At the front desk I asked the concierge if she had seen Amelia. The concierge furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes. “Amelia? Amelia? I don’t recall anyone named Amelia.” The concierge must have been new, to not know Amelia, although I could have sworn she was an old hand. “What’s the full name?”
“Stone. Amelia Stone.”
“You say that like ‘Bond. James Bond’.” She said the name in a fake manly voice and laughed. Sybil, Bradley, and now the concierge. It’s like a contagious disease, this laughing. When I didn’t follow suit, she assumed a more sober tone. “The name doesn’t ring a bell. Let’s look her up, shall we? What room is she in?”
The concierge studied the computer screen on her desk. “I have an Emma Peters in E515. No Amelia Stone.”
“Emma Peters is me. I’m her roommate. Amelia should be mentioned there, too.”
“She’s not. And it’d be odd if she were. The fifth floor in E-wing doesn’t have any double rooms. Only on the even-numbered floors. But let me check some other records.” She looked up from the screen and smiled a vapid smile at me.
Don’t smile, I wanted to scream, find Amelia. The intensity of my (suppressed) response surprised me.
“It may take a while. If you would like to come back later in the afternoon I might have some more information then.”
I decided to return upstairs to shower and change my clothes. I was still wearing yesterday’s and was beginning to detect the whiff of a fragrance a trifle less delightful than Amelia’s Someone and Someone’s Flowerbomb perfume.
After the shower, I stepped into the closet to search for something to wear. I had always liked Amelia’s sense of style so I tried on one of her dresses.
That ivory-cashmere number was as luxurious as all get-out. Amelia always called it her piano dress. It fit like it was tailor-made specially for me. I fingered the soft material appreciatively. Coming from money, Amelia always wore the highest quality.
While I was inside, the creaky door closed of its own volition. It startled me. I whirled around but couldn’t see anything in the light-less closet. Before me, only darkness, only dark, dark, the dark of night.
I had long felt a malignant presence occupying the room, and now, in my worst hour, it had, I knew with perfect certitude, risen up to imprison me in a darkened cell, where my desperate pleas for help would echo throughout the years but remain forever unheard.
One day in the future a student, poor girl, scarred for life, would be rummaging through the recesses of the closet for her tennis shoes only to find me, what was left of me: bones, hair, fingernails embedded in the wall as with my final breaths I had tried to claw my way to freedom.
That presence, that damnable, implacable, immemorial bogeyman, had hunted – hunted, haunted, inhabited – me since I was a child. He was never far away. In my thoughts, in my dreams, and now in my room, outside my closet door.
I didn’t test the door. Instead I plopped my ass down on the closet’s bench to press my screaming brain between my hands to keep it from bursting into bits and pieces. Sybil was right. I wasn’t myself anymore. I wouldn’t be until I found Amelia.
In the years we had been together, since childhood, at times it seemed as if since birth, she had become more than my friend, more than my roommate. In some way, not of course in a macabre “William Wilson” way, she had become my soul and without her I didn’t see how I could continue. I wept. After I finished weeping, I wept some more.
The tears, bless them, purged my weakness and my resolve to find Amelia redoubled. I shoved the closet door open with a kick. Bad door! The hell with the bogeyman.
On second thought it must have been a breeze from the open window, not the bogeyman, that had blown the door shut. Most likely.
I washed my face and tidied myself up. I even bombed myself with a short spray of Amelia’s perfume. Why not? You had to admire a perfume with the chutzpah to describe itself as a “garden party in a bottle”.
I made a call to Shanice, who took Vic Lit with Amelia, to inquire if she had attended that day’s class, but the phone just rang and rang and rang. I sat down at the desk to read some more of The Bluest Eye while waiting for the concierge to do what she was going to do, but I couldn’t concentrate.
The closet and the worry about Amelia had left me too fidgety, too twitchy to sit and read. As if I were a stranger in my own skin. Still wearing Amelia’s dress I left the room, not before closing the window.
* * *
The concierge picked up the phone when she saw me coming, spoke briefly into the receiver, then replaced the phone.
“Any news?” I asked.
“Can you wait just a moment?”
“Why? What’s up? If there is something, tell me.”
She raised her index finger. Hold your horses, the gesture said.
In a moment a chic, well-dressed woman approached and extended her right hand. Reflexively I took it. We shook.
“Pleased to meet you, Ms. Peters. I’m Zhang Li, the dean of residences. Would you mind coming into my office, where we can talk more privately?” She extended her right arm in a sweeping gesture, to indicate the direction to go. It took only a few steps; her office was off the adjoining corridor. She sat behind her desk; I settled into the chair in front.
“I understand that you are looking for Amelia Stone. That is correct?”
“Yes. Do you know where she is?” She stared at me but looked uncomfortable. She fiddled with a file on the desktop, straightening it, as if she were unable to speak unless the file was perfectly perpendicular to the long side of the desk. “Ms. Li, if you know anything, why can’t you tell me?”
“It’s Ms. Zhang actually. It would be greatly appreciated if you could tell me why you believe Amelia is missing. When did you first discover her absence and what you did about it? As much as you can tell me.”
So I told her, what little there was to tell. Me coming to the room, Amelia not being there, me asking questions. That was about it.
“I see from your file” – she opened the file on her desk and glanced in its direction – “that you have sought out our counselling services here on campus.”
What in the hell did that have to do with anything? “That’s private,” I said angrily, almost shouting. “What goes on between the doctor and me is private.”
“And indeed it will remain so. Only the fact of your visits is recorded. The communications between doctor and patient are privileged or in your case psychologist and patient.”
“I thought she was a doctor.”
“She is. A PhD. An intelligent, highly trained, and highly qualified psychologist but not a medical doctor.”
“Why are you bringing this up? What do my visits to the doctor, psychologist, whatever, have to do with anything? Especially with Amelia. It’s unlike her to be missing like this. We need to find her.”
“Ms. Peters. Emma. May I call you that?” The woman, patently ill-at-ease, paused for a moment.
“Amelia has been missing for almost a year. You are the one who reported her missing last October. The police were summoned and spent weeks looking for her. Search parties were formed. No rock was left unturned. No clue was ignored. But regrettably they were not able to find any trace of her.
“Amelia’s parents were understandably devastated. We all were. None more so than you. You must recall that you were involved in all aspects of her search, at least those aspects that the police allowed. And you were updated daily about all other aspects.”
I couldn’t speak. My insides churned and my eyes filled with water.
“I raised the issue of counselling just now because I think it might be a good idea for you to renew your visits with our psychologist. Or a different one if you prefer. Or a psychiatrist. You clearly have not recovered from the trauma of losing your friend.”
“She wasn’t my friend,” I said through clenched teeth, trying my damnedest to maintain an equanimity that I did not feel, trying and failing. “She was my sister, my blood, my being. No one recovers from losing that.”
I was crying by this point. I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t stop.
“Did you ever visit Amelia’s parents?”
Why did this person keep talking? “No, no, I didn’t,” I choked out. At that moment, more than anything I wanted her to cease babbling and leave me to myself, but I had to ask. “Why do you want to know that?”
She removed her eyeglasses and folded them carefully on top of the file.
“Last year they said they wanted to meet you. Amelia apparently mentioned you often and warmly. I think they wanted to share their grief with you, so they could comfort you and you could also comfort them. Sharing grief can sometimes bring all parties some measure of solace and any measure is better than none.”
I couldn’t stay any longer. I was blubbering. My head was reeling; I felt dizzy, sick to my stomach. I stumbled when I tried to stand up. I grasped tightly the arm of the chair to steady myself. Ms. Zhang rushed around the desk to hold me by the shoulders. I pushed her away. I had had enough of her. I started to leave, wobbling on my feet. Ms. Zhang again supported me by the shoulders.
“Please sit,” she said. “I will bring you a glass of water.”
I shook my head.
“You are in shock and should rest for a moment.”
I pushed her away again and shouted hysterically, “I don’t want to rest. I don’t want anybody telling me what I should be doing. You’re not my mother.” And then I fainted.
Catch up on part 1: Emma’s Place, part 1
You’ll also find other great fiction at the MockingOwl Roost while you wait for Part 3.
- A Moment of Discovery
- Anatomy of a Memory, Part 1 & Part 2
- The Princess and the Pain
- Ripe With Anxiousness
- The Book
Gary is a lawyer practising in Ontario. He has previously published short fiction in Event and the Mystery Tribune and a collection of stories entitled "The Man Who Killed Weekends and Other Stories"