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Authors: Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Chasing Chaos: A Novel

BOOK: Chasing Chaos: A Novel
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Chasing Chaos

a novel

KATIE ROSE GUEST
PRYAL

 

 

 

Published
by Velvet Morning Press

 

Copyright
© 2016 by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

 

All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the author, except for the inclusion of brief
quotations in a review.

 

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and
incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a
fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.

 

 

Cover
design by Ellen Meyer and Vicki Lesage

Author
photo by Chris Guest Adigun

 

 

For Michael,
Adrian and Edward

 

Prologue

Daphne
ran through the emergency entrance of Cedars-Sinai hospital, once again
wondering if someone she loved was going to be alive when she got there. She
dashed through the sliding glass doors, through the metal detectors, past the
guards.

Moments
later, she arrived on the surgical floor. A nurse informed her that the surgery
could take a while. Hours even. It could take hours before she knew whether
she’d caused the death of someone close to her.

Whether
tonight she’d set in motion the dangerous actions that had put two people in
the hospital and one person in an operating room fighting for life.

She
couldn’t stand herself. Self-blame nearly suffocated her.

After
minutes or hours—Daphne couldn’t tell—the surgical nurse emerged from the wide
double doors.

Daphne
glanced at her watch. That couldn’t be right. She had only been waiting thirty
minutes. Thirty minutes that had felt eternal, but thirty minutes nonetheless.

Daphne
fixed her eyes on the nurse’s face as she reached behind her head to untie her
mask. And then another person caught Daphne’s attention. Another person passed
through the doors, wearing darker scrubs and a floral surgical cap. The way
this new woman carried herself, Daphne could tell she was the surgeon.

Daphne
could infer what it meant when the surgeon came out after thirty minutes of
surgery. Someone had died.

No
one else was in the waiting room but Daphne.

They
were sorry to inform her. They did all they could. The damage was too severe,
especially to the cervical spine and skull.

The
surgeon asked Daphne if she had information about next of kin.

“Next
of kin?” Daphne asked.

They
needed to notify the family. They thought Daphne might have contact
information. But there’s no rush, the surgeon said. If they have to wait till
morning to make the call, that’s OK.

Daphne
tried to imagine waiting until morning to hear about a loved one who had been
dead all night.

Dead,
and no one knowing except the woman who had caused it to happen.

 

April 2005

 

One

Daphne
eased from the bed, her slim limbs barely casting shadows across the floor of
the man’s studio apartment. The spring sunrise shone through the security
metalwork bolted to the bedroom windows. His walls were white, spare. On the
floor, here and there, leaned framed images waiting to be hung.

Daphne
located her panties—plain, black—and her dress—long, blue. She held her sandals
so she could move quietly. A rustle sounded from the bed. She turned. The man
propped his head on his hand, his elbow on the mattress, eyeing her. She stood
straighter, facing him.

“Leaving
so soon?” he asked.

“I
have a meeting.”

“On
a Sunday?”

“I
told you I’m a freelancer.”

“Can
I see you again?”

“Sure.”
Her bag sat on the man’s kitchen counter, where she’d left it the night before.
She passed over her business cards tucked in their pocket. She pulled out a
notebook instead. She wrote a name, Akane, and a phone number one digit off
from her own. She tore the page from the notebook and handed it to him.

He
leaned back and held the paper in both hands, reading it, cradling it, a young
Jim Hawkins with his treasure map. If only he knew it held false coordinates.

Daphne
dropped her sandals to the floor and slipped them on.

“Bye,
Akane,” the man said.

His
name was John. If she could help it, she would never see him again.

She
smiled at him as she lifted her bag over her shoulder.

Once
the door shut behind her, Daphne released a deep sigh.

Although
Los Angeles as a city was large, Brentwood, her neighborhood, and the film
industry, her industry, could both be quite small. Giving a fake name to a man
might seem risky. But she’d done it many times without trouble.

 

~~~~

 

She’d
only had one close brush. She’d been buying groceries at a market on San
Vicente. She and one of these men like John, a man named Andrew, had reached
for the same carton of eggs. She’d recognized Andrew immediately, of course.
Daphne never forgot a face. But she’d kept moving placidly, placing an egg
carton in her basket and turning toward the cheese.

“Wait—are
you Akane?” Andrew asked, stumbling over the pronunciation of the name.

She
gave him a skeptical look, one that a woman gives to a guy who is using a cheap
line.

“No,
wait,” Andrew said, as she backed away. “We’ve met. I’m sure of it.”

“We
haven’t met,” Daphne said, keeping her voice as crisp as the morning air
outside.

Daphne
could see Andrew’s frustration as he began to doubt himself. She felt bad for
him. “My name is not Akane. If it wouldn’t be creepy I’d show you my driver’s
license.”

“But,
like, six weeks ago, at Mija’s—”

Daphne
shook her head, putting pity in her eyes. “There are a lot of Asian women in
Los Angeles,” she said and left him standing alone by the yogurt.

 

~~~~

 

She
skipped down the steps leading away from John’s apartment, making her early
morning escape. It wasn’t that she never wanted to see John again in
particular. Last night wasn’t about John at all. He’d just had a role to play.

Lately,
she’d felt restless. She’d felt restless with her current scripts (she always
worked on two at a time) and with her boyfriend, Dan. She knew she could just
dump Dan. But she also knew that dumping him would hurt him, and she didn’t
want to hurt him. He was a nice person, despite his flaws. Dan was another
freelance screenwriter like she was. In fact, he was the reason she’d had the
courage to go freelance in the first place and leave behind studio life. She
would always be grateful to him.

She
climbed into her car and drove the short distance back to her condo on Montana.

She
was happy to be out of the studios. The studios created monsters, men with
gigantic egos who thought they could do anything, to anyone, and get away with
it. She’d seen it happen.

She
pulled into the garage under her condo and shut the garage door behind her.
She’d bought the condo after her first freelance scripts sold big a few years
ago. She’d had enough money for a down payment and got a great mortgage rate on
the rest, a monthly amount she could pay alone even though she had two bedrooms
and two parking spaces. The building still showed its early 1970s genetics, but
Daphne didn’t mind. That was LA—a hodgepodge of classy and derelict and disco.
And she loved it.

From
her home she could walk to all the shops and restaurants on San Vicente and
Montana. As much as she loved to drive, she loved to walk on cool mornings with
her laptop in her leather satchel and sit in a small corner where she could
watch people and write.

Somehow,
after everything that had happened five years ago, and everything that had
happened since, she’d found, if not happiness, at least peace.

She
thought of Dan as she climbed her stairs. This was the fourth time she’d
cheated on him, finding an anonymous man to spend the night with and then leave
behind. Each time, she’d sought to bury her restlessness in a stranger’s bed.
She wasn’t
in
love with Dan, no, but she cared deeply for him, and she
loved having someone to share ideas with, someone to cook dinner for.

And,
she suspected, he wasn’t always faithful to her either.

She
entered her apartment and firmly locked the door behind her. After what had
happened to Greta and her five years ago, she was meticulous with locks. Back
then they’d been girls. That December five years ago, Greta had been twenty-two
and Daphne twenty-three, both of them only a year out of college. But that
crisis made them grow up fast. Greta, her college roommate, best friend, and
sister in spirit—had almost died because of Daphne’s carelessness.

No.
Because of Daphne’s curse.

She
set her keys on the midcentury sideboard that stood in the foyer. In fact, all
of the furniture in her apartment, with a few exceptions, was from the
midcentury era. The furniture was easy to find at estate sales and at the
thrift stores that stood near higher-end neighborhoods like her own. It was
amazing what people would throw away. The sideboard, for instance, she’d picked
up for free in front of a house in Laurel Canyon. The homeowners had set it out
with the trash. She’d stood next to it until Greta had come with her pick-up
truck to help her bring it home.

Sure,
the top surface had needed refinishing in a bad way, but she’d done that in her
second parking space one Saturday. Now, everyone who walked into her apartment
remarked on it.

Even
her large sofa was midcentury. Greta had picked out the sofa back when they’d
been roommates. When Daphne had moved into this place, the only furniture in
the living room was the sofa, a glaring reminder of what she’d done to Greta.
Over the months and years, she’d acquired everything else to match it.

Greta
had taught her all about midcentury furniture. Greta liked its simplicity. The
straight legs. The large, functional drawers. Greta was—or had been, since
she’d softened a bit over the years—all about function.

At
the thought of Greta, Daphne checked her watch. She was meeting her friend for
brunch before noon and needed to get ready.

She
slipped off her sandals, adding to the pile of shoes next to the door. She set
her bag on the sofa, which was upholstered in brilliant orange vinyl (an
inevitable conversation starter). Then she walked behind the island into the
kitchen and set a pot of coffee to brew.

She
started pulling off her clothes as she entered her bedroom. She threw her dress
on her bed and kicked her underwear to the dirty clothes pile in the corner.
Daphne had always been a slob, though these days she tried to restrain her mess
to her bedroom.

In
the shower, she thought again of John. She’d encountered him the night before
at Nick’s, a club in Santa Monica. Earlier in the evening, Daphne had met some
old friends from Sony there, and they’d sat in the courtyard around a fire pit
under the small palm trees. The other women had ended the night early because
they had to be on set at six in the morning. As they left, Daphne once again
knew she’d made the right choice leaving her job. Daphne had decided to stay at
the club. Her restlessness had been eating at her for a couple of weeks. Last
night it had her fully in its grip.

She’d
headed toward the bar. As she approached, two men stood up and ceded their
barstools to her. She sat on one stool and motioned to one of the men—John—to
sit down next to her again. The other man surrendered the contest, wandering
off in search of easier prey.

John
was handsome in a perfunctory way. Tall, well built. Brown hair and eyes,
nothing out of the ordinary. Late twenties, like she was.

Perfect.

“I’m
new in town,” John said. “You?”

“I’ve
lived here for years.”

“You
don’t look old enough to have lived here for years.”

Men
often thought Daphne looked young. They also often underestimated her. She used
both of these mistakes to her advantage.

“Nevertheless,”
she said.

“Did
you go to college here or something?”

“I
didn’t.”

“What
do you do?” he asked.

“I
freelance.”

He
smiled ruefully, as though he were beginning to understand the lay of things.
“Would you like to know what I do?”

“We
could talk about work, if you really wanted to.”

“Or
we could not talk about work.”

Daphne
smiled and pulled her valet ticket from her purse. “Let’s get our cars.”

She
didn’t want to know about him. About any of them. It was easier that way.

John
drove a Toyota Camry, the everyman’s car, and that made her happy. He was even
easier to forget with his anonymous automobile to match his ordinary features.

She
followed him to an apartment building north of Brentwood. It was nice enough,
but not too nice, and he waited for her by the exterior door, holding it open
for her, leading her down the hall to his apartment. The studio was large
enough for a bed and a small sitting area, but not for a table. She supposed he
ate at the bar extending from the kitchen counter, dividing the narrow cooking
area from the rest of the space.

“Do
you want a drink?” he asked.

“Do
you have beer?”

He
opened the fridge and gazed inside for a moment, as though contemplating his
selections. He pulled out two different beers and offered her a choice.

“Wow.
I’d love the Allagash,” she said.

He
popped the lids on both bottles and took the one she didn’t choose.

“Cheers,”
he said, tipping his bottle’s neck toward her. She tapped it with her own, then
drained half the beer. She set it on the counter next to her bag. Then she
kicked off her sandals. She held out her hand, peering up at him.

Dan
always told her she had Disney Princess eyes.

“That’s
why I can’t help but do what you tell me to,” Dan said to her. “No man can say
no to Ariel. To Belle. To Princess Daphne.”

 

~~~~

 

Daphne
stepped from the shower, dried off and dressed. The restlessness had settled by
the time she pulled on her skinny jeans and the Nirvana T-shirt she’d bought at
an In Utero Tour concert shortly before Kurt had killed himself. She only
hand-washed the thing and then only rarely. She grabbed a pair of ankle booties
from her closet.

She
loved that these were the clothes she got to wear to work. She loved that she
got to dress like this to go to a place like Rivet, the restaurant where she
had her weekly brunch with Greta. Daphne still liked to dress up, of course,
and her wardrobe was still rambunctious, but sometimes she just wanted to dress
comfortably, even invisibly. Well, as invisibly as she could, given that she
attracted attention wherever she went. Sometimes she wished she would start to
age, to lose the starlet glow. Even in Los Angeles, where everyone was
beautiful, Daphne seemed to stand out. She realized now that standing out was
part of her curse.

She
tucked her boots under her arm and poured herself some coffee in a to-go mug,
screwing the lid on tight. She didn’t want to spill on her T-shirt.

She
grabbed her bag—it contained the items she brought with her everywhere: her
notebook, composition style; her laptop, MacBook Pro with charger cable;
pen-case, made in Japan; fountain pens and extra ink, made in Germany; wallet,
keys, lipstick, cell phone and other smaller necessities. Greta called it
Daphne’s Neurotic Bag. Now that Daphne no longer had an office, her office was
her bag. It was her whole life, really. So yeah, she was a little neurotic
about it.

She
sat in the chair next to the sideboard and zipped on her booties, then stood.
It was time to go meet Greta.

BOOK: Chasing Chaos: A Novel
12.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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