I peeked around the corner and saw him staring into the microwave, tapping his index finger on the counter as the seconds counted down. I heard that was bad for you, but with that pretty face, he should be fine with a few micro-radiated brain cells. I ran through my lines in my head, Hi I’m Sarah from advertising, I couldn’t help but notice you around the office. Chad, is it? I love your tie.
I smoothed my skirt, ran my fingers through my hair and stepped into the break room. He looked up at the sound of my heels clacking against the tile and gave me a nod of acknowledgment.
“Hey Chad, I like plaid,” I said, pointing at him. “I mean, your tie…bold choice.” I mentally slapped myself on the forehead and tried hard to keep the cringe I felt coming hidden from my face.
“Uh, thanks,” he said, turning back to the microwave. Good God, he’d rather watch Cup O’ Noodles boil than talk to me. I couldn’t let it end like that.
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“I want to forget.” She looked upwards, into its eyes, trying to sound firm.
“Don’t you all.” It raised an eyebrow. It was amazing how human it looked. If she didn’t know better she would have mistaken it for a woman. It wore a tailored suit and a string of pearls. Its hair was blond, going gray at in places, and done up into a neat bun. It was classy without being ostentatious.
“Can you do that? Make me forget?” She smoothed a hand over her blouse and shifted back a little.
“It depends.” It quirked its mouth into something that was almost a smile. Now that she considered, it was the little things that gave it away. There was something in the voice that was just a little too…fluid. The eyes were wrong too. She gave a discreet shudder. She’d never met anyone with eyes like that before. The light in them was too intense, almost burning, like they could see right through a person and out the other side.
“Is there something wrong?” The thing’s mouth widened.
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I would call her Taylor, because black hairs draw toward the curve of her lips and edge into the miles between us – But instead I curtail a whimsy, freak out the neighbors by dressing my cat in an armor of arrows, go outside, into the suburbs, dressed in my fag dreams, and search for purple, learning the arithmetic of streets my art teachers taught me – and curving down the avenue of Toasters, big loaves of bread slide up from inside, all around us –
Meeshka wants some of the toast and jumps up and down, clanging the arrows stop motion. Odd for a cat –
“No Jumping!” Med.z Tony says.
I pull open my switchblade and dust off my shoulder.
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My grandmother’s house is quiet, spacious, and ostentatiously expensive. It’s dressed up like Hollywood money from the 1930’s, back before she married into wealth. White columns frame every floor length window, the light from beyond filtering through the slits in the heavy draped curtains. There’s a sleek grand piano in one corner of the room, a glass encased cabinet of silver odd and ends in the other. The plush white carpet is spotted with iridescent sequins of colored light bouncing off the tinkling chandeliers. Dean Martin pipes in softly from the house-wide speaker system.
I’m in the sitting room, perched upon one of several silk upholstered chairs around the massive glass dining table. I try, fruitlessly, to adjust my tights for the half-dozenth time while simultaneously taking in a mouthful of ruby red Chateau St. Michelle. My grandmother’s cat materializes out of nowhere, weaves between my crossed legs, nudging my heels, and ultimately causing me to slide sideways on the slippery silk of my seat. I lurch to one side and manage to set down the crystal glass onto the glass table with an unsettling clang. Some of the wine dribbles down my chin and drops dark crimson onto my lap – no matter. I wore a burgundy dress for this very reason. There is, perhaps, not enough wine in the entire cellar to get me through this evening. I fear the grave outcome of miscalculating my intake and sobering up too soon into the night. I heard estranged cousin Ryan might arrive for dinner.
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She arrived when my office girl Margie was out to lunch, as if that narrows it down. I welcomed my latest possible client with an enthusiasm I usually reserve for good brandy. “Mr. Wainwright?” she asked, her voice perfect for radio.
“I answer to that moniker. Dylan, too,” I said, smiling. I ushered her into the office and gave her the twice over. She had a figure like Beethoven in Braille, and a mug you could use to sell lipstick. Helen of Troy would’ve asked for her autograph. I should’ve known she was trouble before her rump left that valentine-shaped impression in my office chair. She wore black—-short black dress, high black heels, fishnet stockings over eye-grabbing getaway sticks. She left contrails of lavender behind.
“Mr. Dylan Wainwright,” she announced. “My attorney says you’re the finest private detective in all Los Angeles.”
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She drew the riding crop slowly, teasingly down the center of his chest to his groin, which she playfully circled before bringing it down on his inner thigh hard enough to raise a welt. He felt a surge of arousal and anger.
As he lay on the four poster bed, naked, in biting leather restraints he looked at his wife of 20 years with amusement. He hadn’t wanted to bother with her on this day, much preferring to spend it with his current mistress, a much younger and more sexually adventurous woman, but she had surprised him by delaying her trip a few hours so that they could spend part of Valentine’s Day together and setting up the bedroom as a play area.
She didn’t look like herself. Clad in a leather bustier and thigh high boots with stiletto heels and wearing a red wig, she looked much like the woman he currently preferred, taller, wilder, kinkier… He would still have plenty of time to hop in the shower and meet her for their hotel rendezvous in the city.
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I’m sorry you have to find out like this. If I were half the man you thought I was, I’d be telling you my plan of how I’m going to make everything right again and pay back that bastard for what he did. But I’m not and I’m not. I hope when you get this that you’ll do the smart thing. Don’t try to find me. I’m not worth finding and will only bring you trouble. Kayla was always the good one.
I’ve tried to trace back my actions and what happened to see if any of it could have been prevented. Was it the conversation after the funeral? Was it when Kayla was attacked? Was it when I found the card? I guess it doesn’t matter how it happened. I know the truth of it.
It was when you and I visited Kayla in the hospital. That’s when I knew I wasn’t going to just ignore it. The right side of her face was swollen. She had a cut on her head. And for some reason they’d cut off her hair. My sixteen year old sister had been brutalized and someone was going to pay for that.
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I don’t get a name in this story. Hell, why would I? I’m not the one having the dream. The one having the dream, he has a name. I’m just a freak his subconscious cooked up. How do you like that? I don’t even get an identity, I’m just made of pieces his mind put together. You ask me, that’s not right. You ask me, I drew the short stick in a bad way. But who asks me? I’m not even a character. The dreamer’s the character. He probably thinks this whole thing is about him. He can think what he wants, I don’t care.
It’s a desert, this place. Flat, red, dry. There’s an asphalt road going off into the distance both ways. Is it east and west? Is it north and south? Hard to say. This is dream country. There are no directions. Looking at a blue sky overhead, no clouds. He doesn’t dream about clouds, I guess. He does dream about gas stations though, that’s where I am. If you have a road in the middle of the desert, you need a gas station. I suppose that makes sense.
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