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the attic

The Attic













The Lounge | The Techie Bible | Other Stories | Six





something i just started working on
















            The room was small and strangely chilly for a summer morning. It was the beginning of June but the weather man had threatened snow just a week before. Gia often complained about it; snow would be bad for business. Benji opened the door to his room as softly as he could. Damon had said that Gia had already gone to bed, and he did not want to wake her. Closing the door behind him, Benji looked at her as she lay on the bed. She was bare-backed, her wispy brown hair framing her shoulders and laying delicately across her backbone. Her lips blushed slightly and she pouted them softly in her sleep. He wondered to himself if she were trying to convince him of something in a dream. Her usually bright, blue eyes were covered, now, by an impenetrable forest of dark lashes. Her tan skin was unnaturally pale in the moonlight and for an instant he actually believed her to be glowing. She looked so peaceful and so beautiful in that one moment that Benji thought that he would be sinning against God and against nature should he wake her.

            He ran a tired hand through his short brown hair, removed his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. It had been a long night without a happy ending. Benji didn’t hate his job at the local precinct, but what he’d always wanted was to work in the FBI. Back in high school, when everyone in the apartment was dreaming simply to escape the familial bonds of adolescence, Benji dreamed of being an FBI agent. He had been in the Police Explorers in junior high and had attended a police vocational in high school, but after college, he couldn’t break into his dream career. He took his uniform off and threw it on top of the dresser. Exhausted now, he lay down next to the girl that he had been dating on and off for almost ten years. For ten years she had been his best friend and, he thought, the only person to ever understand him. They were separated as frequently as they were together, continuing to share the same bed regardless with the understanding that they would never sleep with another person in the bed that they shared. Benji lay on his side, arm around Gia’s lower back, noticing how pale he was in contrast.

            Gia was Italian, among other things, and Benji would never forgive his grandfather for calling her a Guinea to her face. She laughed at the time but later on she cried in Benji’s arms for an hour before she finally was calm enough to drive home. She was the nicest person that he had ever met in his entire life; she didn’t understand hate, couldn’t fathom it. Prejudice was an abstract concept to her and she literally got sick when she witnessed it in her life. Benji didn’t understand how she could feel the way she did without being sent straight from Heaven at fifteen, innocent and naive.

            She had eventually gotten used to the many anti-Semitic comments that their friends made toward Benji only because they had been doing it for ten years and Benji frequently made them about himself. When their friends realized that Gia was German as well, they teased her relentlessly about being a Nazi and killing Benji’s ancestors. She finally admitted to being a descendant of German Gypsies who were also persecuted in the Holocaust. Nobody knew if this was true, least of all Gia, but they stopped teasing her nonetheless. Gia thought that prejudice shouldn’t happen at all, period, the end. Benji was more realistic and believed that if it was going to happen, he might as well make light of it. Benji and Gia never agreed on that point, but they never fought, ever. There were stern talks, with occasional cursing, but they never called it a ‘fight’.

            The room was small, barely enough room for the queen with the dresser squeezed up against it, and slightly chilly for a summer morning. Benji had opened the window last night when he got home from work. There wasn’t much traffic below the window and you could actually hear birds if you were listening hard enough. Monmouth Street was quiet at five in the morning. Then, it was too quiet. The kind of quiet that makes your breath catch in your chest, the kind of quiet before an earthquake.

            “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”

            Gia’s eyes flashed open and her body shook in alarm. “Wake up!” Closing her eyes again in relief, she yawned.

            “Will you turn that fucking thing off, please? Goddamn,” she muttered, folding her down pillow around her head almost to the point of asphyxiation. Benji grumbled but only rolled over; some mornings he could sleep through an explosion. Though the alarm was meant for him, he rarely woke up for it. Maybe subconsciously he could not stand the idea of waking up at five in the morning to do paperwork all day. Gia shoved him though, being petite, she moved herself more that anything; but he still wouldn’t rouse. “I’m up! I’m up!” she groaned, throwing her pillow haphazardly at the tiny box that was making far too much noise for its size. It tumbled off of the windowsill, spilling its innards on the carpet and shutting up quite nicely. Gia smiled at her victory which came to a sudden end when she realized that her pillow was no longer on the bed, thus preventing her from returning to that wonderful dream she was having about winning the lottery. Lying down again, she wrapped an arm around Benji’s waist, kissing his back, shoulders, and arms. She loved his muscles. She kissed his neck; he responded much better to gentle coaxing. “Baby,” she said in between kisses “you have to get ready for work.”

            Benji, now only slightly awake, groaned, “Can’t you write me a sick note?” Gia smiled and kissed him again, causing him to shiver. “You win, I’m up,” he laughed quietly.

            “Good, I’ll make you some breakfast.” She turned to reach to the floor for a shirt when he rolled over and grabbed her waist, pulling her to him.

            “One, all we have is cereal, two, I’m a better cook than you, and three, I didn’t mean that I was that kind of up,” he smirked, planting rough kisses on her neck. She giggled, tingles running up and down her spine, only partially trying to push him off of her before she succumbed to his persuasion.

            “Mor-oh, Goddess! It’s five o’clock in the morning, get a room!” Jo grabbed at her eyes as if they were burning. She always forgot to knock.

            Gia just laughed, not bothering to cover up. “We did, now get out of it.”

            “You guys are gross.” Jo turned to leave but remembered what she came in to say. She did that a lot. “Oh yeah; Gia, I need to take a shower, get Gavin out of the bathtub please and thank you.

            “Jo, can’t you see that I’m a little preoccupied?”

            “He’s a horn dog in the morning. Josh will kill him if he grabs at me or something. I don’t want him dead; I just want to take a shower. Besides, you’re the one who said he could stay.” Gavin Sullivan had shown up on their doorstep two weeks before. He had been kicked out of college, his senior year, for selling a truckload of final exams and thesis papers to underclassmen. Gia had given him a bed and a job when his parents told him that they wouldn’t let him come home. There wasn’t much room in the apartment so he had to sleep in a bathtub overloaded with pillows and blankets. He grumbled, but he was grateful.

Suddenly Jo realized that she was looking at them again, “Benjamin Malachi Rosenblum get the hell off of her when I’m talking to her, Goddess!”  He rolled over, laughing his ass off.

            Slightly frustrated, Gia reasoned, “Is Josh still sleeping?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Then you have nothing to worry about.”

            “But…”

            “Then get Damon or Keane to do it.”

            “They’re sleeping.”

            “Then wake them up, what do you want me to tell you, Jo?”

            “That you’ll do it.”

            Gia sighed, agreed, and kissed Benji quickly. “You have to get ready for work, anyhow.” Benji groaned and held Gia tightly. “Later, I promise, later,” she laughed. He sighed, finally letting go. A day filled with paperwork, what a dream come true.

*                      *                      *

            “Get up, Gavin.”

…groaning…

“Get up, Gavin.”

…more groaning…

“If you don’t get up I’ll turn the shower on.”

“Fine!” Gavin yelled. Gia turned to go but Gavin grabbed her arm and pulled her on top of him. He grabbed her back, her ass, everything he could get his hands on. He pulled her to him roughly. If it were anyone else, she would have screamed, but it was Gavin. She pushed him slightly and, once standing, turned the cold water handle laughing at his angry screams as she closed the door behind her.

“He try to rape you again?” Keane came out of his ‘room’, scratching his stomach and yawning. He had let his dark hair get long again; it was everywhere, he hardly brushed it. He had stopped shaving a few days ago, mostly to piss off his parents who he’d be seeing next week for their anniversary. He despised his parents and told you so…often. He looked like shit, but he was Keane, and Keane looked hot when he was playing skeevy. Gia started making a pot of coffee and laughed at him absently. His ‘room’, as he called it, was a walk-in closet with a cot in it. Thus, Gia laughed at him every morning when he ‘came out of the closet’. It was a childish amusement but it still entertained her immensely.

“Yup,” she said nonchalantly. She had grey sweatpants on, now, rolled around her waist, and a tight white tank-top. Light colors for her weren’t exactly prudent around coffee - one of her nicknames was the Spill Queen - but she risked it anyhow. She didn’t even like coffee, but because cooking wasn’t her true forte, she happily made it for everyone else. She reached blindly at the counter behind her and threw Keane his pill bottle.

“Why, thank you, Gia Russo,” he said pleasantly, snatching them out of the air like a magician conjuring flowers. Keane had horrible ADD. If he didn’t take his medication he was off the wall and a hyper Keane made for a miserable household.

“You are quite welcome, Keane Sherman.” Gavin drudged out of the bathroom, slightly damp, dragging his blankets behind him. Without a look at Gia or Keane, he collapsed on the couch next to Damon.

“Move over!” he groaned to him. There was only more groaning in reply. Damon and Gavin had been best friends longer than Gia had known either of them. They were a year younger than the rest of the flat-mates though they acted like they were still in high school.  Damon was taking classes at UCLA…the University closest to the Lincroft Acme, as was Keane. But whereas Keane was taking classes in auto mechanics, Damon was taking classes in teaching music. Damon was in a love affair with music and nearly had a joygasm when Josh asked him to work at the Attic, the Book and Music store that he and Gia co-owned.

For almost a decade, Josh, Damon, and Benji, with their drumming friend, Cole Drago, had been in a band together. Damon wanted it to be called Another Lost Cause, but Benji wanted it to be named Thor. Gia found it horribly creepy that a band be named after a Russian tortoise she used to own so thus the Attic’s resident band was thereby named Another Lost Cause. After closing most nights, when all of the members were home, Another Lost Cause played private concerts for Jo, Gia, Gavin and Keane. Lately they’d played at local bars and concert halls which was more action in six months than they’d gotten in ten years. At twenty-four or twenty-five, they were still in their prime and planned their sets for when they dreamed of playing Bamboozle.

Benji had been playing the guitar for years, and Gia caught him sometimes in the middle of the night playing to himself in the shop. She’d sit on the stairs and listen to him as he practiced for hours. He never knew it, and would most likely be embarrassed if he found out, but it was strangely important to Gia that Benji have an audience, however unknown. She thought that he was amazing.

Josh loved bass, and even though he daily complained that he couldn’t do it well enough, he sang. No matter how Jo complimented his voice, he always felt inadequate. He either sounded too emo, or to ska-like, or too…whatever. He never felt good enough. He liked Gia’s voice, and begged her to sing a song or two for them, but she always refused. Gia was terrified of speaking, let alone singing, in front of an audience. “The day you cover ‘Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright’,” she told them, “I’ll sing for you.” It was her favorite song.

Damon was young and immature, but with youth comes a sort of passion that you can’t find in most places. He was always energetic, constantly writing lyrics, writing music, practicing guitar. You could never catch him sitting still. Josh was glad that Damon worked in the music section of the Attic because he would get the customer so into a product, of how it would sound and how they would look, just explain the beauty of music, that nine times out of ten the person would buy whatever they were looking at on the spot. Sometimes, though, Josh had to remind him to actually sell the equipment and stop playing with it, but he didn’t mind much. Damon amused him, was sort of his molding clay.

Cole didn’t live in the apartment. Frankly, there was no room. He left his drum kit in the back room at the Attic, but he had his own apartment down the street. He was a sweet guy, best friends with Damon and Gavin, and very good friends with the rest of them. Gia always said that if he decided not to marry his girlfriend, she could always find him some room on the kitchen counter. He never wanted to be a part of a band, but Gia sweet talked him into it back in high school. “I’m writing an article about the band in the school paper,” she had told him. “I wrote that you’re the drummer…so it looks like you have a new job.” He had been angry at her, at least as angry as he could get with her. Not many people could stay angry at Gia for long, least of all him. So, despite his constant headaches and fights with Damon, he was the last member of Another Lost Cause.

Keane sat at the counter as Gia got him a glass of milk; he was the only other person in the house who didn’t like coffee. “You know what I heard?” Keane braced himself. Gia was filled to the brim with useless trivia and it only took those five words for Keane to realize that she was about to spin off on a tangent all willy-nilly.

“What did you hear, Gia Russo?” he sighed deeply, taking a sip of his milk which left his lip only slightly less white than a Got Milk? ad.

“I heard that it’s most likely if you don’t like coffee, you don’t like beer. Some taste receptor in your brain, or something, is the same for both. It’s kind of like chocolate and marijuana. I did a report for chemistry on that once.” She looked so serious that Keane could barely keep himself from laughing. When Gia tried to look serious, she looked about as serious as a four year old who has just told you that she met the President in her closet just moments before you walked in the room.

“Well, I agree with you on the whole chocolate thing. I’ve heard and experienced that before. But you’re wrong with the whole coffee/beer thing. I have respect for beer, if I may quote A Beautiful Mind.” Gia tightened her lips and scrunched her eyebrows in what was apparently deep concentration. Gia was sort of na´ve, she’d believe almost anything told to her. 

“I’ve told you about the whole coffee/beer thing, haven’t I?” Gia asked Jo as she walked toward the bathroom with a towel.

“Yeah, Hun. I’m not a good judge. I like coffee and beer,” she offered, appearing to be in a rush, before closing herself in the bathroom. They heard the water running moments after.

“But I don’t like coffee or beer,” Gia reasoned to Keane. Gavin groaned from the couch; this conversation was making his brain itch.

“Think of it this way,” Keane said, “You don’t like either, Jo likes both, and I like one but not the other. Doesn’t that kind of mean they’re not at all related?” Gia sighed, she was stubborn.

Josh walked tiredly out of his room that was the same size as Benji and Gia’s (So ‘climbed out of’ might be more accurate). He blinked a few times, looking at Keane and Gia as if he were surprised that they were in his kitchen. He shook his head and reached for the bathroom door handle. “There’s someone in there,” Gia offered on tiptoes and in a high, helpful voice. Slowly, Josh turned his head, hand still on the doorknob.

“I know,” he smirked. He turned the doorknob agonizingly slowly as Gia lowered herself down off of her toes, her smile fading. He stepped soundlessly into the steamy room and closed the door behind him in one smooth motion. Jo would have called him a creeper.

Gia’s face contorted in disgust upon realization. “And she calls me gross,” she gesticulated wildly. “At least I don’t do it where everyone in the apartment is trying to get clean.”

“Yeah, or sleep,” Gavin shouted from the couch; and suddenly, Gia pitied him more than anyone in the house. Benji walked out of his room in his uniform, kissed Gia quickly, and took the mug of coffee that she handed to him.

“Where the fuck where you last night, ya dirty Jew?” Keane asked in good nature, sipping his milk and nibbling on a stale bagel pleasantly. Gia pursed her lips and walked toward the already over-crowded couch, mug of apple juice in hand. She nudged Gavin and Damon over, offering a few ‘excuse me’s, and plopped down right in between them to drink her juice.

“Found a body.”

“Oh, details?”

“Well this one nut job’s killed a bunch of girls, right?” Keane nodded. “Well, he’s bragging to everyone that will listen that he’s got another one locked up somewhere, alive. So he’s trying to negotiate this, that and the other thing. To sum it up, we found the girl dead and the asshole’s protected in solitary from some guys’ he dropped a dime on. What a wonderful world, right?” Gia sipped her juice without looking up. She didn’t like to listen to Benji talk about his job. Three times she made herself so upset about some of his cases that she gave herself stomach ulcers. All of a sudden there was a sound like a bowling ball being dropped from the second story onto a rotting hard wood floor, followed by a break squealing, and then another bowling ball, and then a couple of baseballs. Gia squeaked in surprise and Damon sat bolt upright.

“I didn’t do it,” he mumbled, tripping over his tongue. Gia pushed him and leaned back again.

“What the hell was that?” Benji asked. Everyone’s heads swiveled slowly to the bathroom.

“Ya know, I really don’t wanna know,” Keane admitted, finishing his bagel. Wiping the crumbs off of his shirt he turned to Gia. “That was horrible.”

“It was over a week old, what did you expect?”

“Maybe if you got rid of the book section, downstairs, and just made the whole thing music, you’d make more money.” Gia couldn’t have looked more offended than if Keane had slapped her. “Oh come on, Gia, you know and I know that you don’t get half as many customers as Josh does. You’ll just have to face it, people don’t like to read.”

“People do so like to read.” Keane couldn’t think of a witty enough comeback so he just waved Gia off. She exhaled sharply and rushed to her room, slamming the door.

“Thanks a lot, man,” Benji grumbled.

“Anytime… you know, if she weren’t so damn emotional all the time-”

“We know, Keane,” Benji interrupted.

“Must be that time of the month.”

“You’re a douche. You just completely insulted her dream. You know that she’s wanted to own a bookstore since we were juniors in high school.  She finally does and you have to rub it in her face that she’s failing? God!” Benji knocked quietly at her door. “Gia? Gia, I have to go to work, babe.” He listened hard, the walls were surprisingly thick for such a small place.

“Ok, visit at lunch. Love you,” came a choked reply from somewhere in the recesses that lay beyond the locked door between them. She was crying.

“I will, have a good day. Love you, too,” was all he had time to say before he left the apartment for work, feeling guilty that he couldn’t stay.

“Hey Damon, go turn over the OPEN sign, will ya?” Josh asked, switching his register on. Damon did as he was told and looked outside at the dark grey sky. Thunder crashed in the distance and Damon’s heart leapt slightly – he was terrified of thunder storms.

“I don’t think anyone will come today,” he yelled back to Josh.

“Why do you say that?” And then the floodgates opened up and the Gods let forth the rain. Damon opened the door cautiously and stuck his hand out. It was the thin, stinging kind of rain; his suspicions were confirmed. A bright streak of lighting flew across the sky and he jumped back inside like a frightened rabbit.

“At least it’s not snowing,” Gia yelled from the book section. The books section was smaller than the music section and separated from it by a staircase. From floor to ceiling and wall to wall were book shelves filled to the brim with new and ancient texts. Gia was proud of the diversity. The RELIGION alcove only slightly surpassed THE CLASSICS alcove in her one to ten favorites scale. Some days she’d sit for hours on the floor of the section, copying page after page into her Book of Shadows. Gia, along with Josh, Jo and Cole, was Pagan. Gia’s parents didn’t like it about her, being hardcore Christian, but they didn’t ostracize her for it. Josh’s mom was Pagan too, so she never gave it a second thought when her son converted. Both Jo and Cole’s parents didn’t know. Most of Gia’s business came from the magickal supplies that she kept on the top shelves of the store rather than the books. She knew most of her customers by name because there were so few of them.

Apart from her store, Gia’s favorite room in the world was the back room of her section of the shop. Built as an office, Gia used it for her writing sanctuary. There was a desk and chair, a computer, a couch, and single bookshelf packed with notebooks. There was not a single bare patch on the walls for every inch was covered with overlapping loose leaf, sketches, and post-its. Some were connected by yarn and pins to show continuance. There was a small window to the bookstore so that she could see if she had a customer and only this was not covered in paper. The death toll of trees that had been used to complete that room must have been incredible.

Some days you could find her just sitting on the floor completely immersed in her work: paper, pencils, and white-out everywhere. But she would look so happy in this candid moment that Inspiration would hit you over the head with Her oversized purse and demand to know why you weren’t doing the one thing that you loved most of all.

            Josh, too, had his own sanctuary: his studio. The music studio was a large back room under the book section of the Attic. Benji and Damon had built the stage themselves with direction from Josh who sat in the back with a Sprite and a loud voice. Rosie’s Furniture next door had gone out of business and Rosie, being a childhood friend of Keane’s, had donated some couches and tables so that the stage would have an audience. To complete the room was Josh’s favorite, a recording booth specially purchased for him by his mom’s boyfriend as congratulations for staying afloat the first year.

            The shop bell rang. A young girl stood on the doormat wiping the excess rain off of her bare arms and petite ivory face. Her blonde hair matted and frizzed as she rang it out but she didn’t seem to care. Damon met her sky blue eyes and smiled. “Hey, Emilie. What can I do for you, today?” He looked down at her light pink lips in longing.

            “Point me to the book section, as usual, Damon,” she smiled at him. Emilie was a senior at the local high school and was Gia’s younger cousin. The two girls were polar opposites but they adored one another.

            “Birthday’s coming up soon, right?” His face felt hot and his tongue swollen but he hoped to God that he wasn’t blushing.

            “Yup, I’ll be eighteen in two weeks,” she said, heading for the stairs. She had always thought that her cousin made attractive friends.

            “Sooner than I though. I’ll have to get your present with my next paycheck, then.” He was blushing and he knew it.

            “You don’t have to get me anything, Damon, just the fact that you’re playing at my party is enough,” she finished before disappearing over the top of the stairs. Emilie’s eighteenth birthday was going to be held in the studio and Another Lost Cause was providing the free entertainment courtesy of Gia’s mastery of the Guilt Trip.

            “You better roll your tongue back into your head before Molly sees you, bud,” Josh said from behind the counter, not bothering to look up from a guitar catalogue. “She flips a shit when you don’t do anything. Multiply that by fifteen million times the explosion of a nuclear bomb and that might just be a fraction of the wrath you'll feel if she ever caught you cheatin' on her."

            “I’m not cheating on Molly,” Damon said, folding his arms and absently pacing around a drum kit. “Emilie’s just my friend and I like talking to her.”

            “So that’s what they call raping someone with your eyes nowadays, is it?”

            “Shut up,” Damon stammered, never stopping his pacing.

            “Excuse me?” Josh lowered his magazine and stared Damon down.

            “Shut up, Sir,” Damon corrected.

            “Better, now go clean something.” Damon shoved his hands in his pockets and pretended to look for a rag. His pants had grown suddenly uncomfortable.

 

            Gia sat in a huge, mossy-looking armchair that she practically was enveloped by, surrounded on all sides by the circular cashiers desk. Her feet were against the register and she had a well-worn copy of The Bell Jar propped against her knees. “Hey, bookworm,” came a little sly voice out of no where. Gia put her book to the side and smiled widely.

            “How’s Miss Priss, today? Looking for something in particular?”

            “I don’t read and you know it. Do you have any new athames in stock?”

            “I actually got three today but you know I can’t sell ‘weapons’ to minors,” Gia scoffed. An athame is a pagan ceremonial dagger used to direct energy, not to harm or even cut anything. However, Gia was required, by law, to refrain from selling blades to minors. Suddenly a smirk crept onto her face. “Maybe I’ll just have to give you one for your birthday.”

            “Thank you! You’re the best cousin ever!” Emilie screamed happily, lunging over the desk and strangling Gia with a hug.
















to be continued

The Scariest Thing About Memories is Believing You Will Forget Them