Updated: Nov 17, 2021
The smoke and floating ashes looked like fire flies in the night. Sheryl snuffed out the weed cigarette on her window sill. It was relaxing, but it was a tiny hit—the last of her stash.
She went downstairs and checked the kitchen. Her parents had left several minutes ago to search for Derrick. Then she rummaged through the fridge and cabinets. There was plenty of food, but nothing to eat right away.
Why does everything go wrong? Well, I’m already high… Sheryl stood on top of a chair and reached for the top shelf within the cabinet. She groped around the shelf until she she grabbed a bottle of wine and a tall glass.
It was a decent vintage that she was saving for special occasion. She sat at the table and uncorked the bottle. This wasn’t a good day, though it was a good time to forget.
Derrick’s fine—he’s a grown man. Probably just hanging at friend’s place and talking shit about me… As she drank the alcohol, she knew that Derrick wouldn’t behave poorly. He was a friend that helped her overcome her addiction, and he used to be Cecilia’s husband.
Sheryl wasn’t at fault. Her parents weren’t angels. Cecilia had known that, and she got pregnant because of the pressure. Yet, Cecilia’s life had become more stable after pregnancy while Sheryl’s became chaotic. Death had never been Sheryl’s wish, but she was tired of being alone.
After she brooded and sipped three-quarters of the bottle, a migraine was beating on her brain. She tried to reason out the things she had done and realized someone was knocking on the front door. This wasn’t her problem and her parents had their keys, so she continued to nurse her wine.
“Hey, Sheryl, it’s Derrick. Please open the door!”
The door rattled and Sheryl rushed to the entrance. She stopped at the door and tried to straighten her hair. Then she heard Derrick whispering, and she put her ear against the door.
“Maybe she isn’t home?” said feminine voice.
“No, Sheryl has to be here,” said Derrick. “The lights are on and I don’t think she would’ve gone else where after smoking weed.”
“She’s smoking again? I thought we already resolved this? Ok, we’re doing this my way.”
Sheryl looked through the peep hole—Derrick was gone and she caught sight of a woman’s back. Then Sheryl opened the door and stepped outside. The yard, sidewalk, and street were empty.
Really? I barely smoke and I haven’t even finished the bottle. She locked the door and returned to the kitchen. The glass and bottle were empty. It was weird, but she didn’t question oddity.
Then she left the kitchen and climbed the stairs. The drunken high was making her nauseous. As she held onto the railing and shuffled her feet, a pair shoes appeared on the stairs. She walked past the shoes and found a shirt lying next to a pair of pants.
I should’ve ate something. Sheryl kicked the clothes down the stairs and headed to her room. Derrick’s door was cracked open.
Before she could question the circumstance, her stomach lurched and she raced to the bathroom. Once she pilled her guts into the toilet, she pulled her sheets from her bed. She was ready for sleep, yet her stomach felt something else.
Although her impulsive curiosity carried her to the hallway, Derrick’s wide open door caused her stop in front of his room.
The lights were on and the mattress was flipped over. There was a dusty book sticking out of an air vent under the bed frame. Sheryl grabbed and flipped through the pages of the book. It was Cecilia’s journal written a few months before she moved in with Derrick.
Even though the book didn’t have too many details, there was enough to cause all sorts of trouble.
A secret journal… maybe, he didn’t read the whole thing? Sheryl clutched the book close to her chest and retreated to her room. She shut the door and grabbed the light on her nightstand, but she jumped when a body sized lump moved beneath her blanket.
As Sheryl dropped everything and pulled out her phone, the blanket moved and revealed someone’s head on the pillow. She recognized Derrick’s hair and relaxed. Derrick snored and Sheryl stripped her clothes.
Then she went under the blanket and cuddled against her back. “You’re angry and alone, but my sister wouldn’t want that. I want you to be happy.”
Derrick turned and a wide smile was stretched across his face. Sheryl was taken aback. Was he high? Or did I smoke and drink too much?
“What’s the matter? Don’t like what you see?” Derrick spoke with a higher pitch.
When Derrick sat up, he brushed and flicked his hair back as if it were long. He crawled over Sheryl’s body and held his face inches from hers.
His smile was almost comedic, but it withered into a frown and his gaze grew colder. Sheryl hadn’t seen him with such a look, and yet she had seen someone else behave in such a manner.
Thick fingers wrapped around the circumference of Sheryl’s neck. She pulled and scratched his fingers, but the pressure grew as he pressed down on her throat.
“Ah,” gasped Sheryl. “Please…let go.”
“Stop moving.” Derrick squeezed Sheryl’s neck until she stopped resisting. “There we go. It’s good to see you. How long has it been?”
“What are you saying? We—” Sheryl tried to say more, but she struggled to catch her breath.
“Don’t remember? Have you wiped out all of our memories within four months?” Derrick flashed his teeth and his breath caused Sheryl to flinch. “Why did you lie to Derrick?”
Oh no. Is he? Sheryl shifted her head and eased the strain on her voice. “Are you Cecilia?”
“Who else would I be? You erased me from our family, and you slept with my husband. Tell me, why?”
As Derrick gazed and waited for an answer, Cecilia’s face over lapped his face. Sheryl was stunned until she crossed her eyes and Derrick’s face reappeared.
“Cecilia, I’m sorry, but you’re not real. Derrick listen”
While Sheryl pleaded, Derrick ran his free hand along the length of Sheryl’s body. She coughed as he tickled and strangled her. It made it impossible for her to speak or think.
“You’re right, Derrick has been good for us. He accepted Jason as his son and he’s more than I could’ve dreamed of. Should I give you what you want?” Derrick reached into the pillow case and pulled out a knife.
“Wait, I didn’t know. Let me help you—” Sheryl was silenced when she felt the tip of knife. Derrick dragged the blade—the edge cut through the blanket and it grazed Sheryl’s skin.
If Sheryl tried to fight back, the knife would go into her guts and she would be strangled. It would be a merciless end.
“Will I haunt you? Will you remember me? I guess it doesn’t matter anymore,” whispered Sheryl. Her body became numb and her heart accepted the relief.
Derrick maintained the twisted smile, but sweat gathered on his forehead. The knife trembled, yet he tightened the grip on Sheryl’s neck. His eyes darted back and forth as if he was searching for something. Then he lifted her by her neck and raised the knife above their heads.
Although Sheryl was waiting for the moment, she shut her eyes when the blade came down. Death wrapped its arms around her body and squeezed the life out of her. The world stopped turning. Her breathing returned to normal, and the painful fear was diluted with confusing anticipation.
Am I dead? Is he torturing me? Sheryl opened her eyes—Derrick was hugging her and the knife was nowhere to be seen.
“Thank you,” said Sheryl. “I know it’s hard, but if we work together—”
“I thought I would kill you. I really did.” Derrick sounded exactly like Cecilia. He released Sheryl and tears were running from his eyes. “I wanted to do it, and I was sure Derrick would stop me…”
“How is this possible?” Sheryl couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Dr. Fletcher said you were a psychological crutch.”
When Derrick left the bed, he transformed into Cecilia. Sheryl tumbled off the bed and retreated to the farthest corner of the room.
Cecilia picked Sheryl’s clothes from the floor and put them out. “You’re my sister. We grew up together and you’re the only one that knows I’m alive. Besides Derrick, of course.”
Sheryl rubbed her belly with her hand—there was blood, but the wound wasn’t lethal.
“That’s a small reminder.” Cecilia sat next to Sheryl. “Our minds are fragile. Reality made me angry, but I’ve learned to forgive.’
Cecilia ruffled Sheryl’s hair and kissed her on the forehead, and walked out of the room. “Thank you for keeping Derrick alive. He’ll be taking care of you from now on. Next time, we’ll go to the mall.”
Derrick drove past the spot where the accident had occurred and stuck his head out the window. It was a sunny afternoon and the breeze carried the ocean’s scent.
“It’s so refreshing,” said Cecilia.
“I know you want to feel it for yourself,” said Derrick. “Be patient. It’s dangerous for us to transform in public.”
Cecilia projected a spliced memory of herself pouting as an eight year old and her adult self was pouting with the same expression.
They laughed at the silly image she created. Their minds were their own, so their memories became books, movies, and pictures that they shared. This allowed them to rediscover themselves and play with their past.
The two hour trip was finally completed after two months had passed. Derrick parked the car and carried the bags to the beach house.
Once he dropped the bags in the master bed room, he stretched his body to loosen his muscles.
“That drive was bad for my back.” Derrick leaned back as far as could and used a chair to keep his balance. “You wouldn’t mind if I take the first swim, right?”
“Yes, I do mind. We had an agreement!” Her voice was stern and she recalled the exact plans that they had discussed three days earlier.
“I’m kidding. I wouldn’t take this away from you.” Derrick removed his clothes and transformed into Cecilia. She put on her swimsuit and grabbed her beach bag, and skipped out of the house.
The water was separated by thirty yards of hot sand, but it felt like warm pillows on Cecilia’s feet. She plopped her bag onto a secluded patch of sand and leaped into the water.
A tiny shock went through her body when she was immersed in the water. Every pore on her skin mingled with the salt water and it exhilarated her body. There was no wind and the clouds were scarce—the water was transparent and the sea floor was visible a dozen yards off the shore. It was a natural wonder and a fulfilling dream.
After Cecilia returned to the shore, she put a towel on the sand and laid on top of it. The sun bathed her and her skin tingled as the water evaporated. She had brought sun screen, but she came to accept that her body could take care of itself. Derrick was willing to make an exception, so she put on her sunglasses and enjoyed a power nap in the sunshine.
“Hey there!” A man who wore red swimming trunks approached Cecilia. “You look comfortable. How about I keep you company?”
Before she could respond, Derrick took control and spoke with his deep voice. “We’re here on our honey moon. My wife and I want nothing to do with you. Have a nice day.”
“Uh, ok?” The man blinked several times and squinted at Cecilia. Then he stumbled as he pulled his foot out of the sand and trudged away.
“That was sudden,” said Cecilia.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snatch control from you…” said Derrick.
“It was nice of you to do. I probably would’ve kicked sand in his face or insult his manhood.” Cecilia stared at the clouds that blocked her sun light and sighed. “Derrick, what if I’m not real?
“Sorry, but that would be pretty awkward. I mean, I packed a bag with several sets of women’s clothing—”
“I’m serious.” Cecilia turned around and laid her face upon her hands. “Our reunion was like a nightmare, yet we’re closer than before…Am I disease?”
Derrick reminded her of all the good things they shared and he couldn’t know everything. But Cecilia wondered if her own memories were merely fragments and imaginings that he unconsciously made.
It was a dark reality. However, Derrick brought forth the joy he experienced through her first time in the ocean. He replayed how they grieved for Jason and how each of their emotions carried different flows.
Then he relived every moment that he spent with her, and she began play her own views as well. They exchanged their lives and thoughts, and cradled each other’s responsibilities.
Although Derrick and Cecilia’s concerns didn’t vanish, their euphoria was a sign and the crisis became lovely after thought.