Facedown across her white linen bed, Lux turns over and exhales deep through her mouth. Her nose tickles. Something fuzzy brushes against her lips. She flicks the light on and looks up. Tiny dust flakes fall from the fan blades. It rattles and sounds like it could fall apart at any moment. Brushing the dust off, she uses a zebra print body pillow to shield from the downpour, strumming her fingers across the furry fabric. That was the price for putting off chores. She’d clean it later. Probably. It was hard to keep up with housework when reined back into actual work. Although, a ceiling fan accident would eliminate the need to call her boss, which was coming soon, Lux remembered.
Would the fan take her head off or crush her first?
Just call and stop being stupid. Just do it, Lux tells herself. She inhales through her nose and grabs the phone. It’s 1:44 a.m. She exhales big out of her mouth. “One more minute and I’ll call, then I can go back to bed.”
Lux had set an alarm at 1:30 a.m. to wake up, drink water to clear her throat, finalize her excuse, then call her boss at 1:45 a.m. to report her absence. Figuring he’d be asleep, this would free Lux of the guilt that came with abandoning the workplace—the masters with the mighty clutch on her existence.
The last alarm blares. 1:45 a.m. She turns it off. Lux had to call now before she lost the courage.
Just reading his cocky name in her phone book was annoying.
Her finger hovers over the dial button beside his work photo. He’s in a power stance with crossed arms and dark, parted hair. He wears a charcoal-colored suit, a million-dollar smile and a pricey looking silver watch. Shame rolls over Lux. This would be her third call out in two weeks. What will Jackson think now?
“Lux?” a husky voice whispers. “What’s up?”
“Hey… Jackson? Uh, I didn’t think you’d answer. I-I was going to leave a voicemail.” Lux slaps her head, unsure why she said that. She inhales and holds it.
“Who’s that?” Lux hears a feminine voice purr in the background. She sounds pretty.
“No one, a subordinate, go back to bed, babe. I’ll be there soon.” He sounds irritated. Lux shut her eyes, reminding herself Jackson couldn’t hurt her. He’s the boss, not God. She wouldn’t face a guillotine for calling out of work. “Lux, it’s late and I’m pretty busy. You remember I’m on vacation, right?”
She forgot; Jackson is in Hawaii with his girlfriend. He was boasting about the trip all week. Lux checks the time. He’s three hours behind. Of course he would answer.
Just say something! “Uh… I won’t be able to work today, maybe not all week. I’m not feeling well.” A reason comes. “Um, blood, there’s heavy, heavy… blood.” No, not that one! Lux swallows her lips.
“The… cycle. Moontime.”
Lux ended hers three days ago. She thought about picking a random obituary off the internet and claim bereavement, but Lux felt that road led to dark karma. Dance with death and you’ll get the ride of your life, her mother always said, whatever that meant. Lux wouldn’t play the death card for anything, so it had to be the trusty migraine excuse. In her panic, she played the blood card instead.
“Oh, Lux, um…”
“Why are you whispering?” The mystery woman purrs. “Are you sleeping with her?”
“No!” Jackson snaps. “Okay Lux, gross.” He switches to a professional tone. “Text next time. And I hope to see you next week. I’ll be back too.” His voice lowers. “Don’t forget about that locked file. I need it opened like we talked about.” He disconnects. Goodbyes were not a part of his vernacular.
A text from Lux’s friend Vee pops up:
Vee: Wanna go to Vegas tomorrow and party for free? It’ll be fun!
First, nothing was free. Lux knew this. One didn’t get something from nothing. There was always a fee, some catch waiting to rope Lux in when she least expected it. Second, the opportunity invalidated her own rule: safe, not sorry. Safe wasn’t taking a trip on someone else’s dime planned the day before. There was no time to pack and mentally prepare herself to go. Besides, fun with Vee always ended with Lux nursing the same drink all night listening to other people’s problems about a relationship or work, which was oddly satisfying to talk shit on the workplace, but still…
Vee: If you’re having a panic attack, we’re staying at the MGM Grand not some crappy place. You just find your way here.
Lux: Find my way? So it’s not all free?
Vee: The hotel is and food.
Lux: Who’s going?
Vee: Everyone is! I’m already here.
Lux: What! You are?
Vee: Yeah! I went shopping too and got the wrong size in this one dress, but it might fit your tiny ass. Come drive down! I know you hate planes. It’s like four hours’ driving time, I think. Are you in, babe?
Get out more. Smile when you speak. Try something new. Believe in yourself. Lux’s therapist repeats in her head. Easier said than done.
Lux never made big decisions like taking a trip to Vegas on the fly. She is careful and always listens to her conscience. Like the time that heart-stopping surprise male stripper arrived at Vee’s bachelorette party with valid identification, documented proof of clean health and two unopened boxes of condoms. But what if he finds out I forgot to shave down there? Lux thought as he danced grabby hands with the girls, one by one, all waxed… Lux knew because Vee scheduled an appointment for them all at the salon the day before, but Jackson decided Lux needed to work on a project with next day urgency and missed out. Then, she forgot to reschedule for herself.
Spooked by the hypothetical, Lux fled when his big hand ripped his black leather shorts off and approached her. She hid like a pathetic woman and memorized every carpet fiber of that closet floor, listening to the bride-to-be moan beneath the stripper in the same room all night. The floor was comfy, at least. If she was invisible, she was untouchable.
And sorry now. Very sorry.
If she had just stepped out of that closet…
Lux rereads Vee’s texts. Fun could be in Vegas. Safe fun if she played her cards right, no pun intended. Vegas was driving her, pulling her in. After all, she didn’t have work, and it was a free stay at the MGM Grand…
She texts back.
Lux: I’ll go.
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