Eden Ashley

REMI

He ate his gummy bears. He lined them up in a column on their bellies like ants marching on a flat plate of white porcelain. Eating one at a time; he won’t eat the same color twice. Finally, with only two red gummy bears left, he stops to save them for his daughter. It would take a while for her to get back home. Meanwhile, he was busy watching a French game show, where contestants answer tricky math questions in a limited amount of time. He always gets it right. He likes to write down the answers’ sequence; how many times the answer will be A, C or all of the above. He already knows that the show repeats itself every three episodes. He knows better than to choose B, which seems to be what everybody picks when they are stuck in between. His daughter doesn’t like that show; she was out with her friends instead, watching a reality show about superheroes. The bears were still waiting.

She hadn’t arrived yet. He folded his new sweatpants, which arrived in the mail only yesterday and went to his computer. He scans the web for hours, scoring deals on everything from tampons to exotic jerky. He collects a package every night at 7 PM and leaving a bowl of whole milk behind, hoping the stray cats will visit. Now he can start cooking. She is always hungry after watching those shows, but he knows exactly what she likes. While the food is waiting on the table, he goes to change her sheets. Today is Tuesday, floral sheets day.

The food awaits her on the table while Remi cleans the house. He loves the scent of the lice shampoo he bought for his daughter back then. She used it once and it worked. She couldn’t stand the smell, so he decided to clean the floor with it. He believes while it has a good scent, it also repels insects. He hates cockroaches; the very thought of their sticky antennae makes him cringe. At night, he sees them peering out of the little gap between his bedroom door and the floor. And while the furniture stretches and talks between them, he pulls out an open peanut butter snack from underneath his pillow. He likes it better when it isn’t fresh. The humidity gives it a rubbery texture like his favorite gummy bears. The chewing sound makes him forget about the antennae and all of the other noises. On nights when it doesn’t help, he goes to his daughter’s room and sleeps with her in her single bed. He brings a pillow of his own.

Tonight was different. Although he couldn’t fall asleep, this time it wasn’t a curious cockroach, but a group of kids on the street smashing bottles. Surprisingly, the shattering glass didn’t hurt their ears, as he heard them clearly from the fourth floor. He was worried about the cats. He walked by his daughter’s room and heard the sound of stretching rubber. It had been a while since he felt they shared anything in common. At that moment, he could hear his heartbeat. With a dry mouth and a pillow in his hand, he opened the door to find her with a boy he had never seen before.

Door ajar, he stood still, gazing upon the two. He didn’t say a word. Neither did she. The stranger went deep under the blanket and threw a degrading sigh into the air. Remi stood frozen looking at his daughter. Clung tightly to his pillow, he turned and walked away. He deliberately left the door open. He wanted the awful smell to evaporate. He glanced into his room, which felt haunted tonight and sensed the tiny footsteps underneath his bed. He knew there was something there. Tomorrow he would mop the floor again, but he needed a solution to get through the night. He decided to sleep in the living room, although he hates sleeping by the front door. He tried to cover himself without letting the blanket touch the floor. A few minutes later he noticed the boy, sneaking toward the front door. He wore a black hoodie with the hood up, like a thief. And while Remi quietly tried to reach for one of the two remaining gummy bears, the boy quietly tried opening the door to no avail. He looked back and noticed Remi as well, motionless on the couch. Nothing mattered now anyway. When the boy finally opened the door, she arrived. He slammed it so hard that the cats sprung from their positions and scattered into the dimly lit streets.

“Everybody goes, don’t you see? In the end, it’s just you and me”. She sat down next to him and held him tight. The smell of her perfume was masked by the boy’s cheap cologne. He couldn’t stand it so he looked away. “Why don’t you go take a shower?” he asked. Instead, she took the last red gummy bear from the table and said that it was too late.

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