Story: Like A Lunar Rainbow (all chapters)

Authors: Mistress Hayate

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Chapter 1

Like a Lunar Rainbow


Chapter 1

I met her walking home from the bar where I worked. She had long, shiny red hair and bright green eyes. She sat on the corner of the street, gently strumming her acoustic guitar and vocalizing quietly. Many had gathered to listen to the professional-sounding improvised tune, including me.

The music seemed to change feelings--first it was a nonchalant bored-sounding melody, then it suddenly got faster. From the fast tempo went to a melancholy slow one, changing pitch all the while. One of the men that had been listening for about five minutes checked his watch and then dropped a bill into the case. The music stopped, and the red-haired girl looked up at him.

"Sir," she called, standing up and snatching the bill. "Sir, I can't take your money."

"Oh, no, please keep it. You were doing a wonderful job." He replied with a smile, pushing the bill into her palm. He glanced at his watch again. "I wish you luck."

And with that he walked off.

The girl stood there for a moment, staring down at the bill. She turned back to the case which she had left sitting on the ground. "Sir..." she murmured. The crowd dissipated, but I remained. I approached her quietly.

"That was beautiful."

She jumped at the sound of my voice. "Th-thank you," she said, looking up. "I've been practicing." The red-haired girl looked at the bill, and I sneaked a peek at it. It was $20.

"I can't keep it. I don't deserve it." She said, clenching her hand and the dollar with it. I put my hand on her shoulder. "Come on. You do so deserve it. He wanted you to keep it; he didn't take it back. You should be happy!" She smiled slightly. "I'm Niobe." I raised my eyebrows. That's a...bizarre name, I thought. I wonder if she's foreign. "Well, Niobe, I'm Lolita. It's nice to meet you." I stuck out my hand and she shook it. I paused, not knowing what to do next. Niobe released my hand and began to load her guitar back into its case.

"I should be getting home," I announced. "I have some business to tend to." Niobe nodded and slung the case over her shoulder. "I'll be seeing you...Lolita." she said in a whisper, though putting an emphasis on my name. The heels of her shoes clicked on the cobblestone pathway. What a queer girl.

The door to my apartment room shut with a slam, although I hadn't pushed it very hard. "I'm home," I whispered to no one. I had lied to Niobe about my "business". The situation was so awkward, I was willing to say anything to get out of it.

But the strangest thing was, Niobe never made a comment about my hair--or rather, my lack of it. My head was completely shaven, and many people pointed and stared. Quite a few asked me if I was a cancer patient. I always smiled politely and shook my head, saying that it was my own choice to become a skinhead. I learned to ignore their stares and whispers. I learned to ignore the wind on autumn days.

But no matter how uncomfortable I was, I refused to wear a wig or let it grow back. Actually, I loved and craved the attention I got from my baldness. I don't think I ever want to blend in again.

I dropped my bags onto an armchair and sank into my sofa. I rested my head on the armrest and opened and closed my eyes sleepily. I knew I couldn't fall asleep in the middle of the day, but I usually end up conking out anyway.

Niobe invaded my sleepy thoughts. Her beautiful red locks were gleaming in the light like the sun itself. She smiled brightly when she turned toward me and chirped "Miss Lolita." And I couldn't help smiling myself. "Niobe." I returned her greeting. She smiled even wider. "Miss Lolita..." she whispered, drawing out the last syllable. She leaned forward...

My dreams melted away when there was a sharp rapping at my door. "Miss Owens! Miss Owens!" called a voice. I groggily dragged my feet to the door, peeking through the peephole. It was the manager of the apartment complex. "Miss Owens! Your rent is late!" I mumbled angrily. "How much do I owe, again?" I called through the door. "$712." He answered. I grumbled again and fetched my checkbook.

I hurriedly scribbled out the check, opened the door, and handed it to my landlord. He gladly accepted it. He was a scrawny young man, with a buzz cut and thick glasses. His nose was always pinched up as if he was smelling something rotten and his skin was the color of mayonnaise. "Thanks," he said quickly, then turned on his heel and left.

I slammed the door and went back to the couch, but I was wide awake now. I grumbled once more and stared at the empty room. Nothing covered the walls; I had no television, no radio, no nothing. The only way I kept up with the news was using fifty cents of my small paycheck to buy myself a newspaper every Sunday, which sat on my counter for days before I actually bothered to read it. I sighed. My life wasn't as wonderful as it used to be.


After a day of waiting on rude, drunk men who insisted on pinching my buttocks every time I walked by, I headed back to the street corner where Niobe had performed, hoping to see her again.

No luck.

The corner was as empty as a desert. What a waste of time, I thought reproachfully. I really wanted to see this Niobe again.

"Hello," said a familiar voice. I spun around, only to see Niobe's smiling, freckled face, shining green eyes, and glossy red hair. "I thought I'd meet you here again." I noticed she had her acoustic guitar strapped on her back. "Hello, Niobe. Do you plan on playing again today?"
"Nope." She smiled warmly and I stared blankly at her. "Then why are you carrying your guitar?"
"Do I need a reason?"
I chewed my lip thoughtfully for a moment, and then replied, "Well, you must think it looks a bit silly to walk around with a guitar case on your back."
"Don't you think walking around with a shaved head looks "a bit silly"?"

She had me there. I sighed and she grinned mischievously.
"Want to go get some coffee or something?" Niobe asked suddenly. I looked at her. "Uh, sure, why not?" She smiled even wider and chirped "Great! I know a wonderful place just up the street!" Niobe took my hand in hers and led me away. This is so strange, I thought. Niobe seemed like a quiet, shy girl who performed on street corners for extra cash. But now she's an energetic pixie, leading me away to a coffee shop.

"Lolita, we're here." Announced the pixie-girl, pointing up to a petite, stone building with a sign that read "Hava Java". I raised my eyebrow, confused at the new name. Niobe took note of my confusion and explained, "It's a small, family-owned coffee shop. I like it better than the rest of those corporate businesses." She led me inside. The strong scent of coffee beans filled our noses.

The young woman, now looking as excited as a small child in a candy store, ran to the front counter. "Hello, Linda! Me and my friend want two cappuccinos!" she informed gleefully, holding up her index and middle finger. Linda, an old, plump woman, smiled at Niobe's energy. "Right away, dear. You and your friend just go sit down and I'll call you when it's ready, okay?" Niobe gave her a nod and grabbed my hand once more to lead me to a table.

"I love this place," she said, pulling out a lawn chair from plastic table. "It's so nice and peaceful." I looked around. Plants of all sorts decorated the room; tulips, roses, posies, and all sorts of trees with leaves so glossy they looked false. The walls were painted yellow with white stripes each about fourteen centimeters thick. Linda and another younger woman worked behind the counter. I could hear quiet classical music--Mozart, I think.

"Do you like it here, Miss Lolita?" Niobe's sugary-sweet, soft, gentle voice made me jump. I managed a weak smile. "It's...nice." I answered. She smiled. "I think so, too."

"Girls, your cappuccinos are ready." Announced Linda, holding up two milky-white ceramic mugs. Niobe hopped up to fetch the coffees. I exhaled and leaned against the wall. The music and the strong scent of coffee and flower petals were relaxing.

"Hey," Niobe's voice startled me and I looked up at her. She had a steaming mug in each hand. "No sleeping. We're going to talk, remember?" She gently sat down, still holding the cups. She slid one over to me. I don't remember her saying anything about talking, but okay. "Talk about what?" I inquired. She smiled and brought the cappuccino to her lips. "It smells so good, the coffee does." She sipped it, licked her lips, and set the mug down again. She stared straight into my eyes, as if examining my very insides. "T-talk about what, Niobe?" I repeated.

"Tell me about your work."

I looked at her as if to ask why, but she only smiled wider, closing her eyes and cocking her head ever so slightly to the left. She was acting like a little girl for some reason; perhaps she thought it was cute.

Damn it, it was.

"I-I'm a waitress for Paul's 24-Hour Sports Bar." I stated, drinking my coffee as well. My eyes narrowed a bit. "I hate it there. The management makes me wear this tiny little skirt so that when I bend over, all the men there see my panties. They hoot and holler, grab my butt, and never leave me alone. Constantly hitting on me." I paused to take another drink. "A bunch of pigs, all of them." I muttered bitterly. I looked up at Niobe, who was grinning wider than ever. "Why don't you wear hose? Why don't you quit?" she questioned. "Because I have none; because I can't keep mooching off my father. I've already taken enough from him...He practically pays my rent for me every month. Rather unwillingly, might I add."

Niobe ran her finger around the rim of her mug. "Oh," she said quietly. We sat in a pregnant silence, drinking slowly, examining the walls. Niobe looked up at the ceiling. "Hey," Niobe began. "Why do the guys hit on you so much if you're...Ah..."


"Err, yes."

I shrugged. "I don't like to, but to get more tips, I wear a wig. And tons of makeup. If you ask me, I'm at my sluttiest before I leave that horrid place." Niobe nodded, and traced the rim of her cup again. "Why do you dress up like that if you hate the way they treat you?" Niobe asked. This girl has so many questions, but I don't blame her. I don't usually explain anything unless someone prompts me to. "I need the money. The rent for my apartment is $712 a month. $712 for that crappy place. Not to mention food and junk."

"Hm. Okay. Now you ask me something, 'kay?"

I sighed, thinking of which question to ask first, or if I should let them all spill out of my mouth at once. "Is Niobe your real name?" I decided, asking a simple question at first. "Yep. Silly, did you think it was a penname or something?" She laughed a bit.

"Okay...So, how old are you?"

"What would you say if I said eighteen?"

"I'd say, what a coincidence, I am as well."

Niobe flashed me her teeth and chirped, "Eighteen." I snorted, holding back laughter. "What a coincidence, I am as well." Niobe reached out and gave my hand a squeeze. My grin faded and I stared down at out linked hands. "Oh," she mumbled and let go of my hand. "I-I'm sorry, Miss Lolita." Niobe blushed and finished her cappuccino. "Sorry." She repeated. I blinked. "Quite all right."

"More questions?"

"Okay. Umm, where do you live?"

"Here. Well, downtown."

I squeezed my eyes shut in frustration. I couldn't get any conversation out of my questions! Maybe I'm just too talkative. "What do you do for a living?" I demanded suddenly. Niobe tapped her lips thoughtfully. "Nothing,"


"Nothing specific. I do a lot; volunteer, tutor children, take classes, maybe teach a class. I don't have a permanent job."
I furrowed my brow. "Don't you parents, like, yell at you? Tell you to get a real job?" Niobe smiled. "Nope! They like what I do. Maybe they're envious that I like what I do; going from job to job to school to job." She laughed. "I really hate being stuck in one place; repetitive stuff. I move a lot." She closed her eyes and leaned back. "I never leave the state though. I love the city. So many people. So much noise. So much life! Don't you love it here? I mean, sometimes terrible things happen; shootings, gang wars, blah blah blah, but it's wonderful here."

"I never knew someone could be so, so passionate about this place." I said. She sat back up. "Where do you want to go now, Miss Lolita?" I raised my eyebrow at the sudden change of subject. "I don't know. Let's see your place," I suggested. "Ooh, that'd be great! Let's take a taxi!" I smiled at her childish enthusiasm. Niobe again grabbed my hand and led me out the door. "Taxi! Taxi!" she called, cupping her free hand around her mouth.

When a taxi finally pulled over, the driver asked "Where to, girls?" in a thick accent. "54th street, please, sir!" I stepped in and Niobe scooted over. "You live on 54th street? What a place." Niobe grinned, flashing her almost flawless teeth. Their pure, ivory color made me a bit ashamed of my yellowing ones. "Thank you. If you don't mind, my mother's visiting. 'Kay?" I nodded. "It's fine. I should like to meet her. Does she have your red hair?" Niobe nodded enthusiastically. "Yup-yup! But my dad's the one with the eyes." I smiled again at her, then turned to look out the windows. So many lights, so many sounds. It's almost like Las Vegas, except without the casinos and such.



"What'cha lookin' at?"

"...The cars."

"The cars? Why?"

I paused. Why was I looking at them? Why couldn't I just look at Niobe?

"I-I dunno...I...It's what I always do."

I heard her snort softly, as if she didn't buy my story. I couldn't blame her; I stammered and hesitated too much.

"Hey, Niobe."

"Yes, Miss Lolita?"

"Why did you act so shy before? When I first saw you; when you played for the crowd."

"Hmm. I was surprised then. I've never been paid for playing. Really, I don't want to be paid. Especially not that much. $20 is a lot for a tip, you know. I don't even play so good! They all just think I do..." Her voice got soft and sorrowful during the last sentence. Maybe she has an inferiority complex, I mused.

"You play wonderfully! Don't say that about yourself! I..." Before I continued with my compliments, I saw the driver looking at us in the rearview mirror. "Miss? We're here." He informed us, pointing at the street sign which, sure enough, read "54th street". "Oh," we said in unison. "$53.95, please," said the cabby with a cough. "Right," Niobe took out her wallet and pullet out three bills, nine dimes, and a nickel. "Here. Thanks for the ride, sir." She and I climbed out and the cab sped away.

"We'll have to walk the rest of the way there. Sorry. It's not far, though." Niobe swiveled her head around and around, looking for the right way to go. "Aha!" she cried, pointing to the left. "This-a way!" And with that Niobe was off. I followed her, making sure to stay right behind so I wouldn't get lost. I didn't know where I was.

"Here we are, Miss Lolita! My house!" It was a beautiful, old-fashioned red-brick building with the number 528 on it in silvery number plates. The door was wooden and had an iron knob with the keyhole right above it. Niobe dug around in her two front pockets to find her key, a simple-looking golden one. She stuck the key in the lock and attempted to twist it one way, then the other. Niobe withdrew her key, turned it around, and inserted it again. The lock clicked. The inside of the house was as beautiful as the outside was. It was simple and elegant with family pictures decorating the lavender-painted walls, faux plants scattered about in a random yet somehow organized manner, and spotless white chairs, sofas, and love-seats.

"Mom! Mom, we're home." Niobe called to her mother, who must have been somewhere close. An old woman, probably in her mid-fifties, with greying red hair and a wrinkled face poked her head out of a door, looking at Niobe and I. Niobe grinned widely and waved. "Bebe! You're home!" She shouted, bursting out of the room she seemed to be hiding in, wrapping her skinny little arms around Niobe's neck. I smiled at their relationship, so happy and seemingly-perfect. "Oh, and you brought a friend! Hello, dear, I'm Mrs. McGuirk, but just call me Gladys." She released her daughter and heartily shook my hand. Niobe leaned over to whisper in my ear, "She's just a wee bit eccentric." I nodded my head and mouthed "Oh."

Mrs. McGuirk hugged her daughter again and looked me over from head to toe, even though she was pumping my arm up and down happily just a second ago. "Bebe, dear, who is this?" she demanded. "She's Lolita, Mother." Mrs. McGuirk stared at my head, obviously realizing the fact I was a skinhead. "Dear, she's bald," I'm so flattered you noticed, Gladys, I thought sarcastically. "Well, that's okay, I don't mind." Niobe stated

"Young women are not supposed to be bald,"


"Why is she bald? Tell me right now, Niobe."

My face reddened as I tried not to shake the woman by the shoulders and scream at her; It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. "Be-because she wants to be. She never told me exactly why." I wondered if Mrs. McGuirk thought I was the devil and wouldn't ask me herself.

"Ma'am, I'm bald because it's a side-effect of the meds they gave me when I had cancer," I lied, thinking I might get a shred of sympathy from this old hag if she thought I survived a lethal disease.

Apparently, it worked. The old woman's face softened and she patted my shoulder benevolently. "I'm so sorry, Lolita, was it?" I nodded and she continued; "I didn't know."
"It's quite all right, Ma'am. Not a lot of folk do." Niobe elbowed me in the stomach and whispered harshly, "You don't have cancer! Don't lie." I pushed her arm away and replied in the same tone,

"It's fine, just a little lie."

"You told her you had cancer! That's not a "little lie", Miss Lolita!"

Gladys raised her eyebrow at our angry whispering and we smiled back at her. Niobe wiggled her fingers in a kind of wave. "That is not something to lie about." I snorted. "It's fine, Niobe, fine." Niobe stuck her bottom lip out just slightly and scowled, like a little girl arguing on the playground. I rolled my eyes and looked back at Gladys, who somehow had gained a fluffy little feather duster and was dusting a few family portraits.

"Mother, do you mind if Miss Lolita stays for dinner?" Niobe asked suddenly. "Oh, sure, dear. It's all right with me." Mrs. McGuirk said airily, as if not paying attention to anything Niobe said at all.

Dinner with Gladys and Niobe? Oy vey, what a night this'll be.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

"Dinner? Niobe, I don't think..."

"Oh, come on, Lolita. It might be fun."

"Might?" I was skeptical about staying with these two. I'm still quite sure that Gladys hates my guts, so she might try to poison me. That is, if she's daring enough. Gladys had floated away to dust more random things to occupy her time; obviously ignoring my presence. She would have dusted me if not for the fact she knew I was here.

"Fine," I gave up. "I'll stay. But only if you cook, Niobe. I don't think I can trust your mother, no offense." Niobe looked around nervously. "I'm not much of a cook, you see," she began, nervously biting her lower lip. "I can only cook things if the package says "Instant" on it and there are no extra ingredients to be added." She tapped her fingers together innocently. I rolled my eyes. "You can't even muster up decent sandwiches?"

"What kind of dinner is sandwiches?"

I sighed. I really wish she wouldn't answer my questions with more of her own, I thought. "No-one said this had to be formal, did it?" Niobe chewed her lips thoughtfully again. "But, I want you to have a nice dinner, Lolita." I sighed. "Fine. How long will this take, anyway?" Niobe wandered into the kitchen and began digging through the fridge. "Oh, I don't know...Depends on what I'm gonna cook..." She pulled out a loaf of bread, a few plastic containers, and a block of extra sharp cheddar cheese. I raised my eyebrows. We're going to eat that? I wondered. Niobe shoved all of the food back into the refrigerator and slammed the door. "Mo-om! Don't we have anything good for dinner?"

"I don't know; this is your house, dear."

Niobe cursed under her breath. "Um, I can go get something if you want, Niobe..." I offered. "No, no, no, no, no. I'm doing this for you. Remember?" I sighed. "Yes, I know..."

"So I'm cooking and I'm buying the food."

"Yes, I know."

"So that means you go sit."

I grumbled and shuffled into the living room. I really wish she wouldn't do all of this for me, I thought. I lay my head down on the armrest of the pure, white couch. It was soft and satiny, and it reminded me of when I was little. When my mother was still alive. When she would hold me close and when she would read me faerie tales and nursery rhymes. It was so long ago. I could barely remember her face, but her voice could echo through my ears like she was still alive, like she'd never left me:

"My little Loli."

It made my stomach roll over to think of her nickname for me. I nuzzled my head deeper into the couch's material, inhaling deeply and trying my damnedest not to cry. I sighed, and before I knew it, I was sleeping like a baby.

I heard Niobe slam the door and I sat bolt upright. I looked around, delirious from my deep sleep. I could feel her eyes on my own, my own eyes which I could not open. The eyelashes seemed to be fused together by the dried tears in my eyes. "Miss Lolita? You okay?" Niobe asked. By the sound of it, she was carrying several plastic bags. "Err...Yeah, I-I think I'm fine..." I said, reaching up to wipe the sleep from my eyes. I inhaled and exhaled deeply and looked up at Niobe, whose red hair was tangled from the wind. Her eyes were fixed in a worried stare, and their exuberant glow seemed to be gone. Niobe's mouth hung open ever so slightly, showing just a glimpse of those pearly whites. I smiled as wide as I could, trying to illustrate the point that, yeah, I'm quite all right.

"O...Okay, if you're sure...Loli, dinner'll be ready in..." I didn't hear the rest of her sentence. What did she call me? Did she really say that? Did she call me Loli? Loli? Loli? It can't be! That's impossible! My nickname, my nickname which made me sick to my stomach whenever I thought of it. But somehow, when she said it, it was okay. There was a warm feeling inside of me, like someone had lit a match in the pit of my stomach. My breath became ragged, as if I was just running a marathon. I drew my hands up to my stomach and clutched it.

"Loli? Loli! Loli!" Niobe cried, dropping her bags and running over to me, falling to her knees. "Loli? What's wrong? Are you sick? You're so pale...Loli. Loli! It's okay, it's okay, it's okay!" She repeated those two words and cradled my head in her palms. "It's okay. It's okay...Everything's okay...Loli..." I could've sworn Niobe was crying as she released my head and in turn clutched me in her warm embrace. I wondered why she was crying. Nothing was wrong with me, it's just that word struck my heart in a way that only my mother's could. I began to breathe normally; Niobe must have noticed because she slowly began to inch away from me, but I hugged her closer. "Niobe," I began in a hoarse whisper.


"Please...Please don't call me that."

"O...Okay...Miss Lolita." I released her and she stood. Just as I thought, tears were running from her somewhat-swollen red eyes.

"You're positively sure you're okay."

"Yes, Niobe."

"Absolutely sure."

"That I am."

She chuckled and began to gather up the food that had fallen from the plastic bags. Luckily, most of it was either in cans or other bags, so nothing was ruined or spilt on the floor. "Need any help?" She shook her head and walked back to the kitchen. "No, Lol...I mean, Miss Lolita. You go back to sleep, 'kay?" I nodded even though she couldn't see me and reclined on the satiny couch. I wondered what she had bought. I wondered how long it would take. I finally noticed the hunger that must have washed over me when I was asleep. My stomach rumbled and I groaned. I tossed and turned, trying to ignore that nagging feeling.

Mrs. McGuirk fluttered about the room with her duster. I watched her a bit, humming a mindless tune with her eyes glazed over like a zombie. The ruffles of her old-time-y skirt brushed together and made somewhat of a scratching noise. However soft it was, it was still annoying. I threw one arm over my eyes, blocking everything from sight. I could hear boiling water in the other room, and Gladys and her infernal humming. I grumbled under my breath and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to force myself to sleep once more. I began to breathe slowly, and repeat the "ohm" sound you always hear those meditating people in movies mumble in my head. I relaxed my eyes and continued to breathe deeply, trying my best to fall asleep; to fall into a realm in which Gladys and Niobe are not.

It was when I finally dozed off when I realized just how wrong I was. Niobe once more raided my sleepy thoughts and scampered about that sunny field of hers, giggling like a small girl in a sweets shop. She wore a wide-rimmed straw hat and a sunny, yellow strapless dress. The wind blew her hair this way and that when she playfully romped about the field, and the sun reflected off of her toothy grin and bright eyes so perfectly, she seemed to shine like an angel fallen to earth. But this angel was different from the rest; she was happy she was gone from the wondrous palace that is Heaven; happy to be among the living even if she is not living herself. She stopped playing and looked at me with the innocent look as if to say, I didn't do anything. Niobe opened her mouth and garbled speech came out. A pause, then the same garbled speech. Niobe dashed over to me and shook my shoulders, shouting the same gibberish over and over and over, each time quicker than the last before the sky turned red, and the ground black, and Niobe into an old woman with frizzy grey locks, a battered old hat, and a faded yellow dress. What was left of the noise was just a high-pitched squeak.

"Lolita! Lolita! Lolita!" Niobe was shouting and shaking me. I growled and sat up. "What the hell is wrong with you!?" I yelled, throwing my arms up in the air. She looked at me with her innocent face and said, "I thought you had passed out, or something..." her voice was soft and sorrowful, as if I had hurt her with my stinging words. I'm sure I had. I took in a sharp breath and pointed my nose upwards. "Just...Don't do it again." She nodded and stood. "Dinner." She simply stated and started for the dining room. I just noticed the warm smell of some kind of meat and vegetables wafting through the air. I stood quickly and an overwhelming sense of dizziness washed over me and I sat down again. I held my head. Niobe turned back towards me. "You coming, lazy girl?" I growled under my breath. "Don't call me that; and yes I am."

"Whoa..." I muttered in amazement, gazing down upon the fantastic-looking stew Niobe had conjured up and divided into three bowls. I grinned. "You made this. You made this?" I said in disbelief. "What, you didn't think I could cook or something?"

"No, it's just...Wow. Like, like something out of a commercial or something."

Niobe gave a laugh and told me to sit, which I promptly did. I chuckled a bit and pulled a bowl closer to me. Just as I was about to take a spoonful to my lips, Niobe stopped me. "Wa-a-ait, we have to say grace." I blinked. I never knew Niobe was so religious, I thought. "O...Kay." I said hesitantly, as if to question if she was serious. Niobe and Mrs. McGuirk bowed their heads and clasped their hands together. I did the same, peeking up just a bit to make sure I was mimicking them exactly. "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this bounty we are about to receive. Thank you for letting Mother and Lolita be here to share with me..."

I toned her out and looked down at my stew. How long could this go on? I mused. I hummed a tuneless little song in my head when I thought I felt eyes boring into me. "Loli...Ta?" I snapped into a more normal-looking position. "Uh...Sorry." I grinned sheepishly. Gladys looked over to her daughter as if to ask, Is this how she always is? Niobe shrugged in return and motioned with her hand to show me that it was now okay to eat. I tasted the stew, chewing the meat and vegetables slowly. Niobe and Gladys stared at me, judging my reactions. I stopped and they leaned forward, as if watching a suspenseful movie. I waited for one of them to ask me, "Well?"

"It's...Good," I began. "No, scratch that; it's really good. Really, really good. I mean it. Best thing I've ever tasted." And it wasn't a lie. It was fantastic, almost much too fantastic. I thought for a moment about if she had slipped any drugs or anything in there, but then decided that was stupid. "And you said you could only cook things with 'Instant' on the package," I laughed, pointing my spoon at her. She laughed sheepishly. "Yeah..."

"Is it...Is it instant?"

"No! No...Just an old recipe."

I raised my eyebrows suspiciously and took another bite. Niobe looked over to her mother, who was quietly eating and not saying a word, keeping her eyes focused on her bowl. "She made this, didn't she!?" Mrs. McGuirk and Niobe both looked up at me. Niobe chuckled nervously and mumbled, "Yeah...Yeah, she did." She saw my disgusted face and assured me that she had watched her mother make it and she didn't put any arsenic or bleach into the mix. "Maybe I did it just to her bowl..." muttered Gladys bitterly. "Hey!" Niobe and I shouted in unison. "I'm kidding, jeez."

I took another bite and sloshed it around in my mouth, as if to check it. Didn't taste funny. Not at all. "Nio, let me taste yours..." I said, reaching across the table with my spoon and dipped it into her bowl. "Hey-y-y, that's rude! And don't call me Nio. If you want a nickname for me, call me Bebe."

"Fine, fine, I'm sorry." I said apathetically. I stuck the spoon into my mouth, then took another spoonful of mine to judge. They tasted the same. "Okay...Let me taste yours, Gladys!" She edged her bowl away. "No. You should be more trustful of your elders." That's respectful, I thought. Not trustful. I snorted and settled back into my chair. The stew was good, I'll admit, but I was still unsure if Gladys had slipped anything into our bowls.


"Bebe, I think you should take Lolita home."

"Mom, so soon? But we just got done eating."

"Take her home."


"Do as I say, Bebe!"

"This is my house!"

I listened to the two bicker and forget all about me. They went over how I was company and should be shown hospitality, but not while she's here. But it wasn't her house, but she was her daughter and she knew what was best for her... It was like listening to two stubborn teens fight. Part of me wanted to yell at them both to shut up, but another thought this was funny and wanted the two to keep quarreling.

"Look, stop fighting. If you want to get rid of me so soon, then I'll leave. Niobe, if you want to talk or something, we can drive around for awhile."

"And leave her alone?"

"And leave me alone?"

I groaned. "You don't even like me Gladys! Why would you--Oh, just forget it! Niobe, I want to go home." I felt like a child saying that, but it was true. I just couldn't stand Gladys and I couldn't stand seeing Niobe not being her happy, peppy self. "Please take me home."

"Fine. Mom, just stay here. You can leave too, if you'd like; or you can stay the night. Whichever is fine. I made the guest bed all up just how you like it. Okay?" Gladys nodded and gave me one last snotty look before she turned on her heel and sauntered off to the guest bedroom.

"Niobe, I'm sorry, really I am, but your mother hates my guts--"
"I know, Miss Lolita. Don't worry about it. She doesn't like change; you should've seen her bawl when I moved out." Niobe laughed and grabbed her keys from a table near the front door. "C'mon. Let's go." She unlocked the front door and we stepped out into the chilly night. Niobe pressed a button on her key ring and the slick, black Camry's lights flickered on and off to show the car was now unlocked.

The leather interior of the Camry was cold and somewhat slippery when I sat in the shotgun seat. Niobe started the car and the radio came to life, blasting some soft rock. So much for soft rock, I thought as Niobe clicked the radio off. "Where do you live again?" Niobe enquired, backing out from the driveway and turning left. "Um, Graves Boulevard." I said, pointing to our opposite. There was a pause and Niobe drove back into her driveway and backed out, turning right this time. "Oh."

I sneaked a peek at Niobe, who was not exactly her happiest. Her lips were pursed into a thin, tight line and her eyes were focused on the road and nothing else. She was quiet, obviously thinking about something. She must've felt my eyes boring into her, for she looked over at me quickly, her mouth hanging over ever so slightly. Niobe turned back to look at the road again and asked quietly,

"Why're you looking at me?"

"Mmm...No reason. You're just so quiet and docile right now. It's not like you."

She mouthed something: 'You can't know what's like me when you've only known me for two days.' She was right.

I looked out the windows into the bright lights of the apartments, restaurants, stores, and other buildings. I sighed. "Turn left here." I said as soon as the car stopped at a stoplight. "Turn left again," I instructed. "And keep going straight. My apartment building is There! Stop!" I'm sure Niobe was annoyed by my constant instructions, but she was able to drop me off with a smile. "'Bye, Lolita." There was a short pause, then "Wait! Hold on. Don't go." I stood in the freezing parking lot as Niobe rummaged through her glove compartment, withdrawing a pen and a pad of sticky notes. She hurriedly scribbled something down and handed it to me. "Here ya go. See you sometime later, 'kay?"

After she drove off into the night, I looked at the paper. It was a phone number. She had given me her phone number! I was sure she wasn't too pissed with me if she gave me her number.

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