With the morning’s light

I wake to the usual sounds.

Tony snoring softly beside me.  Elise and June giggling quietly in their bedroom across the hall.

I roll over and reach on my nightstand for my cell phone.  I check the time.  8:26.  I’m still exhausted.

What time did I go to bed?  I can’t recall.

My head pounds as if I’m headed for a hang over.  But that can’t be.  Not after only one glass of wine-

Wine.

I sit straight up, my head swimming as my equilibrium shifts.  Her.

Her red hair, the smear of my blood on her pale lips.  The wicked gleam in those icy blue eyes.

That WAS a dream, right?

My shaky hand reaches to my neck, my quivering fingers brush the tender bruised, sticky skin there.

A scream sticks in my throat when I see the black-red stains on my fingertips.

Nausea gnashes through the pit of my stomach and I rush to the powder room, making it to the commode just in time.

“Mommy?”  Elise whines, worriedly.

I kick the door shut behind me between retches.

“One sec!” I manage to groan just before my stomach empties the last remnants of yesterday’s dinner.

I sink to the floor and lean against the wall between the sink and the toilet.

How is this possible?

I must still be dreaming.

“You okay, Mama?” June says tearfully, jiggling the doorknob.

Thank goodness I never got around to taking off those kiddie proof doorknob locks.

“Mommy’s okay, baby girl.  Just one more minute.  Go play with Sissy.”

“Okay…” she sniffles, still unsure, but walks away.

I sigh in relief and attempt to gather the strength to stand up.  Deep breaths, Anne, deep breaths.  In and out.

Gross.  The stench from the toilet fills my nostrils.  I reach up and flush.

Crap!  Was this flusher always so loud?  My ears buzz with the near-deafening churns and swirls, sucks and glugs.  It finally stops and I realize I’d had my hands clenched over my ears.

Wait…  I don’t hear the fan.  The fan always goes on with the lights.  Lights.  I…  I never turned on the switch.

How the fuck have I been able to see in a windowless room, in the dark??

I can see everything, even the spider web in the corner behind the trash bin.  The print on the Prevention magazine on the little shelf.  I can even read the directions on the can of Lysol.  All in the sliver of light coming in from under the door.

Fascinated, but frightened, I slowly stand and wait out the dizziness and the threat of more nausea.  Once the sickness subsides, I carefully turn and face the mirror that covers most of the wall.  I keep my eyes down, focused on my feet, on the old linoleum that is years past its replacement date.

If I see anything other than me and the shelf behind me, I don’t think my psyche can take it.  I’m not sure my mind hasn’t fractured already.

Here goes nothing.  I look up.

The shelf and the magazine and air freshener and…

Me.

I’m awfully pale, my eyes are puffy and bloodshot, my hair is atrocious, and my neck is smeared in blood.  But, it’s just me.

I reach for the towel to my left and turn on the faucet.  I quickly turn it lower because of the absurd volume of the water.  Even the sound of the slow trickle running down the drain is maddening.  I wet the towel and shut the damn thing off.

The terry cloth scrapes like sandpaper and reeks like mildew and fabric softener, but I need to get the blood off, so I do my best to ignore it.  After wiping, rinsing, wiping again, the bite is cleaned.  I turn on the light, finally, to examine it closer.

My eyes water and burn as the lights come on, bright as the noontime sun, and I screw them shut.  I work on ignoring the grinding whir of the fan, work on adjusting my retinas to the light shining pink and hot through my closed lids.  I focus, modulate, and slowly open my eyes.

I see that my skin seems even paler in the light, almost blue.  The area around the twin pinpricks is pink though, ironically healthier than the rest of me.  I probe there with my fingers, and they are also noticeably warmer.  Odd.  What happened?  What is happening?  What will happen?

I can hear the girls whispering in their rooms.  I know they are waiting for me.  I don’t have time for this existential crisis.

Besides, any answer I need can only come from Courtney.  Can only come after sunset.  I’ll wait.

She better fucking show up.

“Moooommmyyy!!!”  This time it’s Elise jiggling the doorknob.  It sounds like cogs and springs of a giant machine banging together.  This is going to be a long day.

“Here I come, babu!” I say and hope I got the volume right.  It’s like I’m an alien and this is my first day on Earth.  My mind is definitely fractured.

But what’s a Mommy to do?  There’s work to be done.

Fucking vampire bullshit.  I give my pitiful reflection a determined and fiery grin.  I got this.

I force pass the stench of old tissues and baby wipes in the trash bin as I bury the bloody hand towel under old refuse.

I’m going to have to get used to ignoring everything if I’m going to get through this day.

I check myself once more in the mirror.  I look retched, but I probably won’t scare the kids now.  The two tiny wounds can easily be explained away.

I flick off that infernal light and fan and open the powder room door.

“Who wants waffles?”

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