Chapter 8: Out of my mind
At around one o’clock, I actually started to get worried.
How in the world could she still be asleep? Jesus, even Zac couldn’t sleep that long in one sitting. It was practically a hibernation… I’d spent my morning skimming the magazines and newspapers, watching television, and running upstairs to check on her periodically. And every time, she was still in bed, swaddled in the thick blue comforter. I was getting tired of waiting.
I wandered around the room, studying the chic décor. This certainly didn’t look like a house where two college-age people would live… the furniture was beautiful, expensive-looking and actually matched, for one. The kitchen had been done up in a bright, cheery yellow and blue scheme, complete with delicate lace curtains. Not to mention all the framed paintings on the wall. There were tons of them, and they were all gorgeous… I walked up to one, peering closely at the scribbled name in the corner. AKK. Hmmm… the initials matched… had she painted them all? I was impressed…
I went back to the couch, picking up one of the newspapers and studying it. Lexington Herald-Leader. June 25. When I’d first seen the paper, I’d thought surely it was a mistake. Lexington? Wasn’t that in Kentucky? Where my relatives used to live? Surely not… but then again, the first time I’d met Alley had been here, so that made sense. Although I was still wondering how the fuck I’d ended up in Kentucky. But on the other hand, it was just par for the course. Just another thing that I couldn’t even begin to explain.
The door to the garage opened, startling me. I got up off the couch, sneaking into the kitchen to check. The dark-haired girl had returned. I watched as she rummaged around in the refrigerator, pulling out one of the green bottles. Hmmm. Beer? This early in the day? Well, to each his own, I guess… shrugging, I went back to the living room and sat back down on the couch. I was reading the sports section when the silence was interrupted.
“Louise! Have you eaten lunch yet?” Louise? Of course… must have been the girl who had signed the yearbook. Well, at least she was awake, finally… I folded my arms, debating… it would probably be best to wait until the brunette, ‘Louise’, left. It would just be easier on Alley that way, I decided.
I was trying to decide where a good place to hide out might be when Alley effectively ruined my plan. She strolled into the living room before I’d had a chance to move… and, upon seeing me, screamed. And not a ‘Omigod, you’re Taylor Hanson and you’re so hot!’ scream, which was what I was used to, but an honest-to-God terrified shriek.
Well, there went my first plan, out the window. “Ah, you’re awake, I see, finally,” I said. “And now that you are, I’d truly love it if you’d actually listen to what I have to say.”
No answer… well, unless you counted the second scream. I sighed with exasperation. “And will you please stop screaming?” I asked. “It’s not going to help your case any…” Certainly not when Louise entered the room, looking worried. Great. As she touched Alley’s arm, asking her what was wrong, I met her gaze. “Don’t do it,” I said. “She’ll think you’ve lost your mind.”
She looked like a wild animal about to be caught by poachers. “I…” she said, faltering. “Look!” Her sudden shout startled me.
Louise looked at me, where Alley was pointing. “What?”
I sighed again. “I told you last night, but obviously you weren’t listening... give it up. She can’t see what you see…”
I watched her absorb this information. Her roommate was still trying to figure out what the hell she was supposed to be looking at. Finally, Alley spoke. “I saw a spider! Oh my God, it was fucking huge, Louise… it was right there, on the couch!” To my amazement, it seemed to do the trick.
“WHERE? Did you get it?!”
I watched them both squeal over the ‘spider’ for a minute, rolling my eyes at their prissy behavior. Jeez, we were just talking about a spider here… no big deal; there was no need for all that screaming and carrying on. Well, whatever. It was a good save, at any rate, and personally I was impressed with the way Alley managed to pull it off.
I heard pages fluttering, and I snapped back to attention. "Ugh!" I grunted slightly as the copy of Cosmopolitan struck me in the face. What the hell? The roommate had flung it in my direction, though I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. I glared at her, and then noticed Alley smothering back a laugh. Well, I was glad she was getting a grand kick out of this whole thing. The roommate finally left, looking completely disgusted, and Alley turned back to me, a sober, blank expression on her face.
“Are you ready to listen now?” I asked. She shook her head. I sighed again, covering my face. Why was she being so difficult? “Listen… I am fully aware of how confused you are, and rest assured that I am, too. You’re not going crazy. You’re not losing your mind. I’m real… I’m really here. And you, for whatever reason, are the only one who can communicate with me…” There. A perfectly polite, non-threatening statement… which caused her to promptly dash from the room. I heard the thumping of her feet going back up the steps, and I forcibly kept myself from kicking the coffee table.
Damn, this was going to take more work than I thought… I’d waited nearly eight hours on her to wake up for that? A semi-argument (though I wasn’t sure if it was an argument if the other person completely refused to speak)? To be completely dismissed, yet again?
I stood up, calmly dusting myself off, and strolled through the hallway after her. Enough of this shit. She could run and hide from me all she wanted, but I wasn’t giving up. We were going to figure out what the hell was happening together. I marched through the foyer, taking the steps two at a time until I was standing in front of her door. Her roommate had gone into her own room; I could hear her humming and rustling around. I grabbed the doorknob and turned it, letting myself inside. It loudly clicked shut behind me.
I didn’t see her at first, which confused me. That is, until I noticed a large, girl-shaped lump on the bed… fuck! She’d gone back to freaking bed? Hadn’t she gotten enough rest?! Or was she just being childish, hiding under the covers? I sighed loudly and walked over to her desk chair, sitting down. I crossed my arms and waited.
“I can sit here all day if you like,” I said. “Because, quite honestly, there’s not much else I can do. So if this is a test of patience, I assure you, you’ll lose.”
“Leave me the fuck alone.” Her words were muffled by her thick comforter, but I understood them perfectly well.
“Well, aren’t we sweet,” I said sarcastically. “You think I enjoy this? That I get my kicks from breaking into strange girls’ houses and scaring them in the middle of the night?”
“How the fuck am I supposed to know? Some people have kinky fetishes…”
“Will you please sit up and speak to me like a normal person?” I demanded. I was tired of talking to a blue-colored lump.
There was a soft knocking at the door, and so I stopped speaking momentarily. The door creaked open, and a moment later, the roommate, ‘Louise’, poked her head in.
“Alley?” she asked worriedly. “What are you doing? Were you talking to someone?”
Alley threw the comforter down from over her face and sat halfway up. “Yeah, I’m chatting with Taylor Hanson,” she said, sarcasm dripping in her tone. “He’s being a real asshole.”
I scowled. “There is no need for that. I haven’t done a thing to you…”
Louise sighed, presumably at her roommate’s weirdness. “Don’t be hateful, I was just asking. Hanson? I thought you would have come up with a better one than that, sweetie.” Personally, I was insulted. What kind of comment was that? “I’m leaving now… are you sure you’re going to be okay? Are you still feeling sick?”
“Then why are you in bed again?”
“Nothing else to do…”
Louise rolled her eyes. “Okay, whatever. I’ll be back later. Wait on me before you eat tonight.” Alley nodded slowly in agreement. “Later, Al.”
“Bye,” she said softly as the door closed again. Then, ignoring me yet again, she fell back against the bed and closed her eyes.
“Sit up,” I demanded. “And listen.”
To my surprise, she finally complied, raising up to face me and scooting to the edge of the bed. She crossed her legs Indian-style and rested her elbows on them. “Okay, but make it quick,” she said. “Because I really don’t have all day to sit around and listen to my delusions.”
“How many times do I have to tell you… I am not a delusion. I am really here.”
“Whatever,” she said, yawning. She slowly got up off the bed, walking over to her desk and fishing around with a stack of mail on the top. “God, I’ve really cracked up this time… Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any worse… strange men claiming to be Taylor fucking Hanson appearing in my bedroom…”
“I am Taylor! And I’m real!”
“Oh?” she asked, turning to appraise me and raising a blonde eyebrow. “Prove it.”
I wasn’t sure which one she wanted me to prove – the ‘I am Taylor’ or the ‘I’m real’ claim… but as I sat up, practically seething, I definitely knew which one I was going to show her. She wanted proof, she’d get her fucking proof. I leaped up, stalked over to her and grabbed her arm. Without really thinking, I pulled her towards me and kissed her hard on the mouth – nothing romantic about it, just a clash of lips and teeth, physical evidence that I was very much here and not simply a hallucination on her part.
I touched her… I physically touched her… I felt her skin… there was a strange part of me that felt deliriously happy at that revelation. She, however, didn’t seem to share the sentiment. She grunted loudly, slapping roughly at my arms and attempting to push me away with such force that it sent her reeling backwards. She tripped over a pile of clothes in the floor and crashed against the wall, her arms flailing out and knocking over a stack of books from her desk. They fell to the floor with a clatter, pages fluttering. She looked up at me from the floor, wide-eyed and a little dazed. Meanwhile, I was attempting to soothe my now-sore arms… and my slightly bruised ego.
“Fuck! What was that for?” I shouted, rubbing the reddened skin she’d smacked. Jeez, most girls would have more than likely appreciated that. It wasn’t often, if ever, that a girl reacted negatively to me touching her… then again, I was quickly figuring out that Alley wasn’t quite the same breed of female I was used to dealing with…
She glared up at me. “Don’t you get any funny ideas, buddy. I took a rape-prevention class last year.”
Oh, right… and you know taekwondo, I thought sarcastically. I snorted aloud, running one hand through my mussed hair. “Don’t flatter yourself, hon.”
As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted saying them. Taking in her bedraggled appearance – the messy, kinky blonde curls, the hilariously skinny white legs, the bloodshot hazel eyes, I realized, just a second too late, that this was a girl who was probably rather sensitive about her looks. My suspicions were confirmed when her expression dropped and she blushed a deep red. I stood there silently, feeling like an ass. I wasn’t even sure why I’d said it… was I really that arrogant? Besides, it wasn’t like she was ugly, or anything… sort of cute, maybe, but just a little on the plain side…
“Hey... listen,” I said softly. “I didn’t mean that. No, wait. I… I did mean that part about not, um, sexually assaulting you… but it’s not because you’re like, ugly, or anything… I mean, you’re actually a very pretty girl, and… uh, you know--”
“Shut the fuck up,” she said, sniffling. “Shut up before you dig yourself in any deeper, Taylor.” The sarcastic emphasis on my name wasn’t lost on me. “It figures. I mean, obviously if the local Kroger bag boy thinks I’m not worthy of his attention, then certainly superstar Taylor Hanson wouldn’t.”
Oh, shit. She was broken-hearted over some guy. And, having lived with overdramatic younger sisters for most of my life, I’ve learned that girls with broken hearts have to be dealt with very delicately. Except I was never one to handle delicate situations with girls well. That was Isaac’s forte… God, I wish he was here. He would know just what to say… I took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry, Alley Kat,” I said gently, squatting down until I was close to the floor with her. “Forgive me?”
Her head jerked up and her eyes widened. She cocked her head towards me, sitting up a little straighter. “How did you know my nickname? Only Louise and a few of my friends… and my father… called me that.”
I smiled softly at her. “It’s a long story. Something I’ll explain to you as we go on… but first… do you believe me?”
“Believe what?” she asked nervously. “I believe that I’m going out of my fucking mind…”
I sighed. “No. That I’m real. That you’re not imagining things. That I’m not here to hurt you in any way… And that I just happen to be Taylor Hanson…”
I resisted the urge to reach out and shake her. “Right,” I said slowly. “What do you mean, ‘no’? No to what?”
“No to it all… this makes no sense… and all I want to do is sleep and recover and forget about it all, but you won’t let me…”
“I think you’ve slept enough,” I said sarcastically. “As a matter of fact, for awhile there, I thought maybe you’d died or gone into a coma, or something.” I stood up, extending my hand to her. “Come on. I’m going to prove this all to you. First things first. I have to show you something.”
She eyed my hand as if it were a poisonous snake. “What?” she asked suspiciously.
I rolled my eyes and bent down, grabbing her arm. I lifted her to her feet, despite her protests. “Something that scares me as much as it’s going to scare you.”