Johnny leaned against his door and sighed. Why did he agree to allowing them over? It was true that he wanted an honest opinion on his painting, but...
Meat sniggered in his corner. "You look like you're having some problems deciding something, huh, Johnny?"
Johnny walked past the burger-boy thing, doing his best to ignore him. He stepped in front of the painting and just stared at it. There was just something about it that seemed very familiar...he couldn't put his finger on it...
The canvas was relatively large, about 70"X34". Painted on it was...well, it looked like a mountain river scene just after sunset, coloured silver and blue and deep greens, a touch of purple here, some blue-near-black there...
Johnny picked up his palette.
Just a bit more white here...
Maybe some tan...no, a light brown here, for the riverbanks...
A black stone in the river, right here...maybe a little bit of a sand-bank, too.
All that work being put into it, and Johnny still felt that it wasn't even close to finished.
But it was getting steadily closer.
"Rere-tama, where are you and Sadee gonna stay?"
Leah gave Mercedes a look. "I was under the impression that Mercedes had already talked to you about staying here," she said.
I sighed. "No, no she did not." I also gave Mercedes a look. "Why ever would Leah think this, Sadee?"
She fidgeted. "Well, uh...I lied, okay?"
I stepped further inside the apartment. "Well, you might as well come in," I said. They stepped inside and I closed the door. "But I only have one other spare place to sleep. Leah, you take it."
"Wha-?" Sputtered Sadee. "But why-?"
"A few reasons," I cut it. "One: you never called ahead. Two: You don't seem to sleep all that much anyways. Three: As of right now, Leah is more deserving. And Four: I see that you have a perfectly good sleeping-bag, so you must have anticipated this if you brought it."
Sadee smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, I kinda did."
We walked into the living-room where Leah and Lacey were chit-chatting and catching up with each-other.
"I still have that drawing you made for me for my birthday," Lacey was saying.
"Really? I remember that! My art was so bad back then..." murmured Leah.
I almost wacked her. "Your art has never been bad," I admonished. "Not as long as I've known you."
She stared at me. "That's your opinion," she said. "As the artist of my work, I see that artwork as suck-ish."
I nodded and sat on the floor again. "I suppose you're right. I mean, even when I'm content with how my work has turned out, I still end up saying I don't like it in whole or that it sucks."
"Neither one of you have sucky art!" Sadee commented. "Now, my artwork really sucks."
"NONE OF YOU HAVE SUCKY ART SO SHUT UP!!!" Yelled Lacey. "Sheesh. It's like you guys are in some kind of competition over who's artwork sucks more! It's stupid!"
Leah, Sadee and I stared at each-other, then we all burst out laughing.
We all continued to chatter back and forth for almost the whole night, then we all went to bed. Even Mercedes.
The next day, Mercedes, Lacey and I walked to the park to meet up with Johnny. Leah had actually had a reason other than seeing me to come here, so she left a little while before we did. I gave her a spare key in case she got back before we did.
Johnny was pulling his car up to the side of the road just as we got to the park. "Hey Johnny!" Called Mercedes. "What's up?"
He got out of the car and chatted with Sadee for a bit. I sat under a tree, not really paying attention. I looked up at the overcast sky and just thought about the clouds. The light of the sun penetrated the thick cover in some places, casting shadows at the corners of my vision. I just stayed there for maybe five minutes, then Lacey called my name. "Come on, Laura." I obediently jumped up and walked over. "We going already?" I asked. She nodded. "Okays..."
"Are you alright?" She asked as we walked over to Johnny's car. "You seem really out of it."
"I'd expect you would be happy when I decide to stay quiet," I murmured.
"I know, it's weird, but it kinda creeps me out when you're this quiet. It's not like you."
I shrugged. "I dunno. I guess I'm just a little tired."
Since Mercedes had snagged shotgun behind my back, Lacey and I took the back seat. I just sort of dozed off during the drive while the others talked back and forth. Every so often, one of them would comment on my quietness and I would grunt or mumble a reply, but other than that, nobody really bugged me.
I guess I was just...really, really tired.
Laura was very out of it, like she hadn't had a decent night's sleep in a long, long time. Maybe she hadn't, how was Johnny to know?
When they finally pulled up to his house, Lacey and Mercedes had to all but drag Laura out of the car. What had happened to the nearly endless energy he had (almost) grown accustomed to?
He unlocked the door and walked inside, the three girls following him like moths after a light.
"This is it," he said, gesturing vaguely about himself. "Welcome to Chateau du Johnny."
Laura's skin took on a greenish complexion. "Where'syourbathroom?" She asked rapidly.
Johnny pointed down the hall and she dashed away, cupping her hands over her mouth.
"Uh....okay then..." he said. "Now we know why she was so out of it, I guess."
"I'll go check on her," said Lacey. She followed the direction Laura dashed off in.
Mercedes was examining the painting up against the wall. "Man, this thing is HUGE," she commented.
Johnny shrugged. "Eh, I've painted larger things. Not in a while, now, but I have."
Mercedes just continued to stare at the painting, looking deep in thought.
"What the..." he heard her say. "That's weird..."
"What?" He said, stepping closer.
She turned her head to look at him. "It looks a lot like Laura."
*Holy shit. It does...*
Lacey walked back with Laura's arm slung over her shoulder. Laura still looked a little green, and her glasses were slightly askew. "Hey, I don't mean to be rude or anything, but I think we should take Laura back to the apartment," she said. "She probably shouldn't have left in the first place..."
"I feel like crap, Johnny..." muttered said sick girl. "I'm sorry about this, but I guess I hafta head back."
She glanced at the painting, her glasses slipping down her nose a bit. "Brain not working..." she mumbled, almost too quiet to hear. She looked back at Johnny. "I'm really, really sorry, but I don't think I can give you my honest opinion right now, but give me a day or two and I'll be all better."
She pushed her glasses back up her nose.
As Mercedes and Lacey helped Laura back to the car, Johnny cast one last look at the painting.
It really did look like Laura turning her head over her shoulder. The rock was her eye, the sandbank in the river her ear, and the river itself her hair.
How the HELL had he painted that without realizing it?
Johnny shook his head and followed the girls to his car.
*I suppose the real question is why I painted her, he thought.
Something watched as the blonde one was handed something; a key, perhaps.
Then the blonde one wandered off.
Something decided to move.
He followed her. So many people on the sidewalk, he went by unnoticed.
She turned to a much less crowded walk.
He followed her.
Besides the blonde and himself.
He made sure to stay a safe distance behind her.
Then she turned down an alley.
A short-cut, perhaps?
He followed her, grinning to himself. This shall be easy...
He saw her. She had turned around. Ah, so she knew I was following her, she thought.
It does not matter, whispered his little creature within.
He grinned and took a step towards the blonde.
"Hello, there," he hissed. "I believe you have something I want..."
She dropped to the ground, as if in submission.
Then she twisted and pushed up from the ground, kicking him squarely in the jaw.
He sat there, stunned, and she ran off.
"You little BITCH!" He shouted, then got up to chase after her.
Then something shiny caught his eye. His face twisted into a cruel grin.
I'll get back at you later, I suppose...
He picked up the object and walked away.
I felt like CRAP.
We had ended up getting back before Leah, and I was lying down on the kitchen floor, the cool linoleum settling my stomach for some odd reason. Or maybe it was because I was lying down and not moving...
Then Leah stepped into the kitchen.
Looking like she had seen a ghost.
"Hey, hey, I can't look that bad," I muttered.
"No, that's not it," she said. "I was just attacked by some creeepy guy!"
I shot up, making my stomach churn slightly as I did so. "What?! Are you okay? What happened?!?!?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she said. "I kind of kicked his ass, and he didn't follow after me, so I'm fine."
I stood up shakily. "Okay, that's good," I said. "But maybe...next time, let's not leave by ourselves anymore. Especially if some creep is trying to attack people."
Leah nodded, then glanced around. "Where's Sadee and Lacey?"
I grimaced. "At the drug-store. There going to get me something for my stomach."
"Ah. So you're sick?"
She gave me a look. "Bed."
She clapped her hands together twice. "You heard me. Bed."
She pushed me to my room. "Get some rest, got it?" She ordered.
I gave her a lazy salute. "Yes, General Mom." I crawled on top of the bed without bothering to pull the covers over me. I heard Leah close the door and sighed.
Okay, time for sleep...
And I did.
Something grinned to himself. The creature within him sat quietly. Though he had failed to eliminate the blonde as it had wanted him to, he had earned a victory far more significant.
That girl's key.
The creature was pleased.