Myra opened her eyes. Light splashed through the angled mini blinds, drawing a trapezoidal pattern of white and gray on the carpet. She turned onto her side and the sheets gripped her body, wrapping her in a fist.
The light on the floor was beautiful, making her glad to be alive. She wasn’t sure why, since her mouth tasted like sewage and her head felt split open. It was never light when she woke. Saturday. Last night was girls’ night. There had been three clubs, two cosmos, four shots and a beer. Maybe two beers, she couldn’t recall.
The group of girls had dwindled as they made their way up Folsom to South Beach, ending up in a room with a second level circling the bar and dance floor, hundreds of people damp with rain and slick with sweat from too many bodies. Just her and Karen, and then she lost sight of Karen.
Softly it was coming back, how lucky she’d been. The shots came from a guy that might have only been good looking in the pink light of a cosmo blur. He was nice enough, funny, although she couldn’t remember what he’d said that made her laugh so hard. Four shots of whisky. Myra never drank whisky, hated the sharp, dirty, burning taste of it. But the guy was charming, with his smile and his hand lightly on her shoulder, not too pushy, not too grabby or acting like his fingers were stalking her breast. Just a friendly gesture.
The bad part came in the middle of her second beer — yes, there had definitely been two beers.
“I’ll walk you home.”
“That’s okay, I’m with a friend.”
“I don’t see a friend.”
She pressed her fingers against her eyes and tried to remember the sequence of events, looking for Karen, not finding her, the guy, Pete, more aggressive, but acting nice about it, his hands still not stalking, but proprietary, steering her by her elbow as if she was a boat and her arm the rudder, pushing her to the door and out into the street. She’d tried to duck away from him, but he held tight.
Details were lost in the sour taste in her throat, the twisting pinch behind her eyes. How had she finally gotten rid of him? Her memory stopped just outside the door of the bar. She could have been a statistic, a girl brutalized, even dead, instead of looking at that sublime pattern of light and shadow on the pale carpet. Sobs boiled up in her chest, so lucky. Why had she lost sight of Karen, failed to push him off more firmly before they reached the sidewalk?
A new image pricked her brain. She called a cab because of the three guys sitting on motorcycles outside the bar, leather jackets hanging open, pint bottles wrapped in small paper bags. Staring. Such insistent, ravenous stares. Pete asked to share the cab.
She rolled to the side of the bed, peeled off the sheet and pulled on spandex pants and a tank top. The clothes stunk of cigarette smoke. The odor made no sense – she only used them for sleeping. She pushed herself up and stumbled to the bathroom. She rid herself of various liquids and filled a glass with water. Her shoulder was stiff and her right arm ached. It was difficult to raise the glass to her lips.
Tears gushed to her eyes, not from the pain, but the sheer joy of being alive, in her own apartment, the dead bolt locked, safe. It was so stupid to stay out drinking when the other girls drifted off, to suck down so much alcohol that nothing was real and nothing stayed in her mind where it belonged, but slithered around like melted ice cubes gliding off the edge of a counter. She had locked the dead bolt, hadn’t she? Never once had she come into the apartment and not secured it. Even if she was drunk out of her mind, she would never forget to lock the door.
The hallway was short and she kept her hand on the wall to navigate her way to the kitchen. The bar that opened to the living room was crowded, a pile of abandoned stuff — her purse, computer bag and coat so that she could only see the top of the front door. A coffee cup and two knives from the wood block on the counter nestled against her purse.
Using the counter edge as a support, she moved around to the living room. The dead bolt was turned to the left. Secure. Something still didn’t feel right. She stepped off the linoleum onto carpet.
He was on the floor, between the sofa and coffee table. His face was covered with thick blood, dried like egg yolk stuck in the pan overnight. His left ear dangled from his head. Her best knife, the long, wide chef’s knife she used for slicing melons stood in his chest. Now she remembered how she’d gotten rid of him.
Cathryn Grant has had psychological suspense stories published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. She received an honorable mention in the 2007 Zoetrope All-Story Short Fiction contest.
This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.