As far as I can tell, I’m the only person in the hallway.
Where a gaudy fixture normally showers with light the banister and the last few steps of stairs there is only a trapezoid of greenish glow folded across the floor and up the wall. I ring the bell again. The spring under the button feels unreliable but I can hear the chime singing a jagged song just the other side of the entrance. Street sounds climb through the open skylight above me. The painful pulse in my head returns and I have to lean against the wall and close my eyes. When the door opens, she finds me on one knee near a water stain on the thin carpet. Jesus, Kathy! she says and latches my arm with hers and she leads me into the stuffy warmth of her efficiency. Once in the light of the room she reclines from me, still locked with me at the elbow, and instantly finds what must be a nasty lump darkening my forehead. I realize I may be bleeding. Kathy, she whispers and eases me onto a cushioned chair surrounded by a random disaster of magazines, their pages butchered into splinters and shards and gorgeous faces and tanned midriffs. I have to call the police, Kathy. No, Zoe, please. I’m taking you to the ER. No, Zoe, I have to meet my parents in a half an hour. I don’t care. Please, just help me. I’m trying to help you, Kathy. I’m starting to cry. Just help me. Kathy, who had been gathering her purse and coat and keys, now stands frozen in the center of the rug, her eyes sagging in sympathy, each item in her arms sounding off as they drop one by one to the floor. Just help me fix my hair or something so they can’t see. And we’ll cover it with some make-up, she says. We’ll cover it with make-up and bring your bangs down so they’ll never know. Thank you, Zoe. But godammit this is the last time, baby doll. Thank you, Zoe.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.