Clara stretched, yawned, and pressed the little button to shut off her alarm. She slid out of bed, showered, then slipped on a summer dress and twisted and clipped her long greying hair into a knot.
She stood back and admired herself in the mirror, noting that while she wasn’t as slender as she’d once been, she was still beautiful, elegant even. She then grabbed her purse and made her way to the elevator.
Clara and Margaret, her neighbor and former oldest friend, usually arrived at the elevator at the same time, and Clara was somewhat unsettled by her absence. As she rode down the lift, she tried to recall the last time Margaret had failed to make her appearance, and she couldn’t remember a single time. About the only thing Clara respected about Margaret was her strict adherence to routine, the two shared that trait. She was annoyed by this breach of Margaret’s routine, as it disrupted her own.
Clara rode down to the main floor and entered the little café. She glanced at her watch; 8:45. Good, I’m early. Richard won’t be here for another fifteen minutes. Richard Everett was her lover, a distinguished artist. She smiled at the memory of Margaret’s face when she’d heard. Margaret had been chasing Richard for months, but Clara had known better. Men don’t want to be chased, they want to be lured. She lured Richard, but she knew she needed to be careful. Margaret wouldn’t give up, and she did stand a chance. Margaret was low class, certainly, but she was also beautiful, and younger than Clara by fifteen years. And Richard, for his part, was only a man.
Clara felt her chest tighten up at the thought. She took a deep breath, and carefully placed an expression of relaxed indifference on her face. She ordered tea and scones.
The minutes ticked by, the tea and scones came, and she nibbled a bit. Richard didn’t come. The question of why she hadn’t met Margaret at the elevator began to eat at her. Clara’s face felt too hot, and she dabbed at her forehead with her napkin. Neither Richard nor Margaret were where they were supposed to be. Clara tossed her napkin on the table. The waitress gave her a nervous look as she ran back to the elevator.
At Richard’s door she tried to calm down, telling herself that she could be wrong, and knocked. No answer. She knocked again, this time louder, then she called for him. Again, no answer. Finally Clara flung open the door and stormed into Richard’s room. There he sat on the edge of his bed, his long grey hair a stringy mess. Next to him sat a half-naked Margaret.
“You tramp! You thing!” Clara yelled, flinging herself at Margaret. She ripped and she pulled at Margaret’s hair, slapping her and screaming. Soon two men rushed in.
Clara felt a prick in her arm, and sometime later she awoke. She was lying in a bare room with mint green walls on a stretcher, strapped down in restraints. She lifted her head as much as she could, still groggy from the sedative and antipsychotic, and saw her doctor standing in the doorway.
“I’ve gone again, haven’t I?” she mumbled. He nodded.
“Staff noticed a problem in the cafeteria and called security. By the time they found you, you were in Richard’s old room, fighting your sister’s ghost again, I imagine.” This time Clara nodded. “It’s lucky the room isn’t occupied at the moment Clara, you could have hurt someone. Have you been vomiting up your meds again?” He took a few steps closer and his face came into light. Clara smiled a bit through the haze. He was kind, and he looked like her father did when she was a little girl. Dapper, that’s the word.
“They make me foggy. I can’t think, can’t write. Can I go back to my room now?” she asked.
“No, Clara. Not yet. Soon. We just need to draw some blood first, check those levels.” Clara laid her head back down, it was so heavy. She stared at the ceiling until the dots began to swirl. I’ll always be broken, I can’t be fixed.