Chapter Story – Part One
Hetty stared at her hands splayed on her lap, covered in blood. She lifted one hand to her face and studied the blood’s different life stages: wet, sticky, dry, flaky. She blew warm breath onto her raised hand. Minute particles of blood floated in the air. Then her fingers began to tremble violently, as if an earthquake rumbled the ground beneath her, bent to destroy.
She slammed her hand to her thigh, desperate to stop her involuntary movement, but the shaking ventured out and up, devouring her whole body. Tears flooded her face anew. She dug her fingernails into her jeans. Her teeth ground together. How could this have happened?
Hetty jerked her head up. She threw a hand to her head to smooth her hair down; her mother would be devastated at her appearance—one always needed to look their best. She had a feeling that she still looked a wreck, no matter what she did. This night was never going to end.
“Miss. Kettering?” a man said, dressed in a navy blue police uniform. His eyes were a deep hazel, which seemed strange to her since the rest of him was so black. Shouldn’t his eyes be as dark? The man placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Miss. Kettering?”
“Yes?” she said. Her voice sounded muffled. Had she spoken? She repeated her answer. The simple word felt loose upon her tongue, as if it were a bite of eel, something she had never eaten before.
“My name is Officer Rayne, and I need to ask you some questions about your friend, Annabelle.”
At first she didn’t respond but stared at him, scouring his face for the meaning of his words, and then flashes of memory showed Annabelle’s face in front of her. Annabelle laughing. Annabelle smiling. Annabelle drenched in blood. Annabelle’s eyes so very still. Hetty clamped her hands to her face and crumpled onto her lap.
She gulped air, holding it too long and partway choked, as wrenching sobs tightened her gut. More tears spilled down her face and pooled in her bloody palms. Officer Rayne’s hand stayed on her shoulder, a warm weight that penetrated through her thin rose-colored blouse. When he removed it, the loss of his touch chilled her, as if his reassuring gesture was the only warmth available to her.
“I know this is difficult, but I must ask you a few questions.”
She nodded, sniffling, and resumed her stare at her limp hands in her lap, now splotched with patches of pink skin where her tears had washed away the blood.
“Now—” He took the seat next to her, a metal folding chair with no cushion, and flipped open a pocket notebook. “What time did you find your friend in the underground tunnel?”
She heard the question and knew it made sense in the way grammatically correct sentences should, but the meaning of the question in relation to herself confounded her.
From her peripheral she saw his confusion: Was she even there? She wondered. She felt distant from her physical form.
“Miss. Kettering?!” Officer Rayne snapped his fingers in front of her face. She barely registered him. He turned her face to his and peered into her eyes, an inch away at most.
Then she saw him.
He was beautiful, his dark skin like a smooth alpine lake at night, transcendent really, as if his soul emanated outward, right under the skin. His rich hazel eyes spoke of his intention. She knew she could trust him. A weak smile lifted the corners of her lips.
“Yes?” she said.
“What time was it when you found your friend?” His brow furrowed in doubt, not sure she would answer.
“Three forty or so. I had just finished rehearsal,” she said, her voice soft and pliable, as if its existence relied on her view of him. She knew, somewhere deep inside, if she looked away, reality would be lost to her; she was on her last strand of coherency.
Officer Rayne removed his hold of her chin and jotted the time in his notebook. “And what rehearsal would that be?”
“Symphony. I’m a violist.”
He nodded as his fingers scribbled. “Tell me, what did you see when you went into the tunnel where you found your friend?” His fingers froze, waiting for her to answer, as his brown and green flecked eyes returned to hers.