Forty-six

After dinner, when Eddie and the rest of the men vanished (presumably to avoid cleanup conscription), Lexi explained the car parts in the library.  She was building a car for Ren, as a sort of tribute, which I thought was kind of neat.  It was one of the cars their company had made; she said she had parts for a dozen of them in the basement, except for the bodies.  “I have to go and get the body,” she said.  “Maybe Ian will let me borrow his truck.  The hard part’s always deciding if I should take the engine to the body, or bring the body to the engine.  Neither one of them is particularly portable on its own, but together they can move around perfectly.  There’s something kind of metaphysical about that, isn’t there?”

“I don’t know.”  I shrugged.  “Do you mean as it relates to you and Ren?”

Lexi grinned.  “Or you and me.  Or me and Malice.  Or Debby Boone and the Marquis de Sade.  Whatever.”

“No, I don’t think it’s the same.  You’re not a car without an engine, just because he’s gone.”

“Or an engine without a car.”

“Whatever.  You’re not.”

“It feels that way,” Lexi said.  Her voice was brittle.

“I know it does.  You can’t dwell.  It feels that way, but it’s not true.  And you have to trust that it’s not true.  You take strength, I don’t know, from the people around you.  I know it’s not the same, I’m not Ren, but…”  I thought of Liz.  I wasn’t sure if I was saying the right things to Lexi or not, so I stopped suddenly, looking at the floor, at the darkened windows, at the snow outside.

“The sex certainly wouldn’t be the same.”

That sparked an unbidden image of what it might be like to have sex with her, and my mouth fell open.  It was disgusting, and I hadn’t willed it, but felt myself blush in shame anyway.  I started to reply, but had to swallow hard before I could speak.  When I looked up I saw that Lexi was smiling.  “You’re repulsive,” I told her when I found my voice.

“This, coming from the same little brooding artist who drew a cat with a cock-rifle at dinner?  Surely you’re not deeply offended.”

“That’s different.  Drawings are different.”

Lexi put her chin in her hand, posing briefly as a psychologist.  “Perhaps you’d better start from the beginning,” she said.

“I don’t know.  I can draw whatever I want, you know?  Because…because I just can.  It doesn’t matter what I draw, it’s just on the paper, it’s in my head and on the paper.”

“How are words different?”

“They’re more real.”

“More real than an image taken straight out of your mind?  It may just be ink to other people, but you made it up, same as anything I say.  It comes from all that sewage that’s floating around in your brain,” she added, tapping my temple with a finger and a smirk.

I tilted away from the touch and fell silent.

“S’matter?”

“I don’t like people knowing what I think,” I said.

“Neither do I.  But stop looking like that.  You know as well as I do that you can open your mind and barf all that stuff out right in someone’s face, and most of them aren’t going to know what they’re seeing.  And the ones who do are the one worth keeping.”

I frowned, thinking of Eddie.  Was he a keeper?  “Yeah, maybe.  Do you really think the ghost doesn’t like Gray?” I asked.  I felt like a psychiatrist, thinking maybe Lexi was using her ghost story as a metaphor for something.

“That she does not.  Wish I knew why.  You both have nine lives, don’t you?”

I got goosebumps, knowing exactly where her thoughts had bounced.  I didn’t want to tell her–it was like an admission–but at the same time, it felt good to be honest with Lexi.  “Something like that.  You believe?”

“‘Course I do.  Maybe Marion doesn’t like that.”

“She hasn’t bothered me.”

“True, true.  Then I’m at a loss.”