The first bowl of cereal Peter poured wound up on the floor. His hands were shaking so badly, it was almost a miracle that he was able to hold the box at all. 'No, no, don't call it a miracle, don't even think mir--that word, no such things, no such things as mira--those, or angels, or weird scary guys that sit in the air, it wasn't real, yeah, that's it, it wasn't real, of course not, a hallucination or uh, some kind of waking dream or maybe I came down with food poisoning last night and I'm just delusional or something, or maybe I got hit by a car on the way home yesterday and this is all just a really vivid, tripped out dream brought on by bad painkillers, I bet sooner or later I'll wake up and realize I'm in the emergency room bleeding to death or something...'
Perversely, the notion that he could be simply experiencing a mental breakdown due to possibly lethal physical trauma did wonders for Peter's state of mind. His hands steadied, and he poured himself another bowl of cocoa crisps. Ignoring the mess on the floor, he sat his bowl on the table and withdrew a quart of milk from the fridge, and sat down to breakfast. He munched quietly, focusing on only his breathing and the rhythmic motions of eating. Breathe, scoop, chew, swallow, breathe, scoop, chew, swallow. Before he'd even finished the bowl, he'd convinced himself it was nothing but an unusually vivid waking nightmare.
And then she came downstairs.
Peter had just finished his last spoon when she appeared at the foot of the stairs, and it was all he could do not to choke on his crispies. His entire body tensed as she walked casually toward him, her almost ethereal--'stop using words like that, dammit!'--white outfit morphing as she moved into a far more common, earthly style. He leaned back in his chair, ready to leap to his feet and bolt out the door, but she smiled again, that serene, completely disarming smile that felt like being pinned beneath a ton of velvet. No one had ever smiled at him like that. Truthfully, no one had ever really smiled at him at all; they'd smiled at things he'd done, or more often things that happened to him. None of them were as warm or as pure as that simple grin.
"...better to do with our time." Peter realized she'd been speaking, and shook his head like a boxer dazed by a sudden jab. He smiled then, a small, weak little number barely even reached his lips, let alone his eyes, and swallowed hard.
"Look...you're not...I mean, you and, uh..." he nodded toward the upstairs. "the other guy, you're not really...you know. Right? This is some kind of joke or something, right? Did someone put you up to this, or am I on some kind of new reality show, or what?" His breathing quickened and a short, barking laugh escaped his lips as he hoped and prayed with every fiber of his being, which admittedly wasn't much, that she would agree with him.
The look in her eyes told him he should have prayed harder.
"Then...am I really crazy? Maybe I drank a bad soda, or I'm suffering from like, mercury poisoning? Anything?"
She shook her head with a sad smile. He slumped in his chair, and his tension evaporated. For several minutes he sat silently, staring at his toes and blinking back the forming tears. At last he lifted his head and shyly met her eyes.
"So...you want to help me...?" He asked, his voice low and almost brittle. She nodded eagerly, grateful at last to have gotten things underway. She started to speak, but Peter raised a hand to stop her. "Please...please, will you just...go away? And, take your friend with you?" He could tell she was confused, but he continued before she could interrupt him. "Look, I don't know what you want, either of you, but I can tell you right now I'm not the person you're looking for. I mean, I'm flattered--I think--that you guys would even think about noticing a guy like me. Well, actually, I'm terrified. But I'm a little flattered, too. I guess. But you came to the wrong guy. I'm nothing, alright? I-I-I'm a nobody. My own parents have problems remembering my name! Please, both of you, just...just leave me alone. I don't want anything, I swear, I...I just want to be ignored..."
As he spoke, Peter squeezed his eyes shut and rocked gently back and forth in his seat. He breathed quickly, air exchanging in his lungs in short, rapid bursts, and his hands trembled almost violently as he gripped the arms of his chair. Part of him marveled at his own words; if she really was what she said she was, then how foolish to risk angering her. But risk it he did. He truly wanted no part in anything they could offer him. His whole life had shown him that he, Peter Winters, was largely insignificant, and he'd made peace with that. The thought of that ever changing was more terrifying than anything she, or the other one, could ever do to him.