A person wakes up, not quite remembering what happened the night before, and is surprised and upset by what they see outside the window.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)
Out the Window
Sheila swims up from dreams of fire to the burn of unwelcome sunlight on her lids. She rolls away from the window, the motion rolling through her long after her body has stopped. Slowly her lids drift up, and she meets the day.
“Coffee. Coffee,” Sheila chants as she works her way to her feet, willing the walls to stop wavering. Grounds scatter the counter and floor before the precious liquid makes it to her mug. She clutches the beverage tightly in two hands, inhaling the sweet smell of caffeine glory as she shuffles toward the front of her house.
Shade trees block the worst of the sun’s rays, allowing her to stand near her sofa looking out at the fresh day. Blue jays jabber at each other, fighting for optimum position at the bird feeder. A squirrel waits below, picking up the spoils of war.
Sheila’s eyes skim over the animals, the grass, the pavement. They stop at the sidewalk’s edge. “What is that?” Sheila asks the squirrel. The squirrel doesn’t answer, just continues digging through the grass for scattered seed.
After a fortifying slug of coffee, Sheila slips her feet into sandals left helter-skelter by the door. Squirrel and birds flee when the front door swings open, spilling Sheila out into the world.
Now the slap of sandals is the only sound in the day. The sandals carry Sheila to the sidewalk and stop at the pile. Sheila nudges it gently with a sandaled foot before squatting down beside it. She lifts the top item, holding it up for a better look. A white tank top. Sheila looks down at the pile, and sifts through the remaining items. A simple white bra, pink lacy panties, a long purple skirt, two feather earrings, and a pair of green flip flops.
An image of the outfit dancing around a large bonfire flickers in Sheila’s mind.
“This is what Tracy was wearing last night,” Sheila mumbles to herself. She stands, still holding a feathered earring in her hand, and looks down the street. At the corner she sees another pile on the sidewalk. Sheila walks toward it.
“What the hell,” Sheila asks the second pile of clothes. This pile has a pair of cowboy boots, two white socks, jeans, blue boxer-briefs, a gray T-shirt, and a black baseball cap. Sheila doesn’t know the clothes belong to.
She stands over the pile and closes her eyes, partly to block out the bright light of day and partly to focus on the fleeting glimpses running across her mind. A bonfire. A group of women dancing. An old book. A lot of alcohol. A party at Jasmine’s house. That’s where she was last night, Sheila finally remembers.
Worried now about Tracy, wondering why her clothes were piled outside of her house, Sheila walks toward the site of the bonfire party. Along the way she encounters several more piles of clothes and accessories.
The worst is the small pile nestled inside a large stroller. With a binky laying neatly on top. Sheila stands for a long moment, one hand brushing the soft blanket draped over the pile of baby garments.
She continues walking. She sees no one. Only scattered piles.
At Jasmine’s, the front yard is marked by five piles. Sheila scans over them, not able to make herself investigate which of her friends they represent. She moves through the gate to the backyard.
Smoke is still rising in a thin stream from the ashes of the bonfire. The area around the bonfire is littered with more piles. Open on the picnic table to the right is the old book that had flickered across Sheila’s memory. She moves toward it, avoiding the piles in her path.
Sheila stops and looks down at the aged parchment. She closes her eyes and remembers. Tom, the guy that followed her through the grocery store last week. That found her yesterday at the park. That tracked down her phone number and called twice. She just wanted him to stop.
Sheila opens her eyes, reading the words scripted across the top of the page Leave Me Alone.