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Pen Your Pride

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He definitely gave me his room, because there was no way a house this size could have two bathrooms with a Jacuzzi tub, a premium glass shower, a towel closet and his and her sinks. Of course there was a toilet in there too, but it wasn’t worth describing because in my opinion, if you’ve peed in one, you’ve peed in them all.

Part of me wanted to turn right back around and tell Ben to give me the guest room so he could keep his bathroom, but the other, bigger part, was shouting at me to keep my mouth shut. Eventually the gleam of the bathroom lights on the Jacuzzi tub convinced me to at least make use of the bathroom once before giving it back to him.

I have no clue how long I stayed in there, but it was long enough for me to feel dizzy when I got out of the tub. My fingers looked like prunes, but I no longer smelled like sugar and my muscles felt like they’d died and gone to heaven. Overall, as I hefted my duffle bag onto the bathroom counter, I was a pretty happy camper.

My mood plummeted when I opened it and discovered my hurriedly thrown in clothing in complete disarray. While most people would expect hurriedly thrown in clothing to look that way, I’d pulled 90% of my clothes from my drawers where they folded and color coded. It stands to reason that when I opened my bag I had expected them to still be folded and semi-color coded. Instead what I got was a bunch of clothes, balled up and in no particular order.

Though Ben was a cop and it was in his nature to be nosey, I knew he wasn’t responsible for the mess in my duffle bag. The only other person with the opportunity to turn my bag upside down was Vincent. What the hell he was looking for was beyond me, but I didn’t know what possessed him to follow me either so my suspicions were proof enough. My missing knife was mixed in with my things and any doubts that it was him, melted away.

Since there was nothing I could do to fix my little problem with Vincent at the moment, I quickly got dressed in a comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and left to explore the rest of the house and hopefully find Ben with food.

My guess that he gave me the master bedroom was correct as I only found one other bedroom furnished and another empty except for the billion boxes piled from wall to wall. That explained the lack of homey touches, I thought, they’re stilled packed away.

When I finally made it into the kitchen, I was treated to the most adorable thing I’d seen in a great while: Ben sleeping. He was hunkered over the kitchen table, his head resting on his forearms. Years melted away from his face and it was almost like we were kids again. It reminded me of the Saturdays when I’d come over to watch cartoons. He’d be wide awake while they were on, but end up falling asleep at the table once they were over.

His mom complained good-naturedly about how “unless it was Saturday at an ungodly hour of the morning and cartoons were on, Ben was impossible to wake up.” She complained pretty much every Saturday while she made us pancakes. Her complaints mostly stemmed from how hard it was to wake him on a school day, and looking back I could sympathize. I smiled at the memory of her voice, her smile and the smell of pancakes and wondered how she was doing. Ben hadn’t really mentioned either of his parents since his return and I couldn’t help wondering why. They’d always been a tight knit family.

As I sat there, oddly captivated by his sleeping face, another memory floated to the surface of my mind. It was after I moved in with my grandmother, and Alex and I had gone over to Ben’s house, per the usual, to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Like clockwork, Ben fell asleep at the table while his mom cooked pancakes and complained about his sleeping habits. But unlike usual she had cooked up a fun little activity for Alex and I to do while Ben slept. She armed us with the dry erase markers she used for her erasable grocery list and pointed to Ben.

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