For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19
Shawna was standing there in a light pink jacket, staring down at her hands. She didn’t jump when I opened the door, she just slowly looked up with a sadness in her eyes that shot right through me before she looked away. It was the same look she had all those years ago when she first moved to town. But it wasn’t just sadness I saw in her eyes. She looked at me like she was about to say something, then held back. I wanted to say something too but the words got stuck in my throat.
“Hey,” she said, still not looking directly at me.
“Hey. You okay?”
“I’m not sure.”
“You want to talk about it?”
How could I respond to that? She obviously wanted something, but if not to talk, what? I was never really good at reading people, especially girls, but with Shawna it was usually different. Not that night, though.
“You want to go for a walk?” I asked.
She stood there for a second before finally answering.
“Yeah, I guess.”
This wasn’t the Shawna I’d grown to know; this was the Shawna who first moved in all those years ago. But she wanted to walk, so we did, kind of. Heading down the street, neither of us talked, or even seemed to know where we were going. We just walked around and looked around, anywhere but at each other.
“How’d you know I was at the front door?” She asked after a couple blocks of silence.
“I didn’t. I was just heading out.”
“At this time of night?
“I needed a little fresh air.”
“You want to talk about it?”
“Do you want to talk about why you showed up at my house this late at night?”
“Fair enough,” she said, though she actually glanced my way as she said it.
“You know you can talk to me, right”
“Yes,” I said, stopping in the middle of a crosswalk. “You can talk to me about anything.”
She finally looked at me. Actually looked at me. And that was when I saw the bruise on her cheek.
“What the Hell? Did he do that?”
I felt my teeth and my fists clench.
“See,” she said, turning away. “This is exactly why I didn’t want to talk to you about it.”
Instantly I pictured all the ways I could end him without anyone even knowing it was me. Knowing that I could take care of Shawna’s problem with just a touch helped me relax a little, and for a moment I was almost thankful for my deal with Lucifer, if it worked on someone I wasn’t exactly assigned to.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I said, “But no one should be laying a hand on you. Especially him.”
“I know. And I won’t let it happen again, but…”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“I wouldn’t understand what?”
“Look,” I said, stopping and grabbing her arm. She flinched and spun around, with an anger in her eyes I don’t think I’d seen before.
I pulled my hand away.
“Woah! I just wanted to stop and actually talk for a second, like the friends I thought we were.”
She relaxed a little as the anger left her eyes.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to react like that.”
“No, you have nothing to be sorry about, I shouldn’t have grabbed you. I just want to help.”
“Thanks,” she said, “But I’ve got this.”
“I’m sure you do, but if you need, or want me to go with you….”
“Why not? He’s not stupid enough to do anything to you with someone else there, is he?”
“No, it’s just that…”
“It’s just that he saw me talking to you in the parking lot yesterday. He saw me hug you…”
“And that’s why he hit you? Because of me?”
She looked away and I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. The thought of him hitting her because of me just made me want to get my hands on him even more.
”It’s just going to be hard enough to break up with him, and I don’t need him blaming you.”
“I don’t care if he blames me.”
“But I do,” she said as she started walking again.
I followed her lead, though neither of us said anything as we made our way back to her place.
“So why’d you come to my house tonight, if you don’t want me to do anything about it?” I asked as we reached her door.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I just wanted to be with a friend.”
“Well I’ll always be there when you need to talk, or…whatever.”
“I know, and I really do appreciate that…”
I wanted to kiss her; to pull her close to me and tell her exactly how I felt. The moment seemed perfect for that, except for the last two assignments I had to complete for Lucifer. As much as I wanted to be with her, I knew I couldn’t drag her into that mess.
“Good,” I replied while stopping myself from doing anything else, “But I should really be getting back home.”
“You should,” she said, stepping closer to me. “Thanks for walking me home.”
Raising up on her tiptoes, she gently kissed my cheek, then turned and went inside, leaving me on the porch wondering if I made the right decision. I had the entire walk home to question if I should have kissed her first, but by the time I made it back to my bedroom I still had no idea if I did the right thing or not. I did, however, make a decision about Mr. Finkenbine. Lucifer was right; I really didn’t know Finkenbine. I had no reason to doubt that he’d done something to deserve his punishment. My deal with Lucifer specified that I would only have to deal with killers, rapists and child molesters. And if Finkenbine was one of those then he needed to go, no matter how hard it might be for me to do. Then I’d only have one last assignment until I’d be able to live my life like I was supposed to. And even if that didn’t mean Shawna and I ended up together, at least I’d be around for her to talk to and to protect her from guys like Matt.
Unfortunately, even with my mind made up, I couldn’t seem to get to sleep. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to complete my next assignment, but I was determined to, so there was nothing to think about. Still, my mind wouldn’t shut off. And it wasn’t just thoughts about Finkenbine or Shawna keeping me awake; I was also thinking about how Weed would react, and what my mom might think if she ever found out about what I was doing. And then, of course, I started questioning who my final assignment would be. Lucifer obviously enjoyed torturing me by making each assignment a little harder than the last. What could possibly be worse than having to send Finkenbine on?
Eventually my mind calmed enough that I fell into a fitful sleep, only to be awakened by the alarm way too early. I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to get up, but I forced myself to anyway. A shower helped a little, but even then I was thinking about asking Weed for a little more of his go-fast juice. Instead of ingesting that poison and shortening my lifespan a little more, though, I decided to fix some coffee.
A couple scoops of sugar helped the coffee go down a little easier so I drank two and a half cups before grabbing my helmet and keys. On top of the coffee, the ride to school woke me up a little more so I was actually feeling half-way decent as I pulled into the parking lot. Until I saw Shawna climb out of that red corvette.
I rushed into a parking spot a little faster than I meant to, and had to break hard to get stopped in time. I had the bike shut off and my helmet on the handlebars in no time before heading straight across the parking lot. But as quick as I was, it still wasn’t quick enough; the Corvette was already gone and Shawna was nowhere to be seen.
“What was that about?” Weed asked as he came up behind me.
“What do you mean?” I asked, while still scanning the parking lot for any sign of Shawna.
“You pulled in, nearly wrecking in the process, then ignored me as I hollered out the window at you.”
“Sorry, I was just a little preoccupied.”
“I could tell. Was it the Corvette?”
I saw the judgment in his eyes.
“Yeah, kind of.”
“Dude, you’ve got to let it go.”
“It’s not about me and her.”
“So what’s it about? Is he your next assignment?”
“Seriously then, what happened?”
“Shawna came over last night.”
“Nothing happened between us, but she had a bruise on her face.”
“So why the Hell did she still have him drive her to school today?
“That’s what I want to know, but apparently I’m going to have to hunt her down to find out.”
“Okay, I get that you’re pissed. I am too. But you should only be pissed at that douchebag. Getting pissed at Shawna isn’t going to make things any better.”
“Maybe you’re right, but I’ve got to say something, I’ve got to do something.”
“So how does this whole grim reaper thing work? Can you use your voodoo on Matt?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only used it on the people I’ve been assigned.”
“So if the living Ken doll isn’t your next assignment, can you ask for him to be?”
Asking Lucifer to let me kill Matt? The thought made me smile.
“I really don’t know,” I said.
The talk of Lucifer and assignments made me think of my actual next assignment; Finkenbine. And remembering the reality of what I had to do really made me want to change the subject before Weed asked too many questions.
“It wouldn’t hurt to ask, would it?” Weed continued.
“I don’t think it works that way,” I replied. “He actually told me once that he “couldn’t have Reapers picking and choosing their assignments” so I doubt he’d go for it.”
“I can at least dream about it then,” Weed said with a smile.
The bell rang, letting us know that we had better get to class and for once I was actually grateful.
Though we had classes together the rest of the day, Weed didn’t mention Shawna, Matt or my next assignment again. We talked about nothingness like movies, or which cheerleaders were obviously stuffing their tops, but we avoided anything serious. There was nothing we could do about any of it while stuck in school, so there was no point dwelling on it. That seemed to be Weed’s thoughts, and after a while I felt the same way, at least until the last bell rang, releasing us from our temporary confinement.
“So you coming over to finish up Pamela?” Weed asked as he slid into the Weed Wagon.
“I’m not sure…”
“We had a deal,” Weed said. “Right after school. I’ve already got a full gas can waiting to be turned into exhaust fumes.”
“There’s just something I have to do…”
“It has nothing to do with Shawna, does it?”
“Good, then it can wait.”
“Pamela is waiting, and you really look like you could use a break from everything else.”
It was hard enough convincing myself to follow through with Finkenbine, Weed giving me an easy distraction made it impossible.
“You know what?” I said after thinking about it for a second, “you’re right; everything else can wait.”
“Good,” he replied, “then get your ass over to my place.”
With that, Weed pulled out of the parking lot before I could change my mind.
I took my time putting on my helmet and starting the bike, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shawna. I just wanted to make sure she wasn’t getting a ride home with that jackass, but I didn’t see her or that red vette before most of the cars had left the parking lot and I knew Weed would be close to sending out a search party for me. Reluctantly I kicked the bike into gear and took off, throwing one last look over my shoulder. Still seeing nothing, I gunned it as I headed towards Weed’s garage.
He was waiting in the driveway with his car door open looking like he was just about to come looking for me when I pulled up.
“I know that bike is a lot quicker than that,” he said, shutting his door and crossing his arms.
“Maybe I had to stop and save another old woman,” I replied, hanging the helmet on the handle bars.
“Is this one going to make it?” He asked.
“You know you deserve that.”
“So did you see her?”
“Who? An old woman?”
“No, dumbass, Shawna.”
“Not for lack of trying though, I’m sure.”
“I just wanted to make sure she wasn’t making another mistake.”
“It’s her mistake to make.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“Not really. I’ve been friends with her as long as you have.”
“Not true. I met her first, and introduced you two later that afternoon.”
“Okay, I’ve been friends with her exactly 2 and a half hours less than you. Just because I don’t have a hidden love for her, doesn’t mean I don’t care for her.”
“I know. And I know you’re just looking out for me too.”
“Good. But now that we’ve got all that touchy-feely stuff out of the way, let’s get our hands dirty.”
“And no mention of what’s-her-name. The only woman we focus on tonight is Pamela.”
Once again, getting my hands dirty really helped take my mind off all the other shit going on in my life. I needed that. While we were working on the car, I didn’t have to think about Shawna, and what I should or shouldn’t do there. And I didn’t have to think about my deal with Lucifer, and what I had to do there. It was an escape from reality, almost as good as getting stoned. Unfortunately my break from reality was shattered by the ringing of the phone, and Weed’s mother yelling.