“Thank you for doing this,” Roberta said to Arnold as she placed a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s really no trouble,” he said with a smile, “she’s my girl too.”
Roberta tried to hide her grimace with a large smile. It was hard for her to hear that her daughter now belonged to someone else other than her. Even though she was incredibly happy for her daughter it was almost unbearable to think that in a few short years she would quickly transition from girlfriend, to fiancée, to wife, to mother and probably all from miles and miles away. “Well, I better be heading home. At least I know that Diana’s in great hands,” Roberta said wistfully as she embraced Arnold before turning to leave.
Arnold watched his girlfriend’s mother head toward the stairs. Diana had inherited many of Roberta’s mannerisms, but thankfully her waddle hadn’t been one of them. Arnold shook his head at Dian’s quirky mother as he locked the front door of Diana’s condo, and made his way over to his resting girlfriend. Reaching down he gently caressed the side of her face and kissed the top of her forehead. It was good that she was resting now. She must have drifted off on the chaise while he and Roberta were outside discussing her traumatic day. From the recount Roberta had given him, she seemed more traumatized than Diana had been. Arnold sat on couch as not to disturb her; she looked so peaceful while she rested.
She and Roberta both had almond shaped eyes, but Roberta’s were more of a slender almond made smaller by the chocolate brown color of her eyes. Diana’s were wider, almost like those of a puppy, but bright green with flakes of vibrant gold encircled by a violet band. While Roberta spent the year basking in a olive glow, Diana’s skin changed like leaves from a pale porcelain to a radiant tan, with occasional bursts of lobster red. Both women were short with voluptuous hourglass figures though neither one could be considered overweight. Since the passing of Roberta’s own mother the year before she had lost almost 100 pounds both metaphorically and physically. Roberta had gained a sense of freedom from her mother’s death. Unfortunately, her new found freedom had left her more time to inhibit Diana’s life.
Diana was always trim, but well endowed. Since her grandmother’s passing, she had lost a few pounds, but also some of the definition in her muscles. Arnold couldn’t help but wonder if her loss of weight and interest in the gym had something to do with her grandmother’s death. He was worried that maybe her fainting she a result of lack of nutrition. He knew that approaching a lion with a raw steak might be easier than approaching Diana about her eating habits.
Despite a figure that most women would slaughter for, Diana was touchy on the subject from years of her grandmother’s comments. The fact that she could consume several loaves of bread and still be bikini ready was lost on Rosa. Before Diana could swallow her first bite, Rosa would have something negative to say; unfortunately for Rosa, faster than the words were out of her mouth, Diana had a snarky reply ready to be launched. How the two were as close as they were was as shocking as electric outlets. Looking at her snuggled in her favorite gray, oversized sweatshirt that hid both her figure and boxers, wrapped in her cozy bookstore quilt. Her long hair that had been piled on top of her head, now sat in a pool around her neck, and flooding into her face. Every few breathes she took a soft murmur escaped her throat making it nearly impossible to believe that she could ever be vicious.
Diana tried to open her eyes, but the best she could manage was a flutter. She tried to move, but felt as if her whole body had been shut off. I must still be sleeping, she thought. Her eyes were still fluttering, despite her repeated efforts to fully open them. As best she could, she glanced around the room through her “strobe light” lashes. The light from the TV glowed. All the lights were off, including the one on the timer — it had to be after one o’clock. She could make out Arnold on the couch, clearly sleeping as his head bobbed up and down. She thought she saw something moving past the couch. It was so hard to see without being able to fully open her eyes. She tried again harder. Her eyes couldn’t have been open for more than a few seconds, but this time she was sure she had seen the backside of a figure take the corner toward her bedroom. She tried to scream, but nothing more than a raspy croak escaped. Diana felt her eyes closing firmly against her will.
Arnold hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but Diana had been watching a food competition which, without her enthusiasm, put his right to sleep. His original plan had been to watch until the winner was announced and then switch over to sport’s channel for tonight’s game. He’d only been asleep for forty-five minutes which meant he could still catch the majority of the game. Arnold did a quick internet search hoping to find out the winner of the competition before he woke Diana. It would mean a lot to her, and he wanted to make her smile after the day she had experienced.
“Babe,” Arnold said in a soft tone, “babe, it’s time to wake up.” As he stood up and headed to the chaise he chuckled at how soundly she slept. “Come on sleepy-head. Time to get up. The game’s about to start,” Arnold cooed as he approached Diana. “Sweetheart,” he sang as he put his hand on Diana’s knee. Before Arnold could process what was happening he heard a sharp, piercing scream that soon he realized was coming from Diana.
After making several attempts to calm Diana down, Arnold was running out of ideas. She had finally stopped screaming but was now hyperventilating while tears surged from her eyes. She was paler than he had ever seen her in his life, like all the color had been sucked from her body. Between flailing her hands and wrapping her hands on either side of her neck, a nervous habit she’d had since childhood, Diana kept pointing toward the opening to the hallway. Arnold was afraid that Diana would pass out if she didn’t catch her breath, and quickly placed his left hand over her mouth while supporting the back of her head with his right hand. Diana looked panicked at first, and when Arnold took his hand away from her mouth she quickly gasped for air. Before she had the chance to begin hyperventilating again Arnold replaced his hand. He continued to do this until it seemed that Diana had taken control of her breathing.
“What the hell just happened to you?” a frightened Arnold asked Diana.
“You scared the shit out of me. That man! There was a man going in my bedroom. What time is it?” Diana’s whole body was shaking.
“It’s only 10:30,” he replied.
“I missed work. It’s dark. Did we both sleep the whole day away?!” Diana asked incredulously.
“What are you talking about? It’s only been a few hour since you were out with your mom. Diana, what’s going on baby?” Arnold was now beyond concerned, but before she could answer Diana began to cry, softly this time. After a few minutes passed, Arnold handed her a tissue and asked, “Can you please start from the beginning. Whatever is going on, we’ll make it okay, but first I need to know.” Diana took a deep breath, “Okay she said, but you’re not going to like it.” Diana explained to Arnold how she had woken up and was having trouble with her eyes. She then noticed that the only light was from the TV and that the living room light had been shut off — since it runs on a timer it had to have been passed one o’clock in the morning. She saw him with his head bouncing up and down so he knew he had been asleep too. Then she told him about the figure, the man, she saw turning the corner toward her bedroom.
When she was finished tears were already welling in her eyes. Arnold wiped them away with his fingers. “It’s okay, Diana. Maybe the power tripped and that’s what woke you. The light is on now, and has been the whole time I’ve been here.” Arnold moved closer to the top of the chaise, and scooped Diana up next to him. “It could have been your eyes playing tricks on you too, especially since as you said, they were fluttering the whole time you were awake.” Arnold gently rubbed Diana’s back. “There’s a good chance you were only partially awake too. But, I’ll check all the closets, the shower, and the door. Then you and I will have the surprise cannolis I brought and catch the second half of the game. Does that sound good?”
Diana sat quietly for a moment. “Throw in some popcorn too, and you have yourself a deal,” she said as she forced a smile. She knew that Arnold didn’t believe her, not because of her per se, but because of her overactive imagination. And because it wasn’t realistic that someone who have broken into the house, shut the light off, and then turned it on again before leaving. She could conceded to how crazy that sounded, but deep down, Diana knew someone had been in her home several times in the past few days, but currently had no viable way of proving it. As she heard her amazing boyfriend check each closet, and even the shower as promised, Diana looked around her home and wondered if she even wanted to prove it.
All the trinkets that lined her massive entertainment center were all neatly in place where she put them. Both the light and peacock blue walls of her living room and kitchen had no scuffs or stains. Her windows though old, showed no betrayal of allowing a stranger illegal entry, which made sense since Diana lived on the second floor. She didn’t have the strength to get up and check her room, before she could ask Arnold if everything seemed in order she heard him call from the other room, “all clear!”
Arnold reappeared moments after he called out to Diana. It broke his heart to see her wide-eyed scrunched up on the chaise waiting for him like puppy. Ordinarily when he mentally referred to his active, affectionate, and restless girlfriend it was with love and tenderness. Sometimes he would even share his thought with her who would laugh and bark as though she really were a puppy. She must have scared the daylights out of herself – even now he could see how she was still trembling. He was determined to comfort and reassure her the rest of the evening. As Arnold headed toward the kitchen he called out over his shoulder, “Maybe you should call out tomorrow. This way you can catch up on some rest?”
“NO!” she shouted quickly, “Um, I’d rather just go to work. Anne and I have a lunch date, you know?” Diana tried to recover some normalcy. Hopefully Arnold hadn’t heard the fear in her voice, from the tension Diana saw grace his back, she was sure he had.
“You sure?” he asked as he turned around. “I’ll call out tomorrow too, and we’ll spend the day with take out, and maybe even go for a walk outside?” He was hoping his charm was enough to persuade her.
“Let’s see how good your popcorn is before I make any decisions” this time Diana’s smile was a genuine one. The thought of spending the day with Arnold made almost all of her fear vanish. Diana untangled herself from her green and white quilt designed with quotes from classic novels, and went to throw her endless hair into a ponytail. She could spend hours gathering up her long, curly locks trying to get every strand in place before tying the beast back. Usually she found it to be somewhat therapeutic; today however she couldn’t seem to collect every strand. Maybe it’s because she was still shaken up, but there were a few strands from the bottom she just couldn’t get to stay in her ponytail. Diana was quickly distracted by Arnold’s cry for help from the kitchen. Apparently carrying a large bowl of popcorn, cannolis, and two waters was too much for one man.
After helping her lover carry everything to the couch, Diana decided to run to the bathroom before settling in on the couch for the game. Instead of drying her hands on the towel after washing them, Diana decided to redo her ponytail using the liquid from her hands to help keep all the strands in place. Even with the water the strands wouldn’t stay put. Diana thought about the figure she saw and began to panic. She opened her medicine cabinet to see if anything seemed out of place, but everything was where she kept it. On her way back to the living room, Arnold was fiddling with the tag on a brand new jersey; next to him was a matching, smaller one for her.
“Surprise” Arnold said half-assed. “It would’ve been a better one had I gotten these damn tags off.”
“Why didn’t you grab the scissors from the drawer, you nutball,” Diana teased.
“I went to, but someone didn’t put the scissors away. So here I am, trying to delicately rip these freaking tags off.”
Diana walked to the kitchen as calmly as she could. She went right to the drawer where she kept her scissors, only to find that they were gone. She tried her best not to panic – there was no need to panic over scissors she obviously misplaced. While riffling around the drawer, Diana decided to reach her hand to the far back. It was an unusually thin, shallow, long drawer, and things had occasionally slipped into the oblivion. Her fingers grazed along something smooth. Maybe it was the sauce brush she lost months ago. Diana was finally able to grip the silky item and pull it out of the drawer to Diana’s horror it wasn’t the missing brush, it was a short, thin lock of her hair. Suddenly Diana knew where her scissors went, or rather with whom. Diana looked at the hair in her hand. It wasn’t enough to make up the thick chunk of hair she wasn’t able to tie into her ponytail, but it was enough to make Diana’s heart race, and head spin. She called out for Arnold, but her voice came out no louder than a whisper.