“You can keep my ‘go green’ bags. That way you won’t have to deal with ripped paper.” Meg set the tote bags, stuffed with Zane’s groceries, down on the table. “It’s such a waste anyway.” She frowned. “Hey, your clock is wrong. It seems to have stopped.”
“Yeah, I know.” Zane rolled over, wincing as he sat up. His gut twisted with a burning cramp. He grabbed the remote, silencing the stereo. His new neighbor walked closer to the wall, gazing up at the antique timepiece that his uncle had given him. Zane’s eyes wandered down her tall, willowy frame. The girl needed a sandwich.
“That’s a shame. It’s such a pretty clock.” She faced him. Fiery- red curls fell over one emerald-green eye. She did have a unique type of sex appeal, but she talked too much, too many words for Zane to process. She was also quite friendly, which only fed his guilt, but she was just too much for him, so bubbly and happy—too happy.
“Yeah, well, actually...” Zane stood up, his head swimming for a minute. “It worked up until yesterday, but when I got home from the doctor’s, it was broken. Just like me. It’s stopped keeping time, and so has my body. Our lives are stationary, I guess.” He shrugged. It was really too deep a philosophical statement coming from Zane, but it was one he believed was true. He’d met Meg down in the vestibule, near the mailboxes, last week. Today he’d gone shopping, only to have dumped his stuff all over the floor of the lobby when his bags tore open. His bladder was on the brink of bursting, so Meg had waved him off, saying she’d bring his stuff up. Too nice.
Meg turned her back on the clock, her face creased with worry. Two thin, vertical lines deepened between her brows. She was sort of cute.
“What d’you mean?”
“Doc told me yesterday that I have Hodgkin’s disease.” Zane grabbed one of the green tote bags and headed into the kitchen. He tossed his groceries on the high counter that lined the edge of the kitchen. Meg was on his heels. She slid onto one of the stools behind the counter before he could blink. She toyed with a box of Pop-Tarts, eyeing the contents listed on the side of the box, her brows pulled together.
“I’m sorry.” Her wide eyes reached for him, her stare a bit intense. Zane instantly regretted divulging this information. He could almost see her head spinning off her thin neck, which had a sensual curve to it, he noticed.
“Listen.” Zane waved a hand through the air, reeling his thoughts out of the gutter. “Hey, I’ve got a handle on it. I’m sure you’ve got somewhere you need to be...”
“No.” Her tone was laced with a mild hysteria. Zane stepped back, feeling her verbal fire. “I work at the Holistic Hut, you know, down on Seventh Street. There’s things you can do, besides the traditional medical treatments. Jesus.” Curls moved around her face, grazing the edge of her jaw. “If the disease doesn’t kill you, those damn chemo treatments just might.” Her lips pressed into a thin line. Seriousness crossed her face. “God, Zane, I’m sorry. It’s just that—”
“Meg, it’s okay, really.” She was too much. Now he had her feeling sorry for him. Zane walked around the counter, helping her down. Her long, thin fingers were cool in his palm. Her brows were still knitted across her forehead. “I appreciate you bringing my stuff up.”
“Yeah.” She glanced up at him, her expression startled. “I’ll see you later...I guess.” Her voice lowered. Zane escorted her to the door, her body moving slowly, as if she were sedated. She looked dazed and confused. Meg quickly grabbed her purse off the table, some paisley-fringed sack. The material at one time could’ve probably been a pair of curtains dating back to the seventies.
“Thanks again.” He put on his best smile, holding the door for her, his face pained from the charade.
DARK DAY BRIGHT NIGHT