Chapter Five; Part One
“Do not do that!” I push Onyx’s face away from mine, wincing as her breath hits my face. It stinks of salmon and kibbles, and I push it further to the side. She eludes my hand and bonks her head against my face. Jet is standing to the side of me, watching his sister with something akin to amusement on his face. I glance at the clock and note that it’s four-fifteen in the morning. I sigh and snuggle down into my pillow, but I’m wide awake. I check the comments on my latest post, and I’m warmed by how enthusiastic people are in response to the post. Several say that they’d love to meet my best friend, with one or two saying more cheekily that they’d like to date her. It’s funny as I don’t mention describe what she looks like or post her picture, but her personality shines through, even on paper. I frown at QueenBee’s comment as she acerbically writes, “All bark and no bite. You can tell she’s got no substance, and her voice is ugly, too. I don’t know what you see in her. She was a waste of space.” I frown as this is the second time she’s said something negative about Julianna. I dismiss it from my mind, then promptly fall back asleep for another hour. I’m not feeling refreshed when I wake up, but it’ll have to do.
“How are my little boops?” I ask, rubbing first Onyx’s nose and then Jet’s. They both nuzzle against me before nudging at my shoulders. It’s clear that they want me to get up and feed them, so I begrudgingly comply. Getting out of bed is my least-favorite activity, and it happens with depressing frequency. I drag myself over to my closet and quickly pick out an outfit. After I feed the cats and eat a bagel with peanut butter, I’m out the door. I arrive early to work, so I allow myself a minute to hop online (on my phone) and check the news. When I open the Strib website, I get the shock of my life. There’s Julianna’s face staring back at mine, on her bed, with her throat slashed. I gag and cry out, quickly stifling it. The next thing I see is that her tongue is cut out, and there’s copious amounts of blood surrounding her. That’s when I lose it—stumbling away from my desk. I make it to the bathroom just in time to puke out the contents of my stomach into the toilet. I keep gagging long after I’ve thrown everything up. I sag onto the floor and begin weeping uncontrollably. How could this be happening to me? How could Julianna be dead? Also, who could have done that to her tongue? Who hated her that much?
I fumble with my purse, pulling out my phone. There’s the Star Tribune website and Julianna’s destroyed face is looking back at me. I quickly close out the tab before plugging Julianna Araki into Google. The first five hits are about the murder, and I cautiously open them in new windows. None of them have pictures, for which I’m grateful. I learn that Julianna was killed at about four in the morning, the same time Onyx had awoken me from my sleep. Remorse overcomes me. If only I had called her, texted her, or something. Maybe I could have saved her. I check my phone to see if I have any messages. I do—a text from her at around 3:45 a.m. I stare at the phone, not believing my eyes. This is a text from Julianna, and it might be the last thing she said before she was—I finally check the text, my heart in my mouth. I don’t want to read it, but I know I must.
“Hey, Liang. I just got the fucking of a lifetime. You should try it! It’s good for what ails you. I’m ready for another round, but Ramona had to go home, damn it. Wanna come over and lend me a hand? Just kidding. Love you, girl. Thank you for the Dong Yuan. Talk to you soon.”
“Oh, Araki. How could you do this to me?” I cradle my phone to my chest, rocking back and forth as I weep. What am I going to do without my best friend, and who could have done this to her? Ramona? Simon? A disgruntled ex? I don’t know, and all I can do is weep.
“Megan? Are you OK?” Tania Smith, one of my coworkers, stares at me, her mouth agape and her hazel eyes wide. She pushes a hank of greasy brown hair from her brow, but it falls back in place.
“I’m fine.” I choke back my sobs and gather my things. I pull myself up off the floor and brush by her to wash my face. I rinse my mouth before turning off the faucet. “I think I might have a stomach bug. I’m going home. Tell Cara I’m taking the rest of the day off.” I sweep out of the bathroom, keeping my head held high. I don’t crumble until I reach my car, and then I burst into sobs again. Somehow, I manage to make it home in one piece before collapsing on the couch. I start weeping as if I’ll never stop. Onyx and Jet hop onto the couch, Onyx on my stomach and Jet on the cushion squished next to my thigh, and they’re both staring at me in consternation. I try to placate them with a smile, but all I can do is howl. I can’t live without my Julianna; I just can’t bear it.