There was a death
in the living room. The death was quiet, unobtrusive. No one knew. And the corpse
kept a modest decorum as it continued to rot, not wanting to disturb the girls in the kitchen
“Shannon, that smells so good!” exclaimed Kristen, the blonde-headed cherub faced girl sitting on top of the counter. She gazed at the gray colored steam rising next to her from a pot of boiling noodles, inhaling the aroma.
“It’s the garlic sauce,” Shannon responded. “This new flavor is yummy.”
“Yummy?” Kristen smirked. Absentmindedly brushed nothing from her thigh.
“Tell Shannon about that guy in your Psych. Class. Chad.” Shirley’s voice came from the doorway, high and tambourine-like along with the other girls’ voices.
“Oh my God,” said Kristen. Then she stopped and turned her head to Nora, who was sitting on the floor of the kitchen . “Did you know about Chad?”
Nora shook her head and continued to pull at the back of her long brown hair.
“Chad’s this gorgeous guy in my class with incredible black hair and dark blue yes. I mean scary blue. I haven’t talked to him much but anyway, he had on these brown flip flops today and I was looking down during the teacher’s speech and noticed that he’s got three toes stuck together.”
“Stuck together?” Nora asked.
“Stuck together. Like webbed feet or something!”
Shannon and Shirley laughed. Nora smiled and glanced through the opening to the living room where evening had blown in black. The white lamp standing next to the couch could hardly be seen through the pitch, like a sinister shadow, blacker there than in any other part of the room.
The girls continued talking but Nora invariably stared out the glass door leading to their patio. Unfortunately the patio faced the main street of the apartment complex, where the occasional headlights of cars would glare through the girls’ place and distract any peaceful- or unpeaceful- thought. Nora watched one, two, three cars gleam by the window in a course of three minutes.
“What do you think, Nora?”
Nora glanced up at Shirley.
“The rape,” Shirley’s right finger looped into a belt hole on the side of her khaki shorts. “Do you think that girl is telling the truth? I think she was just drunk off her ass. And now she’s pregnant and she want’s to blame the guy.”
“Did you not hear about this?” inquired Shannon.
“No,” replied Nora. “Who was the guy?”
“Mike Forrester,” said Shirley. “Do you know him?”
“He’s a football player. Nice. Nice as a bunny rabbit. He’d never rape a girl.”
“A bunny rabbit?” questioned Kristen.
“You never really know.” Shannon spoke as she stirred her noodle soup. She then sneezed and slammed the counter with her fist.
“God bless you,” Kristen said.
“God bless you,” Nora reiterated, rising up and heading toward the balcony. “Do y’all hear that?”
No one answered, but Nora opened the glass door and stepped out into the chilly evening. She could smell the moist leaves of the trees and tasted the night’s inclement air on her tongue. The sound was louder out there, the echoing voice of Jimmy Buffett dribbling down from an upstairs apartment. Nora rolled her eyes. She sat down on one of the blue patio chairs and gazed across the street, where two people were fighting outside the door of a second floor apartment. From that distance Nora could tell the guy in the fight was tall and lanky. The girl was petite with short black hair. She was murmuring something indecipherable to the guy, and then she stormed down the stairs and onto the street.
“You think you can leave like that?” the guy shouted. “Get back up here!”
The girl turned around and headed up the stairs again, all the while yelling.
“I’m sick of listening to all this bull-shit!” she was saying.
“I heard that!” yelled Kristen from the kitchen. “What’s going on?”
“Lover’s spat,” Nora replied. The couple then went back into their apartment. Then Nora blinked. She’d seen that door close before. And as the music upstairs continued along, blending with the chatter from the kitchen, she realized it was all familiar. Deja vu.
“Ouch.” She spoke this quietly to herself. For two seconds she felt peaceful, and then she wasn’t. A shudder went through her arms and she clutched the sides of her chair.
A car was heading down into the complex, and at the same time a girl from next door ran out into the street. The sound of the car’s tires lacerated Nora’s ears, and she saw the impact on the front of the Corolla, saw the thing momentarily fly up into the air, quick and with a loud punching noise as if it were a beach ball, saw the girl’s hair and face suddenly spray with blood, saw the inanimate stillness of her on the concrete.
The woman in the car jumped out screaming. She ran to the body in the street. Nora ran inside and grabbed the phone as the other girls rushed from the kitchen and out onto the patio.
“Oh shit! Shit, is she dead?” asked Kristen.
The girl was taken away in an ambulance fifteen minutes later. She was not dead but she was severely injured with a concussion and a broken leg. All of the girls in the apartment retired early that evening. At approximately 10:45 Jack called wanting to speak to Nora, who was supposed to meet him at ten.
“What the fuck happened to you?” he queried, the raspy tone of his voice nasty and intimidating to Nora.
“I just couldn’t make it tonight, Jack. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? You could have called.”
“A girl was hit by a car earlier in the street. She was really hurt.”
“I saw it happen.”
“Is that why you stood me up, Nora? You’re such a martyr.”
“Shut up, Jack.”
“Just kidding. So can I come over?”
Nora’s mind was hit with the inevitable vision of Jack there, on top of her, and was immediately tempted to say yes as usual.
“I don’t know,” fell out of her lips.
“You don’t know? Come on. You do too.”
She felt him and saw all his virulence and implacable desire in his eyes, in his face. The vision of his face then hit her keen like the vision of the accident before. She touched on déjà vu and it hurt, curled her lip before she spoke. Nora felt like a beach ball.
“I’m really tired, Jack. I’ve got to get some sleep.”
The dial tone. The sound of superb Mozart to Nora just then. She smiled as she hung up the phone, extremely proud of herself. But disturbingly wide awake.
It was almost midnight when Shannon went into the living room to watch a little television. She turned the overhead light on and immediately noticed the small black corpse of a roach near the sofa.
“Oh, disgusting,” she mumbled. She grabbed four paper towels from the roll in the kitchen and picked up the deceased bug. She sound of the inevitable crunch within her hand made her gag, and she hurriedly ran to throw it into the garbage can. Nora walked in and sat with Shannon, enjoying the evening in more than she ever had enjoyed a night home before.