just barely got the hack right in time to resume masquerading as her Snapchat
buddy from his phone.
^URSunPC&proud: so u think he’s cutee
More? Tommy had to fight to
keep his face like neutral and all. Just
in case she looked up. Meanwhile all he
could think about was what those big breasts would look like all uncovered and
WTFwasImogeneCoca: Effin cray cray.
Cray cray? Fucking cray cray could
be so hot. Tommy’s pants were getting
^URSunPC&proud: cray crayy
WTFwasImogeneCoca: Been so long.
Been so long? Since she got some? Couldn’t get any in the hospital? All pregs and shit? He’d fix that!
^URSunPC&proud: been so longg
WTFwasImogeneCoca: U know I never like did it & I never like
cudn’t remember cuz drunk or some effin thing except 1 nite & that was w/my
dad so I cudn’t be pregnant. Been so
long since my dad beat me. No
bruises. No loose teeth. No blood from that effin knife. U know I hate when boys touch me but been so
long since my dad beat me that that Tommy touched me & this effin cray cray
but it felt good.
Tommy looked up at her. Trying very hard not to cry, she looked like a puppy again. When she choked on a sob, her hospital gown fell down, exposing one breast. He was on her in a minute.
He gently pulled the gown up over her breast, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her on the top of her head, breathing in the sweet perfume of her. Still, he wasn’t like all gentle and tame. He was fucking furious. But not at her .
like couldn’t wait for that Blond Monster Tommy to return so she could Snapchat
^URS again. Except she was like so
effin’ grateful to him for lending her that tablet that she really shouldn’t
call him a monster anymore. Especially
since she’d meant what she’d told ^URS about him. She’d had to look at him a bit to like see
him in a different light and figure it out, but it was bible. Tommy was cute.
after seeing him leave with that nurse, looking all scared and shy and not even
able to look down at the Minecraft on his phone, Imogene wasn’t ready for the
next time she saw him. It like started
before she even saw him: She was looking
down at his timed-out tablet that she still had, trying to figure out what
other than “Minecraft” or “minecraft” his password could
felt his eyes on her.
up, she saw him coming at her with a big grin and sparkling eyes. “Type in ‘thisisnotapuppylove,’ all one
This is not a puppy love?But Imogene was so mesmerized
by how like intense his look was that her fingers froze.
an even bigger grin, Tommy was behind her in a heartbeat. He wrapped both arms around her, so he could
type it in.
could feel the muscles in his arms and chest dancing as he typed, along with
the warmth of his breath on the back of her neck. No one, except the medical peeps, had touched
her in a very long time. Caught by
surprise, she was startled to discover that it felt good.
Then he jerked himself away and fumbled for his phone.
Imogene like actually felt like slighted or some effin’ stupid thing…but then she remembered she was in now and signed into Snapchat.
The Storage Space didn’t even care when the ghost of that so-long-dead Shakespearean actor returned. Didn’t even care enough to ignore it and avoid it as it had done for so many tired years. Therefore, for the first time, it heard Edward’s thoughts. He was pining for her, the one both of them grieved, the greatest actress of them all who had fallen to her death so many years ago.
“And just why did she fall to her death?” the Storage Space queried harshly.
But in all those long years
only Karen, the one the Storage Space would still bestir itself to ignore, had
heard anything it had to say. The ghost
of Edward did not. Instead he kept
thinking of some letter that was written in Switzerland in 1898. And he directed his yearnings toward the
pregnant teenager that was now gone.
Because he knew.
the Storage Space watched the pregnant teenager’s father, still in Unit 38
sorting through those “data sticks.”
Frantic, he kept sticking one after another into a “laptop,” obviously
looking for something he wasn’t finding.
Each failure resulted in his punching a metal wall.
But the Storage Space didn’t care. It didn’t even care about the one both it and Edward had grieved all these long years. Even when it knew she had been reincarnated into the baby the pregnant teenager now carried.
No. At long last the Storage Space could only care about one thing: regret that it, along with its once-beloved tea room now gone, hadn’t been torn down long ago.
couldn’t fuckin’ fathom how he could be dead and still feel so much pain. Karen…
Elegant, fine, pure… Like his
grandma’s china he’d loved as a kid…but broken.
now he’d broken Karen too.
Fugettaboudit! He’d fuckin’ offed
not her body but…far worse!…her soul. He, Frank, a fuckin’ green mist of a ghost
whose body had been chainsawed into pieces and put out with the trash, was more
alive than this… This soulless
fresh-and-blood… This empty Karen still
breathing in the apartment of that silly Brit who’d actually managed to off
Frank when Frank, in a jealous rage, was trying to off him.
Marie. Karen’s best friend who’d started it all by
seducing him. But he now knew, as a
ghost who could go fuckin’ anywhere, that Marie had first given up her face and
identity, and then her life, to take care of Karen. Frank had tried to reach Karen’s soul,
softening her by telling her why Marie had seduced him as she retrieved
Martin’s key from under that rock, but she hadn’t heard anything except the
even when she did hear him clearly, all she had to say was, “Fuck
could he reach her? How could he bring
her back? Could he
bring her back?
his ghost’s 360-degree vision, he saw a grandmotherly ghost behind him shake
her green finger at him as she passed through Martin’s apartment on her way to
who-knows-where. Frank had never seen
her before, but he figured he knew why she’d shaken that finger at him.
what his grandma with the exquisite china would have done.
only known such language to begin with because her daughter, Frank’s mother,
had married “so far beneath her.”
Frank’s father was…fugettaboudit…a thug.
Frank had grown up caught between his mother’s elegance and his father’s
brutality. He’d thought his father’s
brutality had won…until he met Karen.
beheld her with his not only 360-degree but, at times, ubiquitous vision. She’d dozed off in Martin’s chair, still a
little weak despite her newly regained health.
Frank caressed her with his gaze, from every possible direction, then he
slipped gently into her dreams…
Dead. She no longer cared about
anything. She wasn’t even dreaming. He had to find something still living inside
her. Desperately, he tried to remember…
Her grandparents. What had
she always talked about? What had she
grandfather’s delight in the intricacies of the mechanical toys that had been
passed down to him from his own grandfather.
Karen showing him a small metal horse on wheels with almost all its
paint chipped off, gently turning in over and over in her hands, her face all
but exploding with her own delight.
searched her mind for that memory, but her mind was such a barren wasteland now
that it was as if all her memories had blown away like dust in a desert. He was consumed with despair. Karen.
How the fuck was he supposed to live without Karen? He wasn’t even alive anymore and he couldn’t
stand to be without the Karen that once was, but was no more.
gave up when slipping back out of her sleeping mind he stumbled haphazardly
upon the metal horse. It hadn’t been
there before. Like a lightbulb about to
go out forever, her memory of it flickered on and off.
focused all his attention on the horse, Karen’s grandfather, and all the
wonderful things she’d told him about him.
tried again. And again.
The words cut through Frank’s soul.
Karen said, aloud though talking in her sleep, “Fuck you!”
climbed over a fence to get to Martin’s back yard.
Fuck you! was Karen’s answer to the ghost of Frank she assumed she was
only imagining. She guessed she was
supposed to remember when she couldn’t even crawl out of her storage unit and
feel grateful for the miracles wrought by modern medicine.
looked around. The light was soft on a
garden that, though now grievously overgrown, was still sweet. She made out primroses; she’d loved Martin’s
primroses. He’d told her they were as
prim and proper as those in his mum’s garden in Kent. She guessed she should feel something. A twinge for the long-lost innocence and
simplicity of her life? Or even fury at
Martin for killing Frank who was, after all, the love of her life?
didn’t feel a thing.
funny rock. Still there. She lifted it just enough to retrieve the key
to Martin’s back door underneath.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, a name resonated through her head:
more. Just the name.
had that cop who told Karen she was going to get out of the hospital…and that
that emergency worker was going to drop the charges for some mysterious reason…asked
her so much about Marie, even for her address?
shrugged it aside and tried the key in Martin’s back door. At first it didn’t work, but wiping off more
dirt did the trick. At last she was in,
scurrying around till she found that Martin had stashed her suitcase, her
purse, and most of the clothing she’d had no time to put back on when she
rushed out the back door, in a closet.
She dragged it all out, into the middle of the living room floor where
she’d left it when she fled to escape Frank, and collapsed into the
mustard-colored cushions of one of Martin’s vintage Danish Modern armchairs. It had been so very long ago:
Frank cheating on her with her best, friends-forever friend Marie.
the apartment she’d shared with Frank with only what she could get to that
accursed storage unit she’d signed up for with Irwin and this suitcase she’d
brought to temporarily move in with her friends-with-benefits Martin.
kicking the door in while she and Martin were exploring their
fleeing half naked out the back door and running to her storage unit.
Martin and Frank following…
But none of it mattered now. She rifled through her purse…plenty of money…then grabbed her phone for the first time in forever. The battery, of course, was dead. Charger in her suitcase, but what was this: another phone in her suitcase, not hers? She turned it over in her hand. The case said “Jennifer.” Then she noted a whole bunch of boxes in the room that hadn’t been there before, marked “stuff.”
Tommy like stared at his phone, waiting with bated breath for her response. After all, he thought she was cute, especially when she looked like his dead puppy…
of Snapchatting back to ^URSunPC&proud…the fucking stupidest
name anyone had ever used to Snapchat…Imogene looked up at
him and stared. Probably hadn’t factored
in peripheral vision and figured he was too busy on his phone to notice. Fuck! She
was researching whether or not he was cute before answering the question! Tommy tried to look busy on his phone, using
the lull in their conversation to tweak the hack he’d gotten from his new
storage unit that allowed him to masquerade as her Snapchat buddy. But he almost blew it and fucking snapped the
connection because what he was really concentrating on was looking cute.
shifted his weight, nonchalantly showing off the tight jeans he thought were
important, but…if his peripheral vision was accurate…she was looking at his
face. What the fuck could he do about
that? He stiffened his jaw. No…wanted to look tough but not
belligerent. He licked his lips. Fuck no!
Too obvious! He gave the phone he
was still staring at what he thought was a soulful look…but maybe it just
looked ridiculous, looking at a fucking phone like that. He remembered an old movie, James Dean, and
ran his fingers through his hair, real slow.
Squared his shoulders. Flexed a
few muscles here and there. Finally he
pulled out all the stops and looked up from his phone, trying to rivet her with
finally looked down.
what he saw on his phone in his peripheral vision was that she had, at fucking
last, answered the question.
But just then, before he could even dart a look at the answer, someone else locked eyes with him.
It was the nurse, standing at the door, who’d almost fired him.
like couldn’t believe it. That Blond
Monster Tommy had had to leave and do his work after she’d like lied to keep
him out of trouble with that def-not-woke nurse, but…zayum…it was effin’ days
later but he’d like walked right into her room and handed her his tablet! She looked up at him with effin’ tears of
gratitude, but he was busy on his phone.
still playing Minecraft.
Imogene clutched the tablet, like sweating all over it as she logged onto Snapchat with shaking hands. There was something funny about the log-in, but she figured it had been so effin’ long she’d just forgotten. Anyway it didn’t matter: she was in!
WTFwasImogeneCoca: U there?
^URSunPC&proud: wheree the fuck else wud i b
WTFwasImogeneCoca: Where u been?
So much 2 tell u!
^URSunPC&proud: tell awayy
like kept having to blink back effin’ tears so she could see the screen. Her fingers like flew as she told ^URS about
everyone…even the effin’ med peeps…thinking she was pregnant, which was sooooo
def-not-woke, since she’d just had the def worst period ever. Vaguely it occurred to her that she hadn’t
trusted ^URS at times, like how ^URS knew so much about Imogene without ever
having met in RL, but she ignored that now, bursting to type faster so she
could tell ^URS absolutely everything, including stuff she like hadn’t even
told herself yet, like that her belly was getting big and that there was
something that moved inside her…and she was afraid she had cancer.
for one hot night that for some funny reason she couldn’t remember…all about
like all the pain, and all the loose teeth, and every time her father ever beat
Tommy stiffened at that one, but it was probably something that had happened on
Minecraft on that phone he was still bent over.
She told ^URS about Tommy…finally…after so effin’ long without any device…lending her his tablet.
Storage Space was no longer appalled, simply or otherwise. It no longer cared.
newest customer, the blond boy, pummeled a wall that rattled and clattered as
he uttered a string of the crudest obscenities…apparently directed toward
something he called “vanilla Minecraft.”
called out, “Tommy! Please! There’s enough clatter here already from the
Storage Space couldn’t possibly imagine the craft of mining vanilla, since
vanilla couldn’t be mined. Amelia had
stopped singing its favorite aria. The
supposed “renovations” were only a lie by that oddly dressed Pat so
he…or “they” as Tommy would call this strange Pat person…could
crowbar his way to all the Storage Space’s hidden treasures under Amelia’s
the Storage Space didn’t care.
announced yet another visit from the ghost of Irwin, Le Grand Rat.
Storage Space didn’t care.
Grand Rat whispered amid slithers of his hatred for Karen who’d had the
effrontery to kill him in self-defense.
Karen… Did not deserve to be thought of ever
again. Karen had betrayed the Storage
something akin to sepulchral silence reigned as that other young boy, Fifi’s
clandestine lover, crept around on his rainbow shoes, using the keys he’s
stolen from reception long ago to stuff all his empty suitcases with treasures
from other people’s storage units. Amelia
of the beautiful voice…and Karen when she returned…would get in trouble.
Storage Space didn’t care.
that even more oddly dressed Pat, crowbarring treasures hidden since the 19th
century out from behind the metal walls, freed a pocket of air subtly scented
with starched linens, oiled leather, fine cigars, and exquisite perfumes that
were no longer available.
aahed, stroking some freshly exposed wooden paneling.
Pat told even more lies about restoring the old theatre and pocketed a sterling silver snuff box when she wasn’t looking.
If the restoration hadn’t been a lie…if the grand old theatre was really, truly, going to be returned to its former dignity, its former glory…the Storage Space still wouldn’t care.
couldn’t douche long enough, hard enough.
That emergency worker had been disgusting. She deserved an Oscar for acting that
shouldn’t even have been necessary.
Instead of handcuffing Karen to her hospital bed for stabbing the prick,
they should have awarded her the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Marie stopped douching, leaned back in her tub, rested her head against the
wall, and closed her eyes.
Karen… Free… Fabuloso!
it had cost Marie everything…even her own face, altered beyond recognition by
witness protection’s plastic surgeon after she neutralized the mob connections
to Karen’s boyfriend Frank.
let her eyes flutter open in the steamy room, then squeezed them shut again, imagining
she could still feel the pain from the plastic surgeon’s stitches. Her favorite playlist, from the phone she’d
plugged into a speaker by the door, would end soon. Good thing she’d set the volume low…
speaking of low, all Karen would ever remember was Marie’s resorting to the
same tactic as she did with the emergency worker to get all the information she
needed from Frank. Karen would never
know it had been the only way Marie could protect Karen.
thought she heard something in the hall, then laughed at herself…naked in a
bathtub. What was this? Psycho?
Had it been the only way, sleeping with Frank? That sudden thought hurt worse than Alan
Bates stabbing Janet Leigh with the knife.
All the others, even those in the mob, she’d slept with, and finally
that emergency worker…
was this, the 19th
century, not the 21st? Wasn’t there some other way she could have
done it all, accomplished it all, other than sleeping with…at least…Frank?
gut knotted. Her eyes flickered open again. The douche she’d left on its side drizzled its
last remaining liquid over the tub like a garden sprinkler someone had knocked
wouldn’t help with this. Her gut
re-knotted as the next stab of emotional pain came: Had she hidden all her own flaws…including
liking to credit herself with everything, an odd self-absorption, and false
pride…beneath the supposedly pure altruism of helping her friend?
The shower curtain was yanked aside. Some guy she thought she recognized…some cop from the hospital, though he wasn’t in uniform now…clamped a hand over her mouth. Some other guy with him turned the volume up on her least favorite playlist. She couldn’t catch all they were whispering, but she knew it had to do with making it look like an accident.
Shit. False pride indeed. She’d thought she could escape the mob.
couldn’t have cared less about anything.
Except it was fun to torment roommate Lydia with…or, Karen smirked,
should she say without…the amputated leg.
shadows from the sunlight passing through the leaves outside danced across the
couldn’t have cared less.
plaintive, heartbreaking cry of a child could be heard in the hall.
stopped weeping for long enough to ask, “Who are you calling a stupid brat?”
smirked again. “Not you, gimp! At least not this time…”
cop came in with a look of absolute disdain for the donut he was eating. “Anyone know where I can get a jelly
donut?” Then he gave Karen a sharp
look, mumbling something about “the crazy blonde,” before he
approached with a pasted-on smile.
“Good afternoon, young lady, Officer Grover Sanders here, at your
service with some very good news for you today.”
eyed him suspiciously. Despite the
smile, something in his eyes and body language suggested he was there to get
something from her rather than give her anything. But she went along while he made his way
through some preliminaries like confirming her name and a home address she’d
all but forgotten at this point.
continued Officer Grover Moore, “it seems the individual you allegedly
assaulted with a scalpel has…suddenly and miraculously, one might add…decided
to drop the charges.”
“You look puzzled. You…” He trailed off. Karen shivered. Something in the stillness of the air reminded her of a lion about to pounce on its prey. “You don’t happen to have a friend named Marie?”