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My So-Called Gruesome Life

written by Angela Bigos

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About this story

Published: 1997 | Size: 123 KB (21837 words) | Language: english | Rating: PG-13
Average: 2.7/5   2.7/5 (21 votes)

based on stories and characters created by Winnie Holzman


Chapter One - Happy Homecoming ?

The smell of stale beer hung heavily in the smoky, poorly ventilated club.  Raeanne narrowed her eyes ominously and when the repulsive drunk turned his head to look at another dancer, she deftly knocked him off the stage with one well executed grind.  He landed in a bus tub, splattering the remains of noxious drinks everywhere.  Raeanne, as the crowd cheered and threw dollar bills at her, noted with satisfaction that the drunk had a semi circle of sliced orange stuck to his bloated cheek and one of little sword toothpicks stuck to the side of his veiny nose.  Taffy (Raeanne's own stage name was Flame- for the long red wig she wore onstage) undulated up to her and hissed "You best watch it gal- if you don't learn to control that temper of yours you're gonna git fired!"  This was true.  Marty Capistrano, after witnessing her nearly choke a patron with a leather g-string, had made it clear that one more "incident" would be her last.  Marty, not the most patient of men, could very well decide that this would be *it*.  What would she do then?  Another club?  This was her third and, as she'd told Luscious (a dancer with a boa constrictor named Gordon) earlier, the thrill was *gone*.

    Shivering in spite of the moist mushroomy atmosphere, Raeanne pulled off her wig and took a long swallow from her bottle of beer.  Sitting at the messy make-up table and smearing Nivea on her face she starred at her reflection and wondered where it had all gone so terribly wrong.  She'd wanted to act.  She'd wanted her name up in lights on Broadway.  Except for a few bit parts and a commercial for feminine hygiene products that showed only her hand taking a box from a shelf, acting jobs had been practically non-existent.  She had no acting credits under belt, no manager, and who wanted to hire a ditzy kid?  She began shaking, something that had been happening to her more and more often of late.  Sleep was either filled with nightmares or non-existent.  There were times when she thought she would lose her mind.  Reaching for the pale blue envelope stuck behind a dirty powder puff and someone else's douche concentrate ("That silicone slut 'Tanqueray' whose *real* name is Gladys Winkelheimer...")  she muttered and then giggled and burped loudly.   She opened the much read letter with trembling hands.

 

Dear Raeanne,

    I'm sooo happy to be going home for the summer!  I can't WAIT till you're back- I know that taking Broadway by storm is your life's dream and everything but I MISS YOU!  We're going to have SO much fun!  Let's do all of the dumb stuff that you and me and Rickki used to do.  Can it REALLY be two whole years since all of us were together at one time!?  First Rickki discovers that long lost aunt and moves to Los Angeles, then you quit school (dumb!) and move to New York (I saw your mom the other day- she was wearing leopard print toreador pants) to get all famous and stuff!  And then Sharen goes and gets MARRIED (can you believe that she got married?  I thought for sure it would be Kile!  Who would've ever thought it would be *Korey*?) and moves to *Iowa* or something.  At least most of the gang will be back together though- I got a letter from Rickki (on pink paper with little silver hearts all over it- so Ricky!) and he says that he'll be here the day after you- isn't that great?!

    School's been okay I guess, kind of weird and stuff.  I'll explain the weird part when I see you-

I can't really talk about something that creepy in a letter.

Love, Angella

 

    Clutching the letter like an asthmatic clinging to an inhaler, Raeanne felt as though she might just burst into flames.  Instead, she burst into tears.  Watching her reflection she snapped "Waterproof my ass!" as the  mascara melted and mixed with her tears and ran down her

Nivea slick face.  "I'm going to play the role of my life!  Nobody is going to find out what I've been doing- *especially* Angella".  A wave of guilt and fear rushed over her.  There was something else that Angella must never, ever find out.  Raeanne knew that there would be *no* forgiveness this time.  Even a girl with a heart big enough to have forgiven her for that awful drunken one night stand with Jorden (she could barely remember it) wouldn't be able to forgive her for *this*.  She thought of that night and audibly groaned.  She put the slippery mess that was her face into her hands and rocked back and forth.  In going back home she ran the certain risk of  coming face to face with the worst thing she'd *ever* done.  Groaning and rocking like a madwoman, a dancer named Candy Cane (who was so agile and dedicated to her craft that a customer once suffered whiplash from merely witnessing her finale) jiggled by and commented snidely "Not even midnight yet and she's already completely toasted".  Raeanne didn't hear her (which was a lucky thing for Miss Cane).  She pressed the letter from her sweetest friend to her chest.  "Home" oh, that word sounded so wonderful!  To be "home" for even a little while!  Blowing her nose loudly on a towel she decided that if she was to live, to continue living, she needed that thing called home.  She needed to see Angella.  She was willing to take the risk.  She *would* pull it off.  "If I have to *kill* someone to keep the truth from coming out...I will...I *swear* I will".

 

   Rickki couldn't close the suitcase.  "You've got feathers hanging out" remarked Heather dryly.  "And before that you had sequins hanging out.  And before that it was red chiffon.  Face it precious, you need a bigger suitcase!"

    Perspiring and flustered, Rickki's hands flew up in resignation.  "You're right!  You're right!  I'm packing it all wrong, I'm packing all the wrong things too!  Oh I don't know if I can do this!  What if they hate me!  What if they want me to leave!  What if they don't want me staying with them!"  Rickki collapsed in tears and gulped at Heather's reassuring touch.

   "We've been through all of this before" she said patiently.  "They're going to love you.  They've *always* loved you" she dabbed Rickki's face with a tissue.  "And they're always going to love you!  AND they've made it clear that they want you to stay with them!"

   "Come with me!" cried Rickki desperately.

   "We've been through this" Heather said patiently.  "The idea of you being with me, of us both being together would certainly be a bit much" she said kindly.  "There's nothing to worry about!"

Rickki sniffed.

    "It's the drugs I think.  One day I feel so good and the next...".  Another flood of tears began.

   "There there" patted Heather.  "You'll get through this!  We *both* will!  Haven't you held my hands through all of this too"?  Rickki smiled.  "That's what I like to see!" beamed Heather.  "Now, let's re-do your suitcase, maybe a little less lilac lace and a little more linen"?  Rickki nodded.  As Heather chose and tossed and folded and performed miracles, Rickki's mind drifted.  Angela should have been told the truth a long time ago.  But loss and rejection had been such close and bitter friends to Rickki that the idea of possibly experiencing more had been just too terrible to contemplate.  So many lies to undo.  There had never been a long lost aunt in Los Angeles.  Rickki had simply grown weary of people's pitying stares.  Being homeless and without roots gave the word *lonely* a new and terrible meaning.  Rickki knew what it was like to be alone, really alone.  The thought of being back at a place still thought of as home was like food for the soul.  "I'll get through this...somehow".  Heather smiled...

 

   Angella closed her laptop.  Ever since Dannelle had tinkered with it it had worked perfectly.  Hard to think that her kid sister had grown so much in the past two years.  Dannelle excelled at everything she did; president of the math club, computer whiz, captain of her  swim team, member of the band, she could do it all.  Calm and placid, she never seemed to suffer the same angst that Angela had experienced at her age.   "Lucky kid" she murmured to herself.  She tucked her now long auburn hair behind her right ear and thought about the past year.  Her freshman year had been tough.  She'd felt so shy and out of place and had wanted to quit dozens of times.  But Raeanne had been her staunchest non-parental supporter.  "Whaddya mean *quit*!" she'd taunted Angella.  "Quitting is for quitters and the Angella I know is no quitter so get your ass back in gear girl!".  The phone rang causing her to jump and clutch her chest.  Heart thumping wildly, she let the machine pick up.  A huge sigh of relief raced through her when she heard her mother's voice.  "Angella!  It's me!  Are you there?"  Angella quickly picked up the receiver and tried to make her voice sound as normal as possible.

   "Hi mom!" she said too brightly "What's up?"

   "Are you okay?" Patti said accusingly, aware that there was tension in her daughter's voice.

    "Yeah!  Sure!  Of course I'm okay!" giggled Angella nervously.  "I was just kind of ...distracted...or something.  So!  What's happening?"  Apparently satisfied with Angela's explanation her mother began rapidly speaking.

   "...and don't forget to bring little Grahame that present you promised- you know how disappointed he'll be if you forget..."

   "I won't mom".

   "...and don't forget your laundry- every time you come home there seems to be less and less of it..."

   "I promise mom".  She looked over at the bag sitting on her desk.  It was kind of fun to be old enough to enjoy spoiling  her baby brother. 

    "...Oh!  Have you heard the latest?  About Sharen?  She left her husband!  She's been staying at the cabin..."

   "You mean that cabin her parents own?  The one they use during the summer?"

   "Yep, that's the one.  Well, not only has she left him but she told her mother that she thinks that *Kile* has been *stalking* her"!

   "You're kidding!  That's like, so weird...why did she leave him and why is Kile like...stalking her"?

   "Well, I don't know about Kile except that that boy never seemed to have all his marbles in the first place.  Kamille also mentioned a pint of whiskey a day..."

   Angella let her mother ramble on.  The sound of her mother's voice was soothing, unlike the sounds that had begun plaguing her a few weeks earlier.  The phone rang and Angella, unthinkingly, had snatched it up cheerfully.  To her horror she heard first silence and then

a strange synthesized wail.  The sound made the hair on the back of her neck stand up and her stomach clench in fear.  She tried to tell herself that it was just some sort of line interference- crossed wires or something, but she knew better.  Something deep in her soul told her that something was very, very wrong.  "Who is it"? she cried the first time.  The wail stopped and was replaced with something even worse- a sticky shallow breathing.  By the third identical call she'd stopped answering the telephone and always left the machine on.  For two weeks the calls never varied.  But then something was added, something sinister in spite of Angela's constantly reassuring herself that someone with a sick sense of humor was playing a joke on her.  After the initial heart stopping silence came that gut wrenching mechanical scream and then...a voice.  It sounded strange, altered, unreal.  At least that's what Angella, in her agitated and sleepless state was beginning to think.  "I think you should know" promised the voice "that something bad is going to happen...something *very* bad".  And then there was high pitched synthetic sounding laughter...like a loon under the influence of alcohol and helium or something equally surreal.

Then there was a sigh of deep satisfaction.  "Love is waiting...love is biding it's time...".

And then there was...silence...


Chapter Two - Blood In The Hallway

   It felt surprisingly good to be back in her old room.  Patti, having once been a college girl herself, understood the importance of familiar surroundings and had left Angella's room untouched when she and Grahame Sr. had re-decorated.  Everything looked and felt the same, if a bit worn and faded.  But Angella loved things that way, they were so comforting.  Her bedside extension (put in when Angella had turned sixteen) rang and Angella instinctively jumped.  "Relax" she told herself firmly.  In the two days she'd been home she hadn't received one disturbing phone call.  "Probably just some freak" she consoled herself and resolutely picked up the receiver.

    "Hey girlfriend!" drawled Raeanne.

    "You're home!" squealed Angella.  "This is like, *so* cool!  When can I see you?"  There was a slight pause from Raeanne who recovered quickly and began babbling.

    "As soon as possible!  Why don't you meet me at that great burger place, you know, by the loft".  Fearing that she had said something which might bring up unhappy memories of Jorden, she quickly changed topics.

    "And speaking of Tino which we weren't but we are now, GET THIS!  My very own MOTHER and TINO have been...how can I phrase this for your delicate ears...an item!  Can you like, *believe* that?" 

   Angella felt a pang of annoyance.  Everyone still treated her like sweet good little innocent Angella.  She was an *adult* now, couldn't everyone see that?

   "You're kidding me!  Your mom and *Tino*?" she said.  Actually, knowing Mrs. Graffe, anything was possible, even Tino.

   "So, I like have *so* much to tell you!  See you in an hour!"

   Angella gently replaced the phone on the receiver (her parents apparently hadn't heard of cordless phones).  A wave of sadness washed over her.  Raeanne mentioning the band brought up the subject of Jorden, a subject that had been on her mind ever since returning home.  After he'd quit school in his junior year gotten a job detailing cars (or something like that) at a local garage.  Angella knew it was silly of her to feel so anxious at the thought of running into him, after all, whatever little they'd had had been over long ago.  Still, there were times when he seemed to live in her dreams.  Such sweet dreams they were and so real that when she woke up she'd be confused and wonder if they'd really happened.  She could still feel his lips, so soft, against hers and when she inhaled she could still smell his scent- so warm, so good.   Looking into the mirror as she brushed her glossy hair she wondered if he would think she looked different and if he thought those differences were good ones.  "Probably he wouldn't think at all" she said to herself.  Jorden had never been one for deep introspective thought, a reality that, had she understood it earlier, would have saved her a lot of grief over him.  And besides, the whole subject of Jorden was moot anyway since he'd married Cyntheea Harrgrove a year ago...

 

   Rickki looked out of the motel room window, the view of which consisted of a weary looking housekeeper pushing a heavy looking cart across the hot looking parking lot.  "I really am a coward.  I've been here for eight hours and I still haven't gotten up the courage to face Angella".  Feeling hungry and craving more than motel snacks, Rickki decided to get a big juicy burger with thick cut fries and a real strawberry shake made with real ice cream and damn the dieting.   Adjusting the white shorts (Heather said they gave Rickki a really curvy rear) and smoothing the

pale aqua top, Rickki applied lip gloss and slipped on some sunglasses.  A final look in the mirror, a final pat of the dark curls, and Rickki left.

 

   Ms. Kriznowski sighed at the stack of paperwork still to do.  The temperature in her office felt sub tropical and she wished she'd worn a cooler dress.   School was officially out but she still had plenty of odds and ends to clear up before her *vacation* could begin, if you could call working at a summer camp for disturbed children a vacation.  Still, it was by a lake and she wouldn't be working *all* the time.  So many children, so many teenagers, passed through her life each day.  "And none of them mine" she sighed.  Her job took so much out of her that she didn't know if she could cope with a husband and family of her own.  "Enough" she said to herself.  "I'll never get through if I keep daydreaming".  Reaching for her now warm can of soda, she heard her office door open.  Looking up, she was stunned by who she saw standing there.  "I don't believe it" she said "You're about the last person I expected to see...and you look so...*different*...".

 

   The meeting had gone far better than Raeanne had expected.  All her fears momentarily vanished when she saw Angella, looking around in the same pensive way she'd always had, in the

lobby of the restaurant.  When Angella caught sight of her they ran squealing to each other and hugged and jumped up and down.  "What are we, like *12* or something?" cried Raeanne with tears in her eyes.  "We'd better sit down before people think we're engaged or something".  Angella, feeling a moment of awkward silence, picked up her menu and briefly scanned it.  She'd gone through a short vegetarian period, switched back to meat, and then dropped the cow and kept the chicken.  She took a sip of water and looked at Raeanne.  She looked so much different it was hard to believe that it was the same Raeanne!  Gone were the braids and the bleached bits and the trailing scarves and the eclectic clothing.  Raeanne's hair was an even chestnut and cut in a flattering chin length bob with a bit of wave to it.  She wore beige shorts and a simple white top.  Her only jewelry was a pair of small gold earrings.  She wore no make up and Angella couldn't help but notice that there were dark circles under her eyes.

   "So!" chirped Angella "Tell me *everything*"!

   "You first girl" replied Raeanne.  "I want to know all about this big mysterious thing you couldn't tell me about".

   "Okay, but we better eat first...it's kind of hard to talk about on an empty stomach...".

 

   Only Bryan Crakkow claimed to have heard the sirens.  He too was home for the summer (the Crakkow's had divorced and Mrs. Crakkow had gotten the house...and Bryan... as part of the settlement).  He was working at the bookstore a block from their high school.  Out on an errand for his boss (the post office) he reported seeing the police cars with lights and sirens going full blast shoot past him.  An ambulance had soon followed...

 

   Relaxed after those initial moments of tension, Angella and Raeanne had been chattering away like the old friends that they were when Raeanne looked up, mouth full of cheeseburger (Raeanne ate everything and anything), and sputtered (a piece of ketchup covered fry landed on Angella's arm) "Omigod!  I don't believe it!  It just absolutely positively cannot be!  Look Angella look"!  Angella turned to look but Raeanne whisper-screamed "NO!  Don't actually *look*!  I swear, I absolutely *swear* that Rickki is sitting at a table across the restaurant!"  Cautiously, Angella turned around and tried to peer nonchalantly around the room.  All she saw was a booth full of mothers with noisy toddlers, a elderly couple arguing about whether the husband should have ice cream "You know what it does to you Harold and I personally don't wish to spend the evening listening to you farting the Star Spangled Banner!" said the wife with contempt, and a pretty, dark young woman nibbling nervously on a cheeseburger.        

    "There must be something weird in that burger you're eating because I sure don't see Rickki" said Angella when she turned back to Raeanne.

   "Look again" said Raeanne firmly. 

 

   "How can I help you?" Ms. Kriznowski asked with some perplexity.  

   "Oh, I think you've *helped* enough already" was the cryptic reply.

   "I don't know what you're talking about" said Ms. Kriznowski with a sudden nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach.

   "That doesn't really matter, does it?  After all, love is waiting...love is biding it's time.  In fact, love is through waiting....as of this moment, love is doing what love needs to do...".

   As though watching a movie in slow motion, Ms. Kriznowski watched, with a strange detached fascination, the protractor appear, be opened, and then, in a graceful arc, descend with a savage fury that left her no time to cry out.  Hands flailing, gasping for breath from her punctured lungs, Ms. Krisnowski fell to the floor and began to crawl.  Or to be more precise, *tried* to crawl for her killer fell upon her with sadistic and greedy joy.  "Love *is* going to conquer all!" were the last words that she heard before she slipped into the unconsciousness that would bring her to the edge of death and then...beyond...


Chapter Three - The End Of Jordan ?

   As Raeanne instructed, Angella turned again and looked.  Her eyes stayed on the pretty dark young woman.  The woman, lost in thought, was unaware that Angella was studying her.  And then the woman made a gesture in wiping her lips that was so individual that Angella knew immediately...the young woman was Rickki...

 

    Grahame and Patti sat in front of the television set which was tuned to the evening news.

    "A local teacher was found stabbed to death in her office earlier this afternoon.  At approximately 1:30 pm a fellow teacher, one Arthur Katinsky, found the deceased, Ellen Krizenowski collapsed beside her desk.  The weapon, possibly an ice pick or other very sharp object, was not recovered.  Police are looking for a young woman wearing a plaid shirt with chin length red hair.  The young woman is *not* a suspect but may have seen something and may have information vital to the investigation.  If you know this young woman or are this woman please call..."

    Patti snapped off the set.  "Dannelle, could you please go out and check for the mail- it's been getting her later and later every day..."

    "Sure mom" said Danielle with an agreeable sigh that said "I know you want me out of the room".

    "That does it" said Patti.  "First the Crakow's are burgled and now *this*, I think we should think of getting a home security thing..."

    "You mean, like an alarm system or something"? said Grahame.

    "Exactly".

 

    Bryan couldn't believe it.  Ms. Krizenowski *dead*.  When he heard the sirens he thought it was probably some old guy having a heart attack or something, not Ms. Krizenowski  actually being *killed*.  In spite of the heat he shivered.  Things had been so weird lately.  His mother had reported one break in at their house but Bryan wasn't so sure that there hadn't been more than one.  The reported break in had been so strange, the usual stuff like t.v.'s and v.c.r.'s hadn't been taken.  What had been taken was really bizarre; two shirts he'd left on top of his mother's sewing basket (she kept saying she'd sew the missing buttons back on but never quite got around to it- he'd have been better off doing it himself), a bottle of his aftershave (he didn't need to shave more than once a week but he liked smelling good), and a pile of their mail.  Bryan suspected an earlier "break in" if it could be called that (no doors had been forced open) when he discovered that his old saxophone and most disturbing of all, his journal, were missing.  He'd asked his mother if she'd tossed his sax but she looked so uncomprehendingly at him that it was clear that she'd forgotten that he'd ever played it.  The missing journal *really* bothered him as it was filled with some really private stuff.  Stuff about how he felt about Angella, and Deelia (now that they'd been casually dating again- apparently she'd forgive him for choosing Angella over her), and especially, *everything* that had happened that night at Angella's New Year's Eve Party.  He groaned audibly when he thought of what he'd done that night.  He'd been so wracked with guilt, so filled with shame that he'd even thought of killing himself.  In desperation he'd finally gone (terrified that someone would see him) for some counseling which hadn't really helped.  In fact, it had made it worse as afterward he realized that one more person on the planet knew what a really bad person he was and must hate him as much as he hated himself.

 

    "Rickki?  Can it really be Rickki"?  said Angella in astonishment.  Raeanne took a swig of her Coke (which, in the "old" days she would've spiked with the contents of the flask she always carried), swallowed and said,

    "It is, I'm sure it is"!  She stood up and started to wave but Angella grabbed her hand.

    "No" she said "I don't think that we should embarrass him...her...oh I don't know what to do"!

    Angella was spared further contemplation when, stealing another furtive peek, she saw that Rickki was starring at her with a look that combined both hope and terror.

    "Is it really you"? she mouthed.  Rickki nodded.  Angella jumped up and, tossing decorum aside, rushed over to Rickki and flung her arms around him...her.   Raeanne, burger in hand, followed.

    "Why didn't you *tell* us"! cried Angella.  Overcome with emotion, Rickki just violently nodded in that "I don't know" way that he had and burst into tears.

    "I was afraid you'd hate me" she said in a voice that bore little resemblance in pitch, but everything in cadence, to the old Rickki.  Astonished, Angella hugged Rickki and Raeanne just stood there, gawping, just like the Raeanne of old.

 

    "You're actually telling me that Rickki is now a *girl*"? exclaimed Patti in astonishment.

    "Do you mean that he's a *girl* girl now, one of those "I-used-to-be-a-guy-but-now-I'm-a-girl-not-just-because-I-dress-like-one-but-because-I-had-my...I-had-*the*...operation?" cringed Grahame who crossed his legs and winced.  Angella sighed.  Her parents were still so...well, her *parents*.

    "Yes, I think he...she's now officially a woman or something...I guess it can be official".

    "But don't...I mean, isn't he still kind of young to have that done?  Doesn't he...she have to be a certain age or have some kind of permission or something?" said Patti with furrowed brow.

    "Well, I guess that if you have enough money, anything is possible and believe it or not, Rickki...I mean *Erica*..."

    "Erica"? her parents said in unison.

    "Well, I guess he wanted...I mean *she* wanted a female name that reminded him...her...of her real name, Enreeque".

    "What were you saying about money"? said Grahame.

    "Oh!  Yeah, believe it or not, Ri...Erica has *plenty*!  When she went to L.A. (by the way he didn't really have a long lost aunt there) he...she began designing jewelry and now she, like, actually makes a *living* making jewelry"!

    Grahame and Patti sat for a few seconds and tried to absorb everything.

    Danielle appeared, as if out of nowhere.  "Don't forget to tell Angella about what happened to Ms. Krizenowski" she said solemnly.

    "What do you mean"? asked Angella innocently...

 

    On the way to the grocery store Angella glanced at herself in the rear view mirror.  She felt kind of numb.  Her mother had volunteered to go and do the shopping for Erica's arrival (and Raeanne's- Angella knew she'd better *really* stock up) but Angella knew that if she didn't get some air she'd faint or explode or die or something equally awful.  Ms. Krizenowski *dead*!  Things like that just didn't happen to the people that you actually *knew*.  And then Angella thought of all those phone calls and shuddered in the air conditioned car.  Narrowly missing a car when she parked (she never had gotten the hang of parking- especially the parallel kind) she grabbed her bag and walked quickly, head down, into the store.  She could have absolutely died on the spot when the first person she came absolutely face to face with turned out to be...Jorden Catillano.  Turning every shade of red possible she stammered,

    "Well...hi...it's been...a...long time".  Wishing that the ground would open up and neatly swallow her, she shrugged and tried to look composed.  Jorden's hair was short now, really short, and he was very tan and even better looking (if such a thing were possible) then when she'd last seen him.  Married life must be treating him well.  She was painfully aware of the ragged condition of her shorts and desperately wished she'd worn a better looking top and at least some lip gloss.

    "Yeah" he replied in his languid fashion.  "It's been like...a really long time.  You're looking...good" he said as though he really meant it.

    "Yeah, you too" she said hopelessly.

    "So, I guess you're home for the summer or something"? he said.

    "Yeah, the whole summer..." she replied.  He leaned towards her in that way he had.  He smelled *so* good.

   "Well..." he said conspiratorially "maybe we can like...get together...or something"?  Angella had to shake her head to make sure she'd heard him correctly.  Was he actually asking her out on a *date*?  Had he forgotten he was married or didn't he care or was he only asking in a friendly way- a double date or something with his wife and Angella and her date?  He moved a fraction of an inch closer and reached out and lightly stroked her arm.  It gave her instant goose bumps.  "I know a little quiet place we could...go to" he said meaningfully.  Angella nearly said "What kind of place?  Like the boiler room in the basement of Liberty High"? but instead said,

   "Uh...yeah...we'll have to do that sometime..." and walked away shaking her head.  It was just too much!  First Rickki becoming Erica, then poor Ms. Krizenowski getting murdered, and now, Jorden Cattilano actually *hitting* on her!  What did he think she was?  Easy?  She'd already proven that she wasn't easy, maybe that was it?  Maybe he couldn't stand the fact that one female had successfully avoided being (as Raeanne put it) "humped and dumped" by him and now he was determined to put her on his "did her" list?  And then two things struck her; one was the fact that she had really had grown up, Jorden really meant nothing to her and in fact, she felt contempt for him.  Her second thought was more of a premonition, that maybe spending the summer at home wasn't going to turn out to be such a great idea after all...  

 

   "So he...she wants us to call her Erica and not Rickki"? asked Patti nervously with an equally anxious (but fascinated) looking Grahame standing behind her holding a platter of veggies and dip.

   "Well, I think, yeah, that's exactly what she wants" replied Angella.  Looking into the kitchen and around the living room she was genuinely touched at how hard her parents had worked to make Erica (and Rayenne) feel welcome.  Grahame had baked a beautiful triple layer chocolate torte, Patti had prepared a large platter of cold nibbles ("With plenty of cheese for Raeanne") and there were bowls of assorted munchies everywhere and plenty of drinks in the fridge.

   "This is just like, so great" she murmured and then, much to their surprise, hugged her parents and held on to them as though afraid they might vanish if she let go.

   "Can I stay and hang out"? said Dannelle.  Wiping tears from her eyes (but trying to look like she hadn't been sniffling) Angella said,

   "Oh...well sure, yeah, that'd be fine" and embraced her sister who, momentarily, stiffened and pulled away slightly.  Angela was surprised at how strong her sister was until she remembered all those hours doing laps in the pool and vowed to take up swimming herself.   "Poor kid" she thought "I really haven't been all that nice to her and it's time I made up for it".  She lightly tousled Danelle's still wispy looking hair.  She'd grown but was still small and Angella feared that the only thing about Dannelle that people would ever really notice was her absence of any really noticeable trait.  "Of course you can stay"! cried Angella "I've *really* missed you"!  Dannelle looked puzzled for a moment, realized that Angella wasn't teasing, and hugged her back gratefully.

   "Hey, don't you have a sweet sixteen party coming up soon"? Angella teased.  Dannelle blushed.

   "Aw" she said bashfully.

 

   Bryan noticed two female figures enter the Chaese home and was curious to know who they were.  Ever since Angella came home he'd been dying to go over and say hi but didn't want to appear like old dopey mopey Brian who always followed Angella around like a puppy.  He understood that there (well, probably) would never *really* be anything between him and Angella and he was really okay with that.  Well, most of the time.  You never forgot your first love even if your first love didn't *know* that she was your first love, right?  And now it looked like even Deelia wasn't interest in him.  She said she'd forgiven him long ago for dumping her to go to the dance with Angella but from that day forward she'd always been a little distant, like she'd decided not to trust him completely ever again.  He'd gone to her home at the agreed upon time (they were going to go a Fellini festival downtown) and knocked repeatedly, but nobody answered.  He could've sworn that he saw a curtain gently flutter but maybe he was just imagining things.  He didn't think he was *ever* going to understand females.  He decided to nuke something for dinner and watch every episode of I Claudius and *not think about Angella* or Deelia or anything.  He would have stuck to his resolution too...until he saw the police car pull up in front of the Chaese house... 

    Quietly, cautiously, unobtrusively, Bryan wandered over and walked quietly into the hallway (the door was open and nobody noticed him anyway).  Two uniformed police officers were talking to Angella, her parents hovering anxiously nearby.  He could hear their radios crackling, a strange sound to be hearing in the Chaese home.  Inching a bit closer he could see a girl, well, young woman really, with her arms around Angella.  Another female was standing almost behind Mr. Chaese so he couldn't see who it was.

   "But I was nowhere *near* the Loft at four o'clock today!  The *only* place I went today was the supermarket and yes, I definitely saw Jorden Catillano there for all of about 3 minutes!  Like I said, we talked and then he left and I went in and did my shopping"!  As proof Patti produced the receipt. Bryan's eyes strayed back to the girl.  She was beautiful and she kept gently patting Angella's shoulders.  "Are you *sure* that Jorden is really *missing*?  I mean like, *missing* missing"?  Said Angella, her voice shaking.  Grahame interjected,

   "I thought that people had to be missing for 48 hours before you went looking for them and besides, what does this have to do with our daughter"?

   The female officer finished writing something and answered,

   "Well, normally that would be our procedure but Mr...." she looked down at her clipboard "Mr. Catillano's wife suspects foul play and as you probably know, a local guidance counselor was killed yesterday and we have reason to believe that there may be a link between the murder and the disappearance". 

   Everyone in the room suddenly remembered that a young woman fitting Angella's description had been seen in the vicinity of Liberty High when Mz. Krizenowski had been killed.  Tight lipped, Graheme asked the officer,

   "And exactly *who* was it who claimed that Angella was somewhere she was clearly not"?  The second officer answered,

   "We received an anonymous call sir from someone claiming to have seen not only a young woman fitting Ms. Chaese's description but claiming that it was indeed Ms. Chaese herself.  The caller said that she and Mr.  Cattilano were seen arguing, that Ms. Chase claimed that she was going to kill him, and then they got into his car and drove away and he hasn't been seen since".  Patti had had enough.

   "That's it!  Our daughter has answered your questions fully.  Will there be anything else?  No?  Good then, I'll show you both to the door".

   Realizing that they weren't going to learn anything else and recognizing that "One more question and we'll phone our lawyer look" on Patti's face, they followed her to the door. 

   "Will Ms. Chaese be available to answer any additional questions we may have during our inquiry?  Truth is, we're pretty sure that the detectives will want to talk to Ms. Chaese first thing tomorrow".  Patti, teeth gritted, smiled graciously,

   "Of course officers!  You have a pleasant evening now"!

   She closed the door firmly and when she turned around gave a little scream when she saw Bryan standing there.  Her hand flew to her chest. 

   "Bryan!  I don't think I'll *ever* get used to your sudden appearances"!  Before she could invite him in the phone began ringing.  "I'll get it" she called to Grahame who was kneeling on one knee next to Angella and patting her hand.  She came back, five minutes later, pale and grim faced.

   "Okay everyone"  she said gravely "I have to tell you all some bad news.  That was Kamille, Sherrin isn't staying up at the cabin like everyone thought.  She's been home for three days.  Apparently someone, presumably Kile, broke into the cabin and smashed all the windows and kicked in doors and completely trashed the place.  They have to go up there and clean it up and secure the place and they've asked us to drive up there with them to help.  I've called Uncle Neal and he's agreed to take little Grahame.  So, we'll just have to grab a few things and go.  I doubt we'll be gone for more than a day or two at the most.  I'm telling you this part of the news first because after I tell you the second part you be too distracted to comprehend anything I've said".

The room crackled with tension.  "Okay, I'm just going to say it flat out...both Jorden Cattilano and that friend of yours from school, Deelia, have been found...murdered".

   


Chapter Four - When Nightmares Become Reality

      Deelia willingly opened the door to the visitor standing on the porch who was holding a large black case. 

   "Oh hi"!  she said, inspecting the visitor quizzically "I know you, don't I"? she said in her natural, bubbly way.

   The visitor smiled a secret smile and nodded, yes.  Most people would have questioned why this particular person was standing on their doorstep holding a large black case but, unfortunately for her, Deelia was one of life's innocents, a young woman who was absolutely trustworthy and so felt that everyone else must be too.  Smiling, friendly, the doomed young woman invited death into her home, even making offers of iced tea which the visitor politely declined.

   "Tea isn't good for me" the visitor said.  "The caffeine makes me jumpy".

 

   Patti took another, deeper breath, and continued.

   "Apparently it's all over the news...naturally the police were the last ones to know"! she spat viciously.  Smoothing her already faultlessly ironed blouse, she gained control of her voice.

"When Kamille called Sherrin, Sherrin told her everything.  It's true Angella honey, Jorden has been...he's...died" she stumbled.  "But you are in *no* way a suspect as his wife has confessed to killing him.  She shot him at least six or seven times.  My guess is that *she* was the anonymous caller.  Maybe she followed him and saw him talking to you".  Seeing Angella's stricken face she added quickly "Honey, you are *not* in *any way* responsible!  I should have told you this before but it's been a well known fact that Jorden has not exactly been a good and faithful husband.  You are *not* responsible"!  she said again firmly.  Bryan appeared from the hallway and asked in a quaking voice,

   "Mrs. Chaese...you said that...that...something bad... had... happened to...to...Deelia"?  Patti had completely forgotten that Bryan was there.  She remembered that Bryan had been going out with Deelia and immediately put her arms around the shaking boy.

   "Oh Bryan, oh I'm *so* sorry...to have heard about it like that...I'm so sorry.  I really don't know very much, perhaps there will be more on the news later.  I only know that Deelia was found" she couldn't bring herself to say the word *dead* "...deceased.  Kamille said that Deelia's brother was taken away for questioning.  So, as dreadful as this all is the only...well, I can't say *good*...the only *less horrible* thing about this is the fact that none of the deaths seem to be related".

   Everyone knew that poor Deelia had a scary, jealous, and possibly dangerous brother who had grown even scarier, more jealous and much more dangerous when their parents had died and left Deelia their entire estate.

    In a way everyone was almost relieved, they'd all been thinking that some sort of serial killer was loose ,fears that were apparently groundless.  Patti looked at Angella, who was sobbing against Erica's shoulder and Bryan who's features appeared to be molded out of wax and exclaimed,

   "Oh Grahame, we just *can't* leave now!  How can I reach Kamille and tell her that we just can't make it?  I should have said no on the phone but I was just so...shocked...by it all". 

   Angella stood up, sniffed hard, tucked her hair behind her ear and said firmly (but stuffily as crying always gave her instant sinusitis),

   "No mom" she sniffled "Mr. and Mrs. Chirskee need you- especially since he had that second heart attack.  We'll all be fine, we'll all stay together, right"? she said, looking expectantly around the room. 

   "That's my GIRL"! cried Raeanne and flung her slender arms around her best friend.

   It wasn't until that moment that Bryan realized that Raeanne was in the room.  With a gasp he crumpled and then fell, unconscious, to the floor...

 

   "So!" Deelia said brightly "What can I do for you"?  The visitor smiled again.  The visitor began to laugh.  Deelia while puzzled, was not yet alarmed.  "Have I said something funny"? she asked.  The visitor laughed harder.  "Would you like some... water... or something"? she asked in confusion.

   "Yes" replied the visitor "yes, I would like some water.  A *large* glass of water with three ice cubes in it would be nice".  Relieved, her visitor was normal after all, Deelia went into the kitchen and while she got a glass and the three ice cubes and in the last act of thoughtfulness of her life, ran the water until it was nice and cold even though she knew the ice would chill it.  "Are you collecting for something or selling something or...something like that"? she said as she entered the living room bearing the slightly sweating yellow and blue striped glass.  What she saw caused her to drop the glass.  It didn't land on the room size rug her mother had been so proud of, but on the hardwood floor.  When it hit the floor it made a noise like a small explosion.  Water and shards of glass splattered everywhere.  Deelia began to back away, not believing her eyes.  Before her stood her visitor wearing a lopsided red wig and a plaid shirt.  Deelia had the feeling that the visitor wanted her to say something complimentary about the costume.  The visitor's thin lips were contorted into a comical clown smile, a smile that soon twisted into something that left Deelia little doubt as to the amount of danger she was in.  Sensing that there wasn't a moment to lose, Deelia suddenly turned and began to run, an action that her visitor had fully anticipated.

In her terror Deelia banged her hip into a chair which slowed her down considerably.  She screamed in pain, a scream which made the visitor laugh in a way that conjured up visions of devil's and pitchforks in Deelia's poor frantic mind.  As she slumped to the floor she knew only that something heavy had hit her.  The visitor spoke calmly, reassuringly,

   "It's better if you don't run.  I don't really *want* to have to do this...well, actually I guess I really kind of *do* want to do this but the important thing here is that love has been biding it's time and love's time is now or never.  If you close your eyes it probably won't hurt so much" the visitor said as reasonably as someone who was about to commit a vicious murder could. 

   Deelia's head felt wet and it hurt, a lot.  She also felt kind of sleepy.  "That's funny" she said to herself "I thought that before you died your whole life was supposed to flash before your eyes...

the only thing I can think of is that I hope nobody walks on the glass and cuts their foot..."  Delia heard the visitor take an enormous shuddering breath, as though steeling their body for the tremendous labor ahead.  And then, after feeling a hard rush of air, like a large bird swooping upward, poor Deelia felt nothing at all...

 


Chapter Five - The Price Of Guilt

   Dannelle immediately fell to her knees and, reaching out and grabbing a pillow from the couch, stuffed it under Bryan's head.  She gently slapped the sides of his face and rubbed his hands.  Grahame fetched water and, as Bryan was still unconscious, Dannelle dipped her fingers in the glass and flicked the droplets onto his face.  His eyelids twitched and he moaned slightly and then opened his eyes. 

    "He's okay" she said "He just fainted".  He started to sit up.  She gently but firmly pushed him back.  "No, don't move yet, you'll faint again".  She wrinkled her small forehead and said sternly to him "Have you eaten today"?  Color was beginning to come back to Bryan's cheeks.

    "I...I...don't remember...I think so...no...I don't know".

    "Orange juice" Dannelle said authoritatively.  She noticed that everyone was starring at her.  "First aid class" she said sensibly.  Patti fetched juice and Dannelle fed it to Bryan in small sips.  "He's okay mom" she said.  "You and daddy get ready to leave". 

    "That's another thing...Dannelle, are you staying here or coming with us"?  asked Patti.  Dannelle helped Bryan to a sitting position and then stood up.

    "Well, Bryan's okay now and I'd like to stay...but I think I'd be more use if I went with you and daddy and helped clean up the cabin".  Patti had been hoping she'd say that, Dannelle was a whiz at organizing things; even her underwear was stored alphabetically.  Patti started up the steps and then threw her hands up in dismay,

    "Oh jeez, I totally forgot!  Sherrin is coming over here to stay- Kamille figures it would be about the last place that Kile would look for her".  She got a very stern look on her face and said firmly "Promise me that you'll keep all the doors and windows locked and call the police if you even suspect that he's prowling around".

    "Mom!" said Angella in profound embarrassment.  "It's not like we're all *12* or something"!  Kamille sighed.

    "I *know* but regardless of how old you get I'm still a mom and that's all there is to it"!

    "Gotcha" said Angella.

    "Don't worry Mrs. Chaese, we'll be careful" said Erica reassuringly.

    "Absolutely" said Raeanne, her mouth full of cheese.

    On the way up the steps Grahame said to Patti,

    "So where is Sherrin's husband...or soon to be ex husband or whatever he is"?

    "In the Army...don't ask".

    Erica knelt down by Bryan and offered him a cookie.  Realizing that this was probably the most embarrassed he'd ever been in an entire life filled with embarrassment, he accepted the cookie and biting into it, realized that he was hungry.  Shyly, he looked at Erica.  He felt so comfortable around her.  Something about her seemed strangely familiar.  He couldn't be sure but he thought that he might be in love.

    "Do I know you"? he said.

   Raeanne and Angella just looked at each other.

   "I think he could use some air" said Erica, and let him through the kitchen and out the back door where she made him take deep breaths of warm night air...

 

   "They've been out there for over an *hour*" said Angella looking out the kitchen window.  Raeanne sat glued to the television set.  Distracted, she yelled out,

   "Well, what are they *doing*"?

   "That's just *it*, I don't see them anywhere...do you think we should be like...worried or something"?  Raeanne shivered.

   "I don't know...no, absolutely, positively *not*!  I will *not* be worried"!  She said, sounding very worried.

   "Well, maybe they went to the store or something"?  Raeanne was just about to say something sarcastic when a picture of Deelia appeared on the screen.  Raeanne turned up the sound.

 

   "...brother Chip was released this evening after police were able to confirm his alibi.  The body of the victim was so battered that her brother was unable to identify her and her identity was only confirmed by dental records.  Police say that there was no forced entry and little struggle.  There are no new leads in the stabbing death of a local guidance counselor and police are working to follow up all leads.  In a possibly related story, the wife of murder victim Jorden Cattilano has recanted her confession..."

 

   Angela shuddered and wrapped her arms around her body.  Raeanne put down the large slice of chocolate torte that she was eating long enough to say "Oh wow" and give Angella a hug.

   "Where *are* they?" Angella suddenly cried.  "I can't stand this!  I'm going to find out where they are"!  She got up and raced to the door, Raeanne following closely behind her and leaving a trail of crumbs across the carpet.  Angella flung open the door and screamed.  "Omigod"! she slumped against Raeanne.  "You scared the life out of me"! she cried.

   "Well you didn't do too much for me either"! snapped a pale and shaken looking Sherrin.  Angella looked confused.

   "But shouldn't you have been here earlier?  I mean, my parents have already left...".

   "Mine too" she said following Angella and Raeanne into the house.  "Nice haircut" she said to Raeanne.  "They dropped me off and I pretended to come up to the door but I just needed to get some air.  I went the one place that Kile is about the least likely to show up...church...if you must know" she said sharply.  But her facade of bravura was weakening.  "So I just sat there...and...I just kept asking God why my life has turned to crap".  Angella took her bag from her and Raeanne said,

   "I'll do what they always do in movies, I'll make some tea".

 

   Thirty minutes earlier Tino found himself entertaining a guest in his rundown apartment. 

   "So, it's true what they say" said the visitor.

   "What's true"? said Tino with the beer the visitor had produced from a canvas backpack pressed to his lips. 

   "That you're into all kinds of weirdness"?  said the visitor.  Tino grinned.

   "The weirder, the better" he grinned evilly.  This seemed to gratify the visitor.

   "I'm happy to hear that" the visitor said cheerfully.

   "And why is that"? Tino said, licking his lips and belching loudly.

   "Because I'm into all kinds of weirdness too..."

 

   "I just can't believe it" said Angella.  "Jorden dead".  She said the word, her lips moving but no sound coming out, over and over, trying to get used to it.

   "I don't believe *anything* that's been happening" said Sherrin.  After Angella closed and locked the front door Sherrin had immediately gone upstairs and stayed in the bathroom for twenty minutes.  Angella and Raeanne heard a lot of water running.

   "Um...your tea will get cold" called Raeanne at the foot of the stairs.

   "Coming" she called back.

   She and Raeanne had discussed calling the police but when they realized that Erica's rental car was missing they decided that the two of them had probably gone off together somewhere.

   "But that's impossible"! wailed Angella.  "That is just so unlike Ric...Erica"!

   "Correction, it may be totally *un*like Rickki but how do we know that it isn't totally *like* Erica?  We don't *really* know this Erica at all, do we"?  After the words were out of Raeanne's mouth she instantly regretted them.  What right did she, the biggest hypocrite in the world, have to say *anything* about anyone else?  Especially about Rickki who, even if he was a girl now, just really couldn't be anyone else *but* Rickki inside?

   "Well, I'm with Angella" said Sherrin as she descended the stairs.  She looked better than she had when Angella had opened the door but she looked ill and very upset.

   "Thanks" she said to Raeanne as she picked up the cup and drank.  "It's just what I needed".  She brushed her bangs out of her eyes.  Both Raeanne and Angella couldn't help but notice that the formerly well groomed Sherrin looked like she hadn't combed her hair in days.  Her nail polish was badly chipped and several of her nails looked broken.  Noticing the chipped polish against the white of the cup she said,

   "I haven't exactly had either the time or the inclination to look after myself lately.  It just seemed so...pointless".  She set the cup down and leaned back against the cushions and closed her eyes.  "I meant to thank you and your parents for letting me stay here...I missed you Angella...Raeanne, you look really great...I really need to rest now...took some medication...".  Her voice trailed off and she was asleep. 

   Raeanne realized that she no longer felt any animosity towards Sherrin.  "Everyone really thinks I'm different" she thought.  "Could it be that maybe this is who I really am and that other person" she closed her eyes and felt sick when she thought of the club "is the fantasy"?

   Angella gently pulled Sherrin's shoes off and lifted her feet onto the couch.  "Ohmigod" whispered Angella to Raeanne.  "Look!  There's blood on her pants..."

 

   

   "How's the beer"? asked the visitor with polite fascination.  Sweating heavily, Tino answered, surprised that his voice should slur this much after only one beer.   He felt kind of sick too.

   "Umm...kind of...weird...I guess" mumbled Tino who stumbled backwards and fell into a dirty sagging armchair with no upholstery on the arms.

   "Well" said the visitor brightly "That's really to be expected...after all, with the combination of

sedatives and poison I put into it, you're *bound* to feel weird.  But of course, you *like* things to be weird, don't you"?  Tino tried to focus.

   "Whaddya mean...poison...wha...issa joke..." he murmured slowly.  In spite of the barbiturates coursing through his system he was terrified.

   "Of *course* I'm *joking*" said the visitor gravely and produced a length of rope and a scarf from the canvas backpack.  "I didn't put any poison into the beer...things wouldn't be very enjoyable if I'd *poisoned* you now, would they"?  Tino attempted to stand up.  The surprisingly strong visitor pushed him down with one mighty shove.  Tino slammed into the chair.  Before he had a chance to recover the visitor quickly wrapped the rope around his wrists and tied him securely to the chair.  Sedatives or not, Tino no longer liked the game and fought wildly.  The visitor calmly reared back and punched him hard enough to cause several of his teeth to puncture his cheek.  While he sputtered and blood and saliva ran down his chin, the visitor calmly but tightly tied the scarf over his mouth, causing him to cry out in pain.  "Tsk tsk" said the visitor and then leisurely opened the long black case sitting unnoticed on the floor and removed the two halves of a pool cue and began screwing them together.

   "I know that you'll especially love this, it's just filled with the tricks and weirdness that you...and your now dead friend Jorden Cattilano...enjoy, well, *enjoyed* as in *past tense*.

And the two of you really did just *love* to play tricks on people, didn't you"?  When Tino didn't respond the visitor viciously kicked him in the shin and smiled with satisfaction at the muffled

scream of pain.  "Didn't you"! said the visitor pulling Tino by the hair.  Crying now, looking wild eyed, adrenaline filled blood fighting the sedatives, Tino looked helplessly at his captor.  "As you can see, this is no ordinary pool cue.  It used to be Jorden Catillano's pool cue".  Setting the pool cue down on the floor the visitor removed several items from the backpack.  The first was a red wig which the visitor pulled on.  The second was a plaid shirt...a horribly bloodstained plaid shirt.  Tino began screaming again and the visitor could see that he had lost all control of his bladder.  Ignoring this disgusting display, the visitor put the shirt on, picked the cue up, and continued.  "If you'll look at the tip of it you'll see that the little end is missing...see?... and in it's place, is...well, look for yourself".   And with that, the visitor pulled back as though preparing to throw a javelin and thrust the sharpened cue into the chest of Tino.  Standing back for a moment, the visitor appeared to find the sight of blood pouring from Tino's chest and from under the gag a fascinating and gratifying sight.  Then the visitor pulled, or tried to pull the cue out.  The aim had been so true and the thrust so mighty that the visitor was forced to place one foot on Tino's chest and pull.  The second thrust wasn't quite as deep as the visitor didn't wish to pull bits of Tino out the next time.  Or the next...

 

    "What do you think it means?" whispered Raeanne.

    "I don't know" whispered Angella.  "Maybe it isn't blood at all".  Sherrin's disheveled appearance made that a definite possibility.  "No, it's probably not blood" she said certainly.  Raeanne sighed in relief.

   "Look, why don't we just call Bryan's house- maybe he's there...maybe *they're* there" she said archly, with raised eyebrows, just like the old Raeanne.  Angella couldn't believe that she hadn't thought of doing that before.

   "You're right" she said.

   "Well, you don't have to act so surprised and all" said Raeanne.  "Just give me two seconds to pee, okay"?

   "Sure" nodded Angella as Raeanne raced up the stairs.  She was back, all the color drained out of her face, in two minutes.  Pulling Angella into the kitchen she whispered frantically,

   "Angella!  There's blood all down the side of the toilet and some on the faucet"!  Angella gulped.     

    "What do you *mean* 'there's blood on the toilet'"!

    "I mean what I mean, THERE IS BLOOD ON THE TOILET AND SOME ON THE FAUCET".  They both let this sink in for a few seconds.  Just then Sherrin cried out.  They each screamed and jumped.  Cautiously, they went into the living room where they found Sherrin half sitting up and holding her stomach.

   "Nightmare...I have them all the time now.  Do you have anything to drink?  Like water or anything"?  Raeanne raced back to the kitchen and filled a coffee cup with tepid water.  "Thanks" said Sherrin weakly reaching into the bag at her feet.  She groaned as she removed a prescription bottle.  Uncapping the bottle with one hand she said "Angella, do you have a heating pad or something?  I'm having a really bad period, that's why I was upstairs so long.  I was really a mess".  She tossed several tablets into her mouth (Angella and Raeanne could hear them clinking against Sherrin's teeth) and took a swallow of water.  "Thanks so much" she laid back down.  "I'm sorry I'm being so much trouble..."

   "I'll fix you a hot water bottle" said Angella.

   "Thanks" she said weakly and drifted back to sleep.

   Raeanne and Angella ran back to the kitchen where they collapsed in silent hysterical laughter. 

   "I don't *believe* what were thinking" sputtered Angella.

   "Well, I always did think that Sherrin had homicidal tendencies so you can't really *blame* me" giggled Raeanne who held up a brown bottle.

   "What are you *doing* with that"! cried Angella who tried to grab it from her.  Neatly sidestepping her Raeanne inspected the label. 

   "Wow!  These are really strong and it looks like she took enough to put an elephant to sleep"! 

   "Let me see" said Angella snatching the bottle away.  "You don't think that she's like...o.d.'d or something, do you"? she said worriedly.  Raeanne shook her head.

   "Naw...she'd probably be passed out with a green face and her tongue sticking out by now" said Raeanne firmly with a merry twinkle in her eyes. 

   Angella peered into the living room where Sherrin rolled over.  At least she was moving.  Putting the kettle on she got the hot water bottle and the cover out of the cupboard.  Raeanne picked up the phone.

   "Bry-Bry's number"?  Angella smacked herself on the forehead.

   "Oh jeez...it's next to the phone".  Looking at the neatly typed list Raeanne shook her head.

   "Your mother is just *so* organized" she said dialing.  "Nothing...one ring, two rings, three...oh, someone's picked up...nope, just the answering machine.   Yeah, yeah, yeah, at the sound of the tone...even Crakow's *answering machine* is dull and boring...Hi!  This is Angella and Raeanne and we'd like you both to stop whatever you're *doing* and either call us or come back over here"!  She hung up, giggling.  Angela playfully slapped her and began filling the hot water bottle.

   "It isn't funny" she said.  "I really think we should call the police".

   "Okay" said Raeanne.  "First let me deliver this bottle to cramp girl".

     When the phone rang Angella yelped.  Angella snatched it off it's cradle and cried "Rickki?" but to her everlasting horror all she heard was silence...and then that eerie synthetic wail.  With a wildly pounding heart she slammed the receiver down.  Just as she picked it back up to dial the police she heard the scream of sirens.  

    "Angella!  Get over here!" cried Raeanne.   "There's an ambulance and about fifty cop cars outside of Crakow's house"! 

   


Chapter Six - Where's Erica ?

   Groggily, Sherrin sat up and said "What the *hell* is *that*.  Angela raced past her.

    "It's okay" she said shakily to Sherrin "There's an ambulance outside of Bryan's house".  Sherrin flung herself back onto the couch.

    "Oh God, what *next* she groaned.

    Angela and Raeanne flung open the door and raced to the Crakow house.  Flying through the open front door they heard shuffling upstairs and saw Mrs. (well, *Dr*.) Crakow looking even more pinch faced than usual, talking to a police officer.

    "Officer!  You are *completely* mistaken!  My son did *not* try to kill himself"!  Said Dr. Crakow with shaky dignity and, Angella couldn't noticing with admiration, great command.

    The police officer, attempting to be diplomatic but seriously wishing at that moment that he'd gone into the dry cleaning business with his brother Larry, said patiently,

    "Are you trying to say that your son...that there is some sort of...foul play involved"?  Tightening her chenille bathrobe more tightly around her waist she squared her jaw and stood so straightly (as a child she'd been forced to endure a series of posture improving exercises) that she looked a full foot taller than her five feet five inches.  Fixing the unfortunate officer with a look that usually tamed the most unruly paranoid schizophrenic (Dr. Crakow was a psychiatrist)

she said squarely,

    "No...of course not...my son was merely experimenting with something that you may have heard about...auto erotic asphyxiation..." Turning an unwholesome shade of purple, the officer shuffled his feet. Seizing the moment, Dr. Crakow continued, now fully in control of herself.  "Ah, I see you have officer.  So, as I have no wish to embarrass the lad, let's just keep this as quiet as possible..."

   The sounds of shuffling from upstairs became louder and Angella and Raeanne could see two

latex gloved emergency medical technicians carefully lowering a sheet covered stretcher down the heavily carpeted stairway.  Angela put her hands to her face in horror; Bryan was on the stretcher, his face purplish and covered with an oxygen mask.  He wasn't moving.  Dr. Crakow appeared as the technicians prepared to take Bryan out to their waiting vehicle.

   "Bryan, darling, don't worry!  Everything is going to be *just fine*!  I'm going to get dressed and follow you to the hospital.  Don't try to talk dear" she put great emphasis on the last five words.  And then, chin quivering, she waved him off.  Unsure of exactly what to say the police officer mumbled,

   "...Guess we'll be in touch mam".  She smiled politely,

   "Yes officer, you do that" she said with a forced smile and firmly closed the door behind him.

   "Angela!  Oh my goodness...I didn't see you..." she became flustered but regained her composure quickly.  "As you can see, Bryan has had a...a little accident.  Luckily I came home when I did.  He's going to be *fine*, all of his vital signs are excellent.  Now, if you'll excuse me I must get dressed and meet Bryan at the hospital".  She tightened her belt again and regally ascended the staircase.  As she did, a folded piece of paper fluttered out of her pocket and landed on the expensive Kilim rug...

    Angela bent down and retrieved it.  Raeanne snatched it from her hands and opened it.

    "Don't"! cried Angela "You shouldn't"!  But she didn't stop Raeanne from reading it.

    "Omigod" said Raeanne "This cannot be possible!  I don't believe it" she said, tears filling her eyes.  Hearing the sound of Dr. Crakow's footsteps she hastily folded the note and thrust it into her pocket.  Dr. Crakow crisply descended the stairs, purse in hand.  She had that glazed looked that Angela had seen on the faces of people attending funerals.

    "I must be off now" she said graciously.  "Thank you...both...for stopping over..."

    "Can I...we...do anything to  help you Dr. Crakow"?  

    "No dear, not a thing, except...well..." she flushed "I would appreciate it if, if you'd just say that Bryan had suspected appendicitis should anyone ask".  It was clearly more of a command than a request.

    "Um...well...sure" said Angela with a nervous smile.   And with that, Bryan's mother swept off.

    Raeanne closed her eyes, trying to fight back tears.  She began shaking uncontrollably.

   "Oh my God, what *is* it"? cried Angela "Tell me!  You've got to tell me!   What is in that note!  Tell me!"  She began shaking Raeanne by her shoulders.  Raeanne began giggling hysterically.

   "For the wages of sin is death"! she cried and then began sobbing in earnest.  Angela shook her again.

   "Tell me!  TELL ME! What is it"!  Hiccuping and gulping air, Raeanne spoke.

   "I thought you'd guessed.  I thought you must have known.  I thought that was why I felt such a distance between us, but that you, being Angela, just had such a wonderfully good heart that you

would overlook even that..."

   "Even WHAT"! Angela nearly screamed.

   "Me...what I am...what I've done...thought I've done...all the terrible things I've done...all the lives I've...*destroyed*" she wept pathetically but with something that Angella sensed was a kind of relief.

   "Raeanne...you aren't making any sense"! cried Angela.  Sense.  What was sense?  Nothing seemed to make any sense at all anymore.  Raeanne looked up at her with large eyes filled with pain and torment.

   "I guess that the time has come to tell you everything..." she appeared to be talking to herself "but maybe I won't have too...maybe for once in my life it wasn't my fault..." her voice trailed off and then the Crakow's phone rang.  Without even thinking that she probably shouldn't answer someone else's phone, Angela grabbed it quickly.

   "You've got to come back" said Sherrin sleepily "I've just gotten this really strange phone call" Imagining that it must have been one of *those* calls, Angela steeled herself for the details but then Sherrin said "It was somebody named Erica and she says that she's just been arrested for the murder of Ms Krizenowski...".

 


Chapter Seven - The Light Under The Door

   "We've got to go and get Rickki"! exclaimed Angela.  "I don't believe for one single second that he..."

    "She" interjected Raeanne, wiping her nose on a paper napkin.

    "Whatever"! cried Angela, nearly losing it.

    "In spite of what I said earlier, I don't believe for a single second that Rickki could ever, ever hurt anyone..." said Raeanne.  Angela's heart told her the same thing.

    "What about what you were saying just before the phone rang"?  said Angela.  Raeanne bit her lower lip.

    "It'll have to keep...besides...the idea of you still loving me for a little while longer is an attractive proposition".  Angela knew it was useless to pursue the subject, Raeanne had the look she always got when she shut down emotionally. 

    "Okay" said Angela "I still have like *no* idea what you're talking about but I guess I'll have to wait...first things first, right"?  Gratefully, Raeanne nodded.  "Okay, we can't *both* go to the police station, I mean, we've already left Sherrin alone long enough".

    "Right" said Raeanne "Look, it's probably better if you go, face it Angela, you've got one of the most innocent faces in the universe and besides, you'll be able to figure everything out whereas I, on the other hand, would probably smash my car into the building and try to break Rickki out".  She managed a weak grin.

    "Do you think we'll need money, lawyers, stuff like that"?  said Angela with a frown.  Raeanne shrugged,

    "Best to first find out exactly what's happening...Rickki...ERICA...*always* had a tendency to over dramatize  things"!  Angela almost said,

    "What about YOU"! but didn't...

 

New Year's Eve Party- 1996

 

   Raeanne wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, but she had secretly been in love with Grahame

since the first time she met him.  He was different than a lot of the other father's she'd met- he didn't leer or grab or make *suggestions* when their daughters or wives weren't looking.  Grahame had always made her feel...like she might be...lovable.

   She'd already quit school and moved to New York to begin her career and things had been going badly.  She had no money and if a guy she knew hadn't been driving home for a visit and offered her a ride (for a price) she wouldn't have been able to accept that invitation to Angela's party.

   Angela had looked like an angel, so sweet, so brimming with hope and goodwill that it nearly made Raeanne cry to look at her.  She'd grown taller and her hair was a little longer, but she was still Angela.  Raeanne had tried not to blush when Grahame had given her a friendly hug hello.  Oh he smelled so wonderful!  She recognized the scent immediately- it was her favorite.  He'd been wearing a brilliant red knit pullover sweater with unusually shaped buttons.  When he released her from the hug she allowed her hands to linger for a moment on those buttons, memorizing them, memorizing that hug, hoping to never forget it.

   Patti hadn't been at the party, she was in the hospital a week early (a precaution) waiting for her labor to be induced.  Grahame had proudly explained this to Raeanne and had seemed so sad that he wouldn't be able to be at Patti's side at midnight that Raeanne felt... jealous almost.  Following Angela up the stairs to her room Raeanne allowed herself to lapse into one of her most favorite fantasies, walking up those stairs hand in hand with Grahame...to their bedroom...

 

   Raeanne had been right, the situation at the police station wasn't nearly as terrible as Erica (or Sherrin) had made it out to be.  What Erica had actually said to Sherrin was "They're questioning me about Ms. Krizenowsky's death".  Angella had expected to see Erica in handcuffs but she was sitting by a desk, calmly sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.

   "Are you okay"? said Angela breathlessly.

   "I'm fine"!  oh jeez, you didn't think that..."

   Angela hugged Erica,

   "Of *course* not!  It's just that Sherrin practically said that you'd been arrested and stuff..." shrugged Angela, a stray wisp of hair hanging charmingly in front of each ear.

   "They're just finishing up some papers or something, I didn't mean for you to come down here, I just wanted Sherrin to explain where I was and why I didn't come right back like I told Bryan I would".  Angella looked puzzled.

   "Bryan never told me anything...actually, Bryan had a kind of an...accident...tonight and he's in the hospital..." seeing the profound look of alarm cross Erica's face she hastily added "He's gonna be okay and everything, *really*, I can't say much...I'll just have to tell you later..." her voice trailed off.

   Knowing Angella as well as she did, Erica just nodded.

   "Okay, when I took Bryan out into the backyard he said he was really tired and that he thought he should just go home".  She smiled shyly.  "But he did ask if he could see me again.  I asked him to tell you that I had to go back to the motel" seeing the quizzical look on Angella's face she gently said "Okay, I didn't know how you guys would feel about me...like this...so I got a room and spent hours on the phone talking to Heather and getting my confidence up".  Seeing the question in Angella's eyes, Erica hastened to explain.  "No, it's not what you think, Heather is like me...she used to be a...guy.. too and we met at the doctor's office and got to know each other and moved in together.  It's been great to be around someone who's been going through the same thing- she's been a really good friend".  Angella suddenly realized how terribly lonely Ricky must have been.  She continued.  "When I was in the backyard I realized that I'd forgotten my pills...it's just hormones and stuff" he reassured Angella.  "I have to take them and I figured I'd only be gone for a little while, I...I...kept the room because I wasn't sure..."  Erica began to cry.  Angella held her. 

    "But I still don't understand why you're *here*" said Angella in confusion.  Erica blew her nose delicately on a tissue taken from her elegant designer purse and cleared her throat.  

    "Well, when I went back I found a note on my door that said "I Don't Care Who You Think You Are".  I stopped the housekeeper and asked if she knew anything about it and she said that she saw a girl wearing a red wig and a plaid shirt tape it to the door".  He shuddered.  "I asked her if she'd wait while I looked inside and she said okay.  I didn't notice anything until I looked over by the dresser" Erica gulped, hard.  "On the mirror, written in something...red...were the words 'Love Is Going To Have A Party And You're Not Invited'...but that's not the worst part...laying on the dresser in a plastic bag was this...this metal thing...like you use in math class...a protractor and the inside of the bag looked like it was all...bloody".  Erica shuddered and said in disbelief  "Angella, the police think that the thing in the bag was what killed Ms. Krizenowsky...and they think that it was her blood on the mirror"  she stopped and took a shallow breath "But worst of all, they think that maybe I'm in some kind of...*danger*".  Wishing desperately that her parents were there with her, Angella said in her most reassuring voice,

   "Come home with me, you'll be like, *totally* safe there".

 

New Year's Eve Party- 1996

 

   Sitting on Angela's bed, Raeanne unzipped her bag and took out a pint of vodka.  Ignoring the look on Angela's face, she opened it and took a swallow.  She felt completely deflated.  Going over and over Grahame's hug, it was clear that any illusions she had about him wanting to be with her were just that, illusions.  She took another swig.  The overhead light was hurting her eyes.

   "Uh...I really need to get back downstairs and play hostess and stuff...are you coming"?  Asked Angella without much hope.  Raeanne kicked off her shoes.

   "Truth is, I'm feeling a little bit tired from that long drive and I really wouldn't mind just kind of resting here for a little bit.  Okay"?  Not wanting to leave her but knowing that she had other guests downstairs, Angela went reluctantly.  "Angela?  Turn the overhead light off honey, my eyes really hurt".  Laying in the dark, with only the faintest glow from the moon illuminating the room, Raeanne took several more sips from the vodka and then, fell asleep. 

    She had no idea how much time had passed when she woke up.  Her eyes still hurt so she tried not to open them any more than necessary.  The bedroom door opened and a painful sliver of light backlit the figure standing there.  Raeanne couldn't make out who it was, only that it was male.  The figure approached the bed, slowly, cautiously.  Fearing that she was dreaming, she reached out to the figure who sat next to her.  "It can't be true, it can't be happening, it's just too wonderful" she whispered.  She reached up and felt his chest, letting her fingers glide over the smooth knit fabric until she felt those buttons, those unusual buttons whose contours she had memorized.  And the cologne, there was no mistaking it, her dream was here with her, wanting to be with her as much as she wanted to be with him.  "Oh!  I've waited and waited for this to happen"! she cried ecstatically "I love you!  I've always loved you!  Hurry!" and she pulled the figure towards her, stroking the smooth hair on the nape of his neck.  "He feels the same way that I do!" she cried joyfully to herself as he began kissing her more passionately than she'd ever imagined... 

 

   When Raeanne went back to the Chaese house she didn't immediately notice that anything was different.  Sherrin was still on the couch, with her back towards her, and a blanket covering her nearly completely.  "I know that the a.c. is cranked to the max but even so" she shook her head.

She remembered that in all the excitement she still hadn't gone to the bathroom so she painfully made her way upstairs.  "That's weird" she said as she passed Dannelle's room "the light's on and I don't remember it being on before...I probably just didn't notice before".  She went to open the door and check it out but then she remembered that Dannelle (much like Angela had at that age only more so) had a thing about anyone being in her room and actually kept it *padlocked*.  "Funny kid" she smiled to herself as she finally and gratefully emptied her bladder.

   Trailing downstairs, feeling much lighter, she plopped down into one of the chairs and put her feet on the table.  She reached for another slice of cake and as she did so, the figure on the couch slowly sat up and turned around.  As the blanket fell away Raeanne could see, to her everlasting horror, that it wasn't Sherrin at all.  It was a figure wearing a red wig and a heavily bloodstained plaid shirt...

 


Chapter Eight - When Life Gives You Lemons...

   "After trying to hang yourself and ending up in the hospital one would think that you'd be able to sleep", thought Bryan in his private room.  At Dr. Crakow's insistence, Bryan had not only been given a private room but a room that *wasn't* in a locked ward.  When Dr. Crakow spoke, hospital staff listened.  Her explanation of auto-erotic asphyxiation had satisfied them.  It hadn't satisfied Bryan though, he groaned when he thought about it.  Even in death (or attempted death) he wasn't going to be spared the chronic humiliation that was the bane of his existence.  His poor mother.  Not only did she find him choking and turning purple, but she totally misunderstood that note he left;

 

    "I am guilty, guilty, guilty.  I can't live with myself anymore.  I can honestly say the world will be a better place without me.  Everything I touch withers and dies.  I've done something really horrible, something I can't forgive myself for.  I feel like I helped to kill somebody.  Poor Raeanne, I can hardly say her name, after what I did to her on New Year's Eve she'll probably never believe that guys are the total scum that they are.  I made the mistake of telling Ms. Krizenowski all about it and now she's dead and I just feel like it's my fault.  I want to apologize to my parents for being such a disappointment to them.  They deserved a better son than me.  Raeanne, you might not believe it, but from the very bottom of my soul, I am so very, very sorry.  I never meant to hurt you.  I believed Tino and Jorden when they said that you were interested in me, well, I *wanted * to believe it.  Yeah, okay, so I'd had a few beers, well, *a* beer, but I should have known better.  And when you kissed me like you did, I just couldn't...didn't want to, stop myself.  I thought you knew it was me (I should have known better).  I know that it wasn't until...after...that you called me by *his* name, but right then and there I should have told you that I wasn't him.  I'm so very, very sorry- please believe that.  Bryan.

 

New Year's Eve Party-1996

 

   When Angella opened the door to Bryan she had to politely stifle a giggle.  He stood there nervously and kept touching his hair which had been cut short.  "All your curls are gone"! she said with a smile.  He flushed.  "Oh, I didn't mean that it looked *bad* or anything like that " she said, forcing herself to look serious.  "It makes you look different, that's all".  Seeing the look of disappointment on his face she said "I meant different in a *good* way, it makes you look much...*older*" she said.  He brightened.  She took his coat and when her hand brushed his, a thrill went through him.  'I wonder if I'll ever be able to be in the same room with a girl without..." he thought.  Angela smiled at him.  He felt so hopeless.  His lust ran so deep, was so constant and so demanding that he felt pretty sure that under the right circumstances, he'd willingly sleep with just about any girl. 

   His arrival into the living room was met with good natured teasing.  Starring at the cleavage Sherrin was displaying over the top of her peach satin dress he tripped and landed in a bowl of Grahame's special garlic dip.  Grahame came rushing in from the kitchen.

   "Brian!"  Grahame had to look twice "It *is* Bryan, right"? he said.  He led Bryan upstairs where

he scraped off the worst of the pungent dip.  "This'll never do" he said kindly.  He took Bryan into the bedroom and opened the closet door.  "Take your shirt off" he instructed "I have *just* the thing" he said conspiratorially.  From the back of the closet he pulled out a bag.  Opening it, he retrieved a sweater identical to the one he was wearing.  "Here, put it on" he encouraged.  "Patti got me this one special, for Christmas, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'd already bought myself the exact same one".  Pulling the sweater over Bryan's head and smoothing it down like a fussy tailor he said "I can't take it back either, I snagged one of the sleeves when I was trying it on at home".  Grahame leaned a little closer to Bryan and sniffed "Whew!  I can still smell garlic...think I'll have to re-think the recipe".  He thought for a moment.  "I know- put some cologne on, that'll do the trick".  He pointed to an array of bottles on his dresser.  Just then, Angella called out for him to pick up the phone.  While Bryan inspected the choices before him Grahame spoke excitedly into the phone.  Hurriedly hanging it up he grabbed his wallet and keys and as he raced out the door he said "That was the hospital!  The baby isn't waiting!  Gotta run, bye"!  Bryan said "bye" to his retreating back and began sniffing first one, then another.  Finding one he really liked he dabbed a bit on, sniffed his wrist, and then dabbed a *lot* on.  Satisfied, he used the bathroom and then trailed back downstairs.

   The house was empty!  Everyone had gone, or so he thought.  Angela came racing out of the kitchen, struggling into her coat.  "Oh geez" she cried "I like totally forgot you were here!  Sherrin and Kile are waiting in the car to drive me to the hospital, my mom is going to have the baby"! she cried excitedly.

   "I know" said Bryan.  "Your dad told me".

   "Oh jeez, I just remembered, Raeanne is upstairs, in my room, sleeping or something...could you possibly stay over so she isn't alone when she wakes up"?

   "Where's Dannelle"?

   "I didn't want her hanging around so she's having a big sleep-over with her little friends over at my grandma's house.  You'll stay then"? she said brightly.

   "Yeah, I always do, don't I"? 

    " You're really okay Crakow" she said and kissed him on the cheek and was gone. 

    "Good old Bryan" he said bitterly, wandering into the kitchen.  "Always the dependable one".  He opened the refrigerator and, seeing a beer, said out loud, "What the hell!  It's New Year's Eve"!

He opened the bottle, toasted himself, took a swig, made a face and thought that maybe beer was something that grew on you, like caviar or chamber music.  He was nearly through the bottle and feeling light headed when the doorbell rang.  Getting up unsteadily, he went and opened the door.  It was Tino and Jorden.  Tino pushed past him,

   "Hey Crakow, whew, that's some perfume you got there" he giggled. 

   "Um...nobody's home right now so I don't know if you should be here..."

   "Relax pal, I'm just here 'cause I heard Raeanne was here.  I just wanted to see her".  In truth, he'd planned to kick Raeanne's ass for a certain missing twenty dollars he's been stewing over since she left for New York.

   "Uh, well, she's kind of upstairs, sleeping or something".  Jorden spoke.

   "Like, where *is* everyone"?

   "They're all gone, Mrs. Chaese is having her baby so they all went to the hospital..."

   "Oh, and left you to babysit, huh"? leered Tino.  Suddenly, it occurred to Tino that there might be a better way, certainly a *funnier* way to get back at that little bitch.

   "Crakow old man, there's something that Cattillano and I have never told you about your little friend Raeanne...truth is, she's kind of got the hots for you man...doesn't she Cattillano" he said sharply.  Knowing that it would be easier to agree with Tino than to argue (Tino was unpredictable after a few drinks) Jorden said sincerely,

   "Um...you mean you didn't know"? 

   Certain that they were playing yet another trick on him, he opened the door to show them out.

   "No, really Crakow, it's all over, Raeanne has always wanted you but felt...like...scared of your mind and stuff..." said Tino gravely.  Bryan, veins flowing with unaccustomed alcohol, allowed himself to hope.

   When they left he had *no* intention of doing anything.  He knew they were joking.  Raeanne Graff had *no* interest in him.  He simply went upstairs to the bathroom and as he was leaving, he thought he heard a moan.  Quietly, so as not to disturb her if she was sleeping, he peered into the bedroom.  Like a sweet dream he could have sworn he saw two arms outstretched to him.  Walking over cautiously he bent down slightly.  Tino and Jorden hadn't been lying.  She really *did* want him.  He sat down on the bed...

 

    "Boo"! screamed the figure on the couch.  With a sinking heart Raeanne could tell that the blood on the shirt was still wet, she could smell it.  "Bet you didn't expect to see *me* here tonight"! grinned Dannelle.  "I only let everyone *think* I was going to the cabin with mommy and daddy.  When we got a few houses down I told them I changed my mind and wanted to stay.  They said okay"! she squealed gleefully.   A muffled pounding came from the hall closet.  Dannelle began to pout.  "I wasn't ready to deal with *her* yet" she spat.  "I wasn't going to deal with her until tomorrow.  It's on my schedule.  I left it in my room.  Wanna see it"?  Numbly, Raeanne shook her head yes.  "Com'on then" giggled Dannelle exactly the same way that Angella giggled.  Fighting an impulse to run, Raeanne allowed herself to be led up the stairs.  Dannelle unlocked the padlock and the door opened.  Raeanne stepped, not into a teenaged girl's bedroom, but into a shrine to Bryan Crakow.  "Isn't it *great*"? sighed Dannelle.  

    "Wonderful" croaked Raeanne who allowed herself to cautiously look around the room.  The walls were covered with pictures of Bryan. 

    Noticing her gaze, Dannelle proudly said "I did those all in photography class". 

    "Oh, they're really great" said Raeanne with what she hoped passed for enthusiasm.  Over Dannelle's dresser, instead of a mirror, was a huge blow-up of Bryan flanked by two shirts.  In the center of the dresser which was laid out to resemble an altar, was a book that said 'Journal' on it.  Arranged on the dresser were various items, none of which, presumably belonged to Dannelle.

   "That Sherrin bitch opened the door for me and told me where you and Angella and that...Erica...went" her eyes blazing on the word 'Erica'.  I left Erica a little message today- like they do in the movies when they want to scare somebody".  Dannelle began giggling.  "And I'll bet she was really scared too"!  Dannelle slapped her thigh in mirth and then, abruptly, stopped.  Eyes flashing she said "Erica is actually next, then you of course.  I don't to *have* to change the list but I suppose I should learn to be more flexible about things like that.  I'm saving Angella for the last, naturally".  She looked at Raeanne for confirmation.

    "Oh, it makes sense to me" she said.  Dannelle nodded.

    "Do you like my outfit"? she said shyly and stood up and twirled, like a demented little ballerina, in her gory finery.  Raeanne gulped hard, hoping not to be sick.

    "Oh, yeah, it's just great...really...great".  Dannelle giggled.

    "I have several of these shirts.  I realize that this one isn't exactly for wearing in public" she giggled as she looked at the gore splattered front.  "So I've been switching off".  She thought for a moment.  "Where was I"? she asked with frighteningly bright, twitching eyes.

    "Ummm...you were talking about your...schedule" said Raeanne weakly.

    "Yes!  That's it!  You see, love has been waiting, love has been biding it's time for so, so, so, so long.  And since I'm going to be sweet sixteen in just seven more days, love doesn't have to wait any longer.  I mean, I'll finally be *old* enough to actually *be* with Bryan, won't I"?

    "Oh, most definitely" said Raeanne wondering if she could smash something over Dannelle's head and make a run for it.

    "I mean, the only reason things are the way they are is because Bryan has been waiting for me to grow up- he's very thoughtful and moral about things like that" she said primly.  "Not that *you'd* know anything about morality" she said with a glint in her eyes that made Raeanne's stomach lurch.  She sighed.  "He *is* a male and therefore frailer and weaker in a lot of ways so of course I cannot *blame* him for having, temporarily of course, fallen under the spell of such a dirty bitch as yourself now, can I"?  She said the last so sweetly, so conversationally, that Raeanne wanted to smack her ears to make sure her ears were operating correctly.  "Here" she said "I can prove it".  She leapt up and lovingly picked up the journal and turned immediately to the correct page "I've memorized it of course" she said.  "Here, read this...but be careful, I don't want you to smudge it or anything".

    "Oh, I promise I won't" said Raeanne sincerely.  Trying to read while keeping her eyes on Dannelle without Dannelle *knowing* that she was keeping her eyes on her was no easy task.  Raeanne had understood a lot from Bryan's suicide note, his journal now explained it all.

    "In some ways I always kind of wanted to be a little bit like you" said Dannelle.  "But mommy and daddy would never approve of me being a whore so I knew that that was out.  Angella is the one they really love the best, even more than little Grahame.  If Angella's gone and then Grahame, well, they'll *have* to love me best, won't they"?  Without waiting for an answer, she took the journal from Raeanne and placed it carefully back.  "Hey"! she said "Want to see something"?

    "Sure" said Raeanne weakly, trying to work out the best way to overpower and subdue her.

    "Well"! she said opening her closet "This is something I used the other day...yesterday"?  She opened up a big black case and from it, to Raeanne's horror, extracted a horribly battered and blood smeared saxophone.  "It's Bryan's" she said proudly.  "And ooh, look here"!  She dived under her bed, causing Raeanne to jump, and pulled out a smaller oblong black case.  Opening it, but not screwing the pieces together, she displayed the gruesome bits of Tino smeared all over the cue as well as the box.  "I'd originally planned to use this on Jorden, I always hated the way he treated my darling love.  However, his wife changed my plan by killing him herself" she said bitterly.  "So, I decided that it would really would do for Tino since I know that he was really probably more at fault for leading my darling Bryan astray than Jorden was".  Dannelle sighed deeply.  "The only thing I'm really kind of sorry about was Ms. Krizenowsky.  I just really couldn't have her knowing all about what happened on New Years Eve now, could I?  I mean, if Bryan wanted counseling, he should *really* have come to me but I do understand that I just wasn't *old* enough yet".  Raeanne groaned.  Solicitously, Dannelle set her trophy down and rushed to Raeanne's side.  "Are you okay?  I'm fully trained in first aid if you aren't".  Raeanne resisted the impulse to pull away.

    "Oh no, I'm fine, really I am..."

    "Are you *sure*"? said Dannelle. 

    "Oh, absolutely" said Raeanne.  Dannelle sighed.

    "Well, having to get that Deelia out of the way wasn't something I exactly *wanted* to do.  But even the Deelia's of this world are capable of temporarily turning the head of my Bryan and we just couldn't have that now, could we"?  She giggled.  "I'll tell you something funny though" she said holding her sides and rocking with mirth "When I was all finished with Deelia there was a knock on the door and I looked out the window and sure enough, there was Bryan" she sighed philosophically.  "I had an urge to hold up the saxophone...it was kind of drippy" she said in a stage whisper "and wave it at him"!  Raeanne groaned.

    "Are you *sure* you're okay"? said Dannelle with concern.   And then Raeanne had an inspiration, remembering the bottle of Sherrin's pills left in the kitchen.  "It's just that I'm kind of...well, *really* thirsty...".

    "I can get you some water"? said Dannelle opening her dresser drawer and reaching under the flower sprigged paper lining it.

    "Oh, well, actually, even though it's summer and all I really could go for some hot chocolate, wouldn't that be good right about now"?  Dannelle smiled, and removed an ax from her drawer.

    "Oh, you disgusting little whore, do you think that I'm SO stupid that I wasn't already in the kitchen?  Do you think that I didn't FIND that bottle of pills?  Do you actually think that I'm so STUPID that I'd allow you to actually *DRUG* me?  WELL?  DO YOU"! she screamed.  "I know all about drugs and stuff.  My grandma belongs to the old school, pills to wake you up, pills to make you sleep.  Old Tino got a couple of the 'make-you-sleep' kind" she giggled.  "But I myself really prefer the 'keep-you-awake' kind.  I hardly ever sleep anymore"! she said loudly.  Seeing the look on Raeanne's face she said, "Oh, you're scared...I'm really sorry about that...NOT"!  She laughed the laugh of a fiend and reared back with the ax.  Raeanne leapt up just in time and flung herself off the bed and went racing out the door, Dannelle just steps behind her.  "You're scared!  You're a big scaredy cat"! she sing-songed.  Raeanne took the steps three at a time and nearly tripped when she hit the landing.  "Whoops-a-daisy"! screamed Danielle who had begun viciously slashing the ax at everything in her path.  Raeanne got to the couch where she suddenly hit something squishy "Damn hot water bottle" she said to herself as she fell.  Dannelle cackled and fell on Raeanne who frantically slapped and kicked at her.  Dannelle dropped the ax and pinned Raeanne's hands down to the floor.  "I like to see you scared" she said only slightly out of breath while Raeanne was panting like a two pack a day smoker.  "I've been scaring Angella out of her perfect little mind" she giggled.  "Just a little audio know-how and bingo, another scaredy cat"!  Raeanne began screaming.  The muffled knocking in the closet became a frantic pounding as Sherrin shook off the pain medication and began screaming in earnest.  "Shut UP"! shrieked Dannelle "SHUT UP"!  she viciously punched Raeanne who moaned and then, a small trickle of blood trailing out of her mouth, lapsed into unconsciousness.  Sherrin kept frantically screaming and pounding on the closet door.  "Shut up!  I'll deal with *you* next" promised Dannelle who picked up the ax and sat there for a few seconds, deciding exactly how she was going to proceed.  She felt that making it slow and agonizing would really be the most *enjoyable* way to proceed but also realized that she probably didn't have all night.  "Middle of her forehead first" she said rationally.  As she reared back with the ax the door suddenly flew open and Angella,  Erica, and a police officer with her gun drawn, stood there.

    "Dannelle" screamed Angella in horror.  "Stop that *this instant*"!

    Dannelle stuck her tongue out at her sister. 

    "You're not the boss of me" she said brattily.  Angela, mind racing wildly, said in the firmest voice she had ever used in her life,

    "YES Dannelle, when mom and dad are gone, I'M the one in charge.  You wouldn't want mom and dad to find out that you've been misbehaving now, would you"?  she said trying not to let her voice shake.  Seeing a shadow cross Dannelle's face Angella continued "After all, you wouldn't want to miss out on that great sweet sixteen party that mom and dad are planning for you, would you"?

    "No" whispered Dannelle.

    "Then be good and put that...put that down, RIGHT NOW".  Meekly, Dannelle dropped the ax.

    "You won't really tell mommy and daddy that I've been naughty, will you"? she said with a pout.  She stood up.  Immediately, the police officer tackled her and snapped the handcuffs on her.  Oblivious to both the officer and the handcuffs, she said in a pathetic little girl voice,

    "You won't!  Promise me you won't"

    "I won't...I promise".

 

 

   A lot of things happened that summer.  Bryan recovered fully from his suicide attempt.  Raeanne had a "talk" with him and allowed him to think that she really *had* wanted to be with him that night but that it was all over and best put behind them a beautiful memory of a love that could not be, blah-blah-blah.  "But that *name* you called me" said Bryan with downcast eyes.  He whispered the name.  Raeanne, giving a wonderful performance, laughed heartily and explained that she hadn't said "Grahame" she'd said "No more GAMES".  Brightening considerably, he'd awkwardly shaken her hand ("Oh Crakow, you idiot" she thought) and gratefully shuffled away.  The odd thing about that encounter was that it had been the best sex she'd ever had.  She wondered if she should look at Crakow through new eyes and then realized that maybe it had been her *illusion* of love that had made it so wonderful.  And if an *illusion* of love could be so great, then maybe the *real* thing was worth waiting for?  Raeanne realized that, had she actually slept with Grahame that night, she'd been wrongfully taking all the blame.  "What kind of a man would he have been to screw his daughter's best friend, in her bedroom, while his wife was in the hospital"?  Knowing that there was at least *one* good man out there gave her hope.  Raeanne never told Angella about Grahame, but she did tell Angella the truth about her "career".  Angella reacted with typical Angella love and acceptance.  Raeanne decided to move back home, get a day job, and go to school.  Erica had a conversation with Bryan too, a much more difficult one.  It took Bryan a few weeks to get used to the idea but the whole atmosphere that summer had been so surreal that Rickki turning into a girl didn't seem all that strange, really.  The Chaese's didn't fare as well.  Heart broken over the tragedy, Patti had a full blown nervous breakdown.  They sold the house and took little Grahame upstate where Grahame purchased a restaurant in an area where nobody knew them.  Cynthia Cattillano went to prison where she got a college degree in business administration and met the love of her life, a girl named Shirley.  Kile was caught (drunk and asleep in a motel parking lot not far from the cabin) given a suspended sentence and 900 hours of community service.  He sobered up and became a professional wrestler.  Mr. Katinsky continued teaching at Liberty (he did take up coffee again).  Mrs. Graff, grief stricken over the death of Tino, soon cheered up when she won a three million dollar lottery jackpot.  She paid all of Raeanne's college tuition and married an eighteen year old box boy from the supermarket.  Sherrin and Korey got counseling, renewed their vows, and went to live in Japan where he was next stationed.  Dannelle was committed to an institution for the criminally insane.  She spends her days in a drugged stupor, drowsily planning her wedding to Bryan Crakow.  Each year the students at Liberty gather together for a candlelight vigil to keep the memory of Deelia and Ms. Krizenowsky, and all innocent victims, alive in the minds of everyone.  With Erica's generous help, a scholarship fund was set up their names.  And Angella?  Angella *survived*.

 

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The Character's Favorites: Meals by Angela Bigos
Published: 1997 | Size: 1 KB (193 words) | Language: english english | Rating: PG-13
Average: 2.3/5   2.3/5 (6 votes)

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Average: 2.7/5   2.7/5 (21 votes)
  • Courtney commented on 22 Aug 2004:
    This was one of the best stories I have read.
  • Amy commented on 06 Dec 2004:
    Wow...extremely real! Excellent job..simply try to spell the names of the characters correctly (Raeanne = Rayanna, Rickki = Rickie, Sherrin = Sharon, Kamille = Camille, Grahame = Graham, Jorden Catilano = Jordan Catalano, Angella = Angela, Dannelle = Danielle) That's just one of my lil pet peeves, lol.
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“Do we have to keep talking about religion? It's Christmas.”

Danielle Chase, Episode 15: "So-Called Angels"