The day after Ellen gave me the envelope, I returned to my apartment to find a single rose on the front step, and a window broken. Being the smart gal that I was, I pulled out my cell and phoned the cops. I waited for them outside my apartment building. By the time they got there, I was freaking out. They found a picture of her, signed, along with lipstick prints all over my walls, my mirrors, my bedspread. My underwear was strewn around the room and several panties were missing. To top it off, she was taking a damn bath in my tub. Her bag, which was stuffed with my panties, was resting on the floor by the bathtub. Not only was she a nut, she was stupid as well. The cops arrested her; her shrink came forward and said she wasn’t dangerous, just hallucinatory, and they locked her away somewhere.
“You didn’t think to call me then?” Rafe shouted, steamed by this point. “The psycho bitch breaks into your apartment, and you don’t tell me a thing? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“She was apprehended without incident,” I snapped back, my own temper frayed. I wasn’t used to answering to anyone, and in fact, had broken up with my last partner because he constantly questioned me about where I had been. I wasn’t anybody’s property, and I didn’t like being scolded as if I were a small child. “She was taken away and locked up. That’s why I didn’t mention it to you then, and that’s why I didn’t want to tell you now.”
“How do you know she’s still locked up?” Rafe asked. “Maybe she was released. If she was, maybe she decided the goddess had clay feet after all. And what do you do when you’re disillusioned with a god? You kill it.”
“I’ll find out,” I sighed, my body suddenly sagging. It’s hard to believe that I was talking about someone wanting to kill me. It’s such a ludicrous statement, that I had to resist the impulse to look around for the hidden camera. Suddenly, the phone rang. Rafe moved to get it, but I motioned him back. Sometimes, I screened my calls when I wasn’t in the mood to answer.
“Beezus! It’s your mother. Pick up the phone; I know you’re there.”
“Mom, what’s up?” From long experience, I knew it was better to talk to her on the spot than to wait.
“Do you know you’re all over the news?” She was upset and made no bones about it. “Turn on the damn television.” She must be really upset because she rarely swore. “You nearly get killed, and you don’t bother to call your mother?”
“Mom—” I started, but she cut me off.
“It was your costume! You were the intended target. I’m surprised you don’t have any reporters outside your apartment.” Her voice was tart. Shit, I never thought of that. The reporter part, I mean. I walked to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there were reporters there, clamoring to enter the building. I flipped on the television as my mother was jabbering something about how this was like when Ramona dressed as a witch for Halloween and was frightened because nobody knew who she was so she made a sign with her name on it so people would know who she was. What the hell that had to do with my situation, I wasn’t sure and didn’t particularly care. I allowed her flow of words to simply roll of my back. Rafe came into the living room to watch the news with me.
“The police are being circumspect,” one of the shills for WCCO said, her face serious. “They allowed that it’s possible it was a case of mistaken identity, but we haven’t yet been able to get a hold of Ms. Beatrice Chen to hear her side of the story.”
“Damn it,” Rafe swore under his breath. My mother was still nattering about the shock and how I should have called. “You’re coming to my place,” Rafe said, his full lips set in a thin line.
“Hold on,” I said to Rafe, one ear to my mother, one ear to the television.
“What, dear?” My mother said, finally winding down her spiel. “I think you should spend the night here, though there are a few reporters outside. And dear, you’re not planning on going into work tomorrow, are you?”
“Yes, Mom, I am,” I said, still watching the news. They didn’t reveal anything that I didn’t already know. “And no, I won’t be spending the night at your house.”
“You can have your old bedroom,” my mother persisted. “You know I’ve kept all your kids’ rooms as is.”
I shuddered as I remembered my old bedroom. I went through a brief girly phase and put up flowered wallpaper. My mother refused to let me change it because she actually liked it. Of course, once I recovered my sanity, I hated it. Not to mention the canopy bed my mother thought was so darling. She and Mona got along really well because they were both so damn feminine. The only thing I missed from my old room was my posse of stuffed animals. I had never liked dolls, even as a little girl, infinitely preferring large, plushy animals that I could squish and cuddle. I had a few in my bedroom here, but had left most of them in my parents’ house. Spending a night with them suddenly appealed to me. Rafe was motioning for me to let him take the phone, so I did. My mother adored Rafe—I sometimes thought she liked him better than she liked me.
“Hello, Van,” Rafe said, putting some purr into his voice. My mother insisted he called her Van rather than Mrs. Chen. He was the only one who didn’t have to call her Dorothy or Dot. I didn’t know why she let him have that privilege, but I stopped questioning my mother’s idiosyncrasies years ago. “I don’t want you to worry about Bet. She’s staying with me tonight.” I opened my mouth to protest, but he quelled me with a look. I glared back at him, outraged that he would be planning my life for me. I turned my attention back to the news which was now doing a short bio on Lydia Wilkerson, nee Linda Rodriguez. I gaped in astonishment. What the hell? I knew she had changed her first name, but I hadn’t known she’d changed her last. And I definitely hadn’t known she was Mexican—full props to Rafe who had called it. He mouthed ‘I told you so’ while continuing to talk to my mother.
Linda had graduated from Carleton in ’93 with a theater major. I was a St. Olaf grad, myself, and I was a bit surprised I hadn’t seen her in my four years in Northfield. It’s a small town, but I kept mostly to the St. Olaf side and rarely went to the bar downtown. She had worked as a set designer for numerous years before becoming burnt out and quitting the scene. She became a substitute teacher and did the amusement park thing on the side. She had a boyfriend, Brian, but she hadn’t lived with him. She was survived by her mother who lived in Minneapolis, but there was no mention of any other family members. Other than that, the news team hadn’t scrounged up much in the way of a motive for her murder. Somehow, it was sobering that in her death, Lydia should be reduced thusly.
“Lydia was a great gal,” Eddie said somberly, making sure to face the camera head-on. His gut looked even bigger on the television screen, and his voice was oozing fake sympathy. “I can’t imagine who would do a thing like this. It’s a tragedy for the FunLand family, and she will be sorely missed.” He paused to dab at his dry eyes before continuing. “Tomorrow will be your child gets in free day as long as they are accompanied by an adult. In Lydia’s memory.” I almost gagged at his hypocrisy. I was outraged that he would use Lydia’s death to promote business, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Eddie was, is, and always will be about the money.
“She was too young to die like this,” Antoinette said sadly, making sure the mini-skirt she was wearing showed off maximum thigh. “It’s a great tragedy.” She opened her eyes wide, the corners of her mouth drooping. I wanted to smack some sense into her, but I didn’t have enough strength in my arms to do that. I clicked the television off instead, offended by all the hypocrisy. I was the only one at the park who had a legitimate claim to Lydia as friend, but you didn’t see me exploiting that fact.
“It’s settled,” Rafe said, handing the phone back to me. “Van wants to talk to you again.” I reined in a sigh, knowing that my mother was going to pull out the big guns.
“I like that boy,” Mom said approvingly as soon as I had the phone back in my possession again. “So agreeable, isn’t he? See you in an hour or so.” She hung up before I could ask her what the hell was going on. I turned and glared at Rafe who was looking like the proverbial cat who swallowed the canary.
“We’re both going over to your parents’ house,” he explained. Before I could protest, he laid out the plan. I had to admit, it made sense.
First, we each packed a bag. Rafe had a few things at my place, despite not having spent the night. I don’t know how that happened, but it had. Both of us had to work tomorrow, though Rafe was still trying to convince me to call in sick. I ignored him as I tossed a few essentials into my duffle bag. I really did not want to be driven from my apartment by the journalistic vultures, but I knew that I would have no rest with them right outside. Sooner or later, someone was bound to let them in. The least I could do was be out of the building when they stormed the Bastille. I was all for the public’s right to know, but not when I was at the middle of the storm. Then, it’s every man, woman, child for him or herself.
After Rafe and I gathered up what we needed, Rafe shimmied into one of my favorite dresses—a red sheath that fell to my knees. It was tight across his chest, but not in the same way that it hugged mine. I rummaged through my closet and pulled out a wig that I wore on occasion. It was jet black and fell to my ass, which was a sight longer than my shoulder-length hair. I plunked the wig on top of Rafe’s head, draping it over his shoulder. He decided to forgo pantyhose as it was summer, but he grudgingly consented to heels. Platforms, black, with three-inch wedge heels. My biggest pair of shoes, and the ones with the most give. Even so, they were tight on his feet. He flat-out refused to put on makeup, however, but he didn’t really need it. He just needed to resemble me from a distance.
In turn, I slipped into a pair of boy jeans several sizes too big. I bound my breasts with a medical bandage wrap and slipped on a white muscle t-shirt which showed off my biceps nicely. Not to mention the circle of fire tattoo I had around my upper right arm. Rafe laughed at me because my boobs still protruded slightly, but I was passable. I pulled out another wig, a close-cropped blond one and pulled it on over my hair. Now I looked like a chic dyke or a feminine boy. Either way, what I did not look like was a voluptuous Asian woman. Rafe didn’t, either, but he looked more like it than I did. We stood side by side and admired ourselves in the mirror. We giggled at how ridiculous we looked, but admitted that it would do the job. Grabbing our respective bags, we left the apartment.
After reaching the lobby floor, we squared our shoulders, put on our sunglasses and went outside. Rafe strutted his stuff while I slipped out slightly behind him. Predictably, the reporters flocked to him while I was able to make a break for it. I reached his car without incident and slid inside. We had exchanged keys so he’d be driving my ride and vice-versa. That was for the persistent folks who hadn’t gotten a good look at him or were watching the cars instead. It seemed as if Rafe was doing a good job running the gantlet because no one followed me. I took off and burned rubber out of the parking lot in his black Ford Escort. I arrived at my parents’ home in New Brighton twenty minutes later. I knew it would take longer for Rafe because he was taking a circuitous route, so I wasn’t worried when I didn’t see him in my rearview mirror. I parked a block away from my parents and walked around to the back. I knocked on the sliding glass door and waited. My mother blinked in surprise, but let me in once she recognized who I was.