Episode Seven here
Eight – What Happened?
Christabel was alive!
That was our shocking realisation. She was tied to the refrigerator with a green braided rope – one I had bought weeks back for an extra cloth-line. She was making concentrated effort to come out of what must have been a loss of consciousness… not death. The moaning sounds coming from her slightly parted lips were mostly mumbled incomprehensible words. And she was alive!
I hastened into the rather dusty room – I guess it hadn’t been cleaned for a while. I hardly ever come in here. It was Lola’s makeshift laundry room and general dump house. I suppose that’s why she’d chosen it for her body-hideout, knowing I wasn’t likely ever to come in here.
I went straight to the back of the refrigerator and squatted down to my knees proceeding to loosen the rope. The fear that had numbed me since Detective Davies’ visit yesterday morning was subsiding, in its place something I was recognising as a distrustful wariness mixed with a vague feeling of anger was creeping in.
“What are we going to do?” Lola asked standing in the middle of the room and watching me with eyes that were still fearful.
“Carry her out of here of course.” I snapped struggling with the knotted rope.
Her voice had been shaky but I didn’t care. A whole lot was going on inside my head. I’d been arrested… taken away before her very eyes and yet she hadn’t said anything. That was what confounded me the most.
Not that in her fury she’d slapped Christabel hard and knocked her down. Or that in her state of panic and instant fear, thinking Christabel dead, she’d hidden the body. That was a defense mechanism… something I probably would have done myself. Nor the fact that she’d lied to the Detective about her seeing Christabel that day – I’d lied myself and I hadn’t even really been guilty of anything.
I felt the gnawing sense of betrayal, hurt and increasing anger because she hadn’t told me. She hadn’t trusted me enough to confide in me. She’d mistakenly knocked a woman down, thought her dead, hidden her body, even tied it up in a mad bid to avert ghost haunt. She’d known a Police Detective was on the prowl and we were, for reasons best known to him, his topmost suspects and yet she hadn’t told me anything. She’d instead been looking for a means to dispose the body without my ever knowing about it.
I finally managed to untie the rope and then began to un-circle it from Christabel and the refrigerator. I’d been living with this woman for sixteen months now and yet at this moment I felt like I didn’t really know her. The realisation hurt me and the hurt angered me.
“Don’t just stand there twisting your hands, come here and help me carry her.” I bellowed swiping my head up to glower at her.
Lola bustled forward. “Where are we taking her?”
“To the grave.” I responded sarcastically. “To the spare bedroom of course.” I knew this was not the moment for anger, for reproach or for explanations, but I couldn’t help my feelings. “Lift her up by the legs.” I ordered brusquely.
With my hands under Christabel’s shoulders we lifted her off the floor and shuffled towards the door. Her legs knocked against the door frame as we carried her through it.
“Be careful. Or do you want to knock her unconscious again?” I growled.
“I didn’t purposely knock her unconscious before.” Lola cried defensively, her voice was wobbly. “You know very well that that was a mistake.”
“Well I’m only asking you not to make another mistake.”
My emphasis on ‘mistake’ was evident and Lola took note of it.
“Are you trying to suggest that I purposely knocked her down that night?” She demanded, heaving up Christabel’s feet that were slipping off her hands.
“I’m not trying to suggest anything.” I snapped out through clenched teeth. “And drop this conversation, this is not the time for it, okay?”
Lola muttered something under her breath. I couldn’t care less what she’d mumbled – that was her business.
We pushed into the spare bedroom. It was an empty room with just a regular-sized bed that was not laid. But I didn’t think Christabel would have minded, after having spent almost forty-eight hours on a heap of rumpled dirty clothes, tied to a refrigerator.
We laid her on the bed, used the pillow to support her head. She was still moaning, making slight movements with her head.
“Go get some cold water and a small towel.” I instructed. Lola rushed off to do my bidding without a word.
I stared down at the figure in pink leggings and an over-sized T-shirt and a sense of relief flooded over me. Thank God she was alive. She was breathing and was at least making some sounds. Every so often, her hands moved by her side and her head was swaying from side to side more frequently now. Since I wasn’t a doctor I couldn’t be sure what exactly had happened to her… but I was just relieved that she was alive. That we wouldn’t have to face being arrested by the Detective…
It struck me then – Detective Davies was Christabel’s boyfriend, a man she intended marrying. A flicker of fear slithered over me again.
Surely she would tell her Detective boyfriend and soon-to-be husband all that transpired? Oh God, we’d just escaped being arrested for murder only to be guilty of attempted murder. Another thought occurred to me – it wasn’t we, it was just Lola. And I discovered then that I didn’t want anything happening to my wife in spite of my present anger towards her.
Lola bustled back into the room bearing a bowl half-full of water and a face towel. For the next hour and half we cleaned up Christabel, used the towel and even got a blocked sachet of water to massage the mild swelling at the back of her head. The sounds from her dry-parted lips went from low moaning to incomprehensible mumblings and then to more recognisable words as she became more lucid.
“Thank you, thank you.” Christabel wheezed out as if speaking through a heavy-weighted mouth.
The words were mostly a gabble, unclear unless you bent towards her, which we were. We were both hunched over her, trying hard to understand her slow, sluggish words.
She continued to repeat her words of gratitude a little while longer. Soon her heavy-lidded eyes were flustering open and she was trying to focus on our anxious faces.
“Mr. Elvis?” She focused her eyes on my face hovering over hers. Groaning as she moved her head, she saw Lola. “Madam Lola.”
“Christabel…” Lola called moved her mouth like she was saying something but no words were coming out. Instead her eyes were pooling again.
I knew she was still afraid of what might happen to her when Christabel finally tells all to her boyfriend. I too had the same fear.
“Yes.” Christabel responded to her call. “Thank you for helping me.” She pushed out the words with slow concentration.
We exchanged a look, she was thanking us?
“Thank you, Mr. Elvis.” She gingerly turned her face to me again.
I nodded not knowing what else to do. And not comprehending why she was thanking us instead of accusing us.
Her next question had our heads swinging up as we turned to stare at each other.
“I can’t remember what happened.” She spoke slowly. “I only remember taking my taking bath and dressing up and… nothing else.” She tried to raise her hand.
Lola took it in hers.
“What happened to me please?” She repeated.
Lola turned to me, her eyes wide with puzzlement. And it dawned on me – Christabel was suffering from some kind of memory loss.
Episode Nine here