"What happened to you?"
"What happened to you?"
Rielynn and Parker rushed towards us the minute the door opened, only to stop dead in their tracks. Parker pinched his nose. Brian wasn't far behind him, but he recoiled as soon as Nick's stench hit his nostrils.
Of course, Brian wasn't exactly the picture of normalcy. He looked like a mime, his face a mixture of outrageous eyeshadow, pale foundation, bright red lipstick, and blush. His hair looked like it had been spray painted and then covered with gel and hairspray. It stuck up in odd directions like he had just stuck his finger in an electrical socket. It was almost enough to make me momentarily forget my troubles.
"I did battle with a dumpster and lost," Nick said calmly. He skipped over the part about almost getting caught by Charlie and the...thing he was with or the smelly cat lady that almost got him in the balls as she hustled down the alley after us, swinging a rolling pin still covered in dough. His car smelled like puke and three week old bananas soaked in rotten eggs even though he had left his garbage-soaked black hoodie far behind. "What about you?"
"The kids decided to make me pretty," Brian said with a grin. The grin gave him a creepy, sewer clown appearance.
"Bay-tee hewp," Rie explained. "P-uuuuuuu."
She jumped backwards from us, another wave of stank filling the air. I still felt numb, my tongue dry and heavy, but I motioned for Nick to follow me.
"Here, you better take a shower."
"I remember where it is," Nick said. "The thirty second tour," he added, for what I was sure was to stop Brian from jumping to the wrong conclusion. "But while I'm up there, you should pack."
Brian's face contorted to surprised clown, but before he could say anything, Nick disappeared. Parker and Rie turned their full attention to me.
"Mama tink!" Rie squealed. She smashed her face into Brian's leg. Parker smashed his practically in Brian's crotch, making him jump.
Baylee rounded into the kitchen. He saw me and pinched his nose.
"Uncle Nick's never made a girl smell like that before," he announced.
It made me wonder exactly what smells he had given to girls. I probably would have asked if my knee hadnt resumed throbbing. Falling off a fire escape hadnt done wonders to the injury.
Neither had hobbling down the alley.
"I'm going to go use the other shower," I said as Brian pulled Peyton off the front of him. For the first time ever, Rie didn't melt down seeing me leave the room.
I knew I smelled horrible if my toddler couldn't even handle the stench.
As the warm water cascaded down over me, I contemplated what I should do. I knew I couldn't stand seeing Charlie. The thought brought tears to my eyes. Was I so boring and unattactive that he went over the edge on the kinky factor? I wasn't a prude, but...
And why did Nick say I should pack? Where was I going to go?
I sat for a long time on the edge of the tub with the water off, wrapped in a towel. It seemed like the closed door was the only thing separating me from having to be grown up and facing reality. I rubbed some alcohol on my knee before wrapping it in a fresh bandage. I was probably going to walk with a limp the rest of my life. I'd be an ugly, boring, hobbling doofus for the rest of my life.
"Midge? You in there?"
Nick sounded like he had his lips to the crack of the door. I buried my face in my hands.
"Midge, you okay?"
"Okay, so okay is the wrong word. Can I come in?"
My mouth went dry. Even with the towel around me I felt stark naked.
"May I come in?" He asked again. "I don't smell anymore...I don't think."
I looked around the bathroom. I had made the mistake of not bringing a clean set of clothes in with me. Everything was lying on my bed...
I stood up awkwardly and opened the door just a sliver, I wormed my hand out.
"Can you hand me my clothes first?"
A sliver of blue eye met the doorway. I clung to my towel.
"On the bed!"
"Clothes? Aww, shit. Yeah there they are."
I heard footsteps. A moment later my clothes wormed through the door. I had to drop the towel to get them.
And the eye appeared again.
"Nick!" I slammed the door and scrambled to yank on my panties.
He chuckled, a sound that went straight through my body to where it shouldn't have gone, especially after what I had just witnessed outside the apartment. I grabbed my bra, tugging my arms through the straps roughly.
"Thank you," I heard from the other side.
"For what?" I said, sounding grumpier towards him than I actually felt.
"For making landing in a dumpster worth it."
I secured the bra, a lump in my throat. I cracked the door open again...
But he was gone