Chapter 52: A Wolf At the Door

A week later

My head was pounding. I fished through the medicine cabinet, searching for some Tylenol or Advil (hell, at this point, I would’ve taken some Midol). For the past week, since we’d gotten back from Tulsa, I’d had at least one of the headaches a day. And I had no warning – they didn’t build slowly, as most headaches did, but rather struck quickly, like lightning. They usually lasted about 30 minutes, leaving me completely unable to do much of anything. Then, just as quickly as they came, they would disappear. It was unsettling.

A bottle of Nyquil and some foil-wrapped pills spilled out of the cabinet. I picked up the pills, examining them. I doubted any kind of medicine would really help, but at that moment I was ready to try anything. I popped two out of the pack and swallowed them dry.

The house was silent as I stumbled back into the living room. Louise and Allison were both gone, Louise to a night class, and Allison with that dork she was still dating. I threw myself on the couch, groaning. Nothing to do now but wait it out. What a way to spend my birthday.

Both the girls were unaware of my sudden sickness. They were gone a lot of the day, and the times they were home, I had managed to hide out until the headache was over. I didn’t want to worry them. They had done so much, and there really wasn’t anything they could do for me as it was.  I closed my eyes, praying for rest. 

I must have fallen asleep, because I jerked suddenly awhile later. I squinted, letting my eyes adjust to the fading sunlight, and gently rubbed the bridge of my nose. The headache was gone, and someone was knocking on the door.

“Ugh…. Go away,” I muttered, standing up and shuffling down the hall. I wanted to see who it was.  Alley and Louise’s front door was flanked by two long, thin windows that began at the top of the door and ran all the way to the floor. Soft blue curtains covered these windows, but today they were pushed slightly to the side, leaving a section of window that I could easily look through. I shoved my hands in my pockets and stepped up to the window, peeking outside.

Well, well, well. Alley and Louise’s favorite neighbor, Jessica, stood outside on the porch, her hands shoved in her pockets. She snapped on her gum as she studied the doorframe. I smirked, wondering what in the world could have brought her over here. Her eyes darted over to the brick, then to the doorbell, and then to the window. Where she looked right at me.

I blinked and stepped back, startled. Her eyes lit up and she beckoned for me to open the door. I knew my mouth was hanging open. What the hell? I looked behind me just to make sure Allison or Louise hadn’t somehow magically appeared in the house without my knowledge.

When I still hadn’t moved after a few minutes, she rolled her eyes and grabbed the doorknob, pushing it open. I gaped at her, shell-shocked, as she stepped in the foyer and closed the door behind her. I stared in disbelief. Figures. She looked like the type who would just invite herself on in.

She gave me a very obvious once-over before speaking. Well, no doubt about it there – the girl could definitely see me. “Hey. My name’s Jessica,” she said boldly. “I’ve been meaning to come over and introduce myself for some time now. I mean, since obviously neither one of them was going to do the introductions I figured I’d just do it myself. And like I said, I would have come over earlier, but I’ve just been so busy. I don’t want you to think that we’re rude neighbors.”

Her voice was full of that same sultry, hey-can-I-come-backstage purr I’d heard far too often in the past. Her lips pursed; her eyes wandered. I still wasn’t fully recovered from the realization that she could actually see me, but I was still enough in my right mind to be insulted.

Think fast, think fast… Finally, I spoke. “Well, you know, Alley and Louise are very busy, too. So don’t worry about it.”

She smiled sweetly. “Well, not too busy.  I saw you and Allison jumping on the trampoline last night. Still time for a little fun, hmm?”

What a bitch.

“So… I’ve told you my name, now what’s yours?”

Ugh. She obviously thought she would be unzipping my pants sometime in the near future, from her tone. I opened my mouth, considering what to say, when a memory, brief but vivid, came back to me. Allison and I in a department store, buying clothes. Jessica appearing, and mocking Allison… Allison saying the clothes were for her ‘boyfriend’, Taylor…

I grinned evilly.

“My name’s Taylor,” I said airily.

One eyebrow shot up. “Taylor… I believe she’s mentioned you before. A friend?”

I laughed. “Boyfriend.”

She looked genuinely surprised. And perturbed. “Oh. Well… How long have you been dating?”

So far, so good. I hoped beyond hope that she had never noticed Alex and Allison together or my story would fall to pieces. “Since last June. She’s absolutely wonderful. I adore her. I’ve never met anyone in my life who was so beautiful, so sweet, and intelligent… and what a kisser…” I knew I was laying it on ultra thick, but I was so enjoying the look on her face. “You know, I’ve been thinking about proposing to her very soon. I already have the ring, as a matter of fact. Now, since you two seem to be friends--” I inwardly laughed at that, “—let me ask you something. Which would be a more romantic proposal: Writing her a song, then taking her on a picnic and performing it, or just taking her to a classy restaurant with soft music and dancing?” If only that were true…

I smiled earnestly, waiting for her reply. If that didn’t get my point across, nothing would.

“Well,” she said stiffly, “they both sound very nice.” She looked uncertain of what to say next, so I helped her along.

“Yeah. I’m thinking of going with the song angle. More original. Well, Jessica, I hate to run you off-“ Yeah, right. “-but I’m expecting an important call soon, and need to get some things arranged.  I’ll tell the girls you stopped by.” Boy, will I ever…

“Yeah. I really need to get back to my house, too. Work to do,” she said shortly. “It was nice to meet you, Taylor.” I stuck out my hand, grinning maniacally and trying not to laugh, but she had already turned around and opened the door.

“Bye-bye,” I cooed, closing the door after she had retreated out of the house. I bit back another laugh before locking the door and going back to the kitchen for a drink. Fabulous. I couldn’t wait until the girls got home to tell them.