3 a.m. isn't normally a time that I actually get to see. Usually by that time, I'm completely unconscious in my bed.
That's exactly where I was until I was awoken by feverish knocking at my door. The sound startled me awake with a groan. I tried to focus my blurry eyes on something in the intangible darkness, but only the movement of my ceiling fan came into vision.
The knocking continued after a short pause.
I tried to maneuver sluggishly through my room. My hand fumbled around my bedroom wall in a desperate search for the switch. I only really started to rush when I heard my name shouted, and recognized the speaker as James.
"Hold on, James."
I said back.
I made my way through my apartment, accidently nicking my knee on my desk. Despite the throbbing pain, I hobbled over to the door and opened it hastily. I normally wouldn't have rushed, but if the level-headed James was having a panic attack outside of my door at this ungodly hour of the morning, something must've been very wrong.
I squinted to make out his form but he didn't give me any time. He pushed his way into my apartment and closed the door behind him. Even in the dark he quickly made his way over to my living room; he'd managed to memorize the layout of my apartment in the weeks we'd known each-other. I wasn't impressed or anything—my apartment is tiny and plain.
He flicked on my living room light. The sudden illumination burned my unadjusted eyes, forcing me to shut them immediately.
"Sorry to wake you up."
I cracked one of my eyes open.
I mumbled, following him into the room. He sat down on the couch, and as my eyes finally finished adjusting, I realized that James looked frazzled—more than I'd ever seen him.
I asked, walking over and taking a seat in my ratty arm-chair.
Through the haze, things were becoming clearer in my mind. I remembered that for the past two days, James had been on a field-trip... visiting an animal farm and a theme park? What could've caused James to panic at places like that?
I prodded, trying to get a reaction.
"I had sex with her teacher."
Of all the things I was anticipating, that wasn't something I'd been prepared for. I stared at him for a moment, my mind too foggy to respond immediately.
I finally came out of the stupor and looked over at him. I couldn't think of what to say. In high school, a statement like that would've warranted a high-five. Since James looked like he was on the verge of breaking down, I safely ruled that option out.
"Did you use a condom?"
He finally looked up at me with a confused expression. What I was implying set in after a moment.
"Yeah, of course. That…isn't what this is about, though."
With pregnancy out of the picture, I was really struggling to see what the matter could be. James was kind of vain, but I was almost certain that it didn't have anything to do with her appearance.
He looked up at me and sighed,
"You don't see anything dangerous about this? What if Laura suffers because of it?"
That made more sense. I often forgot, with all of the ragging he did about her, that James loved Laura.
James leaned against the back of my couch and was silent for a moment. With each moment spent in silence, I felt myself grow ever closer to falling back asleep on James. So when he didn't say anything else, I asked,
"How'd it happen?"
James closed his eyes as he let his head rest against my couch.
"It happened on the second day."
James bit his bottom lip before continuing.
"Laura's teacher is this mean, frigid woman. The whole time we were there, all she did was nag all of the other parents. It was…painful to watch. I stood up for one of the mom's once. You should've seen the look she gave me. The students around all stared at us like they were prepared to watch a massacre."
James let out a quick laugh,
"The way she glared at me, I can't say I blame them."
He was losing me quickly. I definitely wouldn't say I'm dumb, but Henry's lead-up was really confusing. He had sex with an ice-queen who was bitching out the other parents? I was waiting for him to say how incredibly sexy she was, or something that justified his action.
He sighed again and lifted a hand to his right temple. He rubbed the area as he spoke,
"Sorry, I'm rambling."
James slowly lifted himself to sit upright.
James placed his fingertips against his forehead and pulled them down to the bottom of his lips, where he let them rest. It was then that I noticed how pale he was. The bags under his eyes looked oily, and his cheeks more shallow and taut against his bone-structure than ever.
Whatever had happened was having an effect on him. I was starting to get really worried.
"Would you mind if I stayed the night?"
I was surprised by the question, and I'm sure it showed.
"I could just crash on your couch."
It took a moment for me to realize that he was completely serious.
"That's fine…but what about Laura?"
A look of relief seemed to wash over James. It somehow lightened the effects of his fatigue.
"Laura's at a friend's house."
James responded, his words mingling with a sigh.
I let out an "ah", but could think of nothing else to say. A silence passed between us. I guess James just wanted to drop the matter, and I didn't know how to change the topic; or even what I would change it to.
Rather than endure the impending awkward silence, I stood up and walked to my room—only tripping over my feet once.
I was torn between what I wanted. On one hand, I was worried about him and truly did want to talk him through his problems. On the other, I was dead tired. I tried to convince myself that I could worry about both—he must've been tired, too, so getting him to sleep and forget his problems would be the best thing for him too.
I could barely think straight as I grabbed the comforter off of my bed. I wondered why James didn't just go home. He seemed to have calmed down, which I presume is why he came over, so what was keeping him? I would've imagined that he would have a party without Laura there.
Unfortunately my mind was too zapped to think about anything too complex. I just grabbed one pillow with my free hand and walked back into the living room. I tried to manage a smile when his eyes met mine and handed the objects forward.
He took the pillow first, but shot the blanket an incredulous look. I didn't blame him—it was about 98 degrees outside. I tossed it towards him anyways.
"Don't look at me like that. It's not crazy to offer a guest a blanket."
James chuckled in response, setting the blanket down on the couch.
He said, standing up to straighten out his sleeping arrangement.
I felt awkward standing there and simply watching him, but it didn't feel quite right leaving him there to deal with things himself. He was obviously in a bad place if he'd come over in a panic at 3 a.m. and would rather sleep on my couch than his own bed. I know I could've easily gone to bed and fallen asleep and left James to his own devices but I decided to stay—at least until he fell asleep.
"Do you need anything else? You can borrow some clothes if you want…"
I felt out of place asking, but I don't know anyone who enjoys sleeping in jeans and a bulky jacket.
James laid on his newly-made bed, propping his head up with the pillow to be able to look at me.
"Sure, and while we're at it, you can lay next to me so I can braid your hair while we spoon and tell each other our make-up secrets."
He left one eye cracked slightly open as he spoke to me. It was an amusing image, but I was more preoccupied with the fact that he was making fun of me.
"You're a horrible guest."
I muttered darkly to the man, taking a seat in my arm-chair.
James smirked back. He crossed his legs and sighed, scooting down so more of his back was against the couch.
"You're a wonderful host."
I was confused by his response, but I was also too frazzled to really decipher his meaning. I'm still not sure whether I was being insulted or complimented.
As tired as I was, I must've passed out on the arm-chair at some point. When I was next conscious, James was asleep and a bit of light was peering through my dirty windows. I turned my head to look at the clock, the action causing a sharp pain to erupt on the left side of my neck. I rubbed fruitlessly at the spot as I looked at the face, squinting in the darkness to locate the hands. It was a bit too dark to tell, but it seemed to be just about 4.
Though I was reluctant to move, my stiff joints let me know that more hours in the chair wouldn't do my body well.
Feeling like a man more aged than I really was, I managed to push my way from the plush of the chair and over to James' couch. Maybe it was just my delusional mind at that hour, but the moonlight seemed to be peering through the window at just the right angle to illuminate James' form. I walked quietly forward until I was right at his side. As I hovered over the man, I couldn't help but smile. James looked peaceful in his sleep—almost like a corpse, really. He was completely silent and still; the only indication that he was still alive being the almost unnoticeable lift and fall of his chest under his shirt.
I gently put the tips of my index and middle finger against his forehead, brushing a few strands of hair that'd fallen out of place back into place.
"You'll be fine."
I whispered, before finally staggering to my room and falling asleep.
As it would turn out, my half-slurred comment was right. James was fine. In fact, the next morning, I had only my memories to let me know that James' panic attack had actually happened the night prior. That, of course, and the fact that said man was in my kitchen making pancakes when I woke up the next day. I tried my hardest to not make a joke about what a good wife he was, but I failed.
Over the next week I saw James nearly every day. His improvement was exponential. By the end of the week the pale, shallow-faced mental case was back to looking and feeling normal. It seemed as though Laura didn't know, which meant that the teacher hadn't done or said anything to her.
This relief was short-lived for me. I hadn't had the strength to say so to anyone, but I was in trouble—big trouble. I hadn't balanced my budget for a while. Not for lack of time or motivation, but for fear. I knew what the numbers would say without needing to crunch them. My newest job paid about half of what my old one had. I had run out of money I'd saved up, and with rent coming, I was going to be short. Even if Frank allowed me to skip on it, which was doubtful given his opinion of me, I wouldn't be able to pay in another month. And since my chances of receiving more hours at work were close to nothing, I was out of options.
I had no idea what I was going to do.
Still no writing device. Wrote this in an email to myself, saved it on a school computer, and am now going to try and upload it.
Eggh. There are about 15 pages before this that detail exactly what happened on the field trip from James' point of view, but I'm deciding to leave them out. They really aren't necessary. In fact, James pretty accurately sums them up in this chapter. All you need to know is that James fucked the teacher. Who is an ice queen. Hahaha.
Not my best work, but I did this in a rush. Trying to get to chapters with a bit more substance to them. But first I need to wade through all of the trivial things to get it there.
Also, I'm out of words that end in –ergence. Now I'm going to start making up words.