Lisa pulled into the The Shangri-La’s parking lot. It was a severely misnamed motor inn that had taken over a failed Holiday Inn, by the town’s single off-ramp from the expressway. The original sign was still there with the big, curved, yellow arrow and the rotating star on top. The green field had been painted over with bright red and the lettering was in a slashing gold font. Some sign painters idea of Asian themed lettering.
The doors of all the rooms were also painted in the same garish way and the handrails were now also painted gold. Where ever some, souvenir level, Asian adornment could be placed one had. Such at the lights along the sidewalk and open balcony that gave access to the rooms had all been replaced with some sort of Chinese lantern looking fixture. The lobby which she could see as she came into the parking lot looked like a bad movie set of an opium den. The clerk was domestic as the owner of the hotel. Why they had settled on the motif was something that was a complete mystery to Lisa, but not one she cared enough to ask about. Perhaps the man had severed in the Far East while in the military. She passed the lobby and parked near the bar.
It was the only place in town that stayed open after nine and she wanted to be seen for several hours, being somewhere other than home. She didn’t really think she’d done enough damage to Jim for him to die, but one could dream. Maybe he would choke on his vomit from the booze and opiods. Because of it’s position as the only place to go, the restaurant/bar was usually busy on any night. She could count on someone recognizing her.
The food was actually good, some of the best in the area, because the owner had sponsored a Chinese emigrant family to handle the cooking. So the restaurant did a good business, even though they were outside of town. The front of house was all white relations of the owner. The women wearing knock off Asian outfits that might have been made in china, but had probably never been worn there.
She stopped at the bar and ordered a Mai tai and pointed at a booth in the back. Time stamp established. She sat down and a few minutes later a waitress, one of the owners daughters, dropped off the drink. This time of night all the families had already had their dinners and gone home. The place took on a different demeanor after eight o’clock at night.
“Kitchen will be closing soon. You want anything?” The girl looked bored, but did at least look at Lisa long enough to recognize her. Though they weren’t on a first name basis, she knew her face.
“I’ll have egg rolls and some fried rice.” Lisa wasn’t really hungry, but she wanted something to keep her occupied. “And I’ll have a Stroh’s with the meal.”
“Number 7. Chicken or Pork?” The waitress held her pen hovering over her pad.
The waitress made a note on her pad. “Bottle or Draft?”
The waitress made another note and the turned away without looking at Lisa. Her plan was to drink enough, so that she obviously shouldn’t drive and then get a room as if it wasn’t planned, but necessary. She looked around to see who was out and about. Most she didn’t recognize, others she had a vague recollection of. The town was just big enough that you didn’t know everybody, especially if you didn’t make a point of it, like Lisa.
She continued to scan the room. Everyone sort of looked tired and desperate to her. Three or four men in suits, with loose ties and rumpled shirts, were standing at the bar. Probably sales reps, working hard on the local talent. Most were getting the cold side face, but that would most likely change once they’d purchased enough alcohol to make their tired jokes funny.
The smack of pool balls breaking up drew her eyes back to the two tables on the far side of the bar away from the dining room. A man, younger than Lisa, by at least a few years, rose up from his shot stance and looked over the table with a smile. Not a gloating smile, but pleased. He did not look tired and desperate. He looked like he was never tired and certainly never desperate. Thick black hair, masculine features and the smooth body of a swimmer. He didn’t look like a pretty boy, or a model, more like the hero in a war movie, or a western.
When Lisa realized she was openly staring at him, she smiled and picked up her drink for something to do. Jim had looked like that once. In body, but not in confidence. That was the reason she had never really fallen for him completely. He was insecure, even with all his accolades, and that was a reason enough for Lisa to think of him as nothing more than a ticket to somewhere else. She had never planned to spend the rest of her life with him. That had bee a tragic accident, not because of what happen to him, but because they had already gotten married when it happened.
A solid crack from the table made her look over again in time to see the cowboy sink a shot. His opponent looked pensive and concerned. Lisa recognized him. He was an insurance agent, but not the one they used. She only knew him from his billboard. She looked back at her mystery man. He was not from around here. Even though Lisa didn’t make a point of socializing around town, she would have noticed him. Lisa couldn’t really see the table top, but he must not have had a shot, because he carefully tapped the ball against the rail and then held his hand up to the waitress, who brought him a bottled beer.
The insurance agent managed to sink two balls in a row, but couldn’t keep his streak going. Mystery man cleared the table save the eight ball which he bounced off a couple of rails, but didn’t sink. Lisa got the idea he was just toying with the insurance guy, maybe he was trying to get the stakes up, or just wanted to keep playing and didn’t want to drive him off by being too good.
Lisa decided to focus on her drinking, before she turned into a little school girl over the guy. By the time she finish the Mai Tai, the waitress showed up with her food and beer. As soon as she set the plate down, Lisa realized she was suddenly hungry. Very hungry.
Lisa kept track of the fallen as new opponents came to do battle on the pool table, while she ate and ordered a second beer. Her mystery man remained undefeated. When she finished eating she ordered a third beer. Without really thinking about what she was doing she picked up her purse and wandered over to the pool tables. Mystery man was trying to convince his latest opponent to play one more game, but the guy was waving him off. Even the offer to play with no stakes was refused. There were no more players looking to take on the new gunslinger in town.
Lisa set her purse on the shelf that followed the wall around the pool tables and took a swallow of courage from her bottle. “Looks like you’ve vanquished them all.”
“Pardon?” Mystery man looked her dead in the eyes without a hint of hesitation. Something Lisa, because of her stunning looks, was not accustomed too and she felt her thighs squeeze together of their of volition.
“It seems like you’ve done in all the local talent.” Lisa smiled with a slow blink and unconsciously ran her finger around the top of her beer bottle.
“Oh…” He smiled back. Somehow confident without being cocky. “Yeah, I’ve been playing for a long time, but I don’t like to play alone.” He placed a new set of quarters in the slot shelf and pushed it in releasing the balls. “Care to play a game?”
Lisa smiled at the innuendo. “I don’t think I’d be much of a match for you at this game. I’d just end up watching and you’d still be playing by yourself.”
“Well, I could teach you.”
Lisa smiled and took a sip of her beer then set it on the shelf next to her purse. “Okay. Why not, I’ve got no where to be.”
“Do you want to break?” He asked holding the cue out to her.
“No. I think I’ll pass on that embarrassment.” Lisa retrieved her beer for another drink and something to occupy her rather than openly staring at his ass when he leaned over the table.
With a solid crack the balls danced around the table, but none went in.
“Are you that good?” Lisa took a drink and set down her bottle.
“What do you mean? I didn’t sink any.” He said giving a slight shrug of his shoulders.
“Yeah, but you usually do don’t you?” Lisa said as she picked out a cue from the rack.
He laughed heartily. It was a friendly attractive laugh. “You may be to smart for me.”
Lisa settled on a stick and turned back to the table. “Oh, I doubt that…” She walked towards the cue ball looking over the table. When she started to lean over and try a shot, he picked the chalk and held it out to her.
“First lesson: Always chalk you cue.”
“Does that really matter?” Lisa took the chalk from him letting her fingers linger a moment on his. Then she took the chalk and applied it with a slow swivel.
“Oh, yes. It’s very important for a smooth shot.” He smiled, showing a few teeth.
Lisa set the chalk down a pursed her lips to blow the excess off the tip. “Well you’re the expert.” Lisa leaned over to take an easy shot on the ten.
“Wait.” He held up his hand.
Lisa looked up at him with mock annoyance. “Now what? Do I need to stretch first? Even I can sink the ten.”
“Well two things.” He came closer to her. Standing beside and a little behind her. “First look at the table. If you shoot that ten, you score one ball, but look around the table. Unless you get a lucky bounce you’re not going to have a follow up shot.”
Lisa stood up. He didn’t move back so he was now very close to her. Her cotton top was thin and she could feel his heat. She focused on the table and ignored her bodies response to his presence. “What would you recommend?”
“The three ball. The solids have a much better spread and once you sink the three you’ll have an easy shot on the five in the corner.”
“Yeah, but that’s a long shot across the table. I’ll just miss it.”
“Well you want to learn right.” He pointed across the table. “Line up the shot, then look at the pocket not the ball.” Lisa bent over and lined up the shot. “And the second thing: You’re gripping the cue like a baseball bat. Hold it loose with your fingers and rock your wrist, like this…” He bent over her putting his hand next to hers on the cue. She looked at his hand and imitated the motion with hers. “It’s not about power it’s about control.” He backed away from her so she could take her shot. She followed his instructions, sank the three and the cue ball bounced off the rail and lined up perfectly for the five. She stood up away from the table and looked at the five.
“I’ll be damned.” For a moment she forgot about flirting and was impressed by the shot.
He smiled at her statement, a little too much.
“So…” She turned back to him and smiled. “What’s your name cowboy? If you’re going to be giving me lessons I ought to know your name.”
He smiled and looked away. It was the first time she’d seen him looked the least bit unbalanced. “It’s Apollo…”
“Apollo?” She chuckled. “What like the character on the space show, what is it Star Wars?”
“No and no.” He chuckled. “The TV show is Battlestar Galactica. Star Wars was the movie and they’re not related story lines.” He smiled. “It’s not the Greek god either. Though it is Greek, but Apollo is actually short for Apollyon. But that’s just too confusing for most people and people want to call me Pollyanna. So I shortened it to Apollo. So what, pray tell, is your name.”
“Very simple, Lisa. Short for Lisa, not even short for Melissa, or Elizabeth.” Lisa smiled “My family are simple folk.”
“Mine are rather complicated if you hadn’t guessed from my name.”
“Well you seem to have turned out all right.”
Apollyon grunted, smiled, and picked up his beer he raised it to Lisa. “Here’s to things turning out all right.” Lisa retrieved her beer and clinked her bottle to his and they both drank. Lisa finished her swallow and looked at the bottle.
“I seem to be on empty.” She said still looking through the brown glass.
“A problem I can correct.” He turned and held up two fingers to the waitress. She brought over the beers and gave Lisa a raised eyebrow. They both noticed and chuckled when she left.
“It appears the waitress does not approve.” He said taking a drink.
“It’s a small town. I’m sure she knows I’m married.” Lisa said with a smile.
Apollyon made a mock face of chagrin. “Tis but a game of pool.”
Lisa looked up at him through a slow blink. “Is it now.” He let the comment hang and she smiled at him. “Now let’s see about that five…” She looked back at him. “Unless you have a better suggestion?”
“No, take the five, but shoot to give the cue a good bounce off the rail, so you’ll have a shot at the seven.”
She looked at her shot, looked at the seven, and nodded. She made her shot, bounced the cue and lined up for the seven in the side. “It seems…” She looked over the table and then up at him. “There’s a lot you can teach me.”
He smiled and chuckled slightly, but didn’t answer her.
She sank the seven.
They played several games and drank many beers, until it was close to closing. He leaned close to her and spoke so only she could here.
“Maybe you shouldn’t drive. The clerk warned me when I checked in that a trooper like to hang around the driveway at closing.” He paused and she looked back at him. “I have a room.”
“I’ll tell you what mister man.” she spoke in the same conspiratorial tone. “I can’t just simply go to your room. Every eye in this place is on us. I’m going to slap you hard enough to leave my hand print on your face. Then you are going to make a big embarrassed show of paying your bill and leaving. Then I am going to get my own room. The farthest one from traffic, last one on the second floor in back, because I want to sleep in, due to my inebriated condition. Then one hour after that you are going to knock on my door followed by a tap on the window. And if I’m feel really generous. I’ll let you in.”
He looked at her confused.
“Do you understand?” She ask raising her eyebrow.
“I think so.” He understood completely.
“Good. Now lean over and whisper something in my ear.”
He leaned over and almost too quietly to be heard said. “I’m the devil and I’ve come for you.”
She pulled her head away from him. He smiled at her puzzled expression. Then she followed through and slapped him harder than she’d planned. His head jerked back and bounced forward and he smiled showing many teeth. “Nice.” He whispered focused hard on her. Then his attitude changed drastically as he donned an “Aw shucks” expression. He raised his hands and shrugged. Then stepped around her and made his way to the bar. While paying his bill he commented to the bartender. “Can’t win them all.” The audience of flies all laughed. They, even those who pretended not to, had all been watching and the show did not disappoint.
When she was getting her room. The night clerk, the owners brother, smiled at her.
“I hear there was a little trouble in the bar.” He leered at her.
“Humph…” She didn’t make eye contact, but dug through her purse for some cash to pay for the room. “A woman just can’t play a little pool without a man thinking it’s more than that.” She found the cash. “I want the last room on the second floor all the way in the back. I can already feel a headache coming on and I don’t want traffic keeping me up the rest of the night.”
“Rooms open, most people want to be up front so they can get on the road in the morning.” He made a note in his guest book. “Good thing you’re staying that trooper would have pulled you over for sure.”
“So I’ve heard.”
He looked her over and down her top when she leaned over to put her change in her purse.
“If your getting a headache, maybe it’s because you stopped drinking. Sometimes you need that one last drink to settle your head. You want a something to take to your room. I can sell you a six pack from the bar.” Lisa made men want to be helpful.
She looked up from her purse and smiled at him. “Yes that would be wonderful. Thank you.”
An hour later she heard the knock and the tap on the glass. Then even though it was a whisper she could hear him.
“Lisa… I’ve come for you.”
She was suddenly terrified, but couldn’t keep from going to the door and letting him in. Her body was on fire and she was shaking with anticipation and desire. He strode in like king and he kissed her deeply on the mouth for a the longest Lisa had ever been kissed. Then he stepped back and looked down at her.
“Take off your clothes.” Lisa immediately began to obey. “No, slowly… And touch yourself while you do.” She could barely contain her trembling fingers, but she obeyed. He casually took off his clothes, never taking his eyes from her.
It went on for hours and just like in the bar, the show did not disappoint.
Rose arrived at the Kastors at 7 AM as she did every day except Sunday since he had been released from the hospital after his accident. It was a sunny day and she was in a good mood and carrying a slight smile. She liked her job and was very dutiful toward Jim Kastors. She was a lean woman from a life of hard work and this was the best work she’d ever had. There were very few jobs for older black women around town that paid more than minimum wage and they usually came with a good helping of racial superiority on the part of the employers, none of which she had to deal with from Mr. Kastor. Jim had never been anything but kind and after a few months of working for him, he had doubled her pay and that had already been twice minimum. He would hold his his index finger to his lips and say. “This is between us, Rose.” Then look back toward the stairs that led to The Wife’s room, his room was on the first floor. That was what Rose called her in her mind. ‘The Wife’ out loud she called her mam. In the beginning it had been Mrs. Kastor, she hadn’t been so bad then, but over the years she had come to exude bitterness like a pheromone. She was so cold Rose avoided eye contact if at all possible and conversation was kept strictly to instructions from Mrs. Kastor and short greetings and conversational necessities which seemed to be fine with the mistress of the house.
Mr. Kastor asked her about her life and actually listened to the response. She sometimes felt that she was the only one he really talked to which was true. Jim interactions with others was pretty much limited to the banter he shared, manning the checkout counter at the store. He couldn’t take the pity in the eyes of his old friends whenever he did see them. His social life was pretty much limited to going to restaurants, mostly with just Mrs. Kastor.
He didn’t get that look from Rose. She had a great deal of respect for him. He seldom complained, even though she knew he was always in pain, and his pills did little other than keep it at a distance. He worked hard doing his morning exercise routine so he didn’t atrophy and get fat, even though that was painful as well from the stress it put on his lower back and legs.
At the beginning of each school year he gave her money for her kids to get new clothes and school supplies and every Christmas he gave her a good bonus and a week off to be with her family. She had a single cousin that filled in for her for that week and he always paid her well. He even let Rose bring her children along if she didn’t have anyone to watch them. He spoke to them, encouraged them to be good students, and helped her oldest son get a scholarship to Ohio State. And when he found out how much extra time it took her to get back and forth to work catching the bus and then the long walk she had to make from the last bus stop to his house, he had bought her a second hand car. Nothing fancy, just an old Chevy, but the body was straight and it was a good running car.
She could always tell when he had a particularly bad night. His eyes would be red and swollen, but he wouldn’t complain. He thanked her and apologized when had accidents in his bed that were particularly messy. She would shush him and tell him it was fine, but he wouldn’t be able to look at her and it would just break Rose’s heart. There were days that he would say he didn’t think he could go on and she would tell him to stay strong. They were doing new things with medicine all the time. They were going to come up with some way to help him. He would close his eyes and say. “Okay, Rose. I’ll stick it out a little longer as long as I have you to take care of me.” No man in her life, Black, or White, had ever treated her with the respect that Jim Kastors did. She was fiercely loyal to him and loved him like a son.
The first thing she noticed when she arrived was that The Wife’s car was gone. That was truly unusual, because she was not known to be an early riser. She was seldom seen prior to their departure time to go to the store and they didn’t leave until noon. Jim had an assistant manager that opened the store in the morning, so it wouldn’t hold up the store, if he was having a particularly bad time of it. Plus five hours at the store was all he could handle and even that was often too much for him.
She parked on the street, where she always did, even though there was a space in the driveway. She was half way up the sidewalk when she noticed that the door appeared to be cracked open a bit. She slowed until she realized the door was indeed ajar and that was wrong and she rushed the door, but stopped short when her fingers touched it and it began to move. She was suddenly afraid. Of what she didn’t know. She pushed the door open and took a tentative step across the threshold. “Mr. Kastors?” Her voice cracked a little. When she didn’t hear anything she took another step.
“Mr. Kastor?” She continued to step cautiously, ready to bolt should she need to. She made it completely inside and turned to the living room. As she turned she caught the smell, the smell of vomit, piss, and shit, commingled. She knew that combined scent from working at the hospital, because it had always fallen to her to clean up after… after someone died. She saw the wheelchair lying on it’s side first and then saw Jim’s legs, tucked up tightly to his body that was obscured by the couch. She wanted to run to him, but it was all she could do to keep her legs moving forward.
She made it around the couch, her eyes already wet with slow tears, sure of what she was going to find. He was tucked into a tight ball. His pajama bottoms stained with shit. His face laying in, and covered with, vomit. The smell was overwhelming. If not for all her years of dealing with peoples fluids she certainly would have vomited forcefully. As it was she was able to choke it back down.
“Oh… Mr. Kastor.” She held her hand over her mouth and spoke through her fingers. “I’m so sorry… I’m so…” She froze. He was breathing. It was so shallow that she had been sure he was dead, but he was breathing. She dropped to her knees oblivious of the vomit she landed in and reached across him to grab the towel from the seat of the wheelchair. She reached her fingers into his mouth to clear any remaining vomit and make sure his air passage was completely open. Then wiped his face and lifted his head setting on the clean side of the towel.
“Mr. Kastor? Can you hear me?” She used her fingers to open one eyelid. His eyes were glazed and his pupil was dilated. She didn’t want to move him. But couldn’t leave him lying in his filth, so she put her hands under his shoulders and tucked them into his arm pits and gently pulled just far enough to get him off the soiled run to a clean spot on the hardwood floor. “Mr. Kastor. I’m going to call an ambulance. I’ll be right back.” She had made it to the phone and lifted the receiver when she heard him speak.
“No… Don’t…” His voice was barely above a whisper.
She set down the phone and went back to him kneeling beside him. “Mr. Kastor, you need to go to the hospital.”
He shook his head slightly, not opening his eyes. “Just help me get cleaned up.” It was only at this point that she realized how bruised his face was. That couldn’t have happened from a simple fall from the wheelchair.
She studied his bruises. Something terrible must have happened and he wanted to keep it to himself. She had to respect his wishes, because she didn’t know what was going on yet, but she sure as hell was going to find out.
“Okay, Mr. Kastor, if that’s what you want.” He nodded in response. “Can you get in your chair, if I help you?”
“Give me a couple of minutes. I think I’ve got one of my pills left.” Jim took a deep ragged breath. Rose got up and found his pills on the end table.
“You have two left.”
“I’ll take them both.”
“Let me get you some water to take them with.”
Jim just wanted to bite into them, but didn’t have the strength to argue.
Rose came back with a glass of water and helped him take the pills. Then she got a large bowl of hot water, wash cloths, and some big towels. First she helped him out of his soiled clothes. They had long since become so familiar there was no hesitation in this of either of their parts. Then she began to clean him up, refreshing the bowl three times before she was done. Then she helped him into his wheelchair and took him to have a proper bath.
Lisa woke up slowly just before noon. She was alone. It took her a long moment to realize where she was and what had happened. She looked slowly around the room. On the pillow there was a note.
‘Delicious. Had to go. I will see you again. It was signed Apollyon.’
Lisa crumpled the note and clutched it to her damp salty breasts. The note terrified her a new, though she had no idea why. There was something ominous in the simple note. Suddenly she thought of Jim and a war of emotion began. Last night she had truly wanted him dead. But now… now all she wanted was to see him and hold him. She felt guilt. Staggering oppressive guilt. She had cheated on him before, several times over the years. She felt so detached from him she hadn’t even considered feeling guilty. Why should she? He was a broken useless man and he hadn’t given her what she wanted from him. Contract null and void. They hadn’t slept in the same bed since the accident, basically since they’d been married. Now she wanted to be in his bed, in his arms, more than anything. To see him look at her in the gentle way that he used to… before… before he hated her. She was more anxious than she had ever been. She was trembling and felt sure she was going to vomit. She needed to feel Jim, to be with Jim. She raced to the toilet and emptied her guts then got up and went to the shower to scrub herself clean. Letting the water scald her, but it didn’t help. She didn’t think she’d ever feel clean again.
Lisa noticed Rose’s Chevy when she pulled into the driveway. Well Jim must be alive and home, otherwise it would be a different scene. The cops would probably been waiting for her to get home. If he was in the hospital, she sure Rose would have been there with him. She both resented Rose and was grateful for her. Jim was as devoted to her as she was to him and that made Lisa weirdly jealous. But if it wasn’t for someone as dedicated as her, life with Jim’s disabilities would have been much more taxing on her. With Rose she hardly had to take care of Jim at all which up to now had suited her.
She parked and shut off the Mustang. Resting both hands on the wheel she looked at the front door. The bright noon sun hurt her eyes. She closed them and bow her head trying to get control of her breathing. Taking deep breaths until she calmed down a little. Her hands were still shaking when she removed them from the wheel. She clasped them together and squeezed until they stopped.
Slowly she got out of the car and carefully closed the door, forgoing her usual slam. Holding her purse with both hands and studying the sidewalk she slowly walked up to the door. It was unlocked and she opened it a few inches and paused then pushed through and entered forcing herself to hold her head up. She took a couple of steps and turned toward the living in response to the activity she heard coming from there. Rose was on her hands and knees scrubbing the rug, by the couch. She stepped tentatively into the living room. Stopping two steps in and still holding her purse with both hands in front of her hips, she clear her throat.
Rose looked up at her. Lisa was now the one who couldn’t make eye contact. Rose dropped the brush into the bucket of warm soapy water and wiped her hands on her apron. She pushed off the floor and stood up. Drilling her eyes into Lisa. They both stood silent for a moment. Rose like a living statue, Lisa squirming under her angry gaze.
Lisa cleared her throat and looked anywhere but back at Rose. “Where is Mr. Kastor?” Lisa gave a quick glance at Rose. Rose didn’t blink and she took her time answering.
“Is… Is everything Okay?” Lisa rubbed her lips together. And cleared her thoat.
“No it’s not… He’s in a lot of pain. I had to get his prescription refilled early again.” Rose studied Lisa. Lisa gave her fleeting glances, not holding Rose’s gaze.
“I told his doctor that he had a bad fall and that he had been in more pain that usual.” She let that hang for a moment then continued. “He offered to come over, but I told him that Mr. Kastor didn’t want to bother him. He’d be better in a few days. I don’t know if he believed me, because this isn’t the first time Mr. Kastor needed his prescription early, but I think he feels bad for Jim, and just gives him whatever he wants.”
Lisa nodded looking down and her purse and clutching it tighter before setting it on the oak table against the wall at the entrance to the living room. Her hands fluttered for something else to do and she settle on resting them on her jeans near the pockets.
“You can go, Rose. I’ll take care of Mr. Kastor today.” Lisa looked in the direction of Jim’s room.
Rose marched over to Lisa and stood in front of her. Lisa forced herself to return Rose’s gaze.
“I wanted to take him to the hospital, but he wouldn’t let me.” She paused narrowing her eyes. “When I saw the bruises on his face. I wanted to call the police, but he wouldn’t let me do that either.”
A bit of Lisa’s old bitchy fire rose up in her and she rubbed some of the makeup away from her throat. “I think Jim can protect himself.” She returned Rose’s glare. “I’m sure he didn’t want to explain this to the police.
Rose looked at the exposed bruise. She could tell there was more under the makeup. She now, at least partly, knew why Jim didn’t want to involve any outside parties in what had happened. She backed away from Mrs. Kastor.
“If it was Mr. Kastor that did that to you. He must have already been defending himself.” Rose turned away a retrieved her purse. At the door she turned and made eye contact with Lisa. “I’ll be back in the morning. Mr. Kastor better be healthy, or I will go to the police.” For the first time, in all the years Rose had worked for the Kastor’s, she slammed the door as she left.
She had held her tears until Rose had left, but they now flowed freely. She wiped them away with one open hand and then the other. She went up stairs and took another shower, but it didn’t help. She pulled a pair of cotton bikini panties, flannel pajama bottoms, and an old T-Shirt. Then went to Jim’s room. Slowly she opened the door and slipped inside. His breathing was shallow and steadily, the way it was when his pain medication making him sleep. He laid still on his back, the only way he could sleep, with his legs propped up under the knees with two pillows and other pillows tucked at his sides to keep him from moving. She went to the bed. His face was badly bruised and swollen. She was stunned at the damage she had done. She touched his face, her fingers as light as feathers, tears streaming from her eyes in a way they hadn’t since she was a young child. She bent over and kissed his forehead.
“I’m sorry, Jim.” She wiped her tears again. “I’m sorry for everything.”
Jim didn’t move, or break from his steady breathing. She knew he would be out for hours. She walked around to the open side of the bed and carefully laid down beside him, tucking herself as close to him as she could. Snuggling her face into his neck and putting her arm across his waist so she wouldn’t interfere with his breathing by putting weight on his belly or his chest. After about an hour of lying there soaking his neck with her tears, she fell asleep.