It was the oldest story in the world: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, for the sake of girl boy immediately dumps perfectly good girlfriend, perfectly good ex-girlfriend reveals her desire for revenge. So, you know, your typical love story.
Ethan and Madeline had a blissful eight weeks together. Near the end of the seventh week, he was beginning to forget Natasha's screeching as building security hauled her away: "How dare you treat me like this! Like garbage! Like a disgusting bug you can just squish under your shoe! You'll be sorry! You and that stupid slut you left me for!" Thankfully summer fashions had just started arriving in all the magazines, and Madeline rushed out to buy several short, flouncy dresses that distracted him completely.
It was a lucky thing that he had those few final days of happiness, because the ninth week, it happened.
Madeline was pretty hurt. It seemed like Ethan just... stopped calling. She didn't know why, or if she had done something, or if something terrible had happened to him. He was just gone.
She happened to run into Natasha several weeks later at a coffee shop, and wasn't able to hold back a few tears when she asked if Natasha had heard from him. The jilted woman shrugged. "You know men, honey," she said. "If you give them your heart, they'll rip it apart." Madeline didn't find any comfort in these words, but she nodded, understanding Natalie's position. Instead, she quietly apologized for the way things had happened. Natasha laughed good-naturedly, patted her on the arm, and said, "Don't worry about it, sweet thing, I figure we're square now."
Madeline smiled sadly and turned away just in time to miss Natasha's triumphant smirk.
Because, in fact, Ethan wasn't gone. He was at Madeline's apartment, waiting for her to come home. That's all he did these days. When it happened, when he found himself shrinking down to minuscule size, there wasn't much else he could do. He found that though he could still run, he couldn't move nearly as fast as Madeline could at a walk, and so he resigned himself to Natasha's inevitable revenge.
He didn't want to leave Madeline. He wanted to be near her always. He had told her so, two days before it happened. He would never think of leaving, but he didn't want her to see him the way he was now. At best, she would never believe it; at worst, she would drive him away.
The closest he could come to her now was when she stopped moving for the night. He would climb slowly onto her bed and nestle next to her ear, where it rested on her pillow. "I will always be here," he would whisper. "I will love you forever." Occasionally he would give into the desire to touch her, just lightly, carefully, so that she wouldn't wake up and find him there.
In the hours that he was alone, he wracked his brain to think of a way to get a message to her. He was too light to press the keys on her laptop, and his feather touch didn't register on her smartphone or iPad. Conventional writing utensils were of course too heavy for him to lift. One morning an opportunity finally arrived: the normally meticulous Madeline was in a rush and didn't have time to clean up a small pile of sugar that had been spilled on the counter. Ethan eagerly ascended to the counter as soon as the apartment door closed to begin his message.
But what would he write? "I still love you, Madeline. -Ethan" was the first thing that came to mind, and he began his work. But white sugar on a white counter would be difficult to see, and Madeline was sure to clean it up immediately when she got home, so he had to make it visible to her eye... which would be hard with the little amount of sugar that he had to work with. He decided to shorten the message: "I love you -E". She would surely understand that. It soon became apparent, however, that even his abbreviated message would be too long. He would have to settle for a heart with his first initial inside. That would have to be enough.
He was almost finished when the door opened and Madeline and her brother Jeremy walked into the kitchen. Ethan had lost track of time, and scurried off out of sight, trying not to mar his work.
"Ugh! Did you see that?!" Madeline yelped. "I knew this would happen!" To Ethan's dismay, she swept his message, his entire day's labor, off the counter and tossed it in the sink. Then he watched from his hiding spot as she got out a bottle of chemicals and proceeded to scrub the counter, muttering about vermin and early work meetings and vowing never to leave her apartment in such a state again.
"It's not the end of the world, hon," Jeremy said, kissing her on the top of her head and giving her a rather un-brother-like squeeze. "Besides, this is kind of an old building. It might not be your fault, either; maybe your neighbors are slobs."
Madeline shuddered. "I hope not," she said. "If I see something like that again, I'm going to move out."
A week later Ethan wasn't quite sure what to do. Jeremy had stayed late into the evening, as he had been doing quite a bit recently, and when Madeline went to bed, Jeremy went with her. It was time, Ethan decided, to admit that he had been living in denial for a month or two. When Jeremy had first started coming around, Ethan had just assumed that he was Madeline's brother. She hadn't ever mentioned having a brother, but now Ethan could acknowledge that it was what he had wanted to believe. He couldn't allow the thought of Madeline finding someone new to enter his mind. He couldn't believe she would give up on him; he had never given up on her.
But, he decided, that didn't mean that he would have to leave. He climbed up to his usual nightly position on Madeline's pillow and threw caution to the wind. Jeremy wasn't the only one who could be close to her. As he whispered his vows of love for what seemed like the hundredth time, Ethan climbed onto her shoulder and kissed her.
It was too much.
Madeline awoke with a scream and Ethan found himself tossed violently across the room. He landed on soft carpet in the corner next to Madeline's slippers as Jeremy started awake.
"What is it?!" he cried.
"It was crawling on me!" Madeline exclaimed, brushing her hands across her body, attempting to banish the feeling of violation. "I can't take this anymore; I'm going to have to find a new place."
Ethan watched as Jeremy put his hand on Madeline's shoulder and gave her a comforting smile. "Maybe... we could find a place together," he said. Ethan saw Madeline's face transform as a happy look came into her eyes. He could remember when she looked at him that way, and Ethan could feel his heart breaking.
He could barely hear Madeline agreeing to the proposal. All he could hear were Natasha's words echoing back to him: "How dare you... treat me like a disgusting bug you can just squish under your shoe... you'll be sorry..."
Ethan knew he had no other choice. Before Madeline could reach her slippers, Ethan stepped out into view. He heard Madeline's scream before it left her throat. He heard Jeremy assure her that he'd "take care of it." He saw the shoe descending, but did nothing to preserve his life. He didn't have a reason to anymore.
That weekend, the superintendent of Madeline's building tried to talk her out of moving. "We've never had a single roach in this building!"
"Tell that to my little trespasser," Madeline replied.
"I'll have the whole building given a once-over. A twice-over. You're such a good tenant, Miss Brooks, I'd hate to see you leave."
Madeline shook her head. "My boyfriend and I are talking about getting a place together. And it really feels like it might just be time to move on."
Natasha sipped a cappuccino in her favorite coffee shop and leisurely perused apartment listings. One caught her eye, and she grinned, taking another long sip of her drink. She waved to the barista to bring her another, and a satisfied smile settled itself onto her face. There is no one more smug than a villainess who knows she has won..