Martin was crossing “watching the sun set over San Francisco Bay” off his new, trusty to-do list. The pink and orange reflected off the screen of that extra phone of hers she’d given him. It started to undulate.
Bloody hell! Was he still hallucinating after all?
Soft fingers traced delicate patterns around the back of his neck. Martin relaxed; he was safe.
The whole Pacific Ocean was undulating. Martin stiffened. Was it his imagination or were the fluid colors of the sunset on water worming their way onto shore?
“Mo chuisle!” Her voice was so deep it could have been a man’s. Her fingers caressing him all over were so soft it could only be a dream. “It means my darling, my blood.”
He twisted away from her. “The bloody ocean… Look at it! Is it…undulating? Really?”
She didn’t even look; she just kept staring at him…thoroughly gobsmacked. “Of course it is. It’s an ocean, silly! You’re safe. Relax.”
He looked back at the phone. Okay, the reflection of the sunset off the Pacific was undulating on its screen, but oceans did that. What it had not done was worm off the screen onto other things. He was safe. He relaxed.
Never had he seen such a sunset. Not even in the Highlands and Islands when he was a child. Never had he seen such love in another person’s eyes, not even his mum’s or dad’s…
Thinking about his parents bothered him… Something about all their lectures about all the hallucinogenic drugs he used to do. Something about his father’s garden hose… Martin shuddered. The girl he was with reached up to stroke his face.
The last of the sunset lit up her face. “I love you, Martin!”
He was still struggling unsuccessfully to remember her name.
“I know. It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember my name. You call me what…Karen?…in your sleep? But for me you’re the pulse running through my veins. Crazy. Completely irrational. But I knew it before I knew what color your eyes were because, when I first laid eyes on you, you were asleep then too. Yet I could feel it. I could feel you in every beat of my own heart.”
In that moment, even the dying sunset paled in comparison. He didn’t need to know her name to know she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He had never felt safer.
“You know,” she said in that richly deep voice. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know me consciously, if you call me Karen. A rose by any other name… Somewhere deep inside, you know my soul.”
He could feel every muscle in his body relaxing. Sunset over, the tranquility of blue took over. He gazed dreamily out over the undulating sea of blue…uniforms. A cop blessed his soul and shoved some papers in his face. “It was self defense! If I hadn’t killed him, Frank would have killed me!” What was he saying? Maybe he hadn’t said it aloud. Was he in Brooklyn, with that sea of blue uniforms, or California? Maybe the woman whose name he couldn’t remember hadn’t heard him.
It was dark. Fog descended on them, wet soaking him through to his bone marrow. Her face was dark; he couldn’t tell who she was. Light, he had to have light. He could get light from his phone, but it wasn’t his phone. It was her phone, and he didn’t know who she was.
“It doesn’t matter if you call me Karen, or…Jennifer.”
Jennifer! He had to have light. He fumbled for Jennifer’s phone, trying desperately to ignore the light from the sleeping T-rex’s slowly opening eye.
Jennifer’s phone prompted him for a password. At first he was stumped. Then he remembered and typed in his own name.
“You have six unheard messages.”
A dry cleaner wanted him to pick up her “stuff.” Jennifer’s phone changed into his own, the one he’d left in Brooklyn. The messages continued with his loan shark Frank reminding him that, even though he was dead, Martin still owed him a whole shitload of money. Ms. Morales told him a whole shitload of money was missing from work and reminded him that they both worked for a non-profit charity. He threw the phone down so he wouldn’t have to listen to the rest.
Water. The undulating sea of blue.
Something about his father’s garden hose. But it wasn’t water that gurgled and twisted and turned out of it. It was blood. “Ma cushla.” His darling, his blood, his pulse, his million-dollar baby was the million dollars he’d stolen from a million starving children.
The whole Pacific Ocean turned red.
Martin sprang to his feet.
The red blood was worming its way onto shore, undulating on its way up the hills to him. He didn’t think it could possibly be his imagination.
“Blood everywhere. Perp died. But it was necessary force on my part. Nothing my Uncle Ed, first of our family to join the force, wouldn’t have done.”
That deep voice again. Martin’s eyes snapped open. Somehow, he knew what he saw now was real: They were in bed, in the room with the bay window. The girl was talking in her sleep again. Business as usual. Nothing was undulating. He almost choked on his relief.
His laughter must have woken her. She looked as cold as her last words had been. “Vanilla latte…Randolph?” Then she softened as she looked at him and smiled the sweetest, warmest smile he’d ever seen. “Dreams. Funny how they move from such sublime sweetness to…well…” Her voice was cold again, just for a moment. “Never mind.”
Breakfast. More vanilla lattes. Sex. Loving words when he jumped at her touch once. Her trying to get him to open up about his troubles and tell all, by reading to him from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Business as usual. He decided to put everything in his dreams firmly behind him. It had all been his imagination after all; he was fine. But he also decided that the coldness of hers he’d woken up to was something he’d never forget. That had not been his imagination.
She looked deep into his eyes again, gobsmacked again.
He still didn’t remember her name. So he looked down at her great retro shag carpet, eyes widening a bit as the green formed itself into scales and the T-rex winked up at him. But Martin decided firmly that it was nothing.