For Q, I do the “thing” that I promised myself I would only do as a last resort if I was short on time. Haiku. 🙂
A quiet evening
in the arms of a lover
I know all too well
For Q, I do the “thing” that I promised myself I would only do as a last resort if I was short on time. Haiku. 🙂
A quiet evening
in the arms of a lover
I know all too well
Part 1 of 3 (maybe 4)
Her daddy had put Emma to bed when it was still light out. He had hugged her tight and tucked her in with her stuffed rabbit.
“Stay in bed,” he said. “And don’t get up no matter what. Even if someone knocks on your door. Pretend you’re asleep.”
“Yes, daddy,” she nodded.
He wasn’t her real daddy, but he liked it when she called him that, and he hugged her again. He was the only one of them who really hugged her. His friends would give her hugs her too, but not real hugs.
It was too early for sleep. There was still light behind the blinds.
She closed her eyes and after what felt like forever, she opened her them. Still light out. She rolled onto her side, closed her eyes, opened them, looked back, and pouted. She wished he had given her one of those candies that made her really woozy and sleepy but that only happened when a lot of friends were over.
She woke up hours later in the dark to her stomach growling.
Sitting up, she grabbed her rabbit and tip-toed to the door and listened. All was quiet. She opened the door and peered out into the hallway. There was a light on downstairs and she crept to the landing.
Her stomach gurgled again and she shushed it to no avail. She took the steps one by one, pausing on each one that creaked to listen for movement.
A light had been left on over the sink in the kitchen and she eyeballed the cookie jar on the counter. One of the ladies always kept it full of cookies that came in a plastic container. They would give her one, two if she didn’t cry, and they would play with her hair and tell her how cute she was as she sat at the kitchen table to eat them. She liked the ladies and their pretty outfits and makeup. She hoped she could be as pretty and wear fancy outfits and makeup someday.
She pulled out one of the drawers, pulled out a second and climbed up onto the counter.
She would take two; one for her and one for her rabbit and, as an after thought, put a third in her mouth as she put the lid back on and climbed down.
Something crashed downstairs. Her foot slipped on the second drawer and she fell, the cookies scattering in different directions. The house was silent again.
She grabbed the half eaten cookie and shoved it into her rabbit’s apron and reached for the second one closest to her.
Footsteps ascended the basement stairs.
She panicked, left the cookies to the floor as she opened a cabinet and squeeze inside amongst cans of sodas and bottles of wine. The wine bottles clinked as she held her breath and pulled the door closed.
In the dark, she could see a sliver of light and something move past.
The light was extinguished as someone settled in front of the cabinet.
Another crash came from downstairs and the light reappeared as the person moved away.
She breathed in.
The cabinet doors flew open and she lost the breath before she could scream.
The woman on the other side looked just as surprised to see her; eyes widening showing more whites against the black halos. She was dressed in all black with the exception of the crimson streaks under the black circles.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” the woman asked in a man’s voice that vibrated inside Emma’s chest.
Emma just gawked at her.
The woman reached into the cabinet. “Come on.” She lifted her out and carried her upstairs. She turned on the dresser lamp and laid her on the bed. “Let Ms Rabbit have some,” she said, adjusting her rabbit so its head was also on the pillow before pulling the blankets up to their chins.
“Her name is Ms. ButterflyCuddleMuffin and she’s my rabbit mother,” Emma said.
The woman blinked slowly. “Oh.”
“I don’t have a mother,” Emma clarified. “I only have daddy, sometimes lots of daddies.”
“And what name have they given you?” she asked.
“I’m Emma Rose and I’m eight years old. Not seven,” she said. Everyone guessed she was seven.
The woman smiled. “Eight is a much better number,” she said as she stood up.
“Hey, um, Miss? Mister?” she looked back. “Can you keep the light on?”
“And the door open, just a smidgen?”
She pulled the door so it was just barely open. “Good night.”
Emma waited until she heard the footsteps go away then leapt out of bed and rushed to the door just in time to see the woman jump over the banister. She gasped and crept out onto the landing.
Down below there were people in the foyer, most of them wearing hooded coats and carrying people who hung from their arms like ragdolls. The woman was standing in the center of them, arms crossed in front of her chest. Then a blue light came out of nowhere and in a flash they were gone.
Emma Rose sat down on the cold landing, eyes wide with wonder.
She wanted to be like that someday.
She wanted to disappear.
Oh, my novocaine
Hit that sweet spot inside my mouth
Numb me up so I can’t feel a thing
As this week punches me in the face
Wipe away my tears
Take away my anger, my nerves, my fears
Replace them with my dopey, sleepy smile
Oh, my bed
Cradle me now
Protect me tonight as I start to wind down
And hope to be okay in the morning
A/N: I was revisited by a song from my Gothic teen years — Switchblade Symphony’s “Novocaine”. A song that’s entirely in gibberish except for “Oh, this is my novocaine”.
I’m summoning a monster.
Gerry had collected what he could from the list, much of it out of his reach and budget. There had been substitutes written from previous summoners, but he wasn’t sure how trustworthy they were. Would they know that Kevlar was better made than chain mail and where the hell was he supposed to get either of those?
He checked his watch and ran the back of his chalk covered hand across his forehead. The pentagram was drawn, candles lit, circle cast, and incantation chanted.
Suddenly, there was shouting and someone was banging on his door. He barely had enough time to grab a jacket before his neighbor rushed him down four flights of stairs along with others outside to a gathering crowd. When he turned around he saw the flames shooting out of the windows of the ninth and tenth floors of his apartment building.
Police were arriving, pushing the crowd back as the fire trucks came through to battle the all consuming flames.
And then, right before his own eyes, the fire was extinguished. Firefighters were entering with their protective and SCBA gear but the ones on the ground paused with the hoses and watched as the black smoke cleared, leaving the charred remains of the top floors as proof that the fire ever existed.
The crowd was stunned silent, then the wails broke through as people frantically tried to get a hold of friends and loved ones who might have been up on those two floors.
Hours later, when the sun was setting, he was allowed to return to his fifth floor apartment. Seven floors were deemed safe by the city’s engineers. Those who lived on the eighth floor were provided shelter by the Red Cross. Those who lived on the ninth and tenth floors were still unaccounted for.
He rushed upstairs and entered his apartment. He hoped no one had gone inside. The chalked pentagram was bad enough. He didn’t want anyone to think he was crazy. He entered his living room and nearly jumped out of his skin. There was a man seated in the chair by the window. He stood up when Gerry entered.
“Who the hell…” he stopped short. The man was dressed in all black, coat outlined with green trim that matched the green line bisecting his face.
“You’re it?” Gerry gasped for breath. “You’re the guardian?”
The man nodded. “I am.”
“How did you get up here?”
“You came during the fire?”
“The side effect of an unacceptable offering,” he said.
Gerry squeezed his hands. “I didn’t have much to offer.”
“Don’t worry. It’s been covered.”
“The lives upstairs.”
Gerry’s mouth dropped. “How many?”
“Eight were taken.”
He collapsed into the couch. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. I’ve never done this before. How was I supposed to know that was going to happen?”
The guardian crouched down. “Why did you summon me?”
Gerry fumbled with a manila folder sitting on the side table. The guardian took it over to the window. There were pictures, mostly mugshots, names, last known addresses, and a laundry list of offenses.
“You want me to protect you from them?” he asked.
“No, I, I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he shook his hands. “I want you to kill them.”
“Usually ends up being the same thing,” the guardian said. “In this order?”
He shrugged. “Whatever is easiest.” They sat in silence. “You look, no offensive, human. And so young.”
The man smiled. “None taken.”
“You have a name?”
“J.E. Just the letters.”
“First and middle initial.”
“No. That’s all. And you?”
“Gerry. With a G.” He clasped and unclasped his hands.
J.E. could feel the static of Gerry’s anxiety beating against the wall in his mind. “I can protect you from most things but I can’t protect you from a heart attack,” he teased. “Chill, Gerry with a G. I’ll take care of things from here.”
It looks like the other one.
Gerry pulled the case out from under his bed and presented the contents to J.E. on the kitchen table.
“I’m good, thank you.”
“You come packing heat?” Gerry asked. J.E. opened his coat and Gerry gawked. “Arrows? Son, unless those are some hocus-pocus arrows, you’re in for a rude awakening. These guys have guns.”
“I am familiar with guns.”
“We’re not leaving this place until you’re carrying one.”
J.E. obliged him and Gerry nearly fell over when J.E. had to undo his scabbard to fit the holster under his coat. “What are you? Robin Hood? You actually kill people with these things?”
“All the time,” J.E. smiled. “I’ll show you.”
A monster to clear out the monsters.
“I’ll take you to Andre first,” Gerry said as he pulled out of the parking lot. “He’s on probation. Ankle bracelet gives him a curfew so he’s always at home in the evening. Lives on the first floor too, so we can make a clean get away.” After a ten minute drive, he pulled into the parking lot of another apartment complex. “It’s there.” The curtains were open and the lights on. The man, Andre, was standing in front of a stove. He leaned back as if calling to someone in another room.
“I’m going to drive by slow. You shoot, okay?” J.E. gave him a look. “What? It’s what the kids are doing nowadays.”
“The kids? You’re not that old,” J.E. laughed. He got out of the car and leaned through the window. “Go ahead and pull around to the exit.”
“This is what I was made for, G. I’ll meet you on the other side.”
Gerry pulled away but watched through his rear view mirror as J.E. slung off his bow and notched an arrow. “You were supposed to use the gun,” Gerry muttered to himself. J.E. let the arrow fly and he heard the shattering of glass and someone scream.
He was a tangled mess of nerves when J.E. finally got back to the car. “What took you so long?”
The guardian shrugged. “It’s a nice night.”
“We have to go before the police get here.”
“Don’t you think it’ll be suspicious if they see a car speeding away from the scene?”
Gerry sighed. “Ok. I give. Let’s go home. One is enough for tonight.”
It’s done. It’s happening. It’s for the best. Remove the weeds.
It looks so human.
“I’ll handle the other ones on my own,” J.E. said. Gerry was in the kitchen, trying to prepare dinner. He hadn’t eaten all day but he wasn’t hungry.
“Canned soup alright with you?” Gerry asked.
“I don’t eat.”
“Well, obviously. You’re so skinny.”
“I mean, I can’t consume human food.”
“Oh.” Gerry dumped the soup into a tupperware and tucked it into the fridge. “Then what do you eat?”
“Don’t worry about it. The guardians don’t need to eat like humans do.”
“Ah, okay.” He hesitated then went into the living room to sit down.
“You’re not chill at all,” J.E. sat across from him. “I can feel you.” He took off his coat and rolled up one sleeve. On his upper arm was a black line, two inches long, tattooed across his bicep. He pressed it. “This is you and it’s wrecked with guilt and anxiety.”
Gerry broke down. “I’m not a bad person. I never wanted to kill anyone in my life, but these people.” He sank into the couch. “I grew up in this neighborhood. My wife and I, we were going to raise our children in this neighborhood. It’s one of the poorest in the county but most of the people are good and stick together. Then these fools show up,” he slapped the folder.
“They started preying on the good people. And then their enemies showed up and then they’re shooting at each other at night, then during the day, hitting houses, killing people while they sleep, hitting children as they walked to school. Police won’t do anything. We’re powerless to do anything.” He rubbed his eyes. “I want to pull the weeds. I want the flowers to grow in this garden again. Do you understand?”
J.E. nodded. “And that’s why it’s better if I go solo.” He smiled. “You’ve done you’re part. You’ve bought the weed killer. I can spread myself out and do the job.
Let him do what the other one did. Use their weapon against them.
It took him one week.
Each day, Gerry would get up and find a page from his folder on the fridge with a red X over the picture then maybe part way though the day, a page would slip under his door. A couple reports showed up in the paper but people were numb. It was just another wave of gang violence. It didn’t matter that they were being felled by arrows. No one blinked, even when one was hacked. J.E. returned from that one with a cut lip and a black eye.
“I told you to use the gun,” Gerry said.
J.E. just smiled. “I’m getting it done, aren’t I?”
He’s almost like a brother. A brother bought to my side.
Gerry had to keep reminding himself that this man wasn’t human, but sometimes, usually in the evening, as the sun was going down, Gerry would unload onto him, usually talking about his wife, his kids, and J.E. would listen.
“I can’t wait to see them again,” Gerry said. “When this is all over. I’ll go back to them.”
“They’ll be happy to see you. They must miss you.”
Gerry nodded. “I talk to them everyday. It’s better that they’re not here.”
You killed them all. It killed them. It doesn’t matter. You’re all the same.
The last page in the folder had no picture, no name, but a brief physical description – male, 6′ to 6’5”, 200 lbs, double lines of navy blue. “You’re going to have to help me out with this last one,” J.E. said. “I don’t have much to go off of.”
“Neither did I,” Gerry said. He sat across from J.E. at the kitchen table as the sun was setting. “You have someone back home, where you come from?”
“What’s her name?”
“Just the letters?”
“That’s not something we’re allowed to do.”
“But there are others like you?”
“Where do you come from?”
“We were created by an Overlord.”
Gerry worked the word with his mouth. “Like a god?”
“Is she, T.N., good to you?”
J.E. was staring out the window and Gerry wasn’t sure if it was his own state of mind that made him think it or if he truly did feel like the guardian was aching. “She’s the best.” J.E. rubbed his eyes and turned as Gerry pulled out the gun.
It happened so fast. He didn’t have time to undo the safety and J.E. was out of the chair, both hands on his arm. He bit him, a full mouth, teeth-sinking kind of bite. It was molten hot for a split second, then two injections of ice hit his veins. The gun fell from his numb fingers and J.E. calmly sat back down.
Gerry couldn’t feel his fingers, his arm, his shoulder, his lips as the venom crawled through his body. “You knew?”
“I’ve felt it in the back of my mind all week.”
“You can read my mind?”
“I can read your feelings,” J.E. was suddenly stern. “You didn’t tell me about the other guardian.”
“The first gang was small. They were going to lose their territory. Should have but then they had him.” Gerry was shaking as the venom squeezed through the blood brain barrier.
“There was a drought that summer but you’d find puddles in the middle of the road in the morning, like it had rained. Rained blood.” A bead of blood ran from his nose as tears squeezed from his eyes.
“She went to pick up the kids from school. She crossed its path bringing them home and it killed them all.” He coughed as his breath came in gasps. “I found what they had used to bring it here. Bought it with my life’s savings. I wanted them to be wiped out then wipe out what killed them. I didn’t know.” He gasped. “I didn’t know you’d be different.” His eyes rolled back as his head tilted forward.
J.E. sat in the chair, even when the blue light flashed and a gatherer appeared next to Gerry’s slumped body. It hissed at him, because it couldn’t feed off of the dead and J.E. shrugged. The gatherer wrestled the body from the chair and dragged it into the blue.
J.E. covered his face. Deep down, he had known his family was dead. Kill by a guardian.
Just as deep, he knew T.N. was dead. Killed by a human.
The blue light engulfed him and he disappeared.
A/N: This story is set in the same universe as my post for G (The Guardian), but focuses on a different guardian. Thank you for making it to the end. I invite you to share your thoughts and critiques below.
Mind your step as you make your way into my
Orchestral lair. The place where my sounds
Overflow like water in a claw footed tub, slipping under
Doors and into the floor, running down the walls like a siren’s song.
Be gone! Banish your melancholia
And stand up from the pit you have dug
Lying to yourself that you’ll never get out. True, you have a
Long way to climb but follow the sound of my hymns
And let the notes be your handholds and
Don’t look down
It was speed dating night. Take two. Laurel nervously checked her lipstick with her compact mirror. Why did she even bother? When her roommate, Bree, got engaged she immediately started to pity Laurel for her single status. “You deserve someone special and he’s out there. You…just…have…to get…out…of the house!” she huffed as she finally managed to shove Laurel out the front door of their apartment, decked out in something skimpy from Bree’s closet.
“I look like a prostitute” Laurel had complained and at the end of her first dismal speed dating session, a man in a black Jaguar pulled up while she was waiting on the corner for the bus.
That was embarrassing.
Because it was her boss, who sped away and nearly mowed down the pedestrians crossing the street.
“I’m happy single. I don’t need to do this,” Laurel told Bree while pulling off a dozen layers of false eyelashes.
“You just need to show more boob,” Bree had prescribed. “Boobs get the job done.”
Boobs did not get the job done. Her breasts couldn’t calibrate her lab instruments at work, nor did they attract the attention of the maintenance worker, Leo, who would wordlessly repair the lab’s instruments when they were misbehaving.
“He’s either gay or knows you gave the instruments names and personalities,” Bree said.
Now she was at the second round of speed dating. She dressed herself this time and left on her own accord. The night began with an accountant, then she sat through an attorney, a man who lived in his dad’s basement (I pay rent, he had declared proudly), and a weightlifter who practically flipped the table with his thighs when he stood to move to the next woman. Lastly, there was Archie with the cartoonish eyebrows. They looked like slain caterpillars that had been glued to his face.
Please stop, Laurel thought. Why do I torture myself like this?
“Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” he asked, winking.
“Yes, and I still have the bruises,” she said.
“Well, it just so happens I’m an EMT and have a first aid kit in my car.”
She sipped some wine. “Do you carry an AED too? Think you can shock me back to my sense?”
He laughed, hands banging on the table. “I’ve got something better that can shock you to your senses.” His eyebrows were cheering him on as he flashed a small packet of white pills. “But enough about me. What do you do, Angel?”
“It’s Laurel and I work in a lab.”
“Like a hospital lab?” he pocketed the pills.
Crime lab, she wanted to say. “No. I do third party QC testing,” she dove right in. Personally, she loved her work and found everything about it interest while most people tended to disagree. She rambled on and on, hoping for the timer to go off, and end the torture.
Somehow she got on the nitrogen feed to the instruments when his eyes lit up. “You get to work with nitrogen? No way! That’s so cool!”
“Huh? Oh, it’s used with our mass spectrometers.”
“Do you ever make ice cream with it?”
“Daily.” Sarcasm drooled from her lips. She didn’t bother telling him that he was thinking of liquid nitrogen and that the mass spectrometer was not an ice cream machine.
The timer went off signaling their eight minutes were up.
She fled from the restaurant as soon as it was over but missed her bus. Unable to stand still, she began to walk. Her workplace was only fifteen minutes away. She greeted the evening shift guard as she badged in and he whistled.
Her lab was on the third floor and she took the elevator, giving her feet a reprieve. They had an evening shift but both technicians were on vacation. Because of the lighter workload this week, their boss hadn’t assigned overtime.
She peered through the sample window and saw bottles on the counter. She hoped it was assay work. Nothing soothed her more than the gentle clicking of the HPLC. She slipped on her lab coat and tied back her hair. Her heels were closed toe. She figured it’d be alright as she leafed through the sample log. The sample window snapped open and she jerked back. Archie stood on the other side.
“What are you doing here?” she choked.
“I used to clean here before becoming an EMT,” he said, face deadpan, eyes boring into her. If it hadn’t been for the caterpillar eyebrows, she wouldn’t have recognized him. He disappeared from the window and reappeared in the office.
“How did you get pass the guard?” she backed away from him.
“He was distracted.” He looked her up and down. “You didn’t tur in any matches.”
“Excuse me?” she wanted to pick up the phone and call for the guard but she froze.
He stomped his foot. “How am I supposed to get in contact with you for our second date?” he screamed. A sheen of sweat coated his pale face. In the office light, his eyes looked blown out of proportion; pupils dilated to the max.
“You sluts are all the same,” he muttered. “No matter how much I flirt or flatter, you never turn in my name. You don’t know how good you can get it. You always go after the doctors or the lawyers or the steroid pumping jocks who’re practically flashing their junk through their gym shorts.”
Laurel backed away towards the lab door. Archie started fiddling with his jacket. She balanced the lab log with one hand, reaching behind for the doorknob. He pulled out a gun.
“Where are you going?” he demanded. The lab log leapt from her hands. This wasn’t seriously happening right now? She could hear her heart in her ears as if all the air had been sucked out of the room.
“Get away from the door,” he ordered.
She raised her hands. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Please stop,” she begged.
“Come here or I’ll blow your head off.”
She approached him slowly. What were the chances the guard would come by on his rounds?
“Take that off.”
She slipped off the lab coat. He snatched it from her and held the collar to his face, breathing deeply with eyes wide open, watching her. “It smells like you.”
Think of something, she told herself.
“Now that to,” he gestured to her dress.
“No,” she said. Her hands formed fists.
He pistol whipped her and she collapsed against the desk. Blood trickled down her face as the world turned upside down and right side up again. For a split second, it felt like she had fallen into an ice bath. He grabbed her by her hair, yelling about how unfair they all were to him and how she should be grateful that he was giving her any kind of attention.
“Liquid nitrogen,” she said through clenched teeth. “You said something about liquid nitrogen.”
“No. I said I want this off.” He ripped the dress at her shoulder.
“But I thought you said you liked nitrogen? It was so cool and ice cream, liquid nitrogen ice cream.” Her vision blurred, cheeks wet, as she babbled to buy time.
“Yes it’s cool but…”
“You want to see my tank?” she interrupted. “The nitrogen tank. In the lab. Then I’ll remove the dress.”
He just stood there. “Ok,” it slurred out of him. “Show me.”
She opened the door to the lab and felt the gun against her back. He held the door before she could slam it on his face and led him past the HPLCs to a small closet next to the spectrometers. “I have to unlock it.”
“Open it,” he grunted. She unlocked and opened the door. He slipped around her to take a closer look. “Where is it?”
She glanced at the mass spectrometer and grabbed the torque wrench sitting between it and its HPLC. Striking him across the head, she slammed the door closed on his fingers as he tried to get out. He screamed and she pushed, heels slipping across the floor. His hand found purchase on the door frame and she struck his fingers with the wrench, over and over again until he let go. The door closed and she turned the key.
He slammed against it and the door cracked.
Adrenaline buzzing, she turned the nitrogen valve next to the spectrometer, cutting off its supply. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” she apologized profusely to it. The closet, she remembered someone telling her, had once held another nitrogen fed instrument. When it broke down, they removed it and tagged the valves to inform the techs that they were not to be opened.
She grabbed the tagged valve and turned it. She could hear him scrambling inside, confused in his drug induced, rage fueled mind. He rattled the doorknob, called her names, then stopped.
“If I didn’t know any better,” she screamed as Leo appeared behind her. “I’d say you just gassed a guy in our tool closet,” he continued.
She was clutching her chest. “I may or may not have. What are you doing here?”
“I was going to finish a work order to remove the lines from the closet, but it looks like we have some contaminated waste that needs to be disposed of.” He looked her up and down.
“Would you mind?” Laurel smiled, adjusting her dress.
Leo shrugged. “I’ll pull my truck up.”
A/N: This started out as L is for Love Lurking; a poem. Then is accelerated into a story about lab, love, and murder. How does this happen?!
Happy Friday the 13th, by the way! 😉
Where are you going
in this world full of dark, ugly things?
What do you see with your kaleidoscope eyes?
Black spider legs crawling across your eyeballs
Colors merging and expanding,
twisting and collapsing into each other
Stained glass with a heartbeat
What do you think of us, little kaleidoscope?
Do you see us in your wildest dreams
or your most troubling nightmares?
Eyes sealing close
Whole body jolt
Fallen victim to a hypnagogic jerk
Brace for the fall
Listen for the next strike
Nothing but background noise
Hum of refrigerator
Neighbors roaming upstairs
A car passing by
Still in bed
Eyes cautiously close
Succumb to sleep
As one succumbs to death
A/N: According to dictionary.com, a hypnagogic jerk is “
I feel like I’m in a car
Speeding for the thrill
But now it’s going faster, faster
And my hands aren’t on the wheel
I’m afraid I’ll crash
After so much indulgence
Spin out and run myself over
Turn my back on what has been built
And leave it all to ruin
This has been quite an experience coming back into writing. I haven’t written this much since 2012 with the exception of the last two years of NaNoWriMo.
This poem captures my fear that I’ll overextend myself and return to not writing. I have to remind myself that this is only for April and afterwards I can find a sustainable pace of writing, posting, and reading what others have written.
“Hey, we missed you at Yessi’s going away party last night,” Jim said as he peeked into Nadine’s office. He was known over in marketing as Horse because of all the “hey”.
Nadine looked up from her computer and hit pause on her mp3 player, keeping the left earbud in her ear. “I had an appointment yesterday afternoon and the doctor ran late. By the time I got out of there. . .” she smiled and shrugged.
“Hey, no biggie. Clean bill of health?”
“You know me,” she said.
“Good, good. Hey, there’s a new jazz club that opened on the west side and a couple of us from marketing are heading up there Saturday night. You want to join?”
“Is that the one they did the review on in the paper? Slate Lounge?”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s the one. I’ll be the double D if that sweetens the deal.”
“I’ll check my schedule and get back to you,” she laughed.
“Hey, we’ll be meeting there at five thirty, so you let me know.”
He disappeared from her door and she resumed play, readjusting the right earbud tucked carefully inside her shirt.
“Since this is an elective surgery, your insurance will not cover it,” the doctor said. His voice was calm, apathetic. A voice that gave away nothing but the facts.
“I figured that going in.”
“And you saw the pictures I sent you last week?”
He uncapped his marker. “I’m proposing we do the application here so there’s no discomfort when you wear your bra.” He started to draw lines on her chest, the felt tip of the marker stalling on the scar tissue between her breasts. “The frame will be inserted here and it’ll take about four to six months for it to become fully integrated with your body.
“And it won’t interfere with the heart?” she asked.
“It shouldn’t but as you know all surgical procedures have risks. You’ll have to keep in mind that the scar will still be there from your previous surgery but other than that,” he drew a horizontal line on her chest. “You’ll be safe with this high of a neckline if you don’t want it to be seen.”
The wail of sirens woke her in the middle of the night. Startled, it took her a moment to remember where she was even though she had lived in this apartment for over a year. After the accident and subsequent transplant, she had moved to the suburbs to escape the constant echo of sirens in the city.
She turned on the lamp and pulled out a box from the bedside table. Unwrapping the stethoscope, she put the earpieces in her ears, and pressed the cold chestpiece to the scar.
“I hope that didn’t scare you,” she whispered.
“Hey, you made it!” Jim waved her down from a table near the stage. The marketing team and her coworkers from the IT department greeted her warmly. Yessi gave her a hug. “Sorry I missed your party,” Nadine said.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m glad you still want to hang out with me since I’ve moved on to a better paying gig.”
“Working for the enemy,” Jim teased.
While a jazz quartet played on stage, they ordered another round of drinks, and Nadine requested ginger ale.
“Hey, Nadine. I’m driving, remember?” Jim said.
Nadine tapped on her chest. “I’m good.”
Yessi placed a hand on Nadine’s and drew close. “So how have you been?”
“It’s been decent,” she replied. “New place, same work. Just taking it one day at a time.”
“Do you see his family at all?” Yessi asked.
Nadine sipped from her ginger ale, tasted cayenne; ginger beer. “My mother-in-law calls about every other week. We weren’t close but we got along even before the accident.”
“Hey,” Jim shoved his way in between them with his phone glowing. “Did you see the article about the artist in Australia who grew an ear on his arm? What a weirdo, right?”
“Not before dinner,” Yessi complained.
Nadine didn’t respond. The audience was clapping and the jazz guitarist was at the microphone. “This next one was written by a college buddy of mine. Jeremy passed away about a year ago and this song of his was originally written for solo guitar. We added accompaniment for the piano, drums, and upright. Hope you enjoy it.”
Yessi squeezed her hand and Nadine whispered. “I need to use the restroom. Excuse me,” she stood up and pushed past Jim who called after her “by the bar, on the left.” She bypassed the bathroom and went out the back exit into the alley as the notes of the guitar drifted out into the night.
“The anesthesiologist will be in soon,” the doctor said.
Nadine sat up. “What you do you think about this? Do you think this is weird?”
The doctor cleared his throat. “It’s strange, yes. I wasn’t sure how to respond to your email months back. I have to confess, I reached out to the plastic surgeons mentioned in the article you sent me for guidance. That’s why I suggested counseling beforehand. Safer, less expensive. I understand why you want it, and I can tell you it isn’t the strangest thing I’ve encountered in my thirty-two years of practice.”
The anesthesiologist entered the room and introduced herself. “Are you ready to get started?” she asked.
“I’ve heard you took some time off from work. Is everything alright?” Yessi asked over the phone. She had called Nadine at work one morning many months later.
“I had requested to work from home for awhile but everything’s fine. Great actually. Who told you I was out?”
“Horse, of course,” Yessi said. “You know he has a thing for you.”
“I wish he wouldn’t,” Nadine said glancing at her door.
“I think he’s slowly getting it. I told him to lay off.”
After hanging up, Nadine glanced at the door again as she unwound her earbuds, placing one in her left ear. She turned her back to the door and placed the second into the ear over her heart. It had grown beautifully over the last six mouths and the scar from her heart transplant was hardly noticeable.
She pressed play.
The applause faded out as a man began to speak. “This last song is written for my wife, who is the bravest person I know.”
“For the last five months, she’s been on the waiting list for a new heart. I can’t tell you how powerless it feels when the only thing you can do is write songs for the one you love and not give them what they need to live life to the fullest.”
“This last song is called “Heart Song”. I love you Nadine. We’ll get through this.”
“I love you too Jeremy,” she whispered down to the ear over his heart.
A/N: The artist referenced in the story is Stelarc, who grew an ear on his arm as part of his performance art.