27

THE BATHROOM WAS empty when Allison got to it. She touched up the makeup around her eyes and then proceeded to use the toilet. Upon sitting down, she heard someone come in and walk into the stall next to hers. Through the gap at the bottom of their adjoining wall, she did a double take and held her gaze at the pair of white tennis shoes on that person’s feet — round tops, rubber soles, upper canvas linings intertwined with laces, fairly ordinary and inexpensive. When the person got out, so did she.

It was a petite woman in a tee and skinny jeans with long, black hair down her back. She was putting on lipstick in front of the mirror. “Oops,” she said, and removed the black paper bag occupying the otherwise available sink before which Allison came to stand, tucking it between her legs. “You think they would have considered building a larger bathroom for all the fancy-schmancy customers they planned on serving, but nope...”

As usual around strangers, Allison kept to herself. The moment she took a curious glance at the woman’s reflection in the mirror, instantaneously, she gasped in fright.

“What?” the woman asked her, noticing her staring with her mouth open.

“Noth…nothing,” she just managed to respond, looking down at her hands and focusing wholly on washing them.

There was nothing wrong with the woman’s face. As in fact she was an attractive lady with eyes as big as the full moon and lips as plump. The only thing contributing to Allison’s strong reaction was her awfully unsettling likeness to Megan. It was as if they were one person.

“Is that comfortable?” the woman spoke again, looking at her in the mirror.

“What is?” Allison asked her back, still feeling awkward.

“Your dress. It’s pretty.”

“Oh… thanks.”

“I like that asymmetrical hemline, how the skirt dips in the back. I can never wear a dress like that.”

“Why not?”

“I’m only five one. The stores never carry anything this pretty in my size. Tall girls like you are just so lucky. Although, I can’t imagine wearing it for the whole night. I could hardly breathe in mine. That’s why I took it off the first chance I got.”

“Is that what’s in your bag?”

“Yup.”

“Mine actually isn’t that bad.”

“No? It just looks so fancy and fitted at the torso. Must have cost you a fortune.”

“I’m not sure about the price, since someone else got it for me.”

“Did Daniel?”

“Par-pardon me?” She gulped. “What did you say?”

The woman looked at herself in the mirror, taking time to smooth out the lipstick on her lips before giving Allison the once-over again. “I asked you if your husband bought you the dress.”

“Oh… no… my parents… my mother… did. It’s hardly new…” Ready to get out of there, Allison walked past behind her to retrieve a paper towel from the dispenser affixed to the wall for her wet hands, but was beaten to it as they both reached for it at the same time.

“So — do you think he cares?”

“What do you mean?”

The woman used it to blot her lips, all the while looking distastefully at her. “I’m just saying, some men aren’t into the spoiled, rich type of women. So no matter how you doll yourself up, do you really think he cares?”

Allison was not prepared for this. “That… that was way harsh. I don’t even know you.”

“Humph. This is not a time to act dumb so save your charade for someone else. The fact is — Daniel loves me. That’s never going to change…”

What is this? None of this is making sense. Megan’s dead… she reminded herself, running her eyes repeatedly over the woman’s facial features to try to prove she was not her but failed in doing so.

“What?!” the woman urged.

“His feelings for you don’t matter to me, anymore.”

“Right, because the only thing in question is, whether he loves you more than he loves me.”

“I have no doubt in him.”

“Good. Because, me either. He once told me after we had sex that I was everything he ever wanted in a woman. Did he ever say that to you?”

“You are a liar.”

“If you would rather I lie to you, sure, believe whatever you want to believe.”

“You are dead. Dead!

“To you, maybe, but to Daniel — never. There was much more that happened between us than he would ever tell you himself. The only way to find out what he’s really thinking is by asking. That is, of course, if you have the guts to just ask him.”

Allison swallowed hard, wanting to counter back yet unable to. The woman was not going to wait around, talking as she headed for the door. “Think on what I said. The truth may be ugly, but it’s always better knowing it than living a lie —”

A lie?

“— don’t you think?”

A lie?!

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