IDENTITY CRISIS! – Chapter 5 – Undercover / Overbearing

I decided to just take her straight home, then call Colin to tell the Speedy Mozzarella manager that I was signing out without going back to touch base. Obviously I then got a loud and angry phone call from said manager; but an earful was a better deal than bringing a strange and shivering woman in high heels to the pizza joint, like I was some kind of pimp. And a whole lot better than leaving her at home alone, and letting her trash the place, or escape.
When I let her into the apartment, she had this expression which made it very much clear that she wasn’t impressed – and honestly I couldn’t blame her. I’m not an interior designer, and as for the general architectural integrity… I got what I paid for. The price for independence is steep when you don’t have much money to your name. The living room rug was second hand and the sofa was given to me by a friend; the shelves either from Ikea, or created in bohemian style (i.e. made out of junk). That said, it was home, and I tried my best to keep it clean, even if it’s akin to polishing a turd. No wonder I didn’t get many visitors – though Brittany being the first guest I’ve had in a while is a depressing thought. How sad that I have to essentially kidnap people for company.
She walked over to the sofa and stared at it for a few seconds with a heavy silence before deciding that it wasn’t going to eat her alive; and sat down. The air was thick with tension, awkwardness, and thin vein of resentment. The adrenaline of the drop-off had worn off, and I suddenly began to feel kinda ill – even though at this point the deal had long since gone down, and a resolution had been reached; I still had this pressing and horrible feeling like I had still fucked up somewhere. The feeling wasn’t unfamiliar – there had been countless occasions where I had worried through an otherwise ordinary and pleasant day because I suspected I had forgotten something grave, or expected some other thing to come and shit on my day, looming on the horizon.
But in this instance my worries were concentrated, high-stakes, and sitting on my sofa. I wanted her out of here as soon as possible, and prayed to some non-descript entity that this kid would have the money as soon as possible. But for now I needed to keep Brittany safe, content, and comfortable. While I would have loved to just leave her sitting on the sofa staring into space while I got some shut-eye, putting her into a further uncomfortable situation seemed to guarantee an attempt to escape. So come on dude, play it cool. You’re only dealing with this for one night.
After making sure the front door was locked, I pocketed the keys and made my way over to the kitchen, turning on the light. There was a few seconds’ hesitation before the harsh fluorescent bulb flickered into life. I turned back into the living room, Brittany still sitting there and staring at the (switched off) television.
You hungry? I have a couple bottles of beer and sandwiches in the fridge.”
I’d like… a sandwich…” No please, or thank you, or anything. I was about to mutter ‘ungrateful bitch’ under my breath, but then I remembered the situation I’d just put her into, and then I started to feel shitty all over again. This was becoming much worse than whatever would have happened to me if I had just not done the deal. If I had just told my boss that morning to fuck right off, I would have been yelled at. He might have even fired me. But at least I wouldn’t be putting myself into such sketchy, morally ambiguous positions. I mean, compared to what I normally do for these guys.
Yes, I need the money; but I don’t need this right now. I want this over and done with at fucking light speed.
I make Brittany her sandwich. Ham, lettuce and a ton of mustard, like how I always have them. When I put the plate on the sofa, she picked one wedge up and sniffed at it; wrinkling her nose at the tang of the mustard. I was about to sigh and roll my eyes, but she still gratefully ate it, with speed and care, not dropping a crumb. Whoever instilled manners in her family spent it all on her and didn’t waste it on Quentin, that’s for sure.
A dull throbbing behind my eyes and my eyelids suddenly feeling like they had become three times their weight gave me a clear message that I needed sleep. It was out of the ordinary – usually it would take a drinking session, a couple of joints, or a few pills to get me to feel like conking out at 8pm, but this day had been such a physical and emotional drain; my body wanting to give out on me wasn’t such of a shock.
I crossed the living room, and was about to open the door to my bedroom, when I hesitated. Not because my bedroom is decidedly less tidy than the rest of my house – despite that being entirely true – but because a nagging voice at the back of my mind told me it would be a terrible fuckin’ idea to leave poor ol’ Brittany on her own in a hostage situation. All it would take is for me to get a bit of shut eye, and she’d be desperately picking at the door lock or prepared to vault out the (5th floor) window. I might have a failed hostage situation, and a crumpled broken body on my hands!
So instead I called out to Brittany, jerking her attention from the sandwich with a small, not exactly brave noise.
“I’m tired, and I can’t just leave you sitting in the living room. Get in the bedroom.” Another pause. “Please.”
Brittany suddenly looked indignant and offended.
Christ, I don’t mean like that, I just want to keep an eye on you. Uh, I mean I can’t let you escape. Because I’ll get into deep shit. You’re aware of the situation here, right?” At that, she raised an eyebrow at me, and I felt my cheeks start to burn. I wasn’t sure what I hated more, my boss, Quentin, or being silently shamed by someone who I’m supposed to have in a compromising situation. Again, not like that.
***
My alarm went off at 7.30 am, and I moaned and stretched on the hard wooden floor. Brittany took the bed. Hostage situations were some unpleasant shit.