vi. rules of engagement

A few weeks have passed since I met the boys.

I stumble into my bathroom at some ungodly time in the morning, flapping my hand at the wall in search of the light switch I am fairly sure is always there. The sun is barely peeking over the winter horizon. It is (to me) nitheringly cold, and I'm shivering in my satin nightgown and wondering why I didn't invest some of my money in a little radiant heater for the bathroom before the season I was named for made an appearance.

The bathroom, as is my usual, is in a state of mild disarray. Bottles of various cosmetics clogging up the area around the sink, bobby pins and other like accoutrements held in shot glasses on the counter and on the glass shelf I had Alex help me install a few months ago. If the fact that I, a single woman, keep things in my bathroom in spare shot glasses doesn't say something about my relationship with booze, then nothing will.

I put a new soap in the dish; a lovely violet coloured piece that looked precisely like a rose. Unfortunately, the rose collapsed after one use and it has simply become a lump of (rather pretty) lavender-and-jacaranda tinted soap now, dripping into the tub. I regard the viscous streak of purple liquid that has crept down the side of my bath tub and towards the plug hole with a wry sort of grin. It is probably going to stain, I think. I'm lucky that I own my house -- or the bank does, if I want to split hairs -- and therefore don't have to worry about it coming off any time soon, or at all, if I want to be a lazy sod about it. I probably do, as well. I'm notorious for my lack of motivation when it comes to housekeeping.

"'With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, / And purple-stained mouth'," Teddy quotes at me, suddenly at my side like a dark little shadow. "Morning, Winter."

"It's too bloody early for poetry," Llew states, also appearing out of nowhere.

"Good morning to you, too."

"Nope. I don't do value judgments before noon."

I snicker at that, then, "Fuck off, please."

Llew crows, both amused and ever-so-slightly annoyed. "Oh, that's nice! First thing in the morning, and everything!"

"I'm going to have a shower, know. And I did say please'."

"Well then," Llew drawls, settling into his default mode of sarcastic bastard' early, I see. "If you said please. That makes all the difference in the world, yes. How silly of us."

"Come on," Teddy grins, curling his hands around Llew's upper arm and pulling him towards the door. "Rules are rules. You're a pervert, Llewellyn."

"I would not waste my time perving on her if she was the last woman on the planet."

"Stop stating the obvious and leave her be," giggles Teddy.

"I'll remember that," I threaten him, but both he and Llew have disappeared through the closed door by the time the words are out of my mouth, Llew pouting the whole time. I chuckle and shrug out of my nightgown.

My ghosts, man.


I've getting used to living with them, weird as it is. 'Living', ha ha. If not gotten used to, more or less.

We established some ground rules pretty quickly -- out of the room when I'm changing my clothes, so on and so forth, if only for my sanity. No making things float when people (like Alex or the guy who reads the meter) are in the house. No 'playing poltergeist', as Teddy put it.

"Who's even playing?" Llew had leered, and I had just glared in response, which was undoubtedly the reaction he was gunning for. Teddy looked mildly embarrassed and whacked him on the upper arm.

I kept the small bag with three different required 'headmeds' in it under my bed, and swallow them as I get dressed or undressed. To throw them further off the scent, I keep my birth control pills openly displayed on my bathroom counter, and purposely made a fuss of taking a few late a few times. Llew called me a dipshit, Teddy asked if it was that one pill you had to take at exactly the same time every day, and that was that. I'm reasonably sure they haven't noticed anything else.

Of course, by the end of the month, I'll need a refill of all of them. I decide to worry about that when it comes to it. Maybe I can have them dispensed online and have them delivered discreetly, somehow. I'll ask Alex.

I'm not used to living with people; I had been an insufferable housemate when Alex and I lived together briefly (which didn't help with our breakup, I can't help but think) and I was always miserable when I flatted with uni friends for any length of time. But...I seem to be coping all right with this. Life with ghosts is...different.

Llew is a prick. He is snappish and smart-arsed and given to calling a spade a spade (if not a fuckin' shovel) but when he grins, his face lights up and the joy touches those swimming-pool-blue eyes. He is passionate and surprisingly knowledgeable about a slew of subjects -- he is by no means an idiot, despite acting like one when something has gotten under his skin. He does have a tendency to sulk and get particularly vocal when something has annoyed him, and he can destroy you and all your ancestors with an entire look when he's particularly angry. Looking daggers' does not adequately describe what Llewellyn Evans does if he fixes his gaze on you when he's irritated.

Despite this, I find myself growing fonder and fonder of him every day. My original assessment that he was created solely to annoy the living daylights out of me probably wasn't all that far off, if the truth's to be told, but...I don't think I mind. I'm just not sure why I don't mind.

Teddy is a lot of odd near-contradictions. He's a genuine sweetheart, but has a tendency to be pessimistic to the point where sometimes I just want to shout at him -- the only reason I don't, I think, is because I don't think that would make him any less so. His delicate beauty twists through almost everything he does, moving and melancholy. He's as book-smart as Llew is, and doesn't act like he's ashamed of that, which charms me.

Saying Teddy is sensitive is like saying Tabasco sauce is warm'. He feels everything, that one, and too much. Or, well, I think it's too much. He hides it, but...I know. I know from the way he smiles too quickly and changes the subject, and I know from the way Llew hovers around him, ready to fight off anything that might hurt him. Sometimes I wonder if Llew even knows he's doing it...maybe not, considering that the pair of them are constantly either taking the piss out of each other or legitimately almost-arguing, not-quite-serious, newly-married-couple bickering.

"How long have you two known each other?" I had asked curiously, after watching them come to the end of one of these spats.

"Twenty years," they both replied at the same time. I almost giggled at the synchronicity.

"His family moved next door to mine when I was six, and that was it, pretty much," Llew said, an unusual soft grin on his face. "After that, we were stuck with each other."

There are things we haven't broached, yet. Their deaths, for one thing. I have no idea how or when they died -- recently, if their general knowledge of (pop) culture is anything to go by, and the rather interesting things Llew has to say about Australia's current Prime Minister and the entire Liberal National Party. I don't know how to approach the subject, if I should just blurt out "so, how'd you cark it?" over my morning coffee one day, or what. What's the polite protocol for asking someone about their own death, after it's happened?

Then there's me.

I don't go out much, as a rule. I used to, all the time. But lately, I just...can't. It's almost as bad as when I first met Llew and Teddy at Sydney Airport, and it's getting worse.

To their credit, the boys don't ask many questions. I've seen Llew raise his eyebrows when Alex swings around with necessities like milk and food, and occasionally my mail, I've seen Teddy's eyes darken with concern when I bite my lip before answering the phone, but nobody has asked any direct questions. I avoid the little pink pills as much as I can, and take them as secretly as possible when I can't. I suppose, logically, I could take one and go out, or give someone a ring, or whatever else it is that 'normal' people do, but whenever I do, it just hammers home that I am breaking a little bit. If I feed the monster, it'll just grow worse, right?

I don't tell Alex. Of course he'd have me take them, he's a nurse. He's also my friend, aware of what was already wrong with me before the pink pills were added to my general cocktail, and terribly worried about me, the more and more he sees me. But I just can't do it, not until it feels like my teeth are trying to claw their way out of my gums and every single sense receptor on my body is turned up to eleven. And even then, all they do is make me fall asleep, nine times out of ten.

Everyone has their own demons, it seems. Mine come in bottles and boxes from the local pharmacy, Teddy's and Llew's are doubtlessly in their coffins.

go to chapter: i. wintering | ii. cast away your troubles | iii. hallucinoghosts | iv. planespotting | v. a short guide to the afterlife | vi. rules of engagement | vii. thin ice
side-stories: let's get high

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