Anguish was the status quo, until she walked in.
Breaker James Collins is confined in a prison of his own making. Scarred doesn’t begin to define his hell since finding out his girlfriend cheated, stole, and lied two years ago. It led to a single event—one that would blacken his days and his nights from then on. Since then, he hasn’t left his house, crippled by fear of people and any social interaction.
Ashland talks too much and has the voice of a meth-laden prairie dog, or so she’s always been told. She’s been called annoying and irritating all of her life and gave up on having friends for a long time. College has given her a new lease on a social life and she’s embraced who she is. But now she’s waiting for the one guy who can take her breath away and put up with her antics.
A simple note pinned to a corkboard will lead Ash right to Breaker’s solitary world and she will learn that just because a guy doesn’t fit her ideal, doesn’t mean she won’t fall head over feet in love.
Breaker James Collins
“It’s disgusting,” I parroted her; she always got nasaly when referring to all things pestiferous. The top items on her list of foul objects: Ground beef, roaches, carpet of any kind, and of late, me—well, my growlery in particular.
“Don’t you sass me Breaker James. I could care less about your detest for my meddling. Get it cleaned up before I show up next week or I will hire a maid myself,” she quipped.
The shudder ripped through me at the thought and she knew it. Damn her for knowing how to hit below the belt.
“Fine. I’ll take care of it, Mom,” I groaned back at her. It wasn’t that bad. Yes, the dishes were piled up in the sink and something growing a fur coat on one plate in particular—I think it was spaghetti, was being the operative word. And maybe the dust could be seen flying in formation when the sun shone through the splice in the curtains. But there was no soap scum ring around the bathtub, but that was because I never took baths, that has to count for something. If I were a regular person, I would keep up with the everyday chores.
I would keep up with chores like emptying the dishwasher and washing my clothes.
If I were a regular person, I could actually walk out of this prison—house, it’s a house.
“Test me not. Breaker. I will not be moved on this. And I get what you’re going through, I do. But no son of mine will live in filth—period.” She hung up the phone, unwilling to hear my response. I had to clean this place up. I had a week.
I didn’t used to be like this. I was that guy who did the dishes after dinner because someone else had cooked. I spent Saturday mornings cleaning the house and making sure the grass was mowed. I got dressed in the morning and ran—outside. I went to visit my mom and my sisters. There were lots of things I used to be and do.
During the week that followed, I did some things, none of which I would call cleaning. I wrote. I journaled. I stayed in chat rooms constantly, my only method of social interaction. I expected a knock at the door telling me I’d been catfished any day now. I studied and worked on classwork. I didn’t clean. In fact, I would say the mess had doubled in volume and stench.
I did do my laundry, mostly because I was out of things to wear. And my bedroom was clean for the most part. The rest of the house—no one came over, so why would I care if it was presentable? Anyway, she wouldn’t hire a maid. She knows how I feel about—people. I really didn’t mind people one on one for short bursts of time, but eventually they wanted to go out into the world. And that was where my part ended. I never left this house, not even to go to the mailbox. It had been two years, three months and nineteen days since the party. Subtract three days spent in the hospital for monitoring and that’s the length of time since I’ve been out of these walls.
I threw a t-shirt on, since Mom would be at the house any minute and tried to scroll excuses through my head, picking the most lucrative options as to why I hadn’t obeyed her request as I tore down the stairs. I plucked ‘I had a ton of schoolwork’ out of the mental pile and decided that was my story.
I heard her car in the driveway; it was the only car which made an appearance in my driveway. I smirked to myself. She was soooo not hiring a maid. I had this in the bag.
She walked in and I hugged her, kissed her cheek and smiled that gooshy sweet grin I knew she loved.
“It smells like a garbage dump in here,” the look of determination on her face terrified me.
I laughed it off, “Come on, you’re being dramatic.”
She closed her eyes and exhaled, “Breaker, I have to.” She looked down and shook her head.
“No, Mom. I’ll take care of it,” I could feel my innards begin their quaking and quivering at just the thought of a new person in my house. An elephant sat on my chest and the little beating mouse thumped furiously against the weight.
God, what if I had a panic attack in front of them and they thought I was a freak?
“No Breaker, I’ll take care of it. This,” she pointed to the kitchen behind me, “is what happens when you take care of things lately. This was not part of the deal. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. Just one more thing to talk to Angela about. Tell her your mother forces you to be hygienic.”
She always did this. She thought that the psychologist came to the house and all we did was talk about how bad of a mother I had and that must be the root of my challenge. That wasn’t it at all but there was no convincing her lately. She’d convinced herself if she’d paid more attention to Holly’s antics she could’ve prevented my downfall.
“What are you gonna do,” Come on logic, work your magic. “put an ad in Craigslist? What would it say? Wanna clean for a guy who is a slob and—insane?”
“Don’t do that Breaker. Do not do that. But yes, that’s exactly what I intend to do. I’ll have to ask Navy about it since I’m not good at the computer stuff. She’ll know what to do. I’m also going to put some flyers up at LSU. So, I will narrow the people down to a few and then I will send them over here for interviews,” she held up her hand before my mouth could protest, “I will schedule it so you know they are coming but this is happening, honey, so just get over it.”
She left me silent and stunned until the reality of what she said crashed down on me, “Shit!”
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