The champagne makes my skin sticky.
“This always sounded more romantic than it would be…” but he doesn’t even look up from the dish of champagne I’ve left for him near the toilet. “…however, Dom Perignon is delicious. Not overrated. Or maybe I have a less picky… nonpicky? Palate.”
I grab the remote and turn on a movie. Two lovers are fighting, or working it out I can’t be sure. I reach to turn up the volume and stop myself. The man brushes a thumb against the girl’s cheek.
Against the other wall I start to count the tallies. Only nineteen. Incredible.
“Ahh!” the bills from the bank start to tickle my back. I pull out a sticky glob from the tub and toss it on the floor.
“That’s it.” I lift myself out and start to drain it, the ink… or dirt from the bills has started to darken the liquid.
The shower handle gives a familiar squeak as I twist it. Stolen bath products that were once too expensive for me lay strewn about, tags still attached. The generator used to provide a sense of comfort and having lights at night still does calm me sometimes. But nightmares are beginning to own my nights. Zombies, ghosts, and stranger visitors have scratched at my bedroom door (their bedroom door) in my dreamscape. Lifting my head from the pillow and frightfully searching the house has become a nightly ritual.
The hot water pours down my chest and back, yanking the champagne sugars from my hair painfully. With the bathroom door open I can hear the familiar barks of the twins downstairs. Almost feeding time. Their alerts have become my warning system. Waking up to silence means safety.
But certainly I am safe here, I remind myself as I grab a bar of soap. This is a fortress. All I have to be afraid of is the dogs, and I’ve learned to avoid them and steal cars with high windows. In the garage at this moment lays an Escalade, a Jeep Cherokee, and a Ford Expedition. “Try to get into that, Crabby.” the name I’ve given the persistent Rottweiler.
I slip out of the water, twisting the handle the other way. It takes too much effort. The padding of my feet down the carpeted, circular staircase reminds me of Cleaver’s paws. I exit the house, leaving the glass door to the kitchen wide open. Still wet, my bare feet brush against the deep green grass on the lawn. The twins sit in the darkness in their pen, panting and staring at me. Their eyes periodically reflect the lights from the kitchen, like the promise of headlights on a dark road.
I step in front of the chain links, towards the metal latch. I’ve entered a few times but only for moments, and always armed. The wind brushes past my knees and the silk robe tickles my back, still damp from the water. I flip the latch up and swing open the gate. Dumpty sits panting in the back with a dumb grin on his face. Humpty approaches me and begins sniffing my feet and toenails. Behind me Cleaver stands on edge, anxious.
Dumpty comes out and begins to sniff me, but is disinterested and begins to explore the rest of the closed-in backyard.
Above us the sky is curdling. Clouds that had been long and wispy at midday are puffs in the choppy sky now. Pinks and oranges have turned to grays and blacks. The cold weather is coming for me. I wouldn’t be shocked now if it whispered my name.
“Okay boys, let’s go inside.”