~La Ville Maudite~ Pg 11, Ch 2 - Into Hiding
Artealeo and Bear walked for several minutes down alleyways, taking many turns. Artealeo was starting to feel unsure about following her. "Is your place any closer?"
"We're nearly there." Bear said as they exited the alleyway into a complex.
There was a row of small houses sitting side by side. They looked cozy and well maintained.
One of the renters was outside cleaning her car. She saw Bear and waved to her. "Good evening! Lovely night out, isn't it?"
"Yeah, sure." Bear said as they walked up to the house she had rented. She pulled her key ring out of her purse and unlocked the door.
Inside the house, it was finely decorated with high-end furniture and appliances. The walls were painted light blue, and the floor was marble. The back door lead to a small backyard complete with pool, grill, and a dining area. Bear was a tidy person, so the place looked like it wasn't being lived in at all.
"Wowee. This place must cost a pretty penny to stay in." Artealeo gazed around in awe. "It's really nice."
"I earn a lot of money with my profession." Bear said as she sat down on the couch. "Now, here are the rules. My room is off-limits unless I say otherwise. You clean up every day and cook breakfast and dinner. You got that?"
"Yes, I understand." Artealeo said, nodding.
Bear pointed down the hall. "Your room is the last door on the left. You can go back to your place and get your stuff if you need to." She laid back and snuggled into the couch cushions, relaxing.
"Okay, thank you. I appreciate it." Artealeo floated down the hallway and opened the door to his room. It was nearly as nice as the rest of the house. Normally, a person would be charged a lot to stay in a room that looked like this, and he was getting it for free in exchange for some chores. It was almost a dream come true. "This is so much better than that dump heap." He said, referring to his own rental house. He flipped down onto the bed, causing his phone to bounce out of his pocket and onto the mattress.
The phone screen lit up, revealing several missed calls and messages from Lana and the Gallery owner.
Artealeo blinked, picking up the phone. He unlocked it and dialed Lana's number. "I bet she's ticked off at me."
Lana was in her hotel room, eating some food she had ordered from the room service menu. As soon as she heard her phone ring, she lunged for it like her life depended on it. "Artealeo! There you are! I was so worried! I heard about what happened at the asylum. I tried calling you to see if you were okay."
"I'm fine, Lana. I have to stay in hiding for now though." Artealeo muttered, rolling onto his side. "As soon as I get my art in the gallery, I'm getting out of here."
"I understand that." Lana paced around her room. "I'll go with you too. The only reason I came here in the first place was to help you."
Artealeo smiled slightly, touched by her words. "I've never had a better friend, that's for sure. If only my brothers were as reliable as you... they don't care about me very much, I think."
"That's not true. They're probably very busy. They do live stressful lives, and have kids to take care of. I'm about as single as you can get." Lana purred, hoping he would get what she was implying.
"I guess so, but that's no reason for them to leave me suffering in that place." Artealeo huffed. "Can you imagine if I pulled a stunt like that if they were in my situation? They'd bury me six feet deep."
Lana pouted. "I know, but you have me though. Sometimes you only need one person."
"Hey Artealeo! What you want from the Chinese place?" Bear called from down the hall.
Hearing another woman's voice instantly made Lana stand at attention. "Artealeo? Who was that?"
"Uhhhmm. A roommate. I'm doing chores to earn my keep, so I can stay here and hide." Artealeo moved the phone away from his face. "I'll get the shrimp egg foo yung, pork fried rice, and an order of crab rangoons." He said before getting back on the phone. "Sorry, you were saying?"
"You're living with another woman?" Lana's eye twitched, as she was tempted to lecture him. However, she breathed heavily, deciding to spare him the grief. "At least give me the address. I'd like to come visit you sometime. I promise I won't tell the police about you living there."
"I'll send it over to you in a bit. Also, would you mind stopping over at my place and grabbing my luggage? I haven't been able to go retrieve it myself. It's too risky, if you know what I mean." Artealeo sat up. "Is that alright with you?"
"Of course. What are friends for?" Lana said, even though she felt the desire to phrase it differently. "You be careful out there, Arty."
"I'll try. Goodnight Lana." Artealeo hung up and placed his phone back in his pocket.
After dinner, Artealeo brushed his hair and changed into his pajamas. Lana had brought over his luggage, so he finally had his clothes and other necessities. "Bear, do you mind if I use the shower in the morning?... Bear?... you here?" He searched all around the house. All he found were Bear's clothes laying on the floor. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed there was a note on the coffee table. He picked it up.
The note read, "Dear Artealeo, I am out at work. Will probably be back tomorrow morning. Do not eat my leftover Chinese, or I will throw you out the window into the neighbor's pond. Signed, Bear."
"That explains it... I guess." Artealeo picked up the clothes and tossed them into the laundry bin. "She must've been in a hurry."