Chapter Twelve- The Couch

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"Call me in sick," I told Ben the morning of December third. "I'm not going to school today. Or tomorrow. You may as well tell them I have mono or something and that I won't be back until January." Ben gave me a confused look.

"That's mildly suspicious," he muttered, leaning against the doorway to my room. "I will, but only if you tell me why." I crossed my arms and turned to stare out the window.

"Women," I stated shortly, only to get a laugh from Ben.

"Elaborate?"

"Woman."

"You didn't like fall in love or something, did you?"

I turned around to stare at Ben, who was looking at me with an incredulous expression. Sighing, I paced back to my bed and then to the window again.

"With my assignment," I said dryly, admitting it both to him and to myself for the first time. "It won't be a problem. I just have to stop seeing her completely. She convinced me to try living again, to start enjoying life now again because I'll be sad later and that I'm missing out on life worrying about the future and all- super philosophical nonsense, mind you- and so I tried it, and forgot not to fall in love with her." I spun around to face Ben, who's expression had become completely blank. "I've been reaping for three hundred and thirteen years, and I'm a Fell Reaper for a damn good reason, and yet I let one of my stupid assignments get under my skin like this and..." I sighed and waited for Ben to respond. I waited for him to tell me that I was an idiot, that they should have waited until I was beyond the development of a twenty-year-old to make me a Reaper, that if I failed at this mission they'd kill me despite my ranking... I waited for him to say anything, but he just stood there staring at me for a long time. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he stepped forward and placed a hand on my arm.

"So it seems we're in the same boat," he said softly. My eyes widened as I opened my mouth to speak, but Ben continued on. "Not my assignment, per say, but it seems I have fallen for a woman at my job. I've considered quitting but people would start to wonder..." He trailed off, contemplating something, I imagined, and then pulled out the cell phone given to him by his cover job. "I couldn't imagine her being my assignment, though. I'll call you in sick for as long as you need. When is she set to die?"

"Her kill period... She's set to be killed by me between December tenth and February sixteenth," I told him, my voice almost breaking when I mentioned the part about me having to kill her. Ben's eyes softened.

"Then I'll call you out until the after Christmas break. You can leave Burlington after that anyway, if you choose." I nodded and sat down on my bed. Ben dialed the number to the school, but just before he left, he turned back and said, "I wouldn't tell a soul, you know. I hope you'd do the same for me." And he walked away.

I went back to bed as soon as he left, and didn't leave it until I thought I was going to starve and had to order pizza. The following few days continued like this, with brief breaks from sleeping that included showering, eating, playing PlayStation with Ben, and writing up some things for school, which I eventually quit because I realized that I wasn't planning on going back. It wasn't until the eighth of December that anything eventful happened, and when it did...

I heard a loud knock at the door, and ignored it for the first minute, but finally gave in to answering it when it happened again. I pulled a t-shirt on and walked slowly to the door, not expecting anyone but the landlord when I answered it.

Spoiler alert: It wasn't the landlord.

"Hey, dead man," Karolyn said when I opened the door. The heart that I'd forgotten I had for three hundred years skipped a beat and I froze in my place.

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