The Stale Taste of Recycled Air

Adrienne Armstrong

After arriving back at Billie's house soon it was time to pick up Joey and Jakob and deciding to not break my promise I descended to the basement to ask Billie to pick them up. I heard only an odd twang of a guitar string and laughter as I opened the door slowly.
All three of them turned to look at me as they sat on chairs in an odd circle,
"Hey you alright?" Billie asked, guitar tucked under his arm,
"I'm good, I... "
"Wanted to come down here and have a sneak peak at the best album you will ever hear?" Tre giggled, Budweiser in one hand, drumstick in the other.
"Yeah you guys look really hard at work" my sarcasm was cut through by Tre's protest.
"Hell we're working hard here, look wanna listen to a song."
"I..." It didn't seem like I had a choice as Tre snatched Mike's acoustic guitar from his lap and plucked the strings.

"There's this girl that I know,
Who cleans all day an has a nice ass to show,
She cleans and polishes that's her role,
I wish she'd come and rub my pole... "

Laughter echoed through the basement.

"Cheers Tre, but before I do that I am passing on a message to Billie from Jakob."
"What?" Billie asked, tears of laughter still present in his eyes.
"He asks if you'll pick him up form school today."
The room went very quiet,
"What?" I asked, "Will you or..."
Mike and Tre looked at Billie Joe who looked down at the floor then slowly back up at me.
"Could you go today Erin please? I don't feel up to it..."
"But you were just laughing then and... "
"Please Erin," Billie's voice rang slightly stern, and Tre looked at me a little nervously
"Okay, sure, I'll tell him you're too busy." I shrugged and walked out the room and up the stairs.
I was disappointed with him I have to admit, driving down to the school and seeing Joey and Jakob's saddened face when they saw it was me and not their father made me angry. I couldn't understand why he wouldn't come and get them, there wasn't any significant reason. I wondered, judging by Tre and Mike's silence whether something was going on.
After dropping the boys off I noticed that Tre and Mike's cars had gone only to be replaced by a Mini Cooper. Billie Joe answered the door and gave his sons a hug before loitering against the frame to talk to me,
"I'll guess I'll be off." I smiled.
"Okay thanks," he answered nervously taking his car keys from my outstretched hand, nodding towards the mini he spoke, "Er... Adi has come back to see them" he frowned watching himself twiddle the keys through his fingers.
"She said you've done a good job cleaning up after me."
I smiled, "Tell her thanks... I'd better go..."
I turned around to walk towards the gates, but felt myself being jerked back by Billie's arm.
"ERIN!" he yelled slightly, "look, I'm sorry about not picking Joe and Jake up, but, well, there are things that I have to deal with, I don't want to make excuses, I'm not a bad father."
He looked at me, his eyes burning through my brown ones, I swallowed I could have easily just stood there in silence and let myself fall into those gorgeous eyes.
"I don't think you're a bad father Billie Joe," I whispered slightly, bringing myself out of a trance, "I'm glad I've met you, from what I've seen you're a decent guy, who well, keeps strange companions..."
He snorted, "I know, thanks Erin, for some reason I feel very comfortable with you, it's like I can trust you, you know."
We both grinned at each other, "Bye Billie."
"Bye," he whispered, clearly not wanting to go back into the house anytime soon.

Adele giggled when I told her everything that had happened, "I can't believe he said that though, I'm very comfortable with you, how are you meant to take that? As a pass or what?" she twirled her pasta around her fork before snaffling it up.
"I dunno." I shrugged, "I think he was just saying that he likes my company and trusts me that's all."
"If I were you I'd go in there tomorrow and push him against the kitchen counter and..."
"Adele," I snapped waggling my fork at her, "by the sounds of it, YOU'RE the one who needs to get laid."
"So," Adele grinned, "you doing the kiddie run tomorrow again?"
I shook my head, "No, Phil the security guy is back from his holiday and he's doing it."
"Was Billie's car good?"
"Amazing to drive, it really was."
"Anything else interesting that you've found in the house?"
I shook my head, "Nothing that weird, there's a room full of whips and chains..."
Adele's eyes widened as she swallowed her pasta.
"Just kidding," I grinned finishing off my wine.
"God that's hot." She slobbered filling my glass back up. I chuckled at the look of amazement on her face.
"Hey you know what?" she said after five minutes,
"What?" I asked exasperatedly.
"Do you think you could just like rob one of his socks or his boxers or something?"
"WHAT? Why, you're not going all voodoo are you?"
"No, no." She shook her head, "I'm thinking we could make a bomb selling that shit on Ebay."
"No Adele."
"Why? Just 'cause you pop a boner for him?"
"I would if I had a penis," I laughed getting up and putting away my dishes.

I arrived a bit later for work the next day, the boys had been taken to school by Phil, who seems like a really nice guy, but spends most of his time in the shed watching CCTV cameras. I walked into the kitchen; a fresh batch of washing under my arm when I saw him slumped across the kitchen table, with a glass of water in his hand and pills next to it. My heart sank and my mind whizzed to the word overdose. I dropped the washing, panicked and ran over to him, shaking his arm violently.
"Wha? Wha the fuck?" he slurred raising his head,
"OH my God! Oh my god Billie thank god, Jesus I thought you'd...oh my god..."
Billie looked at me, his eyes adjusting to what was happening. "What's, what's up?" he asked looking a bit worried at my panicky situation.
"I...I thought you'd topped yourself..." I shook.
Billie looked down at the water and the pills.
"Oh God, god, no, I'm just exhausted, they're vitamins, oh my god Erin, I'm sorry for frightening you, really I..."
I tried to control my breathing, feeling stupid that I had gotten so crazy. Before I could think, he had wrapped his arms around me and without thought, my own arms reacted and wrapped around his neck. Our bodies fitted together perfectly, I could hear his soft breathing down my right ear. I snuggled into his neck, smelling him, that beautiful smell. I didn't want it to end but suddenly he pulled away, he looked at me for a second then at the floor.
"I'm sorry, I am an idiot but I'd never do anything like that...God look you've dropped everything all because of me...sorry Erin," he gabbled, going to pick up the clothes.
I stood there in shock and amazement at how one simple comforting hug had made time stand still for me. Quickly I snapped into action.
"No Billie don't worry about it, I'm stupid" I baffled bending down and picking up the clothes with him. We both reached for the same Spiderman t-shirt, our hands colliding and our eyes meeting; he smiled underneath his messy hair and I felt my heart beat skid up to a ridiculous amount.
"," he softly said, handing it to me and bundling the rest of the clothes in the machine.
"So was last night okay?" I asked him, filling in the uncomfortable void of silence.
"Not exactly," he shuddered, "we had a fight again and she told me that she has been sleeping with someone else."
I gasped and watched him rub his eyes.
"Naturally I didn't sleep very well."
"No, of course, I'm sorry Billie that must be hard."
He nodded, running a palm over his unshaven face.
"Yeah. You know," he began, "all me and you seem to do is say sorry to each other," he smiled, slightly looking at me as I put away the washed dishes from the dishwasher.
I looked up at him, "Yeah I know," I smiled back. "So are Mike and Tre coming around today?"
"No," he shook his head, "I'm going to Mike's and then I think me and Tre are going for a drink, I don't know"
I nodded whilst I restocked the dishwasher.
"They like you," he chuckled,
"I like them, Mike's so nice and Tre is...well..."
"Tre," Billie laughed.
"Yeah," I giggled, "he is."
Billie left me alone with my own thoughts; I was disappointed he wasn't home today.
I decided since there would be nobody in to disturb me, I would thoroughly clean every single piece of the house. I left Billie's award room till last. I felt privileged to clean all his gold and platinum discs that hung on his wall, it seemed so strange that he had achieved so much and yet he was just an ordinary sweet guy. A sweet guy who suffered like any other despite having made his mark on the world, photographs also jumped out at me, there were hilarious ones of Billie, Mike and Tre, but the ones that caught my eye the most where the ones of Billie and Adrienne with the boys. They looked like such a perfect family, Adrienne looked so beautiful at their wedding it was such a shame things hadn't turned out.

I was walking down the stairs, exhausted, but finished as the door swung open and Joey and Jakob ran in followed by a woman whom I recognised form the pictures, Adrienne.
"Erin!" Jakob yelled jumping up to me.
"Hey little dude, you good?"
"Yeah," he grinned.
"Hey Erin," Joey waved.
"Hey Joe, you okay?"
The boy nodded before dashing in the living room to his beloved X box.
I put Jakob on the ground and he followed his brother, smiling I turned to Adrienne who had been silent all this time.
"Hey," I smiled, "I'm Erin."
"Adrienne," she smiled back shaking my hand.
"You're the new cleaner yes?"
I nodded, "Hmmm the house even smells clean," she grinned
"Thank you," I smiled back.
"Did Billie say when he would be back?" she asked arching he eyebrow and leaning against the wall by the door
"Nope, sorry," I shook my head fixing my t-shirt.
She looked me up and down for a second then sighed,
"I must be off, nice to meet you Erin, will you do me a favour and stay with the boys till he gets back?"
"Yeah no problem," I nodded at her.
"Thanks, I knew he'd hire a nice pretty one to get back at me," she snarled slightly, shutting the door.
I stood gob smacked facing the shut door, did that just happen?

I thought it best not to tell Billie Joe what she had said, but I damn well made sure Adele knew.
"Oh my god, the fucking bitch," she snarled down the phone at me from the restaurant.
"Hmmm," I agreed watching Pulp Fiction on the TV.
"What do you mean Hmmm? It sounds like she's a right snotty bitch."
"She doesn't know a thing Adele, she's bound to be a bit protective, and she has been married to him the majority of her life. But she doesn't realise that Billie has hired me through Leaver."
"Make sure you send that sweaty bastard a thank you card," Adele giggled.
"Somehow I don't think so." I chuckled remembering the time he made me clean a whole corridor on my hands and knees.
"Anyway," Adele continued, "you're working for Billie not her, so she can shove it."
I giggled, "Yeah."
"He's a right messy sod though, he took Tre out for a drive in his car, I don't know what they did but god dam it's a mess."
"Take it to a car wash...anyway I'll have to go this guys been waiting an hour for his gin and tonic and french fries."
"Ha, ha okay bye."