Max peered into the camera but couldn't get a good look at the little piece of paper in Amanda's hand. He tried looking over her shoulder as she read, "What is that?"
Amanda smiled sarcastically and answered over her shoulder, "Instructions."
"I don't get it," Max said, "it's almost a little creepy."
"No it isn't," Amanda snapped.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say it was from a secret admirer... or a stalker."
She knew her friend was just being a wiseass, and his comment was surely only said in jest, yet the inevitable gooseflesh nonetheless made its way up her arms and down her back. Was someone really stalking her? She unconsciously hugged herself and admonished, "What a terrible thing to say, Max. Is it so out of the realm of possibility that someone out there might be romantically interested in me?"
"Okay, but who?"
Amanda pulled the laptop with her into bed, where she wiggled herself into place, propped by a dozen pillows, and pulled a giant fluffy comforter up to her chest. She thought about it but couldn't think of a possible candidate who might have sent her the lovely necklace. She gave up and smiled into the webcam at Max, "It's a mystery! Kind of romantic, no?"
"Mand," he sometimes called her, though she hated it, "that sort of thing doesn't happen in real life. Romantic secret admirers died with Cary Grant. Now they're just creeps."
She scrunched up her face, "You're so bitter."
"I'm just a realist, Mand."
She settled deeper into the pillows at her back and tucked her arms beneath the comforter, relishing the warmth beneath, "It has been my experience that people who call themselves realists are just assholes."
He chuckled, hoping she was just joking, "I'm serious, Amanda. This cannot be a good thing."
Now she was mad, and allowed her forehead to furrow with deep lines as she scowled into the camera, "Oh. It must be sooooooo awful that a man might find me attractive and send me things. Is that it, Max? Are you offended by my hideous looks?"
"See, this is why this necklace worries me, Mand. You have troubles seeing your true worth, plus I think you have body issues. This little pendant stunt could simply be somebody taking advantage of you."
Pendant stunt? Did he really just call her gift a pendant stunt? She unconsciously fingered the heart at her clavicle and grit her teeth, "Well, thank you, as always, for your unerring faith in me Max."
"Amanda, wait. I --" but his voice was lost as she closed the laptop. The webcam went dormant and the power to the machine shut off entirely. She leaned over the side of her bed and placed the computer on the floor, beside her nightstand. She was ever-so gentle, but the sudden waves of anger prompted her to throw the damn thing against the wall.
Screw Max! What does that arrogant turd know about me, anyway?
She reached out to snap off her light but couldn't reach the lamp. She paused for a moment and thought, That's weird, and then reached out again, this time she really reached for it, stretching out to full extension. She felt her abs quiver in exertion as she struggled to keep her body from falling out of bed. And how would she explain that to the ER doctors if she broke her arm? Just as her fingers brushed the chain her butt suddenly sunk deeper into the mattress.
Amanda sat up straight with a start, "Huh?" Were her box springs about to break? But they were only a few months old! Son of a bitch!
Her temper was interrupted by another swirling sensation, like the feeling she got when experiencing an earthquake: a swaying, seasick dizziness in her stomach. She even put out her arms to steady herself, and suddenly she sunk deeper into the covers, until her gigantic comforter had surrounded her up to her armpits.
At first she was angry, and thought of how she was going to make such a stink at the bedding store where she'd purchased this piece of shit bed. She dropped another couple inches, then another five. All the while her arms were stubbornly crossed at her chest and her jaw was clenched as the fury welled up inside.
And then the anger subsided as she realized the mattress was not moving; she was sinking into a hole in the mattress itself! What the hell? Amanda struggled against the tangle of her covers to pull herself up with her elbows, but her arms sunk into the bedding as if it were made of pudding. There was a quick flash of an instant in second grade, when she was learning to swim, and her head had accidentally gone underwater for about three seconds before the instructor pulled her to the surface. Just a moment in time really, but traumatic enough to stay with her a dozen years later. There was the cold fringe of panic at her temples, throbbing to take over.
She did her best to remain calm; her fear irrational at best, and downright silly. So she gained control of her breathing and ceased struggling in her muddled sheets.
Until it occurred to her that her bed was only a few inches off the floor. Her ass should have touched the rug beneath the bed by now. As she sunk a little more, the comforter encased her mouth and nose and got that drowning feeling again.
Panic rose to her throat and she screamed.