By Maggie Giles
My cigarette bounced across the asphalt, sparking each time it hit the ground. From where I stood, Courtney was still in view. A worried expression on her porcelain face, cellphone pushed tightly to her ear, practically hidden by her flaming red hair. She climbed into her car and sped down the street without another glance in my direction. What could have had her so worried? My first guess was her dad. It was always her dad.
He’d been released from prison a year before, and living with her mom ever since. It hadn’t been easy. Actually it had been terrible. Courtney knew he beat her mother, but Liv never did anything about it. She never spoke out against him and claimed any harm that came to her was a result of anything but her husband. Battered wife syndrome at its best.
I grabbed my phone, shooting her a quick text just to make sure everything was okay. I didn’t expect an answer so when my phone buzzed I was pleasantly surprised. That was, until I read Dean’s name and the short words accompanied with it.
Home tonight. Be at my place by 8.
The images of Vanessa’s lifeless eyes were still prominent in my mind, so I ignored his message. Instead, I shoved my hands in my pockets and started the walk to my dad’s. Dean wouldn’t like my silence, but I didn’t want to deal with him right now.
The idea of Courtney’s distress put me on edge. She was the only one who could really do that. Besides, I could claim we were busy. There was a bachelorette weekend coming up in just over a week after all. The trip I’d planned to Muskoka was far from my mind, however.
All I’d thought about since the previous night was Vanessa. Her blood, the way her dead eyes stared at me as if they saw right through me. The way her fair skin looked paler as the blood flowed from her head wound. I thought of the metal stench that had been warm and sticky on my fingers and the way I wanted to caress her lifeless face. The strange sensation was foreign to me but felt so right.
My feet dragged along the gravel path as I trudged towards my dad’s. Thankful for the cloud cover, I was comfortable in the summer heat. Cooler than usual, but at least the body would rot slower.
I wondered when she’d be found, lost in the field. When she’d start to smell strong enough that someone would go investigate. Who would find her? Would someone realize she was gone and notify the police? Did she have family? Friends? I knew nothing about her life. The idea frightened and fascinated me at the same time. What an uncomfortable feeling.
My phone buzzed again pulling me from my thoughts. Another text from Dean. Only question marks. I tucked it away again without response. He’d want to talk about it. Make sure I wasn’t going to spill the truth, make sure his – our – secret was safe. I wouldn’t tell a soul. I didn’t want anyone to be a part of Vanessa’s memory. I wanted her to myself. In reality I wanted it to be my secret, not ours. I resented Dean for that.
A light summer wind rustled my loose hair and I reached up to tame it. I had barely slept the night, let alone brushed my hair. Courtney looked at me like I was a complete drug addict, she’d always been pretty judgemental.
By the third text I answered, telling him I was still with Courtney and I’d get back to him when I could. After that he didn’t message me. This time he got to ignore me. Dean was awfully petty sometimes.
I reached my dad’s condo after a forty-minute uneventful walk but hesitated before entering. He’d been out cold on the couch when I’d left and dealing with him was the last thing I wanted. Still, it was him or Dean and he seemed like a better option. The stench of stale beer and musky air invaded my sense as I pushed the door open. Strong enough to make me stop, gasp for air. There sitting in the main room was my dad. Upright, but looking haggard with his unshaven face, messy hair and bloodshot eyes. He lifted his head to acknowledge me then shifted his gaze back to the TV. The sounds of muffled voices accompanied his loneliness. The newscasters; his only real friends.
“You look like shit.” I kicked off my shoes.
“Be nice, Lex.” Dad’s raspy voice spoke to me but he didn’t look my way again.
“It’s not like you’ll remember it anyway.” I stomped across the room and swiped his cigarette pack from the table, stealing a dart and lighting up. He reached out as I discarded the remaining ones, taking one and doing the same. Then he patted the couch beside him.
“Where have you been?”
I sat next to him and blew the smoke in a long puff above us. “Out.”
Dad nodded. “Come home last night?”
“Like you’d remember.” I shrugged, nodding to the discarded bottle of whiskey in the corner.
“Lex.” His stern fatherly voice broke through the rasps of a chronic smoker and alcoholic.
“Yeah, I was late.” After what happened with Dean, he’d dropped me at my dad’s. I hadn’t wanted to go back to the scene. I wanted a minute to consider it myself.
“That delinquent again?” Dad never liked Dean.
“Don’t pretend you care.” I leaned forward and butt my smoke out in the dirty ashtray.
Dad’s hand tightened into a fist as he took another drag. “You know I care.”
Again I shrugged then retreated from the room.
“Where are you going?” He called after me.
I didn’t look back.
<<<End of Excerpt>>>