"Hello beautiful. I saw you when you moved in yesterday and just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Skip and I'm your neighborhood kook. Just kidding. I'm really not a kook and I'm not nuts like some people say. I just want to get to know everyone. How are you? Will you be in town long? Do you want someone to show you around? There's a nice park down the road. We could meet there. I go there sometimes just to watch people. It's usually pretty quiet unless there's a party going on. The little kids have a nice play area that's got swings and a slide and a little jungle gym and a sandbox. Sometimes I take my basketball over there and shoot hoops but no one will shoot with me. Do you like basketball? That would be cool. Would you come outside so I could talk to you in person or maybe I could just come up to your place? I hope you're still wearing that red sweater. I like sweaters on..."
"Leave me alone!" I heard myself scream at him. Not the controlled Paula I had always been. My confidence from moments earlier had been replaced by concern and fear. This freak, who called himself Skip, had managed to unhinge me. His rambling statements and questions were friendly but eerily unnerving. "I'm going to put this damned phone outside on the railing and I don't want to get to know you." I pushed the END button, ran into the bedroom, locked the door behind me and sat on the corner of my still unmade bed. Realizing the drapes were open I jumped up and barely missed tripping on my suitcase I had left on the floor next to the bed. Fumbling through the folds of the drapes I finally found the frayed string and pulled. Frustration and despair overwhelmed me and I dropped into the chair and cowered. Like my friend Jan when she'd hear a loud noise in the dark. I had always laughed at her silliness. I wasn't laughing, now.
Before my nap I had been happy. This Skip freak is ruining everything and it isn't fair. "I haven't even called Gene, yet." I firmly stated to the room. Loo was looking at me, with those glassy eyes, from the top of the dresser where I'd placed him. "I suppose you think I'm a coward, don't you? What would you do?" Loo didn't answer, as usual, but somehow Loo had always been a comfort. I remembered that I had considered leaving Loo in Merkle. "Good thing I didn't leave you at home, Loo."
My thoughts of home put me in action mode. The cellular phone had dropped to the floor when I had jumped up to close the drapes. The screen was lit when I retrieved it and the screen had a message that I didn't bother to read. It would be good to hear Genes' familiar voice, right now. I'm gonna call Gene then put this thing out on the railing and be done with it.
Leaning back on the headboard, I steadied my hand and dialed home. But as I waited for Gene to answer I wondered if I should tell him about what was going on. I didn't want him to worry and I certainly didn't want him to talk me into coming home.
"Gene isn't answering the phone, Loo. Where is he? He's always home from work by 5. He knows I'll have dinner waiting for him." Loo stared back with a question. "You're right. I'm not there to make dinner. Maybe he's at the diner? I'll try again in an hour." Somewhat comforted I put the phone on the bedstand and waited, but after a few minutes I decided that I wanted another Coke, and I hadn't eaten anything of substance since early this morning. Should I go out to get something? Or be a prisoner in my own place? I wonder if my boss knows something about this Skip freak? Okay, Coke, here I come. Feeling renewed, I grabbed my fanny pack and the keys off the dresser and headed for the truckstop.
As I reached for the handle of my Acura I heard the now familiar tone of a cellular phone. It couldn't be my phone, I had left it in the apartment. Undaunted, I opened the car door to continue my trip to the truckstop and sitting right there on the passenger seat was another cellular phone. I grabbed it and threw it out the window. As I pulled onto Windsor I wondered if this would piss the guy off and the dread returned. Much deeper this time. I needed to find a way out of this situation but I couldn't just pack up and leave. Most of my money was now tied up in a 3 month apartment lease. It had sounded great at the time. Just enough time to get started and not too much time to allow for a change once I was more secure with my finances. 3 months is going to be a very long time if this continues. I reached the truckstop, made note of the black truck again and entered knowing I needed to smile so my boss wouldn't change his mind about my job.
It was Paul again. "Hi Paul." I muttered as I made my way to the Coke machine. That completed, I grabbed some chips and a hot dog. "I forgot to pay for the Coke I got earlier so make sure you charge me that, too, okay?" Paul was staring at me as if I had just confessed to murder, or something. I handed him a 10 to get the process going. I felt frazzled and didn't want to talk to him. All I wanted to do, right now, was to eat. Paul gave me my change and as I was leaving I heard him say....Hey, nice sweater. This really freaked me out but it couldn't be Paul that was calling me, it wasn't his voice. And how come my boss is never here. I hope he's here tomorrow when I start my shift. I really wanted to ask him about this Skip guy.
I was still thinking about the events of the day as I sat at my kitchen table to enjoy this lovely meal. I chuckled to myself at this. I probably would have made pork chops tonight. It was one of our favorites. Gene was always very grateful and complimentary. After a little small talk about our day, we'd clean up together then watch a show. Dukes of Hazzard was always there to give us a laugh. "One of these days I'm gonna get me one of them fast cars," he'd exclaim. We'd laugh, say our goodnights and retreat to our rooms. "Why did I leave, Loo?" The security and confidence I had felt my whole life, except when my mom died, was fading away.
It had only been 45 minutes since my last call but I decided to call Gene anyway. When I got the phone from the bedroom there was another message on the screen that read "U shouldnt have done that beautiful."
I am definately going to tell Gene about everything. This whole situation is out of my league and I am really scared. After I dialed the number I grabbed Loo for support and made my way to the couch where many before me had sat, starting thier new, happy life.
Finally, Gene answered the phone. "Hello. This is Gene."