The Sneak Preview

Chapter 9

There’s a chance that while refraining from singing, I may have slept with Conner.  It’s a little fuzzy, but consciousness just crept in and we are laying on the basement couch tangled up almost naked with each other.

“I’m going to the bathroom.  Do you want anything while I’m up?” he asks, kissing my forehead.

“A glass of water, please.”

I watch him shuffle out of the room, then I drift back to sleep.

The heat from the sun causes me to roll over and open my eyes.  I sit up and survey the basement.  I’m alone.  Groping around on the floor, I find my purse and cell phone.  It’s six thirty in the morning.  He went to the bathroom three hours ago.  Where is he?  I gather my clothes and throw them on.  My underwear is no where to be seen, which worries me a little, but I think the most important part right now is finding Conner before his parents find me.

I call his cell phone.  It rings from under the couch.  I start to panic.  I’m in his parents’ house.  His very Catholic mother is upstairs.  She’s bound to come down here eventually.  And I don’t imagine she’ll be thrilled to see a hungover, partially dressed, black-eyed me in her basement.

I pad to the door and open it slowly.  The bathroom is right outside the door and it’s empty.  There doesn’t seem to be any movement in the house.  Did he leave without me?  My best option is probably to sneak through the house and bolt out the front door.

I’m about to sprint up the stairs when I remember that my underwear is still missing in action.  I hate to abandon it because it’s my favorite red Hanky Panky thong, but I don’t have much time before Mrs. Adair rises from her bed or crypt, or wherever it is she rests.  Of course, I don’t want her to find it either.  Fuck.  I inspect under the couch, tear the cushions off and dig around the frame.  Nothing.  It isn’t hanging from the lights or ceiling fan.  I search behind the drink bar where there’s a refrigerator and a giant stand-alone freezer.  Oh God.  I’ll have to leave it behind.  I can only hope she doesn’t find out it’s mine.

The stairway to the first floor opens up into the kitchen and living room, which leads to the front door and the exposed staircase up to his parents’ room.  The kitchen floor creaks as I creep through.  I hope Conner is in here so I can bitch slap his face before I run like hell.

No such luck.

When I get into the living room, I hear someone moving around upstairs.  Dear God.  I scurry across the living room to the front door.  The dead-bolt clicks as I unlock it.  My fingers curl around the door knob.  Just when I think I’ve found freedom, I notice the alarm system blinking beside the door.  It’s on.  If I go out the door, it will set off the system.

A toilet flushes upstairs.  Oh my God.  I debate running out the door anyway and booking it down the block.  The house is on a ravine that leads to my parents’ house, so by the time the police show up I could be safe in my own bed.  Of course, the embarrassment would be much worse if the police trace the break-and-enter to my house and come knocking on my parents’ door.

Where the hell is he?

Then the door to his parents’ room opens upstairs.  Blinded by fear, I hurtle through the living room and kitchen, back into the basement.  I don’t stop to catch my breath until I’m safely behind the couch.

Someone starts making breakfast in the kitchen above me.  This is bad.  Really, really, bad.  Mrs. Adair is a lethal mixture of Catholic Italian and Greek, and here I am in her basement almost naked on a Sunday.

I call the one person I can think of that may be able to get me out of here without Mrs. Adair noticing.

“I need help,” I whisper.

“What time is it?” Joe yawns.

“I’m stuck in the Adairs’ basement.  I have no idea where he is and now Mrs. Adair is upstairs moving around and I can’t get out of the house!”

“Why are you at the Adairs’?”

“Bob the cop drove me here.  I had no choice.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“With Bob?”

“With Conner, Zane.  Did you sleep with Conner?”

“Can we focus on the bigger issue here?”

I can almost hear his eyes roll.  “Why are you calling me?”

“Wait in your car outside.  I’m going to make a run for it and there’s no way I can book it home in these heels.”

“Don’t you have to go through the kitchen to get to the door?”

“I’ll put something over my head.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“How about you ring the doorbell and distract her while I run out.  She loves you.”

“I’m not doing that.”

“Joe, do you have any idea what Mrs. Adair will do to me if she sees me here?”

He sighs.  “Is there a window?”

I madly look around, remembering a window when I woke up.  There it is.  It’s a tiny window over the deep freeze on the other side of the room, but big enough that I think I can fit my body through.

“Yes!  Yes!  There’s a window!”

I rush over and inspect it.  There’s a little wire attached to a blinking white box on the pane.  “It’s attached to the alarm system.”

“Wait till she turns the alarm off to get the paper and then climb out the window.  I’ll wait down the block.”

Then I hear someone on the stairs.

“Someone’s coming,” I hiss and slap the phone shut.

I dive behind the couch and hold my breath.  The door opens.  A shadow appears on the wall beside me.  Oh God.  I don’t think I’ve been a horrible person.  I cheated on a social studies test in sixth grade.  The girl across from me was a history mastermind, so I copied all her answers.  I got one hundred percent.  But I don’t think I’ve ever done anything bad enough that would put me in the kind of position that would lead Mrs. Adair to find me hiding in her basement on a holy day.

The person opens the freezer and digs around.  I try to focus on the reflection in the glass cabinets.  It’s her.  It’s Mrs. Adair.  This is it.  This is how I’m going to die.  Here lies Lelaina Zane, aspiring writer, died at twenty-six while still living with her parents and dressed like a whore in her ex-boyfriend’s basement.  Cause of death is unknown, possible heart attack or strangulation by crazed mother-in-law to be.  Did I say mother-in-law to be?  I didn’t mean it.

After an eternity rummaging around, Mrs. Adair grabs some frozen waffles, closes the freezer door and vacates the room.  I lay on the floor, staring up at the ceiling.  I could stay here until I die.  They would eventually find my body and explain to my parents what happened.  Mr. and Mrs. Zane, did your daughter moonlight as a whore?

I sit up and peek over the couch.  As I do, the door opens again.  I hit the ground.  Don’t let it be Mrs. Adair.  I will do anything.  I will never have sex again.  Please don’t let it be her.

A shadow appears over my head.  I glance upward and come eye to eye with Mrs. Adair’s angry face.  Her dark eyes are almost as black as her hair, a huge contrast to her heavily creased porcelain skin.  The devil himself would shun this woman from hell for fear she’d take over.

She flinches when she sees my eyes.  “Would you like to explain yourself?”

I really wouldn’t.

My heart thunders in my chest.  I may have to yell so she can hear me over the noise.

“Mrs. Adair.  Hi,” I say, as though I’m casually surprised to run into her here.  I stay on the ground, not wanting her to see how I’m dressed.

“What happened to your face?”

I hope she means the black eyes.  It could also be last night’s make up that is smeared across my face.

“I fell off a table at work.”  I don’t have time to add that I work at a preschool and not a strip club.

“Where’s my son?”  She asks me like I’ve gagged him and stuffed his body in a trunk somewhere.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”  She crosses her arms.  “How is it that you’re in my basement then?”

“He went to the bathroom four hours ago and didn’t come back.  He’s probably upstairs.”

Let him be upstairs.

“Do your parents know where you are?”

Yes, I made sure to tell them I was getting hammered and coming back here to get laid.

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