“Hey, Riley, come to bed already!” a thin, nasally voice called from the next room over.
“Don’t rush me! I’ll get there when I get there” Riley yelled back, rolling her eyes. Cory could get needy at night, but Riley’s routine was her ritual.
Riley wiped off the foggy mirror with her robe sleeve until her tired portrait appeared. Poking and probing at her face, she grimaced at the bags under her eyes and small blemishes dotting her cheeks. Running her fingers around the back of her neck, she felt around the larger, painful bump at the base of her skull and winced.
Sighing, she stopped her examination, knowing that any attempt to remove the small marks would only leave scars. She dug through her small blue bin of lotions and elixirs, pulling out a small grey bottle of cleanser.
Riley ran the sink cold over her hands, then pumped a small pile of the slick cleanser onto her fingertips. Watching herself in the mirror, she carefully massaged the formula in upward circles, leaving no patch of skin unwashed.
After a few minutes she leaned over the sink and filled her cupped palms with water, then held her breath as she dunked her face. As she wiped the excess water away from her eyes the sink’s drain caught her attention. Something seemed… off. Riley examined the metal-ringed tunnel, trying to figure out what was different.
At the right edge of the circle, peeking out over the edge. Was it a little stick? A bobby pin? Riley leaned closer to get a better look. She leapt back swearing a moment later.
The black object snaked further out of the drain, followed by an oblong brown and black body lined with a dozen thin legs. The roach dragged out its sodden body, too water laden to move quickly.
Riley ducked below the sink and grabbed the spray bleach. She repeatedly doused the insect until it curled in on itself. Running the sink, she watched the flowing water push the dead thing down the drain.
Riley crawled in between the cool bedsheets and snuggled up against Cory. They took off their glasses and closed their book, placing it on the bedside table.
“You good? I heard you cursing” Cory asked, sliding lower into the bed and snaking their arm around Riley’s shoulders.
“Yeah, I’m fine, but we really need to talk to the landlord about those water roaches. I see them almost every day—” Riley compulsively shuddered— “and they’re frickin’ creepy.”
A cool night breeze blew in from the cracked-open window, tousling a few strands of Riley’s hair. Riley rolled over in her sleep, her hair twisting up and away as she tucked her face into Cory’s shoulder. Moonlight illuminated the back of her neck, catching on the raised red blemish. The inflamed lump underneath shifted, splitting the skin above it.
A single black leg pushed its way out into the light.