by Kobina Wright Limitless

October 7th.  Bali anchored herself in the leather-like spa chair soaking her feet in hot, robin-blue, soapy water.  The funds that would cover the day’s pampering had been previously reserved for other things and she would fight guilt over this spa level treatment later.  From her tablet, on the Press Enterprise website, she read about a judge in Montana who was blocking the use of the drug Pentobarbital in state executions, thereby halting executions in Montana until the law requiring an “ultra-fast acting barbiturate” was changed, or a substitute drug was found.  She read about a ten-year-old who shot his best friend over five dollars.  She put the tablet down.

It was 85 degrees outside and somewhere around 60 degrees in the nail salon.  The hot, robin-blue water enveloping her feet saved her from shivering and wishing the experience forward.  Despite the over-conditioned air, Bali felt golden, down to the balls of her feet.  This morning, even before she opened her eyes, she, again, felt the absence of the nasty gray-cling.  She opened the glass doors to her gallery, then shortly after, left Elias to manage it while she scuttled out to the Riverside Museum of Art with her teenage sidekick, Jane, who was out of school for reasons only teachers knew.  At the museum, Bali purchased a mixed media wall sculpture by the Thai artist, Chutima Kerdpitak, which incorporated a rubber chicken and a window panel.  It was March’s birthday gift Bali had agonized over from the gift shop.  Afterwards, she dropped Jane off.  She had rehearsed discussing framing options for the assemblage art with Elias in her head, until she arrived at Happy Hand Nail Salon.

In recent days, there hadn’t been any ominous phone hang-ups at the gallery.  No leaping shadows.  No broken car windows.  And as far she could tell, Jane hadn’t even gotten her sick.  When Bali had picked her up before heading to Riverside, Bali had noticed, with annoyance, the wadded up tissue in Jane’s hand… her watery eyes…  She would have never invited the girl out had she known and was even tempted to kick her out of the car once Bali saw her – but didn’t have the heart.  She’d have to remember to call Jane’s grandfather, Mike, to check on her later.

Bali sat, staring out into a portion of the parking lot over her pedicurist’s shoulder.  The sunlight bounced off many of the windshields in the parking lot, creating a alternate light source for the interior of the spa at high noon.  She watched the foot traffic in front as people ran their errands and lived their congested lives.  She caught her breath.  A man walked by the salon window.  Short hair.  Clean shaven.  Attractive.  Like a supermodel.  But it was no one she knew.    

She suppressed the urge to hurl bottles of nail polish through the plate glass window, like glass paint bombs.  This looking-over-her-shoulder, one-woman act was getting old.  Up until a few moments ago, she thought she had packed her fear away in recycled paper and padded felt.  She thought she had lined up all her concerns, each organized by weight, cut and wrapped to be manageable.  Fear was not her thing and she was now resenting the man she knew was responsible for the feeling that kept tying her up. 

While her pedicurist painted her toes in a color called “Pretty Little Peanut,” was forced to admit the truth to herself, even if she wouldn’t say it out loud.  She meditated on this, rolling the thought around in her mind like a pebble as her toenails were expertly covered in glossy tan polish.  As she further examined the idea, she realized suddenly that there two truths, not one.  She was a one-legged chicken in a den of foxes and the new revelation nudged the pebble from her mind to her throat.

Truth #1:  Bali had a real-life stalker.  Truth #2:  She would not be able to handle this alone.