Three hours. We were shopping for three hours. I yawned on the way back to Evelyn and Artemis' house. Even though my mom and his mom had fun, I wasn't much for spending hours at the department store. I was a little envious of Artemis. At least he got to doze off.
Evelyn led me to my room and I looked around. It was really nice but it felt weird being in a bedroom again.
"You have your usual twin bed," she explained, "and a desk for any work you might want to do. This is your closet. Some of those clothes should be hung up, not folded. There's your dresser for all your other essentials. If you want to watch TV, just come on downstairs whenever you want. Am I forgetting anything?"
I looked in the hallway to make sure Artemis wasn't anywhere nearby.
"Where can I dispose of feminine products?"
"Oh! Right!" She led me to the bathroom at the end of the hall and showed me a special trash can under the sink. "Artemis knows what's under there so he doesn't look," she laughed. "Did you buy some while we were out?" I nodded and went back to the room to get then and stow them under the stink. "There you go. Now, your mom and I are going to talk about some stuff to help her out. I suggest you go downstairs. Artemis is watching a movie."
She winked and I hesitated. I decided to go anyway.
"Can I sit?" I asked, pointing at the couch beside him.
He shrugged. "Sure. I guess it's your house now, too."
He sounded bitter but I sat down all the same. He was watching The Others and I gasped.
I blushed. "Sorry. I just really like this movie."
"Really? You're a thriller fan?"
I nodded, drawing my feet up underneath me as we watched Nicole Kidman lead the three other actors through the house.
"Just as long as they're not full of blood and gore," I said. "I haven't gotten to watch many movies now, though. The only time we got to is if they were on during our breakfasts and dinner at the kitchens."
He muted the movie and I looked at him, a little annoyed, but his face was curious.
"How did you do it?" he asked.
"Live like that for ten years?"
I shrugged and looked out the window. It was still snowing.
"You get used to it after a while," I answered. "It becomes normal; like brushing your teeth."
"Didn't you ever get... scared? I've heard horror stories about where homeless people go to sleep during the colder months."
I sighed and looked at my lap. "Yeah, the stories are true. My mom and I had to fight for ourselves a couple times but we survived. I got scared a lot. I had my mom, though, and she had me." I laughed. "There was one night, this guy tried to jump us while we were trying to get a bad; this was before we got the van. Anyway, my mom jumped up like a ninja and beat his ass to the ground."
He laughed. "She doesn't seem like the kind to resort to violence."
I laughed, too. "She's only done it once. It was shortly after that she decided it was time to get some kind of vehicle to sleep in." I sighed. "It was hard, though, yes. It was hard. It feels weird being in a home again."
I looked over at him. His face was unreadable but he was staring at me intensely. I turned a little pink.
"Let's have some popcorn," he said softly and I smiled.
For the rest of the afternoon, we watched movies, making comments on some of the dumber ones.
"They always run upstairs," I shook my head.
I don't know what we were watching but we watched as the girl tried to hide in the attic.
"What is she going to do when he gets there?" Artemis asked. "Jump out the window? Bitch'd break her ankles."
I laughed and took another handful of popcorn. We had eaten probably four bags by now.
"Oh no," I said sarcastically as she screamed in terror. "Who knew that the killer would think to check upstairs?"
He gave a fake gasp. "Oh! He's stabbing me! I should have listened to the two smart ones watching us and run down the damn street!"
We laughed. It was comfortable and, for the first time, I forgot that we were engaged. I liked it that way. I wanted to be around him and know Artemis Kilgore, not Artemis I-hate-my-mother-for-making-me-marry Kilgore.
When the movie was over, our moms came in.
"Are you guys hungry?" Evelyn asked. "I thought we'd go out to eat."
"I'm always angry," I blurted then blushed.
My mom smiled kindly as Artemis stood.
"Sure." He helped me up and I went redder. "We each had, like, two bags of popcorn each but I could go for some Tex-Mex."
Evelyn and Artemis walked ahead of us to the car. My mom held my hand as we followed. Evelyn made Artemis sit in the back with me but, after the fun afternoon, neither of us really minded.
Dinner was a nice time. I tried to hold back on ordering too much but the smells were making my mouth water. Evelyn chatted away happily about possible engagement party plans. I wasn't too interested. Not yet, at least. I never really thought I'd get married.
When I was a little girl, I had fantasized about my wedding. My father would walk me down the aisle to my beaming husband - someone who always resembled Johnny Depp. Then we would live happily ever after. It didn't take long for me to learn happily ever afters don't exist.
Artemis nudged my leg and passed me his phone.
So bored! Wanna escape?
I laughed a little and nodded.
"Well, this is all fascinating, Mom," he said, "but I'm going to go show Deidre the fountain."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, whatever. Go."
He laughed and held the door open for me.
"What's the fountain?" I asked.
"It's our code word," he explained. We huddled into our coats. It was snowing again and the wind was bitterly cold. "Whenever we need to get out of a situation, we talk about the fountain. We mainly use it at family functions."
"Where are we really going, then?" I asked, breathing warm air into my hands.
"I dunno," he said with a shrug. "Any place in particular you want to go?"
"I don't know the streets too well. Mom and I were lucky to get our hands on a van; especially one that runs. I think there's a statue park nearby, though."
"Did Larry know?"
I nodded. "He would give us pastries that were burnt or that were about to go bad. No one else knew, though, and that's how I wanted it to stay."
I shook my head as we got to the park. "It was always the piteous stares. I hated them. I know that's everyone's first reaction but, after a while, you just want someone to look at you and think: Okay, here's a normal person. I'll talk to them like they are."
He nodded thoughtfully. "What did you guys do during the winter? I mean, that van didn't look very warm."
"The Salvation Army gives out thick blankets every year," I explained. "We would curl up in the van and hang out there. If it got too awfully cold like two years ago, Larry would let us stay in the kitchen overnight. He took very good care of us."
"He's a great guy."
"How do you know him?"
"I was a regular at the coffee shop for a while," he answered. "When my dad died, though, I started helping my mom out and didn't have as much time to go visit as before."
"How'd he die?" I whispered.
"I'm sorry." He just shrugged but looked upset. I looked around and stopped by a statue. "Fun fact: This statue? It was built in 1976. The person that made it was high as a kite at the time. That's why it's supposed to look like a man but it looks more like...."
"A drunk monkey?" he suggested, laughing.
I laughed, too. "Exactly. And this statue was made in the memory of a baby who died."
We continued down the lines of statues and he shook his head.
"This is the strangest park in the world," he said.
I laughed. "Yeah it is."
"How did you know all of that stuff?"
"They used to have tours during the summer," I explained. "I would hang out here before I got my job. It was better than just sitting around, waiting for my mom to come back to the van."
"I'm sorry you had it so rough," he said quietly.
"Thanks but it's made me who I am today."