A week passed before Molly woke up. The first thing she noticed was the intoxicating smell of disinfectant and bleach. The sharp scent cut through her nostrils like a hot knife through butter. The next thing was that she was on her back, she felt stiffly starched sheets on the backs of her arms and through the similarly stiff hospital gown. She tried to move but she felt sluggish. There was a bitter taste in her mouth as well.
When she opened her eyes, slowly at first, she saw that everything was white. The walls, the floor, the bedding, the machines at the side of the bed, the curtains. All white. The only non-white thing was the door. That was cerulean.
The last thing Molly noticed was the cat at the foot of the bed.
She only noticed it because it moved, otherwise she would have missed it entirely. It was as white as the rest of the room. It was curled up in a ball at her feet, sleeping soundly. Molly felt its heat through the thin blankets and she kicked it awake. The cat sat up quickly and stared at her. Its yellow eyes were cold and unfeeling. Dangerous. Malevolent. It hissed at Molly and got up on its haunches, ready to pounce on her. When it did, Molly looked away reflexively for a moment but when she turned back, it was gone and the door was still closed.
God, she hated cats.
Not long after, Molly was discharged. She was cautioned by one of the nurses not to strain herself and instead of walking out of the hospital – which she felt like she could – Molly was wheeled out and right into a big car. Frank’s car.
He was standing next to it how the men in those car magazines Molly used to skim stood next to cars. Proud. Arms crossed across his chest. “You gave us quite the scare, little lady,” Frank said. He helped her out of the wheelchair and into the car, fastening her into the back seat like she was a newborn in a car seat. She caught a whiff of something strange-smelling coming from one of Frank’s pockets but she dismissed it as soon as he shut the door. He jumped into the driver’s seat and pulled away from the parking bay.
“What happened to me?” Molly asked. Her voice came out of her hoarse and she swallowed a couple of times before clearing her throat and asking, “Where are you taking me?”
Frank grunted before replying. “You had a fall. The doctors said you had a clot up here,” he pointed a finger to his temple and let his hand return to the steering wheel again. “They gave you medication. Blood thinners. They monitored you for a few days watching whether the meds were working. Thankfully the clot disintegrated by itself and you didn’t need surgery.”
Molly looked out of the tinted windows and watched the outside world pass her by. “A clot?” She asked. In her head? “Unbelievable,” she whispered.
Frank spied her in the rearview mirror. “Lucky we found you when we did,” Frank said. “I was heading out to the bank when I saw you on the side of the road.”
Molly suddenly jerked up causing a slight dizzy spell. “Where’s my phone? My purse?”
“They weren’t on you,” Frank said. Which was only partially true. When Molly collapsed on the street, Patrick made his way towards her and carefully pilfered her purse – which had her phone, her keys, and her ID (among other things) – and stuffed it in his bag. Her things were now secure in Frank’s home office. While she slept at the hospital, Frank managed to get someone to break into her phone and remove her passcodes. Molly’s mother called her a number of times (13 in fact) and Frank texted her back pretending to be Molly and after satisfactorily convincing her that Frank was her daughter Molly and that she was fine, she stopped calling as much. Molly’s ID was used to track her mother down and now Frank and his cohorts knew where she lived. He had someone keep an eye on her movements.
“My keys were in my purse,” Molly said. “How am I supposed to access my place?”
“You’re in no position to stay by yourself, dear,” Frank said. “I’m taking you to my house. I have lots of room and I talked to Caroline, and she is more than happy to help you with your recovery.”
Molly scrunched up her face, visibly shaken. Frank smiled at her in the rearview mirror, “Don’t worry, we’re not after your organs.” He laughed.
Molly relaxed her countenance a bit but she felt as if something was off. On one hand, Frank was being very nice to her but they only just met. People usually weren’t that nice to people that they did know. She wanted to call her mother. Talk to someone familiar. Someone she knew. But something inside her told her not to think about it. It was strange. It felt like she had a copilot in her head who sat quietly in the background until she had a thought that it would silently but surely protest. She felt an odd calm and let that part of her think for a while as she rested her head and her eyes.
Don’t worry. We’re not after your organs.
Frank’s home was an expansive mansion nestled into a forested patch of real estate. The house itself was comically large in Molly’s estimation. It was only two floors high but it seemed to be very very wide. Each room on the upper level had a balcony and at the lower level, where the entrance was, wide pillars held the house up. Frank parked right outside the main door and helped Molly, who now had regained the limited use of her legs, into the house.
She gawked and stared as she stood in the massive foyer. An elegant staircase rose up into the upper level on her left. It was gorgeous white marble, the banister was a polished wood that was almost transmuted into bronze. The walls on her left and her right bared large framed paintings of long ago forgotten lands and customs. Renaissance paintings of naked ladies running from goat-legged imps, unflatteringly drawn bowls of fruit, horses galloping in the wilds of God knows which country. One painting – the largest one – depicted a scene from the book of Exodus. The Israelites surrounding a small altar atop which stood a golden figure of a cow. The subjects of the painting were captured as they danced around the altar – their garments (for those who had garments for there were surely some who did not) flew behind them as they danced and jumped and flailed themselves around. A visibly shocked Moses stood in the background with pieces of broken rock at his feet. The sky above the entire scene was a smoky black that made the entire scene more luminous and striking. Below this particular painting, was a white table that had a similar sculpture of a calf, a golden pot with a few incense sticks, and a small bowl filled with keys.
“Welcome home,” Frank said from behind her. His voice amplified by the large room that wasn’t really a room. “Odhis will show you to the room we have prepared for you.” Molly turned from the Exodus painting to see a dark, muscular man dressed in a white polo shirt, white khakis, and pitch-black shoes standing at the foot of the staircase. He had appeared so suddenly that Molly let out a soft yelp.
Odhis bowed before Frank and Molly before extending his arm to a hallway to his right. An invitation to follow him. Molly allowed him to lead her to a room just past a large kitchen. Frank followed closely behind them. The room was an impressive guest suite easily many times bigger than her current apartment. It had a small living area where a plush sofa sat facing a very large television above a fireplace. Behind this was a king-sized bed that was made with a blush bedcover and about half a dozen dazzling white pillows. Above the bed was a bare shelf that had a few trinkets and one of those automatic air fresheners. Next to the bed, on the right, were large windows currently draped with long flowy gray curtains that matched the sofa. The curtains were drawn shut by Odhis when Molly sat on the bed.
“There are some clothes in the closet that you may find more comfortable. Catherine picked them out. Try to get some rest,” Frank told her from where he stood at the door. “Odhis will be by later with something to eat.”
“Okay,” Molly said. She was still struggling with her new surroundings but the comfortable mattress beneath her was sweet-talking her.
“Feel free to ask Odhis for anything,” Frank said. “Within reason that is,” he added and guffawed.
“Okay,” Molly said.
Odhis bowed and left the room. Frank repeated, “Try to get some rest.” Then he shut the door and left her in the space alone.
Molly lay her head on the pile of pillows and stretched out on the bed. She stared at the paneling on the ceiling and the recessed lights for what seemed like forever before the automatic air freshener sprayed a mist into the air. She smelled the same kind of smell she got from Frank’s pocket earlier. It smelled a bit like old fermented porridge. A few droplets settled on her face but before she could move, the gadget sent another mist into the air. This time it smelled pleasant. Like orange rinds. It went off once more and this time she didn’t smell anything but she fell asleep instantly.
In her dream, Molly was in the Exodus painting. She was one of the nude characters dancing wildly for the cow idol. At the bottom of the stone altar, there was a shallow trench that held a red liquid. It was thick and dark and smelled like wet iron. Blood. She danced around the trench shouting loudly above the crowd. Suddenly one of the others shoved a dagger into her hand and she wasted no time in slicing one of her fingers and joining her blood to the blood in the trench. In the distance, she heard the sound of something breaking but she didn’t care. She was lost in the frenzy. She was happy.
On her bed, she wrapped her hands around herself and smiled.
One of her fingers was bleeding.