“Of course I can see him.....” she glared at me suspiciously, then darted a glance back to Taylor. “Have you two been drinking?”

“No,” Taylor and I answered simultaneously.

Louise laughed and clapped her hands again. “Ah! So he does speak!”

“Yeah,” I muttered under my breath. “More than necessary, at times.” Taylor shot me an evil stare.

“Okay....” she said slowly.

Well, obviously, it was time to start explaining things. Or at least try to, at any rate. I crossed the space between Taylor and I, standing next to him. “Louise, this is Taylor.” I nudged him with my elbow.

“Hello,” he said softly, offering a limp hand to her. I rolled my eyes.  And only minutes ago he used that hand to crush my wrist.

“Hello,” replied Louise. She studied him for a second. “Have we met before? You really look familiar.”

I snorted loudly, startling both of them. “Not unless you have a twelve-year-old girl in your back pocket.”

Taylor promptly punched me in the arm. “That didn’t even make sense,” he hissed.

  “Ow,” I mumbled, rubbing my arm, scowling.

“What?” Louise asked, scrunching up her face. Oh yeah, she was still looking for an explanation.

“This is Taylor Hanson,” I offered.

Louise was silent for a second, and then barked a loud laugh. “Allison! I swear....”

“What?” I demanded. “It’s true.”

“I’ll admit, you do look a lot one of those Hanson kids.... with the hair and all.... man, where did you find this guy, Alley? But really, what’s your name?”

“Jordan Taylor Hanson,” Taylor replied easily.

Louise sighed with exasperation. “Alright, alright. I’m too tired to deal with your all’s shenanigans. I’m going upstairs.”

Louise stalked up the stairs, leaving Taylor and I alone. We faced each other, arms crossed, confused, open looks on our faces. At last I decided to speak.

“Well, that was interesting.”

He nodded slowly, a half-grin on his face. “Yes, yes it was.”

I walked over to him, lifting my hand to feel his hair. “More real,” I murmured. “I wonder....”

“Wonder what?” he asked quietly, capturing my hand with his. I bit my lip before answering.

“Lots of things. If everyone else can see you now, or if it’s just her. If you’re waking up. And why in the hell this is happening in the first place.”

“Well,” he replied. “It is Christmas.”

I chuckled. “I suppose you’re right.” I smiled. “At least now we can be a little more at ease. No more hiding. And you can practice on your new keyboard anytime you like.”

He nodded again. “I hadn’t thought of that.” He pulled me close and hugged me fiercely, whispering softly in my ear. “Thanks again. I mean it.”

“You’re welcome,” I managed to mumble against his chest. He better not make me cry. Not if he doesn’t want tears and snot all over his shirt.

Thankfully, he changed the subject. “So what now?”

I sighed, enjoying the warmth of his chest, even if it was awfully skinny. I wondered briefly if my arms would wrap twice around him. “Well, I think the first thing we should do is find out your current visibility count.”

He laughed. “Visibility count?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m going to refer to it as from now on. An hour ago, the visibility count was two. Me, and Chester. Now, apparently, it’s three, possibly more.”

“Ah, I see.” He drummed his fingers against my back. “So, what’s the plan?”

“What makes you think I have a plan?”

“You always do. You’re full of hare-brained ideas.”

I poked him. “Alright, well, I was thinking.....” I paused, waiting for him to quit laughing and cursing. “Now, we need to find out
the count before we try explaining anything to Louise... because, you know, if everyone can see you now, she ain’t gonna believe our story one bit.”

“OK.... but we just told her who I was...”

“Yeah, but she thinks we’re joking. So, what I say we do is go out where people are bound to see you... like a restaurant or something. You know, if the waitress or hostess acknowledges you, then we’ll know. If not, then we can show Louise firsthand the situation.”

“Sounds plausible enough to me. So when is this going to happen?”

“Hmmmm....” I trailed off, thinking. A thunderous noise from around the corner warned us that Louise was coming down the stairs, and we jumped apart, a bit guiltily. He offered me a sweet smile before sitting down on the couch. I stood my ground, facing her as she pranced back into the living room. She eyed us suspiciously as she entered.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothin’,” Taylor and I replied in unison.

She rolled her eyes. “So, is he staying here tonight?”

I guffawed a bit before replying. “Um… yeah.” Taylor and I exchanged glances.

She walked into the kitchen, fixing a glass of ice water. “Well, alright, I was just curious… you know, so I wouldn’t forget and start walking around in my underwear while he was here.”

I bit my lip, trying not to laugh. Taylor snickered. “Too late for that,” he mumbled quietly. “Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

I stomped on his foot. Thankfully, she hadn't heard that.

“Well, I’m going to bed… talk to you kids in the morning.”

“Goodnight,” I called after her. I looked down at Taylor. “Tomorrow. We’ll try out the plan tomorrow, alright?”

“Alright.”

“Now, we should get some rest.” I paused. “And you should probably sleep in the guest room tonight.”

His face fell slightly. “Yeah, you’re right. I guess it would seem a little odd.”

“Come on.” I walked into the kitchen and fixed us both a drink before heading upstairs, Taylor trudging along behind me.

“OK, if you wake up before I do, go ahead and get me up,” I instructed Taylor after leading him into the guest room. “And remember that she can see you now, so don’t go prancing around in your boxers, or naked, or something.”

“Do I ever prance around naked, or even in my boxers, for that matter?”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything.”

He chuckled. “You…” he stopped, shaking his head slightly. “Goodnight, Allison.” He slid under the comforter on the bed and leaned back.

“Goodnight,” I replied, squeezing his hand as I left.

I walked down the hall, flipping out all the lights. Once I reached my room I jumped into bed and luxuriously rolled around, relishing all the free space I had. Finally, a night would pass without me being kicked in the shin or elbowed in the face! I turned off my bed lamp and prepared myself for the most relaxing night of sleep I’d had since Taylor arrived.

Except it was anything but relaxing. I tossed and turned, my mind alive and spinning, despite my exhausted body. I continually checked the clock through the night and cringed every time I saw another hour had passed. Dammit. The room felt empty and huge…

I flipped my lamp back on at about 4:15 and sat up in bed. Sighing, I rubbed my temples. “Please,” I muttered quietly. “Please, God, let me get some sleep.” If the upcoming day went anything like I thought it might, I was sure going to need my rest. Pissed, I got up and stomped to the bathroom to refill my drink. I returned to my room and sat back down, gulping the cold water.

“Allison?” a soft voice came from the doorway. I looked up, startled, to see Taylor standing in the doorway.

“Did I wake you up?” I whispered. “Sorry.”

“No, no….. I….. I couldn’t sleep. I heard you get up.”

“Oh,” I replied softly. “I couldn’t sleep, either.”

“Yeah…”

We regarded each other in silence for a few moments, both of us wanting to suggest it but too embarrassed to speak the words. Finally, I decided to be the better man…. or woman, as the case may be.

“Do you want to sleep in here?” I asked gently. “With me?”

Relief shone on his face. “Yeah…”

I smiled as I turned the covers back and he clambered up on the bed. He crept under the covers, grinning sheepishly at me. “Sorry, Alley.”

I laughed. “You should be. I don’t know what I’m going to do when you leave here… it seems we’re conditioned to each other’s presence.”

“I guess I’ll have to come visit… and we can have slumber parties!” He added the last part in a high falsetto.

“That, like, totally sounds like so much fun!” I squealed, matching his tone. We laughed for a moment, then I patted him gently on the shoulder before rolling over. “Goodnight, Taylor.”

“Goodnight. Sweet dreams.”

I rested on my side, facing away from Taylor so he couldn’t see my smile. A few minutes later, I slipped easily into dreams.