During the night, there were sirens. And flashing red lights out the window. People tromped outside the door. Shadows danced across the hall. There were hushed voices, doors opening and closing, and requests for people to “return to their rooms”.
Rion huddled next to his bed and waited.
And didn’t move.
Should he escape? Where would he go? How would he get in touch with Tuesday? Was Memory all right? Would she return? Did he leave any evidence in the room? Did they have fingerprints? DNA scanners? Were they compiling a list of suspects? Did Paul mention him to anybody? Was Paul alive? Was he dead? Was Rion a murderer? Did he do the right thing? Did any of this matter?
If only he’d just bought some normal ropes, instead of giving all his money away. If only he’d tied Paul to the bed normally instead of making some torture device. If only he’d been more aggressive. If only he hadn’t been acting out his own selfish fantasies.
He was exhausted but he couldn’t sleep. Every footstep, every voice–he thought that door would open, and they’d find him. So he didn’t move.
Dawn came. It had been five or six hours since the cops had come, and the halls were much quieter. Maybe they were wrapping things up. Rion lifted back the curtain enough for one eye. All he saw were bushes and the parking lot. No police cars or officers. The hurricane had passed.
Someone knocked on the door. Rion’s eyes grew as wide as a fawn’s. He tip-toed up to the peephole–if he made a sound they’d know the room was occupied.
Memory stood there, distorted by the fish-eye lens.
“Rion?” She put her ear to the door. “Are you in there?”
“Memory,” Rion whispered as loud as possible. “Are you alone?”
“Yes.” She clasped her hands in front of her.
Rion saw no extra feet under the door or people standing in the wings. “Are you sure?” he said, dumbly expecting her to change her answer.
He took a breath and pulled open the door enough for her to slip through.
“Are you okay?” Rion shut the door.
“Yes, I’m fine. How about you?”
Rion nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. “How did you know where my room was?”
“I didn’t,” she said. “But I knew you had to be in the hotel, somewhere. So I just started knocking on rooms.”
Rion wasn’t sure whether to admire her tenacity or disapprove of her impractical approach. “When did you get back?”
“A few hours ago. I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried.”
“What happened? Did the police talk to you?”
“Yes. What did you do? Tell me.”
Rion paused. “Does it matter if I do? It doesn’t change it.”
“I-… I guess not. But, I… I mean, he… I’m afraid.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Well, I came back, and there were all these cops around. I stood there. I didn’t know what was going on. I asked someone what happened, and they said there were cops and ambulances here all night, and they carried someone out on a stretcher. Someone said he was dead, but another person said that wasn’t true, because he didn’t have a sheet over his head. And another person said he was catatonic. They said he was all twisted up and frozen, but still alive.”
“And then when I got to my room, they were waiting. So I told them I was out all night. That we’d had a fight.”
“They don’t suspect you?” Rion said.
“No, they checked my alibi. They asked if he had a medical condition or a seizure. I said I didn’t know.”
“Did they say anything that made them think someone else was responsible?”
“No, they didn’t see any forced entry. They never said anything about gun shots or a knife. But it was a mess in there. So I don’t know what to think.”
Rion smiled. This had gone much better than he’d expected.
“Did you poison him?” Memory asked.
“No, no,” Rion shook his head.
“It’s all right if you did. I won’t tell anyone. I’m glad you did it.”
“I didn’t poison him. I didn’t… I don’t know what I did.”
“It’s all right. I don’t care. He’s gone now.” She sighed. “He really is gone. You were right. I feel… so much better. I don’t even know what to do now.”
“You’ll manage,” Rion smiled. “Maybe you can start with your family, or friends.”
Memory nodded. “I just came here to find out, I mean, to let you know what was going on.”
“I appreciate that,” Rion said.
“And to thank you. I mean,” she laughed. “You have no idea. I feel like a weight’s been lifted. I can’t believe he’s gone. I’m still expecting him to show up around the corner.”
“It might take a while to get over it, but it will fade, I’m sure.”
“I know, but that’s not enough. I can’t-. I mean, I’m sorry, I have no money. I used it all up last night.”
Rion realized Memory was trying to reward him. “That’s okay. Money’s not high on my list of problems right now.”
“Well,” she looked down at a corner of the carpet. “What I mean… what I mean is… if you want to…”
She slid the shoulder strap of her dress down her arm, exposing her bra strap.
Rion stared at her, trying to figure out what she was doing. Was it too warm in here?
Then he understood, and his eyes widened. Did she think that’s what he wanted this whole time? Was this how favors worked in her world?
She dropped her other shoulder strap, revealing her black lace bra, and started wriggling off her dress at the hips. Rion was too stupefied to move.
Memory was mesmeric, gorgeous, alluring. He had sacrificed for her. Why go through all of this and deny something for what he put in? What harm would it do? Wasn’t this what she was expecting anyway?
No. He didn’t do this to steal her away.
“No, Memory,” he said. “Put your clothes back on. That’s not what I want.”
“No, it’s okay. I want to.” She sidled up to him and put her arms around his neck. “I mean, I’ve done this before. I don’t have much, so this is how… you know, I want to show my appreciation. I really want to. You were the one that saved me.”
“I didn’t save you. I helped you. I can’t save you. Only you can save yourself,” he said as he tried to avoid looking at her chest. She smelled really good.
“But you must want this. You wouldn’t have done it otherwise,” she said as she rubbed his neck.
“What I wanted was for you to be free.”
And then Rion realized something. This must have been how she and Paul got together in the first place. This was how Memory always got into relationships. She needed them to validate her existence. She was so desperate, she ended up ‘showing her appreciation’.
Rion grabbed her wrists on the back of his neck. “This is not the reward I want.” He pulled her arms down.
“Well, what do you want?” Memory asked.
“What I want, you can’t give me,” Rion said.
“Well,” she threw up her hands, and walked away, still clad in half a dress. “What am I supposed to do? I don’t have any money. You destroyed my boyfriend. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? Whore myself out? What do you expect me to do?”
“The reward I want from you,” Rion said, “Is for you to learn from this and to not do it again. I saved you from a bad situation that you couldn’t have gotten out of by yourself. Do not get back into that situation,” he said coldly.
“Does that include with you?” Memory said. “I can go with you.”
“That’d be great. Except I don’t know where I’m going.”
“Listen. I… this is hard to explain. I feel like there’s something else out there for me. Something out there to find. And it doesn’t include you.”
Memory tilted her head like an inquisitive puppy. “But…”
“Maybe I’ll come back for you someday. Once I’ve found what I’m looking for. But I can’t until then.”
Memory redid her straps. She must have realized that, whatever he was talking about, it didn’t involve taking off her dress.
“So that’s it then? You just turn me loose like a pet you don’t want anymore,” she said.
“That’s the point. You aren’t anyone’s pet. You aren’t tied to anyone anymore. You’re just… Memory. And no one else. And that’s all you should be. If you can’t exist like that, well… you never will.”
Neither said anything for a moment. Rion couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Thank you,” she said, and walked out. No final words, no kiss on the cheek, no glance backward. She opened the door, and their worlds parted.
Rion rubbed his neck where she had touched. Despite what might have been, there was no other way it could have ended.
He stumbled onto the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands. This was one memory he wanted to forget.