The pomp with the primered Ranchero dropped three stacks of jackrags in the alley behind Elmo’s Adult Books and rang the bell. This happened every other Saturday afternoon. Sometimes the pomp waited for old Elmo to waddle back, sometimes he’d drive off before the fat fuck unlocked the back door. It was one of the times the pomp drove off first. Tess stood lookout, and I dashed from our side of the alley, snatched a bundle, and got back under cover with seconds to spare. Then it was off to Fort Oxenfree, leaving Elmo a little poorer.
If I think back to it, I can still feel that moment when I really thought you were going to burst my skull. Your whole weight pushing my head into the ground, your mouth right next to my ear, hissing at me that I couldn’t tell anyone. Like somehow if I did, people would mistake her illness for your weakness. Even after the first three times I’d promised I wouldn’t, you didn’t let go, and when you did, you left your knee buried in my chest. I carried that weight, your weight, every day until she died, all those years later. But I never told anyone, not even my parents. I even lied to them when it happened, and I pretended to share their shock and grief at the news.
“Your limbs grow weary, and the inn’s still far. Rest here. No need to punish your faithful and pleading flesh. Rest a moment, only a moment, and then proceed with new vigor and greater speed.”
“Foul specter, hush, quiet your insinuations and temptations. The inn’s fifteen easy minutes on a good road, and dusk stirs; the sun lowers, and your kind will be about soon. Still, still, it’s too soon to vacate your gloomy tomb.”
“You going to the disco on Friday?”
“I dunno. The last one I went to was really bad. I ended up sitting in the toilets waiting for my mum to get me.”
“Why don’t we go? We can meet up before and go there together. It might be good, and we can leave if it’s not.”
“Eh, all right. You come over to mine, like, an hour before. Okay?”