"Oh my god," said Hayden, stunned.
"Your pizza," offered the clown, in a slightly tinny voice.
Hayden accepted the box numbly.
"That'll be eight dollars fifty," said the clown. "Plus any tips."
"Uh, right. Yeah, I'll grab that for you," said Hayden. "Just hang on a minute, please?"
The clown nodded (or did it?) and Hayden swung the door closed, and then leaned heavily on it.
"Fuck," said Hayden, in mild disbelief. "Fuck."
He pulled another cigarette from the pack, his last one, lit it up, and took a long drag.
"Where's the pizza?" Erina asked from the couch.
"Um. Outside," Hayden said awkwardly.
Erina gave him a look.
"There's a clown holding it."
Erina raised an eyebrow. "And I thought I was drunk."
"No, seriously, Erina, there is."
Her second eyebrow rose to meet the first in height.
"A clown?" She repeated.
"Yes, Erina, a fucking clown."
"With our pizza?"
"Yes, with our pizza," Hayden said, exhasperated.
"Well then, according to my horoscope, we're fucked," she deadpanned. "Just pay the clown and bring in the pizza."
Hayden looked ahast. "I can't pay the clown!"
"Why not?" Erina asked. "We ordered a pizza. He brought it. We pay him for it."
"Because that's not a clown!" Hayden hissed.
"Wait, what?" Erina's face creased in confusion. "What'd I just miss?"
"Erina, don't be so naïve. It's not a clown." Hayden said slowly.
"Then what is it?" Erina asked.
"I don't know," exaclaimed Hayden. "A serial killer?"
Erina laughed. Loudly.
"Erina, I'm serious," said Hayden. "I bet it's a serial killer."
Silence met his proclamation. Then-
"Actually, I'm an actor," came a soft, tinny voice from outside.
Hayden jumped. Erina giggled.
"A what?" Hayden asked.
"An actor. I work at Joe's Pizza for money, and I'm playing this clown in some television pilot, and I wanted to try it out. I'm method, man."
Hayden felt his mouth go dry. "Seriously?"
"Yeah, serious, man. Now, are you gonna pay for this pizza or not?"
Hayden exchanged a look with Erina. She nodded at him.
"Pay for the fucking pizza, Hayden, and stop being such a baby."
Scowling, Hayden swung open the door, wallet in hand.
"Sorry about that, man," Hayden said, as he handed over fifteen dollars.
"No problem," said the clown. "It happens a lot."
"Ahh," said Hayden. "Well, thanks. And good luck with your tv gig."
"Yeah, thanks bro," said the clown and it was gone.
Sighing, Hayden closed the door, and dead-locked it for good measure.
"Pizza," Erina said tiredly, beckoning him.
"Coming up," Hayden said, and put the box down on the coffee table.
"You ok?" Erina asked, unconcerned.
"Did the big, bad clown hurt you?" The tone was more mocking now, Hayden noted.
"Shut up, Erina," said he, and bit into his pizza. Erina fell silent, hit the play button on The Sound of Music, and picked up her own slice.
Hayden sighed. Not that she wasn't drunk, she was being boring.
Music filled the rest of the night.
TWO WEEKS LATER
"Story, Erina, story!" Maria shouted.
"Yeah, yeah," said Erina. "I know the drill."
"What drill?" Maria asked. "Daddy has a drill. It goes BZZZZZZZZZZZ!"
"Not that drill, sweetie," said Erina. "Don't worry about it."
"Ok then," said Maria, and dragged Erina to her room. "Story!"
"One story, coming up," smiled Erina obediently. "Do you want me to read you one, or make one up?"
Maria fell silent, thinking this over. "Make one up," she finally announced.
"Alright then," said Erina, and noted that Hayden had come to stand in the doorway of Maria's room. "Go away, Hayden."
Knowing him, he'd probably ruin another story for his sister. He gave her the 'this is my house' look and leaned against the doorframe, arms crossing across his chest.
"Alright. Once upon a time," Erina started. "There was a little puppy called Bob."
Maria's eyes widened. "Ooooh."
"One day, Bob got lost."
"He wondered around for a while, but couldn't find his family!"
"But he does, right?" Maria asked nervously. Erina smiled reassuringly at her.
"And then he saw a cute girl puppy, didn't watch where he was going, went across the road, got hit by a car, and was flattened like a pancake," Hayden interjected.
Maria gasped loudly. "Nooo!"
Erina glared at him. "Hayden, if you can't keep in mind my virgin years, then remember Maria's. She's eight. She wants the puppy to go home, and play with its brothers."
Hayden rolled his eyes, and lit up a cigarette.
Maria turned a glare on her brother. "You're mean," she said. "And don't do that in my room!"
Hayden exhaled slowly, and smoke wafted into the room and then with a nonchalant smile, left.
"Alright," said Erina tiredly. "Actually, the dog was not flattened."
"Oooh! Gooooody," Maria said happily.
"It was eventually found, and went home to play with its brothers," Erina finished lamely. From outside the room, she heard a stifled laugh.
"Ooooh," Maria cooed. "Yay."
"Okay then," said Erina as she stood. "Goodnight, sweetheart."
"Night Erina. Night Hayden!" Maria said, and she closed her eyes. Erina flicked off the lights as she left the room, closing the door behind her.
"You're such an asshole," she told Hayden as she passed him in the hallway. He turned around, mid step and followed her out to the kitchen.
"Shut up," Hayden said unconcernedly, and looked into the fridge. He found nothing tempting, and went through the cupboards after.
"Your Mom keeps a box of chocolates behind the plates," Erina told him a moment later.
He popped his head up long enough to give her a questioning look and then looked in the specified area, coming back up with a box of Belgian assorted.
"Fantastic," he said. "How'd you know?"
Erina shrugged. "She mentioned it to me in passing."
"Whatever," said Hayden, and swallowed a hazlenut delight. He offered the box to Erina, who went through the listed flavours, and finally chose a strawberry filled one.
He led her to the living room, and they both collapsed on the couch.
"Remind me again why I do this?" Erina asked.
"Because my parents are loaded?"
"They still don't pay me enough."
"Because Maria's such an angel?"
"Mm," said Erina thoughtfully. "She is."
"Or is it because I'm here?" Hayden said, leaning in close to her.
"Hayden, the fact that you're here tells me that I don't need to be," said Erina.
"Hey, it's not my fault that my parents don't ask me. They think I'll end up lighting Maria on fire, or something."
"Fair enough," said Erina, and she bit into another chocolate. Nougat.
"Anyway, what are we doing today?" Hayden asked.
Erina shrugged. "You can choose today."
"What happened to my choice?" Hayden grumbled.
Erina shrugged again.
"You're such a pain," he told her.
"Life is pain," she said in return. He fought the urge for another cigarette, and switched on the tv.
"Anything on?" Erina asked.
A Disney movie.
A soccer game.
A French documentary.
"Wait," said Erina sharply. Hayden paused and stared at the screen.
".. Douglas Mitchells is wanted in relation to the brutal murders of over eight people, two of them children. He gained access to his victims by pretending to be an actor, wearing costumes to back this up. When he visited the Alabasters, he was an Elvis impersonator whose care had broken down. Eleven year old Katie Alabaster was found dead in her bedroom, hours later. Other known disguises are a clown suit, various animals and in drag. Police are warning all citizens to be cautious. Anyone with information should contact the FBI. More details will follow as they arrive."
Erina and Hayden's eyes met.
No way. It couldn't have been.
Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzz.
"Pizza delivery!" A tinny voice called.
Erina felt her eyes widen, Hayden's jaw went slack.
"We didn't order pizza," Erina said slowly.