Today is just today. I woke up, left for work, and came home from work. I’m not planning on leaving my apartment again and I didn’t see Bob. Actually, in the last three days, I think I’ve only seen Bob once, and then only on the monitors. He’s been quiet lately.
I’m lying with my torso underneath my coffee table, and my calves and feet resting up on my couch. A few years ago I had back problems and found some relief doing this; now I just do it because I feel like it. My zebra finches sing merrily, and I play games on my phone.
Someone knocks at the door.
I panic and try to get up, but only succeed in banging my head on the coffee table.
“Ashley, are you home? It’s me, Christine.” Her voice comes muffled from the other side of the door.
I make unintelligible growly, complainy noises as I crawl out from under the coffee table and rub my head. Once out from under the table, I sit up and stare at the door. Maybe she didn’t hear me. Maybe she’ll go away.
She knocks again. “Could you open up before Bob comes and eats me, please?”
I scowl at the door. You can’t use Bob to get what you want. That’s worse than black-mail, it’s Bob-mail. But of course she would. I consider ignoring her anyway, after all Bob hasn’t been inclined to show himself lately, but that’s exactly the sort of thing that precedes something really unfortunate, so of course I can’t.
I don’t even have the luxury of talking to her through a gap in the door too small to get through, and then closing the door at the earliest excuse. You just have to let people in the door here, and it’s a lot harder to get them to leave. This is one of the more unexpected consequences of living with Bob, but up until now it hasn’t affected me much. Most people have more common sense than to just go around bothering the neighbors, you see.
So I let her in.
She scoots past me and I all but slam the door shut, just in case.
“What’s up?” I say with a tight smile.
Christine takes a deep breath and lets it out quickly. She’s excited. This makes me wary.
My zebra finches are quiet, as if waiting to hear her response. They’re not used to seeing people other than me in this apartment. Actually, I can’t remember the last time another human being came in here. Maybe when I needed to get my sink fixed, a few years ago?
“I want to interview you,” she says.
My brows furrow. “Interview me for what?”
“Well, my blog to start with. Plus I know a guy with a popular-ish YouTube channel, so who knows. And I think I’d like to write a book someday,” she babbles excitedly. “But you never know where it could go if it gets popular. Stranger things have happened. The world must know Bob!”
“No.” The word falls out of my mouth and lands with an awkward plop on the floor.
I’m being blunt. I’m not often blunt, but sometimes I am. After all, if I might get eaten by a giant bird tomorrow, who has time to mince words?
“No.” I confirm.
“Because you’re not one of us.” These words fly out of my mouth before I can stop them and then flap around the room shrieking.
I’m not even sure I mean it. Probably something like it. Mostly I think my life isn’t some sideshow, and I don’t want to talk about it with a bunch of random strangers.
“But I live here.”
“No you don’t.”
“Well I can’t live here all the time. I have a kid.”
“I lived here as a kid.”
“So you think I should just bring my four-year-old to live in a building with a giant bird monster?”
“Absolutely not. That would be idiotic.”
“So your parents moved here with you as a kid and didn’t leave when they found out about Bob?”
“No, I…I’m not answering questions.”
Especially not about my parents.
“Okay, then. Well could you give me tips on living with Bob? I will be here sometimes, quite a lot of the time, actually. Overnight, occasionally.”
Overnight occasionally. Lands a mercy, we should give her a medal.
“You don’t want me to get eaten by Bob, do you?” she says.
I know perfectly well this is a way to get more information about Bob, and see what little bits I might spill in the process. But on the other hand, she’s not wrong. If she’s spending time here, there are things she needs to know to stay safe. Or at least be less of a nuisance to the rest of us. And I don’t know what the others might tell her, well-meaning as they are. Still, I should say no. Just on principle.
Except now I’ve hesitated way too long on a question that should have been an immediate “no” and Christine is looking at me funny.
She smiles. “Great. I’ll bring the Oreos.”
I almost smile.