And there he was, sipping his coffee and listening to Jazz. He should have sold everything a long time ago. Instead of things, he should have collected zeros. The warnings were there. He remembered when he was driving Miranda from Half-Moon Bay to Placerville for the first time. It was nighttime and they were passing through Sacramento when a cop motioned them to veer to the right. There had been an accident. A red car lay on its roof. A man sat on the curb with his head in his hands weeping like a two year old. On the passenger side he glimpsed the head of a young girl smeared in a mess of hair and dark ooze. He looked at Miranda and saw that she saw it too. Not an omen, he had said. Drunk drivers come out every Saturday night. There is nothing else for them to do. She had not said anything.
If he could go back in time, would he turn back? Could he build a life based on hidden messages? What would his life be like now? Why couldn't he, like diviners, chart his path by what the World told him? Now he had ravaged Miranda's life. It was his fault. There was no denying that. He had picked her in that reception hall like a flower, he had isolated her from her parents, from her sister, her whole universe, to plant her in an environment that she had never experienced before, the sun blaring on her translucent skin and scattering underneath to damage something irreparably. The porcelain doll would not leave his mind, and everything else danced around it. He looked at his empty cup and knew that he would not sleep tonight. The crowd inside were high-fiving each other. One of the girls screamed. They irritated him. Here they were, healthy and horrid while Miranda twisted and turned in her sleep. He imagined holding her hand, and it became true. He didn't remember the drive home at all.
The door rang. He looked at the green digits. 02:04. He descended the stairs and peering through the faux stained glass, saw that it was Laura.
“Is there something wrong?”
“I'm sorry. I know how late it is. I slept a bit.”
They went to the kitchen that was really just the corner of the living room. He had ripped out the carpet to replace it with tiles.
Laura put her arms around his neck and dug her fingers in his hair. The only light came from the yellow streetlight. He was aware of Miranda's presence upstairs. His breathing quickened. Laura's lips brushed his. They stood close enough that he could feel the heat emanating from them. He kissed her hard, bending her backward at her waist as far as she could go. She was wearing loose jogging pants. He lowered them with her underwear and left them at her knees. She had a crazed expression. He felt her and she moaned. She put all of her weight against his hand. He worked at it until she shook and went limp.
In the morning, he woke up late. He was on the sofa with Laura against him. His head turned toward the stairs. Miranda stood on the top stair and as soon as he saw her she withdrew back to her room. He felt nothing. Perhaps he was dreaming. He pushed Laura away and got up. Skipping every other step he was at her door. It was left ajar. He couldn't go in. Downstairs, he heard Laura getting up. Miranda came briefly into his narrow field of vision and walked toward the bathroom. In the sliver of activity, he saw her white sleeping gown in frames, its folds complicated geometric shapes going in and out of focus like a jellyfish in a small aquarium. He heard Laura closing the front door quietly. Only then could he enter the bedroom.
“I was so tired."
She said it, but it could have been him. He didn't know what to say. All that came out was a grunt.
“It looked like a painting. Something by Boucher. My vision was blurry, so perhaps that explains it. I mean the lighting. There was just enough through the curtains.”
“We both know I'm almost dead. Why shouldn't you? I would have done the same.”
“No you wouldn't have.”
Miranda laughed. What she felt was an intense rage. It bubbled from her every pore. If she hadn't puked her stomach out already, she would have done it right there. The rage was held in contempt by pain, which was on a scale all its own. They both gave her energy. She felt like a superwoman on an electric pole. She turned towards the window to watch Laura get into her car. This suited her. By her flesh. Her helplessness. As her cells multiplied viciously in small colonies, as her nerves got cornered and rang their incessant alarm, they broadcast in a way their own helplessness. She said aloud: Tim. He was the cancer of this room, overshadowing her, enveloping her slender body in his vileness, his odors, his cum: a satyr. I'm going crazy.
“I'll make breakfast. You need to eat something.”
She didn't turn back. She felt his presence retreating like an insect in a hole. She noticed that she was clenching a fork in her hand. That she was channeling all her power into it. Could she strike him? It would have been a child's play for him to subdue her. Laura could.
They had her. The demons. She was promised to them like a bride. In a flash she realized that she was wearing her wedding dress. Why had she done that? The front of the dress was wet and a deep, almost green, yellow. Yes, a bride. She went to the bathroom and stabbed herself with the fork, taking her time not to miss the spots that were calling her.