Page 51 of Imperial Bedrooms

"Don't worry about that," Blair says.

"Why shouldn't I worry?" I ask.

"Because I'll tell them you were with me."

I look up at her again.

"I'll tell them you were with me that night," she says. "I'll tell them we spent the entire night together. Trent was away with the girls. I was alone."

"Why would you do that?" This is a question you ask when you don't know what else to say.

"Because ... " she starts, then stops. "I guess I want something in return." She pauses. "From you."

"Yeah?" I say, squinting up at her, the muffled sounds of traffic on Gower somewhere in the distance behind me.

She holds out a hand. I wait a beat before reaching out to take it but once I stand up I let it go. She's a witch, someone whispers into my ear. Who is she? I ask. She's a witch, the voice says. Like all of them.

Blair takes my hand again.

I think I realize what she wants but it's not until I see Blair's car that it finally announces itself clearly. It's a black Mercedes with tinted windows not unlike the one that had followed me across Fountain or the one that cruised by the Doheny Plaza all those nights or the one that tailed the blue Jeep whenever it was parked on Elevado or the one that followed me in the rain to an apartment on Orange Grove. And in the distance the same blond guy I saw at the Santa Monica pier with Trent and at the bar in Dan Tana's and crossing the bridge at the Hotel Bel-Air, and talking to Rain outside Bristol Farms one morning last December is leaning against the hood of the car and stops shading his eyes with his hand when he sees me staring at him. I thought he was maybe looking at the graves but then I realize he's watching us. He turns away when Blair nods at him. I keep staring at the car while I feel Blair's fingers lightly stroking my face. Just go where she says, the voice sighs. But she's a witch, I whisper back, still staring at the car. And her hand is a claw ...

"Your face," she says.

"What about it?"

"You don't look like anything has happened to you," she whispers. "And you're so pale."

There are many things Blair doesn't get about me, so many things she ultimately overlooked, and things that she would never know, and there would always be a distance between us because there were too many shadows everywhere. Had she ever made promises to a faithless reflection in the mirror? Had she ever cried because she hated someone so much? Had she ever craved betrayal to the point where she pushed the crudest fantasies into reality, coming up with sequences that only she and nobody else could read, moving the game as you play it? Could she locate the moment she went dead inside? Does she remember the year it took to become that way? The fades, the dissolves, the rewritten scenes, all the things you wipe away - I now want to explain these things to her but I know I never will, the most important one being: I never liked anyone and I'm afraid of people.