Molly left the restaurant feeling like her tide was turning. For the better as opposed to the alternative. She felt that she could sing and the birds flitting around and over the buildings would join her in song. Like one of those fairy tale princesses she read about in the storybooks her father bought her when she was a little girl.
Was it because she was about to get a job? Maybe. But the job didn’t interest her as much as the money did. Before she left, Frank had told her how much she stood to make and it took Molly all her self-control not to whistle in awe. All she had to do was attend a stupid church meeting. She could do that, no problem.
Molly walked (almost skipped) along the walkways and across streets, dodging cars and motorcycles as their backwashes lifted her dress behind her. Threatening to reveal her modesty. She didn’t care though. If cloud nine were a place, she was there.
And then the headache struck.
It was low at first – a steady ringing in her skull like someone who’s been punched in the ear. It grew to a dull thud in the middle of her head. It made it sound like every beat of her heart was amplified in her head and each beat was louder than the last. The sound blocked out her hearing and her sight came in pulses. On, off. Light, dark. Molly knelt in the street, her dress draped over her feet, her head was in her hands. “Make it stop!” she said. “Oh, God, make it stop!” But it didn’t stop, it only got louder and louder and enveloped her in a cloud of red. She couldn’t see at all now no matter how hard she tried to open her eyes.
Molly’s breath caught in her throat. She felt something like a warm liquid seeping into her chest. She couldn’t breathe for what felt to her like forever before her throat opened up and air rushed into her lungs again. But the headache evolved much farther and Molly’s hands clawed at her hair. Her neat braids were all out of place now as her hands tried to find the source of the headache and tear it away from her. Blood coated her fingertips where her nails pierced her scalp. Her head was an egg and the pain was the yolk. The right amount of pressure would crack it. “Get it out!” she yelled.
She screamed and screamed and screamed until her throat was sore and she no longer had the energy to move.
They found her on the side of the road, a crowd of onlookers surrounding her. She was on her side in a fetal position, her face wet, her hair splayed all around her head and the flowers on her dress sticking to her left leg – an almost dry stream of liquid led away from her body. Someone had helped themselves to her shoes, so Molly lay there barefoot.
“Goodness, Frank,” Mama Pau said, “how much did you give her?”
“The usual amount,” Frank said. “Just a pinch.”
Mama Pau wiggled her fingers in Frank’s face, “Your pinch or my pinch?” Frank stared at her and said nothing. “Why don’t you measure out the stuff. In grams, preferably.”
Frank grunted and moved in to disperse the crowd. He stooped low to pick Molly up, wondering if his back would choose this moment to give up on him, but surprisingly, the girl was very light. No wonder she reacted as she did, he thought. When he stood, the smell of excrement wafted into his nostrils and he almost dropped her.
Frank set Molly down in the back seat of his car. He sat in the driver’s seat as Mama Pau hauled herself into the back. She placed Molly’s head on her lap and cradled her head as Frank drove them to the hospital.
“How long did you have her followed for?” Mama Pau asked.
“As soon as she left,” Frank said. “I had Patrick tail her.” Patrick was one of Frank’s delivery guys. The one he trusted the most. Given the appropriate instructions, Patrick delivered more than food.
“I like Patrick. He’s efficient,” Mama Pau said.
“Yes, he is,” Frank said.
Mama Pau caressed the sides of Molly’s face. “She’s quite the looker, isn’t she?”
“When she isn’t covered in piss and shit, I suppose she is,” Frank said. He slowed down the car to allow some pedestrians to cross.
“Your crudeness is ever so endearing, Francis,” she said.
“Thank you, Eunice.”
Mama Pau saw the faint smile on his face via the rearview mirror. She kept an eye on his reflection a little longer, studying the lines on his face and the sunspots that had formed over the years.
“We’re almost there,” Frank said. “Say the thing.”
Mama Pau nodded. She propped her back straight and placed a thumb on Molly’s forehead. “Maqbul,” she said. Molly’s body jerked twice and settled. Warmth was already beginning to return to her skin. Mama Pau smiled.
At the hospital, Frank parked at the emergency bay. He scooped up Molly and carried her into the building where a nurse ran to him wheeling a wheelchair ahead of her. Frank placed Molly into the seat and thought how demeaned she would feel if she knew that she had soiled herself and was sitting on her own poo.
It was a good thing Molly wouldn’t remember any of this.