Aside from having to find creative ways to contain a lifetime of impure thoughts, possibly the most unpleasant aspect of “retiring” from Serial Romance is that you don’t lose the instinct. It stays with you like an extra sense. Only what was meant to be a tool in your Ultimate Romantic Predator arsenal becomes an instrument of crippling empathy.
Perhaps it’s simply that spending all that time trying not to think or feel or do things makes you highly sensitized to them. No longer an active participant, you become an unintentional voyeur whether you want to be one or not. What was two strangers enjoying the tickling curiosity from standing a little too close in the elevator becomes a ménage à trois when you step aboard. That cashier idly fantasizing about someone as she presses the change into your hand? You might as well be doing a freaking mind meld – her desire becomes yours with the quarters.
I suppose, with practice and patience, one could hone this into a harmless passive feeding skill of sorts. Suck up a little of that energy, like some kind of benign libido vampire, to help keep your own impulses at bay. But, that wouldn’t quite be “retiring” — how long before you’d need to feed for real?
No, better to help folks help themselves when you can – scratch the itch, silence the longing – so you can get out of the damned elevator, ASAP.
After weeks of absorbing her angst, Edelweiss finally confronted her roommate and close friend, Brianna.
Brianna sat down at the counter.
Brianna was lost.
“He wants to be with you too, you know that, right?”
“The.. bear?” Brianna asked, getting a wee bit creeped out.
“No,” said Ede, refocusing. “Landon! Red hair, dimples, cute girlfriend? You two have been walking around in this swirling vortex of almost something for weeks now, and it’s driving me plumming nuts!”
“Oh.” Brianna blushed a little. Maybe she wasn’t ready to face this yet, but that was too bad, darnit.
“Look,” Ede said, “If you wanna live here ’til we’re both old’n grey and just have walker races all day that’s cool with me. But, he’s looking for a place, you’re looking for a place. I know you both dig each other. What’s the freaking problem, here?”
Ede tried to harness her patience so that she could help her friend.
“I’m listening,” she said.
“My family is pretty traditional about this stuff,” Brianna explained. “It never applied to me, exactly – I mean, it’s not like anyone ever sat me down and told me what kind of relationship to have – but, since I’ve been getting into this whole violin thing, and especially since I basically left everyone behind, that stuff all seems really important now. I feel like I need to set an example, if that makes sense.”
“It would be easy to move in together and just continue what we’re doing,” she continued, “I’d probably even be really happy. But it also feels like shacking up with my boyfriend would be disrespectful – like I owe it to grandpa, and mom, and everybody to aim for the whole package, y’know?”
Ede let loose a laugh.
“Well,” she said loudly, “that’s not a problem!”
It came out a bit more on the brash side than she intended. Brianna clenched her fists.
“It’s not?? Well gee, thanks! I feel better already!”
“I mean plum,” Bri ranted on, “why didn’t I come to you sooner?!”
“I meant,” Ede said fondly, “your boyfriend pretty much wants the whole storybook, tacky greeting card experience.”
“Really?” Bri asked.
“Only for his whole damn life.”
Ede gave her a minute before continuing.
“If you’re sure about this,” Ede said, “he may need a little nudge. He’s not exactly fared well living next door to me his whole life.”
Brianna chuckled, “not many would!”
“Thanks a lot!” Ede laughed.
“I’m just playing,” Bri said. “You know I love you guys.”
“And we love you too, pancakes. Now go get yourself a happy damn ending already!”
“Soon,” Bri laughed. “Some of us actually have to work today!”
. . .
It was true, Ede had the day off. House all to herself. It felt.. weird.
After spending the rest of the morning wrestling the plumbing into submission, the idea of pampering herself seemed naive. Her dream of taking a nice hot bath faded away, and was replaced by a yen to Friendly-interact with a certain someone who’d been displaying certain inclinations towards a certain mailman. So she donned her magic diaper once again, grabbed her bow and arrows and headed off on her fool quest.
She wasn’t gonna shoot her or anything, mind. She was just drawn.
Ravon Skinner opened the door and looked past Edelweiss hopefully for a second.
“It’s just me,” Ede smiled.
Ravon covered her disappointment with hospitality and invited Edelweiss inside.
“I was going to bring brownies, but I seem to have lost the recipe,” Ede said with a smirk.
Ravon kept her at arm’s length with politeness.
“Oh, no need.”
Edelweiss noticed that Ravon’s shape had returned to normal – she’d been quite pregnant last time she’d seen her.
“Congratulations on your new arrival, by the way!”
Ravon lit up at that. “Oh! Do you want to see the girls?”
“Girls – that’s great! Sure!”
As is often the case in Skinnerville proper, our Skinners had another set of twins!
“Oh, they’re sleeping,” Ede noticed. “Some other time then.”
“Don’t be silly, darling,” said Ravon. “Come.”
Ede followed Ravon’s lead, and was soon lost in baby cuteness herself.
The squeeing and cooing over little Gretchen and Anahi proved to be a pretty decent icebreaker.
And so it was that the two most dangerous vixens in town found themselves chatting and laughing together well into the afternoon.
Ravon shared her excitement over some local rumors.
And Ede made an invitation for an actual friendship.
It was nearly time for the children to be home from school and Edelweiss felt that nice hot bath within her grasp again, so she finally made to leave for home. Ravon saw her to the door.
“This was nice,” Ravon said earnestly. “Thank you.”
“Thank you for having me.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “About before.”
Ede smiled. “No need.”
For those itches that can’t quite be reached, sometimes kindness, laughter and baby pictures’ll work in a pinch. It feels different, but it’s still pretty darn good.