A Million Smiles for June: Chapter 7

Even though it’s past midnight here, I’m sticking to my promise. Here is Chapter 7, freshly typed by a sleep deprived me! Enjoy …Please do. 🙂 It would make my day! (or tomorrow, when I wake up to see all your likes and comments…Here’s to fingers crossed, even in sleep.)

WE JOIN Chad and June, after Terry’s surprise visit to Chad, where she discovers Chad is still without a story, but a wonderful tale to tell, and he must find this ‘tale’ she suddenly sees after hearing all about June…

 

  1. Something for the Lady

It was beginning to get dark inside when Chad finally stopped and wondered where June had disappeared to. He’d managed to write just over thousand word of gibberish, yet failing to see the entire picture of where he was going with it. He was just semi glad he had written something. He folded the laptop away and slid off the bench top, unable to feel his butt any longer.

“June,” he called out, staring up the stairs. Suddenly, she appeared at the door of her room. She walked down, rubbing some sleep off her eyes.

“You finished?” she asked with a smile, and Chad shook his head, not understanding. “The lady.”

“Oh, yes. She left ages ago. I completely forgot to tell you.” June shrugged at him. “Have you had lunch?” suddenly absolutely starved. June shook her head. “You hungry?”

“Famished,” she laughed, eyeing the coffee cup she’d left on the table.

“Is that all you’ve had?” Chad asked, shocked. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’m sure there’s something in the fridge.”

“Actually, Chad, there’s nothing in your house to eat,” she said sheepishly, “but it’s okay, I slept it off.”

“Slept if off?”

“It’s nothing,” she shrugged. “Bax and I did it all the time…”

“You should have told me,” he said rather disappointed at himself. He immediately strode up the stairs, calling out behind him. “Get ready. We’re going out.”

“You don’t have to get me anything Chad!” June called out, staring up at the top of the stairs, unable to tell him, she didn’t have anything suitable for ‘going out’.

Somewhere from the upper level, he replied. “I’m hungry. Besides, as you pointed out, there is indeed no food in the house, at least not some we should eat anyway.” As he ran down the stairs buttoning up his fresh shirt, he smiled, a kind of careless smile she hadn’t seen on him before “I hate going shopping by myself.”

June gave a weak smile in turn. “Do I look okay like this?” she asked and watched Chad eye her for the first time from toes to head, and the few seconds made June feel as if she were standing there without any clothes at all.  She was in fact just wearing old house pants and a big t-shirt that would have looked okay if it were a little shorter.

Chad didn’t say anything for a moment, and then suddenly retraced his steps back upstairs. “Be back in a jiffy!” And he was, in less than a minute, he appeared at the top of the stairs in an old drawstring linen pants and a faded polo shirt. He smiled charmingly, and approached her. All June could do was watch him as he came down the stairs. He stood in front of her and eyed her t-shirt. “May I?”

June barely nodded, and suddenly gasped as Chad grabbed the bottom of her extra-long t-shirt which was in fact his, and he started trimming it around her waist so it looked more retro than drab. He took a step back and smiled again. “That okay?”

June looked at herself, and suddenly she wasn’t looking like she was wearing clothes that didn’t fit her. The rough edges looked rather nice. She looked back up at him, eyeing his change of clothes. “You didn’t have to change for me.”

“That shirt wasn’t very comfortable, and the pants, well, it didn’t match the polo.” He walked past June, turning the light on in the lounge as they reached for the door. “Do you like Thai? There’s a cute little restaurant where the shops are. And afterwards, we can pop into Woolies and grab some grocery.”

“Sounds nice.” June wasn’t entirely sure since she didn’t do spicy food, but she felt she could hear her tummy rumbling, and she certainly didn’t want to seem demanding. After all, all Chad had done so far was beyond any kindness she had received since she’d become another number on the streets.

 

Chad ordered their meals and watched other patrons for want of things. “How are you finding the book?” he asked casually to fill the awkward silence. He actually had no desire to mix June into this alternate world of words that he used to have, once upon a time, till couple of months ago that is. He liked that she was in his real world and not some character in his story. She was in his life, unlike so many people who’d slowly drifted away. In fact, he couldn’t quite recall the last time he’d even chatted with his mother on the phone. He must try and do that more often, he thought, until he realised June was speaking. He tuned in.

“…not bad so far,” she sipped water trying not to think about how hungry she really was. “I don’t normally read romance novels.”

Chad laughed, though slightly on edge. “It’s not really romance, is it?”

June narrowed her eyes at him as the waitress brought over their entrée. “It’s not you book, is it?”

Chad almost burned his tongue, accidentally biting too much of the piping hot food. He coughed, and gave his head a slight shake. “What?” when he really was thinking, Who told you?!

June laughed. “It’s in your house?”

“Oh.”

“What did you think I meant?”

Chad shook his head. “That it’s my book because it’s in my house.”

June didn’t think much of Chad’s nervousness and started on her cooling spring roll. Chad breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t really want June to know who he was, because, with it will come reactions he didn’t really care for unless he was in a bookstore with a wall of his newest release behind him, and an acid-free pen in his grip, signing away as Zachary Eve.

“I don’t mind the writing, to be honest,” June busied herself with the fish cakes that were placed on their table. “Kind of surprised at how soft it is, especially since it’s coming from a guy.”

“No?”

“No,” she finally looked up. “Have you read any of them?”

“They are in my house, aren’t they?”

June stared at him is shock, and suddenly laughed. “I can’t imagine you sitting down to read a novel like that.”

Chad felt something akin to a stab on his sides. He cleared his throat rather sombrely. “Actually, they are my ex’s books. Guess in her hurry, she forgot about them.”

“I’m glad she did,” June’s eyes lit up briefly. “She was a fan?”

Chad scoffed into his glass, contemplated the question, and shook his head. “I’m not so sure.”

“But there are like nine books in the house!”

Chad shrugged, cutting into a tiny piece of chicken on his pad thai that barely called for the knife. “She left them behind, didn’t she? So I guess, she’s not such a big fan of his.” After a brief moment, he couldn’t resist sounding rather cut. “Archer Eve, or whatever his name is…”

June laughed so hard she almost snorted. “Listen to you! You sound so jealous.” Chad shrugged. “Besides, his name’s Zachery Eve.”

Chad shrugged, and went on eating his food.

“First time I’ve heard of him though,” she was saying in between bites of food.

Chad’s phone rang just in time for him to put a stop to the uncomfortable conversation. It was a private number. “Hello, Za…Chad Gilligan.” All that talk of Zachery Eve had almost had him spill his own beans.

Suddenly, all colour drained from his face as he heard silence but for the music in the background. He’d completely forgotten about the midnight prank calls of previous weeks. “Who is this?” he demanded with a harsh but low tone. When no reply came, he hung up the phone, a little frazzled.

“Everything okay?”

“Wrong number.”

 

Chad pushed the trolley slowly down the aisle. “Pick whatever you like,” he said at the wall of cereal when his phone rang again. It was a private caller again. “Who the hell is this?” he hissed, and his pressure rose as he heard the music in the background. Suddenly, he could feel an onset of a headache and cursed, ending the call and putting his phone on silence. June held up a box of cereal and he shook his head, walking ahead.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

June shuffled alongside him. “Something is. Every time your phone rings, you look a little sick.”

He shrugged. “Wrong number.”

“Maybe it’s an international call,” she held up another box for Chad to inspect. “My folks used to get them all the time…” She stopped right there, feeling a knot in her throat. She turned to the wall and put the box back, muttering. “I don’t like this one anyway.” She didn’t really need to cry in the middle of a grocery aisle. She grabbed some breakfast biscuits and dumped them in the trolley.

Chad walked alongside her, not saying a word. He was slightly lost in his own thoughts. Thoughts that alarmed him. Thoughts of Cassie Micah, his naked midnight visitor. A shiver coursed through him. “Maybe it was a telemarketing call…” he conceded.

He pushed the trolley further on. “You’ve never talked about your parents.” He watched her continue to avoid facing him.

“Not a very interesting story there I guess,” she turned with a forced smile. “I had them, and then I didn’t…”

Chad knew not to probe but he couldn’t help wonder about her past, a past that had somehow brought this fairly sophisticated young woman living on the streets. Maybe in her story lay his inspiration. Maybe June was his knight in shining armour, bearing a riveting story that could be his salvation.

 

When they got home, it was past nine, and June excused herself to her room on pretence that she was sleepy. She thanked him for dinner and bid him goodnight before stealing away like a ghost once more.

Chad made himself a coffee, sat down on the sofa and stared at the space where a TV used to be. That little tension headache from the grocery store having turned into a massive migraine, causing his eyes to feel like they were being squeezed. He rubbed his eyes, massaged his temples and brought out his phone to find three more missed calls from a private number. He turned his phone off, then one by one, walked around the bottom floor, checking that all the doors and windows were securely locked. He then dragged himself to his room.

He halted at his door and turned back around, having heard a noise. He listened carefully, his paranoia rising a little higher than usual since June was in the house as well with him. The noise was coming from behind June’s closed door. He approached cautiously, being able to distinguish the noise as sobs. He wished he could just knock on the door and walk in to check if she was okay, but then thought she perhaps needed to be alone, otherwise she wouldn’t have excused herself.

He let her be, and slightly saddened, returned to his room, drew the curtains close and fell onto the bed. The throbbing in his head becoming as loud as drum beats. Go to the doctor you goose, he thought to self, and ask for mega-migraine-killing-pills-of-wonder. What a thing to happen at an end of a fine day indeed, taken hostage by his own cortex. His thoughts thus reeled to June, and her sobs, then of course, as a side effect to thinking about June’s sobs, he thought of her story. He pressed his head in between his two hands and tried drifting to sleep.

 

When June came down the next morning, eyes raw and red from the night, she found Chad bunched up on the couch, pressing his temples with his palms as if he were trying to shut some paranormal noise out.

“You okay?” she called out slightly concerned at the sight.

Chad peeked around his hand and barely gave an indecipherable nod. “Peachy!”

“You look like death!” she walked over, taking a closer look at him. “Did you sleep at all?” He barely shook his head. “What’s wrong?”

“Migraine. Mother of a migraine!” he mumbled, almost rocking himself.

Chad could hear her walk away and was glad. She was only talking as a concerned friend, but to him it was as if she were clanging cymbals next to his head. A moment later, he felt light pressure on top of his head. June’s hands running through his hair. He tried looking up, but his eyes would barely open against the bright morning.

“Just try and relax, one breath at a time,” she spoke in a hush as she continued massaging his head. Chad could feel something wet slicking through his hair.

“What is it?”

“It’s oil and water. Mum used to do this for me whenever I had a bad headache. It helps. Trust me.”

Chad didn’t care whether it was going to work eventually or not. He just knew June was pressing pressure points that gave him some relief. He couldn’t tell how long she’d kept it up. Pretty soon, he was getting drowsy, and went to rise up so he could drag himself to bed. She held him down gently.

“Don’t move. Just lie down here and sleep.”

Like a baby, Chad did as he was told. He cocooned himself on the sofa. He could hear June go around the floor, closing all curtains and turning off lights, plunging the house into a greyish light. He closed his eyes and couldn’t remember hearing anything else, nor feeling anymore pain. He drifted off slowly.

 

When he woke, sometime in the late afternoon, the house was clean, and empty. “June,” he called, slowly taking himself upstairs, finally glad he could move without the dinner threatening to make an appearance in a grand scale. “June?”

He walked past her door, slightly ajar, and called out again but no response. Instead of panicking that she was gone, he dragged his groggy self into the shower and stood under the refreshing drops. She’d probably just fallen asleep because the house was so quiet and there was nothing to keep her entertained, not even a lousy TV, a lousy TV he could afford.

As he stepped into his room feeling a lot better, he saw the carnage of his phone near the opposite wall. He couldn’t even remember throwing it against the wall. It lay in pieces, battery here, and back cover there. He slowly gathered the remnants only to find the screen completely shattered.

He sighed. He hated shopping, but phone shopping was a whole other level of irritating. There was a reason he hadn’t changed his phones as often as the entire world seemed to do these days. He had liked his dinosaur.

Thus, mournful, he marched himself downstairs, the skeletal remains gripped in hand. He was absolutely starving. The day was drawing close, and as he reached for the fridge door, he could hear the rain starting outside, pitter pattering against the house. Suddenly, he heard a squeal, and seconds later, June came running inside from the small backyard, slightly wet from the sudden downpour. The little book she still held above her head obviously had offered next to no cover.

“It’s raining,” she blurted, suddenly noticing Chad standing there staring at her.

“I see that,” he eyed the many spatter of moisture on her.

June smiled. “How’s your head?”

“Still there!” he smiled back, reaching for the coffee ground on the bench top and setting up a fresh pot of hot coffee. “Want some?”

“Yes please,” she popped the book open on the counter face down. “I’m just going to change into dry clothes.” With that she left him to his pot of coffee and curiosity as he picked up the book on the open pages, and glanced at the page numbers. She was flying through the read, and she’d only started the day before. The thought made him smile, and he placed the book as it was before she re-emerged into the kitchen all smiles.

 

 

Related:

A Million Smiles for June: Chapter 5

A Million Smiles for June: Chapter 6

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