Eliza checked her neck in the mirror, wincing at the discomfort. The bruising had reduced and localised to where the puncture marks were. It had been six weeks and she still could not recall what had happened. They were arguing; in truth, Eliza knew it was her yelling at Charlotte. Two pincers stuck into her neck, a warm, wet trickle down her throat, soaking into her clothes. Charlotte was holding her. Did she fall? Did Charlotte help her up? Nothing made sense.
The coach benched Eliza, forcing her to miss the start of the season. Her energy levels depleted, the journey to the training ground was tiring. With regular hospital visits to treat her for anaemia, she looked to be out all season. The doctor said she fell on a barbecue fork; she was lucky a nurse was on hand to stop the bleeding. Lucky is not a word Eliza would use. Her memory of that night was hazy but falling was not a part of the equation. What had happened to Charlotte in those five years? The uncomfortable truth Eliza arrived at was Charlotte had attacked her. The sister had stood quiet, a youthful appearance despite the passing years. Forgotten Hollow was a place best avoided. It was a historic place where people changed after encountering its darkness. Eliza shivered, recalling the sense of eyes watching her swift feet carry her to Caleb’s door. She would not return, and Charlotte chose to cut ties with her family. Eliza applied the concealer. It was better to hide this strange truth. How could she answer questions or throw accusations without her memory intact?
Milly had taken the lion’s share of the housework. Eliza felt guilty, as Milly should be out with friends; instead, she was playing nursemaid to her. A flash of red interrupted Eliza’s thoughts as she stepped out of the apartment. Scarlett apologised for not visiting. They made small talk, asking how Eliza was doing and how she liked the Sixam Beast they prepared. Eliza looked confused for a moment. Milly served her a selection of meals with high iron content. During the first week home, Scarlett had assisted Milly, bringing over meals. They had been reluctant to disturb Eliza’s rest and remained on the threshold. They had been due to meet for lunch the day after Eliza visited Charlotte. Romance had been furthest from Eliza’s mind until this encounter. The memory of Scarlett’s touch danced on her skin, and a hard lump formed in her throat. Eliza panicked, her calm exterior not betrayed, but she feared her chances. Scarlett had been the one person who made her heart race. Sure, she had noticed other women, none captivated her the way Scarlett had the first time they met.
The conversation took an awkward turn as neither knew quite what to say. Scarlett shuffled their feet, prompting Eliza to invite them in. Hesitant, Scarlett declined, her voice soft and nervous. Scarlett wondered if Eliza’s flirtations were real or the sakura tea. Their cheeks flushed, matching the thick glossy red hair. They hoped the forwardness of their inquiry would not damage their friendship. Eliza beamed; the thought had crossed her mind. She shared the same concerns. To be certain there were no external influences, Eliza gave Scarlett her number. It was a promise of dinner at the Chez Llama.