The evening’s chores feel duller than usual when there are tears streaming down my cheeks. Grey, filthy water sloshes around in the sink and spills onto the counter with every mindless swipe of the sponge. The stack of dirty dishes has significantly gotten smaller, but my mind is everywhere but here in the kitchen.
Blood stains and the smell of hydrogen peroxide cloud my senses and take me back a few hours. A dark studio apartment. Dingy furniture, a pile of dusty books, the feeling of a rough polyester jacket in my hands. My mind leaves my body for a while, though I can still feel a fresh stream of tears rolls onto my cheeks.
Adrian’s voice startles me back to the present. I shut my eyes for a second. With a sniffle and a sigh, I drop a plate onto the counter and turn to face him. His figure, normally a comforting sight, looms in the doorway and casts a shadow on the wall. Still, a puzzled smile tugs at his cheeks, and the orange streetlight streaming from the window casts a warm glow on his face.
As he takes in my puffy eyes and red nose, Adrian’s expression drops and he rushes to me. I can’t help but flinch a little as he embraces me. Slowly wrapping my arms around his waist, I bury my face into his shoulder in shame.
“What’s going on?” His whisper sounds like a scream when it is breathed into my ear.
I sob quietly for a few seconds before I can muster up a voice to reply.
“I can’t stop thinking about last night.” It sounds croaky and forced. I can feel him tense up in my arms before he pulls away.
“Last night? What happened last night to make you cry?” He chuckles softly.
I frown deeply. Does he not remember? Is he teasing me? This is no matter to joke about. The memory is still painfully fresh in my mind, and I doubt that will ever change. While on a normal day, his casual and laid-back attitude would be a comfort, today is anything but normal. Nothing ever will be.
“What do you mean? The Fisher girl. The bookshelf. Don’t you remember?” This time, my voice is forceful, and shaky.
“What in the world are you talking about, Diana?” The tone of his voice is infuriating. He speaks as if he was talking to a child, to a dog.
I scoff. “Do I need to spell it out for you?”
“Well, yeah, apparently you do.” His arms fold over his chest, his patience running out. I don’t want to think about it, much less put it in words. I think he just wants me to say it out loud.
“Jesus Christ, Adrian,” I mutter, “We killed her. The girl. The bookshelf fell on her, a-and the, the - you stabbed her.” The sentence is peppered with sobs. Those words just made the whole thing real. Too real for me to deal with. I look down at my socked feet, and I have the sudden urge to lay in bed and never get up.
“Diana”, Adrian's voice is broken and concerned, and I look up into his eyes. “We never did that.”
The frown is back. His stubbornness is becoming infuriating. “Yes, we did. Why are you being this way?” My question comes in an exasperated sigh.
With a few strides, I am back in his arms. He rocks me side to side and starts caressing my hair with soft strokes. His voice is muffled as he speaks.
“You must be having nightmares.”
No, I am not. I want to scream and shout in his face. But my arms are going limp, and after seeing what he is capable of, I’d rather not try my luck.
“Stop treating me like a child.” I exclaim, and push his strong frame away from mine. “Why are you acting like this never happened? I was there, I saw it all happen, and so were you. I’m not making this up, and you should know it. ”
His face goes stony and his nostrils flare. “You’re talking nonsense, Diana. God, why do you always make everything such a big deal?” My mouth falls agape, no words come to mind. He sighs, burying his face in his hands.
“I’m sorry, you know I didn’t mean that,” His tone is softer this time. “But that’s not what we did last night. We got Chinese take-out, watched a movie and went to bed early. Where are you getting this from?”
I let a frustrated exhalation shoot from my lips. With a pointed look saying ‘Wait here’, I storm up the stairs and into my room, snatching the white blouse I was wearing the night before. I stomp back to the kitchen and hold the shirt up to his face.
“Look,” I point to a bloodstain, “On the sleeves. How do you explain that?”
“I don’t know, period stain? Tomato sauce? Nose bleed? Jesus, Diana, you can’t just jump to conclusions like that.” He pushes the piece of fabric down to hip level.
I limply clutch the shirt and close my eyes. I’m crying, once again. It feels like I’ve lost all the fight left in me. “Why,” I croak out, “Why don’t you remember?”
Adrian wipes my tears with his thumbs. “Listen, these things happen sometimes. Hyperrealistic dreams. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to everyone.”
He pries the shirt from my hands, tossing it onto the couch, then gently takes hold of my own shaking hands. “Look at me.”
I open my eyes and glance up at his. There’s a strange glint in his eyes that doesn’t match the pitying expression he’s put up.
“We’re fine. There was no murder. Everything is alright.”
I think I’m finally starting to believe him. Maybe I did dream about it. It seemed so real… But the human mind works in strange ways, doesn’t it?
“Listen, if you’re having dreams about murdering people,” The way he says this makes me tense up. “It might be more serious than you think. Normal people don’t dream of taking someone’s life, Diana.”
Sobs start racking my body at an impressive pace, and he shushes me. “I’m not crazy, I promise, I promise, I promise.” I repeat it like a prayer.
“I know, I know. Don’t worry. We’ll talk to a professional about this, okay? I know you’re not crazy.”
Through my desperate hiccups, I sniffle and nod. He plants a kiss on my forehead and disappears up the stairs.
The sound of night traffic and my thoughts are all I can hear for a while. The streetlamps are still casting strange orange shadows on the walls, and I stay still, entranced by their dance.
After a tissue and a few deep breaths, I resume my monotonous dishwashing. This time, I decide to drown my incessant mind with the radio. Static crackles before a soft, jazz melody starts filling up the room. I slowly sway my hips to the calm rhythm, a weight lifted from my shoulders. My dancing and humming is interrupted by a callous voice.
“Breaking news!” I frown. At this hour? “A body has been discovered in an apartment on 3rd Street. Forensic experts have identified the victim as a certain Millie Fisher. Her cause of death is most likely to be murder.”
I don’t hear the rest of the announcement, because my thoughts have drowned out the announcer’s voice. And once again, I am filled with immeasurable horror.