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"Ardelle?" she asks. "Who is that?"
I shrug, careful not to dislodge the woman leaning against me. "Dunno."
"You don't know." Shaye's tone is flat. "What, did you just find her in the hallway?"
"Well, yeah."
Shaye stares at me in disbelief as the woman raises her head and looks up at me. "You just found her and you invited her in."
"She's drunk." I say, feeling incredibly stupid for saying it.
"She also," Shaye points out, "has a black eye, and it looks like more."
Startled, I glance down at the woman, meeting her dark gaze. "You can tell through the make up?" Even as I say this, I can see the signs of swelling. She smiles beautifucally up at me for a long moment, her eyes glassy, and then, abruptly, she slides through my arms to collapse in a heap on the floor.
"Smooth," Shaye mutters, but she is quick to fling away her blankets and help as I try to arrange wayward limbs into some semblance of comfort. Shaye is the one who catches the woman's lolling head and helps her lay her on her side on the carpet. I run to the bathroom and get a paper cup of water and a washcloth. When I return, Shaye has propped her head up with a pillow and has covered her with the blanket. I dip the washcloth into th water and carefully wipe away makeup from the woman's face. The skin that is revealed is smooth and slightly paler than my own, and I guess her age to be about my own or a little older. When I reach the bruising, she flinches, and she wakes.
She stares up at me without comprehension for a long moment, and then she is a bundle of flailing limbs and blanket. She clocks Shaye under the chin, and she reels back, swearing, and a foot catches me in the chest. I grab hold and try to stay clear of the other foot. For all of the sudden violence, she is eerily quiet, neither crying out nor swearing, her eyes wide and unseeing. "Hey!" I snap. "Hey, cut it out!" I shake one foot briskly.
She freezes. For a long moment the only sound in the room is Shaye swearing a blue streak and the woman's frantic breaths. Her gaze captures mine, and I am entranced by the depths of her dark eyes. She coughs suddenly, breaking eye contact, and flails to sit up. I quickly offer a hand, which she clings to as she wavers back and forth while seated.
"Well," says Shaye. "We learned something, now didn't we?"
Ignoring her, I address the woman. "Do you want to sleep on the couch?"
She looks up at me blankly.
"Couch?" I say, and point. Her gaze follows my finger to the couch that we have dumped some of our luggage on and most of Shaye's shoes. She wrinkles her nose in apparent confusion but nods hesistantly.
I glance at Shaye. "Yeah, yeah," she says. "I'm moving my crap." She gets up, still rubbing her jaw, and begins to clear the couch. I turn my attention back to the woman and slowly stand up without letting go of her hand. She seems to comprehend my intentions, and as soon as I'm balanced uses me to pull herself to her feet, shedding blanket in the process. For the first time, I take in her clothing, layered strappy shirts and a knee length skirt. Boots and an abundance of crystal bead necklaces. She takes a half step towards me and ends up leaning against me again, our hands clasped, the sharp points of her necklaces digging into my neck.
Shaye finishes tosses her shoes on the floor. "Ok," she mutters. "Ready as we get, just get her drunken ass over here." I lead her slowly to the couch, and her head never lifts from my shoulder even as she stumbles twice in her attempt to follow. When we finally reach the couch, I carefully lower her down and then tuck her in with a pillow and the blanket. Her dark eyes watch me as I reach down and brush her hair out of her eyes. "You. Sleep." Dutifully, she closes her eyes, and I turn to face Shaye.
Shaye simply points at me. "You. Me. Talk. Morning." Then, she stalks to the bed and throws herself onto it, switching off the light.


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June 2009

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