Cylie Blusom walked home from the bus stop uphill, in the pouring rain. Forcing herself to not look over her shoulder the whole way home. The entire walk was all of three minutes if she walked across the street and up the grassy knoll, if she took the sidewalk all the way up, and looped back around to her apartment it was a whopping five minutes. She debated taking the shortcut which would get her muddied up, but out of the rain faster, or if she should take the long way to stay clean since she was already wet. Cylie figured it didn’t much matter – she couldn’t win for losing.

It was exactly 10:58 pm when Cylie put her wet bags on the countertop of the bathroom sink. Peeling off her wet clothing she hung them over the shower rod to dry. She left her flats in the tub. She was exhausted. Between work, classes, and her commute Tuesdays were her longest day. Though, Wednesdays and Thursdays were pretty close to Tuesdays. On Wednesdays Cylie had work, volunteering, and her usual commute. Thursdays, Cylie worked, went to yoga, and commuted from a different bus stop. Friday nights were her fun nights. Those were the nights she would try to see her friends. Cylie couldn’t afford to go out really. But she could always managed to have a good time without the endless fountain of refilled vodkas or shots of tequila. She loved her friends. She just couldn’t keep up with them the same way she used to.

Thankfully it was a Tuesday, and not a Friday. Cylie had wanted to watch an old black and white movie, something to match the storm, but she was exhausted. The next few days would be more exhausting. She had scheduled extra hours volunteering hours with the dog shelter. Since starting night classes Cylie had to give up volunteering there during the week. She had kept her regular spot tutoring financially burdened children at the library on Wednesdays though. Sunday she promised her mother that she would take the drive up to her uncle’s house with her. It was a far drive and Cylie’s mother missed her. Her daughter rarely had time for her these days.

Cylie had just settled down on the couch to turn on a sitcom. Something short. Something less than 30 minutes without the commercials. Before she could turn on the television Cylie felt a chill reach for her around the corner. Nearly snapping her neck Cylie whipped around to see a dark hallway and nothing else. There was nothing there. Nothing but darkness. Cylie shook her head. She was being ridiculous and overtired. Probably paranoid. Rolling her eyes at herself, Cylie got up, turned on the hall light, returned to the couch and turned on the television. It’s not like she had anything to fear. Not seriously anyway.

True to her thought process, Cylie was starting to nod off as the credits began to roll. After doing a double check of her windows and door Cylie headed to bed. It seemed the only relaxation she had these days, the only moments when she could just be. Be whatever or whoever she wanted. When she could just be free. She could change her name, her appearance, her daily schedule. Whatever Cylie wanted to change about her life she could in her sleep. In her dreams.

Ms. Bella Button rolled down the street in her creamy white mustang. Top down, hair springing in the wind. She was cruising. Save waking up, there was nothing that was going to stop her from enjoying this picture perfect, dreamy day. Except her alarm. Her alarm could ruin her perfect day. It could and it did. As Cylie opened her eyes and reached around her bed for her phone she realized the sound she heard hadn’t been her alarm clock. The sound she had heard was her security alarm. A sound that had since stopped. Cylie looked around. Her room was dark. Darker than she kept it. Starting to panic Cylie frantically groped her pillows, her sheets, everywhere in hopes of finding her phone. She refused to cry. Taking a deep breath in, Cylie held it there until she felt her tears slid back down into her ducts. This had to be it.

The only other explanation that Cylie could come up with was that there was a power outage, but that didn’t explain her missing phone. Cylie whimpered slightly as she exhaled. She was not going to panic or cry. She would just have to get up and go try the light. Mentally kicking herself for not making more time to replace her flashlight batteries, Cylie made it to the switch. Nothing happened. Cylie saw the light from her neighbor’s apartment flick on through the crack in her privacy shades. Maybe it was the breaker. Sticking close to the parameter of her hallway, Cylie followed it down to the utility closet where the breaker lived. Thankfully, it was a short walk. Unfortunately, Cylie was trying and failing to remain calm. The thirty second walk seemed like an eternity in the pitch blackness.

Cylie reached out for the door. Opening it she felt a jolt pass through her body. The light flooded the closet, the hallway, everywhere around her was touched by light. A hand reached out and touched her throat. There in front of her was Eric. Eric, who was in her closet, squeezing just hard enough on her throat to making screaming impossible. “Thought you were too busy for me, did you honey?” Cylie felt as her the tip of her tops lightly dragged across the floor.

“I told you, you would never be too busy for me to find time for you, or just to find you.”

Cylie felt her heartbreak. Months of keeping a nearly impossible schedule. Months of selling her car, taking the bus, changing routes, months of staying sober and alert, months of being tired. Months and months of effort, and yet, here she was, right in Eric’s grasp. Held too close, too tightly. As she felt the weight of his words collide with the power of his fists, Cylie dreamt of once more being Ms. Bella Button. A free, fly funky woman from another era. With a cool car, cool clothes, and only the coolest of the cool pursuing her, Ms. Bella Button lived her life to the fullest. Unlike Cylie Blusom, with her awful name, awful hair, awful personality, and awfully aggressive ex. Cylie Blusom who died in her apartment from causes yet to be confirmed by police. Cylie Blusom, the last person to see Ms. Bella Buttoon before she drove off in her creamy white mustang. Top down, hair springing in the wind.

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