Date: April 11, 2010
Janet and Aaron visit Wally World. Er… No, that's not right. Janet's award winning smile helps Aaron away from a panic attack so that he can make a hasty departure.
There comes a level of self-imposed seclusion after someone tries to murder you. Especially when it's someone you know. You get paranoid. He was a stalker, he'd been following me for ages and I was none the wiser, so I find changing my routine to be an important step.
At the same time, there's only so much seclusion I can take, and I find myself needing to break away.
Playing music was a chore. It had been a chore when I first got out of the hospital in oh-nine. The anxiety. The feeling of having my breath choked off by smoke. Smoke I could still smell even then, a constant reminder of the fire that burnt such a large whole in my life. But now that I had been so badly violated, it's even worse. I nearly always smell smoke, and I wonder — when I make the occasional detour to shake the feeling that I am being followed — who I might be placing in danger by doing so.
Aaron Michaels makes his way into the 24-hour Wal-Mart at a brisk pace, his guitar in its soft case, slung over his shoulder. He gives a nod to the people greeter, hooking his thumb at his guitar case to make sure the old man remembers it when he comes back out again. The last thing he needs is to have to pull the thing out to prove it's his. Of course, the fact that his initials are etched into it — by hand — and it has a few tiny burn marks and is well above the price range of any of the guitars the place actually sells would make that an easy task.
He tugs gently on the strap of the case as he straightens his long coat. It's not particularly warm out, but he no longer needs the scarf that Gillian picked out for him. Gillian. A person he doesn't feel he's apologized enough to for how badly he treated her. He accused her, of all people, of stalking him, and yet she still came to his rescue.
Aaron musses his hair with a hand as he walks almost aimlessly through the aisles. His gaze turns rapidly to each person he spots, checking them out and making sure they aren't the figure that haunts him in his sleep. Items near them tend to fall off the shelf. Things they've touched just don't quite sit on the shelf properly as they put them back and they tumble off. The occasional crack of an item hitting the floor makes him jump, and he moves on to a new aisle, eventually coming to a stop amongst racks of magazines and gossip rags. There, he tries to catch his breath. Seeming to be paranoid seems very suspicious. It's not the best thing to do in a supermarket.
Unlike Aaron, Janet is in the 24-hour Wal-mart for purely essential reasons. Or, that's why she'd come in the first place. Of course, this isn't why she's in the rag and gossip aisle — that wouldn't be an essential purchase. Dressed in a brown trench coat belted at the waist, Dr. McCarty has her arm looped through a blue Wal-Mart basket loaded with actual essentials — namely bandages of various sorts. A LOT of them. There are bandaids, different sizes of gauze, a couple of tensor bandages, and several chemically activated ice packs.
Now, however, she has a copy of US Weekly opened. She's flipping through, glancing at the pictures and looking for information on any of the In Crowd (i.e. Hallis and company) she'd met the day before. How is it that she encountered these people so randomly? She'd even been rescued by them.
Aaron trying to catch his breath, however, beckons her look up from her magazine. She blinks a few times before putting the magazine back on the rack and stepping towards Aaron. Her face flips into a small frown, "Sir? Are you okay? I'm a doctor… try to take slow breaths…"
When Aaron jumps at the voice, a fair portion of the magazines in the rack come down. "Jesus Christ!" To whom Aaron directs the blasphemy isn't entirely clear. He holds a hand over his heart and sets his guitar case down before turning to see Janet there. "Don't do that." He does take a few slow breaths, "That's what I'm trying to do. Just so you know." He leans back against the now empty rack, breathing. "You usually sneak up on people having panic attacks, or?"
The falling magazines make Janet jump, just a little as she takes a step back now — just a little further from Aaron, her gaze doesn't move however. "I'm a doctor," she says simply. And then she forces a brief air of confidence, "I am doing my job, actually. If you passed out here and people learn that I didn't try to help, I could lose my license. Are you sure this is just a panic attack? Have you had these before?" Her face flushes some. "And I don't sneak up on people… I'm concerned."
Aaron slowly slides himself down the ground, one hand cupped over his forehead. He rubs his face, trying to ignore the slightly distant ringing in his ears and the heading beginning to throb in his temples. His eyes have watered slightly and have gone red rimmed and bloodshot in a short amount of time as he looks up at the doctor. "Something like that, yeah." He rolls his head back against the magazines on the bottom shelf of the rack. "One of the lovely side effects of narrowly escaping murder. Twice."
She watches him intently, her hazel eyes flitting from Aaron to the magazines and then back again. "Murder?" Janet asks quietly around the growing lump in her throat. She's seen a lot of strange things lately, murder seems relatively normal in comparison — as a concept, anyways. "Ohmygosh-are-you-okay?" Her eyebrow furrow with concern as she takes a step towards him now. And then she takes another. Studying him carefully she takes another step, "Have you thought about meds? I imagine you're talking to someone about all of this — "
A snort escapes Aaron as Janet brings up therapy. "My therapist disappeared the day I was attacked the second time. Not exactly good timing. Been three months, I should probably find someone else…. Not that it'll make much difference. Bastard wasn't caught." Which of course should explain why he seems paranoid. A random magazine drops from the end of the aisle, and Aaron jumps, bashing his head against the shelf behind him. He winces.
Janet is now the one to wince. "Tough break," she frowns openly as he hits his head. "I'm sorry that would-be-killer is still out there." For Aaron and the public, really. She takes another step forward. "Have you thought about taking meds then? I could write you a prescription — although, I'd need to write in like the hospital or something." She shrugs. "Red tape to make sure we're not writing ourselves prescriptions or something." Not that Janet needs drugs, she's bubbly and happy without them. She manages a weak smile for Aaron, "Have you thought about hiring a bodyguard or something? I mean if he's still at large…"
"I try to stay away from meds," Aaron says. Heck, he doesn't even take the antidepressants anymore. He's not depressed. Anxious and fearful, yes. Depressed? No. "Anything that fuzzes my head up just … makes me feel worse." Trapped, actually. "I have to stay lucid, completely there." He shakes his head, "I don't think I'd be comfortable having someone watching me all the time. Practically the opposite of what I want, actually."
"That's fair," Janet says honestly as she picks up the copy of US Weekly and adds it to her basket full of bandages. Oddly these are things a hospital or clinic normally supplies, particularly in the quantity she's purchasing. "And I don't particularly like living with people looking over my shoulder, even if they're there to protect me… not that — I mean, I don't have a bodyguard — I'm a doctor, I just save lives, I don't… I mean, why would I need a bodyguard — it's not like a gunman came after me or something… but… uh.. you. Right. Well, maybe you could try hanging out where the people are all of the time, I guess there's lots of us here in Wally World…"
The rambling gets Aaron's attention a bit, a brow lifting slightly with curiosity as Janet experiences verbal diarrhea. Either his head's still spinning a bit, or she practically admitted to being hunted down by some gunman. He shakes his head, trying to clear the last of the spinning. Hang out where the people are all of the time. Pff. "How long have you been in the city? You ever hear of Aleston Music Hall?"
"Uh.. well I moved here in gosh — four years ago — maybe five. So I've been in New York awhile. It probably shows that I went to Berkley — most people can tell, I'm not really sure why. It's not like I'm blonde and tanned, you know? But people can tell, I thin. Maybe it's the smile. I have a nice smile, that's one of the things I like about myself," Annnnnd Janet is rambling again. Finally she clamps her mouth shut.
"Aleston. Aleston. Aleston. Hmmm. I think, maybe?" her eyebrows knit together as the doctor mulls the name over in her mind, "I thought the building fell down or something — "
"Burned down, actually," Aaron says quietly. "Murder attempt number one. Lots of people didn't really seem to be a problem with him, tunnel vision and all." Why the hell is he telling a stranger all of this? He shakes his head and moves to stand back up, "I'm sorry, I don't even know why I'm telling you all of this. I should go." It would be terrible if all the people in this store were to die because of him.
"He burned down a building to try to kill one person?!" Janet says just a little too loudly before clamping a hand across her mouth. Her eyebrows furrow in concern. "So he's like a sociopath?! Who does that?! No regard for collateral damage. If I could get my hands on him…
"And, I think you're telling me because you have to tell someone — " Janet insists before she points to her lips and forces another smile " — and it's me because of my smile." Just look at it Aaron! "Look. If he's at large then it's better to live life than not, I think." She pauses, "Life can be scary, but if you stop living it because of some murderous creep, then he's won."
Aaron actually laughs at the smile, which is something he hasn't really done in a while. Laughing is not a big part of his day-to-day existence, after all. "Or wrong place at the wrong time. You almost gave me a heart attack while I was having a panic attack." He grins while saying it, poking fun no doubt. "Yeah. I only found out he burned down a whole building and killed hundreds of people trying to kill me while he was burning down my apartment with me still inside it." He points a finger, "You do have a lovely smile, though."
"Thanks!" the smile broadens with the compliment. "And I'm sorry about scaring you — yeesh — I was trying to be a good doctor. I do try. I don't always succeed," despite her comment her grin broadens even further. "I tell ya, it's a killer smile," her eyes are bright as they, too, virtually smile. However, this all fades a little moments later, "Total stalker creep. He's like one of those Twilight vampires, waiting in quiet stillness, stalking people. He probably watched you sleep!" Yes, Dr. McCarty has a very vivid imagination. "That's like almost creepier than lighting the building on fire…"
He'd never thought of that. There was the photo the guy stole. Gulp. "I know he was a stalker. And he had a key." He looks a little green, though his colour normalizes a bit once he comes to the realization that — if Tom Wilkes had been in his house while he was asleep, he'd probably be dead. He shakes his head, "No, he wanted me dead. I don't think he would have wasted such a good opportunity to kill me."
"Well at least you know he's not watching you sleep," Janet, the optimist, shrugs her shoulders with a weak smile. "I'm sorry. I know I talk too much. Everyone growing up used to tell me to quit talking, but I somehow can't stop. It's a disease, really. Kind of like an expressive face — a disease because everyone," she rolls her eyes as if to emphasize her point, "knows what you're thinking."
"Do you think he's even still looking for you?" Janet asks quietly. "Maybe, maybe he's decided to go hide under a rock somewhere so the authorities don't get him and charge him with like murder and larceny — or, is it arson? Seems like there should be a y at the end of that to make it arsony… it just sounds more legalish."
"Well, I'm kinda paranoid that he is, so it probably doesn't matter. Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean he's not out to get me, right?" Aaron attempts a laugh at that, but it turns out to be quite fake and trails off into silence. "Yeah. Kinda hoping he went off and killed himself or got himself killed…. doesn't really matter which. One less psychopath in the world."
Janet considers these points. "And suicide really would be like relieving for everyone else because then it'd be like he felt bad for what he did. I'd like to believe all murderers have a point where they feel bad, you know?" She glances at the US Weekly on the shelf and places it in her basket. Life's too short not to read the tabloids, particularly ones that might mention anything about the celebrities she'd met on the weekend. Plus Parker would enjoy reading it, maybe. "Well, you need to live your life. I mean, try not to think about him and focus on what you want to be doing right now, you know? I mean, if you could be doing anything, what would it be? You got like two second chances here, man! You lived through two murder attempts! That's a sign!"
A sign indeed. "Third time's the charm?" Another magazine at the end of the aisle falls off it's shelf, as though knocked over by a passerby. He picks his guitar case back up, slinging it over his shoulder. "Thank you for getting me breathing normally again. I should get going before I get you and everyone else in here barbecued." He quickly heads away from the downed piles of magazines from where he very nearly collapsed. Some of them are probably write-offs.
"Sue a girl for bein' an optimist," Janet murmurs to US Weekly as she plucks it from her basket and opens it to the centre before padding towards the checkout to make her purchase of bandages for the safehouses. It's just safer this way. With a lopsided grin she flips through the magazine as she walks — it's a wonder she doesn't run into anything.