Sideways and Down

by lingonberryjelly

Sideways and Down


You awake?” he asked. He looked weird without his veil, and there was a stitched up gash on his forehead Abernathy couldn’t remember seeing before.

Yeah,” Abi said, but she wasn’t sure. It seemed like she was in a bar, and staring at a hand of cards, aces over eights. “Where are we again?”

The bar at the Hyatt,” Jane said. “It’s cheaper to drink at home, and that guy’s lookin’ at us.” She glanced over at the bar.

There was a man in a gray vest and white button-up, the bartender. He was glowing, amber lit, like Jesus in a Chinese church; it was just the mirror behind him and the top shelf liquor tinting the light.

Were we playing cards?” Abi asked.

Jane sneered. She held her cards with three fingers and a thumb. Her index was missing, the stitches still scabbed. She was like life imitating art, if Siouxsie Sioux was art. And Jane was more than imitating.

Abi couldn’t remember if she’d asked where her finger had gone and it would be bad to ask a second time.

…Yeah, we’re playing cards,” Jane said. “We’re playing for truth, and I’m gonna ask you who you’re sweet on- since you’ gotta fuckin’ harem-”

Were we gonna lay out our cards then?” Abi asked.

Yeah,” Jane’s boyfriend said. It seemed nobody knew his name; the papers called him the Masked Killer, but it was more like a veil than a mask. With his veil off he looked exceedingly ordinary, even if his thousand-yard-stare was a little creepy.

Abi leaned back; they were in a booth, she’d just realized. It was comfortable.

She remembered lying in bed on a Sunday morning. Tommy had come to wake her up; his tiny sweet face was calm, sleeping. He’d come to wake her up but had fallen asleep next to her. Her husband was who-knows-where, but Tommy was there with her. They would go to mass an hour later and he would die that night.

She was bad-drunk, not happy-warm-drunk. The worst.

You gonna lay em’ out then?” Jane asked, and Abi tossed down her cards.

Yeah…” Jane’s boyfriend said.

Isn’t that hand supposed to be bad luck, or something?” Jane asked, laying down twos and threes.

So, this is like truth or dare?” Abi asked.

Yeah,” Jane said. “It was your idea….”

Asking Jane’s boyfriend his name sounded like fun, maybe. Not that he would’ve answered, but it would have been fun to watch him squirm. “They aren’t a harem,” Abi said, catching the comment very late. “…I think Olena’s in love with Pashtana-”

Who’s that?” Jane asked. Her smile said there was a punch line coming.

Olena’s the Russian one,” Abi said.

No. Pashtana?”

Oh. From Afghanistan I think-”

So, you got a new one?”

So what kinda truth you want?” Jane’s boyfriend asked, laying his cards on the table without losing his poker face. Abi couldn’t remember what game they were playing, but he didn’t have jack shit regardless.

…You think there’s a hell?” Abi asked.

Jane stared at her like she was supposed to’ve asked something sexy. Maybe this was supposed to be a party game, but Abi couldn’t remember how she’d gotten there or much of what had happened in the last week; the empty glasses on her side of the table were some indication. And, even if it was supposed to be fun, she didn’t want to know anything about that pair-of-freaks’ love-life.

Yeah. sure,” he said. He never seemed to let his feelings slip, not even through his eyes. Right then he looked like some kind of intensely realistic war-vet rubber-face doll.

You sound pretty… sure,” Abi said.

Yeah,” he said. “I been there. It’s not that bad.”

You think, maybe it’s time to call it a night?” Jane asked.

I just meant… you can get used to anything,” he said.