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Fragile Fingers

It was two in the afternoon when Diego received a strange text message. “I changed my mind.” That’s all it said. His heart sank. He really fucked it up this time. He’d already packed everything he was taking and put it in his ex-wife’s SUV. She was pretty mad about that, too. She was so stinking mad about the whole affair she wanted to smash his face in. The desire for violence emanated from her and it made him desperate to be out.

So that was it. She wasn’t going to sublet the room after all.

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Buzz! He looked at his phone again and saw a second text message, which read: “You can’t bring the couch with you, I’m going to order one myself. Unless you want it in your own room, anyway. Also, I can’t help you move anything at all, you’re going to need your own friends for that.”

He was holding his breath, he realized, when he let it out. He was relieved. She simply decided to withdraw the offer to let him place the couch in her living room. That, he could live with. He thought about selling the couch so he could get ahead on his SUV fund. He was decided within moments: he would do just that.

That was all she was going to text, it seemed, so he replied, “Okay, no problem. May I bring my things over now?” It was at fifteen minutes before he received a reply. Just one word: Yes.

Hot diggity!,’ he thought. He jumped into the SUV and drove it over to Sansara’s to unload it. He took his three suitcases and a twenty inch television to his room. He looked around the room, thinking about how he could sleep on his couch, but he’d already been sleeping on the couch for a while. It wasn’t as comfortable as a bed, that’s for damn sure.

She snuck up on him somehow. She murmured, “Is this all?” from the doorway. He just about jumped out of his skin. He turned around quickly to look at her. Today, there was no Rob Zombie t-shirt, no jeans. Just a primarily shapeless dress that touched the floor. Almost none of her skin was visible, actually, which was oddly relieving.

“Oh, hi, Sansara. I didn’t hear you enter. Yes, this is all I’ve got to bring,” he confirmed. She stared at him as if he grew a second head since he last looked in the mirror. “Is something the matter?” he inquired, wondering why she was staring at him with a deadpan face.

“I’m going to be creepy again and assume you can’t really afford anything right now because you’re newly divorced and the bitch stole everything you ever earned from you. Right. Come with me,” she said. She turned around and walked off… starting up the steps to the third floor.

He blinked several times, wondering what the hell was going to happen next as he followed her. He couldn’t tell as easily if her gait was off today, but he assumed it was. She was waiting at the top of the stairs and he swore if her dress billowed in a creepy manner, he’d be stuck in the middle of some horror story in the making. Or possibly the craziest pornography ever to be created. She was staring at him. Did she ever blink? She had to, but it must have been when he wasn’t paying attention. That, or he was distracted by her eyes, which were like mirrors. The color of mirrors, that is.

She walked down a hallway on the third floor to a closed door and opened it before going inside. She waited on the other side of the doorway, one hand on the doorknob, and motioned him to get in gear and enter the room. He was starting to feel dread. Was this some bizarre way to take him to bed?

Hardly, he discovered. She ushered him into her office and closed the door. “This is a no kitty and no doggy zone,” she said. Of course, he thought. Man, he felt like a fool. Why would she take him to bed the day after he asked her if she had a boyfriend in the stupidest way he ever thought of? Really, what he was trying to ascertain, is that she wouldn’t expect a client at night, but it hadn’t sounded that way. Still, he’d made her mad enough to kick him out. He had to admit two things: one, Sansara’s aim was much better than his wife’s, and two, Sansara knew how much damage she would cause pelting him with a key, it was a fully calculated move, whereas his ex-wife’s reaction was rage.

She pointed to a stationary chair set up against the wall and then to him before she herself sat down in a swanky leather office chair that was definitely larger than she required. She pressed a button on her computer and another on her monitor and both came to life. He figured out she meant for him to bring a chair over to her desk and sit down, so he did so, like an obedient man and everything.

“Alright. I believe you need a bed, a bedside table, and a wardrobe in that room to be comfortable, yes?” He just stared at her as he nodded slowly. “That can be solved easily enough. I can always sublet the room in the future on a more temporary basis if I need to, so I’ll just fix that faux pas right now.”

What was she doing? Was she buying him furniture? He was curious, skeptical, and hopeful all at once. Where did this woman fall out of the sky? Did she leave a crater? Did she break her wings? What did he do to deserve such a nicety? In fact, after thinking about cameras and her, he thought he deserved a swift kick to the balls. She was nodding just then, which made him suspect again that she was reading his mind, but as it turned out, she already had a web site open to surf for furniture and she saw something she liked.

“What do you think?” she asked, turning to him, with the image of a four poster bed on the screen. It was the kind with tall posts that you could drape fabric over and between and it had horizontal connections between the tops of each post to make it even easier. His mind strayed to the idea of tying her up to said bed frame, but he shook his head to dispel it.

“Oh, sorry. Should I let you pick? I’m old fashioned like this and it’s much like my own, really. I shouldn’t impose my taste on your new furniture. I… uh… thought it could be an advance for the bodyguard kind of work,” she said, misinterpreting his shaking head.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his hand shooting out to stop her from clicking away. “I’m just… baffled, but now that you’ve said it’s an advance for that, I understand better. This one is just fine,” he said, emphasizing that. “In fact, it’s fancier than I’d choose on my own, just to save money,” he admitted.

His hand was warm on hers, she noted, and a little shiver went through her. He withdrew immediately, not knowing what to make of it at all. “Thanks, Diego,” she said. Damn. He should have never told her the wrong name to begin with. He wanted to hear his real name elicited from her lips. “Uh, sorry. Daniel. Some day, I’ll stop calling you Diego. I’m quite attached to it, it would seem, which is probably not a kindness to you at all because it’s not really your name. And yes, you can give your son my phone number.”

He turned red. Very, very red. She blinked at him. She had to be reading his mind! She had to. There was no way she could know about that any other way, was there? He thought about it. Was it possible she knew his ex-wife in the real? Was it possible they’d had tea or some other hoity toity clandestine meeting together? Did she know more about him because of that? Maybe his ex-wife put her up to this to teach him a lesson, he thought. Well, he was not going to let Cheryl get the best of him.

She waved her hand in front of his face. “Earth to Di… Daniel,” she said, catching herself that time before said the wrong name. “Are you embarrassed by something? I can let you shop alone…” she offered, trailing off and waiting for a response.

“Uh… no, it’s okay. What else have you found?” he asked, trying to focus again. He put his game face on, steeling himself for one whacky adventure.

“It occurs to me,” she began, “that you think I’m playing a game with you.” His head started to shake back and forth slightly. “Oh, you don’t? I hope you don’t. I don’t want to end up dead because you can’t take me seriously.”

Now that put the brakes on. That’s right! She was afraid for her life. That part was true, he was sure of it, it’s the only reason she told him all about her mistreatment by Psycho Boy Ben, after all. She didn’t really want to, it was clear to him the whole while, but she knew she had to. And those tears weren’t fake. Her anger over his insinuation that she was seeing people was not fake.

“The firearms are in one of my suitcases,” he said distractedly. He just saw what she’d pulled up on the screen next, which was a massive wardrobe that probably cost a fortune because it was solid wood.

She stared at him, perplexed. After about a minute of this, she raised a hand and moved it toward him. She moved so slowly, so purposefully, so gracefully, that he just watched. Her hand drew closer and closer to his face. His forehead, specifically. Now what was she doing? She ended up tapping the middle of his forehead three times. He blinked just as many times, staring at her in disbelief.

“Now what?” he asked.

“Now you stand up and spin in a circle and toss some salt over your shoulder and thank God I don’t want to kill you,” she said. Daniel burst into laughter. She’d just told him she’s never hurt a fly last night and now this. She was quite the character, that much was for certain.

“Tell me what it is that’s distracting you so I can slay your insecurity instead,” she demanded in a rather soft and even tone.

“Do you read minds?” he blurted out.

“Only when I have to,” she said.

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What kind of answer was that? He sighed a little. That didn’t really confirm or deny his suspicions. “Let me tell you a little story,” she said suddenly. “There once was a little girl who watched everything that happened around her. She was invisible to everyone, she thought, because they paid her no mind at all.” She paused as his brain started in again. Was she telling him her story?

She waited, staring at him. His brain settled down. He guessed it must show on his face when he was fully attentive and when he wasn’t. Maybe she wasn’t a mind reader, after all.

“This little girl was ignored, whether she was happy or sad or anything in between. She only ceased to be invisible when she had fits of rage.” Okay, this was not where he thought this story would go at all. He was all ears. “One day, she threw a spray bottle into the kitchen sink and stomped to her bedroom and she found herself being thrown against her bedroom wall with force and then held down in her bed while she kicked and screamed. The little girl realized that the little girl’s father only abused her in response to her fits of rage. That was the day the little girl put rage to bed, never to rouse it again. Because of this, she became completely and utterly invisible. A non-entity. She was also left alone to her own devices in her sanctuary, her room.”

Diego stared at her and she nearly lost her plot just then. She continued to stare back, creepy in nature. She was unsettling. Her stare looked right through him to his essence, he swore up and down. She spoke again before he could get goosebumps thinking about it. “The little girl practiced a great many things whilst alone in her sanctuary. She built an altar to the dead spirits, she communed with the dead, she reached into the spirit world, she learned things she shouldn’t have access to as a living, breathing creature. She learned the nature of fire, of earth, of water, and of wind. She learned the nature of human beings. She read countless novels of all sorts, but primarily science fiction — especially if the title had her name in it. Crystal. She learned lessons from every single story she absorbed. She had grown bored of her family because they liked to watch the same stories over and over again without learning the lessons behind them at all, so she kept in her sanctuary and communed with everything but human beings. She learned to love people indirectly. She read these fascinating books about heroes and warriors that did the right thing and developed a strong moral compass. She read about scientists without scruples, witches, psions, and so much more, and she dreamt of being telepathic. She dreamt of being special. She dreamt of being visible.”

His eyes were threatening to overflow just then. He was utterly convinced that she’d been battered since birth. That she had been abused and somehow made to accept it as if there was no alternative.

“She was still invisible, so she just watched and learned. She went to school, like all the other girls and boys — that is, when she wasn’t so depressed she stayed home with a phantom illness, lying in bed and unable to leave. She learned how humanity works, how it thinks, how it feels. She learned the depths of depravity — so she thought — and the heights of morality. She was obsessed with figures like Robin Hood and Santa Claus. Good guys in a sea of greyness. She was obsessed with finding her own path and her own way, because she saw the human beings surrounding her — no matter where she was — were miserable. She vowed to leave misery behind and try another way to be.”

He was staring into her eyes with an intensity he himself did not even know. She decided to wrap it up, destroying her easygoing story telling mode by saying, “And then she grew up, dated a bunch of assholes who made her forget who she was, and begged a stranger to save her from peril, deciding to buy him some furniture to ease his troubles, which are just as great as her own if merely different.” With that, she turned back to her computer and clicked the “Buy It Now” button on the massive wardrobe.

He just stared and stared. Did she just say he had troubles equal to her own? Because he could swear she was more troubled than he, by far. But she did. Just like that, she made him her equal. She considered his suffering to be on par with her suffering. He’d never heard anyone say anything like that in his life. Instead, it’s generally, ‘Oh, you think that’s bad, wait till you hear about my story of pain.’ But she wasn’t like that. At a guess, he figured she meant his divorce.

The divorce wasn’t easy, he’d give her that, but he didn’t fear for his own life because of it. He wasn’t raped during the course of his relationship that he knew of. He would know, wouldn’t he? Sure, sometimes sex with Cheryl wasn’t that great, but he figured that just happened from time to time. She wasn’t into it as much as she thought she was, or he wasn’t into it as much as he thought he was, and then it ended and everything worked itself out.

I’ll tell you now, I’m wrong. That’s rape, right there. Not being fully into it is rape. Bitching about your woman or man ‘having a headache’ is telling them you want to rape them. You are putting your own selfish need ahead of the other person’s feelings. It’s rape.

I’m the telepath, of course.

Diego-Daniel sat there, stunned into silence. Not that he was an incredibly wordy man to begin with, but he was cowed by her. He had no idea what to say. He wanted to tell her she was the strongest woman he’d ever come to know. She had to be. She talked about abuse like it was a fact of life and she simply overcame it because she was a dignified lady and that’s what ladies do. She kept clicking around on eBay and after a few more screens, she turned to him once more to ask what he thought of the bedside table she’d found with a lock on it. It had a marble top and was far fancier than anything he’d choose for himself alone, but he was drawn to it. She had impeccable taste.

“Will this one do? I don’t know if it’s the right kind of size, but the wardrobe had a lock, too, if you missed that. Several, actually.”

Holy shit. She really absorbed that e-mail he’d sent her, he realized. No wonder she couldn’t really get his name right, he thought. His first impression… was the e-mail. He must have made a good one. He didn’t think he was really a great writer or anything, so he wondered what he did so he could repeat the experience. He made a note to go read his e-mail again later in his archive to try to figure it out.

She blinked at him a few times. He was too busy thinking and not busy enough replying. “Oh, sorry. YES. That looks amazing. I don’t know how to thank you,” he said.

“I do,” she replied, “but it’ll wait until later.” He had no idea what she could possibly want from him at this point, but he started to hope it would be sex. He wasn’t lonely, so that wasn’t his motivator… no. Somehow, she made him feel like a man. Like he was the epitome of male and she was the epitome of female and if they were to unite, there would be chain explosions and fireworks involved.

“Do you think that’s enough to get you started in that room?” she asked him, turning toward him now that she’d purchased those items. He was nodding before he even thought about it. “Good. Now, do you have a vehicle and a moving buddy?”

He shook his head, “No… no moving buddy, but I have the SUV for a few more hours.”

She pursed her lips as she looked at him. “You really aren’t very organized to actually move in, are you?” He certainly thought he was… Instead of being offended, he wondered what was on her mind.

“What were you going to do? Sleep on the floor?” she asked him, incredulously. He nodded, biting his lip as he did. Was she about to offer him her bed? Please say yes, please say yes! Please!!!!!

“That sounds mighty uncomfortable,” she replied. He nodded again, wondering where she was going with this. “Well, you can sleep in here with Max on that couch, if you truly need to. We could go buy a mattress today, but you need help with that, especially with the steps, and I cannot assist you. Normally, I would, though.”

His eyes went wide as he gaped at her. She would help him move in a mattress if she could? Why couldn’t she? He decided he would just ask why she couldn’t. She shook her head at him and replied, “Diego, I’m broken. I’m broken because a man put me on my back more often than I took walks. I can’t move hardly a thing these days.” He really regretted his lizard brain desires just then. She wasn’t going to solicit sex from him, not any time soon, but he kept getting his hopes up. And that’s not all, if you know what we mean.

He resolved to try to think of her more like a sibling, he thought, but she frowned at him just then and she ruined it. Could she read minds? She’d said she could sometimes, then she told him a story about daydreaming about becoming a telepath, he thought. That wasn’t a ‘No.’

“Your reality makes me sad,” he said finally. “What is it that I can do for you later? Is there anything I can prepare for?” He was ever so curious as to what it was she’d ask for from him. It couldn’t be anything to do with money, she just dropped five thousand dollars on nearly indestructible furniture.

“No, but now I have another idea, if you’re up to driving,” she replied. “I mean, all you need to do for later is shower and get comfortable, I suppose.” He gulped. Get comfortable was code for get sexy, normally. He had his doubts that she meant any such thing. In fact, he was wondering if she’d ever recover based on what he did know.

“Yeah, we can go somewhere. What do you have in mind?” he asked.

“Do you really need the SUV?” she asked him suddenly, catching him off guard. He shook his head in response. He didn’t need it, he’d just needed a quick way to get everything out. It was the least his ex-wife could do for him, honestly. “Why don’t you take it back and drive my car, we won’t be buying anything big, I don’t think. I’d drive it myself because I love autonomy, but you see, it agitates my dislocated hip. At least, I think it’s dislocated. I stopped seeing my chiropractor because my ex knows I have one, he’s been into his office once with me.”

So many things were starting to make sense to him now. She really was dedicated to ditching her ex-husband, or ex-whatever-he-was. He didn’t really care which it was, he wanted to bash the guy’s lights out still just from the story last night… except twice as hard now that she told him how her body became broken. He didn’t even want to replay her exact words in his brain, yet they came: a man put me on my back more often than I took walks.

He fought the urge to try to comfort her, to try to hold her, to do anything physical. He got to his feet and offered her a hand to help her up. She smiled at him and stood up by herself. “Thank you, I think I can handle standing by myself for a little while longer today,” she said with a mischievous grin. “I like you,” she added, just as enigmatic as ever.

What exactly does that phrase mean to this woman? I like you. I could spend time with you. It’s easy to be around you. Maybe it meant the dreaded, ‘You’re cute, but not date-worthy.’ Maybe it meant she thought he was adorable, like a stuffed animal. Maybe it was five year old magic: I like you, be my friend. He opted for that answer being the answer. He wished it meant ‘I’m in love with you.’

Little did he know, that’s exactly what she meant. She could marry the man and live a happily ever after based on one thing only: his utter desire to protect her from harm. She wouldn’t elaborate on that fact for a long time due to the damage she sustained in that relationship with Psycho Boy Ben. She was afraid he’d turn out just like the asshole and decide he wasn’t in love when she damn well knew he was. She’d told Ben that at one point and he denied it and ran the other way, straight into a hooker’s arms. Men did not own their feelings when they were afraid of them and she wanted a forever mate, not just a right now mate.

“Daniel,” she said to him, for he had gone silent again as she led the way to the first floor once more. “I’ll make some coffee for two if you’re up to it when you get back from returning her vehicle?” He smiled and nodded, deciding to get it over with. Sansara was right, he should give it back so that his ex-wife had nothing to crab about. And, so that she couldn’t sit around using it as an excuse to abuse him, the dog, or the children.

Once he left, she locked the door behind him. He smiled as he heard the click of the deadbolt engage. He was going to upgrade the security, that was for sure. He thought about how she just dropped five gs on furniture for him like it was nothing. Was she made of money? Or did she just intuit something he didn’t have his finger on just yet? He thought about that four poster bed again and his crude idea of tying her to it and tried to erase it from his mind. If she was a telepath, she definitely saw it. If she was telepathic, she definitely had the best poker face of all time.

He kind of hoped she was, but on the other hand, he really hoped she wasn’t. He had to teach his brain how to be kinder, in case it was true. He had to stop fantasizing about her without her permission to do so. In fact, he decided, that was a good rule no matter who he was faced with. If they wouldn’t take their clothes off with him and share their body, they were not asking for sex. He started to think about how it’d be rape, if she could see his thoughts. He was raping her in his mind when he didn’t have consent.

He almost got into an accident driving the five city blocks back to his ex-house, but thankfully the other party honked at him in time to save them both from his lack of attentiveness. I desperately want you on my lap right now, Crystal, he thought. And he absolutely meant in the sexiest way he could imagine.

Relieved to park the SUV in the driveway, he caught his ex-wife just in time for her to get behind the wheel herself to pick up the kids from school. He left the spare key he’d borrowed in the ignition and thanked her for her generosity. He told her he was going to Craigslist the couch and then move it out once there was a buyer. He’d left his house key on the spare car key in the vehicle, he told her, and he’d lock the door with the emergency key that was hidden on the property as he took Max to the new address.

Once he was alone again, he thought he heard something, but he wasn’t sure what. It happened again, louder, but it was in his own head. It said, ‘I’d like that, Diego, more than you could ever know.’ He stopped in his tracks. What the hell just happened? He spun in a circle, looking all around the sleepy neighborhood. There wasn’t a soul in sight. Additionally, it was not something he perceived auditorily, it was in his fucking head.

He went inside and sat down on his couch, stupefied. Max came to greet him, plopping on the couch beside him. Suddenly, he was hard as a rock and so aroused he moaned out loud. He tried to rub the front of his jeans to get some relief, the tension mounting higher and higher. He was practically squirming, rubbing furiously at his erection through his clothes. His mind was flooded with wanting only one thing: her. The mysterious and creepy woman he was returning to… just as soon as this ‘problem‘ went away, that is. Max looked at him oddly as he moaned again.

He hated himself briefly, but reminded himself it would take Cheryl at least thirty minutes to get the kids. He quickly unbuttoned and unzipped himself, rearranging until his hand was able to pump furiously over his engorged flesh. Tell me how you want it, baby, he thought, his eyes closed as he got closer and closer to the finish line. The image of her tied to the bed post rose in his brain as he heard, ‘The same way you do’ in his head. Suddenly he stopped moving.

What was going on in his head? Why was he imagining she wanted that? Had he gone crazy like Quentin Tarantino’s character in From Dusk Til Dawn? What was wrong with him?! He thought about finishing anyway, but the extreme arousal was passing and it wasn’t really all that pleasant anymore. He frowned and put himself back in order, mentally spanking himself for being such a bad boy, so to speak. “Stop it,” he told himself. “The woman hasn’t been coming onto you. You’re insane!”

Max poked his nose into Michael’s face, then licked him, as if to say he’d always be the dog’s #1. “Thanks, Max,” he said. “I really wish our new landlord felt the same way,” he told the pupper wistfully. He hadn’t really thought about moving Max’s things until just now, he realized.

Little did Michael know, Sansara had just done the dirty deed herself, thinking about Diego as a character. It was precisely why he was mysteriously aroused beyond recognition and why it ended so quickly. The woman knew what she wanted and how to get it. She also knew Cheryl and was waiting for Diego outside when he finally gathered his wits and had his arms full of doggy treats, food, his bowls, and, of course, doggy. She was cheeky, too, and sitting in the passenger’s seat by the time he finished locking the door.

Crystal was exacerbating Cheryl’s anger on purpose, understanding the sooner she got to it, the sooner she’d address it and let it go. She wanted the woman to do her worst quickly and then let herself heal. In fact, unbeknownst to Cheryl, she’d been healing their household sporadically. Most reiki healers asked permission first, but Crystal knew that only those who wish to be healed would be healed. And Michael was one of them. So were his children. Cheryl, on the other hand, refused to heal, harboring hatred and negativity toward a man for not buying her flowers. She never told him she wanted flowers; she’d expected him to be a mind reader. What a fool, that Cheryl. In Crystal’s mind, she let go of one fine man. She would not let him go to waste.

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