Banished to my room, I curled up on the bed, hugging a pillow to my stomach. I stared at the shaggy unkempt palm tree outside my window. Even though my cheek was throbbing and my heart was hammering wildly, my eyes stayed stubbornly dry.
Around the edges of my vision, a shadowy version of the other girl lingered but I refused to focus on her. She kept a respectful distance, silent but watchful. Her accusations from earlier echoed in my chest.
Lying. Fraud. Lying. Fraud.
On the other side of the wall, I could hear my mother getting ready for a date with her latest boyfriend, Todd the Toad. Not for the first time, I wondered why she bothered with the full hair, makeup, and wardrobe routine. Toad was an ugly beast, with bulging eyes and long weedy hair that he always wore in a ratty ponytail that emphasized his receding hairline.
But he was a filthy rich toad, CEO of some tech company that went public last year. According to my mother, rich men could always afford to wear the prettiest, youngest things on their arm so she had to make sure he liked what he saw each and every time he looked at her.
Perhaps it will all pay off and he’ll marry her, I thought with a grim twist in my gut. And maybe the third time will be the charm. Then it won’t matter if she’s a fraud. We’ll have a rich toad to pay the bills, and Xia Celeste will retire to focus on her happily ever after. Maybe she won’t screw this relationship up.
Right. And maybe rainbow monkeys will fly out of my butt and shower us with gold coins.
The snort that escaped my nose startled me, and I looked over toward my new shadowy roommate. She returned my look with a placid, peaceful expression that really pissed me off.
“You can go now,” I told her. “There’s a light. Why don’t you walk into it and go away.”
Her image didn’t move or react, but I felt a gentle coolness pressed against my injured cheek.
“Stop that!” I waved a hand around my head as if to shoo away a fly, then flung myself toward the tiny bathroom connected to my room. “Go away,” I said over my shoulder before closing the door and flipping the row of switches that turned on the bright overhead lights and rumbling bathroom fan.
With shaking hands, I turned on the cold water tap and splashed my face over and over until the sting in my cheek subsided. When I finally turned off the water and pressed a clean towel to my face, the temperature in the room started to drop, bringing up goose pimples on my arms.
“I said go away,” I growled into the towel still pressed to my face, muffling my words. “I helped you. Now leave me alone.”
No response. The air in the bathroom returned to normal, so I removed the towel from my face. A small section of the bathroom mirror was frosted but rapidly melting. In the frost, two words were written.
As I stared at the message, drips started to roll away from the bottom of the letters.
“Please, just go away.” My voice was pathetic. “Please.”
I turned from the mirror, crossed to the closet on the other side of my bathroom, flipped on that light, then stepped inside and closed another door. Folding myself into a tight ball among my shoes and hanging clothes, I pressed my forehead to my knees. Still, the terrible words continued to echo in my chest.
Lying. Fraud. Lying. Fraud.
“No,” I whispered to myself, “it can’t be true.”
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