147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 13

New horror fiction.

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 13 – The End

 

Chapter 13

 

“Lynnie?” Shawn called from the doorway. The apartment was silent. “You home?”

He dropped his bag by the door and moved to the kitchen. There were cups and glasses scattered on the counter. No dishes. On top of all these, toppling into the sink, were handfuls of dishtowels and at least two bath towels. The pilling cotton looked like someone had spilled a bottle of red wine, maybe two, and tried using one after another to mop up the mess. Shawn didn’t see a wine bottle. He ran to the bathroom.

The tub was empty. The floor was bare. There was another wet, red dish towel in the bathroom sink. The faucet slowly dripped water onto it, forming a pink puddle in the folds of the fabric. Shawn ran to the bedroom.

Carolyn lay on the bed, alone. She was only wearing a t-shirt. There was blood smeared from her pubic hair to her thighs. It clotted on her skin. Her eyes were open. But she was gone. Even though he saw that, knew that in his heart, he jumped on the bed with her and tried to save her. He pumped, he breathed, he yelled to her, calling her name. But she was beyond all that.

Shawn climbed off the bed. His own shirt was now covered with patches of blood. He had to call. Someone had to take care of her. He reached in his back pocket for his phone. It wasn’t there. He touched across his chest and his pants, looking for it.

“I have to get my phone. I’ll be right back,” he said to Carolyn, who lay on the bed without breathing.

He ran out of the bedroom, past the empty bathroom and the kitchen with the towels he now knew weren’t stained with wine. He crashed to his knees by his bag he had dropped by the door, upending it. Clothes, linen sheets, bottles of massage oil and a knobbed roller flew across the room. “Where’s the god damn phone?” he yelled to the lifeless room. He spun around the room, searching, scanning. Finally, he saw Carolyn’s phone on the table. He raced to it and dialed 911. He didn’t remember much after that.

 

 

 

When he walked back in the apartment the next day, his bag and its contents laid scattered where he had left them. He dropped his keys on the floor among the chaos. He was so tired. His feet drug along the floor as he slunk to the bedroom.

The bloody sheets were still on the bed. He sat down on the edge of the bed, far away from the red stains. He pulled the phone out of his pocket. He was still carrying Carolyn’s phone. He dialed.

“Dae,” he said when she answered. “I’m all right. Just got back. No. It was the cysts like we thought. Ruptured. Bled and they lost her pressure. No. Not tonight. I can’t tonight Dae. Can’t do it. Come round tomorrow. We’ll look. Pick something. I know, love. Yeah. Ok. Bye.”

He threw the phone on the bed. He couldn’t stop looking at the blood on the ivory sheets. He grabbed anything within arm’s reach: the sheets, the comforter, the pillows, everything. Yanking them off and curling them to his chest, he squeezed them, rogue pillow cases dropping as he ran to the hamper to get them out of his sight. His eyes barely open, he slunk back to the bed and laid on the bare mattress. He curled his knees to his chest and closed his eyes.

The room was dark when he woke. The world outside the window was also dark. It wasn’t the light that woke him. He heard it again, music. Soft tune with sharp ebbs and flows. It sounded like music that might have played at a fair he remembered. One in May. It kept playing. He sat up and looked around the room. It was in the room somewhere. They didn’t have a radio. His laptop wasn’t on the desk. He still had no idea where his phone was, but if he did, that song wasn’t on it. He looked to the pile of dirty sheets in the hamper. There. He lunged at the hamper and pulled everything out, shaking and sifting their soiled life onto the floor. Then, he heard a dull, flat thud. Carolyn’s phone landed on the floor in front of him, still singing its organ-grinder ballad. He stared at it. He had lost his phone and was carrying hers. Why was her phone in the basket? Why was anyone calling her? Someone who didn’t know. He jabbed at a button to make it stop. It didn’t and instead kept playing. He stared at the screen, an image of him and Carolyn wearing plastic crowns. That’s when the music stopped and Shawn lost consciousness.

When he awoke, Pam was standing in the doorway. Shawn was lying on the bed, nestled in freshly-cleaned sheets. He started up in bed when he saw her.

“That one wasn’t bad,” she said. “You’ve had much worse.”

Shawn wasn’t afraid. He was alert and oriented enough that he knew he should be. But he wasn’t.

“Don’t worry yourself over who I am or what I’m doing,” Pam said. “She’s fine. And so is she.”

Shawn tilted his head.

“She. The baby,” Pam said.

He lilted his head again.

“They never want to listen to women. Always want to think they’re crazy. You started having fits and they didn’t think you were crazy. Just a little bug in the brain.”

“Carolyn…”

“You have to take it back for a while. The seizures. They’re start again tomorrow. But Carolyn is fine. She did what she could. Did a good job of it. She’s happy now. And the baby.”

“I want-“

“No,” Pam said. “Can’t have that. Too late now. But we’ll be seeing you again. Soon.”

Shawn looked around the room. It was clean. Clothes folded, shelves dusted, and a navy suit was laid out over a chair.

“She managed to name him after you. Lucky girl.”

He stared at the suit. He remembered her buying it, but never wearing it. He teased her about stockings. That seemed so awful now.

“Is she…” Shawn asked, but the room was bare. The woman in the room was gone. He saw Carolyn’s phone in the folds of the bed. Grabbing it, he curled his hands around it. He laid on the bed and waited for it to ring again.

As he was drifting off to sleep at dawn, it did. When he picked it up, he heard a baby cry. Then he heard nothing. The seizure took over his mind and body. There was no more baby. Only dark.

My dark novel Drowning Above Water is now available at Amazon. 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 12

New horror fiction.

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 12

 

Chapter 12

 

The room was already bright when Carolyn opened her eyes. She was accustomed to waking up at dawn, when their bedroom still had slanted shadows. Shawn was always up before her. Sometimes making teas. Other days he mediated or did sun salutations quietly in the corner. On the best days, she woke to see him staring at her.

“I love you in the morning,” he had told her. So many times. “When your mind is quiet and calm and your face is naked.” He was the quiet, calm one. She was the one with the scattered thoughts. Racing. Anxious. Unsettled. Until now. She had turned peaceful. Preparing. He had become the one flustered and segmented and hurting. And he was the one who was gone. She laid in the bed alone. He had never stayed away from her without reason. Travel. Work. Visiting. But never like this. She stared at the empty side of the bed. Her heart hurt. And then the rest of her body hurt.

The pain felt like a sledgehammer to her pelvis. It folded her in half. She desperately tried to find a position that didn’t bring tears and allowed her to breathe. Her eyes were closed and she called out, “Shaw…” before she remembered he wasn’t there. She buried her head in her pillow and twisted onto her hands and knees. After a moment, the pain eased, but only by a degree. She managed to get to the edge of the bed, still aching through her ribs and stomach.

“It will get better,” she heard from the doorway. She opened her eyes, and for some reason, that made the pain worse. She closed them again. Pam stood, waiting for Carolyn’s pain to ease again. After a moment, it did.

“How did you know?” Carolyn asked.

“I just know. I’ve always known.” Pam walked toward the bedroom, carrying a huge bag over her shoulder. She talked as she worked. “I’m going to get the room ready.” She pointed to Carolyn. “You, sit. Save your energy. Going to be a long day.”

 

Carolyn leaned on her nightstand with one hand and the other sunk into the bed. Her legs were spread wide and she shifted her weight from her left foot to her right. The hand on the bed slipped and she lost her balance.

“God damn, son of a bitch,” she screamed. She didn’t fall but slumped onto the bed.

“I got you,” Pam said, gathering Carolyn around the waist and guiding her to sit on the bed.

“God damn…” Carolyn said, her breath breaking.

“Almost there,” Pam soothed. “Almost there. Let me look.” Pam reached her fingers in between Carolyn’s legs. When she drew them away, she held them up for Carolyn to see. They were covered with blood that dripped down to Pam’s knuckle. “Look, Carolyn. Keep breathing. Look at me.” Carolyn did, wincing. “Good girl. She’s coming. It’s time. I’m sorry. I wish we had a bathtub. Fucking New York. Come on. Into the bed.” Carolyn wobbled as she got from sitting and laid down in the bed.

“Why is…blood, why is there blood?” Carolyn said, her voice faint.

“Has to be born in blood,” Pam smiled. “That’s what it takes. That’s what makes it sealed.”

“Wha-“  Carolyn grimaced as her word turned into a scream against her will.

“You are a light,” Pam said. “Our light. And She will be our Beacon. The One to guide. Thank you.”

Carolyn tried to respond. There was nothing to be said. And after her next breath, there was nothing more to see. There was no more light. Only dark. And pain.

My new dark novel Drowning Above Water is available at Amazon. 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 11

 

New horror fiction. 147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 11

 

Chapter 11

 

Shawn let himself into the apartment and dropped his backpack at the door. Puddles of water pooled around his boots and leaked in a trail to the bottom of his bag. He didn’t bother to move it. Neither did he bother to take off his boots or sweater when he walked into the kitchen.

He stood at the refrigerator, dripping on the rug, holding the door open. It was full of glass and plastic containers, which held all manner of foods. All of them organic. Most of them green. Normally, he enjoyed having these things around. Tonight, he just wanted a paper full of greasy chips. Instead, he settled for some sort of tan grain with olive-colored specks. He ate it cold, standing, his hair dripping into his dinner. Or was it lunch? He couldn’t remember.

“Here. Let me take your coat,” Carolyn said from the doorway. He didn’t look up. He kept eating.

“I’ll get it,” he said. He took a final huge bite, a few grains slipping out of the glass tub and onto the floor. He stepped to the sink and tossed the bowl in with a clank.

“Could you…” she said.

“What?” he asked. “What can I do now?”

“Nothing,” she said. “How was work?”

“It was long. I’m going to bed.”

“Oh,” she said. “Good night.”

She walked to the sink and turned on the water, full and hot. The steam rose and she felt it, loosening the tightness in her face. The calm stopped when a pain grabbed onto her. She gasped and put her hand to her side. They were getting stronger. She’d had them before. They were sharp and quick, but they faded easily enough. She hadn’t had one for a week, then had one in each of the past three days. She braced herself against the sink with her other had and tried to breathe as deeply as she could. It was coming. Closing her eyes helped to focus her imagery, picturing her rib cage widening to allow for more air in her lungs. She opened her eyes when she heard the water shut off in the sink. She’d forgotten that she had left it on. Shawn was drying his hands on a towel. Carolyn heard him sigh.

“Leave it,” he said. “I’ll wash it tomorrow.”

“I’ll do it,” she said. “I’m fine.” She rubbed her stomach as the pain started to loosen its bite.

“I know.”

He stared at her. “I can’t do this. I can’t look at you every day like this.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Look at you,” he said, voice raising to an echo in the small space. He gestured with his arms and when they collapsed back to his sides in defeat, water droplets flew off his coat. “You are not having a baby, Carolyn. I don’t care what you say. You’re not. So, I don’t know what this is.” He yanked his coat off, catching it at his elbow. He grunted and struggled and finally threw it to the floor. “And I don’t know what to do. You won’t go see someone and I can’t help you. Something is wrong. It’s very wrong. And I don’t know what to do.”

“You think I’m crazy,” she said.

“I think you’re sick.”

“I’m not sick, Shawn. I’m having a baby.”

“You’re not having a fucking baby!” he screamed. “You are full of cysts and tumors and maybe even cancer.  You’re going to die. And I have to watch.”

Carolyn leaned forward and picked up his wet coat. She grunted quietly as be bent down.  He grabbed the coat out of her hand and kicked it out into the hall. “Leave the fucking coat.” Carolyn stood quietly, her hand protectively folded over and under her round belly. She did look pregnant. She had gained forty pounds, at least. Maybe more. But not everywhere. Only her stomach.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s all right. You just don’t understand. She said you wouldn’t.”

“Who? Who said I wouldn’t?”

“Pam,” Carolyn said.

“And who the bleeding hell is Pam?”

“She’s my friend. She’s helping me.”

“Well, she’s right. I don’t understand. But if she’s helping you, brilliant, because help is what you need. And I can’t.” He stared at her.

“I know.”

“I have to go. I’m sorry.” He stepped toward her and kissed her. It was habit and compunction, not compassion. “I’m sorry.” He hurried out of the kitchen. He scooped his wet coat off the floor of the hallway, slammed the door, and was gone. Carolyn turned back to the sink, and starting washing the dirty bowl.

My new dark, suspense novel Drowning Above Water is available at Amazon. 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 10

New horror fiction.

147 E. 9th Street

Chapter 10

 

Carolyn walked to the far back of the bar. There was an empty stool with a red drink sitting in front of it. Pam sat on the next stool.

“Cranberry,” Pam said, gesturing to the drink. “It’s fine. You’re allowed to be in a bar. No smoke. Easy crowd.”

“You knew I was coming here?”

“She told me,” Pam said, downing her shot of whiskey.

“He didn’t come with me today. To the doctor. Everyone thinks I’m crazy.”

“They’ll see,” Pam said. “You can already feel her, can’t you?”

“I can,” Carolyn said. She wrapped both her hands around the cranberry juice to steady her trembling.

“It’s early. But not for you. They say four months, but I always felt mine early.” Pam downed another shot. Carolyn took a careful drink of hers.

“It’s so cold,” Carolyn said.

“The cold helps. Trust me,” Pam said. “Especially in the morning. You’re showing. It looks good.”

Carolyn smiled. “I hoped you would be here,” she said. Then she lost her smile. “What do I do? About this? I don’t know what to do.”

“You don’t have to do anything. Actually, it’s better if you just let it go.” Pam lifted another shot to her mouth, but put it back down on the bar without drinking it. “Talking about it will only upset him. He doesn’t understand. None of them do. And it’s not their fault. They don’t have the capacity for it. But he will come around.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Then he doesn’t. And she’ll still have you. All she needs. So just be still. Be quiet. Let it happen.”

“She’ll be all right?” Carolyn asked.

“She’ll be perfect,” Pam said. She finally took her latest shot. Carolyn took another swallow of her cranberry juice.

“This really is so good,” Carolyn said, draining the red juice. “Why is it so good?”

Pam nodded to the bartender, who set another full glass in front of Carolyn. Peering inside, Carolyn leaned down and almost touched her nose to the ice cubes floating on the surface of the drink. She inhaled. “It smells like a popsicle, on a scorching day at beach.” She drained half the glass. Her cell phone rang and she put down the drink. It wasn’t the canned carnival ring. It was her usual parred down symphony.

“Don’t worry,” Pam said. “You won’t get any more of those calls.”

Carolyn hesitated, but after a second refrain, she answered.

“Hello? Hi. I went to the bar on Fourth. I was just really hot. I did. Something red and cold. I’m not sure. Not sure. Soon. Yes. Ok. Love you too.”

“And there you go. What did I say? You’ll do just fine. No. He’ll be fine. You’ll be great.”

“Can I call you? If I get worried? About the baby? He doesn’t believe this. And I don’t have anyone to talk to.”

“I’ll be around,” Pam said. “Get him, would you,” she said, gesturing to the bartender. Carolyn leaned over to catch his eye. He walked toward her.

“What’s your-“ she asked, turning from the bartender back to Pam. The stool next to her was empty. There were three empty shot glasses on the bar. Her half-full cranberry juice was still there.

“You’re good,” the bartender said. “Tab’s paid up.” He cleared away the shot glasses and walked to the other end of the bar. Carolyn sat, staring at the red juice. She finished the rest of it in one swallow. She stood and shivered. When the chill stopped, she froze on her feet. What she felt in her stomach wasn’t goosebumps. It was movement. She put her hand on her stomach. Her fingers were shaking. She felt it again. The baby. It was her baby. And she was moving.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 8

New horror fiction. 

 

Chapter 8

 

“Hello!” Dae called from the doorway of the house. Carolyn shuffled around the corner, draped in layers of flannel, with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

“Hey,” Carolyn said.

“Damn you are a sexy bitch,” Dae said. She held up bags. “I used my key. Hope that’s okay. And I brought lo mein, about twenty spring rolls, tea and wine. Oh and porn. Something in here should help.”

“Thanks,” Carolyn said. “Just…put them in the kitchen. Or wherever.”  Carolyn walked slowly to the living room and dropped into a chair.

“So…” Dae said.

“So,” Carolyn answered.

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it bad?” Dae asked.

“Maybe. I don’t think so,” Carolyn said. “But they don’t know. I’m supposed to see him tomorrow. Talk about the tests.” Carolyn rested her head on the back of the chair. “Shawn is crushed. Not that he’s acting like it”

“Why?”

“He is brighter and shinier than I’ve ever seen him. Hanging out with friends. Going to hear music. He started taking pictures again. Has more clients than he can book. Hasn’t had a seizure in a year.”

“No, sweetie, not why is he acting, like, some white frat boy. Why is he crushed?”

“If we go to the appointment, and it’s bad, then my uterus is officially off the market. Yanking it off the shelves. Expired. Done.”

“Shit,” Dae said, looking at the floor.

“Nothing’s definite.”

“But if you go in there tomorrow and they say, that’s it, baby is off the table– are you…”

“I didn’t know if I ever even wanted a baby,” Carolyn said. “I didn’t think so. You know that. I’m not a mom. Now, all I see is babies. All I hear is kids. Singing. Screaming. I can’t stop them.” The sound of tinny carousel music came from the next room. “See? My phone.”

“Oh. Go ahead,” Dae said.

“No,” Carolyn said.

“I can go get it,” Dae shifted to stand.

“I said no,” Carolyn demanded.

“Ok.”

The women sat without talking. The music marched on for a few more seconds and then stopped. Carolyn hung her head.

“I hate to bring this up,” Dae said.

“Just say it,” Carolyn said. “I know that’s why you came.”

“It’s not,” Dae said. “I wanted to see you.”

“Bullshit. What did they say?” Carolyn said, picking up her head and staring pointedly at Dae.

Dae breathed. “They’re taking you off all your current projects. Raj is going to call you on Friday to formalize it.

“Fuck,” Carolyn said, letting her neck go slack and dropping her head to the back of the chair.

“They’re not firing you,” Dae said. “He is absolutely clear on that.”

“Sure as hell sounds like it,” Carolyn said.

“I’m sorry,” said Dae. “It sucks. But…”

“But what?”

“I don’t want to sound like a bitch. Yeah, I’m your manager, but I’m your friend first and after. The work still needs done. The ad buys are slowing down and we need the content. And besides all that, I think you’re a fabulous woman. But you weren’t getting it done when you were there. I’d rather you be here and get better.”

“He’s a massage therapist, Dae. You know what he makes, what we have. How are we supposed to make it on one salary? In New York?”

Dae pulled out an envelope and handed it to Carolyn.

“What?”

“Pay me back when you can. I probably won’t be there much longer anyway. Looking at some new companies. Maybe try something on my own. When I do, you come with me.”

Carolyn hung her head and tears filled her eyes. “I can’t cry. It hurts.”

“Then don’t, you maudlin, moody bitch.”

Dae crouched down to the floor and wrapped her arms around Carolyn. They smiled. Then, Carolyn wept.

“I hate you,” Carolyn.

“I hate you too,” Dae responded.

Carolyn trembled as she exhaled in spurts and cuts.

“You’re okay,” Dae said. “Promise. You’ll get better and figure this out.”

Carolyn said nothing. Her tears stung her skin when they rolled down her cheeks. There was a twinge in her stomach. Then another one. And then a faint flutter. As soon as she felt that, she stopped crying. She knew what the tests would show. And she knew that they would be wrong. Only she knew what was happening.

If you enjoy these literary ramblings, my new suspense novel Drowning Above Water is available at Amazon. 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

New horror fiction. 147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

It was so hot. The blankets from their bed around her felt like a heavy shroud.  Asphyxiating like the vest they drape over torsos during an x-ray. The wool was oppressive and binding. She could feel the sweat pooling between her breasts. Her shirt was soaked. Her hair was wet from the nape of her neck to the crown of her head. The room was bright and sharp and stinging light shot in through the curtains. She squinted, and she could feel a bead of sweat trail down her curled nose and forehead.

“Baby,” Shawn whispered. Carolyn opened her eyes, but they were leaden. Her eyelids drooped, leaving her eyes open just a sliver against the burning light. “Can you try to drink something?” She felt the bed shift when he sat down beside her. She pushed the blankets down to her stomach. It felt like she was trying to dig her hands through wet sand. Shawn’s hands brushed against her as he helped wrangle the covers.

“Here,” he said. She felt his hand behind her and he helped her get into a sitting position. More of a leaning, tired position. He handed her a glass. It was cold. It felt wonderful. Instead of drinking it, she held it next to her face. “Try to drink,” he said. “You haven’t had anything all day.”

“My legs hurt,” she said. Let her try to hold the glass on her own. She managed, although it did clink against her teeth each time she raised it to her mouth. He wrapped his hands around her calves and rubbed, them. She grimaced, the glass wobbling in her hand.

“Steady on,” he said, taking the glass from her.

She curled her knees to her chest. “My stomach hurts. Like something is squeezing me. Twisting my insides. Ugh,” she groaned.

“Baby,” Shawn said. “We need to take care of you.”

“No, I just need to sleep. And my deductible is too high.”

“It’s almost bedtime. You’ve slept all day.”

“What? Shit, I have to…work,” she said, trying to roll over in the bed. She flopped to her original positon on her back, out of strength.

“No,” he said, putting the glass of water on the bedside table and softy keeping her in bed. “No work. Dae texted this morning. You texted back.”

“Wha…” Carolyn said, trailing off into her pillow. “I don’t remember.” She pulled the blankets up to her chin, despite the rising temperature around her. “Just…want…”

Shawn kissed her forehead. “Sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, love.”

 

 

Two hours later, Shawn was sitting on the edge of the chair in the hospital room. Carolyn was on the bed, curled into a fetal position. Neither of them spoke. Shawn, usually so eager to touch her, to heal and relieve with his good hands, kept still, his fingers curled around each other in his lap. A man in tight-fitting scrubs, with tattoos down past both elbows, walked into the room. Shawn stood. Carolyn didn’t stir.

“I’m Dr. Curtis,” the man said. Shawn extended his hand and the doctor quickly shook it, but his eyes focused on Carolyn in the bed. “How you doing?”

“Been better,” Carolyn said quietly.

“Here’s where we are,” Dr. Curtis said. “You’re running a fever, but the blood work shows no real signs of infection. I’ll be honest, I don’t like it. So, I’d like to get you in for a CT scan of that belly. See what’s going on. Okay?”

“Do you have any idea what’s-“ Carolyn started. The doctor stopped her.

“I really wouldn’t want to guess until we know more. Can I get you anything?”

Shawn looked at Carolyn. She waved them both off with her hand.

“All right. I’ll be back,” the doctor said and he left the room.

Shawn paced back and forth across the small room. He turned quickly, sending a bin of tongue depressors and long cotton swabs onto the floor. The echo of the metal crashed reverberated in the small room.

“Please sit down,” she said.

He knelt down to gather up the scattered debris. He looked to the trash, and looked at the bin on the wheeled-cart, but her wasn’t sure where to put his handful. Frustrated, he dropped them all on the counter next to the sink. From the bed, Carolyn shifted her hips and released a muffled groan. Shawn left his pile and sat next to her on the bed. She grabbed his hand.

“We’ll figure it out. Figure it all out,” he said. He loosened his hand from hers and then took her hand in both of his. He cradled it like an egg. Supporting her hand in his, he massaged her wrist; circles of light pressure then a firm downward force with his thumb. He slowly moved his hands up her arm, then to her shoulder. Her breathing slowed. The tightness and the tension in her face relaxed by a degree. He moved his hand to the side of her ribs. Not reaching for her breasts; this was a healing touch, not a sexual one. He curved his hand into the space between her ribs and her waist, and then back to her rib. He gave firm pressure to a tip of a middle rib.

“This should help,” he whispered to her.

“Why does it hurt so much?” she said. “There’s something wrong. Something really wrong. I’m scared.”

“Shh. Don’t talk like that. We’ll find out what this is. Have you right as rain. You’ll see.”

The end of a gurney pushed into the room with a clank or metal and the squeak of old wheels.

“Carolyn Janus? Birthday 07/22/1988?” the woman in bleached-white scrubs pushing the gurney asked.

Shawn nodded.

“Ok. We’re going upstairs to CT.”

“Should I…?” Shawn asked.

“No. You stay here. I’ll keep her safe. I promise.” The woman helped Carolyn shift from the bed to the gurney. Carolyn bit her lip and stifled a moan. The woman slammed the side rail of the gurney up into place.

“Get her right back to you,” the woman said, backing the gurney out of the room.

Out in the hall, the woman smiled as she pushed the patient on her stretcher. Carolyn could barely see the woman who was moving her down the hall. She looked above her at the woman in white. There was a tag hung around her neck. There were bright red letters, but the name that was stamped in the middle under a picture kept blurring out of focus.

“Remember me?” she asked.

Carolyn couldn’t think. It was the woman. From the bar. Pam. That was it. Nun’s name. With the drink. And the phone.

“Don’t worry, honey,” Pam said. “Like I told him. I’ll keep you safe. Both of you.”

 

 

Her head pounded. It hurt so much. Carolyn stood against the window of the hospital room and leaned her head against the pane. She wished for winter, but the glass was warm.

“Why can’t we just leave? she asked. It wasn’t the first time she had said that in the last hour. This time no one was there to hear. Shawn had gone to get her an herbal tea. She hated herbal tea–in this moment, more than usual. She wanted a glass of white wine so cold that glass had frost. No. Not a glass of white wine. She wanted a bottle. And she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she had ever wanted white wine.

A nurse came in the room, pushing a computer on a wheeled-stand. At least Carolyn guessed she was a nurse. The woman in the navy scrubs never said.

“Marilyn?” the woman asked.

“Carolyn.”

“Oh,” the woman said, starring into the computer screen. “Were you in a different room?”

Carolyn shook her head. Jesus. She would seriously kick this computer and its pusher down a flight of stairs for that wine.

“This place,” the maybe-nurse said, sighing and taking a huge slug out of travel mug that sat on the small ledge wrapped around the front of the monitor. The mug was orange and as big as the computer screen. The woman slurped down the coffee as she clicked, somehow all while staring out the room’s window. “Oh, no, here it is. Ok. Doctor signed off on your discharge. Go ahead and change and I’ll print out your papers.”

“Is anybody going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“He didn’t come talk to you?”

“No,” Carolyn said.

The woman sighed louder and swallowed another mouthful from her mug. “There is it. Follow up visit in two weeks. Number will be on the papers.”

“But-” Carolyn growled.

“If there was anything, it would be in here. But it’s not. So, I’m sure you’re fine.”

“Sure. Cause I feel fucking fine.”

“Your papers will be at the desk,” the woman said, pushing her computer out of the room.

Carolyn flung up her middle finger at the empty doorway. She yanked off the hospital gown, and walked over to the tiny plastic closet in the corner, wearing only her underwear. The elastic band adhered to the sweat on her back.

Shawn stepped into the doorway, holding her tea and wearing an eager, sympathetic smile.

“What did they say?” he asked.

The steam rose through the hole on the plastic cover of the drink. She imagined the liquid melting the cup, distorting it around Shawn’s hand. Hotter, and hotter and hotter, until the tea dissolved every molecule it touched, until there was redness, and pain and…

“Bloody hell,” Shawn yelled. He dropped the cup on the floor and the tea pooled by his feet, hot vapor rising like a mist. He stepped back and reflexively brought his hand to his mouth to cool it. “Don’t know why they serve it like that.”

He grabbed a handful of paper towel and bent to clean the mess.

“Leave it,” Carolyn said.

“No, I can’t. I’ve made a wreck of the place. Someone could fall or-“

“Take me home,” Carolyn said. “Now.”

(Alyssa Herron is the author of the new suspense novel Drowning Above Water. It is available at Amazon.)

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 6

 

Chapter 6

                 

“You look like helllllll,” Dae said, stretching out the word to crystalize her point. She was perched on Carolyn’s desk, her butt touching the keyboard, her legs spread, with Carolyn sitting in the middle.

“I know,” Carolyn said. She felt like hell and agreed that she looked like it.

“What happened last night?”

“Went to a bar. Had a drink. Lost my phone. Came home and found it. Then I went to sleep.”

“You’re so old,” Dae said. “I’m embarrassed for you right now, you’re so old.”

“You’re four years older than me,” Carolyn said.

“Yeah, but I look good.”

“I only had one drink,” Carolyn said.

“Then I need to know that bartender,” Dae said. “I know you’re dying, but…you have those medical descriptions, right? Karl needs them. Now.”

Carolyn exhaled and smacked Dae’s ass to get her off her desk. Dae swung her legs around, clearing the keys but keeping her hips pointed to Carolyn.

“Why do women speaking Farsi need to know how to ask about a yeast infection?

“I’d imagine they have nasty cooters in Persia, like just they have downtown. But, I just dance the code, pretty. Making the world better one useless app at a time. And Karl needs your descriptions. Now.”

Carolyn fussed at the computer and then jabbed a final stroke. “Sent. Why does just doing that feel like I ran ten miles?”

Dae stared at her. “You all right? There’s not something…”

“I’m not pregnant,” Carolyn said.

“Didn’t think you were,” Dae said. “But apparently you did.”

“I didn’t. I have no idea why I just said that.” She jammed the heels of her hands into her eyes. When she dropped them back in her lap, there were tears on her cheeks.

“Honey, what the hell is happening?”

“I don’t know,” Carolyn said.”

“I’d say go home,” Dae said, “but I can’t. We really need to get started on the update for the travel piece. I don’t want to stall Darren again.”

“No, of course not,” Carolyn said. “I’ve been working. It’s fifty percent at least.”

“I need 75 as soon as you can.”

“Don’t worry,” Carolyn said. “I’ll handle it.”

Dae stood up from the desk and rubbed Carolyn’s shoulder. “You’re the best.” She walked away from the desk and Carolyn slumped into her chair.

 

Hours later Carolyn laid under all the blankets of their bed. Her neck ached. Her hips throbbed. Even her calves felt like solid cramped blocks, as if she’d run a marathon in heel, and she’d been in nothing but flats for days.

Shawn peeked his head through the bedroom door. “Hey,” he said. “You getting on?”

Carolyn shifted the blankets away from her mouth but otherwise didn’t move. “Dae says I am.”

“You don’t look well, love,” he said. He felt her forehead.  “No fever. Can I get you anything?” he asked. He sat down next to her on the bed, stroking her legs over the thick comforter.

She stared at him. He looked…good. Nothing specific. Just good. He always looked good. But this was exceptional. His skin was smooth and, not sweaty or shiny, but dewy. The way a young girl looks, freshly scrubbed after a warm bath. He was smiling. His lips were soft, moist. His whole face was bright. Even his body. He seemed lighter, like the forces working on his body were lifting his center to the sky instead of pulling it down to the earth.

“You look…” she said, trailing off, losing her voice in the covers below her chin. “Beautiful. Like an angel.”

“It was a good day,” he said, smiling and rubbing his thumb over her cheek. Even that felt . She could feel the roughness of her skin edges catching, disrupting the marble-smooth skin of his thumb. It felt like a wet cherry, rolling over fish scales. Two unexpected and exclusive objects meeting awkwardly. She never realized his hands were so soft.

“You sleep,” he said. “I’m going to pop out for sushi around the corner. Then I’ll be downstairs. Need me to bring you anything?”

“No sushi,” she said.

“Right,” he said. He tucked the blankets around her. “Well, then, my spicy roll. A bagel for you.  I’ll be right back. Call me if you need anything.” He leaned in to kiss her. It had a touch more suggestion and passion than a usual popping-out-for-sushi-be-right-back kiss. She wanted to reciprocate, but she couldn’t. She could barely lift her head off the pillow. He left the room and she closed her eyes. She never heard him leave.

 

 

(Alyssa Herron is the author of the new suspense novel Drowning Above Water. It is available at Amazon. )