The phone was ringing. She understood that it was ringing. She had that sensation of being ripped from some shared collective deep in the bowels of sleep to open her eyes to the revelation, and yes, there it was, her phone on the nightstand. The screen was lit up, and she saw the unfamiliar number on her lock screen.
“Probably a telemarketer,” she mumbled under her breath as she crashed back into her pillow. The room was bright. It was obviously some time in the morning, but she wasn’t ready to get up yet… and really, what was the point anymore. She had no job, no school, no life… Why the hell not sleep in until noon. The idea sure as hell appealed to her.
She grabbed a spare pillow and turned over, snuggling into it like it was someone lying there with her. It took some work, a little wriggling back and forth, but finally she had found that spot when everything felt comfortable and soft, perfect to go back to sleep and ignore the rest of the world.
Someone was knocking at the door. She didn’t want to answer it, and the pillow she was snuggling into became earmuffs as she pulled it down over her head.
“Hey Lizzie! Lizzie! Someone’s at the door.”
Sarah was her best friend. She had been since childhood and now after death, but right then Lizzie wanted to scream at her. Didn’t she know that Lizzie just wanted to hide and get back to sleep? It just wasn’t fair. All she wanted to do was go back to sleep. Wouldn’t anyone just let her? The world seemed hellbent on preventing it.
Lizzie felt the groan escape her and it surprised her to find that she was getting up. The long stretch came and then she was reaching out to her cell phone, glancing at the time but more at the displayed list of missed calls. Majority of the missed calls came from a number she vaguely recognized but her sleep deprived mind couldn’t place it.
She tossed the phone on the bed as she stood and went to the closet only to realize that she hadn’t checked the time. Sure, she’d looked at it, but had completely blanked.
“Lizzie, they’re still knocking.”
“So, let them knock. It’s probably just more Jehovah Witnesses or something.”
“I don’t think so. They’d have given up by now.”
That was probably true, she thought as she finished pulling on her pants and tossed on a t-shirt that had hung in her closet. She didn’t pay attention to what it said, she didn’t really care yet. It was still too early for her to deal with people. Whoever was at the door was about to get her at her worst.
“You know, sometimes I wish you were a ghost rather than whatever you are.” Lizzie said as she straightened the shirt and looked at herself in the mirror. She was never going to win any beauty pageants, that was for sure. She grimaced, wishing she had Sarah’s body.
Someone was still knocking on the front door, but Lizzie noticed that outside her room it had quieted enough that she could make out the faint sound of someone sobbing.
Lizzie opened the door to her room to see Sarah sitting on the floor, her knees pulled up to her chest.
“You know I was just kidding. It was like, so you could float through the door and see who it was. Ya know?” Lizzie said, and Sarah launched into a new torrent of tears.
“How would you like to be dead, or told you should be a ghost because it makes your best friends’ life better? You’d just love that wouldn’t you?”
“Sarah, you know it’s not like that.”
“You know it’s like that. You just said it.”
The knocking on the front door stopped. Thank God for small miracles as whoever it was must have gone away.
Lizzie’s cell phone started ringing again.
“Oh for fucks sake.” She spun and dashed into her room and grabbing the buzzing rectangle. Without looking at the caller ID, she tapped the screen, ready to release the full pulsating rage burning through her.
“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tuk, I smell a good fuck,” came the familiar raspy voice. Even through the electronics of the phone she could feel his hot breath on her and her cell dropped from her hand.
“Hello! Lizzie, you there?” She heard coming from the phone as it fell. She looked at it, not wanting to touch it when it landed. She recognized the voice but that hadn’t been there before. No, the shadow man had called her. What was going on?
Slowly she bent and reached for it, afraid it was somehow going to reach up and bite her. That was crazy though, right?
“Hey, Lizzie, I heard you answer.”
She picked up the phone, though she refused to bring it to her ear.
“Liz, hey, I’m at your door. You mind letting me in?”
That voice. It wasn’t the shadow man, but another voice that made her recoil. She’d heard it enough threw the last few years, and one she thought she was done with a month ago when she had dumped his cheating ass.
“Roland, why the hell are you here?”
“Liz, come on, let’s talk?”
Ugh, she thought all this was over. Sure, she hadn’t caught him with Natalie, but those hadn’t been her panties she had found in his place. When she’d confronted him about it, he stuttered like a floundering fool, then had the gaul to tell her that she must have left them there. Did he really think she wouldn’t recognize her own panties?
Such a creep…
Yet she found herself lowering her phone, hitting disconnect as she tossed in on the bed and going to the front door. There was no knocking but she knew he was on the other side, like she could feel his presence there. She imagined she could hear his breathing, then felt it when his breath held waiting for her to open the door. Her hand lingered on the knob. Maybe she imagined he was holding his breath because she was holding her own.
“Lizzie, we need to talk.” Chuck said. He had come up behind her, and she hadn’t even realized he had been following her to the door.
“Not now,” she hissed back at him.
“Your dead. I don’t think anything’s going to change in the next five minutes.”
“It can wait,” she said just before she opened the door and saw the tall lanky man in the hallway outside her apartment. He was standing there, a bouquet of roses in his hands.
“What are you doing here?” She didn’t reach for the flowers but he continued to hold them out for her. It felt like a long minute, stretching into eternity as she held his eyes with her glare. Then he gave in, lowering both his arm and his eyes.
“I heard about Sarah. Guess I just wanted to check in and make sure your doing okay.”
“I’m fine, you can go now.” She didn’t step into the hall, and she didn’t get out of the door frame to let him in. Her arms crossed, her body language screaming ‘pissed off woman who’d been cheated on and was now ready to get payback’ as she stood there.
“Liz, I know that’s bullshit.”
“Yeah, and how do you know that?”
“I know you and I knew Sarah. You two were inseparable.”
Lizzie fought to keep her breathing calm and her anger in check, but her chest burned while she bit back the curses she wanted to spew at him. This piece of bile actually felt like he could console her, that he knew something about her? If he knew anything about her, he’d have known not to cheat on her. Where does he get off at implying that he knew her.
“Liz, can I come in. Maybe you could put these in water?”
“Just toss them in the dumpster.”
“If that’s what you want. I guess I can just toss these away too.”
She hadn’t noticed the envelope that had been in his other hand. She looked at it, and had to think about it. What was the date today… Could those be…?
He brought up the envelope, jostling the flowers as he needed the other hand to open and pull out the contents. He got frustrated and handed the envelope to her. She opened it and there they were.. tickets to see Ed Sheeran, tonight. The event was in Milwaukee, so they’d have a three hour drive.
She remembered when they bought the tickets, how they had laughed and made plans to make a weekend of it, getting a hotel and maybe while they were in town checking it out and maybe going to a Brewers game. It seemed like forever ago, and in a away it was a lifetime ago as so much in her life had changed now. For one, she was no longer with Roland. Why would he show up now and still want to go? She would have thought he would have sold the tickets or taken whoever he was screwing.
He couldn’t be dumb enough to think she’d go with him, right? She had always thought he’d been smarter than that. He was a sure-fire geek/computer nerd. He should have something in that head of his telling him that the idea of them going together would be idiotic.
He kept looking at the floor, occasionally sneaking a peek up at her. He was probably gauging how she was reacting as she let him fidget.
“What do you think you are doing? What do you expect to happen here?” She returned the tickets to the envelope.
“I’m not expecting anything to happen. I came to say that I’m sorry. I messed up. In addition to that, I’m worried about you, and I wanted to see if you were okay. As to that,” he raised his eyes and nodded to the envelope she was now playing with in her hand, hitting the corner of it into her palms as she continued to study him. “We’d already bought the tickets. I never felt right about selling them, and I had no one else to take. I thought maybe we could go. Not as a couple, but just as two people. No strings.”
“You know how stupid that is right? There’s no way I’m going with you.”
“You don’t have to. You could take yourself. Hell, you can have my ticket. I just thought you could use it as a distraction from, well…”
If she was honest with herself, she really did want to go. She loved Ed Sheeran and the tickets were really good. Roland had spent more than he should have on the tickets. He’d spent all that money, just to go and do something so stupid. Maybe he really was dumb under all that smart exterior.
Lizzie was wavering. She knew she shouldn’t be.
“Shut the door, Liz. He’s not a good guy, and we really need to talk to you,” Sarah said into her ear. Of course, Sarah was listening. Hell, they were probably all behind her, watching and listening. She never had moments alone anymore…
Maybe she could use that to her benefit. If she did go to the show with him, it wasn’t like she’d be alone with him. Oh, how odd of chaperones they were but they’d keep her from doing something stupid.
Was she really thinking of doing it though? She thought she was done with this loser. She should shut the door and never see him again, let that be the end of it.
But she wasn’t shutting the door.
She could go, but they both go in their own vehicles… No, that wouldn’t work. Milwaukee was what, two hours away, three? She’d never actually been there so she wasn’t sure. Either way it was too far and made no sense to take separate vehicles. Even if he was a creep that she didn’t want to be around, she still couldn’t bring herself to be that wasteful.
Dammit, she was going to do this. She knew it was a bad idea, stupid really, but she had already said ‘yes’ to herself. It was just a matter of telling the asshole.
Her stomach twisted with the thought of spending at least four hours in the car alone with him. Then she was reminded that she had just gotten up, was standing on the threshold of the hallway and still hadn’t gone to the bathroom. Her bladder was reminding her that it was not going to be patient for much longer.
Then her phone started chirping again from the bedroom and she realized she really needed to get out of the hallway.
“Fine, I’ll go. Give me a call later and we’ll get it figured out when to leave. She started to close the door but then opened it again, ignoring his outstretched hand as he tried to hand her the roses. “Better yet just text me.”
She closed the door and rushed to her room. The bathroom was calling but going in there without her phone just wasn’t happening. She grabbed it and glanced at the recent missed call. That same number again.
“Liz, I can’t believe-“ Sarah started, but Elisabeth was talking over her.
“Lizzie we really need to-“ Elisabeth was saying. In the background she could hear Chuck.
“For crying out loud.”
“-you’re going out with him.”
“-talk to you.”
She rushed into her bathroom ignoring the cacophony of voices trying to get her attention. She slammed the door behind her.
* * * *
The voicemail had been from the lawyer and had taken away any joy she had about the concert. His words, a nervous stutter as he bumbled through leaving the message, repeatedly saying there wasn’t much he could say over the phone.
“Ms. Rogers, I’m calling to say that there has been a mistake in the, in the reading of the will. You see, your uncle, well there’s not much I can, I can say over the phone. You see, he changed his will right before he died, and it had been so recent that our filing records hadn’t rec-recorded it yet. If you can call to set up an appointment, I really need to go over it with you. I’m, I’m sorry for all of this.”
She’d lost all that money. She knew it, and that was why he was so nervous. He had to tell her that she wasn’t getting it. She was going to go back to being broke. All the good fortune of having that money was going to evaporate and she’d never get to know how it felt to be that rich.
Lizzie looked up to see Sarah looking at her, concern etched on her face. Any signs of the tears from earlier gone, leaving only the gory remains of Sarah’s death. It was yet another reminder that her friend was dead, and any tears were shallow to the tragedy she has already endured.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Yeah, you don’t look it.”
Her phone buzzed and she took a quick look at it. It was Roland. She lowered the phone realizing just how late in the morning it really was. It was past ten, she slept in for most the morning. Five minutes ago, that wasn’t a problem, but now with the prospect of finding a new job looming, sleeping in this late felt like such a waste.
What was she going to do? Go back to school? It’d be too late to register for this semester, and she hadn’t decided on a new major, having given up on her last one shortly before deciding not to go back.
What the hell!? She thought her life would be getting so much easier, and now she was getting nothing but all these problems.
“Lizzie, we need to talk.” Elisabeth said. Then a crash came from the other room and Lizzie rushed to see what was going on.
Lizzie’s apartment was not that large and like most she guessed. There was the front door that opened into a split between the nook that was the kitchen and the open area that most would use for a living room. The little space between she had guessed would be a dining area, and the hallway then lead back to the two bedrooms and the tiny bathroom. It was just like nearly any other apartments she had ever seen, and she looked forward to one day not living there.
Though with her currently not having a paycheck and no income in the near future, it was a bit above what she could afford. Even working, it had been tough for her.
She hurried into the living room to find Chuck and the stranger standing nose to nose squaring off gain, but the picture that was on the floor was on the other side of the room. It had been a picture of her and Roland that has been setting on the corner shelf between the curbside find of a couch and the lazy boy that had been a goodwill special.
Sarah was standing near the picture staring at it in horror.
“What’s going on here?” Lizzie scanned the room. Sarah looked at her apologetically but the other two didn’t turn away from one another.
“Just don’t like being told what I can and can’t do.” The large man said, then sat in the Lazy-boy.
“I get that.” Lizzie said.
“Lizzie, something weirds going on.” Elisabeth said, moving to stand next to Sarah. Chuck continued to glare.
“I know… I know you two from somewhere. And that ain’t good.” The stranger said to Chuck then point to Elisabeth.
“Really? You do?” Elisabeth said, the shock evident.
“Let’s start simple. What’s your name?” Lizzie said.
“I told you last night.” The man said.
“Yeah well, middle of the night. I just remember you were fighting with Chuck and another picture got broken. So yeah, I wasn’t really focused, or really even awake.”
“Okay Josh, and you know your dead right?”
“Yeah. Just because I blew my brains out doesn’t mean I don’t have any.”
“Nice. Really funny.” Chuck said.
“Give’em a break. It’s not like you were much better when you first got here. Until he came you were Mr. Grumps.” Lizzie turned back to Josh sitting in the chair. “Now the big question, do you know how you got here?”
“Nope. I shot myself in the morning after my wife went off to work and woke up here last night.”
“Really? So, you didn’t show up here right after you died?”
“Nope. Not even sure if it’s the same day. What day is it?”
“Lizzie, something else is going on.”
“What?” Lizzie asked, turning slowly, lingering her gaze on Josh.”
“Broken pictures” Sarah said.
“Yeah, all our frames are getting ruined. I’m going to have to go to the dollar store later and buy some more.”
“I’m not talking about that.” Sarah went to the next picture on the shelf and then with an intense look of concentration, she reached out and pushed it. “Remember when I first came back, and I couldn’t interact with anything. Well, we can’t grab anything as far as I know, but look at this.”
“I know I recognize you two.” Josh grumbled as Lizzie watched Sarah push the picture frame until it fell from the shelf and crashed to the floor.
Lizzie’s phone rang, the chirping sound making her jump. Lizzie didn’t look to see who it was, she clicked “answer” as she brought it up.
“Hello, I know I’ve called a few times this morning, but I really need you to come to my office. I’ll be able to meet you any time, I’ll reschedule whatever I must, but it really is rather urgent.” The lawyer sounded frazzled. That wasn’t good.
“Is everything okay?” She felt the dread creeping up into her voice.
“Yes, just there’s a new will we found with some new details we need to go over.”
She remembered the text she had gotten earlier and pulled the phone away from her face so that she could swipe and see it.
“How about we leave at 2?” Roland’s text read.
“I can get there in half an hour.”
She could have Roland pick her up from the office. Maybe she’d get lunch while she waited for him after meeting with the lawyer. That was if she still had any money.
Damn! She couldn’t believe she had allowed herself to get talked into going with him. Eddie, I hope you know how much I love you to put up with his cheating ass.
“I got it!” Josh exclaimed, and he stands quickly. “It’s you two! You’re the idiots that pulled out in front of my truck! You fucking idiots ruined my life, I’m going to kill you, you son-of-“ and with that Josh was leaping across the coffee table which was surprising with his large mass, and slammed into Chuck who had stood there frozen with shock. They both fell to the ground, everything on the table clattering out of their way, remotes, books, and magazines flung to the floor.
“Fuck this, I’m out.” Lizzie said, grabbing her keys and purse, then storming out the front door.