5.

Back at 112 Orchid Manor, Jane jutted her hips back and forth. Her black hair slicked against her face with sweat, wild green eyes flared with each pluck of the flamenco guitar. She went over to the stereo and turned the volume knob up and up.

She let the music outgrow the walls of the house, moving her cells. 

For the past twenty-five minutes she danced and it hadn’t occurred to her why Shirley would be gone for so long in such dreadfully hot conditions. At this time of day, she was likely to get sun poisoning! Jane snapped off the flamenco and put on an old recording of Bob Marley.

Jane slowly nodded her head to the reggae beat, closing her eyes and wishing she was stoned. She got up to go dig through Shirley’s nightstand in hopes of finding an old joint and as she went she floated by a mirror in the hallway. Parallel to the moment Shirley slipped off the small cliff edge, Jane looked into the hallway mirror and felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that she couldn’t quite pinpoint.

Jane flicked her hair, ignored the feeling, and entered the bedroom.

Opening the top drawer of Shirley’s dresser, Jane gasped as she saw a picture of herself with Shirley at last year’s Christmas party. In the photo she was wearing a dress she’d bought many years ago. In the picture, Jane’s eyes seemed to jump out of her face and she had too much black eye-liner on. As she looked at herself in the picture, Jane realized she looked vacant. Like she hadn’t yet developed any real sense of anything beyond basic superficial survival existence. In a moment of rare self-reflection, Jane realized that her entire sphere of influence up to this point in her life had been people her age that were nearly identical to her, taking clues from the fashion magazines and the movies and the books and internet about what it meant to be happy and live a full life.

Jane took the picture over to the mirror on Shirley’s vanity and looked at the mirror, holding up the picture next to herself. She examined both Janes. Again, the worried feeling returned as she looked at herself in the mirror. What was it? She looked harder at her face in the mirror, hoping the feeling would pinpoint. Looking at the old Christmas photo, she could see that in her eyes there was a vagueness. In fact, she was certain she had learned this look from the fashion magazines! And, in the picture of her in the dress, she could see she was trying to copy this look! Jane smiled and looked back at her reflection in the mirror and did the same pose as she was doing in the picture. Then she stopped smiling and examined both Janes more closely. The eyes. The vagueness. The sinking feeling was there again. It was the feeling that she was still vague in the eyes. She forgot the Jane from the picture and looked at herself in the mirror, trying to figure something out about it. For a moment she stayed like that, trying to source where she was.  She put the picture back in the drawer and continued looking for a joint.

She opened Shirley’s mother’s jewelry box on top of the dresser thinking this would be a good place to store hash. Jane remembered the story of this box and the jewelry in it that Shirley had told her:

“She told me to go through it and find a few pieces that I liked. She said that when she died she would give it all to me and Lola anyway so we might as well have it now.  I reminded her that she was only fifty and we laughed together.  I took diamonds, an old snuffbox, and an antique purse. I was scared. About death. That my own mother had been thinking about it.”

            Jane sighed and shut the lid of the box tight. Then she saw a tape cassette wedged between the jewelry box and the mirror as if it had fallen. She opened it and found a little roach in an empty tape cassette. Jane smiled at her unexpected success. Lighting up the small remains of a joint, and taking small, frequent hits, Jane sat at the vanity and stared at herself as she blew smoke. She fingered the various jewels that were Shirley’s mother’s.  When all had been smoked and Jane was stoned, she went back to the living room to wait for Shirley to return.