Fiction Friendship Drama

This story contains sensitive content

TW: (suicidal ideations/disablity/adult language)

“Thanks a lot.” I never would’ve guessed those three simple words would irrevocably change life as I knew it, but here I am. Following behind a complete stranger like my last name’s Bundy or something! “What in the ever lovin hell are you doing Ben! Stop! turn around!” The thoughts ring loudly in my head like an alarm clock going off too early in the morning, annoying and persistent. Still, there was just something about the way she spoke the words that grabbed my attention and landed me smack dab in the middle of a moral dilemma.

Half an hour before I apparently lost my mind, I had been sitting at my desk, going over my mental checklist for the tenth time. Completely invisible to everyone in the small office. That was fine though, because my plan was set and there was no reason to put it off any longer. 

Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to leave a mess for my inevitable replacement to handle. So the details of my exit started to form. At thirty-two years old, I’ve never had much use for computers or technology in general. Except for my phone, which I would have surgically attached to my palm if the possibility arose. When it came to getting things done, however, I preferred long-hand. Thus, I grabbed a pen and a notepad and started writing.

wrap up backlogged paperwork

Shopping trip

Preparation and set up

Final salutations

Follow through

While jotting down the list, I couldn’t help but wonder numbly, “how long would it be before anyone noticed I was gone?” “Would anyone even miss me? “ I seriously doubted it.

Right on cue, as if the universe or god or whatever was answering my unspoken question with a huge “F YOU Ben Everworth!”

I spotted my coworker Josh across the room and groaned. I didn’t need to look up again to know he was heading in my direction. 

The behemoth of a man was as predictable as he was an arrogant prick! I covered my notepad with crossed arms and bowed my head down to rest it on top of them, hoping the other man would get the message. No such luck! In two long strides of his brawny frame on those tree-trunk thick legs, he was there behind me. I kept my head down until I felt one meaty paw smack down hard against my shoulder with enough force to leave a bruise later. I resisted the urge to rub the spot, raising my head to meet his eyes with a scowl that went unnoticed. The Familiar arrogant smirk that crossed his face turned my stomach.

Benny boy! How’s it going?” he asked in way of greeting. Then, not waiting for a reply, he pressed on “hey buddy listen, I’ma need you to finish the codwell’s report for me, cool?” 

Josh dropped a mid size stack of paper on the top of my already growing pile, then the prick flashed a grin that I was certain would have reduced every female in a five-mile radius to a puddle of goo but did nothing for me. See, I had been dealing with jerkoffs like him my entire life at home, school, and now here at work. In high school he was no doubt the Ultra popular all American sports star who got his rocks off torturing scrawny nerds like me. The thing was, this wasn’t high school anymore, and I was most definitely not that scrawny little pipsqueak I had once been. No, thanks to mother nature and a rigorous diet and workout routine I had bulked up quite a bit since then. gaining what my most recent ex-girlfriend had described as “a totally lickible five-pack” not too soon after growing to my now six feet two inches. The only thing that remained of the scared nerdy little kid I used to be was my sandy brown hair, cobalt blue eyes, and black thick-rimmed glasses. Yet there I was, about to bow down to another bully’s whim again! “No, Screw that!”

I was about to voice my thoughts and tell the prick just where he could stuff the codwell’s and their report when a Chime came from the building’s front door indicating someone new had entered the office. 

Then I saw her. She was struggling to get the two front wheels of her royal purple wheelchair over the threshold in the doorway while still holding the door open. Her head down, eyes focused on her task and long caramel blond hair, just a shade or two darker than my own, hiding her face as she worked. “She needs help.” “Why the hell is no one helping?”

My own thoughts surprised me. I wasn’t an overly helpful person. I kept to myself always. Things were just easier when you kept your eyes glued to your boots and minded your own. So why then did I find myself mumbling something that sounded like a jumbled version of “back in a sec” in the prick’s direction, then getting up and almost jogging across the room to help? 

Once I was close enough not to have to shout to be heard, I tried to think of what to say. Even though her face was hidden behind silky locks, something told me she would probably decline help out of pure embarrassment and maybe a little pride. I didn’t want that. Leaning over, I pushed the door open wider. Simultaneously allowing her to use both hands to push herself the rest of the way inside. 

Finally, noticing my presence however, she froze. She tilted her chin up and her amber eyes met mine. Still tongue tied, I gave my best smile. The smile she gave me in return was a polite one, but something about it gave me an uneasy feeling. Now face to face, I guessed she was in her early to mid-twenties. Her slightly rounded face, upturned nose, full pink lips, and rosy red cheeks paired nicely with the plump curves of her body that were, even in a sitting position only accentuated by the tight above-knee-length, soft pink with white flowers, cotton dress she wore. Pulling my gaze back up to her eyes, what I saw there startled me. I recognized it. I’d seen that exact look in the mirror countless times over the years. It was a look buried so deeply in silicone brightness that most people wouldn’t know or care to see the reality. I did though. I saw the sad exhausting loneliness that came with feeling insignificantly invisible.

Then she spoke softly, barely above a whisper, in a sad almost melodic but genuine tone. “Thanks a lot.” There, I saw the eerie calm resolve that said she too had a plan! By the time i realized I hadn’t responded, she was gone, already up ahead engaged in conversation with the C.F.O’s secretary.

I let the door swing shut and headed back to my desk. Once there, I was glad to see the prick gone but then I saw the sizable stack of papers still there and I growled in frustration, “Asshole!” then slumped down in my chair. The cocky prick was definitely one of the many around there I wouldn’t miss! Six financial reports and two very anxious client phone calls later, I was still trying to shake off the feelings of uneasy dread that had taken root in my gut ever since my brief interaction with her, and damn it I needed copies!

Knowing my technical ineptitude, I grabbed the original papers and headed up to reception to beg the receptionist to make the needed copies. On my way I passed by the C.F.O secretary’s desk and was shocked to find her sitting in the same spot I’d left her, what had to be at least ten minutes before. still talking, or more accurately listening to the sweet old lady behind the desk. “Oh, and my youngest grandson Nick just started art school. Oh, my oldest Diana is just tickled pink about that.” The delighted pride I heard in the elderly woman’s voice as I walked past them had me shaking my head and grinning. 

In the lobby, the receptionist’s desk was empty. Letting out a disappointed sigh, I headed back the way I came. Passing by again, I almost chuckled when I heard the old woman still rambling. Then I saw something familiar, and the sound died in my throat. That feeling of dread hit me like a crash dummy would a wall. At first glance, I saw exactly what everybody else saw, the polite bubbly facade that graced her face with practiced ease. Now though, as I got closer walking towards her, I saw the truth hidden just beneath the surface. 

Finally, cutting through the older lady’s chatter, she gave a polite smile. ” I don’t mean to be rude, Ms Ethel, and you know any other day I’d love to hang out, but I just really need to see my father. He’s not answering his phone and we have lunch reservations at Skypeaks today.” The sweet old lady ‘Ethel’ smiled. “Oh yes, that’s right! Happy birthday my dear faith.” the woman ‘Faith’ gave her another polite smile. The cheerful facade never faltered but for a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, her eyes glittered with desperate anticipation. Thanks... so is he in? I found myself rooted to the floor in anxious dread, waiting alongside her. The old woman’s silence and nervous pitiful look spoke volumes. ”Oh..okay, I’ll just give him a call later then.” I saw her eyes dull, but she tried for a smile before turning away. 

Seeing the dull hopeless look in her eyes, alarm bells rang loudly in my head. Still rooted there, i watched her move farther and farther away. Only pausing to turn herself around to successfully back her chair over the threshold and out the door. Of course, Ethel chose that moment to notice me. "Excuse me son, may I help you?” Her tone was professionally polite but my mind was too clouded with worry to respond. Something must’ve snapped inside me because before I knew what was happening I was rushing after her.

Fast forward a few minutes. here I am, following behind a complete stranger, arguing with myself the entire time. “

What in the ever lovin hell are you doing Ben! Stop! turn around!” “You definitely shouldn’t be doing this!” “go back! Stalking is a crime idiot!” “ her choices are her business!” “you are such a hypocrite!” Seemingly, in a daze, she walks around in circles for so long that I’ve almost convince myself that I was wrong and should turn back. Then, she whirls to the right and runs… “wait, is it sill considered running if she’s in a wheelchair?” “So not important right now idiot!” I roll my eyes at myself. She moves across the street. “Damn, you're losing her!”

I quicken my pace to a jog, easily catching up with her. For the next three blocks, however, I trail only a couple paces behind. Then she turns into a sketchy looking area, effectively quieting my internal argument for the moment. I watch her disappear into a rundown house and a small bit of Panic wriggles up my spine. There’s only a few reasons a rich man’s daughter would be in a place like this alone, almost none of them good!

A couple minutes of pacing later, she reappears a brown paper bag on her lap. That feeling of dread hits again and my jaw tightens.

Less than thirty minutes later, we’re back where we started outside the office. Instead of inside, Faith headed around the back of the office building to the service elevator. I swallow some anxiety watching the doors close with her inside. Then I wait a beat or two before calling up the elevator myself; that feeling of unease growing as I step inside. Taking a leap of.. well faith, I press the button marked ‘ROOF ACCESS’.

Stepping out of the elevator, I see her immediately. Her back to me She’s sat as close to the rooftop’s edge as her wheelchair will allow. Phone to her ear, she slips into that false cheerful tone again. “Yeah papa, I understand work comes first… I didn’t mean it like that papa… yes I know… yes.. I know I’m an adult… no, I’m not mad.”

Stepping Closer, still unnoticed, anger bubbles in my gut, watching the tears well up in faith’s eyes. “What kind of parent abandons their daughter!??? “how can a family just wake up one day and no longer care enough to be there when she needs them!” what kind of selfishness must you possess, to take advantage of someone so concerned about everyone else, to the point she puts on a mask of happiness as to not make them feel bad!” Hanging up the phone, Faith wipes her eyes Taking a steadying breath. Feeling that uneasy dread worsen to a sense of foreboding, a thought hits me. I pull out my phone and quickly type ‘how to talk someone down’ in the search bar. A minute of finding nothing remotely helpful later, I’m about to give up when I find a promising article with a bulleted list of do’s and don'ts. Feeling as if I’m holding a ticking time bomb, I quickly skim through the article.

DO Listen!- you are there to listen, not talk!- REMEMBER If they're talking, they aren’t jumping!

DO Find Common Ground!- finding common ground will make it easier to build a connection.- REMEMBER common ground + trust= positive outcome.

DO Keep It Positive- whenever possible keep conversation focused on what’s good- REMEMBER empathize not commiserate

Don’t Invalidate!- No matter the intention downplaying

someone’s feelings in such an emotional state can lead them feeling misunderstood unintentionally pushing them farther towards disaster- REMEMBER validate feelings not actions 

Don’t Scare!-Trying to scare someone out of doing something while they are in a fragile state will always fail- REMEMBER, the aim is to make them feel safe.

Don’t Grab!- Grabbing someone prematurely or at all could lead to serious injury or worse unless absolutely necessary -REMEMBER accidents happen!

Putting away my phone, I look up again to see faith reaching into the brown paper bag and retrieving first a small silver flask, then a small silver pistol! That same awful feeling I’ve had all day resurfaces, this time accompanied by a loud nagging voice in the back of my head. “no… no… NO!” I grind my teeth together, trying not to panic! THIS. CAN NOT. HAPPEN! “WHATEVER IS IN THAT BAG IS NOT GOOD” “STOP HER NOW!” The sun reflects off the gun, blinding me for a second. In what seems like a blink, faith has the gun pressed to her temple! The next five minutes happen in a blur. The next thing I know, I have my phone to my ear, looking down as if not paying attention. I walk out from the shadows into the sun, finally making myself known.

Keeping my head bowed my and my back turned, I focus on the impromptu play I’m about to put on. “What do you mean you want to see other people… Let talks ab…hello… hello”? drawing on a memory of my recent breakup, I growl in pretend frustration. 

Turning around though, I realize quickly, I’m no actor and this is no play. This is real! “Okay, so she knows you exist, great! now what idiot?” “This girl has a gun pointed to her head!” Neither of us knowing what to do, we just stare at each other for a long time. Until faith breaks the silent “oh, Christ on a cracker, don’t look so scared I’m not gonna shoot you.” Faith rolls her eye at me. I find my voice again. “Much appreciated, s you wanna talk about it?” I flash her my best prince charming smile. She gives me a blank stare in return. “not particularly, you can go now” I send her a stubborn smirk. “You don’t wanna talk, that’s fine I’ll wait” She arches one skeptical eyebrow at me. “you’ll wait?” 

As always, when faith speaks, her true thoughts and emotions are written all over her face. Seeing disbelief in her there, I smile brightly before answering. “Yep.” I plop down on the ground, sitting cross-legged, punctuating the word. Three minutes into another staring contest, faith breaks.” Alright alright already you win!”She concedes. I smirk at her. “Ah ha! What’s my prize?” This time she gives smile back. “What do you want? a glimmer of hope rises in my gut. “Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can do this one thing right! I look up at the sky pretending to consider the question “ how’s about you put that thing down and tell me why you're here?” To my relief, faith sets the pistol down on the ledge. 

For the next two hours, faith speaks, and I listen. When she’s finished, she looks over at me. "Well…?” she gives me a questioning look. “Well, what?” I return her look with a small shrug. “So.. Your turn! What’s your story?” As she speaks, I see the genuine interest in her eyes. “Oh, you know me, just your run-of-the-mill Invisible Man.” I force a chuckle, but to my surprise, she doesn’t return it. “That’s not true at all! “I see you.” Faith looks me in the eye as she speaks. Grinning from ear to ear, I say the first words that come to mind “thank’s a lot.”

November 26, 2021 15:15

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