anuary of ‘88 was so freaking cold. The harsh, wintry weather was only a part of the glumness, just as the days of rain and fog merely enhanced the gloom. I almost understood Angie’s pain over losing her twin. She was my karmic soul and wound mate, and, together, we had experienced a life-altering and game-changing trauma. I prayed she had found peace, but I was content to remain tortured. I never wanted to see the roof of my home again, nor the attic, and yet I continued to see her eyes and her smile. I couldn’t bear not to. She was forever young now, and eternally innocent, like Saint Agnes—the girl I had wanted to be.
On a positive note, my dad changed our phone number—my dad who hated to change anything. I managed to convince him that some obsessed lunatic had gotten hold of our number. It was true enough.
Trips to and from the Cove triggered my anxiety, since Angie was no longer beside me for the return trip. I hated that, and I hated how different everything seemed. The additional time it took to drop Farran off had never bothered me before, but it bothered me a lot now. She got an on-campus job making calls for the college’s fundraising office, so she drove her mother’s car to the Cove Friday nights, and I drove on Saturdays, but I wanted to stay home both nights. Seeing how she was always determined to make that trip with or without me, I did accompany her most of the time, rewarding myself with tequila shots and margaritas.
I knew Valentin wouldn’t be there. Tommy showed up now and then, and, when he did, Farran either made out with him at the bar or disappeared with him for an hour or so. I spent that time chatting with Billy and the non-Lynx regulars. Nico and Joey waltzed in every so often, dressed to the nines—Nico with his Trussardi Uomo cologne and Joey with his Drakkar Noir. At times, they had women with them. Either way, they left soon after they arrived. They’d go to The Anthrax in Norwalk or The Devil’s Nest in the Bronx.
One night, Joey pulled up outside the Cove in a new black Maserati. We’d had more than half a foot of snow that day, and he called Farran over, though he had three girls in the car with him.
“What?” she yelled, climbing over the snow bank at the curb. “It’s freezing out here.”
“Come ‘ere,” he said. “Give me a kiss hello.”
I didn’t know what had gotten into him, or who he thought he was.
She approached the car, and, when she leaned in to kiss him, he closed the window in her face and laughed. Then he drove away like a maniac, with his car door swinging open. He drove two blocks before closing the door, waving the whole time. I questioned whether he might have been drunk, though I had never known him to drive drunk or recklessly.
“I’m so sorry,” I said to Farran. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”
“Oh, he’s just teasing,” she replied. “Acting out. We’re all grieving and in shock.”
Another night, Gianni was singing my praises in front of everyone.
I winced when he solicited Tommy’s endorsement. “Am I right?”
“She’s the bomb,” Tommy said.
Nico shook his head, fake-coughed, and laughed.
Gianni looked at him. “Hey, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
“I’m not blind,” Nico said. “But I prefer not to eat my dinner behind bars.”
Billy was there, watching football at the bar and having a beer. He weighed in, as I figured he would. “Nico has the right idea,” he said. “These two young ladies are probably still virgins.”
Farran’s face was red, and I could tell Billy was drunk. “If it’s true that you girls are virgins, I think it’s awesome,” he went on, “but, goddamn, how do you do it, man?” He laughed, and the other guys laughed with him for a change.
“It’s not easy,” I replied.
My answer seemed to surprise and delight Nico, while further embarrassing Farran.
“I mean, it’s not easy, because guys are bugging you from the time you are ten,” I explained.
Nico’s brilliant smile lingered. “Stick to your guns, doll,” he said. “You’re doing the right thing.”
When we walked away, Farran punched me in the arm. “It’s not easy? Oh, my God, I can’t believe you said that. Now they’ll feel sorry for us and more obligated not to come on to us.”
She pissed me off. “And maybe that’s good, Farran, you know? Ever think you might get in over your head? I know what that’s like.”
“What are you talking about?” She laughed. “You haven’t been in over your head. You’re such a prude. You’re afraid to do anything. Aside from Gianni, I’ve seen Nico checking you out, and if you really pushed it, you could probably get him to cave. I would let Valentin do me in a heartbeat. Damn, I’m nineteen years old! I want to experience life, not hide in the background. Then maybe we’ll be invited somewhere for a change. Trust me, that’s what these guys are used to, and it’s what they want. If you keep acting like a baby, you will always be a baby to your brother and his friends.”
She continued to flirt with guys and ask everyone about Valentin. It was depressing. Everything was depressing. Every place, every situation, had become less familiar.
I returned to work after a week’s absence, and Quinton was first to express his sympathy. We were at the elevator, and he told me to stop by his post when I could.
His office was tiny, barely able to accommodate the old desk he shared with the other guard. There were two swivel stools, and, thankfully, I stopped in at the right time—when the other guy was away. I sat in his chair.
“The desk’s a little messy,” Quinton said. “I got in a bit late this morning, and I’m catching up. I had a busy weekend, took the grandkids to the zoo.”
“Grandkids!” I gasped.
“Yeah, my daughter has a three-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. I tell ya, it’s not easy for an old man to keep up with the wee ones. They wear me out, but I love every minute of it.”
He pressed for details about Angie’s death, and I expected the bizarre explanation to shock him, but he just said he was sorry again.
“It was all so devastating,” I told him, “and then seeing my Uncle Dom and my Aunt Zuza have to endure the loss of another child. How do you endure that even once? I can’t imagine.”
“It’s hard, I’m sure,” he said. “Look, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but was there a precursor to all of this? I’m sure there was.”
Instead of answering the question, I told him about the dream I’d had of her. “I think she was sending me a message,” I’d decided. “Or maybe I was sending a message to myself and just assigned her the role of angelic messenger because, deep down, I know the answers.”
He didn’t come out and say I never answered his question, but I read it in his eyes.
“You wonder what you should have said or done, you know?” I let out a sigh. “Her life was so short. I just want to know she’s okay.”
“She was telling you that in the dream,” he said. “She’s okay and looking after you.”
That prompted me to tell him about his presence in the next sequence, and it seemed to amuse him. “Wonder what I was doing at about that time,” he joked.
It felt safe enough to tell him the rest—about all of the bad dreams.
“Dreams like that can happen when a person is still shell-shocked over something and reliving the trauma and fear, whatever helplessness they felt,” he said. “Hey, I’m no shrink, but I had friends who suffered from PTSD. They had dream hallucinations, something similar to what they endured on the battlefield.”
“Yeah, but this is different. My feeling about that one dream is that it’s a dark entity of some kind that’s preying on me. Hey, at this point, nothing would shock me.”
“About entities, I’ve only heard stories,” he said, “but there were a few roaming spirits at my aunt’s old house on Magnolia Street in LaFayette. I’d say, though, since your dreams are so vivid, it could very well be just a dream.”
“But I have no problem interpreting dreams,” I insisted. “The meanings have always seemed obvious. If it’s a dream, I’m missing something that’s deeper than anything I can see. Fear is a part of it, yes, even though I’m less afraid now, having shared it with you. I have to admit, too, I’m drawn to the paranormal, the unexplained. I feel like it’s my job to explore everything—to pass through every forbidden door. It’s like I have a logical mind that says things like numerology and astrology can’t be valid, but I know Scorpio eyes when I see them.”
“Scorpio eyes, huh?” He chuckled. “Well, I just have these old crab eyes then, since I’m a Cancer, but I do agree, there is so much we don’t know, and, of course, I don’t know what you’ve been through. What I do know is, darkness is something we all confront at some point in time, and it ultimately leads to the light.”
My pulse increased with intrigue. “Did I tell you that Lord Byron’s ‘Darkness’ poem is one of my favorites?” I smiled. “All so fascinating, and, hey, if darkness leads to the light, I’m all in.”
“Oh, yes, that’s an excellent piece,” he agreed, again seeming to notice how I’d deflected.
“Thanks so much, Quinton,” I said now. “I’ve really come to treasure your friendship.”
“I treasure yours as well,” he replied. “That’s why I gotta tell ya, get back to your desk. Much as I enjoy talking to you, I don’t want to get you in trouble.”
I smiled and waved goodbye.
My inbox was full of work left in my absence. As I was rummaging through the papers, Trish stopped by to offer her condolences. She asked if I was okay.
I shrugged. “Maybe I should quit this job, take Adderall, and focus on nothing but writing.”
She shook her head, smiling. “Okay, I know you’re having a tough time right now, chicky, but I’m not about to recommend getting hooked on pills.”
“Fine,” I said. “But I really would like to hide for a while.”
She smirked. “Just don’t ask me to help you get Adderall, because I can’t say no to you. You know that. And don’t leave, because I’d miss you, and you’d miss your friends here. I know you would.”
I laughed. “I’m not asking, and I’m not leaving—not yet anyway.”
Not an hour later, I bolted into the ladies’ room holding Xeroxed copies I had made for a supervisor. With a casual glance at the mirror on my right, I noted my reflection was hideous. I placed the copies on a countertop corner and moved to the center of the mirror. It confirmed what I believed I saw, an ugly girl—not merely an ugly girl, but one who had managed to convince everyone that she was beautiful. It struck me that I needed to look beautiful. It was my image now, however deceptive, and I had to cultivate this image without deviating. People expected it.
Someone came into the ladies’ room after me—one of two secretaries who sat alongside me in a small pool of desks but who worked in another department. She smiled, said hello. We had a normal exchange of lighthearted chitchat, and she went into a stall.
I touched up my makeup, but it wasn’t enough. My hair was all wrong. I brushed it this way and that, but no matter where I parted it or what I did, the face looking back at me was repulsive. I hated it. I hated her. I had no idea who she was.
My coworker came out of the stall within minutes and made more small talk while she washed her hands. She seemed less comfortable, possibly wondering why I was in no obvious hurry, and whether I was hiding or avoiding something. We exchanged pleasant goodbyes as if she was leaving my home. I was happy when she’d gone.
I couldn’t think any more about her. I couldn’t think about anything except what I was doing, though I had no idea what that was. It didn’t matter that nobody wanted to be in this place any longer than necessary—a purely functional vault of stalls, basins, and unpleasant odors—everything white or eggshell white except for the gray paper towel holder and dizzying little square tiles on the floor. I couldn’t afford to feel guilty or embarrassed.
My heart pounded, and I brushed my hair until my head hurt. Then everything blurred. I couldn’t see that horrid face anymore. I set the brush down and tried closing my eyes then opening them again. I had to turn away from the mirror and not look at it for a few minutes. It seemed to have beguiled or bewitched me. When I faced it again, my image was no longer blurred or particularly unattractive. It was okay, albeit rather plain, and I was able to fix that with a few minor adjustments.
Alas, I saw what I wanted to see—the beauty I figured they wanted. I was good enough to walk out the door, my heart still pounding.
I had no idea what just happened.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.