I was at the desk when I heard movement behind me and glanced back to find Rosemary slowly coming awake. “Hey there, Angel Eyes,” I said. “I was just about to get you up.”
Rosemary stood up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Then she gazed around the room strangely.
I watched with curiosity as I snatched a tissue from a nearby box to blow my nose with.
“Evil,” Rosemary said.
“Evil, huh?” I said, wiping my nose.
“Why do you say that?” I asked, tossing the tissue into the wastebasket.
She shrugged and headed for the bathroom. I was glad that my human self had the day off because I knew all too well just how accurate Rosemary’s nose for trouble was. So much so that I unlocked the top drawer of the file cabinet and pulled out my pistol. I tucked it in my sock and pulled the hem of my jeans down over it.
Rosemary exited the bathroom complaining of mosquito bites. “You got them, too?”
“No, not really,” I said.
“Why is it always me they gotta bite?”
“If I were a mosquito I’d bite you, too,” I said, making like I was going to bite Rosemary, who was now just a few feet away.
She giggled and then we hugged and kissed lovingly.
“So do you still rock to music?” I asked. “I forgot about that because you’re so much different than your old self that it’s almost as if you’re a whole separate person. I forget you both are one and the same.”
“I am a whole separate person from the old me. But yes, I still rock to music at times.”
“I’m just amazed at how much you’ve matured and grown intellectually. How’d you do it?”
“By paying better attention to things,” said Rosemary.
Rosemary nodded, heading for her coffee. “The key is to be observant because what you don’t know really can hurt you.”
“Yeah, sometimes it can.”
“I don’t just read books, I pay attention to how they’re written so I can learn from them. This way I too, can write my own books as properly as possible.”
“Well you got that down real good,” I said with a smile.
Rosemary sauntered off, leaving me to tap some more keys on the keyboard in front of me. After a few minutes, I heard this buzzing sound and turned to where Rosemary sat. She was holding something that was winding her hair into what appeared to be braids.
“Wow,” I said, “is that making braids?”
Rosemary’s eyes rolled. “You really have been out of touch with the real world for a while, haven’t you?”
“I guess I have,” I said with a chuckle.
“It just twists the strands rather than braids them.”
“Oh, I see. It’s looking cool.”
“Want me to do your hair?”
“No thanks. I’ll just keep it hanging straight and boring like it is.”
“It looks good on you.”
“Yeah, I don’t really have the hair for anything too fancy like you do anyway.”
After a moment, she went to begin her stretching exercises down where the mats were. “Evil,” she said again, scratching her arms as if something were crawling on them.
I kept a watch on the door.
Twenty minutes later, Rosemary jumped up and cried, “Evil!” a few times over in a terrified voice. She ran into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind her.
I pulled my gun from my sock and stuck it in the waistband of my pants. If trouble was coming, let them see that they were up against a weapon as well as a strong and trained fighter, I obviously figured. I also tucked a pair of handcuffs in my waistband as well. Then I went to prop the outer door open. I could see that I wanted to face whatever evil may be lurking head-on.
Not long afterward, evil arrived in the form of a shiny gold Cadillac. I watched as a short, plump woman got out of the car and made her way towards the door. The woman appeared to be in her late fifties to early sixties. Her hair was dyed a muddy brown color. There was an angry, determined gait to her walk. It was when she got within a few feet of the door that I recognized her. I knew that if I recognized her from the back wall, then surely my human self did as well because my human self was much closer. Seeing my eyes narrow with animosity confirmed that I did indeed know the person’s identity as she breezed through the outer door and flung open the inner door.
“Good morning,” said the woman in a business-like tone, laced with a scraggly smoker’s voice. “Are you Detective Kay Hawkins?”
“Yes, I am,” I said curtly, slowly approaching the woman. She had aged a lot throughout the years. I watched her with cold eyes as she coughed and hacked for a moment before speaking again. “I spoke with Gwen Lee this morning and she said to come here regarding Rosemary. I’m her mother, Patti, and I drove up from Florida and thought I’d surprise her and…”
“Yeah, I know who you are,” I cut her off in a matter of fact tone of voice.
Patti stilled as her icy gray eyes scanned me with growing suspicion. “So where is she?”
“Nowhere to be found by you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just what I said, Mrs. O. Meanwhile, I’m simply going to do what I couldn’t do years ago.”
“And what might that be?”
I walked right up to her, eyes narrowing with venom. “I’m going to take the honor of keeping you as far away from her as possible, is what I’m going to do. Now if you’ll just leave right now it’ll make things a lot easier for everyone involved.”
“Everyone involved?” Patti asked with a challenge in her voice. “And just how are you involved?”
“That’s none of your business, ma’am. Now if you won’t leave, I’ll have you arrested.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be just lovely,” Patti said sarcastically, backing up towards the door.
I stared at her in silence.
“I’m her mother,” Patti adamantly insisted.
“Wrong, Mrs. O. You’re not her mother. You’re simply the person who gave birth to her. Real mothers don’t treat their daughters the way you treated her.”
“Oh, and you would know?”
“Yes, I most certainly would know,” I said nodding with confidence. “I was a firsthand witness to everything.”
Patti froze, then narrowed her eyes with both fear and confusion. “You’re just as crazy as she is,” she finally said, backing away even further.
“Then don’t come back here or I just may get even crazier,” I said so sternly that I was almost shouting.
“Oh, don’t you worry,” Patti said, beginning to push through the door. “I have no intentions of returning. You just better warn her about that mice on ice shit she pulled and see to it that she doesn’t do it again or anything like it.”
My brows suddenly furrowed in confusion and I looked at her as if to suggest she was the one who was crazy.
Rosemary didn’t come out of the bathroom until the sound of the car’s motor faded away. She looked visibly shaken. I held my arms out towards her as she ran to me. She threw her arms around me and I held her in a snug embrace.
“She’s gone now,” I said softly. “She can’t get to you.”
Rosemary gazed up into my eyes. “Thanks for running her off. Just the sight of her would’ve made me puke my guts out.”
I gave a slight smile of understanding, then asked. “What is this mice on ice shit she was talking about anyway?”
“Oh, that,” Rosemary said with a smile. “Snakes need to eat live rodents and there’s this place online you can order frozen mice from as feeders for the snakes. They come frozen and you feed them to them after they’ve been thawed out.”
I wrinkled my nose with disgust and asked, “Did you have a snake?”
Rosemary nodded. “A Burmese python.”
Again my nose wrinkled distastefully. “So you had frozen mice sent to her as a joke?”
I snorted, shook my head, then broke out into laughter along with Rosemary. “You little shit,” I said as I laughed heartily. “You would do something like that.”
Later on that day, while Rosemary was outside, I told Melanie all about what happened when she stopped by for a visit. She got quite a kick out of the mice on ice prank as well.
“So you don’t mind staying the night?” I asked Melanie.
“No, not unless she doesn’t want me to like you said.”
“Her little friend might show up. The short Hispanic girl. She comes around on Friday nights.”
“That’d be fine.”
“What would be fine?” asked Rosemary, entering the building. She wore a floral halter and matching shorts.
“I just found out that I have to go out of town on a case I’m working on, so Melanie’s agreed to stay overnight with you unless you’d rather be out here in this big old place alone,” I said.
Rosemary looked at Melanie and asked. “And what’s Jenna agreed to?”
Melanie looked down a second, then said, “Jenna and I are done.”
“Oh. Did you scare her off?”
“No,” Melanie said with a smile, “I think she scared me off.”
“But you can’t stand me,” Rosemary said.
Melanie laughed. “I think I’ll survive one night of hanging out with you. Besides, you’re my best friend’s girl, so I’d be doing her a favor, too. Make sure you don’t get lost in this place. And don’t forget that I’ve known you about as long as she has, too.”
Rosemary turned and headed away from us. “Oh yes, from that magical world of make-believe. Well, I don’t care if you stay or not. I’ve got to go pee.”
“That’s Rosemary for you,” I said once she was out of sight.
“She really doesn’t remember anything or believes we are who we are, huh?”
I shook my head. “Sometimes I think she at least considers the possibility, but does she truly, honestly remember or believe it? No, I don’t think so.”
“Maybe I can try to jar her memory somehow. They say there’s a trigger in most amnesia cases and that we just have to know what buttons to push.”
“This is true. However, I’ve been hesitant to rekindle any unpleasant memories for her while trying to bring up ours. The girl’s been traumatized enough.”
Although Melanie nodded with understanding, she said, “That might be what it’ll take in the end, though.”
I nodded in agreement. “Well, as long as you don’t go upsetting her, you can give it a try if you want. I agree it’s high time we both at least try to get her to remember some things, not so much because we want her to remember horrible things that have happened to her, but because it would be nice if she could at least remember us, even if that does mean rehashing some unpleasant memories along the way.”
Gwen showed up just as Rosemary was exiting the bathroom. Her expression turned to that of fury.
“Howdy there, Rosemary. How ya doing?” Gwen asked with a pleasant smile.
Rosemary strode towards her. “Damn you for giving out information about me, and to my mother of all people!”
“Rosemary, please calm down,” I said, rising from my chair.
“Calm down my ass!” she screamed at me. Then she turned her wrath back on Gwen. “You don’t ever give anyone information about me. Do you understand?”
Gwen simply froze.
“Hey,” I said, “what did I say?”
“Nothing I want to hear,” said Rosemary. “Now stay out of it. This is between Gwen and I.” She turned back to Gwen once again as I approached her. “I don’t know who the fuck pissed in your coffee this morning, but you need to keep your damn mouth shut!”
“Let’s go,” I said, tugging at Rosemary’s arm.
Gwen proceeded to leave. “I’m sorry. I know I should have kept my mouth shut, but…”
“Yes, you should have!” Rosemary screamed. “Now don’t let me see you again. You and I are finished with each other as of today. We have absolutely no reason to see each other again. You’re not legally my social worker, I’m not a minor, and you have no claims to me whatsoever.”
I remained silent as Rosemary continued to let Gwen have it, though I kept a hold on her.
“Alrighty then. If it’s what you want. Good luck to you all,” said Gwen, turning to leave the building.
Rosemary shrugged free of my grasp.
“Did you really need to be disrespectful like that in making your point?” I asked.
“I wasn’t disrespectful one bit, but see? This is why I don’t like to share my problems with others. All they do is defend the one I’m mad at or make excuses for them.”
“I’m not defending or making excuses for her at all, Rosemary. I’ll be the first to admit that what she did was wrong. I was simply trying to keep you from attacking her. You’ve already got one court date lined up.”
“I had no intentions of attacking her!” Rosemary screamed at me.
I studied Rosemary intently, obviously unhappy with the way the day was turning out. Then I turned to Melanie. “Are you sure you want to stay here? Because this is what you might be in for.”
“Yeah, Mel,” Rosemary said sarcastically before Melanie could answer, “this is what you might be in for. Think you can handle it?”
An amused smirk crossed Melanie’s face, though I maintained my look of seriousness and disappointment. Finally, she said to me, “Yeah, I think I can handle an old firecracker like her. I’m always up to a challenge. Besides, if she gets too much for me to deal with I can always leave.”
“Keep that in mind,” I said. “You just might need to.”
“I’ll put a spell on her if she causes any trouble,” Rosemary said.
Melanie gave a snort of amusement while I said, “Hey, that’s not nice. Don’t be threatening spells on anyone, ok?”
“What are you gonna do about it, officer? Arrest me and charge me with spell threats?”
I watched Rosemary, still not changing expressions, as she headed towards the kitchen for some cookies. Then I turned back to Melanie. “I’m sorry,” I said softly.
“It’ll be ok,” Melanie said with assurance.
“She’ll calm down after a while. Understandably, that bitch showing up here that raised her, or at least until she decided it was time to give up on her, has really set her off.”
“I’m sure an appearance from her would be enough to set anyone off,” said Melanie.
I gathered the things I’d need for my overnight trip. “You going to come say goodbye, cookie monster?” I asked Rosemary.
“Nope,” she said.
“Ok, then. I’ll be on my way.” I turned towards the door.
“I’m only kidding, Katie. Get back here.”
Melanie laughed as I turned to face Rosemary with a smile. She ran towards me and I gathered her into my arms for a hug. Then, gently clasping the sides of her face, I tilted her head up towards mine for a kiss. “Behave,” I told her.
“I will. When will you be back?”
“Sometime around noon. I have to go all the way to New York.”
“Why can’t I go, too?”
“Cause you can’t, babe,” I said with a smile.
Melanie snorted. “She’d never get any work done with you around.”
“She gets it done here so that just goes to show how much you know,” Rosemary told Melanie with sarcasm.
“Hey, hey, be nice, tiger,” I said. Then I glanced at Melanie. “Don’t wake her before 10:30 unless you really want to get crucified, Mel.”
Melanie smiled. She had a nice smile, I thought, and although she was a bit too thin just as I was, I had to admit that whoever our creator was, they had done an ok job with us.
Once I was gone, Rosemary turned to Melanie and asked, “So does Katie know that you like me at the same time you can’t stand me?”
Melanie placed her hands on her hips and said, “You really are full of surprises, aren’t you?”
“Yes, she knows.”
“Then why is she letting you stay with me?”
“Maybe because she knows I can be trusted,” Melanie said in a tone of voice that suggested the answer was rather obvious.
“No, you can’t. If some chick you’re attracted to put the move on you, well, you know you dominant lesbos are no different than your all-American straight man,” Rosemary said matter of factly, heading over to her incense supplies.
Melanie’s eyes followed her.
“Pick a fragrance.”
“Cherry. Can you be trusted?”
“Can you place your right elbow in your left ear?” Rosemary asked, pulling a stick from a bag.
Melanie blinked, then smiled. “No, of course not.”
“Well,” said Rosemary, lighting the stick, “the day you can do that will be the day I can’t be trusted to be faithful to my Katie.”
Melanie smiled, then asked. “But how do you know I’m even attracted to you?”
“You told me.”
“Maybe not with words.”
“Oh,” said Melanie, watching Rosemary set the incense in its holder. “Come on,” she suddenly said, holding out her hand.
Rosemary’s brows furrowed. “Where?”
“Over to the pictures.”
“Oh, that again?” Rosemary asked with a bored sigh.
“Yes, that again.”
“Is this going to be a therapy session or some kind of hypnosis ritual?”
“Maybe something in between,” Melanie said.
Rosemary sighed again, yet allowed herself to be led over to our pictures. “You’re insane,” she said shaking her head. “Both of you.”
They stopped short just below us, then Melanie sniffed the air and said, “This isn’t cherry.”
“I’m out of it. You’ll have to settle for opium instead.”
“Oriental Nights is even better. I’ll burn that next.”
“Ok,” said Melanie, face turning serious as she motioned to the pictures, “where am I?”
Rosemary scanned the pictures and quickly found hers. She pointed to it.
“So you do know who I am?” asked Melanie, ignoring Rosemary’s words.
“What, have you got a garbage disposal for a memory? You showed me the same picture when we met.”
“Oh, yeah. That night you nearly chewed my head off.”
“I’m going to nearly chew it off tonight too, if you don’t cut to the chase.”
“Who’s that, firecracker?” She pointed to another picture that was close to mine.
Rosemary studied the picture a moment, then said, “Someone in her late twenties, relatively good looking. Not as good looking as Katie, but certainly better looking than you.”
Melanie smiled sarcastically, then said, “Rosemary, we’re going to have to dredge up some pretty nasty times if you want to remember us as pictures. We knew you through such hard times that there’s really no getting around it. We’re simply too connected to it.”
“Hard times and you go hand in hand, huh?”
“More or less.”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m on the verge of remembering something when I gaze at these pictures, but I never do,” said Rosemary. “It slips away before I have a chance to grasp it.”
Just then, in the waning sunlight, a carload of women pulled up. They quickly parked and exited the car, heading for the door with quick, eager strides.
“Who are they?” Melanie asked.
Rosemary shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. Go let them in and we’ll find out.”
Four women approached the outer door. They all appeared to be of Hispanic descent. All were dressed casually in jeans, sweatpants, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. They smiled happily as they chatted amongst one another.
Rosemary remained where she was while Melanie jogged towards the door to let the women in.
“Hi,” I heard one of them say, “we’re looking for Rosemary.”
Melanie glanced back towards where Rosemary stood with a questioning look.
“I’m Rosemary,” she said.
The foursome slowly approached her.
“Hi, Rosemary,” said the same woman who had asked for her. She was short and appeared to be in her early thirties. “Do you remember us?”
Rosemary sighed and shook her head in exasperation. “What is this do-you-remember-me epidemic going around?” she asked Melanie.
The women looked at each other confused. “I thought she’d know,” one of them said to another.
“We’re the ones from some of your old pictures that you used to collect,” said another woman who was perhaps in her late twenties and also short. “I’m Lamaris.”
Rosemary’s eyes rolled. “I’ve had enough of this picture-come-to-life bullshit. I don’t know why you split chicks are suddenly crawling out of the woodwork at a very alarming rate, but you can all just go on home now or to whatever fairy godmother brought you to life.”
Melanie snorted with amusement as Rosemary continued on.
“This is really getting old. I mean, she’s a picture, this one’s a picture, that one’s a picture, everyone’s a picture! It’s like I’m the only human being left in this damn town.”
Melanie put a hand over her mouth to suppress her laughter.
“It’s not fucking funny!” Rosemary yelled, losing patience. “Whatever joke you guys are playing, and for whatever reason you’re playing it, it’s not funny.”
“It’s no joke, Rosemary. They’re obviously from a different group than I am,” Melanie insisted.
“Oh, so you’re from loony tune group A and they’re from loony tune group B, is that it?”
Others were starting to laugh as well.
“Rosemary,” the first woman to speak said gently, “we really did know each other and…”
“Lady, you don’t know me from a can of paint.”
“Who are you? What’s your name?” Rosemary demanded.
“I’m Glorisa,” the woman said, “and you’ve met Lamaris.”
Rosemary gave a quick half-smile, half-smirk of sarcasm.
Glorisa continued in spite of it. “This here is Maria.” She pointed to a woman in her early thirties of average height who smiled meekly, then to a slightly younger tall woman whom she introduced as Larisa.
Rosemary’s gaze scanned all the women, coming to rest intently on Larisa.
Her body stiffened.
The others seemed to notice as well.
“I’ll admit that you at least look familiar,” Rosemary told her.
“That may be a good sign,” said Melanie with a hint of hope in her voice.
“Shhh, hush!” Rosemary cut her off.
“We did know each other quite well,” said Larisa. “Had a lot of talks together back when
your life was much different than it is now.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a police officer.”
“Oh, that explains it,” said Rosemary. “Get out. All of you. You’re all nuts. Each and every one of you. Deranged schizos from God knows where.”
“Oh,” Glorisa said with disappointment, “we were really hoping to chat a while and that you’d remember us.”
“Forget it, lady.”
The women turned and slowly trudged towards the door. Discouragement was written all over their faces. At the door, Lamaris turned and asked, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to go out and get a bite to eat with us?”
“No, I’ll eat here with this nut (Melanie chuckled at that one) if I can ever regain my appetite. I’ve at least known this picture-person for more than five minutes.”
Not long afterward, when Rosemary was in the bathroom, Melanie called out to let her know she had company.
“If they say they’re a picture, I’ll scream,” said Rosemary, exiting the bathroom.
Melanie laughed. “Hardly. It’s your friend Rosa.”
When Rosemary came out, Melanie said, “Oh good, I get to hear you two talk in Spanish.”
And that was just what Rosemary and Rosa did until Melanie got a phone call to go to the jail to fill in for someone who’d gone home for an emergency. When she emerged from the bathroom in uniform, Rosa said something to Rosemary which she interpreted for Melanie. “Says you look like Kay.”
“Oh,” Melanie said with a smile.
Rosemary said something to Rosa who replied in return. Then the two giggled like schoolgirls with a secret.
“Be back late,” Melanie said with a wink.
“I’ll have the couch made up for you,” Rosemary told her.
“Thanks,” Melanie said with a smile before she left the building.
Once she was gone, Rosemary turned to Rosa with a serious expression and began speaking in rapid Spanish. Because her eyes would glance at us periodically while she spoke, I knew it was safe to assume just what it was she was telling Rosa. Rosa turned her dark, thickly lashed eyes towards us from time to time as well. Wonder was written all over her face as she and Rosemary walked over to us.
Because both girls were close in height, they couldn’t reach us, though they tried. However, we were a few inches above their reach.
When Rosemary ran to get a chair, alarm began to fill me. Was she out to destroy us as she had several years ago?
She slid the chair just under me and climbed onto it. Now her face was just inches from me! She reached a hand out towards a picture close to mine. I expected to hear the crinkling of paper, but instead, all I heard was the palm of her hand as it made contact with the wall.
Rosemary’s brows furrowed in confusion. “What the hell?” She scraped frantically at the wall.
Something was protecting us!
Then she shouted something down to Rosa in Spanish. Although we didn’t know Spanish, it was rather obvious what was being said.
She continued to claw at us, but we were intangible. Simply intangible as if we were one with the wall itself.
Again she and Rosa exchanged words in Spanish. Then Rosemary stepped down from the chair and Rosa climbed up onto it. She swung a plump brown hand around the wall we seemed to be permanently embedded in. Yet her hand was met with nothing but cold hard cement. The smooth painted cement held no feel of paper being tacked, taped or glued to it anywhere. Rosa gave a few words of shock, then hopped off the chair. She and Rosemary continued to talk in tones of shock, confusion and wonderment until Rosa left Rosemary alone to ponder the situation an hour later. Yet Rosemary did more than just ponder.
She had been working on the computer when all of a sudden she turned towards us, studying us intently. It was as if a light went on somewhere inside her. She rose from her seat and studied us one by one, recognition now crossing her features, mixed with emotion.
She was bubbling with excitement when Melanie got back from work.
“Wait, wait, wait! Slow down, little firecracker,” she said with a smile.
“I remember everything,” Rosemary said breathlessly. “But the strangest thing happened.”
Melanie frowned with both amusement and confusion.
“Both Rosa and I stood on a chair to take the pictures down. I was just so fed up with it all, you know? But we couldn’t find anything we could actually grasp. No paper, no tape, no thumbtacks. It’s like the pictures are one with the wall.”
“Wow. That is weird.”
Melanie, who was close to six feet tall, stood on her toes and reached up towards us. “Hmm,” she said after a minute.
Rosemary looked from us to her.
“I guess they were just meant to be there,” Melanie said, turning to face Rosemary and swipe her finger playfully over the bridge of her nose.
Rosemary slowly backed away in a way that could’ve been due to either shyness or discomfort. It was hard to say for sure. She went to feed her rats while Melanie used the bathroom. When Melanie came out, she was in a long sleep shirt like Rosemary had changed into after Rosa left. Melanie went to the couch and thanked Rosemary for making it up for her, then she settled onto the couch, eyes following Rosemary’s every move. “You going to turn the lights out soon?” she asked.
Rosemary nodded. “In a minute.” She went to sip something from a bottle that was in the refrigerator. Then she put it back and headed for the light switches. “Nighty night, Officer Slammers.”
Melanie’s laughter cut through the darkness. “It’s Sanders, you silly nut. Sweet dreams, honey.”
I heard Rosemary slide into bed. Although the dim night light which was down by the bathroom didn’t cast enough light where Rosemary and Melanie slept, I could tell which one was moving in the direction in which the sound came from. It wasn’t long before I heard Rosemary still and her breathing become irregular. Melanie, on the other hand, seemed to lay awake for a while.
Somehow I had a feeling she was wishing she could slide into bed next to Rosemary. And for more than just one night.