The door to the cylindrical chamber opens like a porthole in a submarine. Inside, on a mesh wire tray, petite brown feet with pale soles face outward. Jo wants to look away, but instead her gaze follows the ankles up to the slender calves, the emaciated nakedness with its sunken belly and flattened breasts, then finally settles on the terrified face of the girl cooking slowly inside.
This chapter starts off with a blatant reminder of the first book in the series, Painted Black. In so many ways, including the title, this book brings us full circle to that one.
The nightmare awakened Jo with a familiar bolt of energy. It wasn’t the first time she’d had dreams of her one glimpse of Lexie Green’s fate. It persisted even though it wasn’t even a realistic portrayal of what she’d actually seen when she glanced through a funeral home window looking for the missing girl. All she’d seen then had been the girl’s feet. She hadn’t known until much later what the chamber was for, and that Lexie had been dead before she’d been placed inside the apparatus designed to freeze-dry her into immortality.
Jo had awakened to morning at least, this time. Late morning, it seemed, from the slant of sunlight coming in from outside. The hum of her window air conditioner nearly drowned out the sounds of traffic and cars honking in the Hyde Park street in front of her building. Another sign that Jo had slept in. The neighborhood was up and thriving; it was time Jo joined them.
Padding barefoot toward the kitchen, she paused to pick up a manilla envelope someone had shoved under her door. Scrawled across the front of it, unsigned, but in familiar handwriting, read, “Squee!! I’m famous! I’ll let you buy me champaign and caviar when I get back next week. Don’t forget about Topaz. Love you. Be good.”
Inside the envelope was a copy of the latest Marie Claire magazine with four women on the cover. Building a Seasonal Wardrobe read the large print alongside the photo. Each woman wore highly fashionable clothes symbolic of the season they represented. Jo’s friend and neighbor, Keisha, with her beautifully bronze skin and dazzling smile, was the epitome of summer.
The kitchen was warmer than the bedroom, but cool enough to not prohibit the idea of baking blueberry muffins for breakfast. Her apartment did have central air conditioning, everyone in the building did, but the system was old and unreliable. Plus, Jo liked it glacial while she slept, an excuse to curl up like a hibernating bear beneath a soft comforter.
She dressed while the muffins baked, the sweet smell wafting throughout the small one bedroom flat. Then, grabbing Keisha’s keys, a muffin, and the magazine, she headed across the hall to Keisha’s apartment.
Topaz, the friendliest Siamese cat Jo had ever encountered, greeted her arrival with incessant meows that could have been greetings or complaints that she’d taken too long to come. The cat warbling turned to even louder purrs as Jo used the automatic can opener on a tin of cat food. The purrs and ankle-rubbing didn’t cease until the food dish was placed on the floor. Then, finally, Jo was able to start on her own breakfast.
Keisha had a Keurig, so it didn’t take long before Jo took her coffee to kitchen bar stool to eat and look through the fashion magazine. She found it hard to concentrate, however, barely making it through the article that accompanied Keisha’s photo shoot. The nightmare still haunted her.
I decided on the title Cry Baby Cry for several reasons, but one significant one is that CRY was the tag used by the graffiti artist who was Lexie Green’s friend, Christopher Robert Young.
She had learned of Lexie Green’s fate almost a year before, and the nightmares had, thank God, tapered off since then. Avril’s reappearance in her life, however, seemed to have revived those memories with a vengeance.