I suppose I shall have to make these weekly readings a bit longer, so that my long short story does not take as long to get to the end of. I'd estimate that if you finish this week's reading, you will be halfway through! Congratulate yourself. :)
The darker side of the city was more expansive than Charlie had realized. It had been a week, and he wasn’t even sure if he was going about this the right way. How did he even know she was still in this city?
He had been walking into every shop and building near the alleys where he had first spotted her.
“Do you know a girl named Rebekah?” he asked.
Some people stared at him oddly, some just slammed the door. Some pointed out a different Rebekah, some offered him drugs. One even thought he was an undercover cop and tried to shoot him. Charlie hadn’t shown up to work in three days. His search for Rebekah was his lone pursuit.
“What am I doing?” he often thought to himself. “Why am I doing this?” Charlie wondered if he was gaining anything from his pursuit of Rebekah, and decided that his purpose was her life, and that was worthy enough.
But the flower. The little flower. Since he had left it in search of Rebekah, nobody had been watering it. Charlie’s mind often wandered to the helpless rose in his window, but what could he do for it? Its life seemed to be fading. The petals did not fall; rather, they closed in on themselves. The sweet scent it gave off grew fainter.
“What have you done, you ugly little wench?” The painted man was furious. All the value that the young woman had given him was now gone, because she had ruined her face. Despite her careless look, his words stung her heart.
“I don’t care what you think,” she gulped, trying to sound fierce.
He leaned over and spoke directly into her face, so that the smell of his rotten teeth flowed straight into her nostrils. She could not find anything attractive in him.
“Don’t you?” he asked. “I know what you are, beast. You forget, I have seen your face. Your real face. I made your face, I made you who you are. But I know what you really are.”
Rebekah trembled under his presence. She dared not look him in the eye.
“I know your true nature. I know your flaws and your mistakes. I know that you are a beast.”
He grabbed her neck and started to squeeze. She tried to scream, but no sound came out.
“It’s time the world saw you for what you really are!” he snarled. He threw her to the ground. Rebekah attempted to curl into a ball; the man stood, dark and tall, filling the doorway.
“I am going to tell everyone what you are. They will all know what you tried to hide with this little masquerade of yours.” His lips curled into an evil grin. Rebekah hid her face. With a heinous chuckle, the man turned from the room, leaving the girl alone on the floor. After a few minutes, she picked herself up, and ran from his shop.
It had been nearly two weeks. Charlie had long since stopped counting the days. What does time matter when you are looking for somebody?
He was walking around in a trance like state, not having slept for a few days. A new strategy might be in order. But what?
A desperate girl ran by him. Charlie almost didn’t notice.
“Hey, hey miss! Wait! Are you alright?” Charlie ran after her. He didn’t recognize her, but it was not safe for her to be out here, all alone.
The girl collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily. Charlie ran over to her.
“Can I help you?” He looked at her with concern. She paid him no heed as she continued to stare ahead, trying to catch her breath. She was in a terrible state. Her clothes were ripped, the skin around her face seemed torn, and though her expression didn’t look terrified, all the movements of her body implied otherwise.
After a few minutes of silence, the girl seemed to have gotten her breathing back to normal. She looked up into the kindest, truest face she had ever seen. No mask hid the emotions he was feeling. His big, honest eyes stared into hers.
“Are you ok?” he asked. Then his eyes squinted. “You seem familiar. Have we met before?”
The girl sniveled. “Um, no, I don’t think so. I haven’t really met very many people.”
He smiled kindly and held out his hand. “Well I’m Charlie. And now we have met!”
She stared at him as her hand rested in his. Her head tilted to the side as a memory flittered into her shrouded mind. “Maybe we have met…” she said aloud. “I’m Rebekah.”
His hand dropped hers, and his mouth dropped as well. “Rebekah? You, you’re Rebekah? Oh, oh no! What happened to you?” His eyes were now alive with desperate concern and passion. Their intensity intimidated her.
“Um, I, I need some help,” she admitted.
“Of course!” Charlie grabbed her hand and pulled her up. He brought her to an outfitter’s shop and purchased her a new wardrobe. Charlie watched her spin around excitedly in her new attire, while he rehearsed catchy pick-up lines in his head. When she turned to look at him, all clever thoughts left his mind. He simply asked if he could take her out to coffee. She said yes.
The two of them sat across from each other in the coffee shop, sipping silently.
Charlie tried to break the ice.
“So um, Rebekah. Tell me about yourself.”
She stared at him uncomfortably, not ready to open up.
“Oh, gee, ok, well um, ahem!” He cleared his throat. “Um, you, you…what kinds of things do you do all day?”
“I do nothing.” Her countenance remained unmoved.
“Nothing? How can you sit around all day doing nothing?” He couldn’t possibly believe that, but the look she gave him pierced him. She did not appreciate his judgments.
“Well, what do you dream about doing?” he asked.
The daggers froze. Her bright blue eyes peered out from behind the layers of masks, the unexpected question momentarily breaking through.
“I, I…I like to dream,” she stammered.
“Yes, that’s good. So do I. What do you like to dream about?” Charlie wondered.
“I like to dream that I’m somewhere else, that I’m not the person I am here,” she responded.
“Well, why can’t you be that person?” he asked.
“It’s easier in dreams,” she said.
“Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, though,” Charlie smiled.
“It’s hard,” she muttered. But Charlie wasn’t giving up.
“A challenge isn’t a command not to try, it’s an opportunity to overcome!”
She looked up at him, innocent eyes peering out from behind the shrouds, and whispered, “What happens if you don’t overcome?”
He shrugged. “You’ll never know until you try.” He offered her a smile.
“I’m afraid of trying.” She looked down.
He leaned over and caught her face in his hands. Slowly he lifted her eyes to his and spoke softly to her, “That is why it’s so important that you do.”
Rebekah’s face turned red and her eyes lowered to the floor. She did not like this man looking directly at her. She felt as if, when he looked at her, he could see right down inside of her, all the way down to her core. How incredibly uncomfortable that made her.
And yet, he didn’t shudder. He didn’t run away when he saw who she was. He didn’t laugh when he knew how insecure she truly felt. He encouraged her.
This was new. This was something she didn’t understand. Who was this man? Why did he care so much about her? Rebekah wanted to know.
“What, what about you? What do you dream about?” she spoke up.
“Me?” His expression immediately looked interested. “What do I like to dream about?” He thought for a moment, then smiled smugly. “Women.”
She gave him a pleasant shove. He laughed.
“Nah, see there’s this one girl I do dream about. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever met. But she’s a mystery to me; I know nothing about her. So in my dreams, I try to figure out who she is.”
Rebekah looked curious. “What have you figured out?”
Charlie paused before answering. He wasn’t sure how she would respond to this. “Well…um, I still think she’s beautiful, but I’m not really sure what she looks like. She seems to be afraid of showing her face to the world.”
“How do you know she’s beautiful then?” Rebekah retorted.
“I said she was beautiful, not her face.”
Rebekah sat back. She didn’t know how to respond. This was a new idea no one had ever presented to her before. Who was this man, who was so unlike any she had ever known?
His cell phone rang.
“Hello? What? No. Are you sure? Ok, I’m on my way!” He tried to slip the phone back into his pocket as he stood up; instead he dropped it on the floor. The back popped open and the battery flew out.
“Oh, no, no, no!” He stumbled after the pieces. “Rebekah, I am so sorry. I, I’ve got to go.” He grabbed his phone and his coat and raced out, without even putting it on. She sat there stunned.
“What just happened?” she thought. She sat there until the server came over and asked if she was getting the bill.