After I caught Eddie with his whore and locked myself in the bathroom, it was ten minutes before he had the guts to knock on the door. “Hello, in there?”
“You know,” I said, my voice echoing in the bathtub, “I wondered why you hadn’t tried to fuck me. Now I know why. You like soft-bellied, big-breasted redheads.”
“You’re home early,” he said.
“Is that supposed to be an excuse? I don’t care if you want to spend your time screwing sad little crack whores.”
“Well, that’s good. I thought you were going to be jealous or something.”
“Go to hell.”
“Are you okay?” He actually sounded concerned.
“You had a girl in Denver, too, didn’t you? When I was gone?”
He sighed. “Yes, I did.”
“I smelled her,” I said, aware that if he honestly felt bad about it I was just twisting the knife, and not caring much.
“Hey, Nikki, I’m sorry.”
I threw one of my boots at the door, then the other. “Shut up and go to bed,” I said. “It doesn’t bother me.”
“Spoken like a true picture of stoicism. Do you always throw things when you’re feeling calm?”
I was too tired to argue with him. It never did any good anyway. After Taiisha, I wasn’t in the mood for his brand of shit and what I really wanted to do to get his attention was to stab my sword through the door. Maybe I’d impale him, right through his fat skull, and that would be fine, too.
No, that wasn’t fine. I felt like it would be for now because I was angry, but I really didn’t want him dead. I’d even said so.
There was too much free-floating hurt and rage and guilt in me, not to mention a day’s worth of travel grime, shards of glass, bruises, and somewhere deep down, annoyance at not knowing how Miss Saigon was going to end. I had to wash it all off. Then I could think about what would happen if I didn’t kill Eddie. About how many people would die instead.
The shower was a good one. Hotels don’t always have good showers but this one was nice, enough hot water to turn my skin pink and a nice wide spray, like rain. I like to have a lot of hot water falling on me. It relaxes me. I inspected my arms again. The scrapes stung under the water. They were even more superficial than they had looked, and I had an ugly black bruise growing on my shoulder from where Taiisha had thrown me into the mirror. Not a surprise. My back had started hurting, too, but the hot water convinced it to subside.
After I was in there for a few minutes I started to think about Shawn the usher again and I couldn’t stop. I wished I hadn’t seen her name. It was like a curse. All the roads that led to that girl’s death had been laid by me. If I had killed Eddie like Taiisha told me to, she wouldn’t have followed us to Chicago. I wouldn’t have been there to see Miss Saigon and Shawn would be alive. If I hadn’t attacked Taiisha, there wouldn’t have been a fight, and Shawn wouldn’t have even come into the bathroom. If I had just gone back to the show instead of trying to get quiet time in the bathroom, it wouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t right, and it was my fault. I didn’t try to keep myself from crying, just tried not to sob too loud so the shower could cover it up. I didn’t want to explain to Eddie why I was upset and didn’t want him thinking that I was crying because of the whore, either.
Had I been Taiisha’s toy for so long that I’d forgotten? Death wasn’t meaningless. Taiisha didn’t care who died and who didn’t, didn’t care that sometimes it wasn’t right. I had killed seven people since hooking up with Eddie–four who would have come after him if I hadn’t finished them–and that had been all right, it had been okay. They had attacked, thinking I was weaker than them, and I didn’t think twice about proving them wrong. The world was better off without those people. But Shawn wasn’t right. And now that I was thinking about it, forcing myself to remember, she wasn’t the only one. The couple whose house we had burned, right before Taiisha had set me onto Eddie, that hadn’t been right. The man and his daughter in the desert, that hadn’t been right. The man in Mexico, before that, I wasn’t sure about; Taiisha had let the man rape me first, so maybe that was right and maybe it wasn’t.
I didn’t want to think about them, or the others. Taiisha might have had reasons for wanting these people dead, or they might have been chosen on a whim. She didn’t care. And I had been with her so long, moving from place to place or stuck in that desert cabin with no other human contact, that I’d all but forgotten there was a world with motives outside of Taiisha’s. And it wasn’t right that Shawn was dead, wasn’t fair and wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.
Somewhere in there I got to crying for my family and friends who had died as well. There were so many, and none of them had anything to do with what was happening to me now, but the scrubbing had torn those scars open. And maybe I cried for myself, too. I didn’t think about it. I cried all of the tears that would come, while the water scalded the hurt and hate and guilt and weariness out of me.
When I had centered myself, I turned off the water, dried myself off, and put on the flannel pajamas that I had bought that afternoon. They were decadently warm; I wished I could wear them all the time. The sleeves also fell past my hands, nicely covering the cuts I’d acquired at the theater.
Taiisha hadn’t marked my face, but while I was washing up I saw that my nose was pierced. Yes–when I had been killed the day before, and had to borrow time, the mirror-self I’d pulled had had a nose piercing. Shit. The hole would heal if I didn’t put anything in it, just like an ear piercing would, but that might take a week or two. Hopefully Eddie hadn’t noticed it at dinner. It was a good night to roll straight into bed.
The hotel room was cool, especially after the scalding shower. I sat down on my bed and put my afghan around my shoulders again. Eddie had put his clothes back on, and was making a big show out of working on his laptop.
“So what’s the deal with the security blanket?” he asked me. I hadn’t expected or wanted him to say anything to me, and I jumped, startled.
“I’m cold, what do you think?”
“No, I mean where did it come from?”
“Don’t talk to me. I don’t want to talk to you right now.”
“I really am sorry.”
“I don’t care. You really are a fuckwit, is what you are.”
“I guess I’m that, too.”
“Don’t agree with me. Just shut up.”
He was quiet for a minute or two. The problem with Eddie was that even when he was concentrating deeply on something, he was capable of talking. And he did. It was as if silence would cause him to explode. “You left the play early.”
“I liked it,” I said. “But I couldn’t stay any longer.”
“You had too much to drink. Felt sick?”
“Something like that,” I said, looking at my hands.
“You better now?”
“Something like that,” she said. I looked up this time. He was looking back at me, mouth pursed so that his lower jaw was slightly pushed out, and he was chewing on the inside of his lip. Was he honestly worried? I wasn’t sure what that would look like, on Eddie’s face.
He had dressed like a typical fat man while I was in the shower, in cut-off sweatpants and a triple-XL Gap tee shirt, and I wondered what worried would look like on him. He was either worried or paranoid. I wanted to think that he was concerned about me, but I needed to feel something good from somebody and I was probably just desperate. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out for a moment.
“You look all used up,” Eddie said. “Have I been working you too hard? Was it the Denver thing? What did that son of a bitch Mitch do to you? I tried to call once, but the line was down.”
“I have a lot to think about,” I said.
“Want to talk–“
“No, I don’t, and neither do you,” I replied. “I’m going to draw.” I took my sketchbook out, and my Ziploc bag full of pencils.
I didn’t look at him. “Leave me alone, Eddie.”
“Do you draw as an outlet?”
“Leave me alone,” I said again. My voice was flat and toneless.
While I drew I thought about borrowing time again. Taiisha had showed me how. That meant someone had to have shown her how, and that meant that there were more people who could do what I did. I wanted to know more. Needed to. There had to be a way to find other…borrowers like me, and I thought about that while I drew. My sketch page filled up with faces like street signs, and a lot of arrows that pointed into deep, mysterious holes. My hand hurt when I finished.