“Leslie, meditation is done now.” Sasha’s voice is unusually gentle. Leslie snaps to the present and is astonished to find that her face is wet with tears. Two of the other students, longtime classmates of Leslie’s, make a point of not looking at her. The third, a relative newcomer is staring at her with an open mouth. Leslie flushes in embarrassment as she tries to stem her tears; they continue to fall.
“Excuse me.” Leslie walks over to the table in the corner of the room and picks up a tissue. She uses it to dab her eyes, but she continues to cry silently. She grabs a handful of tissues and walks outside. Sasha lets her be because she knows that Leslie needs a minute to collect herself. If she doesn’t return in a few minutes, Sasha will go outside to make sure she’s OK.
“I miss you, John,” Leslie whispers as she huddles by the door. It’s not exceedingly cold out—twenty degrees—but Leslie feels a coldness that cuts straight through her heart. Leslie aches to hold John one last time, to feel him inside her one last time, to kiss him one last time. She couldn’t tolerate the idea that she would never see him again. She had known him a relatively short amount of time, and yet, he had become indispensable in her life. She counted on him to be there for her, and now—he isn’t. He will never be there for her again. Leslie hugs herself in a futile attempt to stave off the despair. How can she bear it that she will never ever get to hear him call her lover again?
After several minutes, Leslie returns to class. Sasha is leading the class in chi gong, but she glances quizzically at Leslie as Leslie gently shuts the door behind her. Leslie nods once, not trusting herself to speak. She sits on her chair, drinks her bottled water, and skips the chi gong. When it’s over, she rejoins the class for the first section of the solo form. She is able to stumble through it with minimal mistakes. She endures the rest of the class, counting the minutes until it’s over.
“Siobhan! What are you doing here?” Leslie is surprised to see her best friend at Funk ‘N Junk because she isn’t scheduled.
“I switched with Muriel,” Siobhan says briskly. “I wanted to work with you your first shift back.” Leslie snorts because Siobhan makes it sound as if Leslie has been wounded in battle or something equally ridiculous. Siobhan stares at Leslie and then plucks a silver lame scarf from a shelf and hands it to Leslie. “Put this on.” Leslie accepts the scarf and drapes it around her waist. She is still wearing the red sweater she had put on this morning, but she had changed from her jeans into black velour pants. She has on ankle-high boots with two-inch heels. She is not a clotheshorse, but she accepts that she has to be an advertisement for the store. To that end, she plucks a silver bangle from a counter display and slides it up her left arm.
“Nice touch,” Siobhan says approvingly. “Have you called your therapist yet?”
“No.” Leslie doesn’t think it’s necessary now that she has a mission—finding John’s killer. She knows Siobhan will not like that, however, so she keeps it to herself.
“Do it. You need him.” Siobhan pauses before adding, “You put on lipstick. Good girl.” Leslie stifles the impulse to give Siobhan the finger because three customers choose that precise moment to walk through the door. Besides, she and Siobhan have had this argument countless times, and she is unwilling to rehash it yet again. She casts an envious glance at Siobhan. Siobhan is wearing a tight navy blue sweater that dips enough to display her impressive bosom. She has on a white flare skirt that has an uneven hem. Her five-inch blue platforms make Leslie’s feet ache just by looking at them. Siobhan has her mane of red curls arranged in a messy bun at the nape of her neck, and she is wearing a white cloche hat that is both whimsical and fun. All the clothing is from the store, as is the butterfly barrette festooning her bun, and Leslie would bet it took Siobhan less than ten minutes to achieve her look.
In my room, I halted before my closet, deciding to see if I could contact Danny again. I sat on my bed and closed my eyes, willing his image to come to me. I breathed deeply, knowing I couldn’t force anything. Danny had to be willing to have me in his head in the first place. Normally, he most likely wouldn’t have a problem with that, but these were not normal conditions. I let those thoughts float through my brain without attaching any importance to them whatsoever. I put my hands on my midsection, knowing that usually calmed me enough to focus on what I had to do. Suddenly, a picture of poor Danny in only his underwear popped into my mind. I stiffened, worried that his captors were taking things to a different level.
“Danny, can you hear me?” I kept my voice low so I wouldn’t freak Danny out too much. I didn’t want him to scream and alert someone that something was amiss. Instead, Danny smiled at the sound of my voice, looking happier than he had two seconds ago. There was a bruise around his right eye which suggested that his captors were getting frustrated. That didn’t bode well for his future.
“Auntie! You….back….scared….now!” Danny was on the floor of the closet, huddled in the corner. There was a strong stench pervading from the corner opposite, probably where Danny voided his bowels if his captors didn’t come in time to take him to the bathroom. Poor Danny, having to sit with that foul smell every day! They could at least clean it up from time to time.