Chapter 20

Anthropophobia is the fear of people. Often it is a social fear, or something thought of as an intense shyness. It can manifest itself in being afraid of meeting new people, or even looking them in the eye. It can be an intense awkwardness around a group. There are many ways that people can experience this intense fear.

     Lizzie had always been timid, to the point that she had once thought that she may be on the autistic spectrum. She never told her parents this, but she hated being around people and had other issues that sometimes made her wonder about her own mental health. But then she had met Sarah and being around people was okay. Parties were now her thing, and she’d be there right with her posse, Jessica and Sarah. They were their own clic as none of the fraternities would have them as a group, and they were too much their own sisters to leave one another. So, they were their own force to be reckoned with.

     Though, when she was alone, she never went up to people… It was too much work, and she would often stay in her room, devouring books, and Netflix. If she didn’t need to speak or hang out with someone, she simply wouldn’t.  

Jessica and Sarah, they were the ones to be the life of the party and when they weren’t around, Lizzie found a corner and watched the world pass her by. Some guys would come up to her, but they would often get bored, not able to pull her from her shell. Then with a sip of their beer, they would make their way to other game who would show more interest. Thankfully Sarah and Jessica would not let her stay alone for too long. When she got in her corner, at parties or in life, one of them would always find her and pull her back into the world around them.

     But she had never been afraid of people around her, she just didn’t know what to say. Whenever someone tried talking to her without her friends, her mind would just go blank. It was like, she tried to find something to talk about, and the only thing in the mental file of words that would shake its way out would be, “Hello.” After that, there was just nothing there. 

     So, when the crowd had swarmed in around her, so many people asking her if she was alright, the anvil hit her like a hammer blow. She couldn’t breathe, her eyes were dry, but tears tried to flood them anyway, her skin crawled with the sensation that things were crawling all over her, and the slightest touch made her jump. Her eyes tried to look everywhere at once and that just made the feeling of the world twisting around her even worse.

     “I need to get out of here.” She heard herself gasping but didn’t recognize her voice. It sounded strangled and alien to her own ears.

     “We should call an ambulance.”

     “What’s wrong with her?”

     “She looks like she’s on drugs.”

     “I have a cousin who does heroin, she looks like that sometimes.

     “What’s wrong with her?”

     “We really should call someone. We can’t have people collapsing in our bathrooms and not-“

     The voices just kept assaulting her. The lights were too bright. Everything was too much.

     What was this, why was this happening to her? Why were these things always happening to her?

     The weight intensified on her chest, her breath coming out in shorter gasps. She thought she was going to collapse again, there on the floor as she tried to make her way to the door.

     A voice spoke to her softly in her ear. It broke through the noise, tearing through the cacophony and releasing some of the pain in her chest. A different kind of tear, that of relief, escaped her as she heard it.

     “It’s going to be okay. Just breathe. I’ve got you. It’s all going to be okay. Let’s just get out of here.” Roland said and now she did collapse. She fell into his arms and let him guide her to the exit.

Roland… Sarah and Jessica had helped her find him, and back when they were together, he had been her comfort. She hadn’t realized just how much she had relied on him to be her shield in the ocean of people. Roland, her protector, her gunslinger taking on the dark forces outside.

Roland, whom she clung to now to save her.


     Outside, the cool night air struck her like a physical blow, a hammer that slammed into her and forcing away the fog of what had just happened. Her strength returned and before they had reached the end of the block, she could walk on her own, though she found herself staying in the warmth of his arms.

     “We still have that hotel room we paid for. I didn’t want to bring it up earlier, but I don’t think we should be driving back this late,” he said. She felt his words rumble through him, the vibration a comfort to her, continuing to calm her frayed nerves.



     She pulled her head away long enough that he looked down at her and they were locked into each other’s eyes. It had been so long since she had lost herself in those eyes. They were the ocean on a clear day, and she could always sink into them when he did this.

     Then she pulled his head down to meet hers and her aching lips found his. They kissed, and as she felt the warmth flood through her, emanating from her, she kissed him harder.

     From there she didn’t remember getting to the hotel room, the memories lost in a haze of continual lustful kisses. She needed him. He was warmth, and he was her comfort. She needed to wrap herself up in him and allow him to get inside her. She desired to feel every part of him and for them to become one.

     They were in the room. He had his arms around her and pulled her into him. She kissed him again while running her hands under his shirt, down his back. She let her fingernails drag on his skin, knowing how it drove him wild. The reaction was immediate, the lump in his pants expanding. She ran her fingers gently over it and could feel the rock-hard member itching to bust loose from its constraints.

     She ran her fingers along his member, following the curvature. Roland tensed against her touch, and she looked into his eyes to see them closed, himself lost in a moan of pleasure. It brought a smile to her and awoke a hunger deep inside.

     How long had it been since she’d felt him? Too long.

     Thoughts of death, the crowd at the coffee shop, all of it faded as she gave in to the desire. Her hands shook with anticipation. She needed him. She needed this.

     She carefully eased the zipper down, being careful not do damage the cream filled candy inside. She was a child that craved the sugar rush and wanted to suck on the hardness until the creamy goodness filled her, its warmth burning away the cold inside her.

     His member was free, and she eased it out. Then she broke free from their latest kiss, another entanglement of tongues and lowered herself to her knees. He was shaking with excitement, and she had the brief worry she was going to give him a heart attack if she waited to long. He wanted and needed her just as badly as she needed him.

     She took him in, tasting the sweat of excitement that trickled from him. The moment she wrapped her lips around it, his body shuddered. She continued, playing with his shaft, running her tongue up and down the different parts, many times lingering on the enlarged head and eye. Then she would take it all in again and viciously stroke with her hands while taking him in and out. He let out another moan, this one much deeper and she could feel his legs shake.

     She had to wonder if it had been as long for him as it had been for her. But then what about Natalie. No, she wasn’t going to think about-

     “Ah!” He let out a small gasp and she knew she had allowed herself to get distracted. Her teeth… He tried to pull away just a little from her, but she wasn’t going to let him get away that easily. She needed this too badly.

     As he was still unsteady, she pushed on him, and he fell back, the bed waiting for him. He thumped down on it, and was already back pedaling to the head, his smile growing as he watched her climb him.

     That’s it, those pants are coming off. She reached forward and undid the button and then the belt. Then she viciously tore at pulling off the blue jeans, shaking them back and forth like a dog playing with a toy until they came free. The pants flew across the room as she focused on the next target, his boxer shorts.

     It didn’t take long and then she was again working on his shaft, stroking it, sucking on it, sending waves of passion through Roland as he arched his back. He was lost to the passion, concern for her lost in the moment.

     Then with one last flick of her tongue across the eye of his member she looked up and him. Then like a stalking cat, purring as she moved, she swayed back and forth, and she worked her way up the bed. She kept her body low, letting the small swell of her breast rub across his already excited erection. Small kisses ran along his stomach and then to his erect nipples. She took a short moment to suck on each on, giving each a little nibble before moving to his chest and then finally her lips high enough to reach his own.

     “Are you sure.” He gasped breaking away from her kiss. His body trembling with excitement and anticipation. His eyes were questioning, and it fought with every other part of his body that demanded he have her then and now.

     She nodded at him, the hunger in her eyes, demanding that she have him. Every other thought of the last few weeks was gone from her mind and all she was focused on was this moment.

     “Then I think your overdressed.”

     The corner of her mouth went up as she pulled back until she was sitting on his exposed member, though she made an effort not to put all her weight down. Then she rocked back and forth, gently gyrating as she crossed her arms and pulled her shirt over her head.

     The totem hung there between her now exposed breasts and she tried to ignore it as she reached behind her, thrusting out her breasts as she undid the clasps of her bra. As soon as they were released, his hands immediately had them, kneading them, and rubbing her nipples and the flesh beneath. She inhaled deeply, waves of her own pleasure flooding her senses and what had she been thinking about before? His fingers flicked at her nipple and then she felt his fingers rubbing them between. Her breath caught and her back arched.

     Something had been happening over the course of the last few weeks, but as she felt his hands and the moisture between her legs intensifying. It was there, nagging at her but she didn’t even have to try to push it out of her mind.

     She quickly reached down to fumble with the button on her pants. It released and another pair of hands assisted her in getting the zipper down. Then she moved herself off him, pushing down her pants as she did and then kicking them off as she now lied there on the bed. As she had done her part, Roland had done his, moving with her, first out of her way and then guiding on top of her. It was like a dance that had been performed, each working in time with the other and moving in a rhythm. They moved in time to a music of their own making, and they were well rehearsed to make these actions look like a well choreographed sequence.

     The dance ended and he was on top of her, now his mouth on her breasts, his tongue sending new sensations of pleasure while his fingers searched below. Then they found their target and she couldn’t restrain the gasp of pleasure that escaped her. He worked magic, both hands and tongue creating their own orchestra of ecstasy.

     Then his hands pulled away and his lips found hers. A second later and he found his way inside of her. The rest of the night fell away. She needed this, oh God how she needed this.

Chapter 19

“I think I’m losing my mind. They’re always there, or they were. So much, death… and these things keep happening. I don’t know how much more I can take.” Lizzie said, holding back the fresh wave of tears that lingered on the horizon. If it wasn’t for the hot cup warming her cold hands, she would probably have slipped back into the balling mess Roland had helped off that sidewalk.

     It wasn’t much. They were only at the late-night coffee shop near the hotel they were about to check into. Since she didn’t let him call the cops on the bum he had chased off, something he still felt was a mistake, she had allowed him to lead her there.

     Her hands still shook when they weren’t clutching the hot cup, so she held it tight. The tea still steamed though they had been talking for a few minutes. She didn’t know why she should trust him enough to tell him everything, but she had.

     This was the guy who cheated on her. That anger still flowed hot and heavy inside her, but he was also the guy she had shared and spent so much time with. Talking to him was easy, she had started telling him some of the story and then all of it just rolled off her tongue.

     His hand rested gently on her wrist, and she looked up from the steam of the cup to meet his eyes.

     “It going to be okay. We’ll get through this. You said they were always with you, but they’re not now?”

     “Not since I put on this.” She pulled the talisman out from under her shirt. In the dim light of the coffee shop, it had a menacing quality to it as the lights overhead seemed to flow around it, bathing it in shadow. Roland reached for it but then pulled his hand back. She could see the hesitation. He was unsure of what to think or do. His hand shift to rest on her hand.

     “Okay. We’ll get through this.”

     She wanted to ask about Natalie and where she was in his plans on helping her. Instead, she bit back the words and let the anger ebb out of her.

     “I’m worried about Jessica. I just have this feeling that its after her right now. It’s just a gut feeling, but-”

     “Do you even know what ‘it’ is?”

     “No, but I’m sure it has something to do with my uncle.”

     “Sounds like it.”

     Damn he was taking this better than she had, though she did suppose she’d had more information to tell him, more for him to go on than when all of this started happening to her. She had the pieces thrown at her and now he could see the whole puzzle. At least as much of the puzzle as she already knew.

     “I don’t know. It seems like it’s killing my friends or anyone who has anything to do with me. Jessica’s my next closest friend. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her.”

     “Liz, we’ll get through this.” He said to her. Behind them the door jingled, and a blast of cool night air brushed against them raising the hairs on her arm. She turned to see two college aged girls coming. They were giggling, talking about someone named Michael. One was dressed nicer than the other and Liz guessed she had just finished what had to have been a bad date if they were together and the girl was not with the boy.

     They looked happy. She had been like them once. The weight on her chest made her doubt she would ever be like that again.

     “I think that might be why he stopped talking to everyone?”


     “My uncle. I mean, he just cut himself off, hid himself alone in that cabin. My dad never knew why, he thought it had something to do with a big fight they had and the loss of my aunt. What if there was all this going on?”

     “Well, how long was he out there?”

     “Eighteen years, I think. It started after I was born but long enough that I don’t remember any of it.”

     “That’s a long time to be out there alone.”

     “What if he had to be? What If it was the only way people would stop dying?”

     “But he made you that talisman thingy.”

     “Yeah, but it sounded like in the letter that it doesn’t work for too long. I don’t know how any of this works.”

     Roland let out a long breath, looking at their hands for a long minute before looking back into her eyes. When he did, she saw the hint of a tear, tucked away on the edge just ready to slip away down his cheek.

     “It’ll be okay. Okay. You hear me, it’ll all be okay.” He said it solemnly and she could feel the amount of will he put into his words, like repeating them would somehow make them all true.

     “I know.” She looked at her tea, the steam having gone and the lukewarm cup still untouched on the table. “I gotta use the bathroom, then maybe we can get out of here?”


     She rose from the table, only bumping the edge a little, which was better than she thought she’d do. She was always being such a clutch and knocking into tables while standing was pretty much a given for her. She was happy when she didn’t knock over a drink or cause one to spill. It was a win for her and right now she needed as many wins as she could manage.

     She found the bathroom in the corner of the small coffee shop, down a narrow dark hallway. The woman’s bathroom was at the end just before the steel door marked “Exit” and right below it a sign proclaiming “Keep Door Closed, Alarm Will Sound.”

     The bathroom was just like others she’d been in. It was a large chain and while she hadn’t been all over the country, the ones in Wisconsin seemed to all follow the same layout. She was quick to pee and felt comfortable doing so in the large clean room.

     It was a large room. Larger than it needed to be and larger than bathrooms in other coffee shops, retail stores and restaurants. It offered more privacy as only one person could be in the room at a time. It gave her plenty of space. It was warm and comfortable, reassuring. It helped bite back the unease she had been feeling that everything was wrong.

     She washed her hands, looked in the mirror, and the room no longer so large. In fact, it had suddenly become quite crowded.

     They were all there, standing behind her. Josh, Elisabeth, Chuck, and Sarah all stood behind her.  and they looked angry. The hatred that burned in Sarah’s eyes was foreign as Lizzie had never seen anything like it. Her eyes, all their eyes were black, and they all bared their teeth in snarls. Nothing of the friendly camaraderie they had shared the past weeks was there. They all looked so rageful and all that anger was focused on her.

     She turned to look at them directly, but they weren’t there. She couldn’t see them without seeing their reflections in the mirror.

     She didn’t have time to think anything more of it as she felt something wrap around her. Then she was spun around and pushed so that her head slammed against the mirror.

     “Look at us!” An echo of voices all of them yelling in concert at her. She could hear them as it vibrated through her skull, the sound loud enough to push through any of her thoughts.

     “I…I thought you were gone.”

     “Where would we go?” Elisabeth’s voice asked, her voice empty.

     The force that had pushed her against the mirror released her and she pulled back to see that it had been Sarah’s hand that had her.

     “Yeah, whatever that thing is, it doesn’t release us.” Josh said. Strangely enough he was to the back of the group and looked at her with less hostility than the rest of them. In fact, was he… he looked like he felt sad for her, or was that guilt?

     “You sent us to hell.” Sarah snarled at her and then thrusted Lizzie’s head back into the mirror. It slammed with an audible crack, and she was sure she would find shards of glass wedges in her skin and hair. She tried to close her eyes to protect them, but the pressure on the back of her head let up as Sarah quickly reached around to hold open her eyelids.

     “Oh, no! Keep those peepers open. You wouldn’t want to make me have to cut those off, would you?” Sarah hissed as she leaned in close to Lizzie’s ear. She got close, her lips near enough to kiss Lizzie’s ear if she chose to and Lizzie could help but flash back to remembering the smiling man that had killed her. Sarah was looking at her in the eye though the reflection as she whispered, “Look at me. See what you did. You did this to us. I should have known it was about you. It is always about you. You did this.”

Lizzie tried to breath or hold back the tears that were streaming as she stared at what had been her best friend. She was different now. Her skin was ashen, which made the red lips vibrant, and as bright as the blood seeping from her eyes and dripping from her scalp. There were patches of her hair missing, and what was left was clumped together.

     She looked so…fresh. If Lizzie hadn’t already seen her friend post death, or how she’d been healing in death, she would have thought Sarah had just died and was still in that pool of blood back in her uncle’s kitchen. Well, her kitchen now, but it didn’t matter. Her friend, dead friend, mattered. Before Lizzie had put on the talisman, each of her dead companions had looked better. She wouldn’t say their dead conditions were healing, but they had faded, the image of death not as strong around them. Sarah had almost looked like she had before they had entered the cabin.

     Now death permeated from them, their stench filling her nostrils when there was no way she should be able to smell anything. She never had before. Now, they were… more real, but how when she couldn’t even see them if not looking through the mirror.

     “Say something bitch.” Sarah snapped at her as she slammed Lizzie back into the mirror. This time it was hard enough that darkness swam around her on a river of stars. She felt her body go limp as she crashed to the floor.

     Someone knocked on the door.

     “Are you alright in there?” A woman’s voice called out from the other side of the door. Lizzie wanted to respond to her. She could hear the woman, but it sounded like they were in a tunnel, and she was far on the other side. When she opened her mouth to yell, her air was cut off. Something hard was wrapped around her throat.

     She tried to open her eyes, but some invisible fabric was wedged against her face. It smelled like dirt and decay. She didn’t want to imagine what it was, but it kept light from forming in the world around her.

     She tried again to call out, but she opened her mouth in vain as she felt something forced into it. She couldn’t keep away the horrific thought of the old man’s penis, the one who had killed Sarah. She remembered the maggot that fell on her and gagged at the fear that it had now somehow been forced into her. No..he wasn’t there with them, but Chuck and Josh were.

     “Miss, I’m going to get the manager. If you’re having a seizure, don’t worry as we will be calling 911. Are you sure you’re not okay?”

     “Oh no, you are definitely not okay. How stupid does this bitch have to be? ‘Are you sure your not okay?’ Sarah hissed into her ear. “Like if you are having a seizure, can you please take it somewhere else to die.”

     On the last word, Lizzie felt her head being lifted and then slammed back to the floor.

     “Sarah-“ she tried to gasp out the name around whatever had been forced into her mouth. The attempt pulled the cloth further in and she spasmodically shook against being restrained. Her body shook more vehemently without her having any control. She felt like a blind passenger in her own body as it continued to writhe around on the floor, and she couldn’t stop herself or see what was happening around her.

     There was the cloth and she felt it touching the back of her throat. She couldn’t breathe, that was enough feeling.

     “You’re going to die. I’m going to kill you. You sent us to that place. You put us there and you know what?”

     “Miss?” A new voice spoke from the other side of the door, the concern evident in his soft-spoken tone. Strangers outside the door who were worried about her while her best friend was trying to pound her head through the tile.

     “We know why we’re here. Yes, we know.”

     Lizzie heard keys jingling on the other side of the door as the pressure on top of her intensified.

     “Lizzie!” Roland called out from the other side. “We’re coming in, okay?”

     Cold struck against her ear in an arctic blast as Sarah hissed the words, “We’re here because of you. You killed us.”

     The door to the hall swung open and the pressure on Lizzie disappeared as well as the gagging sensation down her throat. Whatever had been in her mouth and on top of her was gone. She was left only the after affects. Small tremors ran through her as she gasped in mouthfuls of air.

     She felt arms around her and saw a shape forming above her as the darkness faded.

     “Sir, I don’t think you should be lifting her up like that.” The barista, probably the manager said from behind him. She could feel the smile creasing her lips and she wasn’t sure why but God it felt so good to be held in his arms.

     “Lizzie, are you okay?”

     “Cindy, call an ambulance.” The manager said to the scared looking woman who stood behind him.

     Lizzie shook her head, though it hurt. Marbles seemed to be rattling around in there as the grey matter didn’t quite feel right. She bared it as she pushed herself up to lie back in her elbows.

     “No, I’m fine.” She said to them, her voice a bare whisper. Though she knew she wasn’t, she was not going to another hospital. She had enough of them and had no intention to be going back to one tonight, even if it was only for a couple of hours.

     After all, who knew when her friends would return.

Chapter 12

     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.

     “It’s important.”

     “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.”

     “Names Josh.”

     “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.


     “Ms. Rogers.”


     “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.