Pepper in her mid-twenties
Once they finished clearing out the costly storage unit, Pepper and Quetzalcoatl’s next task was to focus on cleaning out and selling off Pepper’s squalid mobile home. Quetz hoped to purchase a modest home of his own with money from the trust fund that Larry had set up for him, and it was understood that Pepper would live with him as she had been for the past seven months in his apartment. Pepper was moved by her son’s kindness and proud of how much he’d grown up during the past few years.
Quetzalcoatl brought Pepper’s old jewelry box with him, and they headed home. The young man innocently supposed that organizing the box would be a positive activity for his mother, who was still down on herself for her inability to continue doing the physically difficult work that she had always done before the stroke which caused her near-fatal accident. She was ashamed that she and her son, whose autism prevented him from working a normal job, were living in poverty.
Gerry sat next to Pepper on the couch which had been her bed since moving in with Quetzalcoatl and watched her sadly. She sensed him and acknowledged him, but both were afraid to take things further.
“We’d hurt each other with the things we want to say,” Pepper thought.
Pepper opened the jewelry box and frowned.
“Cheap costume crap,” she heard her estranged daughter Ixchel’s voice admonishing. “Have a yard sale and sell this shit off. I needed a mother and I got a good-for-nothing hoarder instead!”
Pepper pushed Ixchel’s voice from her mind, but the damage was already done. The self-loathing kicked in and quickly began to spiral. She took an onyx crystal pendant adorned with an opal cabochon from the box. This piece had always been one of her favorites when she was a miserable young mother who still believed in magic and was convinced that one day Kris Rooiakker, the actor with whom she had become obsessed, would show up at her door and rescue her from her unhappy lot in life.
“Silly, ridiculous bitch!” Pepper snorted. “She had one-year-old twins depending on her, and she spent her days watching Kris Rooiakker’s movies over and over again, believing that by focusing on him she would be able to communicate with him telepathically and he would find her. Well, he found her on the astral plane, ready and willing, and he used her, but he certainly never came to her rescue, and why would he? Fat, easy bitch, good for nothing but a lay.”
“Oi! Whose fault is it that a bleedin’ psychic vampire took advantage of an emotionally vulnerable soul?” Gerry demanded. “Like to know how that’s supposed to be your fault, I would.”
“You’re a ghost and you’re probably not even here,” Pepper sniffed dismissively.
“Well, you have that partway right. I’m a tarted-up ghost with flappity black feathery wing-things sprouting from me shoulders. Do you know, Pepper, that I watch over you whenever your energies ain’t so bleak that I can’t break through? You probably ain’t open to hearing it, but I still love you, and I ain’t given up on us yet.”
Pepper relented when she sensed that Gerry’s eyes were filling with tears. She held out her arm and sensed the warm energy of his spectral body.
“My ghosty,” she said softly. “My fetch.”
“Always yer fetch,” Gerry agreed. “Now, you’ve other people telling you that these pieces ain’t any good ‘cause they ain’t got a high price tag attached to them. Me, I took pride in avoidin’ shite that had the high price tag, even when I was making enough bread that I could afford it. Me family was dirt-poor, but me parents was savvy as they come. Da could fix anything and Mum could mend anything and stretch a few ingredients into a meal that satisfied us all. Long as you don’t somehow find out about the gas barrages that me and Paul used to launch against each other after some of them bean and cabbage feasts, you might be able to keep convincin’ yerself that I’m sexy.”
“Don’t forget, I have a brother too,” Pepper laughed. “Anyway, boys are expected to fart. Girls are expected to hold it in until we explode. Fortunately, my brother labored under no delusions that I was a lady, but I’ll allow you to keep pretending that I am, should you wish.”
“Yer my foul-mouthed, sexy lady. But I am rather put out at the way yer always puttin’ yerself down. Ain’t yer fault that life was so hard on you and ain’t nobody seemed to see fit to do nothin’ but criticize everything about you.”
Pepper picked up her old wedding ring and gazed at it remorsefully.
“Larry tried to encourage me. He was and still is my friend, and I care about him deeply, but I was never in love with him. It wasn’t fair to him to marry him knowing that I could never love him the way he deserved. But we did end up with Quetz and Ix, and that’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Pepper put the ring back and picked up a charm bracelet.
“My mother gave this to me when I turned twelve,” she said. “I haven’t worn it in years. My wrists are too damn fat.”
“So, get some chain and extend it. Fuck’s sake, Woman, do I have to think of everything?”
Seeing Gerry’s impish grin in her mind cheered Pepper. She felt his warm hand on her back. She reached to tickle his slender torso and he laughed.
“Oi, you are a bad one! But I’m a glutton fer punishment. I like when we play like this.”
Pepper brought a broken locket from the jewelry box.
“I wish I had the money to fix the locket with your picture,” she lamented.
“You will, Love. We’ll find a way. Even if you can’t believe right now, I’ll keep on believing for both of us.”
~Cie and Gem~
Pepper Baiij and Gerry Clifford are the major protagonists from Team Netherworld's long-running WIP, Fetch, which was initially conceived in late 2014. Although this piece works as a chapter in the larger story, we believe it also works as stand-alone flash fiction.
We would like to congratulate whoever wins the challenge in advance. Cie would like to avoid setting off World War III in her head and, therefore, is not going to read the post which announces the challenge winner.
I don't mean to be a spoilsport, and there are no sour grapes. Whoever wins deserves it. I am well aware that it will not be me, and I'm okay with that, just so long as I don't have to see the hard evidence of my defeat. It's hard enough living in my own head on the best of days.