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Merrill heard his brother’s truck and went to the window. There it was in the parking place he was assigned below his apartment. The parking place he’d loaned to the older woman who couldn’t afford one. The faded turquoise truck sat idling, making that shaking that let him know the engine was still on. Maybe his brother would change his mind and leave him alone. Merrill wasn’t in the mood for his brother.

He was about to turn away when Jellie steps from the truck. Jellie. Now Merrill is counting his heartbeats. Fucking Jellie. He expected the other door to open, but nothing and the sun’s glare on the windshield kept the whole thing a secret. Where was James? Merrill counted his breath again. He’d been taught, four counts in, four counts out. But his heart was bucking like a rodeo pony and he couldn’t stop it. Jellie looks up at his window and he ducks out of sight, but not in time. She waves.

Now Merrill is in no shape for this. He was just recovering from the fine morning where he’d accidentally met the pastor in the church with the sound of flapping angel wings. Bob the pastor had explained praying and they’d prayed. By the time Merrill left the church he was filled up with a scary amount of energy. He’d learned that that could set him off. So he’d walked very slowly all the way home and by the time he’d climbed the stairs to his place, he felt he could be satisfied with a Coke and an apple. Those were the rules he had to follow. Keep calm, keep fed, not too much junk food, get the fruit in, get in whatever you could. Don’t upset anything. Calm was King. He’d made that up.

Jellie knocked on the door. He counted four breaths in and four breaths out. Maybe he should just pretend not to be home. That would be the best he could do for himself. Four breaths in and four breaths out. His brother’s sort of girlfriend stood on the far side of the door. Merrill couldn’t be safe with girls. Expect to not be with girls for at least a year, maybe two. That was for keeping calm. Everyone knows that having a fling of any sort does not keep you calm.

Jellie knocked again. “Hey, Merrill. You in there. I think you’re in there. Just wanting to say hello.”

Where the hell was James. He would never give Jellie his truck. Now Merrill’s heart is beating agin. Where the fuck is James and why was Jellie pounding on his door? There was nothing calm here and he could feel something slipping inside, and that wasn’t good. Nobody taught him what to do when your brother’s girlfriend shows up in his truck but without the brother.

He leaned his head against the door and held himself still. He could smell Jellie’s perfume, or maybe it was the shampoo she used.


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