Maggie took a break from writing and brewed herself some coffee. Even though Nora wanted a draft of the manuscript within the next two days, she needed to rest her tired eyes for a little while. She focused on a distant sailboat rather than on the computer screen.
She looked out the kitchen window, toward the horizon where dark clouds billowed and were heading her way. A late afternoon thunderstorm was forming. She decided she had time to take a cup of coffee onto the porch and recharge so that she could get back to typing before the storm struck.
When the coffee stopped dripping, she took a cup of it outside and stood in front of her living room windows, leaning on the railing toward Lake Michigan. A cool breeze was picking up and felt refreshing. She smelled the moisture in the air and heard distant rumbles of thunder.
“Some night, huh?” Debbie said, walking up next to her. She leaned against the railing and looked out toward the lake.
Maggie looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t remember?” Debbie turned and faced Maggie, blinking her fake eyelashes. “You don’t remember acting like a whore and physically abusing Susie? You even tried to tie her to the bed so that you and Bruce could get it on.”
“That’s not true.” Maggie protested the absurd remarks. “Are you joking? If you are, it’s not funny.”
“No, I’m not joking. You were crocked. After the wine was finished, you got into Bruce’s stash of whiskey.” Debbie smiled. “You don’t remember?”
Maggie could not believe what Debbie was saying. “After you told me to stay away from Bruce, I left. I went to my apartment and went to sleep.”
Debbie looked back toward the storm. “Well, you must have had a blackout then because you did do all that. I had to get Susie out of Bruce’s place before you hurt her.”
“No way,” Maggie said, staring at the side of Debbie’s powdered face. “You’re making it up.”
“If I’m making it up, why did I find your underpants in Bruce’s bedroom?” Debbie turned back to Maggie. “If you don’t believe me, ask Bruce; he’ll tell you.”
This moment was not recharging Maggie’s batteries so that she could get back to writing, but rather overcharging them and causing them to spark. “I’m going to do that right now.” Maggie started walking toward the French doors.
“He’s not there,” Debbie shouted behind her. “And I thought you should know that I reported you to child protective services.”
Maggie stopped dead in her tracks. “What? You’re crazy.” Her heart was pounding; she could not believe what was happening.
“I’m not crazy, you are.” Debbie kept leaning on the railing, staring at the black thunderhead puffing up before them, smiling.
Maggie could tell Debbie was obtaining pleasure from the moment. So much so, she thought Debbie would do a victory dance. “Why are you doing this? You know I didn’t do any of that.”
Debbie turned her head toward Maggie, who was standing in front of the doors. “I know you did and I can prove it.”
“By a pair of underpants you found in Bruce’s apartment? They’re not mine. They’re probably yours.”
“Not only because of your underpants but by the bruises on Susie’s wrists and ankles when you tied her to the bed. You probably did the same thing when you babysat her.”
“Why are you doing this? You know I didn’t do any of that.” Maggie was feeling overwhelmed.
“I’m not doing it to you, Maggie.” Debbie’s smile turned sour. “You’re doing it to yourself. You’re jealous of me and Bruce . . . And you’re losing it.”
Maggie could not listen to any more of Debbie’s false accusations. Why was she doing this? Debbie was the one that was jealous, not her. Maggie pulled open the stubborn French doors and walked immediately to Bruce’s apartment door. She knocked. No answer. She knocked some more. Again, no answer.
“Like I said, he’s not there,” Debbie said, walking past Maggie to her apartment.
Maggie knocked one more time before giving up. She turned and walked to her door, then stopped. There, at the foot of her apartment door, was a pair of underpants. They looked like hers. She walked up to them and nudged them with her foot; yes, they were hers. She picked them up. That Debbie had to of left them there, but she could not have gotten them from Bruce’s apartment, she had to have come into her apartment. Of course, she probably had a skeleton key just like Maggie, and she was the one going inside her apartment.
Maggie picked up the underpants and went into her apartment, tossing them into the new laundry basket she had bought. Wind gushed through her open windows as the storm approached the bluff. Maggie closed the windows and sat on the couch. Lightning flashed, and thunder cracked, causing her to jump. The storm blotted out any light left in the sky, leaving her apartment dark and cold.
She began to weep. She could not believe what was happening. How could she prove she did not do any of the things Debbie was accusing her of doing? Especially if Bruce backed up Debbie’s story.
The building shook from the thunderous vibrations. She had to sleep. If she slept, she would not have to think about what was happening. She lay down and closed her eyes.