Katelina welcomed the comforting familiarity of her apartment above the book store. After double locking the front door, she dropped onto the couch and stared past the pink curtains. The view from her windows wasn't spectacular, but it was comforting. Situated on what was once Main Street, the building across from her was a dance studio downstairs and an apartment with tightly drawn curtains upstairs. Until recently it had been empty, but someone had moved in a few months ago. During the sleepless nights since Patrick's murder, she'd taken comfort in the glow of the windows. It reminded her that, despite her nightmares, she wasn't really alone in the world.
She turned back to her own small apartment looked over the living room as if she'd never seen it before. Two book cases dominated the furnishings while her couch and chair sat pressed against the wall, both splattered with creamy colored flowers. A coffee table was stacked with various items including books, knickknacks, a bottle of nail polish and a disused ashtray that had been a gift.
She scooped up the delicate glass piece and balanced its weight in her palm. With a smile, she thought how impossible it would be to wash ashes from the cut glass pattern. It had been something trivial and odd, a strange present from a strange person.
Closing her eyes, she pictured Patrick and just as quickly she pushed that image away. He'd been so delighted when he'd presented her with the stupid ashtray, proud that it matched the candy dish that sat on top of her television. He'd grinned, his breath scented sweet with alcohol, while his deep blue eyes laughed at some private joke.
Patrick, with his blonde hair, easy smile, and dark moods...
Six weeks ago she'd found him in his apartment, the doors and windows locked, his throat torn out in a mess of gleaming gore. At first she'd thought a wild animal had gotten him, but an animal would leave behind hair or saliva and the police didn't find any. Neither had they discovered any fingerprints or footprints out of the ordinary; not even a stray hair or a flake of skin. Because of that, she'd been grilled relentlessly. They'd called her home, her job, even her mother, always wanting to know if her boyfriend had told her anything that might be some kind of clue.
A strange smile flitted across her face. Boyfriend. Lover. Everyone had a label for him - except her. In the year she'd known him they'd slept together off and on, called one another now and again, and went out sometimes. When they'd exchanged Christmas presents, her mother had gotten excited and started calling him her boyfriend too, no matter how many times Katelina had denied it. Patrick was a lot of things: he was sweet, charming, special, moody, and temperamental; most of all, deep down, he was as fragile as spun glass. But he was not her boyfriend.
However, there was no denying that she had feelings for him. She'd been very careful never to scratch their surface to find out how deep they really ran. She preferred to think they were shallow but, sometimes, late at night, she wondered if that was true.
She dropped the ashtray to the table and sagged as the deep warm voice replayed in her mind, "I know who killed your lover." It sounded like some cruel trick designed to embarrass her or worse lure her, alone, to the middle of nowhere. Maybe so the murderer could kill her, too?
She grabbed the bottle of blue nail polish and repeated the ritual of touching up her chipped nails. The sharp smell brought her back to the present and shoved away unhappy thoughts and feelings. It left room for nothing but here and now - and right now she'd left work an hour early. They'd dock her pay for it, and tomorrow she'd have to face the wrath of Mr. Fordrent. More fun.
When the polish was dry she turned on her phone - "turn it off when you come in the door" was Fordrent's policy. The screen blinked notifications; voice mail. She started to check it, but the minute her mother's voice greeted her ears she hung up. She didn't need another lecture. "When are you going to find a nice man? When are you going to settle down? When are you going to get married?" Marriage was the last thing Katelina was interested in at the moment, or so she told herself. She had plenty of time left.
She padded towards the kitchen and realized that the call might be about Grave Day, as she called it. Every year, on the anniversary of her Father's death, she and her mother took flowers to her father's tombstone, despite the fact that he'd died when Katelina was a toddler. It was a day filled with her mother's memories and tears. Good times.
Katelina stared blankly into the refrigerator. Half empty drink cartons and condiment jars dotted the back of the shelves. She needed to go shopping, but she'd been so busy she hadn't had a chance to think about the mundane parts of life.
Her stomach rumbled and she checked the cupboards. They were equally bare. With a final resigned sigh, she ducked into the bedroom, changed into jeans and a dark blue sweater, then grabbed her keys and headed out the door. She told herself that she'd make a quick trip to the store for something to eat, then come back and spend a relaxing evening at home; just her and her television, lost together in mindless entertainment.
As she locked the door behind her, a strange sense of foreboding swept over her, as though a dark cloud had crossed the sun and left her in shadow. She looked back at her apartment door; at the tiny gold numbers and the little wooden name plaque Sarah had made for her. She laughed at herself and her melodramatic mood.
"Don't worry," she assured the empty hallway. "I'll be right back."