While they are chatting, Jaqwan tells them the identity of Mystery Date, none other than the young teacher, Anisette Parker. Mike, who had only ever seen her in the long dresses with her hair pulled back, hadn’t recognized her.
“She’s some sort of religious freak,” Cynthia said. “She borrowed that dress from my sister and Maddie did her makeup. She had no idea Ani was gong to go so crazy on you. If she’d known, she never would have done it. She really liked you, Mike.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, wanting to hide myself in a cold, dark place. “I didn’t know she liked me.”
“Maddie’s not the type to strut it,” David said. “But she kind of hoped you’d notice her at the party. She thought she was doing pretty well until Ani got involved.”
“She was,” I admitted. “I could’ve taken her home instead.”
“Why didn’t you?” Cynthia wasn’t mad, just curious.
“I don’t know. Something happened and all of a sudden, she wasn’t there. I was pretty drunk. I can’t believe I lost control of myself like that though. That’s totally unlike me. Even drunk. . . .”
“I think ‘at bitch drugged you, man,” Tim said. “I was watching you and all of a sudden you started acting all hot and horny like you were going to do her right there on Molly’s couch. You had your hands all over both of them. They helped you get your gifts home and you stayed with the brunette. Maddie come back screaming how she was gonna kill her and went home to throw her shit out in the snow.”
“We convinced her to pack it,” David explained. “But the lease is in Maddie’s name, so she was in her rights to toss Ani out.”
“Looks like I have an apology to make,” I said quietly.
Sarena took my hand, holding it close to her cheek. The police arrived shortly after that and I had to tell my sordid tale all over again so the officer could get it down. Jaqwan and the others identified Anisette Parker as the woman I’d taken home that night. I could feel my mother’s eyes on me and I felt dirty. I wanted to bathe for a week to get the stench of embarrassment off my body.
“Do any of you know where she’s staying?” The officer asked.
No one had a clue. All we could give him was the name of the school she worked at.
“And the hospital,” I said. “She had some women she carpooled with. One of them might know.”
“Do you know their names?”
“No, but they may know at the hospital. She works evenings on weekends.”
“I’ll get right on it. Thanks, Mr. Reuben. Sorry about your loss, sir.”
“Just find the crazy bitch before she does something else,” I said.
I could hardly swallow. I wanted to throw up all of a sudden. Six people could have died, and it was all my fault. Because I couldn’t control myself, took the wrong woman to bed, all this had happened. I gagged. Running to the bathroom, I slammed the door almost in Sarena’s face. I dry heaved over the toilet for several minutes, wishing I could puke. I’d feel better if I could.
There was pounding on the door. Several people spoke at once, but finally one voice drowned them all out. It was a calm voice, gentle, deep.
“Mike.” It was Chester. He never called me Mike. “Let me in, son. Let’s talk about this.”
I reached up, turning the lock. He came in, blocking the doorway when others tried to follow him. Holding up his hand, he pushed them back without touching them.
“It’s okay,” I heard him say softly. “I’ve got it. It’s okay.” He sat down on the floor next to me, legs crossed. “This is not your fault,” he said quietly.
“If I hadn’t. . . .”
He held up his hand, putting a halt to my babbling. He closed the toilet and damped a washcloth at the sink. Sitting next to me on the floor, he mopped my face.
“The girl is obviously unbalanced, obsessed. You aren’t responsible for her reaction. Did you do anything at all to encourage that girl?”
“You mean other than fuck her repeatedly?”
“I meant before that.” He reddened somewhat and I realized my language had offended him.
He nodded as if that was the answer he was after. “I didn’t think so. Did you ever give her any indication, before that night, that you wanted to be with her in a sexual way?”
“Honestly, Chester, I barely knew the girl existed. I mean, except in the general sense. She never looked like that. She’s mousy with long skirts and collars up to here,” I put my hand under my chin. “We’ve spoken on field trips, chatted about the kids. . . . But nothing ever to indicate that I wanted her. I try to be very professional on the job. I don’t use it as my own personal dating service. It’s just a goddamn school bus!”
© Dellani Oakes 2014
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