Cornelius paused with vermilion up on his brush, about to make a bold swath across the canvas, when he noticed Daelah. Placing the loaded brush in his teeth, he reached down and readjusted the position of his wheelchair so he could see her better.
At the end of the long corridor leading to the kitchen, she stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up at the ceiling, and down at her hands, and touching her own face.
Cornelius frowned, a drop of vermilion free falling from the end of his brush onto a dried spot of cobalt blue on his sweats. A tapping grew louder and he twisted toward the back hallway leading out of the living room as Jubal made his way toward Cornelius, seated at his easel. Jubal moved the white-tipped cane back and forth in front of him. Tap. Tap. Tap, Tap.
Cornelius took the brush from his mouth and caught his attention. “Psst!”
Jubal paused, one hand on the saxophone dangling from a cord around his pale neck, the other on the cane. His lifting of eyebrows at the sound made his wraparound sunglasses bob upward on his nose. “What?” he whispered back.
Keeping his voice in a whisper, still, Cornelius said, “Have you noticed anything strange about Daelah today?”
“How would I notice anything about Daelah?” The blind man smirked.
He swiped a hand down his face, to smooth his Van Dyke style goatee. “You know what I mean.”
“Well, yes. . .” He took a few steps forward, sliding the tip of the cane along the wood floor in front of him. “She smells different.”
“Nope. Individual, natural scent is different.”
“Okay, weirdness.” Cornelius turned back to watch Daelah who was now reaching toward the ceiling, stretching like a cat, and moaning with pleasure.
Jubal cocked his head toward her sounds. “What the hell is she doing? Playing with herself?”
“Just stretching. . .but weird, like she’s never stretched before. She seems to be enjoying it too much.”
Jubal took measured steps forward, made a left face, and then moved quietly down the hall, holding his cane against his chest. He paused not three feet behind her, and put the saxophone to his lips, blowing a rude honk at her.
She jumped, stumbled against the wall and stared at him.
Feigning ignorance, he said, “Oh, is someone there?” He lifted his cane and swept it side to side, comically searching for her.
In the living room threshold, Cornelius let out a humorous huff. His friend Jubal enjoyed playing the blind man all the way to the bone. He had embraced his disability with unusual flair.
Daelah looked at the tall, angular blind man. Almost-flawless skin, paled from a lack of sunshine. She knew better than to say, who are you? She was aware of several things she suspected she shouldn’t know at this point, but precisely who this blind man was, she wasn’t sure about. “You scared me,” she offered instead.
“Oh. Sorry.” He lowered the cane.
“How can you sneak up like that when�”
He knew she meant to add, when you’re blind. “I have sonar like a dolphin. I can sense the walls and obstacles. . .I can feel the ions in the air, parting for my passage.”
“Right,” came the snide remark a short distance behind Jubal.
Cornelius rolled down the hall toward them and watched Daelah lean out to see past Jubal toward the approaching wheelchair.
Jubal cocked his head. “Are you okay, Daelah? You smell funny.”
“Huh?” he responded, just as confused about her misunderstanding as she was about his statement. She knew he had a keen sense of smell. The subject had come up many times before. She knew he noticed the minutiae most people missed.
Daelah frowned again as the man in the wheelchair stopped beside the blind man. Jubal released his hold on the saxophone to sweep his hand at waist level, toward Cornelius, catching him in the face. “Oh, there you are,” Jubal said.
“Stop it!” Cornelius reprimanded him, slapping his hand away. His antics could be so aggravating.
Addressing the still-baffled looking woman in front of him, Cornelius said, “You seem weird today, Daelah.”
“I. . .” She glanced to her right, up the staircase. “I think I’ll go up and lie down for awhile.” She turned and climbed the steps, showing interest in the photos on the stairway wall, and glancing back at them as if they were friendly house-spiders, but spiders, just the same.
As she disappeared around the landing, the two men waited in silence for a moment, then Cornelius spun his chair and rolled back down the hallway toward the living room, the vermilion-loaded brush in his teeth again.
Jubal followed him, and took a seat in a chair to play his sax.
Upstairs, Daelah sank down on the edge of the bed. She rubbed her eyes and considered her own confusion.
For the last few minutes, she had been trying to assimilate the volumes of information that had seemingly been downloaded into her brain. Everything from how to tie her shoes, to the relative merits of clean underwear.
She was Daelah Murdock. She felt like herself. But something had changed. That much was clear, if only by the reaction of these two housemates. The blind man and the cripple. They seemed familiar, but she didn’t know them, as odd as that contradiction was.
Then, she recalled the dream that had played out in her mind just before she emerged from nocturnal bliss that morning.
A glowing white essence, shaped somewhat like an elongated teardrop, had told her, telepathically, “Thank you.” Daelah had no way of knowing what she, herself, looked like in the dream, but sensed she was also a glowing essence. She had reached out to grasp the wrist that emerged from the glowing essence�a human wrist, that clenched her own in farewell.
When the Teardrop Essence vanished, her dreamself noticed a tattoo of a strange symbol on her inner forearm. Then she woke, and the tattoo was not on her skin, and she sat up to draw the symbol on the pad of paper on the nightstand. Then she had found the bathroom and hurried to look in the mirror, stunned by the sensation that the face looking back at her in the glass was not her own. Then she had not recognized the room, and had gone downstairs to look around.
Now, frowning down at the paper, she sensed that the symbol was important, but wasn’t quite sure why. The shape resembled an ankh, the universal symbol of eternal life, but it was like a blending of two ankhs, one upright, the other upside down, and joined at the stems.
Daelah spent the next few hours roaming around the bedroom, seeking clues to her befuddlement. The bedspread was an aggravating shade of pink, and there was a pink dust ruffle made of lace around the bed. She hated it. Likewise, the matching horridly pink lampshade on the nightstand, had engendered more repulsion. Though the walls were a standard eggshell color, they were festooned with all things pink.
This could not possibly be her own room, though she had awakened there. Peering down at herself, she noticed she was wearing a hideous pink nightgown with lace around the collar. She pulled it off her like it was on fire, and hurried to the closet.
Inside the wardrobe nook, her efforts to find more agreeable attire had met with a nightmarish array of pink, salmon, lavender, and fuchsia. The singular exception was a black T-Shirt, banished to the far end of the clothes rod. She turned it toward her to look at it. A depiction of a bread-like ring bejeweled with fruit and nuts graced the front, and below it in white letters was the word Fruitcake. No doubt this was a gift from someone with a sense of humor who was making a veiled suggestion about the pink-woman’s mental status.
The Pink Woman. She had framed it as though the pink woman was not her. But it wasn’t her. Yet here she was, being her.
As she pulled the black fruitcake T-Shirt over her head, snatched a pair of jeans and pulled them on, and added some atrocious pink sneakers to her�no surprise�pink socks, she felt a little more like herself. Whoever that was.
Emerging from the closet, she stood in the middle of the room and thought about it all. She wasn’t herself. Couldn’t be. What did that mean?
Her trip downstairs a few minutes ago, did not garner her much information. The house was like a familiar place from long ago, yet almost erased from her memory. When the blind man and the cripple appeared, things became even more confusing.
Sitting back down on the bed, she listened for a moment to the blind man playing saxophone downstairs. She recognized the tune as Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” It was a little crazy that she recognized the song, but not the guy who played it�a guy who obviously lived in her house. . .or she in his.
She picked up the wretched pink purse, and pulled out the aggravating pink wallet. The driver’s license read,
72 North Tapioca
Cedar City, Utah.
Tapioca? Who the hell would live on a street called Tapioca? Was Pudding Circle all full-up?
Daelah perused the license again. She was apparently female, and 36 years old.
Downstairs, Jubal stopped playing the sax and tilted his head toward Cornelius’ painting sounds. “Maybe we should encourage her to go back to the doctor.”
“That’s what I’m thinking.”
“They told her she would be fine, but a knock on the head like that can sometimes do some damage that doesn’t show up until later.”
“Yeah, just like it did with you,” Cornelius quipped.
“I only lost my sight, I didn’t lose my mind.”
“Jury’s still out on that one,” he said, wiping his brush on a paint smattered towel.
Jubal tossed his cane in the painter’s direction, and it hit the arm of the wheelchair and clattered to the floor.
Cornelius looked down at it, lying next to the left wheel.
Jubal said, “I dropped my cane, could you hand it back to me?”
Cornelius rolled his eyes and leaned to pick it up, poking the blind man in the leg with it. Jubal grabbed it and placed it over his lap again.
Daelah dug through the pukey pink purse and in a side pocket, found a folded bulletin from the Church of Latter Day Saints. What was that, Saints that weren’t quite here, but would be, tomorrow? The newsletter had a mailing label addressed to her, which meant she might actually be a card-carrying member of the Polygamy Pack.
Suddenly, she wondered if the two men downstairs were her husbands. Although why she would have chosen a blind man and a cripple for her spouses, was unclear. No. wait. . .it didn’t work that way. . .it was the men who got to have numerous wives. . .that’s certainly not fair. Unless this was another planet or an alternate reality where there was a matriarchy in place. That would be cool.
Glancing around at her obvious pink fetish, the answer to that was a little easier to guess. She had a screw loose, and they were the only two Mormon men left who would have her stupid pink ass.
Also in the handbag was a tube of lipstick the color of�again, no surprise�Passion Pink.
She thought she would hurl if she had to look at all this pink much longer. Her gut was queasy.
Moving into the bathroom, she fully expected to see the medicine cabinet lined with bottles of Pepto Bismol, if only by the fetish of its color. When she opened it, there was only one bottle of it, yet she was not encouraged by that paltry representation. She grabbed it, screwed off the lid and took a slug of it.
When she put it back, she saw a prescription. Alprazolam. A generic form of Xanax. This told her she had some sort of anxiety disorder, though the only anxiety she felt now stemmed from her confused, Swiss-cheese memory and the proliferation of pink in her bedroom. A plastic bottle of Tums resided next to the Pepto, its contents graced by periodic pink tablets as well. What was up with this woman? Why was she so obsessed with pink? This woman. Me. Not me. Hell’s bells.
Closing the cabinet, she caught sight of her hair in the mirror. She looked like the Flying Freaking Nun, her crowning glory more a hat than a head of hair, if the amount of hairspray was any indication. She opened several drawers until she found a hairbrush, and stroked it through the glue-like texture on each side, yelping when the bristles hit a sore spot. Reaching up, she felt a huge lump at the back of her skull. Ahhh. . .that explains it. She’d bumped her head.
Swiftly, she felt a sense of panic. What if the Teardrop Essence dream and the downloaded brain matter was the result of a head injury? What if she had forgotten everything about herself and it never reappeared in her brain? Maybe not such a bad thing, she reassured herself, considering what she had discovered so far.
She looked back at her reflection and in lieu of an answer to the head injury question, resolved to let her hair grow out, and get some real body in it, to avoid the churchy look.
She reentered the bedroom and began searching through it for more clues.
In the nightstand, she found the obligatory pink diary. This time, she could ignore the color she had only today come to loathe, because the contents of the diary might provide all the answers she sought. There was no guilt in the action, as she reminded herself that she couldn’t be blamed for invading her own privacy.