Pool of Tears

Nights of Alice #2

by Melissa Rea

Last night, clothes began appearing in Alice Hightower’s closet at sunset. She might find bell bottoms from the seventies or a beaded flapper’s dress from the twenties, but they fit perfectly. She slips on the outfits and opens her balcony door to another place and time where extraordinary men fill her nights.

CEO of a medical device company about to unveil a revolutionary heart bypass product, Alice escapes her challenging days to the adventures beyond her balcony door. How could her smoldering VP of sales, or her fascinating assistant compare to Tweedle Don and Tweedle Dan, twin doctors from the seventies, or the sixties rock group who scolds Alice for being late for their very important date. At forty-nine, after two divorces, relating to her male coworkers has been entirely too complicated. When industrial espionage threatens her company, Alice has to save the position that defines her, discover the truth of her fantastic travels and decide if the real men in her life might be more satisfying than those she enjoys by night.


Chapter One

Born to be Wild


There were probably worse things in the world than discovering you are pregnant at forty-nine, but alone in her apartment, Alice Hightower couldn’t think of any. She had never been exactly thin. Eating judiciously her entire life, she managed voluptuous. Her work power suits had fit her well for several years. Soon, the entire person growing inside of her would change that and nearly everything else about her life. Were there such things as maternity business suits and if there were, would they be appropriate for her job? Alice doubted anyone at her company, Excellcardia, would say a word if she wore a black trash bag to work, but it wouldn’t feel CEO-like to her.

All these trivial notions about what she could or couldn’t wear did little to deflect her thoughts from another very real issue in her life. The man she had grown fond of and who’d said he loved her had disappeared from her life. If she closed her eyes here in her apartment, she could still see that look on his face. She shut her eyes tight and tears squeezed out.

Had that doctor’s appointment been only a week ago? She could play the scene like some horrible, heartbreaking, movie on the inside of her eyelids with them closed. For some masochistic reason, she just had to do it one more time.

Alice remembered how she and Jonathan had held hands like excited young parents in the doctor’s consultation room. She had felt the need to tell Jonathan she was pregnant and didn’t expect him to be excited about the news. Children had never fit into Alice’s busy career life. Bringing a baby you never dreamed of wanting into this wicked world hardly seemed a good thing. But when Jonathan looked at her with his chocolate-colored eyes that held only love and joy at that prospect, Alice thought it might be okay.

The doctor had looked up from his laptop and smiled a perfect, bleached-white-enough-to-pass-the-tissue-test-white smile at them. Alice found his Justin Bieber haircut more than annoying. How old do you have to be to graduate medical school now Alice wondered? She had been twenty-six and though she had forsaken medicine for business immediately after graduation, she had seemed much older than this kid.

“Great news, Mrs. Hightower. The blood tests indicate that your hormone levels are really high for a woman of your advanced age. How cool is that, right?”

Alice’s mouth dropped open. She closed it and said, “How is that possible?”

“Oh, it’s possible. You’ve still got eggs, add sperm and kablam—pregnant.”

He leaned back in his chair. “Most of the time, late-life pregnancies are not sustainable for lots of reasons. Your eggs are wicked old. So of course you’ll want an amnio. The rate of genetic abnormalities is off the charts. But it seems possible to carry this baby to term, if that’s what you want.” The doctor had looked quite pleased to share his news.

Alice’s mouth fell open again and Jonathan beamed. “I...I...” said Alice.

“We need to know what to do to ensure the health of our child,” said Jonathan. He gripped her hand tightly and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.

“I got those Depo-Provera shots and… I thought I had six months before another one,” said Alice.

“The efficacy of that type of birth control is less dependable in the last few months. My best guess based on the size of your uterus...” He looked up in the air like he was working some imaginary calculator “...At least six weeks, more like eight,” said Dr. Bieber.

Jonathan’s face went blank. Alice knew what the doctor’s guess meant, and so did Jonathan. They had only been sleeping together for a month. Several minutes passed before Alice could bear to look at this man who had held her hand until the calculations in his head caused him to drop it like it was hot. She stared at the Betsy Johnson silver spangled pumps she had worn because this was a momentous occasion. Jonathan’s Clark Kent good looks were not marred at all by his stricken expression when he realized there was no way this baby was his. Alice had always had a hard time believing anyone that beautiful could ever have loved her.

Without a word, Jonathan had stood up and walked out the door without closing it.

Alice opened her eyes and took in a deep breath, trying to let go of the memory. She grabbed a tissue and dabbed her eyes. She had to keep breathing. Now she was breathing for two.

* * *

Eight weeks! thought Alice as she sat on her immaculate white couch. The doctor’s calculation meant not only could Jonathan not be her baby’s father, but it might be difficult to discern just exactly who was. How could one tell a child that its father could have been a Roman soldier dead for two thousand years, an eighteenth-century pirate captain, or one of several members of a seventies rock group? As crazy as those suggestions were, there was one other person who believed that her nightly fantasy adventures might be real. Dr. Cynthia Lester, her current therapist, had suggested that she actually could travel in time and did so each night at sunset.

For the better part of a year, clothes had appeared each evening at sunset in her guest room closet. She knew she didn’t put them there and that no one else could have. Each outfit was clothing from a different time period and they fit her as if some genius tailor made them for her alone.

The very first one had been an amazing Women’s Army Corps uniform from World War II, complete with a name tag that said A. Hightower. Curiosity won, and she tried on the olive drab ensemble that came with vintage stockings, seam down the back of the leg and all. She remembered she’d heard voices from beyond her balcony door as she stood looking at herself in the mirrored closet door. That was impossible when she lived on the eighth floor. No street party was that loud. Impossible seemed to have lost its meaning, and she slid open the balcony’s glass door.

The room beyond the door was filled with men in military uniforms. Alice smelled cigarette smoke and as she looked down at the floor, rough wooden planks replaced her balcony’s concrete. A handsome man yelled through the door’s opening and asked her to dance. She slammed the door.

That first time, she had been certain the incident was the result of a psychotic break. Such occurrences were not uncommon branches on her family tree. But the next night there were more clothes and more desirable men. She began to indulge her every desire night after night, as one would do. Could this person in her belly be absolute proof that Alice’s aberrant brain gave her some sort of power over time and space as Dr. Lester suggested? You can’t get pregnant all by yourself, fantasizing. Or she could be stark raving bonkers as her genetics suggested. Her mother died after being institutionalized for over a decade with Bipolar depression. There was one other option for paternity that made the impossible nature of the fantasy men as fathers almost preferable. The tears began again.

This workday at Excellcardia hadn’t been any tougher than many others, she thought as she kicked off her black patent peep-toe pumps. No one ever said the job of CEO was an easy one. Alice always preferred a challenge, but the industrial espionage that had nearly taken her company down, had stretched her love of a challenge to the breaking point. She could still see Bradley James, her vice president of sales, lying on the floor of the high efficiency freezer surrounded by a pool of blood that had turned to ice around the edges. She had been so certain that Brad, Jonathan and she would die in that freezer as Dr. Petrus, her evil genius of a head researcher, had planned. The three teams of detectives she’d hired had so far failed to locate the “not so good doctor,” but Alice would never give up looking for him. No one tries to kill her, steals her company’s ground-breaking process, sells it to a competitor, and gets away with it.

“Come on up, sweetest boy,” said Alice to a chubby black cat who balanced perfectly on his three legs, looking up at her from the floor. She patted the cushion next to her. The cat did not move but stared at her with round emerald eyes.

“Oh, what the hell? How much of that fur can actually get on the couch in a few minutes?” The cat did not jump up but rubbed against her legs. “Smart boy, I’ll get your food.” No matter what she said, Otis obviously knew she would not have been happy with even one of his black hairs on her white couch. She reached down and softly rubbed the little nub that had once been his left ear. She’d always wondered how Otis had lost his left ear and front leg. The shelter had no idea. He was still the sweetest of all possible kitties, no matter how he had been injured. His black fur shone in the fading daylight that streamed in through her living room window. “You’re the prettiest kitty on the planet.” His chainsaw-loud purr answered in agreement.

Alice walked past the solid block of black granite that served as her bar/dining table into the kitchen. She grabbed a can of Kitty Feast out of the pantry, pulled the pull-top and dumped it into a bowl on the floor.

She did not feel the slightest bit hungry and headed across the large, high-ceilinged room that served as her living room, dining room and kitchen. The exposed wooden beams in the twenty-foot ceilings of the classic building made her feel as if she were the Red Queen from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in her castle.

She walked down the hall feeling sorry for herself and exhausted. She had planned to turn left into her bedroom and turn in early. Get over yourself, Alice. She should have known the risks of dating real men instead of fantasy ones. No man from another time could break her heart because they were always gone in the morning.

She turned to her right into the guest room. Whatever she found in there could take a girl’s mind off of all of her troubles. Thirty quick minutes on her elliptical and she might open that closet door.

She remembered finding a hot pink mini dress in that closet that once donned, had taken her to a place where she had enjoyed Tweedle Don and Tweedle Dan, twin doctors from the late nineteen sixties who shared absolutely everything. She felt the corners of her lips turn up a bit at the memory. She hadn’t peeked into the closet since she had embarked on her experiment to date real men. Big mistake.

Alice had hoped in vain the fact that Brad was her vice president of sales and Jonathan had been her administrative assistant would not complicate matters. The company had no official policy against dating other employees. Why couldn’t dating two men have stayed fun and casual?

She stood in front of the closet’s mirrored door, reflecting her visibly tired blue-green eyes. She pulled the clip out of her dark blonde hair and it fell limp and lifeless to her shoulders. Real men aren’t as good at sharing as fantasy doctors Dan and Don, unfortunately.

She knew it was a minute after sunset, she always knew, and reached over to slide open the closet door. There on the gold hanger she knew she had never purchased hung something pink and fluffy. Some sort of outfit made of silk and netting in several soft shades of pink. On the floor below the hanger sat a pair of silver sandals. They would be exactly her size, they always were.

The something pink turned out to be a short midriff bearing top and a long flowing skirt, kind of “I dream of Jeannie” style. Alice remembered watching reruns with her mother when she was little. The outfit didn’t look half bad on her. Being pregnant somehow made her abs look tighter, for now anyway. Taking a deep breath, she slid open the door to her balcony where instead of the street below, she would find this night’s Wonderland.

Alice squinted against the bright sunlight and stepped out of the door to a completely different place and time. In front of her, she saw a huge archway covered in tiny cobalt blue and white tiles. It must have been fifty feet at the top. Perhaps the door to a palace, she thought? Alice felt very small in the doorway, heard running water, and smelled jasmine.

“Curiouser and curiouser.” Alice giggled and walked through the arch into a garden. Flowering trees grew in pots surrounding a sunken pool. The water bubbled as a little stream splashed from a smaller bowl into the pool. She walked over and looked into the water. The bottom must have been covered in the same deep blue tiles as the path that led to the pool, because the water had the same blue. “At least this pool isn’t filled with my tears.” Alice was happy right now not to actually be the little Victorian Girl in a pinafore of whom Lewis Carroll wrote. Though she had thought it written for her as a child, her nocturnal adventures were certainly not for seven-year-old girls.

Soft footsteps to her left caused her to turn to see a slender man. He looked like the Genie in Aladdin except he was tanned instead of blue. His neat mustache and closely trimmed beard would have looked appropriate on any self-respecting resident of a wishing lamp. The man wore only white wide legged pants gathered at the ankle. Of course, his head was shaved. She expected Will Smith’s voice to come out of him, but he said nothing, bowed and motioned to her to follow him.

On either side of the doorway were smaller versions of the grand entry arch. There were four on each side and Alice followed the genie through one of the arches on the right. He led her into a large courtyard. Sunlight bathed the low chairs and large cushions covering a good deal of the floor. The pillows in many shades of peach, pink and lavender were arranged around low tables. Sitting on most of the chairs and pillows were young women dressed exactly like Alice. “A harem?” said Alice to the genie. “I guess I’m dressed for it.” He looked bewildered at her words. Bowing once more, the genie vanished through an archway. He must have other wishes to grant.

The young women, who had fallen silent when she walked into the room, now all talked at once in a language she could not understand. Each one’s dark hair in various shades hung down their backs. One stood up and the others fell silent.

“The Emir wishes me to welcome you to our home,” said the girl. She wore palest baby-pink and had hair and eyes as dark as midnight.

“Great, you speak English,” said Alice.

“The Emir enjoys languages and there are many of us who speak several. I am Yasmina and your name, please?”

“Alice. So what exactly is going on here?” Alice usually found pleasure in her nightly travels. She was not attracted to women and certainly wasn’t interested in sex with any of these “Harem Girl Barbies.”

“My master has arranged a pleasure ceremony.” She clapped her hands and through an arched doorway, six men strode into the room.

“Now that’s more like it,” said Alice. The men all looked similar, tall, muscular and, due to their naked state, she could see they were well endowed and uncircumcised. All six had short dark hair, dark eyes and light brown skin, as if they had just come off a day at the beach, without bothering with swimsuits—no tan lines at all. Every hair had been removed from their beautiful bodies.

The young ladies on the pillows smiled and clapped at their entrance. The men’s serious expressions did not change as they stood in a line looking straight ahead.

Yasmina walked in front of the line of men speaking first in a foreign language and then repeating in English for Alice’s benefit, “Which of you will be chosen to prepare the Emir’s newest wife?” She clapped her hands and two girls led in a figure swathed in gauzy white fabric with only dark, heavily lined eyes visible. I’ll be happy with any of the leftovers.

“This is Sulia, the Emir’s newest wife. She is a virgin, and the Emir wishes that situation to be remedied.” The girls leading Sulia unwrapped their gauzy package. She stood naked. Her flesh shone pink and plump against the line of light brown men who responded with cocks quickly at full attention. The naked girl’s black eyes scanned the men. She smiled shyly, looked each man up and down and stopped in front of the very last one. She wisely chose the man with the smallest endowment, more suited to one’s deflowering.




"Pool of Tears" by Melissa Rea


August 2, 2022

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Magical Realism

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