After Malcolm went home, Ede could scarcely concentrate on anything. She gardened, bathed, and cleaned up the house a bit. She should have gone to bed, but she was feeling restless. So she watched TV until she passed out on the couch, the ads all blending together in her head, feeding her strange dreams.
A cheesy announcer voice speaking nonsense. “Pink love never lasts, but green stays until your shower breaks!” A vision of Malcolm’s smirk, pulling her closer to and farther from at once. The voice again, “When the dragon attacks, and the walls come crumbling, you’ll be glad you’re wearing TinyHeart boxers!” A vision of Malcolm’s shoulders, that bit right where they curve so perfectly into his neck, jacking her heartbeat. The dragon becoming an actual dragon, throwing itself full-force into a locked wooden gate that was buckling a little more with each thrust. The crashing getting louder, closer. Coming from somewhere outside the dream..
Ede dragged herself out of sleep to address the racket.
4:AM. Ugh. The noise was coming from the nursery, of course.
Cooper had been at the club all night again. She’d been doing that a lot lately, blowing off steam after work. And now she was blowing off more steam by pummeling the dollhouse.
“Mom? Did you just get home?”
“Mom, you just fixed that thing. Please stop.”
Cooper was ignoring her. Did she even hear her?
“MOM!!” Ede yelled, grabbing her arm.
Ede wasn’t afraid, but she didn’t want a fight, either. So she tried reason.
“You can’t just smash plum when you’re upset, mom!”
Ede watched, feeling her mother just letting go. Filling up on relief, trying to take enough to sustain her beyond the act itself. Ede could tap into that energy so easily – she knew exactly what it felt like to indulge in raw pulling impulses. She’d done it a hundred times herself.
“Oh my god.” Ede said, horrified at this realization. “I’m YOU!”
“What?” Cooper finally stopped thrashing the dollhouse and turned to face her daughter.
“I’m you!!” Ede yelled, angry. “You just hurl yourself onto things and people! You’re like a plumming bear! You don’t think about anything but mauling!!”
“I’m getting some air!”
“Ede, wait.” Coop said. But it was too late.
Ede made sure to slam the door on her way out.
Coop felt really bad about what had happened. She couldn’t blame Ede for being mad at her; it’s true she had been a bit out of control lately. She just didn’t know what to do with herself anymore. She missed her family.
On her way back inside, Coop bumped into Malcolm heading up to the house. He looked as though he’d interrupted himself due to her sudden appearance in his trajectory and was considering how to proceed. She thought she’d spare him the awkwardness of asking – she really was too tired to explain, anyway.
“Morning, Mrs. Wolff,” he smiled. “Do you know where I might find her?”
Such a nice boy. And she’d ‘mauled’ him, too. She sighed. “I’m afraid we had a bit of an argument this morning. My fault. She’s probably out running, or at one of the parks since I didn’t see her out back.”
“I’ll find her.” He paused, not sure how involved he should get. “What about you – do you need anything?”
“I’m fine,” she said, mustering a smile. “And, thank you.”
It didn’t take much effort to locate Edelweiss. Malcolm knew her pretty well by now. He wasn’t sure what state he’d find her in though, so he approached with caution.
“Hey, Edelweiss. Whatcha reading?”
“Just some stupid romance novel I picked up from the free box at the library.”
“Any good?” he smiled.
“Well, no,” she admitted. “It’s basically softcore plum.”
Malcolm laughed out loud. “I see.”
Edelweiss didn’t seem like she planned on adding anything to the conversation, so he gently probed.
“I went by the house,” he said. “Everything OK?”
“That depends,” she said with halfhearted humor, “how much do you already know?”
Malcolm smiled. “I only talked to your mom for a second. She was..”
Oblivious to the personal nature of their conversation, Landon waltzed right up and sat down next to Ede.
“Hiya Ede,” he said, ignoring Malcolm entirely, even though he was standing right there in plain sight.
Ede sighed. And here I thought the day just couldn’t get any better.
Sitting here with two past recipients of Ede’s own brand of “mauling” was not the most relaxing way for her to spend an already plummy morning. She felt like she owed the whole world an apology for everything she’d ever thought or done or felt. Sorry I come on so strong. Sorry I touched you both and made you feel things. Sorry for wanting one of you so thoroughly right now. Sorry I don’t want the other of you at all.
Ede was feeling like the only way to protect the world from the dangers of her mere existence at this point was to go full-on celibate. She only hoped it would be enough.
And she’d better hurry, too — Landon was radiating flirty for some godawful reason and she could just feel him queuing up a proposition. She had to do something to stop it.
“I’m going to become a monk!” she blurted to them both.
Landon seemed confused.
Malcolm seemed amused. “Not a nun?”
“Monks are cooler. Better robes. Vinyards. You know.”
“Oh, of course,” he smirked. “I see you’ve considered this at length.”
“ANYway,” she continued, “the point is, I’m not going to inflict myself on another person ever again.”
Landon seemed bummed. “By inflict, you mean..”
“I mean everything, Landon. Everything.”
“So I guess that means you don’t want to go hang out?” said Landon.
Malcolm was doing that I’m trying really hard not to smile and/or laugh right now thing he does, which only made Ede grumpier. Why wasn’t he taking her seriously? And why did Landon sitting between them make her feel so very threatened? Ugh!
“That is correct. Also, I was already sitting here talking to someone when you decided to plop yourself down and ask me to leave with you! What the plum.”
Landon finally acknowledged Malcolm’s existence.
“Oh, hey, man,” he said sideways to Malcolm.
Malcolm smiled as neutrally as possible, not wanting to make matters worse.
“Well, I guess I’m gonna go then. See ya later, Ede!”
When Malcolm sat back down, Ede felt his eyes on her, even if they weren’t.
“Do you have something to say?” she snipped.
“Nope,” he laughed. “Wouldn’t dare.”
The two sat as Ede fumed. She felt like she probably had smoke coming out of her ears. Oddly, with just Malcolm here she didn’t feel that urge to be alone like she normally would. What’s up with that! It just made her madder!
“Let’s go fishing.” he said abruptly.
“What!?” She didn’t know what that word even was, much less why he was saying it to her.
“Fishing. You, me, a couple of poles. Right now.”
She just looked at him like he was nuts. He knew what to do, though – it wasn’t the first time, after all.
Stand up, take hands, guide.
“Come with me, Ms. monk.”
They walked far away from the benches and the activity to a little hidden fishing hole in a quiet corner of the park.
The word re-entered her vocabulary as soon as she saw the water.
The pond was still and quiet. No current. Despite the seeming lack of vegetation, there were plenty of insects around, and that usually meant fish.
The two cast their lines and sure enough, Malcolm got a nibble right away. But it didn’t take.
Ede felt a hint of a tug on her line right afterward, and she reeled it in just slightly. No bite there either.
After a few minutes of waiting, Malcolm got another shy nibble on his line. He waited for it to grab, but nothing.
Just when she was about to give up and re-cast, Ede’s line tugged again, hard. She reeled in the slack, and felt the weight of the fish pulling on her line — fish on!
“I think you just caught my fish!” Malcolm laughed.
“We can share him,” she beamed.
Ede was just delighted. Fishing was great!
“This is awesome.”
“Thought you might like it,” he smiled.
They fished for hours until their arms were too tired to keep holding the poles, then sat together as Ede tried to work up the gumption to return home. She wondered if her mom would be there, and whether she’d still be mad. Am I still mad? I don’t feel mad. Just happy and safe.
“Still tense?” he asked.
“Only a little bit,” she smiled. “Didn’t get much sleep.”
“So,” Malcolm posed, “tomorrow, how about I come by the house and we can talk budgets and estate management stuff?”
Ede didn’t answer for a good minute as she slipped into a lovely daydream about gentle, mutual, full-disclosure mauling. She didn’t know if bears were into that but she would totally freakin’ try it right now.
“Oh. Yeah!” she said. “That would be really good.”
“Midmorning, sometime? Would that be ok?”
Damn. Did he have, like, some kind of super-hands?
“Yes,” she said. “Really ok.”
She had no idea why he was so kind to her. Didn’t he realize she was a menace? And this neckrub business was the best thing since pasta primavera.
“You’re kind of melting my monastic resolve, here,” she said.
“Yes, I know,” he smiled.