Sharon Gardener woke up with a splitting headache. She shut her eyes and hoped the pain would go away, but it didn’t. She squinted at the alarm clock on the side table. The time was well past nine in the morning.
Next to the clock was a half-empty glass of water, and next to it was a bottle of prescribed sleeping medication. She must have taken one too many. She had to be careful, though. She once made the mistake of mixing alcohol with the pills. Had it not been for her husband, she probably would not have woken up that time.
She looked over at the other side of the bed. Her husband was not there. She was not expecting him to be, either. They had been going through a rough patch. They had fought many times before, but somehow, they always managed to get back together. But this time was different. She knew her marriage was over, and it was her fault.
She could not completely blame herself for its ending, though. There was not much love in the relationship, to begin with. Hers was a marriage of necessity. Paul was a kind and caring man, and he loved and doted on their daughter.
She got up from the bed and moved to the bathroom. She turned on the light switch. The light nearly blinded her. She waited a few seconds and opened her eyes.
She stared at herself in the mirror.
She had shoulder-length hair that was dyed red. Her skin was smooth without a single wrinkle to be seen anywhere. This was not due to her age but to the work of a highly-skilled plastic surgeon. Her lips were plump and full, but recently, they were looking a bit thinner. She would need to get them injected again.
She turned her body to the side and examined her stomach. She was still in great shape. She used to be a cheerleader in high school. All the cool boys and jocks were after her. She knew the power her body had on men, which was why she still watched what she ate. Her shapely figure also benefited from her regular trips to the gym and yoga classes.
She smiled at the last thought.
She took a long shower. She normally took one before going to bed, but last night, she lacked the time.
The hot steam reinvigorated her mind and her body, and her headache dissolved in an instant.
She dried herself and dressed in a jumpsuit before she made her way downstairs. She half-expected her husband to be in the kitchen. He was an early riser, and he always put the coffee on to brew. But after their last argument, he was sleeping in the guesthouse.
She walked over to the living room and peeked out the window.
Odd, Paul’s car is still in the driveway, she thought. He’s normally at work by now.
She walked back to the kitchen and proceeded to make breakfast.
As she sat down to eat, a thought came to her mind: Where’s Kyla?
Their daughter was a junior at the local university. She was majoring in Classical Studies. Paul was dead set against it. He wasn’t sure how learning about Greek and Roman history would help her get a job. Sharon agreed with him, but that did not mean she would go against her daughter’s wishes. If Kyla wanted to study something with low employment potential, then so be it. The only thing that mattered was that her daughter was happy.
Sharon walked down the hall and checked the home office. It used to be Paul’s, but ever since Kyla began going to college, she had made it her study room.
Her backpack and books were still on the table.
Sharon returned to the kitchen and examined Kyla’s semester schedule, which was stuck to the refrigerator door by a magnet. She had put her schedule there to remind herself of Kyla’s class times.
Sharon ran her finger over the dates. Kyla had Greek Literature this morning. She shook her head. Kyla must have been out late last night with her friends. She was likely still in bed.
On any other day, Sharon would have let her sleep, but her next class was only an hour away. If Sharon woke her up now, Kyla could definitely make it to class.
She went upstairs and knocked on the bedroom door. “Kyla, darling. It’s morning, and you’re late for class.” She waited, and when there was no response, she knocked again. “Kyla, you’re late for class,” she said.
She turned the door handle and found her door was unlocked.
“Darling, I’m coming in,” she warned, in case her daughter got mad at her for barging in.
The room was dark, but Sharon could see an outline on the bed.
“Kyla,” she whispered. “It’s time to get up.”
She flipped the light switch.
Her hand instantly went over her mouth to stifle a scream.
Kyla Gardener lay on the bed with her eyes closed. The front of her dress was soaked in red, and so was the pillow and bedsheet.
Sharon ran out into the hall, fell to her knees, and began to wail in agony.