Lexi woke slowly. The familiar feel of her bed, the comforting smell of her laundry detergent lingering in the sheet pressed against her face, reassured her. I’m home. I made it home
. Head pounding, mouth dry and tasting like a barroom floor–or how she imagined a barroom floor would taste–and with seven-hour-old whiskey roiling in her stomach threatening to reappear, Lexi opened her eyes. A man lay snoring beside her, his head down by her feet and his well-toned, hairy body sprawled on top of the sheets. They’d lost the duvet while tangling over it in the pre-dawn hours. Lexi remembered without embarrassment picking him up at the bar and bringing him home with her, the vigorous sex she’d semi-enjoyed but couldn’t remember his name. Bending a leg, she planted a foot in his cute behind and shoved him out of bed.
“Time to go, Romeo.” Lexi stifled a laugh at the distinctively female yelp as he tumbled to the floor. The sheet puddled around her lap as she sat, but she didn’t bother with false modesty. She reached for the water bottle she’d had the foresight to leave on her nightstand and watched with disinterest as her companion stood. Guzzling water, rinsing the taste from her mouth, she assessed. He was good-looking, athletically built, and a decent lay, but dumb as a stump if memory served. Lexi had no interest in learning more.
“How about we get a shower and some breakfast?”
“You can shower and eat at your place. Get out.” Lexi capped the water and placed it on the nightstand. The foul stench of sex and sweat wafted, and Lexi gagged. She needed a shower and solitude. She wanted him out. His expression—disbelief and indignation—suggested he would not shake without some prodding. Lexi opened the nightstand drawer enough to reach inside, casually.
“Are you serious?” he asked.
“As a heart attack.”
“You bitch.” The oath was low and his tone nasty.
Lexi lifted her service pistol from the drawer and held it pointed down, suppressing the urge to laugh as he grabbed his clothes from the floor and hustled out of her bedroom. When the door slammed shut, echoing through her condo, she laughed. Lexi returned the gun to the drawer and stood. The room spun. She extended an arm for balance until the world settled and staggered into the bathroom. Avoiding the mirror, avoiding herself, she twisted the knob to hot and stepped into the shower.
Lexi stood under the spray, forehead against the tile, while the remains of the night swirled down the drain. She shivered, though the water beat down on her at a punishing temperature. It couldn’t warm her. Nothing could. Lexi was hollow inside, carved out, numb, and empty in a way no amount of sex or whiskey seemed able to fill. I’m not whole; I’m not here. Her heartbeat sped up, and weight pushed down on her diaphragm. Lexi pressed the heel of her hand between her breasts as she gasped. She welcomed the sharp bite of anxiety. She welcomed anything that felt like something. It was proof she hadn’t died alongside Robert.
The pretty bathroom in cool shades of green speckled with blood, bone, and brain matter.
Her head spun, and she lunged, naked and dripping, from the shower to hunch over the commode and vomit. Lexi welcomed that, too.