“Thank goodness it’s finally Friday. Halle-freakin’-lujah!”
Running my hands across the soft sheets, I think about the stack of documents in my inbox at work and pull the covers over my head. I dread going into work today. The thought of the Powerball ticket I bought yesterday puts a smile on my face. What if I get all six numbers? I come up for air, laughing out loud imagining myself telling my boss what I really think about him. The laughter subsides when reality sets in. I’d have a better chance at becoming the first woman president of the United States than winning the lottery.
I sit up and move from side-to-side, thinking about what a sweetheart Jessica is for letting me crash in her master suite. She’s more than a best friend—she’s the sister I’ve always wanted and has the life I’ve always dreamed of—blond, rich, and thin—talk about winning the lottery. She was right. Sleeping in her king-size bed was like swimming in melted butter. The soreness is gone. Actually, I slept like a rock last night. Hopefully, my back spasms won’t return. They’ve been flaring up all week, and I’m tired of popping pain pills. Matt would have a fit if he knew how many I’ve downed this week. He thinks I’m having back problems because of the extra ten pounds I’ve put on, but I know that has nothing to do with it. It’s because I sit all day at work.
I get out of bed and my eyes shift to the clock on the cherry wood dresser. I wonder why Jessica didn’t wake me at 6:00 like I had asked. Staring at the seven and two zeros, I’m glad I woke up when I did. I turn toward the window and squint against the sun’s rays spilling through the partially open custom shutters. It’s going to be another hot July in the City of Angels. I snatch the squishy out of my hair and it falls just past my shoulders. If I skip washing it, I might make it to work on time.
I walk to the double doors and press them open. “Jess, are you up?” I yell, meandering through the endless hallway toward the guest bedroom. The silence gives me pause. I stop at the nursery. An early riser, maybe she decided to decorate this morning and lost track of time. “Jess, you in here?” I ask, opening the door to the pink pastel room that’s outfitted with an enormous pink crib and matching dresser. A shelf on the wall is lined with stuffed animals. Rolls of wallpaper and a can of paint sit on the hardwood floor, but there’s no sign of Jessica. Then I remember her telling me she was going to wait up for Grant’s call. London’s eight hours ahead of us, and he was going to touch base with her when he landed. That would have been 2:00 in the morning our time. Poor thing’s probably knocked out.
I make a beeline for the guest bedroom and notice the door’s ajar. Peeking in, I get a glimpse of her long blond locks strewn over the pillow and decide to let her sleep. Just as I’m about to close the door, my eyes lock onto my favorite casual Friday outfit draped over the small chair next to the window. Dang. I creep in, hoping not to wake her. Reaching for my jeans and sweatshirt, I notice specs of red on the white wall she’s facing. A tingling feeling shoots through my body and I feel weak in the knees. A twinge of sadness washes over me. The sunlit room is suffocating.
“Jess?” I say, walking around the full-size bed. My stomach lurches and bile spills from my mouth onto the Berber carpet. My eyes burn and I feel tears on my cheeks before I realize I’m crying. I back away from her, trembling, imagining the horror she must have experienced. Her eyes stare vacantly, unseeing. Her throat’s ripped open, and a large pool of congealed blood lies beneath her. There’s blood on the side of the bed and floor. Shrill ear-bursting screams send me tumbling head first over the chair onto my butt. It takes me a moment to recognize those sounds as my own. I bolt out of the room, tripping over my feet, choking, barely able to breathe.
“Help! Somebody help,” I holler, clutching my nightgown, stumbling down the spiral staircase. What if the killer is still inside the house? Loud banging on the front door snaps me out of my thoughts.
“Senora James, let me in. I can’t find my key. Let me in, por favor.”
“Jesus, oh my God,” I say, running to the foyer, flinging the front door open.
“Stacey, what’s wrong? I thought you were Jessica.”
“Jessica…Jessica...she…we have to call the police, Rosa.”
“Yes, the police— 911,” I say sobbing, snatching the phone out of her hand.