Ruthie woke with a long exhale, her brain still fuzzy with the nonsensical and evaporating vestiges of a dream. Rubbing sleep from her eyes, her vision slowly coming into focus, she was surprised to find Stuckman seated in the chair beside her bed, watching her with amusement.
“What are you doing in here?” Ruthie asked. “You get your kicks creeping on me while I’m asleep? Like your women young and defenseless, do you?”
“Good morning, Ruthie,” the older man said. “How did you sleep?”
“I don’t remember waking up in the middle of the night, so I guess I slept all right.”
Stuckman raised an eyebrow. “You don’t remember, then?”
“Yelling at me?”
“Did you deserve it?”
“You mean, did I try to touch you? No.”
“So, what did I say?” asked Ruthie
“A lot of things.”
“You talked about her,” Stuckman said, the disdain in his voice evident.
“She has a name, you know.”
“Why do I need to say it? You know who I’m talking about.”
“Say her name,” Ruthie insisted.
“Why is that important to you?”
“You don’t think she deserves to be called by name?”
Stuckman sighed. “Aisha. Satisfied?”
“Never,” Ruthie said. “So, what did I say?”
“You blamed me for what happened to her–Aisha.”
“So, do you?” Stuckman asked.
“Do I what?”
“Blame me for Aisha?”
“Would it bother you if I did?”
“You still love her, don’t you?”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“You still have feelings for her.”
“And if I do?” Ruthie’s tone was more defensive than she intended.
“That poor girl had no clue that you’d wind up causing her nothing but trouble in the long run.”
Ruthie let out an ironic chuckle. “I’m the best at what I do.”
“If you really loved her, you should have cut her loose.”
“I don’t have feelings for her, so you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t I? You think I can’t read your body language? Your expressions?”
“I think you see what you want to see.”
“So, you’re telling me that you don’t hold me responsible for making you the monster you are today?”
“You think I’m a monster?”
“No. You think you’re a monster. You said as much last night.”
“I’m my father’s daughter,” Ruthie shrugged. “I make no excuses for that.”
Stuckman shook his head, rose from the chair and walked out of the bedroom.
“If you can’t stand the heat,” Ruthie yelled after him.
When Stuckman was clear of the room, the door to the walk-in closet on the opposite side of the bed slid open to reveal a twenty-year-old girl, as translucent as gossamer, hanging like a bat by her ankles from the clothing bar.
“Why do you do that?” the young woman asked.
“Morning. Why do you taunt him?”
“Because he needs to pay.” Ruthie said. “But he never will.”
“Stranger things have happened,” Aisha said, gesturing at her ghostly form. “Take it from one who knows.”
“But they don’t happen to men like him.”
“I think you’re being too hard on him.”
“Hard on him?”
“Yes. He’s going through a tough time.”
“How is this about him?”
“Because he’s the one that will have to live with your decision,” Aisha said.
“Let’s get one thing straight: this right here is my life, not his.”
“But you’re living under his roof.”
“I realize that and I make certain concessions.” Ruthie admitted. “I pitch in to help with the cooking and cleaning and chip in for the rent and bills. I even respect his ridiculous curfew and keep my friends far away from his house—”
“Still, he is within his rights.”
“But not when it comes to this body, this mind, this life. They’re mine and that’s where I draw the line.”
“He brought you back to life, Ruthie,” Aisha said. “What you’re planning to do is wrong.”
“Why? If I decide one day that I no longer want to live, that decision is mine to make and mine alone. I’m no one’s property to be ordered about. Who can demand that I continue to live? Who can remove my right to control my own destiny? And what type of life do I have without choice? Don’t I have the right to choose whether or not I want to continue to suffer?”
“I just want what’s best for you, babe. I always have.”
“Then what’s wrong with me ending my life?”
“Because you plan to do it in his house. Because your motive isn’t to end your pain, it’s to add to his.”
“Get out,” Ruthie said.
Even though Aisha had no weight or body mass, she went through the motion of unhooking herself from the clothing bar and stretching before heading for the door.
“Sorry for dumping on you,” Ruthie said before her friend reached the door.
“As smart as you are, you just don’t get it, do you?”
“You’re looking at the only person in the world who loves you unconditionally,” Aisha said. “You can trouble me with anything that bothers you. My shoulders are broad and strong enough to help you carry every burden you choose to heap on yourself.”
“Then why do you mind if I kill myself?”
“Because that would mean that I sacrificed myself for nothing,” Aisha floated over to the bed instead of pretending to walk. “You’re quick to talk about it being your life, but we both know it’s a lie. That’s my life force powering your body and I didn’t mind giving it to you, because I love you, but when you talk about killing yourself, does it ever register to you what a slap in the face that is to me?”
Ruthie’s eyes widened. “Oh my god, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking—”
“Of course not. All you ever think about is yourself.”
“That’s not true, I care about you.”
“Oh, really? Prove it.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Stuckman’s in the kitchen making breakfast. Go and make things right between the two of you.”
“You can just fuck yourself,” spat Ruthie.
Aisha giggled and shrugged. “Can’t blame a gal for trying. I almost had you there, admit it.”
“Again: Fuck. Your. Self,” Ruthie flung a pillow that passed harmlessly through her friend.
To Be Continued…
Text and audio ©2012-2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys