I squinted, making out some kind of Chinese carving of two ladies posing in front of a jade screen, with a whole bunch of letters etched around the edges. It jarred, surprisingly exotic and out of place with what Iâd seen of Ronanâs recording studio in the clip so far.
The camera swept upwards, showing a stainless steel oblong calendar, a chrome lamp, a pale blue porcelain bowl filled with Tibetan prayer beads and a leather-bound journal perched on top of the trunk. Odd, Iâd never picked Roman as the prayer type. As the shot swung wider I glimpsed two pillows propped behind the trunk on the floor and, as the camera panned, someone sleeping on their side.
A girl. With bad taste in clothes, going by her faded camouflage harem pants and splotchy crimson halter and purple sneakers.
Annoyed at the instant flare of jealousy, I closed my eyes for a second and rubbed them. Ronan seemed like a stand-up guy. He wouldnât have asked me out if he had a girl- friendâone with shocking fashion sense who liked to take naps on the floor.
Taking a calming breath, I opened my eyes and refocused. On that ugly red halter-top. And how the splotches seemed to have seeped into the girlâs skin, tattooing her in a random gross pattern.
My breath quickened as I leaned so far forward my nose almost touched the screen. The crimson darkened in patches. At odds with any commercial dye job.
Thatâs when I saw it.
The deep red pool spreading beneath her torso and staining the floor.
The puckering of her skin beneath her arm.
The gaping gash as the arm fell forward, revealing a horrific crisscross pattern of slashes.
One-second time frames depicting a horror I couldnât contemplate.
I stared at the screen in revulsion, transfixed, not daring to comprehend.
The camera panned back to the calendar: November 11.
Seven days from today.
A whole week leading up to the murder of a faceless girl.
Slain on my boyfriendâs floor.
A silent scream wedged in my throat, choking, struggling to get out. I shut down the clip with shaky fingers.
This couldnât be real.
I almost wished the horror Iâd glimpsed on that screen was real, for if it wasnât then I had a far greater horror to face.
The possibility Iâd imagined the entire episode.
Just like Mom.