Are You Alienated (part two)
In the hotel bathroom, she saw her face brightly lit. The hollows of her eyes were erased. I look good, Minta thought.
Her house had one bathroom. The window had been covered by the previous owner in sticky frosted plastic. Quentin had told her she could buy solvent to remove this. He was right. She could learn what she needed to know, and do the work herself.
The plastic remained, peeling at the edges, dirt and hair caught in the glue. The window faced the door. The sink was tucked away in a little alcove, opposite the linen closet. An overhead globe was the only light by which Minta ordinarily saw herself, while making up her face.
“Why don’t we,” she said to Mrs. Castelberry, “try one of the restaurants in town?”
“We’re leaving tomorrow. It’s a bad time to get lost.”
“Look.” Minta herself looked, putting a knee on the heater, and craning to view the street below. She heard her mother-in-law gasp, rolled her eyes, then wondered too late if the glass had shown this like a mirror. The whole trip, she’d given way to Valerie’s fear of heights—the reason they could never open curtains. All their meals were taken within the safety zone of their hotels. Minta now and then prodded her mother-in-law’s boundaries…but she knew better.
“Mom. Just standing here, I see two or three places. It’s not possible for us to get lost.”
“If we stay at the hotel, we know where we are.”
“People speak English everywhere,” Minta told her.
They heard a low buzzing. Slowly, this segued into a sustained tone; gradually, it took on a musical character, albeit atonal. Glass seemed to break. The noise came from the nightstand between the two beds. Mrs. Castelberry rolled her own eyes. She had her son to blame, however…it was Quentin who’d customized his wife’s phone. Quentin, whose eyes were a watery blue, but whose hair was black, had looked at Minta, frank with literal-mindedness, and said, “You can get rid of it if you don’t like it.”
He knew she couldn’t, unless she asked him to help her.
Certainly, when Quentin called and Minta found herself embarrassed at the grocery, or in line at the ATM, she never failed to snatch her phone at once. She didn’t know what industrial clanking, what graveyard shrieks, might erupt from her purse if she allowed the clip to play itself out. She would rather not know.
Her hand within an inch of grasping it, the phone silenced itself. Its screen flashed, and a new image appeared.
“I am waiting for you outside your door.” John Emmett spoke.
“Don’t open it!” Valerie darted into the bathroom. She darted out again, adding, “Why did you invite him?”
Are You Alienated
(2015, 2017 Stephanie Foster)