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June 17, 2013

I Hraet You (66)

Beat 66: What a Wonderful Person!

“Mmmm…hmmm…more than willing to try my luck.”

Lloyd -- still more than a little groggy -- lifted his head.  Even with his glasses on (though a little askew) the world hadn’t quite come back into focus yet.  I seem to have taken an impromptu slumber, he thought.  So I suppose that the opportunity to partake in games of chance has long since passed.  He tried to adjust his glasses a bit, but couldn’t handle the task; in fact, he could hardly move his hands apart from one another.  It almost felt as if they’d been tied behind his…

Suddenly, Lloyd didn’t feel quite so groggy. 

The gears in his head returned to their regular speed -- and as they did, he started to process the situation.  He didn’t want to, but he knew he had to.  He had to take in the fact that he’d been tied to a steel chair; prickly rope dug into his ankles and torso, with the chair’s cold surface offering no aid.  He had to take in the fact that the chair itself seemed to weigh more than he did -- or if not, then perhaps bolted to the floor.  He hoped for the former, of course; it would at least distract him from knowing that he still wore nothing besides slacks torn into shorts and a slew of bandages…some of them fresher than others.

But that wasn’t all.  Because as Lloyd’s vision refocused, and his mind moved at full blast, he could take in one more fact.  One that made him want to squeal like a panicked emu (whatever that sounded like).

The room.

Lloyd looked around the room -- and dozens of Lloyds looked back.  Posters of Lloyd, stapled crookedly onto the walls and ceiling.  Paintings of Lloyd, with colors running both off easels and down canvasses onto the carpet.  Clay sculptures of Lloyd, their features dramatically exaggerated, and beaming at him like Cheshire cats.  Even the rug on the floor looked like Lloyd’s head -- at least if it was flattened and stretched out, and (if his guess was right) made with no shortage of wicker and macaroni noodles. 

But somehow, it got worse.  A bed sat before him, but it hardly looked comforting; what might have once passed as queen-sized had been messily carved into the shape of a heart, with wood chips still flung about, and the bed itself hardly looking like it could hold a child.  A window was above it, but only a sliver of light escaped from it -- likely thanks to the wooden planks nailed in front of it.  He snapped his neck to the door -- and for a moment, he thought he’d been locked inside a safe.  A metal slab that could outweigh his whole family lay before him, with a half dozen locking mechanisms set up -- and no doubt in use -- just to be safe.  A lamp on the floor dyed the room a hot shade of magenta, while another’s whirring motions made hearts move across the ceiling.  And all the while, the words “Let’s get physical -- physical” repeated on an endless loop, with what might have once been a song long since distorted into a zealous chant.

Lloyd had come into the O’Leary’s home expecting the best.  And now he was trapped inside a shrine that could double as a love shack.

“By Hephaestus’ hammer!” he gasped.  “So THIS is what a girl’s room is like!”  He blinked a few times.  “Can’t say I’m a fan.”

 But Lloyd had to cut his appreciation of the décor short.  He turned to the door; locks, levers, valves, and keypads clicked and beeped and whirred from the other side.  And sure enough, Sheila shoved the door open moments later, with a plate of food -- an omelet with a ketchup heart on top -- in hand.

“Miss O’Leary!  Oh, it’s good to see you again!” said Lloyd, even though his voice went half-unheard as Sheila slammed the door behind her and secured the locks.  “Listen, if you don’t mind, I was wondering if you could explain to me what exactly has been settled.”

Sheila took a seat on the bed.  “You’re staying here.”

“Ah, so the sleepover will proceed as planned.  That’s…well, more than deducible, considering my surroundings.  Still, I must extend some thanks to your mother; she’s quite the woman.  And the host.”  Lloyd had said all of that with a smile, if only to keep his heart from staging a mutiny. 

“S-so you think she’s a good person?”

“Well, why wouldn’t I?  She may be a bit hot-tempered, but I suspect her kindness is genuine.”  He shifted his jaw a bit.  “As is her ability in the pugilistic arts.”

Sheila looked down at the omelet beside her, lips pursed and fingers digging into the plate.  “Lloyd.  That woman and I…we settled on more than just letting you stay here.”

“Eh?  You did?”

“Uh-huh.  We -- I decided that you’re not leaving here until I make you mine.”  She looked up at him, and even with her eyes near-invisible Lloyd caught a hint of a dangerous glimmer.  “This room you’re in?  It’s your prison.”

 “My whahrrrrrrrgrrrrrrrk?”  Lloyd broke into a coughing fit that threatened to slash his innards -- but thankfully, he calmed himself down before long.  “Sorry about that.  I think my stomach just tried to leap out my mouth, that’s all.  I should probably see a doctor about --”

“Stop playing around.”

“Okay.”

Sheila pulled a cell phone from between her breasts.  “What’s your family’s number?  I want you to call them and tell them you’re staying here for a while.  For a long while.  And tell them not to come looking for you.  Otherwise, they might not like what they find.”

Lloyd raised his eyebrows.  “You seem to have grown a great deal more confident all of a sudden.  And hazardous.  Then again, one can’t help but wonder if --”

Stop playing around.”

“Eight six seven five three oh nine!” Lloyd blurted.  “My brother’s number; he’ll relay the message!”

Sheila punched in the numbers, and as her phone started to ring she got up and pressed it to Lloyd’s ear.  “You know what to say, don’t you?”

“I should think so, given how close I am to needing a new pair of everything.” 

The phone rang once, then twice, then once more -- and on the fifth ring, there came a noise.  “Hello?  Who’s calling?” JP asked.

“JP?  JP, it’s --” Lloyd looked up toward Sheila, all too aware of her tightened visage.  “It’s your dear brother, Lloyd.  I have some news for you.  Exciting news, indeed.”

JP groaned.  “This isn’t about the echidna dream again, is it?”

“No, not -- actually, there were wombats this time.”

“Whatever.  What’s going on?  I already heard that you’re at some girl’s house, so there’s not much reason for you to be calling me.  Especially not now.  We’re a little busy with something, and we’re actually getting something done without you mouthing off every ten seconds.”

“Yes, well, I just wanted to tell you that I’ll be staying at Miss O’Leary’s home for a while yet.  It’s difficult to say how long, but I’ll be certain to give you a call when I’ve concluded my business here.  With any luck, I’ll be back before you know it!”

“Take your time, Lloyd.”

“Well, I’d hoped to move at a slower pace, but it seems that such caution is ill-advised at the moment.”

Take your time, Lloyd,” JP repeated.  He sighed into the phone.  “That’s it, right?  Then I’ll see you when I see you.”  And just like that, the phone call -- and Lloyd’s hopes for salvation -- came to a quick end.  But just to make sure he knew it, Sheila tossed the phone into a corner of the room; it smacked a Lloyd statue right between the eyes and knocked its head clean off.

“That is a very worrisome bit of symbolism,” Lloyd muttered.

Sheila moved a few feet in front of Lloyd.  “You know how this is going to end, don’t you?”

“With the two of us becoming -- as the saying goes -- bestest best friends?”

“I’m pretty damn sure I told you to stop playing around.”

“Yes, well, I’m afraid I can’t help myself at this point.  You see, unrelenting terror tends to make me more than a little talkative, and I daresay it’s merely a coping mechanism to keep me from --”

“The next words I want to hear out of your mouth had better be ‘Sheila, I’m yours.  Let’s make a baby, baby.’”

Lloyd tilted his head.  “That doesn’t seem like the word choice I’d use.”

Sheila glared at Lloyd for a moment -- and then, she turned around and started digging under her bed.  When she came back out, she brandished a small rod…one that she quickly extended into a long, metallic rod…and one that, with a press of a button, sent voltage zipping across it.

“What on ear- is that a --?  Is that for me?”

“It doesn’t have to be,” said Sheila, turning off the power and setting it on her bed.  “Unless you want it to.  I don’t mind using it if it’ll get you…charged up.”

“That is a VERY naughty euphemism for you to be using, Miss O’Leary.  But word choice aside, I would think that there’s no need to go this far.”  Lloyd swallowed hard; Sheila might have put him in extreme circumstances, but he still had a chance to turn it all in his favor.  “I believe that I can help you in my own way -- in a way that demands no need for unlawful merriment.”

“Nice word choice,” Sheila muttered.  Still, she folded her arms.  “What did you have in mind?”

Lloyd glanced aside.  Could he tell her the full extent of the truth, and risk putting her off?  Or keep everything to himself, and wing it from there?  But he shook his head; if it came down to close-quarters combat, the first strike would have her in his home field.  “I believe that I can help you in my current state,” he said a moment later.  “If you’ll have me, I may be able to aid you in ways you might not have expected.  I admit I may be rushing things a bit, but the faster I move, the sooner we’ll reach our final goal -- and the sooner you’ll have newfound joy.”

“You mean it?”

“I certainly hope that’s the case.  All I ask is that you take my hand; if all goes well, then I’d gladly explain the full circumstances to you.”

Sheila didn’t even pay attention to the last part.  She just started for Lloyd’s hand with a sprightly step.

Once we make physical contact, I’ll be heading into her audition room, Lloyd thought.  He closed his eyes.  I feel as if I’ve learned only so much from this turn of events -- many a fact, to be sure, but I wonder if I have enough clues to aid her.  And I wonder if I’ve the mettle to meet with and surmount what challenges hide within.  Considering what happened last time…

He opened his eyes.  He’d only just realized that Sheila had been holding his hand for a while now -- and tightly, at that.

What the…?  It didn’t work?  Impossible -- I’ve already been with her before! 

“Is something supposed to happen?” Sheila asked -- and outside of her typical sniffle, she sounded more than a little impatient.

Could it be that I have to touch her in the same place as last time?  Where I first made contact?  He craned his neck back.  “Miss O’Leary, may I ask that you press your shoulder blades to my palm?”

Sheila took a seat and slid Lloyd’s hand up her back, even going so far as to pull up her shirt and let him feel her skin.  But even then…

Nothing?  So my hypothesis was wrong, then…but if that’s the case, then what is it?  What could I be missing, if not for contact or --

And then it came to him.  He didn’t just need contact to enter the audition room.  He needed endearment.  He’d earned it with Trixie the first time, but she’d fed him a haymaker without a return trip -- and then let him back in once she’d calmed down.

Lien-Hua had let him go on a venture.  As had Mrs. Overdose, with a bit of coaxing.  As had Sheila, once upon a time.  But now she refused him just as thoroughly as May had.  And if his guess was right, he could say why.

S-so you think she’s a good person?  Sheila’s words came rushing back to the forefront -- as did his own.

Well, why wouldn’t I?  She may be a bit hot-tempered, but I suspect her kindness is genuine.    

Lloyd winced.  I’ve made a grave mistake -- I’ve done more than try and be friendly.  I’ve left Miss O’Leary with a sourer impression of me…and now she’s no longer endeared.  And now I’m locked out of the audition room!  His eyes scanned the room at mach speed.  But if that’s the case, then why --?

“I’m tired of waiting, Lloyd.”

Sheila climbed to her feet, leaving Lloyd’s hands hanging once more.  She strode in front of him, head hung low and her own hands curling into fists.  “I’m done waiting.  And I’m done playing.  You belong to ME now.  And I belong to you.”

“Miss O’Leary --”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!”

Lloyd almost got blown out of the chair.  If he could have zipped his mouth shut, he would have.

“I’m done.  I’m done with everything up to this point.  It’s time for me to become something more.  Someone more -- and it’s all gonna be thanks to you.  I love you…you love me…we’re a happy family…”

If Lloyd didn’t know any better, he would have thought that the room seemed to darken.  He could have easily been mistaken, but somehow he couldn’t shake the feeling that the area around Sheila -- around her eyes, most of all -- dimmed.

“I love you…you love me…” Sheila repeated.  “I love you…you love me…I love you…you love me…you think that I’m so pretty…with a great big bust and a bubbly butt, too…now you know that I…love…you.”

And then, she did the worst thing imaginable.  The one thing that very nearly made Lloyd’s heart stop. 

She took off her glasses.

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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