He was gone in the morning. When she woke, she looked for him, but saw no chair next to her bed, no man with the sad brown eyes watching over her.
Had it he been a dream then? Had he even been there? The man on the street, perhaps he had not been real after all, perhaps the manic episode had caused her to hallucinate. Perhaps her mind had needed him, and she had made him up. "We are such things as dreams are made on," she murmured.
She could hear Reomi in the kitchen, and the smell of bacon cooking wafted out. She cast one look of longing at her bed, hoping she could conjure him, but went into the bathroom to take a shower. Maybe he would appear, soaping her back, touching her with his smooth, cool, hands.
She half dried her hair, and pulled on a tee shirt and sweatpants. Forcing a smile onto her face, she went into the kitchen and told Reomi that breakfast smelled delicious, and had Grant left yet?
Fortunately, he had. She had nothing against Grant, or the fact that her Japanese roommate preferred blond haired, blue eyed Anglos. Grant was nice, and prior to the manic episode, she'd enjoyed his company. Now, however, she found herself not quite tolerant of people, wanting, for the moment, to be left alone until she felt ready.
Except for her mystery man. How could he leave her when she needed him? And, to her dismay, Reomi had taken a few days off to help get her "re-settled", whatever that meant. She neither wanted, nor needed, a babysitter, but Reomi seemed so sincere, that she agreed to "mani-pedi's" and an all-day shopping trip. "I gotta get you out of the house," explained Reomi, "We're gonna meet Helen and Susie for lunch"they're really anxious to see you."
"Okay, I'll let you play social director just this once, but please, I know how scary things got, but I'm better. I see my new therapist tomorrow, and the shrink who's going to oversee my medication on Friday. Please, Reomi, what happened was like a sort of freak accident. I didn't know I was bipolar, so my body and psyche stepped in and made me listen. I'm really grateful for you, you know, you sort of saved my life."
She finished breakfast, and went into her bedroom to get dressed. Lying on her bed was a pair of khakis and her favorite cinnamon colored paisley blouse. It gave her a start, but she breathed a sigh of relief, he had not deserted her, after all. "Oh, thank you," she breathed, "I'll wear those if you want me to. I was so afraid you'd left me."
All day she looked for him, but didn't see him. She had to remember to concentrate on what Reomi was saying to her, take an interest in what color she should have her toes and nails done. And she had to make she that when she looked for him, Reomi wasn't watching.
Lunch was a chore. Susie and Helen didn't know what to say to her, she could tell what she had gone through embarrassed them, but why? How would it have been if she'd had cancer?
"You've lost some weight, it looks kind of good on you"not that you needed to lose any," said Helen.
"We expected you to be…" said Susie.
"Wearing a straight jacket?" she suggested. "Look, this is something hereditary, Mom and Dad are trying to find out who I could have inherited it from. Lots of people are bipolar, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I don't know how many adjustments I'll have to make to my life, but just think, when you're sitting at your desk at work, I'm going to be reveling in being a lazy slob. I started keeping a journal in the hospital, and I'm thinking about trying my hand at writing. I might even take a vacation to Mexico, on my own. I'm better now, and I feel good. The same old me, you know?"
Things had gone more smoothly after that. Reomi told her she was proud of her.
"Really?" said Maisie, "I thought I was sort of skirting rude there.
"No," Reomi replied, "You handled it just right, and you reminded me that I was trying to treat you with kid gloves and that's not necessary. I was so busy being anxious that I forgot that you just might want normal."
She put her arm around Reomi's tiny waist, "That's exactly what I want, normal. Come on, I want to go to Nordstrom's and buy something. Something to celebrate the new me."
She thought she caught a glimpse of him looking at her in the mirror as she tried on a pink eyelet shirt and a pair of slim blue jeans. Was it really him, or had it been wishful thinking? Would he come to her tonight and hold her while she slept? Was he staying away because of Reomi? Suddenly she wanted him very badly, and was angry that he wasn't there.
They left, carrying bags of clothes they couldn't really afford, but wanted badly. Why else did you go shopping anyway? The day was bright and beautiful, and she was feeling happy. When, out of nowhere, she thought she saw the car that had almost hit her.
She'd forgotten about it, really hadn't wanted to remember, but there it was, shiny maroon paint, and a lot of chrome. The headlamps seemed like two eyes to her, and the grill an evil chrome grin, full of purpose. No one was sitting in the driver's seat, but she swore she heard the motor idling suddenly increase, as if someone was pressing on the accelerator to scare her.
Reomi seemed not to notice, so, was it only her who could see the early sixties model Buick sitting there with no driver? Last time had the driver deliberately aimed the vehicle towards her? Was it even real? Was it a ghost vehicle sent to scare and haunt her?
"Let's see," said Reomi, "I think I parked the car around the corner, yes, I know I did. Come on, let's get out of here before the traffic gets too bad." She set off in the opposite direction of where the car was sitting, Maisie following in her wake. Once or twice, she looked over her shoulder nervously, wondering if the car was going to jump off the street and onto the sidewalk and try to gun them down.
She did not even feel safe when they reached Reomi's car, but the two thumps she heard against her door reassured her. "I'm here," it seemed to say, "I won't let anything happen to you." Or was it saying, "I see you, I know where you are?"
Did you hear that, she wanted to ask Reomi, am I the only one who heard it, but Reomi was busy fumbling with her keys, starting the car, and looking behind her as she turned into the street.
When they got home, the open door and the refuge of her bedroom beckoned her. She'd have to borrow money from her parents to cover the cost of her shopping spree, but knew they wouldn't mind. After the weeks of isolation, hiding in her bedroom, they'd be glad to cover the cost of what she'd spent. Besides, she'd lost a lot of weight and it would be a while before her clothes fit again, if she even gained the weight back.
She dumped the contents of the bags onto her bed, and began hanging up shirts, sweaters, and jeans. She'd even splurged on a new pair of shoes, wanting to show him. Each outfit had been chosen, wondering what he'd think of her in it. Was there anything wrong with that, she wondered?
"Pick out something cute to wear, we're going out tonight." Reomi's voice came out of nowhere and startled her.
"Omi, no, I'm tired. I'm only a few days out of the hospital…"
"Which is why we're going out. Grant wants to go to that new place, "Cue Ball." Wear your pink blouse and your new shoes. You look better than you should after a stay in the hospital. Come on, it will be fun."
"You know I can't play pool, what fun will that be? I'd really rather not be a bore and stay home."
"They have darts, and you're good at those. You ought to start playing again. You're going out, Maisie, you don't have a choice, so, put on your makeup and get dressed."
When Grant picked them up, he looked at her and whistled. She scowled at him, but was secretly pleased. The month in the hospital, the breakup with Larry, had left her feeling out of touch. Grant's playful whistle had reminded her that she was back in the world again. She even forgot about her secret, and enjoyed eating gourmet burgers and drinking margaritas she should not have. She felt happy, loose, at ease, and it was easy to notice the looks she was attracting.
She played darts, she was good at it and enjoyed it. When she decided she wanted a break, she sat down, only to have Reomi come and tell her it was time to play pool.
"I don't know how to play, the few times I've tried I've been terrible," she wailed, "Let me go back to darts, and you can play pool without me." But Reomi would not listen and dragged her by the arm to the tables, and put a cue in her hand.
Grant let Reomi break, and Maisie watched as her roommate coolly put three balls into the corner and side pockets. Reomi missed the next one and Grant told her, "Your turn, come on now."
Maisie cautiously approached the table, dreading what would happen, when she felt a hand on hers, guiding her, enabling her to land the next four balls into the pockets. Thank you, she thought, enjoying the feel of him next to her. It was the first time she'd ever enjoyed playing pool.
But it wasn't what she wanted, feeling him so close made her want to be alone with him. She decided to take a cab and go back to the apartment.
She started to gather up her coat and purse, looking for Reomi so she could tell her what she planned to do when he materialized before her.
"I'm getting ready to leave, she said, "I'm tired and I want to go home."
He shook his head and pointed his finger towards the others, as if to say, "No you're not, go back to your friends and enjoy yourself."
She sighed noisily, to let him know, okay she'd cooperate, but not because she wanted to. "Okay," she said, "I'll give in, just let me go to the restroom, then I'll come back, I promise, as long as you help me play."
He was watching her as she made her way to the restrooms. He was so sweet, why hadn't she met anyone like him? How old was her, anyway? His clothes looked like they were fashionable in the seventies, like his haircut. All she knew now was that she was thoroughly smitten, and she couldn't see being without him.
She reached the corner where the rest rooms were almost hidden. She was just about to step into the hallway when she noticed a cloud, a black cloud, swirling around. She watched fascinated, wondering what it was, why it was there. Two women walked into the little alcove, and she wanted to call out, "be careful, something's there," but they seemed oblivious as they passed through it and disappeared into the women's restroom.
She wanted to move, but her feet seemed planted to the floor, the cloud did not disperse, but seemed to gain strength and speed. What would happen if she didn't move, if she just stayed and watched, would it swallow her up and she'd spend the rest of eternity swimming inside? She reached out an arm, just to touch it she thought, when someone jerked her back.
She felt his strong grip on her arm, he was there protecting her from whatever it was.
"What is it?" she asked him, "Is that the same thing as the car, the car you saved me from the first day I saw you? What does it want with me? It scares me."
Again, he didn't speak"would he ever"but held her tightly, protecting her, his brown eyes intense as he watched the cloud, seeming to maybe communicate with it.
At last the cloud, or whatever it was, dissipated, and he walked her back to her table. Reomi and Grant were there, ready to leave. She followed them meekly to the car, then found him sitting next to her in the back seat, his arm around her holding her, protecting her.
What are you, she thought sleepily, where did you come from? Are you here to protect me? And will you ever speak to me, because I think I could fall in love with you.
That night he sat on the corner of her bed as she drifted off to sleep. "Will you be there in the morning?" she asked, and he smiled his melancholy smile, "Do you promise?" He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and she fell asleep.