THE REASON IS BECAUSE THE NIGHT
J. J. W. Mezun ☆ Season 6 ☆ 2022 June 15
Edgar looked up from his book @ the sound o’ his name &, ’pon seeing Autumn standing before him, waved politely. He didn’t have to fake his enthusiasm: with Autumn now going off to college, he fretted o’er not being able to see Autumn much anymo’, so an unexpected visit like this raised his spirits like a high striker.
Autumn also surprised Edgar by how chipper she appeared. She wasn’t smiling, which Autumn only did when she was already ready to pull off a brilliant heist; but the way she bobbed her fists forward & back showed an energy she solely had when she had something big & bombastic planned.
I figured I’d find you here. I have a surprise, said Autumn.
Edgar closed his book.
¿How’s college going?.
Autumn frowned for the briefest o’ moments before rising back to the neutral line she’d had before, making Edgar shrink back in shame @ having asked.
O god, ¿what happened?.
But Edgar noticed a surprising upbeat tone to Autumn’s voice when she said,
Ne’er mind that: I have a far mo’ interesting subject to show you. But we may want to return to your storm drain & get your stuff.
Edgar stared @ Autumn in amazement. Then the sudden fear o’ losing out while waiting round shook Edgar into nodding quickly, & then rising from his bench. Without an extra word herself, Autumn turned & walked toward the exit to Peanut Park; & Edgar followed, heart swelling as he realized that today would be far mo’ exciting than the usual afternoon filling out job applications that would all be ignored & reading ’lone in the park.
Edgar followed Autumn thru the city, holding a pile o’ the books he borrowed from the library while Autumn held the rest o’ his books in 1 arm, the lamp Autumn had given Edgar mo’ than a year ago in the other, & his blankets o’er her shoulder.
Edgar had to admit that he felt weird just walking thru crowded streets holding a bunch o’ stuff with so many people round. People might think they had stolen them & might call the police on them or other thieves may rob them while they’re out in the open. He had offered to carry more o’ it himself, but Autumn insisted that she had it. So he just followed right ’hind, bracing himself for Autumn’s surprise.
He already had a inkling o’ what the surprise may be, but didn’t dare say a peep ’bout his guess for fear o’ popping it, like a spilled birthday wish, & didn’t dare get too excited &, moreo’er, emotional ’bout it, for fear o’ being too disappointed if it didn’t turn out to be what he expected. So he remained silent as he followed Autumn toward what he guessed was her campus, excited to see it for once.
As he went, he tried to keep from staring @ Autumn. That time during their senior “prom” — that heist to collect the crown to sell for money — when Autumn asked Edgar for a kiss & e’en emphasized that it had nothing to do with her intricate plan, which is what Edgar would’ve suspected otherwise, still hovered o’er Edgar’s thoughts. But then, perhaps saying it had nothing to do with her plan was itself part o’ the plan. Edgar wouldn’t put it past Autumn to devise such a clever twist. Edgar didn’t dare ask Autumn ’bout it or anything ’bout that subject that Autumn on all other days seemed to hold no interest in for fear o’ possibly harming their friendship. Autumn herself didn’t speak any mo’ ’bout the event, as if she had forgotten it’d happened.
@ the time, & many times after, Edgar told himself, Maybe she was hoping I’d say something ’bout it & is disappointed that I haven’t said anything.
But considering how straightforward she was, he doubted it, & figured his previous theory was the most likely — & the safest.
He found an easy way to distract himself from these dangerous thoughts when he noticed Autumn lead him up a set o’ stairs in front o’ some apartments.
¿Are we robbing someone’s home?. Edgar couldn’t keep his face from falling a bit in disappointment @ the realization that maybe Autumn just wanted to use his stuff for a scheme o’ hers.
This could get us in far mo’ trouble than @ school — & could get her into trouble with her college.
He hesitantly followed her up, but stopped when he saw her stop in front o’ a door, drop Edgar’s lamp & books on the deck, & pull a pair o’ jingling keys from her pocket. She jabbed it in the lock & twisted.
¿Did you see someone leave those somewhere?, asked Edgar.
Autumn paused, eyes twisting in confusion for a second. But then they melted back to stiff-lidded calmness the very next moment.
’Fraid not; but the landlord did offer them free o’ extra rent.
She opened the door & entered. Curiosity now @ full force, Edgar scrambled up the rest o’ the steps & followed.
Edgar was struck by the sudden smell o’ tangy newness. He gazed round the room to see it empty o’ e’erything but a wobbly, worn wooden desk, a pile o’ jackets, & a laptop. He looked to Autumn, standing to his side, staring @ an empty spot on the carpet with her hands in her skirt pockets ’gain.
¿Is this yours?, asked Edgar.
Yeah, Autumn said without looking @ Edgar.
Likely won’t be able to keep it for long, tho, considering the ridiculous rent they charge.
You’re not living in the dorm, I guess.
Autumn paused, eyes seeming to grow mo’ wrinkles. He thought he saw her chest heave up & down.
Autumn said in monotone,
You know I just made that up for… to minimize my mother’s stresses. Unfortunately, reality opposes petty thieves joining the ranks o’ academic professionals — for rational reasons, you must understand.
Yeah… Sorry for bringing it up.
No problem. Not mentioning reality doesn’t make it any less real, & ’twas a logical misunderstanding to have from your limited perspective on my matters.
Then Edgar remembered he was holding a bunch o’ books in his arms & realized that what he had guessed before may be true, after all. Seeing that there was no avoiding the subject now, or else just stand there all day holding his things like an idiot, which may be e’en ruder, he asked,
¿Is this — why did you want me to bring my stuff?.
Autumn had walked up to where her laptop was sitting, in a corner with jackets & a water bottle that Edgar assumed was Autumn’s “bedroom”. Still staring @ her laptop, which she had just opened, Autumn replied,
In case you wanted to stay here… If that’s what you want….
¡O, yes! Thank you…. But despite how excited this made him feel, Edgar’s conscience forced him to add,
¿Are you sure it won’t be… weird?.
Edgar looked ’way as he felt his bones burn up.
¿Why couldn’t you just keep quiet & say yes? You’ve only made things worse.
Before he could say anything, Autumn said,
If you don’t feel comfortable staying here, I’ll understand. Obviously if you had a real home I’d suggest you stay there, since it’d, indeed, be safer than the home o’ a thief, which may become the target o’ other crooks or police.
No, I’d love to stay, Edgar blurted, feeling himself o’erwhelmed with emotions & on the brink o’ breaking down.
As if still feeling the need to persuade Edgar, Autumn continued,
I doubt I’ll need half o’ the space I have here — & as economically beneficial it may be to half my rent with ’nother roommate, that would be a bad idea, considering my “career choice”, & could screw me o’er if this stranger decided to rob me. Plus, this would save me the need o’ walking all the way to the storm drain any day I needed to see you — tho…. Autumn hesitated.
I’d advise you to limit your assistance. I no longer have relatively safe school kids to rob anymo’ — so the heists I’ll be doing now will be much mo’ dangerous.
Edgar nodded weakly with a sniff, but didn’t let his unease for this future Autumn just forebode dampen his high spirits. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t used to it, anyway. Right now he was happier than he’d e’er been in his life & would’ve gladly leapt right ’hind her into whate’er dangers in repayment for this moment.
When Autumn saw ’twas already 12 AM, she powered down her laptop, slid it to the side, & then went into the bathroom to brush her teeth & change into a nightshirt.
I should be sleepy ’nough now to fall ’sleep & get as much rest as possible ’fore tomorrow’s failures.
As she returned to her “bed”, which was just a plot o’ carpet with a couple jackets as a pillow & blankets, she said to Edgar half a meter next to her,
If you want to stay up later, you can leave that light on. I won’t mind.
Um, that’s OK… I think I’m getting a li’l tired, too.
Then she set her glasses on her laptop, lay on her side, & closed her eyes.
Afterward, there was almost a minute o’ silence, filled with the static buzzing o’ past sounds’ ghosts.
But then Edgar broke the silence by asking,
Autumn, ¿do you want to borrow 1 o’ my blankets?.
¿You sure? It’d only be fair, considering….
Tho Autumn’s eyes were closed & her body seemingly still from the outside, her heart was drumming @ the idea that came to her.
Keeping her voice as level as possible, — in fact, sprinkling a bit o’ a lazy yawn inside — she said,
If you’re that worried ’bout me being cold, we could just share the blankets — if you’re not concerned ’bout your own sleep being ruined by being so close to someone who may snore. Your call.
After a pause shorter than Autumn expected, Autumn heard Edgar say,
O — sure. I don’t know why I didn’t think o’ that. She noted some excitement in Edgar’s voice, but ruminated that the nervousness could indicate that ’twas faked.
That’s the problem with doing something nice for someone — it means they’re indebted to you, & thus can’t deal with you as an equal. I’m exploiting this man.
In the darkness she heard rustling & felt a thin sheet fall on her. Then she felt cloth with weight ’hind it brush gainst her arm — but only briefly. But this brief moment was ’nough to fill Autumn’s mind with imaginations o’ further touching. Autumn turned on her side with her back to Edgar & pressed a hand down under her nightshirt.
Exploitation is in my nature, after all. Much as the thief steals others’ goods & consumes them for only their own selfish appetite, so does the thief steal people & consume them only for their own selfish appetite.
Her subconscious must’ve taken her consciously-created facetious idea seriously, for when Autumn woke, the 1st thing she noticed was the dry bone o’ Edgar’s cheek gainst her own cheek, the slowly rising & falling thickness under Edgar’s robe gainst her chest, & her arm splayed o’er the naked bone o’ his knee. Autumn was disturbed by the way her mind was e’en considering slipping her hand further up Edgar’s robe & feeling what was up there… She pulled her arm back & put her hand ’tween her own legs.
¿Should I get up or stay?.
¿What time is it?.
If I open an eye, he’ll know I’m awake… if he’s awake, a’least, & just hasn’t moved due to politeness.
’Nough silliness. I have work to commence.
She opened an eye & saw the walls now covered in Chaouen blue. She sat up & rubbed her eyes.
There’s no ignoring my dangerous growing attachment to him… & one should ne’er become attached to what one can easily lose….
By the time Autumn had showered, shaved, dressed, brushed her teeth & hair, & performed whate’er other stalling tactics she could produce, Edgar was just getting up.
I didn’t wake you, ¿did I?, asked Autumn; tho from the slow way he stirred, she doubted she had.
He rose from the floor, blanket flopping off his upper body & onto his lap. Despite it almost being 30°, he tightened his robe round himself & shivered.
This was when Autumn realized she had just been standing there, gazing @ him for a full minute — a shock so large that she further broke her script by widening her eyes.
She shook her head & then said,
I’m going to… look @ some other apartments.
Edgar looked up @ her.
¿Is there something wrong with this 1.
Autumn smirked. He keeps getting it backward.
Yeah, it’s not full o’ stuff from other apartments.
O… ¿You want me to come?.
Couldn’t hurt. I’m sure I’ll just be wandering thru apartment complexes being useless. The worst that’ll happen is we’ll be shooed ’way by some cop.
If you’re not busy, sure. I can wait for you to get ready.
But as Edgar left the shower, Edgar stopped & turned his head to the kitchen for a moment before looking back @ Autumn.
I thought you didn’t eat, said Autumn.
I thought you did, Edgar replied as he stared @ Autumn with the kind o’ blank expression you’d see on a cat waiting for its kibble.
Autumn turned ’way from him for the front door.
You thought wrong, she said.
But tho Edgar was silent as they walked thru the sunlit streets, that gap nagged on Autumn mo’ than if he’d been pestering her. & worse, her nerves screamed for coffee, so she stopped @ the Morgenacht’s by Edgar’s ol’ home & bought a coffee & donut.
As they left the store, she thought, 200₧ is rooster feed. If I can’t make up for that with my heists, I’m screwed regardless — & I can’t deny the mind-weakening threat o’ hunger & sleepiness, which’ll only waste my time. I must remember, time’s what’s truly valuable — that’s what I need the money for in the end.
Edgar turned to Autumn & asked,
Hey, Autumn: ’scuse me for being dumb, ¿but why are we…. He lowered his voice to a whisper.
…robbing people in the middle o’ the day? ¿Isn’t there a risk that we’ll be caught?.
The opposite: the majority o’ people are @ home sleeping @ night; during the day they’re usually out, @ work or doing errands. That’s when we want to rob them.
Autumn felt her voice shrivel into her throat as she said “rob them”. She couldn’t stand Edgar’s silence & all it didn’t tell. These aren’t jerkass bullies — as if all the students I robbed were, tho he might not know that.
Autumn realized she hadn’t e’en paid any attention to what time she’d left, but figured it must’ve been rather late; e’en in the itchy heat that made Autumn’s nerves scream for her to race ’way to shadier places, so much time elapsed that soon the sun fell, ’long with the heat & the yellow to pale salmon & dim blue.
We might as well give it up, Autumn said with as normal a volume as possible.
We’re not going to find it, & someone’s just going to get suspicious o’ us just loitering round here like idiots.
With a surprising fullness o’ urgency, Edgar said,
I know I left it here….
Autumn put a hand on Edgar’s shoulder.
It’s fine. I can get you ’nother 1.
¿You lose something?.
Autumn & Edgar both swung back with hardened hearts to see a young man in clean white dress clothes with shiny neat hair @ the bottom o’ the steps. In his arms were papers & a big leather book.
No, that’s all right, Autumn said as she gawked @ the kid. She clutched Edgar.
We need to go, anyway.
As Autumn led Edgar down the street, ’way from the apartment complex, she felt the dark matter that had earlier churned thru her stomach @ ’nother waste o’ hours be held back a bit by the lone cure for unhappiness: ideas.
She was jerked out o’ this by the sound o’ giggling. She looked @ Edgar & couldn’t help being infected by his amusement.
What it’d feel to be so careless, to be so accepting o’ whate’er happens….
No matter how many times she chopped the # into smaller & smaller pieces, imagining various free alternatives to needs that would doubtfully come to fruition, none fixed the same fatal conclusion.
E’en if I could find the means, they would merely maybe give me just ’nough time to look for e’en mo’ means, which will dry up till I run out. ¿& is struggling to maintain oneself on the bottom really worth it, or would it be better to risk the dire heist ideas & either solve the problem or screw myself o’er once & for all?.
Autumn tapped her notebook in thought.
I s’pose I could develop a less notorious skill… but I’d ne’er have time. ¿Don’t they say you need 10,000 hours to succeed off something like that? No way I could keep myself up for that long. Robbing Syrup Bank would be less risky.
’Sides, if I was unable to develop such skills years earlier, there’s no reason to assume I could in the future.
Autumn took a deep breath.
Might as well wait till the edge, get as much practice as I can beforeso. After all, if it works, it’ll make me rich ’nough that I won’t need my current savings, so I might as well use them up beforeso, & my savings will be useless if I annihilate myself before using them up.
Fuck… Time is the worst.
Autumn closed her laptop, pulled off her glasses, & harshly rubbed her face. Then she clicked off her lamp & slid under the blanket, next to Edgar, who had already fallen asleep god knows when.
She turned toward him & whispered,
She heard nothing but the same squeaky snore he’d been doing for the past hour or so. Eyes closed, she rolled on her side toward him & put her arms round him.
You’d better get out. & if not, I might as well pull you in.
Autumn said it in a gasp as she peered inside the open window, having called out for someone & hearing no answer.
She took a deep gulp & then climbed inside. She wandered thru all o’ the few rooms with her breath held & found no one inside. & yet she knew the place couldn’t have been abandoned by the mess o’ too much junk to notarize it all strewn ’bout or left round without care — a mess which would probably disgust someone with high sensibilities, but which excited Autumn with golden possibilities.
She dropped her pack & put her papers & Bible inside, & then pulled out a long jacket & wrapped it round her with the hood up & then put a black ski mask o’er her face. She watched herself in the bathroom mirror & saw that all her hair was covered, as well as e’ery part o’ her face but her eyes.
Wish it wasn’t so scorching hot, tho, she thought as she fought the urge to pull down her mask & start furiously scratching her itchy face. O well: it’ll encourage me to hurry mo’.
Then she pulled out a black plastic garbage bag & began wandering the apartment, picking up items that seemed useful. She started with goods that weren’t worth any money value, but would save her from having to shop: a coffee pot & maker, coffee grinds, a can opener, pots & pans, cups, plates, & bowls, boxes o’ soap, packets o’ sponges, the whole utensil drawer, & whate’er canned & boxed food she could find in the cupboard, as well as some well-contained food she could find in the fridge & freezer.
By that point the bag was already bulging. Fuck. Should’ve been mo’ selective.
I wonder if it’d be worth taking multiple trips….
She took a few towels, wash cloths, & bottles o’ shampoo from the bathroom, only to think ’bout a few mo’ things & to almost fill the bag halfway. Then she forced herself out & into the bedroom, where she found the true gold mine: a laptop & a DVD player. She opened the former & held the power button till ’twas off completely, & then stuffed both into the bathroom bag.
No more, or I’ll risk losing it all. Need to know when to stop.
So she dashed for the window with both bags o’ershoulder & peered out the window: nothing but dead air. Howe’er, before she jumped out, she stopped & reconsidered. Then, she yanked off her mask & pulled off her jacket, threw both into 1 o’ the bags, & then walked up to the front door, unlocked it, & then casually walked outside & down the steps, lugging both bags with a calm but tired expression, accompanied by quiet grunts & biting her bottom lip.
The few people she passed hardly looked @ her.
Then she stowed herself into an alley & texted Edgar to meet her. Despite the ordeal o’ lugging such heavy bags, Autumn found herself pacing round the alley — not to mention staring out @ the blinding yellow sunlight outside in fear o’ someone outside seeing her thru her shadows.
After giving a few mo’ pointers as to her location, Autumn heard the scratch o’ cement & looked up to see Edgar walk inside, the top corner o’ his face highlighted by the sun while the rest was covered in shade — a dark look that didn’t match his expression @ all.
Autumn lifted a bag.
¿You think you could carry these bags?.
Edgar grabbed the tied lip o’ the bag & grimaced as his hands shook to keep gravity from reclaiming it. Autumn lifted the bottom o’ the bag & shifted it o’er Edgar’s stomach.
¿How’s that?, she asked.
He lifted & dropped the bag on his shoulder.
Autumn rubbed her chin.
There’s still the other bag….
¿Are you going in for mo’?.
Autumn smiled with a finger pointed askew @ him.
You learn quickly.
¿You want to try putting the other bag o’er my shoulder?.
¿You sure that wouldn’t be too heavy? You have to walk all the way home with these.
I could… try.
Autumn shrugged & then put the other bag on Edgar’s shoulder. But as she stood back & watched him, she frowned. I’m going to kill him.
But he trudged out & down the street without a word. Autumn watched him halfway to the end corner, & then turned back for the apartment.
When Autumn opened their front door, she saw Edgar in the kitchen pantry shelving cans from the bag. Looking o’er the kitchen area, she could see that that wasn’t close to the 1st thing he took out.
Then he stopped & poked his head out.
I hope you don’t mind me putting this stuff ’way. I wasn’t sure if you wanted to keep it or not.
Autumn waved a hand.
It’s fine. Yeah, we’re keeping it. Just leave the laptop & the DVD player; those are for selling. She dropped the bag o’er her shoulder.
The same goes for e’erything in here.
So I guess you did well, ¿huh?.
Better than I expected this soon; but e’en with that comes questions: ¿should I keep trying this technique while I still have a chance & sew mo’ thread to our safety net, or would that only increase the chances o’ me getting caught?.
Edgar paused, staring into a can in his hand.
Autumn already regretted deciding to return to the apartment complex when she heard shouts & heavy footsteps ’bove. Someone sitting on the bottom step smiled @ them & said,
I wouldn’t bother, if I were you. Fuckermother’s crazy. Probably think you robbed him like e’eryone else.
While Edgar shivered to her side like a chihuahua, Autumn craned her head upward to see a pudgy man in shades & a wifebeater stomping up & down the 2nd-floor deck & shouting.
Just let me catch that punk ass. I’ll knock his fucking face right off. He threw a punch into the open air in front o’ him.
Autumn’s eyes glided o’er to the woman standing on the other end, sniffing with her arms wrapped round her stomach.
In a quiet voice, the woman said,
I think you’re scaring the other tenants….
The man shouted back,
I don’t give a fuck. He swung his whole body toward her, causing her to edge back.
¿What the fuck were you thinking leaving the god damn window open?.
It took a while for Autumn to recognize Edgar whispering to her & nudging on her T-shirt. It took a while for Autumn to feel as if her nerves worked @ all, having felt as if they were slammed by a sledgehammer. It took e’en longer for her to realize she was hyperventilating.
The man @ the bottom o’ the steps laughed.
I don’t think e’en Jesus could calm that guy down.
Edgar nudged her ’gain.
Autumn, ¿are you all right?.
Somehow, Autumn forced out o’ her gaping jaw,
Let’s — let’s go somewhere else for a while….
I guess we won’t be going back there…, Edgar said when Autumn closed the door ’hind them.
We don’t have many choices: turns out that piece o’ shit laptop doesn’t e’en fucking work, & had already been gutted. Out o’ e’erything I was able to sell so far, I only got round 5,000₧ — not e’en a 7th o’ 1 month’s rent.
O, I’m sorry.
Autumn gripped the window sill, pretending to stare out the window — tho what she’d be seeking, she couldn’t discern. Maybe the waxing-gibbous moon hanging o’er her always like a golden fruit, e’er out o’ reach.
It’s not your doing. Just forget ’bout it, said Autumn.
You don’t think… You don’t think that guy’ll be able to find us, ¿do you? ¿You don’t think someone saw us & told him what we looked like & he….
I wouldn’t worry ’bout it. We should worry ’bout rent getting us before he does.
Autumn glanced back & saw that Edgar didn’t seem any mo’ pleased by this.
Autumn kept her eyes averted from Edgar. She decided to look out the window ’gain — the same ’scuse as before.
You don’t want to come….
¿How dangerous is it?. Autumn could hear the fear rise in his voice.
¿You sure you don’t want me to come?.
This time Autumn turned her head backward. Edgar wasn’t looking @ her, but staring down @ a piece o’ his robe, which he was wringing round in his hands. But he seemed to notice Autumn turn to him, since he looked up @ her with that penetrating but impenetrable stare.
¿You sure you want to?.
Edgar nodded shakily.
Autumn turned & headed for the door.
Bring a jacket.
As she went out into the inky darkness, she thought, He wants to kill himself, too.
Autumn couldn’t understand why she felt so shaky out in the night when she felt so calm in the afternoon. ¿Was there much difference? ¿Were they mo’ likely to be attacked & mugged in the night?
It amused her as she thought ’bout it — her, a thief, fearful o’ other thugs. She ruminated, as she had a few other times, on the prospect o’ getting a better weapon than the limp knife she had on her; but then her mind flooded with the many ways a gun could blow up back in her face. Knowing the law, e’en if she shot someone out o’ self-defense, she’d be fucked o’er, anyhow — & she’d rather just be shot than endure that.
Nobody’s going to do shit. Just act dangerous — crazy. Heh. Not hard for me. Remember, criminals are just like me: they have to deal with risk management, too. ¿Why rob a nutjob who might have a gun in her jacket & has an occult skeleton ’hind her when there are prettier pearls to plunder?.
Glancing toward Edgar, she saw, to her amusement, that Edgar was turning his head this way & that in curiosity.
He’s enjoying the evening view. He’s treating this like a romantic romp.
¿Why shouldn’t he? He’s scouring the night next to a rakish thief. I didn’t become a burglar ’cause ’twas practical, after all. & yet here I am, miring in craven fears for the future as if the future were true — as if the future were not just delusions o’ the present. Howe’er destitute or dead I am in this imagined future, right now I am ’live & able.
She traveled 2 blocks to an apartment complex that looked just like any other in the day, but looked like a freakish mutation in the night — just like any other. She stopped @ the end o’ the complex & saw that the window seemed just as broken as it seemed in the past few days, as she heard someone inside announce to the outside world days ago. Neither e’er seemed to leave, so she had to suffice with when they slept. Not all heists could be as easy as an open window to a vacant home.
These people are so poor that they can’t e’en afford to fix a window to keep them from becoming further impoverished….
There’s a reason criminals are despised by society… & there’s a reason I’m a criminal. Better to be the best I can be than what I should be.
Before they walked up the steps, Autumn turned to Edgar & whispered,
OK, now put up your hood.
Edgar nodded & did so, covering how whole skeletal head & shrouding his face in darkness.
Her heart beat heavily as she walked up the creaking wooden steps, all the way up to grabbing the edge o’ the window itself — but like the night, ’twas an enjoyable beat. This was when the muddy abstract became clear fact. The only problem was that she’d wished she’d used the bathroom ’fore leaving; but effective criminals didn’t have the leeway to let that get in the way.
Probably won’t e’en open.
Her hands proved her wrong when it slid open — with a noise that jolted her. But she pushed forward.
Edgar, she whispered,
¿can you hold this here?.
She took Edgar’s hand & placed it just next to her other, & then let go. Then she dug thru her pack & pulled out some tape, which she used to tape the window up, since ’twas too broken to stay locked to the top part.
OK, let go, she whispered as she held the window with her own hand ’gain. When she felt the upward weight o’ Edgar’s hand leave, she loosened her own grip & found that the window stayed up.
OK, now stay far o’er there — Autumn pointed far past the corner o’ the building —
& be prepared to run.
When Edgar did that, she held a flashlight up & then clicked it on & quickly swooped it o’er the main room. Then she crept ’way from the window. But her breath was not held as much as she expected it would before: she saw nobody in the outside room.
She took a deep breath, & then led Edgar inside.
There she wandered thru the main room using only her cell phone’s dim light to see, while Edgar stood & kept his senses ’wake to disturbances.
The 1st was Autumn bumping into something with a loud thud, & then a click & the flash o’ yellow from beyond the hall.
¿What was that?, said a voice from ’hind the door.
Please don’t whisper anything, Edgar….
In a quieter voice, the voice ’hind the door said,
I told you we need to fix that window.
The door opened, followed by the flood o’ yellow light. Autumn winced & then fled with Edgar held in front o’ her ’pon seeing the haggard man holding a gun.
Autumn shoved Edgar out the window with her, only to feel a sharp sting pierce her lower back, accompanied by a bang. She toppled o’er on top o’ Edgar, but used all her strength to shove herself off him & raise him o’er the fence.
As she began to climb o’er the side herself, she felt a muscular arm grab her own arm. E’en tho she knew it could get her shot, Autumn shoved her elbow @ the man’s face, knocking him back as she fell into the bushes. From there she grabbed Edgar & skipped from bush to bush, & then, as soon as they ran out o’ bushes & returned to the streets, snuck them into the 1st storm drain she found.
Autumn didn’t let them stop till they were inside their home & the door ’hind them was locked both top & bottom. Then she sat back with desperate gasps gainst the front wall, ignoring her boiling bladder. She remembered the sting in her back from before & began to inspect her lower back: there she saw a red crust on her skin & a hole in her shirt; but ’pon feeling her back with her thumb, she found no penetration.
Edgar, seeing this, said in almost a breathless scream,
You weren’t shot, ¿Were you?.
No…. Autumn could barely breathe herself.
No, I think I was just scraped… A centimeter closer, tho… Fuck….
Autumn threw her head back gainst the wall with her mouth open.
I told you you shouldn’t have come. Fuck.
Edgar aimed a guilty frown @ the floor.
& the best thing…. Autumn’s voice began to shake with laughter.
I didn’t e’en get anything… I’ll have to go somewhere else, no choice… I’m not going to live to the end o’ the year. There’s no way I’m going to live….
Autumn jerked her head upward as if waking up. She kept her eyes off Edgar.
I shouldn’t have said that. It did no good.
She rubbed her face roughly. Then she rose & headed for the bathroom.
Edgar looked @ her in alarm.
I need to use the bathroom.
Autumn looked @ him with twisted brows.
Peeing, if you’re that curious.
Edgar swung his head ’way & said in a low voice,
O… Sorry… I thought… I thought ’twas something else….
She kept her face neutral till she closed the door ’hind her, & then let herself smirk.
I’ll say 1 thing: I’m successful @ self-control ’nough that Edgar apparently thinks e’ery time I use the bathroom’s some carefully crafted heist scheme, like I were some perfectly programmed computer.
If only that were the case….
As Autumn lay in bed that night, she heard sniffs & a sob & turned to blurrily see Edgar with his sleeve-covered arms covering his face in the darkness. She leaned there on her arm, staring as frozen as when she was before the haggard guy’s gun.
She lay back on her back & stared up @ the blue ceiling, ruminating on the oddity that was her — one would think counterintuitive — preference for being the lone person in the world as much o’ a failure as she was.
I can do nothing. If I cut ties with him, he’s just ’lone in that storm drain to mold to death; if I keep him here, he’ll get shot or arrested ’long with me — or will inevitable end up back in the storm drain when that happens to me & there’s no one to pay the bills. He’s born to die just like me.
Autumn turned on her arm ’gain.
I didn’t mean to wake you, mumbled Edgar.
Autumn continued to stare @ him, still covering his face. Her hand hung in the air for a moment, & then grabbed Edgar’s arm.
It’s OK, she said tentatively, like a novice magician casting a potent spell for the 1st time.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful — it’s better here than… before. I’m just… Ne’er mind me. I just… I’m just a coward, I guess. I’m sorry.
Autumn paused ’gain. She felt slow in the fast-moving moment, as if in a daze.
You’re new, she said.
Edgar sniffed, but said nothing.
You don’t still think that… that asshole too cowardly to take his anger out on anyone other than his wife — or that guy with the gun — will get us in the night, ¿do you? ’Cause we’re talking ’bout people too incompetent not to leave their windows open or broken. If that latter guy were halfway competent, we wouldn’t still be here, since his aim with that gun o’ his wouldn’t have been so bad.
I know… I’m silly….
Autumn took a deep breath.
& you’d be no safer staying here when I go on my heists, anyway….
If you were to be….
If not, we’ll still probably run out o’ rent money.
Autumn pulled in closer to Edgar, rubbing his arm.
Well, that can’t happen tonight, anyway — or any night. If the landlord kicks us out, it’s during the day. We’re only in danger during the day. Right now — any night when we’re not on a heist — we’re safe. We’re always safe during the night. Might as well use these safety periods to relax.
You’re right. Thank you.
& soon ’nough she heard Edgar’s silence drift into soothing snores, leaving her ’lone with her mind to keep trying to put together sums that just wouldn’t add up.