Excerpt: The whisper of the woman’s footsteps faded; everything went silent. The numbness and pain didn’t seem so awful. Nothing seemed bad except the pointed teeth and hungry look in the woman’s eyes, until what felt like a hammer rammed her left chin.
From far away, the woman’s laughter, then slurping sounds. The breeze on her face,
(OH! OWWW! How it hurts, it HURTS, my jaw what did you do)
and her eyes snapped open. Blood was dribbling from her nose, pooling on her neck and the sofa cushions. Her jaw seemed to burn in rivers of fire. Only dimly aware that she was sobbing, Leslie gazed at the woman in the white dress. She saw the fangs, still nested in the woman’s hideous smile, and the gray dots spiraled up before her eyes again. The woman sat on the sofa facing Leslie.
(My jaw, she busted my jaw)
She was licking maroon stains from her right fist. Leslie refused to give into the grayness. Instead, she pushed herself up on one elbow (oh, how it hurt, it was like being stabbed with knives) and faced her attacker.
“Oh, my God,” she heard herself murmur.
The woman’s voice, laced with what sounded like a thick European accent, wafted through the cloud of pain. “I wouldn’t run if I were you,” she said, smiling.
And if you try, her smile said, I’ll pulverize you. It gave the message loud and clear, without any accent.
Leslie looked up at the overhead chandelier. Spiked crystals hung from its brass plate. Like fangs. “I’m sorry,” she blurted between swift, harsh breaths. “I didn’t know anyone lived here.”
The woman sidled forward, pressing her leg against Leslie’s hip, chilling like a cold beef slab. “You’re the sorriest woman I ever met,” she said amiably.
Too much. The gray dots again, the woman’s voice fading into an eerie tunnel. Leslie waited for the sensation to pass, then continued. Her rattling teeth drowned out the sound of her whimpering. “I got sick…dizzy. Your door was open, and I thought I’d rest.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.” The woman smiled again. “We know each other well, Leslie. Quite well.”
God, she knows my name. Another hostile stranger like those bitches at Ross. Only this one uses her fists. Looking at the woman, Leslie sensed emptiness, a black hole. Her host’s vacant stare hinted that she’d become unhinged from the familiar landmarks of her life. Her pupils were dilated black marbles. Leslie recognized that look. It was the look of someone high on drugs. It was–
Don’t look at her eyes, a voice inside screamed. Leslie flipped her head sideways. She paid for the sudden movement with a thousand kilowatts of agony. “I don’t remember meeting you.”
“I’m Drusilla Mason. You give sick people breathing herbs, right?”
Leslie gulped, choking on the coppery taste of blood. The pain was now radiating to her head. “I’m a respiratory therapist,” she said. “I banged my head in a car accident, and the last two years became blank. Did we work together?”
“In a way,” Drusilla said. “Your lost years became mine.”
“I don’t understand.” Grabbing a tissue from her pants pocket, Leslie blotted her nose. The tissue came away soaked with blood.
“Don’t be coy, Leslie,” Drusilla said in a steady voice. “You threw yourself at my husband.”
“You’ve got the wrong person. I never chase after married men. You can take that one to the bank.”
“His name’s Kenworthy.” Drusilla licked her lips, clearing the blood off her chin. “Somehow, you got his attention. He married me because I look like you.”
Leslie swallowed again, tasting more blood. The grayness dissipated, leaving behind terrible throbbing in her jaw. “I don’t remember anyone named Kenworthy either,” she said, struggling to a sitting position. “I’m talking amnesia here.”
“I don’t know about amnesia, but you look awfully nervous,” Drusilla said in a sugary voice. She got up and paced around the room, eyes on Leslie.
Damn straight I am, Leslie’s mind screamed, because you busted my jaw. You’ve gotten into bad dope, Drusilla, something that made you crack, and there’s no telling where the pieces will fall. “I didn’t mean to intrude,” she said, fighting the tremors in her voice. “Please don’t…”
“Don’t hurt you? You have no concept of real suffering,” Drusilla sneered softly. “Frankly, Leslie, I think you lack manners. Here you lie, bleeding on my couch, and staring at me as though I were garbage, the way my masters used to look at me. I find that very offensive.”
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