The tension behind my eyes ratcheted up another notch, and those telltale sparkles began on the edges of my vision. Which any time now would be narrowing down to a tunnel. The headache was already starting, that unmistakable ax-splitting-my-brain-in-half sensation I hadn't felt for years. I hate migraines. It had been quite a while since I'd had one: then it was waiting to find out if I'd gotten through the presentation and interview, and landed the post with BSA--otherwise known as Bennett & Symes, Architects, one of the top companies in the North Eastern Seaboard, let alone Leidenton, one of Ulster County's larger towns. This time, well, the cause was kind of obvious.
God, what a shitty day, and all because I'd taken a couple of hours off and gone home early to surprise Cray with the fucking zinnias and a table booked at our favorite restaurant. He'd been surprised, all right. And so had I. Our work-hours didn't always coincide; he worked shifts at the Library, and of course my suspicions were immediately front and center. How long had he been cheating on me? Who with? And why? That last one above all felt like it was burning holes in my cranium.
Somehow I got back to the house without being pulled over again or hitting anything. I didn't bother checking the garage to see if Cray's car was gone, I just parked askew on the drive and groped my way toward the front porch. I needed darkness, silence and painkillers, not necessarily in that order. Before I could reach the steps, the nausea hit and I threw up onto the flowerbed. Part of me was viciously pleased with myself. Cray was the gardener, not me. The other part was vaguely sorry for the lobelias that had taken the full force of my stomach contents.
By now I was practically blind, but the torture in my skull had eased off a little since I'd anointed the flowers. I knew the reprieve would be short-lived. When the agony returned in a little while, it would be exponentially worse. I fumbled my key into the lock and edged inside.
"Perry?" Cray's voice reverberated through every bone in my skull, and if I'd had a gun in my hand I would have shot him for that alone. "I--"
"Shut up," I whispered. "Not now."
"Oh, shit--a migraine? Let me help--"
"Fuck. Off. You. Out. Tomorrow."
Cray was a smart guy. He ducked past me and disappeared out the door. I forgave him a little bit; he didn't slam it. I crawled on up the stairs. Normally I would have preferred to lie down in the master bedroom, but the thought of Cray fucking an anonymous someone in our bed was enough to veto that and make me nauseous again. But the guest room was just too far. The master bedroom it was, then. I crept into the en suite bathroom, found the transparent orange bottles collecting dust at the back of the wall-cabinet. I grabbed mine and shook out two tablets, swallowing them dry. Then I staggered to the bedroom windows, closed the drapes and lowered myself carefully onto the bed.
My prescription medication was over five years old and I hoped it hadn't lost any of its potency. The time seemed to crawl by before it kicked in and then I was out for the count.
Coming out of the drug-induced sleep was like attempting to climb a mountainside with an over-stretched bungee rope trying to pull me back down. It was even a struggle to drag air into my lungs. The hemispheres of my brain were still separated by that fucking ax, but the pain had gone. The numbness was all-pervasive, and it took a while for me to realize it was the phone at my bedside that had prodded me awake. On automatic pilot, I groped for it, held it to my ear. If it was Cray, he was going to die.
"Perry." No, it was Victor Bennett, son of BSA's co-owner and my immediate boss. "Glad I caught you. Listen, I know it's late, but you need to come back in as soon as you can make it. A client saw the work you did on the Lamont house, and wants you for the restorations on his place. This is a big one, Perry. A Victorian Gothic mansion straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe story. You wait 'til you see it, you'll think you've died and gone to heaven."
"What?" I managed, but the single word sounded slurred, more of a wheeze. I couldn't seem to get enough air into my lungs, and everything was off-kilter, out of focus. When I started to push myself up, the room lurched sideways. Victor started to repeat himself, then stopped.
"Perry, are you okay?"
"Migraine," I answered as clearly as I could. "M'fine now." I wasn't, but he didn't have to know that. Victor was a damn-good manager, and BSA was a great company to work for. They had the kind of egalitarian attitude that brought out the best in their personnel, and if he wanted me downtown, that's where I was going. I could call a cab...I squinted at the clock on the night table and the green squiggles eventually resolved themselves into numbers. Five-forty-two.
"Good. Come on in. The client's here, waiting to talk to you." While he was babbling, I levered myself off the bed and stood up. The room did that sickening reel again and I was falling. Pain and bright lights exploded behind my eyes and I heard Victor's startled, "Perry? What happened? Perry!" Then I faded out.
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