Chapter 42

Dustin entered the house and almost immediately found himself standing face to face with a woman that he assumed to be Sylvia.  She was a fit older woman with grey hair put back in a ponytail and wearing a black jogger’s outfit.  She shoved a sandwich in his face.  “It’s good to see that you’re okay.”  She said speaking rapidly.  “We heard that you got your clock cleaned out there on the road.  Eat this.”

Absently, Dustin took the food from her hands setting the ice bag on a small table nearby.

Holding a small flashlight with her thumb and index finger she started up the stairs.  “Times like this brings out the worst in people.”  She continued, glancing backwards to be sure that he was still behind her.  “The truth is, in a week you and your friends will be laughing about the whole thing I’m sure.  How’s the sandwich?”

Dustin took a bite.  It was delicious.  “Good.”  He said following her around a bend in the steps and up onto a square balcony which overlooked the homes kitchen and living room area.

“You probably need that.”  She replied, stopping and turning to face him.  “I know that I forget to eat when I get nervous.  I haven’t eaten all day.  I’ve been too worried about this quake and getting home from the city.  Do you realize how bad traffic gets when people flee?”

Dustin nodded. 

“Of course it helps if you know short cuts but I can’t keep up with them.”  She said nodding along with him.  “I have to stick to the main roads or I’ll get lost.  I hope that you don’t have any food allergies because there’s nuts baked into that bread.”

Dustin shook his head no.

“Good.”  She said, flashing a worried smile.  “Actually, I made that for my husband but when I saw you I could tell that you needed a sandwich.  You just had that look about you.  I’ll go and make John’s later after we check on him.  He said he called me a few times today but he’s delirious.  He probably wouldn’t even know what to do with a sandwich.”

Dustin looked down at the sandwich.  He’d already eaten half of it.  “Sorry.”  He said as he regarded it.

“It’s my fault.”  She rattled on.  “I can’t not give someone food when I see them.  I want to feed everyone.  I gave your friends in there all salads.  I told them to eat it because it’s all just going to go bad anyway with the power being out.  Half the time I don’t even know John’s calling.  He uses some special phone code to hide his number because of all of his charity work.  If he didn’t he’d have people calling him for solicitations twenty-four hours a day.  He’s very generous but also protective of his privacy.”

Dustin wanted to take another bite out of the sandwich but felt guilty.  She was holding the flashlight on it, lighting it up.  “Actually, I think he was calling me.”  He said as he continued looking down at it.

“Oh, that’s just like John.”  She laughed.  It was a quick and jittery sound filled with anxiety.  “He can program his phone not to show up on caller ID but he still keeps all of his numbers up in his head.  He probably hit the wrong button and then ended up just hitting redial.  That’s funny.  I’m glad you sent your friends to help.  The fat guy seems to know what he’s doing.  I don’t even know how a car jack works.”

“Where are they?”  Dustin asked.

The woman stole a quick look behind herself.  “Just down this hallway.”  She said in a whisper.  “John’s been accusing me of having an affair again.  Its part of the delirium, I’m sure.  I thought we’d worked all of that out.  I’m Catholic!  I wouldn’t even know how to get into an affair even if I wanted to.  He’s gotten non-denominational in his old age but he stills says that he love’s Jesus.  Have you heard that the Bay Bank sculpture downtown is foretelling rapture?  I heard that on the radio when I was trying to get home.  I hate that thing but John loves it.  He says it keeps people from straying but since he financed it I’m pretty sure he’s using it as some kind of insult against me because he thinks that I have affairs.  Did you know that half of the video’s that it shows were actually taken on our 20 year anniversary when we traveled across country?  I hate RV’s and camping out but John likes it.  The Grand Canyon was nice.”

Dustin motioned towards the room.  “Should we go in and help?”

The woman glanced back again then gave her stifled laugh.  “Oh, no. I’m not going in there.  Not when he’s in one of his moods.  It’s embarrassing.  That artist and his wife think I have affairs.  They think I do but I don’t.  I’ve never had one.  Honest.  You should go though.  Give him your sandwich if he asks for it.  I don’t feel like making another one right now.  Tell him you didn’t sleep with me.  I think he thinks that you slept with me because he thinks that you answered my phone.  We didn’t though.  You should tell him that.”

“I will.”  Dustin muttered with a resigned kind of earnestness.

“What?”  The lady asked cocking her head.  “Give him your sandwich?  Tell him I didn’t sleep with you.”

“Both, if they come up.”

“They will.”  She said with a sigh.  “John tells everyone that I sleep around on him, even our children.  Sometimes I think he’s turned them against me but I don’t know.  He accuses them of things too.  He still insist that our daughter uses drugs.  It’s so silly.  She’s a good girl.  The pills were mine.”

“I’m sorry.”  Dustin said.

“It’s okay.” She smiled with a wince.  “I just don’t like to be judged.  Please don’t judge me.”

“Okay.”

“John’s been saying terrible things about me ever since all these people showed up and everyone’s judging me.  I can feel it.  I’m not going back in there right now.  I don’t want to be judged anymore.”

Dustin nodded his head with concern.

“I don’t know what the fat guy thinks or his lady friend.”  She continued   “They’ve been pretty quiet.” 

“Don’t worry.”  Dustin smiled. “I think those two are too wrapped up in hating me to even think about you.”

“Then you know how this feels?”  She said conspiratorially.

“My situation is different.”  Dustin answered without further elaboration.

“Of course it is!”  She replied, giving her rat-tat-tat laugh.  “You don’t live with John.  He and those two Jesus-freak artist friends of his love to pass judgement on me.  It’s like it’s ingrained in them.  I hate that.  I’m so angry that he sold them the land next door to build their aquarium on.  They’ll be around judging all the time.  They smile a lot but they love to think bad things about you if someone tells them to.

Dustin gave her a gentle pat on the back.  “It’s okay.”  He said, using his funeral directors voice.  “It’s okay.”

The woman shrugged him off.  “You should go in there.”  She said stepping around him and back to the stairs.  “Tell him that we aren’t having an affair.”

“I will.”

Pointing the flashlight from the floor back to the sandwich she nodded.  “And go ahead and finish that.”  She said.  “You look like you need it more than John.”

Absently Dustin took a bite.

Sylvia looked completely satisfied as she began descending the steps.

The End

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