Anticipation(10)By: Sarah Mayberry
Her bed was made — surprise, surprise — and a stack of books formed a tidy column on her bedside table, mostly the paranormal romance and urban fantasy books that she favored. The quilt cover was a sensible, plain navy, and there wasn’t a single picture or piece of personalizing art on the walls, despite the fact that she’d bought him a framed set of black and white art prints for Christmas last year and was always admiring the pieces Rafel picked up for his and Maggie’s place.
Frowning, Eddie went to the utilitarian chest of drawers and began opening drawers. Top left contained underwear, a riot of color and animal prints in silk and lace. He grabbed a fistful and felt something hard beneath all the flimsy fabric. He went fishing and came up with a vibrator, a black silicone monster that made him seriously pity Blue’s past lovers. Jesus. How on earth was any mortal man supposed to measure up? He slipped it into the drawer, burying it once more beneath her underwear.
It took him two drawers to find her pajamas, and he grabbed a couple of pairs. He opened one final drawer, wondering if there was something he’d overlooked — a robe, perhaps, or maybe a hoodie in case she got cold — and stared. A child’s grubby, much-abused plush rabbit was squashed between neat stacks of gym gear, one eye missing, its ears darkened from years of handling. A tattered blue ribbon was tied around its neck.
He picked it up, registering the slightly-sticky feeling to the fur, evidence of just how loved this toy had been. He studied the rabbit’s one-eyed face for a beat, then carefully placed it where he’d found it.
He went to the bathroom next and opened the cupboards. Her toothbrush sat neatly in a clean glass, the toothpaste beside it — lid on, of course. He grabbed both, along with the roll-on deodorant. In the shower he found shampoo specially formulated for color-treated hair and added it to his haul.
By the time he’d finished he had a pile of clothing and toiletries, and he opened the closet in search of a gym or overnight bag. Stacks of jeans and other pants filled one side, while the other was dedicated to hanging space. A faint scent reached him, and he leaned forward, inhaling traces of Blue’s perfume, something rich and deep.
The leather overnight bag he’d given her several years ago sat on the single shelf above the hanging space, and he pulled it out then returned to the bed to fill it with the items he’d gathered. It was only as he was leaving her bedroom that he caught sight of the peacock-blue silk robe hanging from the back of the door, another gift from him.
He added the robe to the bag and let himself out, checking to make sure the door was locked behind him. He felt an odd sense of guilt as he took the stairs to the foyer. He’d known Blue for ten years, and if anyone had asked him, he would have said he knew her better than almost anyone on the planet after his twin. And yet he’d never have guessed that she kept a memento from her childhood hidden in her home. He also knew without asking that she’d hate that he had found it.
He tossed the bag into the rear of his Ferrari, shrugging off his disquiet. The nurses had told him Blue would be in hospital for at least a week so someone had had to fetch her things to make her more comfortable. If Blue was mad with him for going through her stuff, she could yell at him. He could take it.
What he couldn’t take was the thought of that battered rabbit, shoved unceremoniously into the bottom-most drawer.
The one soft, sentimental thing Blue owned, hidden away like a dirty secret.
More tired than he could ever remember being, he headed for home.
The next time Blue woke, Maggie was sitting beside the bed.
“There you are,” Maggie said, setting down the book she’d been reading and smiling at Blue.
“How many days did I lose this time?” Blue asked.
“It’s Monday night.”
Only a few hours, then.
“How are you feeling?” Maggie asked.
“Like I’ve been hit by a bus instead of a motorbike.”
Maggie’s smile was strained.
“Too soon?” Blue asked.
“Give me a decade or so and I’ll be able to laugh about it,” Maggie said, reaching for Blue’s hand. Her eyes filled with tears and Blue squeezed her hand.