Maria stepped into her kitchen from the carport door. A fragrance she didn’t recognize floated around the room. It was nice but a little strong. Hmmm. Who did that remind her of? “Emily!”
“Don’t take your love to town,” almost a whisper, came softly from around the corner to the bedroom.
Now what? Not sure she wanted to know, she followed the direction of the voice into her bedroom. She practically ran into a huge birdcage with a large gray bird staring its bright beady eyes at her. It said, “Oh my love, you are beautiful. Awk,” in a soft little voice. She stepped back in surprise and heard something clatter in the bathroom. A makeup tube came rolling through the doorway. She stooped to pick it up.
Emily sat at Maria’s counter looking in Maria’s makeup mirror, using Maria’s makeup. “Ooo, cherie, we must find you better cosmetics.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my cosmetics,” Maria said, then blinked her eyes at her cousin’s outfit. Emily was dressed in shimmering lavender. She looked like a glitzy snake. From neck to shoes she was covered in super thin spandex, her spectacular body, twenty three-inch-waist, thirty-eight-inch-chest, and thirty-four-inch-hips seemingly sheathed in a slick purple balloon. “You look like an ice cream soda. Why is a bird in my bedroom?”
“He’s not just a bird, sweetpea, he’s an African Grey Parrot—tres valuable. Emily dusted her cheeks with a fat makeup brush. “He needs to be in a bedroom so he doesn’t get upset.” She smiled at her reflection, stood up from the little dressing table stool and tossed her black waterfall of hair over her shoulder.
Fascinated, Maria asked dumbly, “Why would he get upset being in a living room? Where did you get him anyway?"
“He’s very sensitive, ma cherie. I’m off to work now.” She tucked away the makeup tubes and vials, turned off the bathroom light, and sidled past Maria toward the birdcage. The bird cocked its soft gray head and said quietly, “don’t touch me,” and blinked its eyes.
Emily's giggle hadn't changed since she was four years old. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be back late, but I can find my way in." Emily grabbed Maria’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Au revoir.” She picked up a waiting bag and went out the carport door.
Maria sat stunned on the corner of the bed and watched the bird. "What a peach!" Epifanio blurted. He made her smile in spite of how she felt. Betty Albee was not even thirty five yet. Maria wondered again if that hole out in the woods could be involved in Betty’s death. In a cemetery that could hold any type of dead things, truth be told. Probably only a coincidence, but what a great place to hide a body. Maria’s father said there was no such thing as a coincidence.
Maria was greeted with a conversational, “You’ve been keeping this from me,” when she walked into her bedroom. She turned to see the parrot hunched on his perch.
“Lights out, darling,” he said.