Tales of the Storage Space, Part 14

Karen shivered.  But there was no reason to heat a storage unit much, if at all, and certainly not this late at night.  Shame she hadn’t been able to retrieve more of her clothing before bolting out Martin’s back door.

Frank…

But no more.  She mustn’t think about Frank, not now, not ever again.

“Karen, how could you?”  Frank’s startlingly formal words when he kicked the door down at Martin’s.  His words that seemed to ricochet endlessly off the corrugated metal walls inside a space where no human was ever meant to spend the night.  Karen couldn’t even stand up in it.  How high was her storage unit?  What had that horrible rodent of a man at the front desk said when she first rented this storage unit, and he’d broken the glass “friends forever” plaque Marie had given her?  Four feet high?  Karen couldn’t lie down in it either, couldn’t have even if her boxes weren’t there.  Not unless she curled up in a very tight ball.  But she couldn’t imagine where else she could go at this hour with little money and fewer clothes.

Frank…

She’d actually managed to imagine she heard him kicking a door in again.  Like he had when she and Martin had been…  Karen’s stomach clenched.  It had been just like when she’d come in on Frank with her best friend Marie!  At least Martin wasn’t Frank’s best friend.  Frank didn’t even know Martin!  So why did Karen feel so damn…cheap…that she wanted to cry?

Frank…

Karen was sure she heard a footstep.  But it was so soft it didn’t seem quite real, quite physical.  Karen moved toward the door of her unit, which she’d left open a little for light and air.  Then, disgusted with her wishful thinking, she backed away into the dark.  Still, she thought she’d glimpsed something, but it was more like a mist than anything physically solid, a trick of the street lights glaring through the windows, no doubt.  She shivered in the dark.

Then she remembered.  In her boxes.  Hadn’t she wrapped her grandfather’s little metal horse with all its paint chipped off in her grandmother’s warm shawl?  Still shivering, Karen dived into her boxes in the dark, but she couldn’t find it.  Just as she remembered she hadn’t included it after all, because there wasn’t enough room in the end, she heard the telltale clanking of glass.  A huge, sharp piece of Marie’s shattered “friends forever” plaque stabbed her hand.

It may as well have been her heart.  She had to take off what little she was wearing to use to staunch the bleeding.  Sobbing and shivering even more violently, she finally began to lose consciousness, half hoping she was bleeding to death, not falling asleep.

Was it minutes, hours or days later?  Or a century earlier occurred to her for some strange reason.  Half asleep, Karen’s eyes flickered open briefly.  That mist she’d thought she saw before seemed to be seeping ever so slowly into her unit.  A trick of the light coming through the windows no doubt.  Perhaps the moon had risen.  Or it was all a dream.  She dozed.

A speech in some ancient, far-more-formal English that she knew was terribly familiar teased at the corners of her consciousness.  She just barely caught the sense of it, but it was something about comparing her to a summer’s day.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 13

Martin screamed for help again.

But the cop ignored him again.

How could an officer of the law ignore a naked man running down the middle of the street toward him when stopped in his patrol car with the window rolled down?  Especially at this hour, with nobody else around.  Bloody fool.  Too fucking busy with…  Oh, the cruelty of it all; Martin would have recognized that smell a lightyear away!  The cop was too busy stirring his Frappuccino.

Martin’s feet, slapping the rough, uneven pavement, were killing him.  Every sharp intake of air sounded like a hurricane.  Knackered, he was totally, completely knackered.  How the fuck was he to know that his friend-with-benefits Karen’s husband Frank was the same Frank as Martin’s murderous bookie?

Martin could hear Frank thundering after him like an overweight T-rex, gaining on him.  Could Martin make it to the police car in time?  He screamed for help yet again.

The cop ignored him yet again, taking a long, leisurely guzzle of his Frappuccino while rolling up the patrol car window.  Then Martin heard the one sound on earth even more terrifying than Frank’s approach:  the cop starting the engine.  Just as Martin reached it, the patrol car pulled away from the curb and sped away.

Martin ducked down a familiar street.  He had to disappear.  Somehow he had to disappear before Frank got to the corner and could see where Martin had gone.  Familiar…  What did he know this street from?  Oh yeah, Jennifer’s storage unit.  He could see the door to its building just ahead…  Ajar?  Wishful thinking?  Martin barreled into it with his shoulder, and through it.  Had he been in time?  Had Frank seen?

Unfortunately Martin was halfway up the stairs, heading, for no apparent reason, toward Jennifer’s storage unit, before he realized he shouldn’t have left the front door ajar.  He started back down but froze when he heard a sound even more sickening than the sound of that cop car taking off:  The front door slamming open again sounded like Martin’s apartment door when Frank kicked it in.  Martin headed back up the stairs again but quietly now, thankful at last for his bare feet.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 12

Jennifer looked up from compulsively flipping open and shut her first-ever phone, a Motorola Razr, when she heard someone else clang through the storage space’s front door.  At this hour?  Jennifer tossed her old phone back into its box…on top of a bunch of Beanie Babies, weird Barbies of one sort or another, and a few wild-haired Troll Dolls.  She could hear the other person on the stairs.  At this hour?  Some complete idiot had nothing better to do than to visit their storage unit on a Saturday night?  Ridiculous.  People were so unreasonable.

Like Martin.  The thought of him letting that woman with the suitcases in, mere hours ago, had Jennifer rifling through another box of her precious stuff, desperately searching for her stuffed animal collection.  There was a huge bear from when she was six in there somewhere; Jennifer never threw anything out.  Not even…

Jennifer had been ten.  Nobody at school liked her; Jennifer could never understand why.  There was no reason.  People were so unreasonable.

Brittany.  Just thinking the name of the most popular girl in her fifth-grade class made Jennifer twitch with the envy she still felt.  Jennifer would have given anything to be Brittany’s friend, but she didn’t have a chance.  Then one day if happened.  Jennifer found Brittany sobbing in the bathroom, clinging to something.

“Please,” Brittany choked out.  “Help me!”

“Help you?” Jennifer asked.  It was the first time Brittany had ever spoken to Jennifer.  Jennifer was so mesmerized she drew closer, perhaps a bit too close, until she could smell Brittany’s Coco by Chanel.  Jennifer could also see the bottle of it Brittany had left and apparently forgotten about on the counter behind her.

“My ‘friends’…”  Brittany trailed off, the word “friends” full of bitterness and disdain.  Then she opened up her hands so Jennifer could see what she’d been clinging to.  It was a ratty old Doodle Bear.  Jennifer recognized Brittany’s writing on it, even though it had obviously been written years ago when Brittany had been much younger.  It said, “I’ll always love Kevin Adams.”

If Jennifer was the most unpopular girl in her class, Kevin Adams was the most unpopular boy.

“One of my ‘friends’ found it, going through my stuff in my room, probably looking to steal my Coco by Chanel.”  Brittany pointed to what she’d written about Kevin Adams.  “I can’t get it off.”  Then she hugged the Doodle Bear tight.  “But the only thing protecting me from ruin, complete ruin, is that the rest of my friends don’t believe the one who found it, and they won’t believe her till she shows them this Doodle Bear.  I can’t give up my Doodle Bear,” she hugged it even tighter, “but that bitch will find it somehow no matter where I hide it…”  Brittany suddenly looked at Jennifer as if she’d never seen her before.

Jennifer felt something swelling up inside her, something she’d never felt before, at least not like this.  She stepped up next to Brittany and wrapped her arm around her.  “How can I help?”

Brittany stuffed her Doodle Bear inside Jennifer’s jacket.  “Promise you won’t tell anybody about it, and that you’ll keep it well hidden but give it back to me when it’s safe to and I ask?  Solemnly swear?”

“I solemnly swear,” Jennifer said, a little behind Brittany now, next to the counter.

A scream outside the storage space snapped Jennifer back to the present.  It sounded like Martin!  Jennifer went back to scrambling through that box in search of her huge stuffed bear from when she was six with a vengeance.  She came across Brittany’s Coco by Chanel, and the Doodle Bear Jennifer had refused to give back first, but she finally sank her face into the soft, forgiving, nonjudgmental fake fur of her stuffed bear.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 11

The Storage Space would have sighed with pleasure, titillating each of its individual storage units, if only a building could sigh with pleasure.  That wonderful woman was there again, caressing the once-grand carvings around the once-grand entrance from when the Storage Space had been a magnificent old theatre.  She was dressed a little strangely…half-dressed really…but she was there.

Ah…when those grand old carvings were new.  And many touched them with wonder, though they didn’t linger as lovingly as this woman.  Still, it took the Storage Space back to when La Grande Troupe cavorted upon its mahogany stage.  An equally wonderful woman, an actress, sensitive and sweet like this one…but a lot more frail.  The sparkle of love in her eye, whenever the one the Storage Space would prefer not to think about any more appeared on stage at her side.  The touching sincerity most often expressed in the unconscious tremolo of her tone.  But, alas, ravished one night.  Never the same.  Especially after…  Never mind.  The Storage Space wouldn’t think about that.

The Storage Space was jolted back to the present anyway, when Le Grand Rat, that Irwin, that…what did they call them now?…”employee” started to lock up.

That wonderful woman, that Karen, stopped caressing the building’s carvings and hid behind them instead.  Irwin was so busy muttering to himself about being one smart cookie that always played his cards right that he didn’t even notice Karen, though he walked right past her.

What was Karen doing there at that hour anyway, and half-dressed?

She waited, then fumbled with her keys, finally managing to unlock the front door…but forgetting to lock it behind her!  The Storage Space was appalled.  So typical of Le Grand Rat’s managerial style that he’d allow people 24-hour access to their storage units but not set the door to lock behind them.  As if the dangers lurking inside weren’t enough, she’d now be exposed to the dangers from outside?  The Storage Space simply couldn’t bear it if she never stroked its carvings again…