“Ok, sooo start over, but from the beginning. Just exactly how it is.
“ I told you already exactly…”

“Yeah, you have, but you never, ever EVER tell it in linear order.”
“You always say lin..”
“I mean, you always fill in a detail way later, way after the accident, and then you start talking about what happened that day. It’s like a….what is it?” he turns to Marisol.

Marisol was fiddling with the papers on the love seat. Little green buds dotted her skirt. She raised her right hand and gestured to the air.
“Like, like choppy. Some kind of David Lynch daydream except as not as cool and nobody cares.” She licked the paper. “And you’ll never finish it.”
He waved his hand at her as if to say no way but he sipped his beer and didn’t continue the story. 

“Forget it, tell it later, let’s get drunk first.” Jack said walking over to get a beer from the fridge. 

David chimed back in, “You know I have that acid in my pocket too.”

Jack studied the fridge for a second before deciding which brand he wanted. They had brought so much beer for such a short weekend and small party. Hedonistic.
“I think we should wait,” he said. “Just a little bit longer.”

“What are you waiting for?” Marisol got up from the couch, forgetting her previous project. She wrapped her hands around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. 

“We’re waiting to cut the dose. I thought Marco was coming. Elise for sure.” 

“Just do it, dude let’s do it. It’s still early and it lasts for hours. It’s already 6:30.” David repeated, motioning to his phone.

“Yeah, but…”

“No one else is coming, right?”
He walked over to the both of them and held his phone up to Jack’s face to show him the weather forecast. FLASH FLOOD WARNING in black bold letters. “The storm is getting worse and it’s a long drive. No one’s coming all the way to the trail to split two hits of acid among like seven people.”
Jack opened the bottle with his keychain, nodding to himself. Marisol held his waist tight, sort of purring next to him. David turned to glance at Lilian but she was completely checked out.
“Are you even getting service here?”
Stunned, she lowered her hand and looked at him.

“I was just playing the card game.”
David nodded, masking his resentment. Not just at her aloofness but having ever left Milah to begin with and for having invited Lilian on this trip or for ever asking what she was doing on her phone. They held eye contact briefly before she went back to her phone.  Jack and Marisol were whispering when David turned his attention back to them. Fuck this.
“Ok, I’m cutting it. Half a dose each.”
He walked past the couple to grab scissors from the counter, still there from when he set them down earlier ready to cut it at three.
“Let’s do it now, otherwise, we will be up all night.”
He had three tabs total. He pulled two out now and cut them both in half, easy, precisely. Not even glancing back at his girlfriend, he remarked, “Lilian, you can sit this one out if you want.”
Lilian tucked a strand of wispy dirty blonde hair behind her hair and stared towards the kitchen but still very much entranced with the graphics from her phone. She blinked and everyone stared back at her. Jack already had his hand out and Marisol was walking back to the love seat to return to rolling the joint.
“Ummm,” she began, clutching the phone but also letting it fall towards her thigh so she wasn’t looking at it.
David and Jack were peeling back the paper and sticking out their tongues. Marisol was back to spreading the flowers over the paper. Lilian was marked by indecision as a rule.
“You don’t have to,” Jack smiled, warmth radiating.
David turned to face the other direction so she didn’t see his visible irritation.  She nodded. Marisol glanced at her and smiled.
“Do you smoke?”
“Sometimes,” she dropped the phone and started running her fingers through her hair with both hands. “Tonight probably.” She glanced at David. “Not the acid though.”
David turned completely around to face her, stuck his tongue out and dropped the paper beneath his tongue. Spiteful, he snapped his mouth shut like a reptile, a crocodile. To the room, it appeared they knew their problems but they didn’t. They both carried distractions like moats blocking passage or transcendence of any real conversation between them. It had been like this. It would probably remain like this. Jack had also stuck his piece under his tongue.
“Marisol?”
. Letting her fingers tickle his abdomen first, she leaned over to kiss him as David watched. Outside the first loud thunder cracked.
“It begins,” Marisol said cheerily and stuck her tab under her tongue.

David put the last half tab back on the foil on the island. Lilian and the gang were separated by it.  The three of them talked amongst themselves as she excused herself to walk to one of the bedrooms. Tiptoed, actually. She made herself useful somewhere else unpacking David’s stuff. An act of gratitude or fear, it was unclear but as she began pulling his sweatpants out of the black duffel bag, she was the one that heard the rap on the door. The back screen door. She was the one that paused holding the gray pants in air.  She was the one that laid them flat on the bed, contrite with her boredom, adjusting the creases on the queen-sized duvet cover. Make up for your flatness. She was the one who left the task, walked out the bedroom door and she was the one that saw a hooded woman through the window. She was the one that opened the door without making a sound to see her, drenched and shaking and she was the one that said, “Please come in” and watched the woman traipse mud across the welcome mat onto the hardwood floors.

 

 


“Please,” Lilian gestured to the bathroom near the backdoor, “let’s get you out of those clothes. I will bring you some.”

Lilian led her into the bathroom and closed the door behind her, grabbed a pair of sweatshirts, clean plain light blue underwear–granny panties, gray wool socks, and a hooded sweatshirt and lightly knocked back on the bathroom door without telling anyone a stranger had arrived to their house. She heard them in the kitchen, laughing, talking, not making out any words just jovial sounds. Her instinct was to help, nurture, ground on Earth. She was a Cancer. She was a mother. The woman stood on the bathroom rug dripping and Lilian saw the rug was ruined; the pale blue now caked in brown. The hardwood leading to the bathroom linoleum was dotted with muddy footprints. They could clean this place before leaving Sunday.

“You can catch pneumonia.”
The stranger took her hood off and stared at Lilian. Shivering, her eyes were wide, a little terror in her stare but glittering. The woman was pallid yet stunning. Even dripping wet, she was the mutt picked first, Lilian thought.
Setting the clothes on the top of the toilet seat, she stated, “Please take a bath or shower. Whatever you prefer.” Lilian opened a small closet next to the towel rack to pull out two big fluffy white towels. “For your hair too.” She set those on top of the toilet seat. “I’m gonna make a pot of lemon tea.”
The woman stayed silent. Is she in some kind of shock?
“I will come check on you if you want. Otherwise, we will be in the living room.”
The woman nodded. Lilian left the bathroom and David was coming towards her.
“What’s up?” he said, half smiling.
“I’m going to make some tea. Would you like some?”
“I have to piss,” he headed towards the door.
“No, go upstairs. There’s a woman in there.”

“What?”
“I let a woman inside from the rain. She was soaking wet and pale. She can catch pneumonia. She must have got caught hiking. She was wearing hiking boots and clothes.”

They heard the shower turn on. David looked at her with surprise.
“You let a strange woman in here without telling us?”
They could hear Marisol and Jack from the other room, still giggling, the tab of a beer opening.
“I am telling you now. She was going to catch pneumonia.”

“Lilian, we are in the middle of the woods,” his eyes moved over the hallway footprints, seeing, believing her.
She shrugged, “Yeah. We are.”
She moved past him without saying another word and he heard her say excuse me and he heard some dishes clanking and he heard the stove click, preparing to light the burner. He looked at the footprints. He listened to the shower run. He let his body undulate with warmth as the acid kicked in.
“You can’t be sure about anything, his friend has said to him the first time he took it. Only a half a tab then too. “When you take psychedelics just find a way to remind yourself  you’re on drugs. Don’t believe everything you hear or see.”
He could see the footprints. Lilian wasn’t lying. He could hear the shower running and feel his stomach churn a little; that first wave of nausea that hits when you ingest a foreign chemical. His guts rumbled. Too much beer. Fuck.
“Guys,” he yelled.
He heard more dishes clank and imagined Lilian, preparing the intruder a snack. Fucking dumb bitch. “There’s a stranger showering in our bathroom.”

 

“the woman who told the stories”

 

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