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(no subject)
Title: In Hiding
Series: none
Rating: PG13ish
Word Count: 1355
Summary: Anita did not intend to go missing but she still had to be found.
Notes: Repost with revisions. Still pretty much nonsensical.

She was doing a pretty good job of hiding for someone no one was looking for. Hunkered down in a corner with her hair in disarray, all unfamiliar clothing and quick, furtive glances – one might almost have thought she looked scared. But there was nothing to be afraid of. No one likely to come in, to come over, to address her by name. No one but her friends, anyway, and there was nothing to fear from them. They loved her. They weren’t likely to bite. There was nothing to be afraid of at all.

At three fifteen, Pacific Time, which would be eleven fifteen here, there came a knock at the door of the room where Anita Romanowski lived.

Anita wasn’t there.

Her roommate answered.

“What is it?” she asked, irate. It was the third time she’d been awakened since going to bed at six that morning.

“We need to see Anita.”

There were three of them, all varying shades of blonde and taller than Rosie. Rosie wondered why all of Anita’s friends were blonde. Anita wasn’t blonde, though she often said she had bad taste in friends. This probably wasn’t true.

“She’s not here.”

This statement was, Rosie felt, pointless despite it’s apparent necessity. They could see into the room; ergo, they could see she wasn’t there.

“Where is she?”

“I dunno. Not here.”

They seemed to notice, then, the darkened lights and the rumpled bedclothes.

“Sorry. Did we wake you?”

“No shit.”

“Oh, sorry. Can you tell her to call us when she gets in?”

Rosie did not ask who, precisely, of a dozen blonde options, Anita was meant to be calling.

“Sure,” she said, and shut the door.

Twelve hours later, somewhere else entirely, Anita Romanowski resurfaced. She did not call her friends, but she did send a text message to Rosie.

“Not coming in tonight. Back tomorrow.”

Rosie texted back, “k”.

She didn’t wonder where she was so much as vaguely hope there would be a good story behind it.

One of the girls at the circulation desk knew Anita. They did a project together and presented it at assembly. Bell, who was the tallest, if not the blondest of Anita’s friends, remembered thinking that they had to have done some research, because no one knew that much about production and distribution of moonshine during Prohibition off the tops of their heads. But Anita swore they hadn’t done a thing. If they had thought to ask, Lily would have been able to confirm this.

As it was, she just said, “Not that I know of, but she takes the lift at the entrance, sometimes, so I don’t always see her come in.” Lily knew all of Anita’s library habits. Erin, who was the blondest, thought that this was kind of weird. “Check the balcony, the computer room on the third floor, or the far left study pod on the second,” Lily continued. “If she’s here, that’s where she’ll be.” (She did not mention the bathroom in the children’s section, because if Anita was there she was not likely to admit it or come out willingly if she was found.)

If they’d asked how she knew, Lily might have said that Anita was a creature of habit, and not mentioned the number of times she had shirked work to help her procrastinate and how Anita had told her all the places she liked to be. After all, her superviser was standing right there and it was technically true.

Anita was not in the library. Lily pretty much already knew that. She said she would have her call if she saw her and, after the blondes were gone, she stood there for a long time, staring, with her thumb just caressing number four on her speed dial.

When next Lily saw Anita Romanowski, she smiled and said, “Hey! How did Dr. Fowler like your essay?” and then they killed half an hour talking Kant.

Anita’s parents weren’t home, but her little sister was, when they finally got around to calling there.

Her sister said, “What?” and “What did you say to her?” and told them to fuck off because Anita would show up again when she was good and ready. She wasn’t the type to hold a grudge.

All of the blondes kind of wished that made them feel better than it did, but none of them said a word.

When they finally got a hold of Anita’s parents – or at least of her mother – she was patient and reasonable, if a bit puzzled. She’d had an e-mail from Anita less than an hour ago. She needed a book from her shelves at home.

They went back to the dorms, eventually, when Anita’s mother made it clear that she was still breathing, at least, that her heart was still beating, and she still had access to the internet, and when her continued absence had convinced them she did not want to be found. Mira, who was neither the tallest nor the blondest, passed her roommate going the other way.

“Sadie,” she said, not expecting anything, “have you seen Anita?”

“Not today.”

Mira went on to their room.

Sadie walked into a coffee shop and then, mocha in hand, she walked out again, the other way, onto the back patio, and sat down next to Anita. It was cold and wet and rainy and there was no one there but them.

“Mira’s looking for you,” Sadie said. It was just conversation.

“I didn’t know that,” Anita said, with doubt. “Did you find me?”

“No. I just saw you. Through the window.”

Anita didn’t say anything until the moment came that she did and even then she hadn’t quite realized she was going to.

“I thought about jumping off a bridge, this morning.”

Sadie considered this. She and Anita were not close.

“Why didn’t you?”

“I realized that it wasn’t high enough and the water wasn’t deep enough and I would just end up wet and sore and miserable and they would just make fun of me. Stupid bitch can’t even get her own suicide right.” And she added, “I haven’t been sleeping, really. And some day I’d like to make it through a conversation without someone belittling me.”

Sadie tried to think of something to say that would be comforting and not patronizing. It was not a simple task. She was mildly surprised when she heard herself say, “Wanna make out?”

Anita seemed mildly surprised when she answered, “Sure.”

Fifteen minutes later, soaked through to the skin, Sadie rather suspected that this was one of her better ideas.

Anita pulled back and said, ”Is spontaneous sex on the table?”

Sadie considered. She had a car. And nobody ever used that basement room with the sofa.

“It is.”

Ten hours later, in an ex-professor’s spare room – and how they got use of it was a story Sadie didn't yet know – Anita resurfaced for long enough to text her roommate and check her messages. There were six, and eighteen missed calls.

“Huh,” she said. “I think that’s the most anyone’s ever tried to contact me.”

“What are they saying?” Sadie asked. She was examining the mark Anita had left on her wrist, wondering whether her watch would cover it up, and if anyone would notice if it didn’t.

Anita listened to the messages again.

“Nothing important.”

“You going to go see the counselor, tomorrow?”

This was a conversation they’d had in the car after having sex in the library basement and before eating their weight in pancakes at IHOP.

“I’ll make an appointment.”

“Thank you. And no more going missing, okay?”

“I’ll make an effort.”

The blondes were not well-pleased when Anita reappeared the next day, apparently just fine, because it made all the people they had interrogated very smug, none quite so smug as Sadie.

It is interesting to note that the very best hiding places come to you when you’re not really trying to hide at all.


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