She’d gotten in near midnight, after her evening shift at the group home. Her own home was a shambles: beer cans and wine bottles, scummy bong water, butts strewn all over the floor, some of them human. They weren’t supposed to be here.
Rodney emerged from the bedroom, a very drunk, half-clothed Britanny hanging off his shoulder, sharing his satiated grin.
“Sheralynn,” Rodney drew up his familiar shield of nonchalance. “I thought you were working a double shift.”
“They sent me home. Likely COVID exposure,” she wiped her brow, unsure if it was fever, or rage. “Everybody out. Now.”
Apparently, nobody was as wasted as they’d seemed. Britanny melted off Rodney’s shoulder and walked right past Sheralynn, out the door without weaving or stumbling. Jack took a quick hit off the chemistry-lab bong and coughed an apology as he stowed it under his jacket and sidled past. The other bodies she didn’t know, but they uncrumpled from the furniture and lifted themselves off the floor as they pulled up their pants and shrugged on light jackets.
“It was just a small gathering of friends…” began Rodney, his face stern.
“Don’t even talk to me. Just…get away!”
“You need to calm down…”
In answer, Sheralynn picked up a wine bottle and threw it at his head. She missed, but he ducked and ran into the bedroom.
“Goddamn dog!” his foot connected with the hind end of Sheralynn’s mix, who yelped and ran to his mistress. Rodney slammed the door behind him.
Her face hardened into an unforgiving shield as she gathered the dog into her arms, then gentled as he whimpered when her hand touched the sore spot.
“Poor Nobbin,” she softened. “How long has he been having parties in this house while I was at work? Good god, what if it was me that got the group home exposed?”
The battle had raged all night. He’d never been this angry before. Neither had she. She had to admit she was a little afraid.
She’d managed to wedge herself between the corner wall of the living room and the overturned couch frame. The cushions had been piled high, and built into a bastion that allowed her to lob whatever was close at hand. At this point, all she had left were a few empty beer cans, a couple of coasters that no one at the previous night’s party had used, the TV remote, and a small embroidered pillow from her Aunt Lucy. Someone had thrown up on it, so she was saving that for when Rodney might actually try to touch her. Nobbin crouched in the corner, behind her, wagging his skinny tail.
Sometime just before sunrise, Rodney, sneaky, skinny Rodney had dropped to the floor, slithering around furniture and attempting to enter her fortress from all angles. He’d said her wanted to apologize. To explain. To get her to see things from his perspective, for god’s sake. And then he’d lob something into her fort, which at least gave her more ammunition. But she knew where this was going to go, because he always had an explanation, and she always forgave him. But this was too much. And now he’d gone quiet. She wasn’t sure where he was.
She thought she heard water running in the bathroom, the splash of hands and water disrupting the flow, the thunk of a bar of soap slipping and hitting the bowl of the sink, the scrabble and clink as it was recaptured and tossed into the porcelain soap dish.
The water stopped, silence as he likely dried his hands. She edged her head over the top of the cushions, then ducked down as she heard the damp flop of towel on tile floor. Nobbin’s tail tapped the floor behind her.
“Sheralynn,” his voice was quiet, overly measured, she thought, betraying his sense of panic. “Sheralynn, it was just a small party, just a few friends. I needed to touch some actual people, not just look at checkerboards on the computer, faces with shields, plexiglass walls between everyone. This is terrible! Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. You know how vulnerable I am!”
“Rodney, you knob-head,” Sheralynn stood and hissed at him. “We’re in fucking Shelter in Place. We’re ALL in fucking Shelter in Place. And now I’ve lost my job, probably because of you and your damned parties.”
“No one at last night’s party looked sick, not to me.”
“Jack was coughing his lungs out at last night’s party!”
“He just inhaled too deeply and got bong water down the wrong tube.”
“He’s a wrong tube. And so are you!” She almost smiled when he laughed, then remembered what was at stake. “Take your stuff and go. You’re not sheltering here anymore.”
Rodney raised his eyes in surprise and smiled grimly. “Too late now. We’re both quarantined for sure.”
“I hate you.”
“No you don’t.”
She looked him in the eye, shields lowered. “No, I don’t. But you’re still leaving.”
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2020)
Carrot Ranch Prompt (04/09/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads!
Free Association Writer’s Circle Prompt: Bastion