Don't You Cry - Mary Kubica Page 0,1

cacophony of noise fills the room, morning talk against the drone of the alarm. “Dammit,” I swear, and then, losing patience, “Esther!”

I see it then as my eyes adjust to the darkness of the room: Saint Esther is not in her bed.

I finally manage to shut off the alarm clock and then turn on the light, grimacing as the bright light makes my head ache, the aftereffects of an overindulgent night. I do a double take to make sure I haven’t somehow or other managed to miss Esther, checking under the heap of blankets lying on the floor. Ridiculous, I know, even as I’m doing it, but I do it nonetheless. I check in her closet; I check the single bathroom, my eyes scanning past the prolific collection of overpriced cosmetics we share, tossed at random on the vanity.

But Esther is nowhere.

Smart decisions aren’t really my forte. They’re Esther’s. And so maybe that’s why I don’t call the cops right away, because Esther isn’t here to tell me to do it. In all honesty, though, my first thought isn’t that something happened to Esther. It isn’t my second, third or fourth thought, either, and so I let the hangover get the best of me, close the window and go back to bed.

When I wake for the second time, it’s after ten. The sun is up, and all along Farragut Avenue people scuttle to and from the coffee and bagel shops for breakfast, or lunch, or whatever it is that people eat and drink at 10:00 a.m. They’re blanketed in puffer jackets and wool trench coats, hands forced into pockets, hats on head. It doesn’t take a brainiac to know that it’s cold.

I, however, sit on the small apartment sofa—the color of rose petals—in the living room, waiting for Saint Esther to arrive with a hazelnut coffee and a bagel. Because that’s what she does every Sunday after singing in the church choir. She totes home a coffee and a bagel for me and we sit at the small kitchen table and eat, talking about everything from the children who cried their way through mass, to the choir director’s lost sheet music, to whatever vapid thing I’d done the night before: drinking too much, bringing home some guy I barely knew, some faceless man who Esther never sees but only hears through the paper-thin walls of our apartment.

Last night I went out, but Esther didn’t go with me. She had plans to stay home and rest. She was nursing a cold, she said, but now that I think of it, I saw no visible symptoms of illness—no coughing, no sneezing, no watery eyes. She was on the sofa, buried beneath the blanket in her comfy, cotton pajamas. Come with me, I’d begged of her. There was a new bar open on Balmoral that we’d been dying to go to, one of those chic, low-lit lounge types that only served martinis.

Come with me, I begged, but she said no.

I’d be a killjoy, Quinn, she said instead. Go without me. You’ll have more fun.

Want me to stay home with you? I asked, but it was a halfhearted suggestion. We’ll order takeout, I said, but I didn’t want to order takeout. I was in a new baby-doll dress and heels, my hair was done, my makeup was on. I’d gone so far as to shave my legs for the night; there was no way I was staying home. But at least I offered.

Esther said no, go without her and have fun.

And that’s just what I did. I went out without her and I had fun. But I didn’t go to that martini bar. No, I saved that for Esther and me to do together. Instead, I wound up at some shoddy karaoke bar, drinking too much and going home with a stranger.

When I came home for the night Esther was in bed, with her door closed. Or so I thought at the time.

But now I can’t help but wonder as I sit on the sofa, considering this morning’s turn of events: What in the world would make Esther disappear out the fire escape window?

I think and I think, but my thoughts only land on one thing: an image of Romeo and Juliet, the famous balcony scene, whereby Juliet professes her love for Romeo from the balcony of her home (which is more or less the only thing I remember from my high school education, that and the fact that a pen barrel makes the