By the time I get my day going tomorrow, I will no doubt forget to post the next chapter. It will wind up being halfway though the day when one of my friends asks why they dont have the next installment to read yet.

So, enjoy it a day early.

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Chapter 5

Michael felt better than he should. Maybe another day before the shakes kicked in, but he thought he should be feeling a little terrible by now. At the same time, he realized he also hadn’t eaten or drunk anything, not that he was hungry. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen anyone else eating or drinking anything either. Best to find out where the kitchen was for when he finally needed to grab a bite.

Michael went out to the staircase, standing for a moment before deciding which way to start looking. One direction was back towards the waiting room; the other direction was just a dark hallway. The kitchen couldn’t possibly be down that way – too dark. As he turned to find another place to look, a soft murmuring filtered in from the far end of the hallway. It had to be the kitchen, people always gathered around where there was food. He rubbed his hand along the wall looking for a light switch that wasn’t there, and slowly started his search in the dark. Each door he tried was locked. The kitchen had to be somewhere. The farther down the hallway he went, the louder the voices got. He didn’t recognize them. The sounds grew loudest as he reached the last door, but he still couldn’t make out what was being said. He tried the knob, which clicked opened easily.

As he pulled open the door, something slammed it shut and the voices ceased. Agnes stood before him, bucket in hand, pushing the door closed. Her eyes reflected her surly demeanor and bore into him as she slowly waved a finger in front of him. Michael, a bit startled, took a few steps back from her and her angry glare. Agnes pointed her scrub brush to a sign on the door -“Basement”. That was one of the rules he did remember being told, no going in the basement.

“Didn’t see the sign.” He said.

Agnes muttered something incomprehensible, but lowered her arm and positioned herself in front of the door. He was curious why it was off limits, but went back down the hallway, forgetting all about the kitchen. The fewer encounters with Agnes the better.

The sitting room was silent. Karen had left the television, while Conrad now slept in a chair in front of the fire. Elizabeth was curled up in a chair by the window, pretending to be reading a book. She held the book open, but every few minutes, she would peek through the curtains. Michael watched as he took a seat next to Conrad.

“It’s too dark to see anything out there.” He said from his chair. Elizabeth stuck her face back into the book.

“Don’t feel bad, I don’t blame you really. If I were waiting to get out, I would be watching for my ride out the windows too.”

Elizabeth just looked at him and in typical teenage fashion, answered with the slight air of contempt before sticking her nose back in the book on her lap. “I know.”

“If someone was coming for me, I would be out on the front steps with my bags packed.”

A slight smile crept across her face. Michael smiled too. There was something about her. It didn’t fit in places like this.

“Not that it’s any of my business, but you seem awfully young to be here.”

“Age has nothing to do with it.” She replied.

“Don’t they have places like this for kids your age?”

Elizabeth gave him a puzzled look. Michael wasn’t sure where the confusion lay, so he moved on.

“So what’s your poison? What landed you in here? Wait, let me guess, your parent’s pain pills?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Her confused expression didn’t change as she dropped the book on the chair and walked out into the hallway to pet the dog.

“You’re right, none of my business. Shouldn’t have asked.” Michael turned back to the fire and sunk down in his chair. He muttered quietly to himself. “Don’t get involved.”

Conrad opened his eyes and turned to Elizabeth in the hall. She was sizing up the new arrivals sitting in the waiting room.

“That girl is one of the dearest young ladies I have ever met. You must be kinder to her, my boy. ”

“I’m not your boy.” Michael snapped at the old man. “All I did was try to ask her a question.”

“Ha!” The indignation exploded from Conrad. “You are not owed an answer. Just because you think you are important, doesn’t mean you are.”

“Don’t you know who I am?” Michael could not believe there was someone on the planet who didn’t know who he was. “Turn on a television and you will see how big I am.”

“Television? Folly! I would never bother with such nonsense. I know your type. I have seen many like you come and go in my time.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Oh, but I do.” Conrad’s voice grew loud and sharp. “Let me guess, you don’t see the need to be bothered with anything or anyone aside from yourself. Someone talked, you have complete disregard for them, but when you speak, the world is to stop and everyone is to give full attention to the illustrious Michael.”

Conrad raised his hand, cutting Michael off before he had a chance to open his mouth.

“I was just as important as you think you are. It is amazing how wrong we can be.”

Michael thought better saying anything, hoping the old guy would end the lecture.

Conrad’s voice calmed and he stared at the fire. “If I had only known then what I know now, I could have taken more time away from those things in life that didn’t matter. Actually listen to people, maybe taken time for my family.”

Michael didn’t understand what the big deal was. “So, just call them when you’re done here. At least you can say you tried. More than I can say for my dad.”

The old man laughed, loudly. When he finally stopped, he patted Michael on the shoulder. Shaking his head he said, “If only it were that easy.” He pushed himself up with his cane and strolled out of the room, the cane going unused for its purpose. Michael scanned the room thinking he was alone and found Simone sitting in the corner gently folding the small blanket in her lap.

“What about you? You got anything to say?” Michael demanded.

Simone jumped and pointed at her chest with her finger.

“Yeah, you. You never say anything. I wouldn’t know you were here if you didn’t show up to meetings.”

Simone froze in her seat wide eyed.

“So, why are you here? One lady is yelling about her husband, the tubby guy just goes on about what a mistake it is for him to be here.” Michael pointed to Elizabeth out in the hallway, sitting on the floor petting the dog. “She’s just waiting around for someone. So, how about you?”

Simone just sat, her shaking hands went back to her folding, although it was more hurried now.

“It can’t be that bad, nothing is ever as bad as you think.” Tired of the silent treatment, Michael turned around, leaving Simone to her blanket.

Simone peeked up in his direction. A faint voice barely escaped her lips. “You just don’t know.”

“What?” Michael turned. He wasn’t sure if he had heard anything.

Simone did not repeat what she had whispered.

Michael gave up. “Your business I suppose. Clearing our chests is what we’re supposed to be doing. It just doesn’t seem like either of us are all that interested in it.”

Simone’s voice was a bit louder this time. “You will be.” She rose from the chair, cradling her bundle. “We all will.”

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