It’s eight a.m. and I’m still vomiting. Just what is escaping from my stomach, I haven’t a clue. I didn’t eat dinner last night. Actually, I didn’t do anything but impersonate a rock until about eleven after eleven, when I happened to catch a glimpse of the clock and choose that moment to regain normal human emotions. I wish I hadn’t snapped back into reality—a coma would have been much better than facing this. This raspy, venomous scorpion crawling down my throat, leaving swarming fire in its wake. The flames lick my esophagus until I think I might start screaming again, but then I realize I can’t. I used up all of my screaming when I found her—it—the…
I’ve been rotating through the same painful routine for hours: lose my mind; suddenly find it again; remember what caused me to lose it in the first place; battle disbelief; run to the nearest toilet when the protective shell of ignorance cracks under pressure and leaves my stomach undefended for the scorpion’s perusal.
I clamp my tingling hands tightly around my eyes, hiding the puffiness, the crustiness, and the scarlet bolts of lightning flashing through the whites from the prying light of morning. With my head lolling achingly against my bare shoulder, clammy with perspiration, I gently hold my abdomen and cringe at the pure frailty of its purged emptiness. I guess I didn’t have to worry about the calories in that candy yesterday. Maybe I should eat more while I’m not worried about storing fat.
I shouldn’t have thought that. It’s wrong to let your mind drift back to normalcy when your best friend was just murdered in a salon sink. Isn’t it?
It’s also wrong to be blaming your friend for something as stupid as a ruined pair of shoes (which wasn’t even anyone’s fault but the cow’s) while she’s bleeding to death…
What a horrible friend I was. Am? Was? Oh, who knows.
I’m not aware that I’m shaking until my skull begins rattling against the wall, and I can’t tell whether I’m reacting to the chilly air coming at me from the ceiling vent or the gory image frozen to the insides of my eyelids. In any case, I grope my way into the shower, dizzy and half-blind from the exertion of crawling a huge two feet across the icy tile.
On goes the water, a hissing jet stream that scalds my abnormally pale skin. My clothes are lying somewhere near the door. I feel like an infant, or maybe an embryo—helpless and confused about the world around me, with nothing to do but curl up and let warm waves rock me to serenity, if not sleep. I lie here for who knows how long, absorbing the maternal heat that reminds me that I’m still alive, even when Eloise is not.
I jump, but I’m too nauseous to do anything but settle back into my fetal position around the drain, watching the whirlpool that slowly swirls down into its open, silver pores. Warwick left for City Hall hours ago to deal with the crisis of having a murderer on the loose, so that can’t be him at the door. “We’d better catch him soon, or the whole town’ll be in a riot,” he grumbled before stumbling out into the chilly sunrise. I suppose I should be grateful that he’s taken such an interest in capturing my friend’s killer, but I’m more than a little miffed that he hasn’t said one word of condolence since arriving home last night, instead focusing on the trouble this will cause him at work: “A murder—great. First the economy, now this? What did I do to deserve all of this during my term?!”
Because of course the world revolves around you, Warwick. Eloise was just a supporting character in your life story.
Knock, knock, knock.
That’s the door again. I almost forgot someone was out there. Strangely, I’m not too concerned that somebody—specifically, a murderer—could be in my house at this very moment.
At least, until I realize that my kids are still in their bedrooms.
I jerk upright so quickly that my nose collides with the glass door. Seeing stars and checking for blood, I groan, “Who’s there?”
“Azalea? It’s me, Jezebel.”
I stifle a growl and collapse onto my back again. I almost would have preferred a bloodthirsty fugitive.
“Azalea? Are you okay in there?”
Rolling my eyes, I call hoarsely, “I’m fine. What are you doing here?”
“Azalea? I can’t hear you.”
That’s because you’re deaf, Jezebel, I sigh inwardly. I’m the one in the shower, after all, so if anyone should be having hearing problems, it’s me.
“I’m fine, Jezebel!”
There’s a pause, followed by a musical, “All-right-ee then, if you’re sure. I just stopped by ‘cause Warwick wanted me to get the kids over to the festival; give you some time to grieve. Sorry ‘bout Eloise, by the way. Get well soon.”
I spend a few exasperated seconds silently pretending that I’m bold enough to correct her use of “get well soon,” which is supposed to be used when someone is ill, not when they’re having a mental breakdown after walking in on a gruesome murder. By the time I register that she’s bringing my children into town, where there’s a murderer, she’s already too far out of earshot (not that she was doing a great job of listening earlier) to notice me shouting, “Jezebel! JEZEBEL! You are not taking my children out of this house! Are you trying to get them killed?! Jezebel!”
I cringe as the sound of a pricey truck (which I’m 99.9-percent sure we paid for) revving its engine and rolling down the driveway seeps through the open window.
I’m pretty sure there’s no one in the house now but me.
I turn up the water temperature until I’m practically sitting in an underwater sauna, thinking that I’m either gonna need a Xanax or a whole lot of vodka to get through these next couple of days.