The White King Enters
Start Chapter 7:
Elizabeth stumbled back from work like a drunkard, much as she always did. She could barely make it up the stairs, feeling much more tired than usual. She had barely slept for days; dark bags were shadowed under her eyes, which themselves were bloodshot. Her feet stumbled and tripped as though they were comatose, and she pulled herself up the stairs as though she were ascending to a higher plane of existence by means of her own willpower. She saw the door to her apartment ahead and could feel the exhaustion lift slightly.
She stepped through the door into apartment, and stared. Rebecca was standing in the center of the room, her eyes looking at something just beyond the walls of the room. Michael was sitting on the floor, chattering happily to himself about something she couldn't comprehend in a language she didn't understand. Elizabeth could do nothing but watch for a few moments, in terror and horror, as her world fell out of her control once more. She gently moved towards them, trying not to startle them out of the bizarre trance-- she'd heard that doing so was bad, but she was getting her information about trances mixed up with her information about sleepwalking.
"Why aren't we going to the church, mommy?" Michael asked abruptly.
"We... just can't, okay?" Elizabeth said, feeling ill. Her outburst seemed to shake Rebecca out of her reverie.
"You're going to be late for work, E, get going."
"Rebecca... I just got back from work."
Neither Rebecca nor Michael could remember if anything had happened that night, but both found themselves with crippling headaches and stomach cramps. Elizabeth gave Rebecca a glass of water, as the girl promised to come over and watch Michael again once she had slept off the headache. Then Elizabeth put Michael to bed, tenderly resting a damp cloth on his forehead. She created him a hot drink out of lemon and honey, and gently closed the door, hoping he would sleep. She crept across to the bathroom and took off her work clothes. They were sticky with sweat and alcohol, and smelt like smoke. She inhaled deeply, staring at her aging face in the mirror. Then, barely suppressing a yawn, she stepped into the shower.
She had to stay under control. She wanted to stay under control. But she wasn't brave, or smart, or strong, and so her shoulders began to shake and she began to sob. She rested her head against the cool concrete as the water poured over her body and wailed, hoping the bathroom door would block the sound. Elizabeth didn't cry, not to other people, not if she could help it. But that night she cried at a world turned upside down. She took a deep breath, and halted her tears. Then, on automatic, she turned off the shower and stepped out, toweling herself off. Suddenly the exhaustion of the last few days hit her like a train. Yawning, she stumbled to the bedroom and collapsed onto the bed next to her son.
She woke up and was already five minutes late for work. She sprang from her bed, cursing violently and waking Michael slightly from his slumber. "Muh?" he mumbled, cheeks puffy with illness.
"Shh, shh, shh, sweetie, go back to sleep, it's all fine," Elizabeth cooed, pulling on her clothes in blind panic. She wondered where Rebecca was, remembering an article she had read about how black people were stereotypically late. She caught herself thinking about it and felt both sickened at her own latent racism and terrified at the public scrutiny that came through the blog "Once." She knew Rebecca would be hurt by the thoughts of her employer should the babysitter read it. In any case, it wasn't true, Rebecca was never late. Except at that moment, undercut another thought. Elizabeth tried not to throw up and bounced back and forth on her heels, waiting for Rebecca to arrive. Rebecca finally burst through the door, panting, but before the girl could even apologize Elizabeth was sprinting down the stairs to work. She needn't have bothered running so fast, by the time she arrived the place was already aflame.
She stared, not knowing that she was only on the cusp of a life that was about to get much, much worse.
End of Chapter Seven
The White King Exits.