- I -
I looked in the mirror and once again I was amused. My reflection was shimmering and I had a blue halo above my head. It was so pretty that for several seconds I just looked at myself, mouth agape. Then I lost my balance and almost fell. I grabbed my sink just in time and winced when I imagined my head hitting the side of the toilet.
- Okay… - I muttered and slowly walked towards my bedroom, my hands holding onto the wall. - Okay… I really need to stop taking these damn pills…
I felt very decisive but I knew that tomorrow night it will happen again, I just don't have enough will power. Never had. I carefully made my way to the bed and collapsed onto it without taking my clothes off. I passed out almost immediately and I dreamt of shimmering blue angels.
I woke up at five in the morning again and stayed in bed for the next hour, just staring at the ceiling. Finally I got up and made my way to the bathroom. My reflection was completely normal - no halos this time.
I went into the kitchen and started making coffee. I poured water into the coffeemaker and thought that it was really funny how sleeping pills made me wake up so damn early every morning. I knew for a fact that I would sleep much better and longer if I just stopped taking stupid pills but I loved the feeling of high they gave me and I didn't want to stop.
I pushed the Start button on the coffeemaker and walked outside into my back yard. It was still very chilly outside and I shivered and wrapped my sweater around me. I smoked slowly, my eyes half closed and I was thinking about how self-destructive I was lately. I remembered what my friend told me a couple of days ago. "Nicky, - she said. - You need to take vacation or something… I mean, you've been stuck in your house for how long? Almost two years? No wonder your are smoking like a chimney and keep taking those sleeping pills! You need a change of scenery, fresh air, new sights! You have to get out of this house!!"
I flicked my cigarette away. She was probably right, - I thought walking back into the kitchen and heading straight for my coffeemaker. The truth was that I didn't want to leave my house. Mi casa mi fortaleza, I always said. I loved my house, I loved being by myself, I loved the fact that I could do my job from home. I hated going outside, I didn't like to be amongst people and crowds always put me in the state of quiet panic. My friend Leah, the same one who told me to get away from the house, kept pestering me about a fact that I was twenty seven and single. I couldn't figure out why she even cares about that. I dated several guys a while ago and every single one of them was either a jerk, a loser, or a moron. Oh yeah, one of them turned out to be gay. I remember thinking about turning gay myself but then I figured that would be too much effort. I always considered myself lazy and somehow being gay seemed like something that would require too much work.
I got my mug full of coffee and shuffled into my office. I turned my laptop on and carefully sipped my drink.
- Happiness is brown and it comes in a cup… - I muttered, enjoying my coffee.
I worked as a proofreader for a publishing company. I loved it. I could stay in my pajamas all day, my feet on my chair, coffee and cigarettes within reach. And I got to read a lot which I loved. Granted, some of the stuff I had to read made my teeth ache but there were some really good stories as well. I loved my life, my house, and my job. That was exactly what I told Leah and she just snorted at me and said that I just need to get laid.
I worked until four and finally decided that I deserve to take the rest of the day off. I shut my laptop and decided to go for a walk since the weather was finally nice. I was grateful to whoever decided to put a Starbucks coffee shop barely two blocks away from my house. I walked there every day and knew every single person who worked there. They knew me as well. They knew my name and my drink. I snorted. And Leah said I didn't have any friends! I am a magnet!..
I got my usual five shots iced Americano and walked outside. I pushed my sunglasses up my nose and lit a cigarette. I was sitting there, thinking that right now I was absolutely content when someone politely coughed above my ear.
"Great, - I thought bitterly. - Some health-freak dipshit is going to tell me not to smoke so he can enjoy his damn bagel… Hope you choke on it!!" I opened my eyes and almost dropped my cigarette. There he was, the man of my dreams. Tall but not too tall, very lean, just enough muscles on his arms so he didn't look like a high school jock on steroids… His hair was black and shiny, his eyes so intensely blue that I almost moaned.
- Excuse me, - my dream was saying meanwhile. - Is this seat taken?
I blinked. What seat? Was he talking about the chair that I put my feet on? I slowly took my feet down and shook my head.
- No, - I said. - It's not taken… - "Neither am I", - I added in my head.
- Do you mind if I sit with you? - my dream asked and gave me such a smile that the expression "creaming someone's panties" was describing me to a t.
- Not at all, - I said and he sat down.
I watched him pull a pack of Parliaments out and somehow I wasn't surprised. My dream man was a smoker, of course, since I was the one. And he would only smoke Parliaments since that's what I always smoked.
- I am Adrian, - he said.
- I am Nicky, - I replied and just like that the greatest love story of the century has finally started for me.
- II -
We've been together for three months and I couldn't believe how perfect he was. Even his flaws were perfect. I found it amazing that even my cat who never liked anyone besides me didn't even twitch his tail when Adrian first came to my house. Leah kept pestering me that she wanted to meet this dream man of mine but somehow it would never work out. When I wanted to introduce them for the first time, Adrian got a phone call from his client - he was a lawyer - who was in some big trouble somewhere in Colorado so he had to take off right away. The second time I planned the meeting, I got a very unexpected and particularly nasty case of stomach flu. Third time is a charm, I thought and decided to finally introduce them this weekend.
On Saturday night I was asleep when the phone rang. It was Leah and she was hysterical.
- Oh my God!! - she was sobbing in the phone. - Oh, God!!
- Wait… - I shook my head, groggy with sleep. - Wait… What's wrong?..
- Nicky… Oh my God… Nicky, someone burned my house down!!
- What?!! - I almost fell off the bed.
- Or maybe it was an accident, I don't know… I was out until eleven thirty tonight and when I came back… - and she was sobbing again.
I couldn't believe it.
- Do you have a place to stay? - I asked fumbling in the dark, trying to find my cigarettes.
- Yes, - she breathed shakily. - I will stay with my sister… I am sorry but I have to cancel on you for tomorrow…
- Are you kidding me? - I finally found my cigarettes and now I was trying to find my lighter. - Of course! We'll do it another time!
- Sorry for waking you up, - she sniffed.
- Don't be ridiculous, - I said and started to feel very frustrated when I still couldn't find my damn lighter. - I'd be mad if you didn't call me!
- Thanks, Nicky… - she sighed. - I'll talk to you later…
- Bye, - I said and hung up.
I got off the bed, almost pissed at the fact that my lighter was gone. It was just a cheapo blue Bic lighter but I always had it on my night stand and now it was gone. I marched into the kitchen and pulled a book of matches out of the drawer. I went into my back yard, lit a cigarette and thought about Leah's house.
- Unreal, - I muttered finally and went back inside.
I threw the matches on the kitchen counter and frowned when I saw a black spot on my hand. I rubbed it and it came off. I couldn't figure out what it was and smelled it carefully. It smelled like gasoline or something. I finally realized that the book of matches probably had something on it and I got it on my skin. I shrugged and went back to bed.
- III -
I don't know why but I kept taking my sleeping pills every night. Now it was getting worse. I used to only take one little white pill and it would kick in within five minutes and I was happy in my own part of the la-la land. Lately, however, I was taking two at a time and I would wash them down with a glass of Merlot. Adrian grinned at me when I told him that I am not sure if I should start getting concerned about myself.
- It's not going to hurt you, - he laughed. - You are not an addict, you just get high now and then, no big!
I was amazed once again. It was exactly what I kept telling myself.
- Last night I've heard my fish talk, - I said and he started to laugh.
- What were they saying?
- I don't remember… - I sighed. - But I guess you are right, it's no big…
He smiled and pushed me on the bed. Adrian was amazing at everything but when it came to sex, he would make Casanova weep with jealousy. He was unbelievable.
- … It's like he knows exactly what I am in the mood for, - I was telling Leah almost a month after her house fiasco. - Sometimes I just want it rough, you know… And it's like he can read my mind! And when I need him to be slow and gentle, he will drive me crazy until I finally get what I want… It's insane, Leah! Oh! And seriously… - I leaned towards her. - His O face is so hot!
- I am jealous, - Leah grumbled. - Jim's O face looks like he is about to take a dump…
I laughed and finished my coffee.
- I gotta go, - I said with regret. - I have a cable guy coming this afternoon.
- See you later, - she nodded. - I am ready to meet this guy…
- How about tomorrow? - I offered and she smiled.
- Come over at four, we'll be home.
- See you tomorrow then! - she shivered. - Ooh, I am so excited!
I laughed and went home.
- IV -
The cable guy actually showed up on time. I looked at Adrian.
- Amazing, - I said. - He is not late!!
Adrian grinned at me. I let the cable guy in and went back to the kitchen to make more coffee.
- Are you staying overnight? - I asked Adrian and he smiled.
- Of course, - he said.
- Leah is going to come over tomorrow, - I pushed the Start button on the coffeemaker. - You two can finally meet!
- Yeah, - he chuckled. - That lady has the worst luck, huh?
- Yeah, - I nodded. - Hey, do you wanna rent a movie tonight?
I jumped, startled. I looked up and there was the cable guy staring at me with a frown.
- Excuse me? - I said with dignity.
- I was asking if it's all right if I use your bathroom, - he said slowly. - And you asked me if I want to rent a movie tonight.
I couldn't believe his ignorance and bad manners.
- I wasn't talking to you, - I cringed. - And yes, you may use the bathroom… Geez!
He looked around my kitchen, his face very confused.
- Who were you talking to? - he asked and I blinked.
- Are you kidding me? - I stared at him in bewilderment. - Just use the damn bathroom and fix my cable, will you? And it's none of your business but I was talking to my fiancée whom you are ignoring for some strange reason which I find rude! - I took a breath and the cable guy looked at me and blinked very rapidly.
- Am I on hidden camera, or something? - he carefully looked around. - Is this a set-up?
I could not believe this. I looked at Adrian and he just shrugged.
- He is sitting right here, - I said, shaking with righteous anger. - Right here!
The cable guy looked straight at Adrian, looked at me, looked at Adrian again and his blinking became almost a furious twitch.
- Umm… - he said carefully. - I am afraid I have to leave now…
- Are you kidding me?! - I exploded. - What about my cable?!
- I am sorry, - he shook his head and started to walk backwards. - Someone else will contact you very soon…
- I am going to file a complaint! - I yelled and he nodded.
- Yeah, lady, you do that… - his eyes darted nervously around my kitchen again and he all but ran through my front door.
I slowly sat down on my chair.
- Can you believe this? - I asked weakly and Adrian didn't smile this time.
- Nicky… - he said and suddenly he started to shimmer.
I squeezed my eyes shut for a second, thinking that the cable guy pissed me off so bad that now I was seeing things. I looked at him again and now he was almost transparent.
- Nicky… - he said again and this time his voice sounded like a whisper from far away.
- What… - I said weakly when he suddenly disappeared from my sight and I was staring at the empty chair.
I couldn't even think, let alone speak. I couldn't understand any of this and then my cat meowed and rubbed against my legs. I stared at him and suddenly bright images started to flash in front of my eyes. I saw several canisters, I saw myself pouring something out of them around a house, I saw my blue Bic lighter, and then I saw the fire. I looked at my hand where I saw the black spot on the night when Leah called me and suddenly I was very cold. I could understand now why my cat didn't react to Adrian, I could understand how he could read my mind, I could understand how he could be so damn perfect. That is because….
- … You are not real, - I muttered and he laughed.
I looked up and there he was, right in front of me. So solid and real that I almost cried.
- Adrian… - I whispered and he took my face in his hands. - What's wrong with me?..
- Absolutely nothing, - he said softly.
- But you are…
- I am here, - he interrupted me.
- Am I crazy? Am I hallucinating?
- Does it matter?
- I… - I started saying and he interrupted me with a kiss.
It felt so amazing that I was out of breath when he let me go.
- No, - I said with a smile. - It doesn't matter. You are not going to leave, are you?
- Never, - he said seriously and I sighed happily. - Do you wanna go rent a movie tonight? - he asked.
- Yeah, - I breathed. - I just need to call Leah and tell her that I have stomach flu…