(WP) Questions for Alice

(WP) Questions for Alice

               It’s a
typical day at the salon when I turn on the news during a color, my client
sitting in her chair with a magazine.

               “Yes,
Jim, well, we’re going to interrupt our usual news programming for a special
report.” The pretty news anchor, Carol Keane, smiles brightly, though it doesn’t
reach her eyes. “We’re receiving word that a woman has been arrested,” She
pauses a beat for dramatic effect, “for murder.”

               At first,
the words don’t sink in. But then the mugshot surfaces next to Carol, and I
cover my mouth to hide a gasp.

               It’s
Alice. And she’s smirking at the camera, holding up her name and number plate.
As usual, she is beautiful, with her long, blonde hair twisted into an elegant
chignon, makeup perfectly applied and nails done, painted a violet so dark they
look black.

               How
could this have happened? I know that she and her boyfriend were having issues,
but surely it hadn’t all led to murder?

               Rita,
sitting in her chair, glances up at the screen and frowns.

               “Is
that Alice?”

               Living
in a small town really sucks sometimes; I remember giving that girl her first
haircut.

               As soon
as I finish Rita’s hair, I close up the salon and head over to the police
station, bits of conversations floating around in my mind like angry bees.

               I’m so
worried that I barely remember the ride to the station, and my hands are
trembling.

               “It’s
nothing, Heather, honestly,” I remember Alice saying, smiling stiffly,
shrugging her slim shoulders. “Frank and I just had a fight, that’s all. A
small disagreement and too much liquor, it’s not a big deal.”

               I
try to press the issue, but she just shakes her head and sits down. “I just
need a trim.”

               **

               She comes
in on a rainy day, and her cheeks are tearstained, makeup ruined despite the
umbrella she’s carrying. A purple bruise stands livid on her neck, like a
strand of bright violet jewels.

“Alice, are you all right?”

I rush to the back of the shop
and make her a coffee, thick with cream and sugar, and press it into her hands.

“I’m fine, Heather,” Alice murmurs,
shivering after she takes a sip of coffee. It’s a constant refrain, even with
my gut telling me that everything is wrong. But I ignore it, not wanting to
rock the boat.

**

And here I am, kicking myself
sounding for everything I noticed but refused to acknowledge. I sit in the station’s
parking lot, punching the steering wheel and wondering if the voice taunting me
in my mind is right.

Could I have prevented this if I’d
said something earlier?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist
to figure out that Frank was abusive. There’s no doubt in my mind that the man
deserved it.

But does Alice deserve to rot in
jail for the rest of her life, just for defending herself?

My decision made, I lock the car
and walk into the station.

**

An officer is sitting at his desk,
taking a bite of a sandwich. His scowl makes me wish that I hadn’t walked in,
but it’s too late to back down now.

“Excuse me, officer, I apologize
for interrupting, but it’s important. I’m here to talk about Alice Dewitt.”

**