Warnings: I use the word "hell" once. Whoops, guess I just used it again.
A/N: Not entirely sure where this story came from. Just been watching excessive amounts of Parks and Rec lately. Guess it takes place in one of the earlier seasons, but even that doesn't really matter. Interpret it however you want. Oh yeah, the title comes from Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2".
Don't Hate Her When She Gets Up to Leave
It's the middle of the night when she wakes up, confronted with the kind of darkness the presses against her eyes, makes her wonder who she was during the day. She scrubs the darkness from them and they slowly adjust to the glare of the streetlight shining through her window. It paints the walls and the carpet the dim shade of orange that has always made her feel uncomfortable.
It's 3:00 in the morning, 3:02 to be exact, and she is alone. She sits up and cracks her knuckles, running long fingers through disheveled hair. There's no reason to be awake, none at all. Without knowing entirely why, she gets up and begins to dress. She puts on her jeans first, then a button up shirt – black, and a pair of sneakers.
It's dark outside, and damp. A slight chill has settled over the town and she has forgotten to put in her contacts. The night is bitter and blurry and she feels anywhere but home. She wanders through the streets, paying little attention to where she is going. She'll get there. She knows she will. The occasional car drifts past her, headlights glaring in the dark like an alarm bell of light. Her body tenses whenever one approaches, but they never slow or stop. They keep right on driving, cold and unfeeling as the night.
The first thing she notices as she approaches the house is that a light is on in the kitchen. She freezes. Should she turn back? She wants to, that is, she knows she should, but something draws her forward, enticing her toward the edge of the pit that borders the house. She'll only stay for a little while. Just until she feels tired again.
She sits down on the hard dirt, her legs dangling over the edge of the pit. It seems, for a moment, as if the world is composed of cold, distant earth and even colder, more distant sky. Orange streetlamps. Fluorescent stars. And a bitter, unnatural dampness that encompasses it all. She wrenches a rock from the earth next to her and lobs it into the pit, then another one. She can't hear them land, but she likes to pretend that a muffled thump greets her ears. She likes to pretend that she makes the slightest difference in the order of the universe.
She is so caught up in her actions that she doesn't notice a rectangle of yellow light appear on the house where a solid wooden door once stood. She does not notice the sound of footsteps approaching from behind her. She does not notice a presence hovering beside her next to the pit. She does not notice until –
She jumps at the sound of her name, and swivels her head around to locate the source of the noise. Another woman, only a few years older than herself, stands a few feet away, half-cloaked by the shadows. The woman is not looking at her; she too is staring down into the depths of the pit, into the darkness that mirrors the sky. "Ann," the younger girl responds, "What are you doing here?"
"Are you serious, April? I live here."
"You live in a pit? That's pretty lame." April scoffs, and then goes back to uprooting rocks. Her insomnia has begun to lessen and she feels tired and irate.
Ann sighs, but can think of nothing to say. She imagines the rock screaming as it plummets to the bottom of the pit. April imagines it thumping as it hits bottom. It's late.
"Do you want to come inside?" Ann asks after a while. She's not sure why she asks it, but she doesn't regret it. She hadn't been sleeping anyway. How could she?
"Inside your pit?" April jokes, but the edge of malice is gone from her voice. She just sounds very, very tired. "Sure." She gets up, dusts herself off, and follows the other woman into the rectangle of yellow light.
Upon entering the other woman's house, April finds herself in a clean, well-lighted kitchen. She sits down at the wooden table and stares moodily at her nails, waiting for something to happen. Or for nothing to happen. Ann enters the room on her heels, but pauses in the doorway. Now that she has her here, she's unsure what to do about it. "Tea?" Ann asks, crossing over to the stove upon which rests an old metal teapot.
"Got coffee?" The younger woman asks without looking up from her nails.
"Isn't is a bit late for that?"
April glances up briefly, casting Ann a sardonic look that makes her want to bite the inside of her cheek, "Were you planning on sleeping?" She stares pointedly at the digital clock on the stove which brightly displays 3:46 in green numerals.
Ann begins preparing the coffee. She does not sit while it is percolating and the two do not speak. However, when the coffeemaker beeps, (three times, a high pitched trill) she pours two cups and takes a seat next to the other girl.
"Want to tell me what you're doing in front of my house at three in the morning?"Ann asks finally, taking a sip of the steaming black substance.
"I didn't know this was your house." April stares into her mug, trying to avoid seeing her own face reflected in the drink.
"Uh-huh." The brunette stares at the other levelly.
"Alright, sometimes I just come here at night." The confession is muttered into scalding liquid and holds an essence of catharsis at this late hour.
Ann does not press the issue. Part of her understands, Unfortunately, it is the part of her that the rest of her rarely understands.
"How about you? Why are you up?" April can't help the questions from pouring off her tongue and she takes a deep gulp of coffee to shut herself up.
"Late shift at the hospital." Ann explains.
"You don't work Tuesday nights." Again April finds herself speaking when she wishes she could remain silent.
"How do you –?" Ann begins.
"I just know, okay?"
Ann sips her coffee to cover up the awkward silence that follows April's pronouncement. Noises blur the air around them: the kitchen light buzzes, the air conditioning whirs, and outside, cars pass on the street, the drivers absorbed in their own worlds of smooth jazz radio, late night roads, and ever expanding pools of light before them. It crosses Ann's mind that she should feel uncomfortable. She should feel curious. Hell, she should feel anything other than the deep sadness that has begun to creep inside her with the coffee. A million questions rush through her mind, but none seem appropriate. Finally, she decides on one. One of them must say something after all, "April, is there anything you want to tell me?"
For a moment, April says nothing. She just lets her long fingers run up and down the ceramic handle of the coffee mug before taking another sip of its contents. At last, she looks up and, with her brows furrowed and her head cocked slightly to the left, she stares directly at Ann. And suddenly Ann understands why she feels so sad.
It would be a lie to state that moments like this are turning points, to suggest that they could stem off in a thousand different directions. Moments like this only end one way. And it is never they way they are supposed to.
"I better get going. Thanks for the coffee." April is already halfway across the kitchen by the time the sentence is out of her mouth. Ann barely has time to follow her to the door before the other girl is absorbed by the night. The cars pass on the road by her house and it strikes her how lonely they must be.
April is not remotely tired when she finally returns home. She sprawls out on her bed, still fully clothed, and stares at the ceiling. Slowly the world around her begins to grow brighter with gray light of dawn.