Chapter 11

Beatrice sat in her living room, feeling slightly dizzy and trying to get her hands to stop shaking. Her mother was sitting next to her, holding an eerily silent Pepe. A few minutes ago, Beatrice had opened her front door, only to find her oldest cousin, Gerald, Jr. standing there.

Gerald Jr.’s name is somewhat misleading, given that there is absolutely nothing “junior” about him. Beatrice could not remember a time when he had been less than six feet tall. As she sat there staring up at him, she guessed he was probably 6’8’’. His hands were the size of a large pizza and his two-toned eyes were barely visible beneath his caterpillar eyebrows. When he spoke, his words sounded more like grunts and mumbles than anything else.

Somewhere in the distance, Beatrice heard a doorbell ring. It took her a few moments to realize it was her doorbell, but by that point, Gerald Jr. had already taken one huge stride towards the front door and opened it, practically pulling it off its hinges. To her horror, Beatrice saw all of her cousins file into her living room, chatting giddily, entirely unaware of Beatrice’s impending breakdown.

A few miles away, Arthur was sitting alone in his living room, watching the on goings on his television. He marveled at Beatrice’s apartment, suddenly aware that he’d seen it a million times on a screen, but only a handful of times in person. He recalled fondly the time he’d driven her home from their Wednesday night dinner because her car’s battery had died. She invited him in for coffee, and delicately hid her surprise when he accepted. He remembered the way that she’d moved around her apartment, careful to keep everything in its place, to maintain strict balance and order. He remembered her adorable awkwardness when she’d poured the coffee, obviously not used to having people in her home. Arthur remembered thinking that he should have politely declined the coffee, that it was unlike his character to function outside of their routine. But he also remembered not wanting to say goodbye, wanting only to spend more time with Beatrice, to observe her quirky routines and her awkward demeanor.

Arthur snapped back to the mission at hand. Feeling flushed and slightly embarrassed, he reminded himself that he was there to infiltrate the cousins. Focusing back on the screen, he saw the cousins spread out all over Beatrice’s apartment. They were laying out maps and blueprints, and on her wall, they’d hung a cork board covered in photos and newspaper articles. Arthur counted eleven adults and seven kids, plus Beatrice and her mother. From what he could tell, the cousins were putting together a hideout, a meeting spot in Beatrice’s apartment. This was perfect. He knew where they were at all times, and could observe their plans.

Beatrice was hoping and praying that this was all one horrible nightmare. She could handle being a victim of the cousins’ antics, but she couldn’t be an accomplice. She watched helplessly as her cousins marked maps and put together spreadsheets. The last thing she remembered before passing out was her cousin Janelle complimenting her apartment, and then spilling an entire bottle of Gatorade on her floor.

-M.A. Gavin

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