Will immediately grabbed at his free spider legs and tried to quickly tuck them away, wincing as he did so. Cursing under his breath, he tried to keep from making too much noise as they listened to the sound of the car engine turning off. Nearby, Toby’s legs twitched as he moved to his side in his sleep. Will covered his mouth and began to approach the spider with very careful movements, his eyes darting between the giant spider and the open doorway to the parking lot.
“He won’t hurt anyone, will he?” Dolly said, frustrated by trying to help and finding that she couldn’t move as freely anymore. “You said he was harmless.”
“He is but you already know what’s going to happen if Stuart sees him and if I wake him up too suddenly, we’re going to have to figure out how to explain the webs everywhere,” Will said, an edge of panic creeping into his voice.
They heard the car doors open before quickly slamming shut and the noise immediately made Toby’s six eyes open wide. Will cringed and waited for the anxious spider to cover him in webbing.
“Toby,” Dolly said, gently as she held out her arms. Will looked at her like she was crazy but she motioned for the spider to come forward.
For a second the spider looked like he was going to back away into the fake fireplace instead, its back end coming dangerously close to the heater. Just as Will was reaching to stop Toby from burning himself, the spider made a short hop to the fainting couch and cautiously approached where Dolly was motioning.
“Come on, boy,” she said, quietly patting her lap. She looked to Will nodding to him to tend to the door as Stuart and Lydia’s voices began to break through the rain.
Slowly, the spider placed a paw on her leg, tentatively ready to hop away at any second. Will carefully edged away before moving to the door to greet Stuart and Lydia as they got closer. She was just going to have to trust that he was going to be able to keep them at bay for long enough to get this spider hidden. She also understood only now that she was staring at a giant spider that she had to trust wasn’t actually vicious and going to kill her at any second. She sighed and looked at the nervous creature in front of her and realized that try as she might, she couldn’t think of this thing as being scary at all. It had giant black unblinking eyes that should have been terrifying but all she could get from this thing was that it was curious. Its body was covered in what looked like gray fluff that seemed to have random tufts that sprouted out too long in different places but most of it was covering the mouthparts that were nearing her. Toby turned his head to the side and she carefully touched a hand to the paw of the leg on her lap. Instead of running away, he skittered forward and made himself at home on her lap like an over-eager puppy. She cautiously started to pet him and slowly, he began to relax. She watched the door, now hearing the voices getting closer but Toby seemed perfectly content. Moving her hands over his head, careful to avoid his eyes, she coaxed the spider to relax and close its eyes. As it seemed to drift off, she carefully petted Toby in such a way as to tuck his legs around her, much like she’d done to a sleeping Trioxin many times. The spider seemed grateful for the attention and Dolly turned her attention to keeping its form concealed.
As Stuart came in, sopping wet from the rain, he looked glum and Lydia looked dejected as well. Dolly frowned and realized that this meant something was up and she could guess that someone had some bad news for the shoot today.
“I’m sorry,” Lydia said, softly. She looked around at anything that wasn’t her friends and as she shifted, Dolly noticed her tail was gone now too. “I have to go home now.”
Dolly knew that she didn’t mean her apartment. Lydia always used a different tone when she referred to her sanctuary of fabric and stuffed animals than she did for her parents’ house. When they first met her, she had only just moved into the tiny, one bedroom apartment and to this day, she treated that glorified closet space like a palace. Lydia had lived in the shadow of harmless secrets for most of her life and even though her parents were still looming over her, as they insisted on paying for part of her rent and her bills, moving into that apartment had been the big thing that allowed her to leave those shadows behind for a while. Suddenly the world could be brighter and even fuzzy if she wanted it to be. This tiny slice of independence even allowed her to branch out, get a part time job and meet new people that weren’t chased away by the watchful and ultimately disapproving eye of her mother and father.
Lydia spoke about it sparingly but her tone usually spoke for her. She couldn’t tell her parents about where she was right now because she knew they would never accept her friends. One of the only times that she talked with Dolly about it, she told her that they might be able to pass off Dolly as a friend that they might not like but they would allow for a short period of time. The only way that her parents would agree to allow Lydia to continue being friends with Dolly would be to prove that she was just like all their church going, approved neighbors and family friends. Stuart was a hard no because he was a boy and there was no question that Will would be someone they could never show them. In the last year, Dolly had seen Lydia getting a little bolder about expressing herself, but it was almost always followed by a clamp down by her mother and father. Even though she lived in her own apartment, they would still extend that reach into her life and try to keep her leash as short as they could. If they thought she might be hanging out with people she shouldn’t, they would call her back to their house, usually under threat of not paying something. Today was proving no exception and it was written all over her face.
“We couldn’t film with the rain on the roof today anyway,” Will offered, sympathetically.
Even though his attention was on Lydia, Dolly noticed that Will was trying to block the view of the spider that Dolly had on her lap without looking too obvious.
“I really am sorry, guys,” Lydia said, trying to hide a sniffle. “My parents want to discuss some of the things that I have in my living room and they want to know where I got the extra money for some of my fabric. They found out how expensive some of the fur was.”
“You know you can use me as a backup. I’ll be happy to tell them that you’re assisting with some of my chores, Lydia. If they want to meet me, I have things that I can dress in that won’t look too weird and I can even try to use the walker if it will help your case at all,” Dolly sighed. “And if they’re telling you to get rid of some of your stuff, you can always store it here.”
“There’s tons of room and we can figure something out if we need to make something fit,” Will added.
“My pa-parents d-d-don’t care wh-wha-what I k-keep in my r-ro-room,” Stuart added quietly.
Lydia bowed her head. It was hard to see her like this because she was so bouncy and easy going. It seemed like there was a physical weight on her whenever this happened and there was nothing they seemed to be able to do about it.
“I appreciate your help, guys,” she said, her voice soft but calm. “I’ll probably have to take you all up on this because they sounded like they were pretty unhappy on the phone. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be able to smooth this one away.”
“You’ve done it before,” Dolly encouraged. “And you still have us. We’ll be around for you if you need us.”
“I know,” Lydia said, dabbing her eyes. She cleared her throat. “Thanks, guys. I will be okay after it’s done. I should get this over with though.”
“Are they picking you up at home?” Will asked.
“Probably on their way there,” Lydia sighed. “If I’m late, this will be harder.”
“I-I c-can dri-drive you p-part of the w-way th-there,” Stuart said.
“If he drops you off even a block away, you can probably get there before them,” Dolly added. “And Will and I can clean up here. That’s not a problem at all.”
“Yeah,” she nodded and sighed. “Thanks again. I’ll call tomorrow.”
Lydia waved but said nothing more as she tried to get herself more composed. Will gave them a few parting words and a little advice as the others made their way towards the door. What no one noticed or saw was that the small, writhing shadows from before had pooled beneath Stuart and Lydia as they were speaking. Small dark forms that had slithered beneath their feet and made themselves into the forms of the shadows cast by the brighter lights set up in the storage locker. Shadows that were now walking out with Lydia and Stuart with no one else watching.