The deep burgundy stain on the sheets caught her eye. "Well," she thought as she sat up, "that explains the headache." Cynthia rolled her head to loosen her shoulders. A series of cracks from her neck elicited a groan of release. At least, she thought it was hers. Looking back over her shoulder, she blinked to clear her vision, still fuzzy with sleep. It appeared she had a visitor. Interesting.
Taking in the rest of the scene, a kernel of fear sunk in her stomach. There were clothes strewn everywhere, much more than the coverings from two people. It resembled the aftermath of a closeout sale at a clothing store. Still blurry, Cynthia tried to sort out details, recall facts, find anything to hold onto before the feelings raced up and overtook her rational brain.
Her hands curled up into the sheet, grabbing it to her like a shield. Dimly the realization that she was fully clothed snuck in between the fear and the "what if's". Her confusion intensified. "What the hell happened last night?"
Throwing back the covers, she ran her hands over her body as if the physical contact would convince her of her safety, of her sanctity. Unconvinced, Cynthia took stock of how she felt internally and externally. Other than the remaining haze from the surplus of alcohol ingested the night before, nothing appeared to be amiss.
The strange morning was about to become stranger. Starting with the lump laying on the other half of the bed. Not prepared to see who she had brought home, and feeling the stain of guilt and shame rising in her cheeks, she stumbled to the bathroom to give herself a good talking too.
"You're a grown-up." she admonished herself. "It is no one else's business what you do in your spare time, who you bring home." A fragment of memory swam to the surface before sinking back in the black pit of alcoholic stupor. "But we should probably stay away from the wine for a while." Cynthia swept the makeup and hair accessories out of the sink with a puzzled look. She dropped a washcloth in the sink and ran the water while she glanced around, trying to understand the previous night's escapades with little success.
The bathroom was littered with brushes and bottles of cream and lotions. It looked like a sorority house before homecoming. She poked her head back out into the bedroom to reassess the scattered clothing. Her closets stood open and empty, her dresser drawers askew, their contents amassed on the floor with the rest. Lingerie with blue jeans, winter socks and bikini bottoms. It must have been one hell of a party. What on earth had she been looking for? And why?
Another groan from the bed caused her hand to fly to her throat, a niggle of fear still waiting in the wings. Splashing from the floor pulled her attention back to the sink, now overflowing and falling to the tiles in a puddle. What a messed-up day. Wringing out her washcloth, she pressed it to her face in a feeble attempt to clear the fog from her brain. Scrubbing the artificial colour from her face had the added effect of waking her up.
Cynthia decided the figure under the sheets could not be a threat. If it was, she would have woken up in a pool of blood, not Merlot. Or not woken up at all. One less thing to think about. Mopping up the floor would take more than just a towel. She set about straightening up the room while attempting to pull up details of the night before.
Capping the lipstick and packing up the trays of eye shadow, she recalled another face primping in the mirror. The angular lines were vaguely familiar, but the image vanished as she tried to follow it, the memory not anchored solidly in her mind. Tidying kept her hands busy as she questioned herself, trying to fill in the blanks. She looked at her reflection again, picturing her own preparations from the previous day.
"It's Sunday morning, so what did I do last night?" The question was rhetorical. "This is not my usual shade of lipstick. Especially not with this shirt." The makeup slid back into the drawer, the floor was dry and the shower curtain straightened. Glancing around the small space and finding nothing more to do, Cynthia found herself reluctant to go back out into the bedroom.
The remnants of a song drifted into her awareness. "Really? Karaoke?" There was no other reason for Hotel California to be playing on repeat. She and her friends loved to belt it out in the bar. And with that missing piece, the rest of her memories crawled out of the gloom.
She remembered meeting up with Clare and Denise at Macey's, the local watering hole. Hence the jeans and button-front shirt. Their texts implied it was going to be girl's night. Until tall, dark, and brooding joined them. Her friends had set her up. Again. Cynthia's love life had become a pet project of theirs ever since Brandon moved out of state. Her pleas to be left to her own device often went unheeded, and they tried to fix her up, this time with a 'friend of a friend'. "He's new to town," they told her. "He needs to meet people. And you're people." The last was added with a giggle and a smirk.
Cynthia groaned. She knew they meant well, but in their haste to get her paired off, they had forgotten to ask two pertinent questions: Did she even want a partner right now? And did this guy want to be meeting a strange woman in a dive bar? Images came flooding back, and she strode out into the bedroom, pushing clothes aside, cringing at the condition of her delicates, at the room in general.
Confident she had remembered enough, she opened the door intent on heading to the kitchen to make some coffee for her and her guest. Dale's secret was safe with her. But if he thought she was cleaning up his mess, he could think again. She had to admit though--that shade of red was perfect on him.
About the author
I am a panster by nature, discovering my characters as they reveal themselves. To date, my novel writing has involved the paranormal or magick within a more familiar setting, blending it with mysteries, police procedurals, or thrillers.