Anxiety - part 2
Ayy we’re making this a series!!
I have ideas for a part 3 but not much beyond that. If I come up with something, I’d love to keep this going and make more installments!
4k words, or about 13 minutes (I’m so sorry, I have so much I wanna say and I don’t know how to shorten these >/\<)
Rory was somewhere soft and warm. The walls were pleasantly compact, and her eyelids were heavy as kettle bells. She didn’t think it was possible to physically move. Her body simply would not have allowed it out of pure comfort-
The familiar blaring of a phone alarm shook her out of her coma. That looped jingle she so vehemently despised for pulling her out of her sleep every single morning blared in her ears, and she reflexively rolled to her side to reach for her phone to shut it off. And then she rolled some more. And some more. When she didn’t hit the edge of her bed, she pushed herself up in confusion, only to be met with the sight of an unfamiliar room. A room with shifting walls, with a vast floor that caved in with every step…
“Oh, sorry!” Rory jolted at the immense voice that filled the small space, surrounding her from all sides. “I forgot I had an alarm set…”
Everything was white. Her eyes stung. She couldn’t seem to close them tight enough no matter how hard she tried, and it took a good couple of moments before she was finally adjusted to the sudden light. Francis had yanked the roof off of her safe little cave, and her world once again became a jungle of hazards and vast expanses, a world where simply walking to the door would take a dedicated hour.
Francis was scrolling through her phone far off to Rory’s left. The giant bounced her knee against the floor as she tapped away at the screen. Rory waited a moment, assuming she was turning off her alarm, but a few more seconds of toying with the device made her wonder what was taking so long.
“What are you doing there?”
Francis quickly glanced down at the small girl, still a little on edge and uncomfortable with this whole situation. She stared for a few moments before blinking and shaking her head, finally opening her mouth to talk. “Uh, I’m canceling plans and classes and stuff.” She winced as she finished the sentence, and turned to sit facing Rory cross legged. She was clearly still unaware of how her size impacted Rory—the impossibly fast movement of such an immense being so close to her made her vision swirl and gave her vertigo. “Sorry, I probably should’ve asked first instead of just assuming, but I figured that this maybe isn’t the best day for me to go to school.” She tapped her fingers against her knee as she spoke. Every time Rory had seen a giant animal or structure back when she was 5’8, it always moved so slow on account of its size, but those immense fingers were somehow still so nimble. “Is that okay with you? Like, do you wanna be alone all day so I can go to class?”
She’d been so focused on the giant’s movements that she almost didn’t process what she’d been asked. Rory contemplated her situation for a moment. She was so overwhelmed already with all of the sensory input, and the idea of being alone with her thoughts was so enticing… but it was also so terrifying. The thought of essentially being immobilized on the bed for no reason other than that simply falling to the ground would kill her gnawed at her mind, and that hollow pit at the bottom of her chest started to expand again. No, she didn’t want to be alone.
She looked up at Francis to give the woman her answer, but paused. Francis’ eyes were dark. Her jaw was clenched. Her knees continued to tap restlessly. She did not look away from her phone.
Rory glanced around the room and noticed the messy pile of papers and writing utensils left out from what must have been a very intense study session last night. She remembered that it was around the time midterms started. Rory thought back to a few days ago when her stress was confined to school-related work, and how even that amount of pressure was almost too heavy a load for her to handle. If she were in Francis’ shoes right now, school would be the number one thing on her mind, and as she looked back at the giant’s face, she could almost see the cogs turning, the strategic planning for failure such that Francis could redistribute her class time and would still get at least a passing grade in every class.
Francis spoke again. “I mean, it’s not a huge deal, since this is probably only for a day. Like, I’m assuming you have family that we should call sometime soon to tell about all this.”
Oh, hell no.
More than anything, this was the conversation that Rory dreaded most. She would do anything to avoid it for as long as possible.
She could handle an afternoon on her own. It’d be boring, but she didn’t want to intensify the already stressful situation for Francis by introducing more school-related pressure into her life.
“I-it’s really no problem, don’t cancel your classes, I can wait here for a bit.”
Francis wore her emotions loud and clear, her expression full of worry. “O-oh! Are you sure? It’s really not a probl-”
“It’s fine, I promise!” Rory cut her off, trying to get her to leave as soon as possible before she changed her mind. “It’s just a few hours, right?”
Francis looked… disappointed. She must have still been worried about leaving Rory alone, but she still slowly rose from the bed. “Alright… I’ll get going then. Um, here.” She reached over Rory to the foot of her bed. The ceiling became Francis’ pajama shirt, a night’s sky whose usual stars and galaxies were replaced by the gigantic album cover that was cheaply printed onto the tee’s fabric. It suddenly retreated as Francis returned to Rory’s end of the bed with a laptop. “There’s no texting or anything on this, but if you need anything, I’ll leave my email open for you.”
Rory gazed up at the monolithic screen and keyboard, pondering how she would ever go about typing on such a large device. “T-thanks! That makes me feel a lot better about being alone,” she lied, wondering if she even had enough weight to push down the keys.
Francis stood. “Alright, I guess I’ll get going. See you soon.” She didn’t look back as she briskly walked out the door. Rory released a breath she didn’t know she was holding before sprawling out on her back, cursing herself for not asking Francis to stay.
She looked beyond the room at the door to the apartment’s main living space, and noticed that Francis had left the door open a crack.
Contrary to what Rory believed, school was the last thing on Francis’ mind.
As she tapped nervously and fidgeted while she was waiting for Rory’s answer, the only thing in Francis’ mind was hope. Hope that the small girl would want her to stay, that she’d feel safe enough to be at Francis’ side, but as Rory thought long and hard about her decision, dread began creeping into the crevices of Francis’ brain, choking the life out of her from within. She was terrified that Rory would want her to leave. And then her worst fear came to fruition.
Francis scrunched her face in embarrassment. Obviously Rory wouldn’t want to spend the day with her. What was she thinking? There was no way such a small, vulnerable person could so quickly surrender their trust to a stranger, let alone Francis. She’d hoped the two of them could come to respect each other despite the odd first impression, but the little woman must have been able to see through her to who Francis truly was underneath, to the broken parts and-
She shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t let these thoughts rattle around in her head again. She knew how it ended, how it always ended—in a never ending feedback loop, an echo chamber filled with voices who whispered her insecurities to one another. It had happened so many times before. Each person who had abandoned her, had left her to rot, had decided she wasn’t worth their time; they all added to the voices bouncing around in her head telling her she wasn’t needed. Wasn’t wanted. She was stupid for thinking it’d be different with Rory, it always ended the same, no matter-
She was doing it again.
She couldn’t stop her brain from devolving into a state of self-pity once it decided to do so. She sighed as she grabbed her heavy tote bag filled to the brim with textbooks and prepared herself for a shitty day, accepting that she would simply be battling this mindset she was in for the next few hours. When she got home, maybe she could contact Rory’s family, make sure she was safe, and distance herself from her. Like she always did.
Francis was not in any way religious, or even spiritual. For one reason or another, her brain simply wasn’t wired to believe in something that could not be proven in a way she could understand. Today was the exception, however. Today she truly understood how people could believe in guardian angels, in miracles, in omnipotent beings watching over humanity and protecting them. She thanked whatever goddess, god or deity was watching her for letting her hear Rory’s tiny scream as she suddenly remembered that she had a cat.
Rory was familiar with anxiety. This was new.
This wasn’t the slow, burning, dark void that steadily padded through her mind and trapped her motivation and ambition in a box. It was more of a blind, “oh fuck” kind of anxiety.
She had done nothing when the cat first entered the room, pawing at the door and widening the tiny crack that Francis had left open. She simply stared as her brain shut down her critical thinking to make room for the aforementioned “oh fuck” feeling. She barely even remembered what she’d been doing mere moments before.
The cat noticed her pretty quickly. Its pupils dilated at the sight of a strange new rodent to kill, or perhaps a new toy to play with. Rory still didn’t move. The cat took a slow step forward, her death inching steadily towards her. She still didn’t move. She did absolutely nothing until the cat raised its haunches, preparing to pounce.
For whatever reason, this was when she turned on her fight or flight response and quickly ducked underneath Francis’ thick comforter. She crawled blindly, deeper and deeper into the depths of the blanket until she felt a harsh weight on her back. She was pressed deep into the mattress below, the cat’s entire mass pressed onto one point on her spine. Her saving grace was the layer of cushioning the comforter left between Rory and the beast’s paws. The pressure was gone suddenly, and Rory finally had enough breath to scream. She covered her head with her hands and curled into a ball as she waited out the storm, wincing at each blow the cat gave. It pawed and pounced and jumped at her from above the safety of the thick blanket until Rory finally heard the thuds of rapidly approaching footsteps.
“MILO!” Francis’ panicked, raspy scream filled the room. Rory didn’t move a muscle, staying safe in her protective ball even as she felt the beast lifted off from the bed. She didn’t move as she heard the now-distant hissing of the protesting cat, and she didn’t move when the door slammed shut, vibrating the room. From beyond her closed eyelids, Rory saw the sudden light as the blanket was ripped off of her.
“Rory..?” To say that Francis’ voice was unsteady didn’t nearly capture the dread that surrounded the word as it left her mouth. Rory wanted to feel sympathy for the obviously apologetic girl - it was an accident, after all. She recognized that, but… she let out a shaky breath as she slowly left the safety of her fetal position to glare up at the giant.
But all she saw was red.
Francis couldn’t breathe. She physically couldn’t. Those few moments she spent staring at the motionless body of the tiny woman almost suffocated her. Her brain was not powerful enough to process the horror, the dread, the guilt in any coherent way. It was as though there were too many tabs open in the browser that was her mind, and with no more room to process information, the window simply closed. There was only one thought, one single mantra that she had the mental power to repeat in her head.
This is your fault.
That was, until Rory moved. Slowly, shakily, but still, she was moving, turning her head to meet Francis’ gaze. Francis could breathe again. Her limbs went numb with relief and the bodily processes that had been frozen finally started up again.
She closed her eyes and let her legs go limp, kneeling in front of the bed. She couldn’t seem to get oxygen into her lungs fast enough. She spoke between ragged breaths. “Oh, oh thank god. Oh, my…” She could think only of calming herself down, steadily slowing her breathing. Finally finding the courage to open her eyes, Francis raised her head to look at Rory, and… And she was met with a gaze of anger. A gaze that could be described only as hatred.
“What. The FUCK.”
And just like that the dread returned. She didn’t know what to do. “I-I’m so sorry-“
“Sorry?” Rory was quick to cut her off. “You just… forgot that you had a cat? What in the absolute hell was going through your mind that you left- you- you almost left for the DAY! You almost left me to die here, four inches tall on your mattress, killed by a housecat. No, sorry doesn’t even begin to fucking cut it.”
Every word was a wound, and Francis was bleeding out. She felt each syllable impale her until there was no square inch of her body what wasn’t damaged. She deserved this. Of course she did. Every single one of Rory’s accusations were true. But she was beginning to feel herself break down again, for what must have been around the third time in the span of barely an hour. She didn’t know if she had the strength to take it again, but she knew that she had to. There was no other choice. She just needed to hope she could hold out long enough to get through it.
As she watched Rory yell at her from on the bed, she couldn’t help but see how absolutely tiny the woman was. It was really all she could see.
Francis couldn’t take the conflict—she was always the type to hate confrontation and emotional vulnerability. She was much better at action, at solving problems head-on, than she was at talking things out. She wondered if, perhaps, she could simply… not face this problem. At all. Just abandon it for now. Come back to it later, when she was more mentally prepared.
It wasn’t like Rory was going anywhere, after all.
Francis turned around and left without a word.
“Wh- hey! What are you do-”
Rory’s voice was cut off when Francis closed the door behind her, making sure it was shut tight this time. She was no longer being impaled by those impossibly sharp words.
But the guilt remained. Grew, even.
Francis looked across the room at a very angry-looking cat, livid at the loss of his potential meal. She’d had Milo for years. She loved him, even since she was a kid, and she felt lucky to have been able to take him with her when she moved out.
Rory was here now, though.
Maybe there was a way to make it up to her without having to deal with all of that conflict.
She just… left.
Just walked out. Without a word. Didn’t even look back. Ran away to where she knew damn well Rory couldn’t follow, across that colossally long distance from the mattress and beyond the impenetrable barrier that was her bedroom door. She was so surprised she almost forgot to be angry.
It was hearing Francis leave the apartment that reignited her rage. Listening to that door open as Francis left to put more distance between them, distance that she knew Rory couldn’t close.
She knew she was being unfair about the whole... cat incident. It was an accident, an honest mistake on Francis’ part that in no way stemmed from any ill will. But this. This was deliberate. This was Francis knowingly abusing the power she had for her own gain. Rory was in a vulnerable state. She needed someone looking out for her, and she was starting to question if Francis could fill that role, if there was someone better to guide her through all of this. She could always call her family…
Francis was the best card she’d been dealt. Her only card, really. And she was going to find a way to play it. Rory was smart. She could figure this out, could navigate her way out of this jungle of emotions she found herself in. The first step would be confronting Francis about stranding her on the bed.
So Rory waited. She stared at that closed door and waited for it to open while she rehearsed her lines, needing to be fully prepared for when the giant finally returned.
It didn’t take that long - probably only around ten minutes - but when you’re spending time staring at a wall and doing nothing but thinking to yourself, every second is an eternity. Rory finally heard Francis enter the apartment, and watched as the bedroom door slowly opened to a giant who wouldn’t meet her eyes. A being with unimaginable power over her, yet too afraid to look up. Rory opened her mouth to begin her rehearsed speech.
“I got rid of the cat.”
Rory briefly choked on her words. This wasn’t exactly going how she had planned it to in her head. “You… got rid of it?”
Francis still didn’t look up. “Yeah, there’s an old man in the apartment next to mine. I don’t really know him all that well, but sometimes we bump into each other, and he’s mentioned before how much he likes my cat, and how much he wants one to keep him company in his apartment. I guess he lives alone. He seemed really happy when he saw Milo.” Francis rubbed at her eyes, trying to block out her tears. This must’ve been hard for her. “I think Milo will be happy there, too.”
It was touching, but… “I– um, thank you, I really appreciate that, and it means a lot that you did that for me, but I’m really not as mad about the cat as I am about how you handled things afterwards. Like, it’s a nice gesture, but you can’t... like...”
“...Yeah, I... yeah.” Francis slowly walked over to Rory and sat down at eye level with her. “I just... hate this. All of it. I want us to get along, but this is such a shitty start to a friendship. And then Milo... I just didn’t want to have to have another conflict like that with you. It’s barely 8:00, and I’m already completely emotionally spent. I hoped I could make it better without having to do... this, again. the talking part.”
Rory couldn’t help but agree--she was tired, too, but Francis was still out of line. “So you got rid of the cat. And you thought that’d just... fix everything?” Francis looked away again, breaking eye contact once more. “Again, it’s a nice gesture, but I’m really not that mad about the cat. I know it was an accident, and I was definitely overreacting because I was scared. No, I’m mad because you left me here. And you did it because you knew I couldn’t do anything about it. You can’t abuse this power you have over me like that. I hate this just as much as you do—probably more, but if you really meant what you said, if you really want us to get along, then... well, you’re going to have to put some effort in. You just have to. Even if it is draining or uncomfortable.”
“I know that.” Francis’ voice was harsh and frustrated, but it quickly receded back to a more controlled, measured tone. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just... I don’t know how much more I have in me, you know? I don’t know how many more of these disasters I can handle. It makes me think that maybe I’m not equipped for this. That I can’t help you right now, that you deserve better, because you have enough to deal with without me dumping all of my issues onto you. Maybe you should call your parents or something.”
With that last sentence, Rory’s heart stopped pumping blood, replacing it with ice shooting down her veins. Her body went into attack mode, every muscle tensed from head to toe. Francis may have abused her power a little when she abandoned Rory in her bedroom, but she was still the better option here. Hell, she’d prefer the cat over handing herself off to her family in this state. Besides, it wasn’t that big a deal. No one got hurt, and Francis obviously felt bad, so there was no need to be so dramatic.
“No! That’s-uh, I mean... y-you shouldn’t talk about yourself like that. I’m sure things will get easier for us, it’s just a rocky start. I know you’re not a bad person, you just made some mistakes. Really the only thing you should be taking from this whole ordeal is just... think a bit more about this weird power dynamic we have going forward.”
Francis finally met her gaze again. “Going forward? You don’t... want to leave?”
Rory tried to give a soft, comforting smile. “Of course not. It’s been a rough... uh, hour, I guess, but I can genuinely say I feel lucky that you were the one who found me. You care, so much, almost too much, and... everything that’s happened, we can leave it in the past if you promise that that won’t change.”
Francis started tearing up. “Okay. Or, I mean, I promise. And the whole, um, stranding you here... That won’t happen again.”
“Then we’re all good. And honestly, I’m pretty tired of all of this conflict, too, so unless you have anything else you want to get out right now, do we wanna just... I don’t know, call it? Like, just say that we’re done for now and get on with our day?”
Francis chuckled. “That feels kinda like cheating. Are we allowed to just say ‘this argument is over now’?”
Rory replied with a giggle of her own. “Maybe we could call it ‘bookmarked’, rather than ‘over’. There’s probably still stuff for us to deal with, but we don’t need to unpack all of our trauma and insecurities within literally the first hour of meeting each other.”
Francis looked at her phone’s clock and chuckled. “Oh my god, how on earth is it only 8:00? it feels like it’s been days.” She abruptly gasped and shot up to her feet. “Oh shit, it’s 8:00. I gotta go now if I’m gonna make...” She looked down at Rory again. “Um, unless you do want me to cancel class now.”
Rory thought for a moment. She looked around at the bedroom, the one window on the far wall closed with curtains blocking out all light. She looked down on the mattress that she’d spent her entire morning on. “...how about we both go?”
Francis blinked in shock. “W-what?”
“I mean, I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life trapped up on this bed, right? And if I come with you, you can still go to classes and I don’t have to be alone.”
“I, um... I mean, if you’re sure that’s what you want!” Francis couldn’t hide her excitement, and Rory immediately knew she made the right choice. The giant was so happy to have been forgiven, to be trusted, and Rory could almost see her spirits being lifted by the offer. That was, until she suddenly stopped smiling. She looked back down at Rory with furrowed eyebrows. “So, then... how do you want to, uh, do this? Like, should I carry you, or...”
She hadn’t thought of that.
To be continued bc I’m fucking EXHAUSTED now ;-;
Uhh more about Rory’s mysterious family history in the next chapter! I’ll try to get it out next week, but no promises bc I don’t have a lot of spare time on my hands 💜
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