TEN – RUDE AWAKENING
“Tony? Tony, are you in there? Open up! It’s me, Ivy.”
Tony woke with a start, suddenly realizing that the banging wasn’t coming from inside his head but from the front door. Ivy was at the front door calling his name. She sounded upset.
“Your car’s here. I know you’re in there,” she said. “Open up!”
Tony picked himself up off the living room rug and stumbled toward the door. What time was it?
“Tony, are you okay? I’m really getting worried here.”
He fumbled with the lock and opened the door. Ivy frowned at him and stepped inside.
“Jesus, Tony, you look like shit,” she said.
“Nice to see you, too, cuz.”
She walked past him and sat on a stool next to the island in the kitchen. “What’s up with you?” she asked. “Jenni called me last night in tears, asking if I knew where you were. I told her I’d seen you briefly at Screaming Meanie, but didn’t know where you’d gone after that. Did she find you?”
Ivy scowled. “Yes, Jenni. Your model and sometimes lover, remember? She said you’d walked out on a dinner date.”
Tony plopped down beside her and rubbed his head. “I vaguely remember that. It seems dreamlike, though. Like I wasn’t really there.”
The scowl on Ivy’s face turned to a look of concern. “Tony, are you doing drugs?”
Tony tried to laugh, but only a hoarse cough came out. He tried to shake his head but found his neck had grown stiff. Perhaps he’d slept on it funny.
“I haven’t been sleeping well lately,” he said.
Ivy got off the stool and put a hand on his forehead. “Jesus, you’re cold as the grave.”
“My chest hurts, too.”
“We should get you to a doctor.”
“I already went with Jenni. Yesterday, I think. They won’t have the tests back for another couple of days.”
Ivy put a hand around his shoulder. “Tony, I’m sorry I snapped at you. It’s just you were acting weird last night, then after what Jenni said… Let me help you to the couch.”
Together they walked to his couch. Tony lay down, and she sat beside him. “Thanks, Ivy,” he muttered. “I don’t know where my energy’s gone.”
Ivy gazed around the room, her face betraying a vague sense of wonder. “Into these pictures, it looks like. Who is she?”
Tony looked up from the couch to discover five new canvases, each one depicting Glory. He sat stunned for a minute, then finally said to Ivy, “Glory. She told me her name is Glory.”
Ivy smiled weakly. “She’s very pretty—in a cold sort of way. Tony, if you’re dumping Jenni, you should just tell her.”
“Honestly, Ivy, I’m not. I’m not even sure Glory’s a real person. I keep seeing her, but it’s more like a dream than reality. I found her washed up on shore a couple of nights ago, but there was no police report of a shipwreck, and I keep seeing her ever since, and I followed her to Meanie’s last night, and she told me to go home, and I guess I did, but that’s the last thing I remember. I don’t even remember doing these paintings.”
Ivy put her hand on his shoulder. “Tony, you’re babbling, not making much sense. But if you can paint that well in your sleep, I’d say you’re ahead of the game. Okay look, Tone, I went through some pretty strange shit last month—some stuff I didn’t even tell you about.
“No matter how weird what you’re going through is, if I can help you figure it out, all you have to do is call. Understand?”
Tony nodded. “I will. Just as soon as I get my head together a bit more. Thanks, Ivy.”
She hugged him. “De nada, cuz. What are friends for?” She stood from the couch. “You try to get some more sleep. I’m going home for a while, but I may be seeing Grant later. You know his number, don’t you?”
Tony nodded, and then realized he didn’t. “No,” he said.
Ivy headed toward the kitchen. “I’ll write it on the notepad on the fridge—both his home and his cell-phone. Call if you need to. Promise?”
Tony nodded again. “I will.”
“Okay. I’m leaving now. Get some rest. Is there anything I can get for you before I go?”
“Maybe a new brain.”
“The brain you have is fine. You just need some rest. And maybe an antibiotic or something.”
“God, I hope so.”
“Thanks. I think I can take care of myself. What time is it?”
“Jesus. I have to get to work. I wonder where Jenni is. She’s usually home earlier than this.”
Ivy gave him a funny look. “Tony, maybe you should call her. You left her in the lurch last night, remember?”
“When did you say those tests would be back?”
“A couple of days.”
She turned toward the door but couldn’t conceal her concern. “Well, call me. Okay?”
“Okay, Ivy. See you.”
Tony stared at the phone for a long while after she left, but couldn’t bring himself to pick up the receiver.
The clothes he was wearing, still the ones from the night before, felt rumpled and confining—like a strait jacket. He stood and stripped them off. As he did so, he realized what had caused the ache in his chest: the ring box was still tucked in his vest pocket.
He discovered a small bruise on his left breast, near his heart.
I must have slept on it, he thought. At least I’m not having a heart attack.
He put the box on the mantle over the fireplace, then looked at the new canvases.
Glory. Who was she? Why did he find her so compelling?
Why didn’t he remember doing the paintings? Had she been in the studio last night? Was she a real person, or just a dream?
Or maybe a nightmare.
He dug out some unfinished canvases of Jenni and tried to work on them, but found he couldn’t.
For some reason, he was having trouble remembering what she looked like.