For the next hour and a half, he drifted in and out of sleep. Cradled by the night sounds of the desert outside the open window, each time a memory emerged, his thoughts thickened and folded back into sleep. At one point, he heard water running for a bath. A little later, he heard a car outside. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis
. He stumbled to the window and opened the curtains. In the street, two long rectangular taillights moved away, turning south onto Oracle Road.
Matt leaned against the wall, staring at the sunflower sheets on Crystal’s bed. The same bed he and Travis had jumped up and down on when they were eight. The digital clock read 10:38pm. His head throbbed. He needed to close his eyes. Crystal would wake him in time to leave before Travis got home. He fell back onto the bed.
When he woke up again, the room was very dark. He wore only his boxers and a white T-shirt his mother had insisted upon—claiming his usual dark one would show through his tuxedo shirt. As if the color of his T-shirt could ruin her perfect wedding. But he’d been ingenious and found another way to ruin things for his mother. He turned toward the empty space beside him. It took a few moments for him to realize where he was. He closed his eyes, shook his aching head to clear it. Crystal was his best friend’s mother. What the hell was he doing in her bed?
He thought he heard the sound of the front door open, then close again. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. His eyes adjusted to the darkness. One event at a time, he remembered everything.
Fully awake now, he shot from the bed, rocking for a few seconds before he achieved balance, then hurried to the window. The moon hung over the mountaintop, its light silver and unforgiving. Crystal’s driveway was empty. Whoever he’d heard, it wasn’t Travis. On the other side of the street, an engine started. This time the taillights were round. Definitely not Crystal’s Escort. The car turned north on Oracle Road.
Matt let out the breath he’d been holding and glanced at the digital clock—its red letters told him it was 11:20pm. He needed to get dressed and leave. The dance ended in forty minutes and Travis would head home. He grabbed his tuxedo pants and shirt from the chair. His hands shook so hard he could barely work the fly and the button on his trousers. He slipped into his shirt, then sat on the edge of the bed. As if he had the flu, his head throbbed and his stomach felt queasy.
He rushed down the hallway toward the bathroom. And when he did, he saw the puddle of blood on the floor beside the bathtub.
He hurried across the room, jerked open the pale green shower curtain.
Crystal lay naked in a bathtub filled with blood-colored water. Her hair, her beautiful blonde curls, had been chopped off, shorter in some places than others, as if a small child had done it. Some of the curls were floating on top of the water.
For a strange moment, everything remained calm and slow.
Her head was propped against one of those blow-up pillows attached to the back of the tub with suction cups. The tint of her skin was pale and slightly blue. Crystal’s eyes were open and staring straight ahead—looking at something he couldn’t see. Blood splattered the white tiles that surrounded the tub. It dripped down them like wet paint. One of her hands flopped over the side of the tub. A single thick drop fell from her index finger into the crimson pond congealing on the linoleum floor. It covered her neck and shoulders. Tiny bubbles of frothy blood still oozed from the gash in her neck.
An empty Smirnoff bottle sat in a puddle of blood on the tub’s rim, beside a straight-edged razor blade.
The bathroom was so quiet. Nothing but the sound of his own breathing. He clenched and unclenched his hands. His body grew numb. “Oh no. Oh God, no,” he said, the words thickening in the air in front of him. His head filled with strange sounds—the drone of insects humming, violinists tuning their strings. “What have I done?”