I hope this final installment of the JustNoMil duology finds you well. The week is flying by, so with your permission I would like to dive right in today. We’re going to start with the first Valentines Crook and I were able to spend together. We were two years into the relationship, but he was on a rig for the first one. The second year, he returned from a two week hitch February 13th. Normally I don’t buy into Valentine’s Day unless it precedes the word ‘massacre,’ but we were excited for this one.
Upon arriving, Crook was unable to keep his special plans secret any longer. The fact he planned anything while at work was impressive. “I was trying to surprise you, but it’s harder keeping the secret now that I’m home. I made reservations at Haunted Hotel.” His voice was filled with pride. Securing a reservation anywhere on Valentines was difficult, but he succeeded with one of the best.
If you read Calling All Ghosts, yes. That’s the place. He knew I’m not big on romance, but wanted to show the effort. Hoping (correctly) a spooky theme would make the holiday more enjoyable, he called in a favor to reserve the best haunt-themed food in town.
As if her spidey-sense detected our happiness, Effie called intent to ruin it. “Hey Sweetie, I just wanted to make sure you got home safe.” Her sobs sounded more genuine than usual. I suppose practice makes perfect.
“Yea, I’m fine. What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Crook shifted into worried son mode seamlessly.
I assumed she was trying to force him to feed her animals, but that was only a secondary reason for calling. “Oh… I’m fine… you don’t want to hear me cry about my pitiful life. I’m just so depressed about Valentines Day. I’d rather kill myself than spend another one alone…”
You could tell she was desperate by how quickly she brought out the big guns. With Crook’s blindness to the manipulation tactics I memorized in a month, Effie successfully invited herself to our dinner in under 5 minutes. Was I so angry I nearly blacked out? Obviously. Did I make a scene? No. I knew he would get defensive if I tried to explain what Effie was doing. Instead, I took deep breaths. Reminding myself, you hate this crap anyway. It’s only for dinner, just a couple hours. The rest of the day is ours. We’re going to watch anime, smoke weed, and eat Chinese takeout because that’s what gives life meaning.
That mantra got me through the night and next morning. At noon, my happy place was burned to the ground when Effie arrived, unannounced. I stared at her through the window, willing her to disappear, but eventually I was forced to open the door. I motioned for her to have a seat, explaining Crook was still catching up on his sleep.
Effie was having none of that. She walked straight down the hallway, into our bedroom, and shrieked “Wake up Sweetie! Mommy is heeeeeeeere!”
I remained on the living room floor, struggling to breath as a panic attack consumed me. I became deaf to all but my own thoughts. She went in our room. There’s someone in our room, what’s wrong with you? Get in there and kill it! She’s going to sit on your bed! Move!
Faintly, distant noises began filtering through the static. I heard sounds that were either dresser drawers or blunt force trauma. Realizing the moans of pain were coming from myself, I assumed it was the former.
Eventually, I see them exit the bedroom, arm-in-arm. Crook disheveled and confused; Effie grinning ear to ear, still talking. “I’m so excited we’re spending the day together. This is the best Valentines ever!”
I physically bit my tongue, terrified to speak. I could already feel the angry tears forming. I knew if I tried to talk, only unintelligible squalls would emerge. The one thing preventing a full meltdown was my invisibility. Effie was only interested in feeding her delusion, and I didn’t fit into her script. I tuned her out, pouring all my focus into tv for the next several hours.
We were 20 minutes away from leaving for dinner when another knock sounded at the door. I opened it to be greeted by a dozen red roses; Crook’s last surprise. Before I could react, Effie pushed past me, squealing like Miss Piggy, and took my flowers.
Smelling the roses, she met my gaze. I’m not sure what emotion she mistook fury for, but I still get angry thinking about how she said “Oh Crook, you shouldn’t have! But it’s not fair to buy me all these beautiful roses!” Looking at me as if I were a homeless person begging for spare change, she gave me the card and one rose. “Here, don’t feel left out.”
(This always bothered me, think about it. Since she handed me the card… she knew, right? Deep down on a subconscious level she can never admit to… she had to know, right? I think she knew.)
I looked to Crook, (still naive enough to think he might correct her) but he stared at his feet, tail tucked between his legs. I threw the card (open for all to read) on the table next to Effie, and finished preparing for dinner.
Seated at the only 3-top in the restaurant, Effie ordered for all of us. When I told the waiter to change my order, she glared at me as if slapped. I held my tongue as she requested a vase for her roses, but I finally understood why she insisted on bringing them. It wasn’t enough to claim them, she needed other people to see; they made it feel real. When I didn’t react to her prompts clearly fishing for a compliment, she became sullen.
From that point forward, she complained about the food and service nonstop. The only complaint I had toward dinner was Effie’s company, but I digress. It was the longest dinner of my life, and we still weren’t free of her. Having refused to drive herself “to a date” we were stuck with her until she sobered enough to drive herself home. After the first pot of coffee, I thought she was faking. It wasn’t the first time she tried to spend the night, but it was thankfully the last.
Thus ended the worst Valentines of my life. For the next and last story regarding Effie, I will discuss her arm/shoulder surgery. Do you know what’s worse than a paranoid, codependent hypochondriac? A hypochondriac who actually has something wrong. I don’t have kids, I’ve never cared for one under 7 in my life, but I would take on five toddlers before going near Effie again.
At this stage, we were years into our relationship, and I was savvy to all Effie’s tricks. When we learned she was genuinely in need, I had no problem visiting her in the hospital or caring for her animals. When she was able to finish recovery at home, I was a fantastic sport. I even walked her to the bathroom a few times (it’s not like I had to go in with her).
What I did have issues with, was how she treated us while we were helping. Each day we did our usual chores, and before leaving we asked, “Is there anything else you need? You’re sure? Because we’re about to go home.”
Every single day she said, “No, I’m fine thanks.” Without fail, 10 minutes after being home, she called Crook, begging him to return.
If I had to guess, I think she preferred him to visit without me (I sure did) knowing he would be easier to manipulate. Let me be clear, after the first week, she was fully functional for everything except lifting or certain movements with her arm. We knew she would use us as long as possible, but even if she didn’t have a walker, there was absolutely no reason she could not walk unattended.
With that understood, here’s what happened three weeks into her recovery. As with every other day, we performed our morning chores, asked if she needed anything else, and went home. We only had time to sit down with a fresh bowl before the phone rang.
“Can’t we just ignore her this once? Just until we finish smoking?” I begged.
“I’m sorry, I just need to make sure she hasn’t hurt herself. I’m not going back today, I’m sick of it too.” Crook answered the phone. It was one thing to lie to me, I could understand that, but it was infuriating when he lied to himself. Let me break their conversation down the easy way as we near our conclusion.
Effie: Hey Baby, can you bring Mama something to eat? I finally have an appetite and I’m craving my favorite pizza place.
Crook: But… they’re right across the street. The doctor said you should be trying to get out now. It might be good for you to go.
Effie: I don’t care what that quack said! He can’t feel my pain! I’ll never make it!
Crook: Okay, fine. If you aren’t ready to drive, just have it delivered.
Effie: Ugh, I can’t get out of my chair to make it to the door! Why are you arguing with me? I’m starving!
Crook: Fine! When did they say it would be ready?
Effie: I haven’t ordered it. Tell them to make sure all these very picky details are correct or you’ll send it back. I absolutely can’t eat it if it’s not right.
Crook: I’ll never get all that straight. Could you at least call the order in? Then I’ll just pick it up and bring it to you.
Effie: No, they don’t like me, they always do it wrong on purpose. See if they’ll get it right for you.
Crook: Fine, I’ll be there soon to get the money, then I’ll go grab your food.
Effie: You can’t even buy your mother one meal while I’m starving to death?!
Crook: Yea, sorry.
People, my blood boiled. I could almost see the bubbles under my skin as the heat simmered throughout my body. I stared at Crook in disbelief, speechless, wondering if his balls would ever drop.
When Crook delivered her food, it was indeed wrong. He insisted she asked for olives, Effie insists she said no olives. I don’t know who was correct, I didn’t hear it firsthand, but I have two equally plausible theories.
- Crook subconsciously got it wrong on purpose, sick of Effie’s shit.
- Effie didn’t have anything else to complain about, and olives were the first thing she thought to use.
As an adult possibly speaking to impressionable teens, I won’t say what I would have done to the food, but if you’re familiar with the movie Waiting, you have a pretty good idea. The important thing is, these stories are home where they belong. There’s still the matter of my notebooks, but as far as online publications go, I think these were the only ones. Now I can spend the week fully submerged in all the glorious horror of Halloween. I think I’ll go listen to some CreepyPastas while I decide what to write next. Maybe I should start taking requests.
Oh yea, can’t forget the sign-off. You all be safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.