Author: Summer Fall-Winter-Spring PM
Done for an unreliable narrarator assignment at school.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Crime - Words: 2,109 - Published: 09-27-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2577204
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was a cold night in October; the skies were overcast and cloudy, and drizzles of rain had come down throughout the day, coating the midnight city in a frigid, oily slick. I stood on one street corner, my jacket pulled around me, my teeth clicking. A few cars passed, a lot of times with young, often inebriated men driving them- sometimes they honked or passengers leaned out of their windows. It made my blood boil, but I tried to keep a straight face. Besides them, though, I hadn't seen a single person.
My phone buzzed in my right pocket; I pulled my hands out of my armpits, flexing them against the cold, and fumbled it open.
"Yeah, it's me."
I hunched my shoulders, clenching the phone to my ear and half turning away from the street. "Where iare /iyou?"
"Rehearsal ran long." Claire is doing a production of The King and I at the local theater. I don't know how the girl does it- she manages to hold a day job, take college classes, work at her play, and hang out with me late at nights on weekends. She's a goddess, and I can't bring myself to be mad at her for being late. "Usual place, right? I'll burn rubber. Stay on the line."
I could hear chatter in the back. She sounded like she was walking outside. After a few minutes I heard her say, softer now, "Are you still there?"
"There's this girl in the production," she said, still in half a whisper. "I think you'd really like her, Gine." There was a significant pause. It was starting to drizzle again. "I want to invite her."
"To come with us."
"Claire, this is iour/i time."
"Gina, please. You would really like her. She's just like you. I swear."
I laughed a little harshly and lowered my voice even more. "What if she's not?"
There was a pause. I could tell Claire was thinking it over, that this subject had occurred to her many times and that she didn't have an answer any more now than the first time she'd dwelled on it. "That'll be that," she said, at long last, sounding almost resigned. "We'll just have to deal with it. But I don't think we'll have to."
She was determined. I wanted to push the issue, to tell her she was crazy- but that would make her sad- she'd still come, but her heart wouldn't be in it, and I wouldn't see her again for another week. I sighed. "Fine."
She squealed, and I muttered under my breath. I heard her talking, her hand cupped over her phone, voices. She hung up on me, but not before I heard the snarl of an engine. I breathed out heavily through my nose, replaced my phone, and returned my pressing duty of standing around being cold and wet.
It was maybe fifteen minutes when I saw Claire's car come careening dangerously around the corner- it was a gift from a rich grandmother, and not having paid for it, she appears to think the thing is unbreakable. I kind of seethe whenever I see it, being carless.
The Civic turned an approximately ninety-degree corner and screeched to a stop in a dip between two alleyways. It was true- she had burned some rubber. I could almost smell it, and I giggled a little in spite of myself as the doors opened and Claire and her friend got out, laughing and smoothing hair.
Claire has the kind of face that is so lovely, so well-made, that it almost hurts to look at. It's how I've always pictured the angels in heaven- wide, blue eyes, framed by rings of dark eyelashes, perfectly sculpted lips like cherries, blonde ringlets. Sometimes I feel clunky next to her- tall, bony as a vulture, short angular hair that makes my face look even more rigid than it really is.
The girl next to her- yikes. She was itiny/i- small, shapeless, a twelve year old, and her hair, a limp shade of mouse-brown hung against her skin, looking almost transparent and certainly unhealthy.
"Gina!" Claire said, with the kind of excitement someone might use to convince their dog to go into the vet's office. She was bundled up in a jacket and scarves- the girl next to her was wearing a sweater and old jeans. "Hey! This is Angela." She gestured to the girl like a model showing off a new car. "Angela, Gina. Gina, Angela."
I frowned. "How old are you?"
Angela scowled. I got the impression she was asked this question a lot. "I'm sixteen."
"Right. Angela, can you excuse us for a minute?"
Angela nodded. I grabbed Claire by the elbow and pulled her off to the side. She scoffed, but she didn't resist when I pushed her in the shadow of a building and whispered, "She's still in ihigh school?/i"
"Gina," she said, sounding impatient, brushing hair out of her face. "She's totally cool, okay? Just chill. We can handle this."
"Well, it's one thing if she doesn't click, and she's living on her own. But you brought someone who's not ieven legal yet?/i"
Claire scowled. I knew that scowl. Feisty lass. She put one hand on my chest and pushed me- just a little, but she was serious anyhow. I backed up. "Look. I brought a friend. If it works out, it works out, if it doesn't, it doesn't. Okay? iGod. Relax./i"
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and flounced past me to where Angela was waiting, looking unamused. I saw her link arms with her, smiling- my stomach burned with jealousy. Claire and I had always been together- maybe not officially, but both of us understood that we were more or less an item- what? Was some piece of jailbait taking my place? Did I not see her enough?
"Come on, Gina, we're already late," Claire shouted over her shoulder, and I scurried to catch up.
We walked to the end of the street- me quiet, them chatting. Angela spoke to me once, I think, to ask me something before she turned back to Claire. I bristled. She stopped, though, when she figured out where we were.
"Um . . . we aren't- we aren't going to the strip club, are we?"
Observant, this one. Claire and I exchanged glances, and I couldn't help but be a little bit happy. They couldn't have been that close, or Angela would have known about us. In any case, it was a strip club, and the most seedy of its kind, too- no windows, bright pink neon signs over the top, screaming iGIRLS GIRLS GIRLS/i, and the outline, also in pink, of a woman with her back to us, looking over her shoulder.
"No, dummy. Just outside. Wait over there with Gina."
Claire was making her way to go lean on one of the cars, unbuttoning her coat as she did so. Her shirt was thin and low cut- consider it bait.
Someone came out of the strip club within ten minutes; he was tall, thirtyish, with dark tousled hair and bloodshot eyes. He weaved back and forth as he walked, giggling to himself and holding a one dollar bill clenched in one sweaty fist. I felt my skin crawl with disgust just looking at him. For a minute, I thought he was going to walk right past us and drive off, likely killing someone as he did so, but just as he had passed Claire, looking contemplatively into the sky, he stopped, staggered around and said with what he clearly thought was a winning smile said, "Hey- hey, baby."
Claire looked down at him, apparently surprised. "Hello?"
He swayed where he stood. "Yeah," he said. "Hey. My name's-" he stopped, looking as if he was going to vomit, recovered, and said, "My name's- I'm Thomas."
Claire's eyebrows drew together a little, a sure sign that she was appalled, but the rest of her face was smooth, open, smiling sweetly at him. She wiggled her shoulders. "Thomas. It's nice to meet you, Thomas."
He went forward to shoved a sweaty arm around her. I pretended I wasn't part of the conversation, that three young women hang around in the parking lots of strip clubs all the time. Claire rested her head on his arm. "You want to go to my apartment?"
"Yeah," he slurred.
She started to lead him toward the entrance of the lot, glancing over at us as she passed us. Angela looked between us, her forehead wrinkling in confusion. I jerked my head toward the man's slouched back and mouthed follow, and she did, slow, hesitant, like newborn steps.
Claire was halfway down the street by now. She was heading toward where she'd parked her car, pulling him into the shadow of the road, and I broke into a jog to catch up. Angela sprinted behind me, panting, and I saw Claire suddenly push the man and coil back in disgust. Her hand went into her coat pocket, pulled back out, and shot downward with heart-stopping accuracy.
The man howled in pain and surprise, suddenly no longer drunk. A switchknife was jutting out of his chest, just below the right clavicle. Blood leaked around the corners of the blade, turning the stainless steel red. Angela shrieked and I jumped forward. I had a similar weapon in my pocket, but I hardly ever used it.
My hands found his throat, clenching, squeezing. He struggled, his hands trying to snap my wrists. Claire pulled the knife out of his chest, and he rasped in pain- I heard her wiping in off her jeans. Angela was still screeching like a banshee- there was a sound like a slap.
The man was convulsing, but less. His pulse fluttered under my hands, slower each time, and the length between each rattling breath he struggled to gain was growing. He shuddered once. He was still.
I let him go and stepped back. Angela was whimpering, holding her arms around herself. Claire had her hand on her arm and was talking softly; as I turned around, the former cried, wild, despairing.
"You- you killed him!"
"He deserved it," I said.
"No-" she choked, her breathing coming in great, hitching gasps. I looked at Claire, and she stared back, apologetic, blood freckling her skin. "No! You're crazy! You're both crazy!"
She turned and tried to run, but Claire, my Claire, was faster; she lunged, her cheeks blushing from exertion and fury, and one fist swung. It collided, completely dead on, with the back of Angela's neck and she fell, hitting the ground with a thud like a dead cow.
"I'm sorry," Claire said, stepping back, wiping one of the red smears off her cheek. "I thought she'd be cool with it. I really did."
I shook my head. "Don't bring anybody else, okay?"
"Yeah, sure. Go get his legs, would you?"
I nodded; she unlocked the trunk and together we hoisted the man into the back and shoved him; he rolled like a bottle of soda. I pointed to Angela, collapsed on the ground, her face against the wet road. "What about her?"
"Yeah, load her in."
She joined the man; I closed the lid. Claire shivered.
"You ever think we're doing the right thing?" she asked.
"Doing the right thing?" I repeated. "My god. Look what men have done, Claire. War. Death. Hate. It's men. It's all men." I lit a cigarette. "Think of what we're doing for society. Scum like that? Nobody'll miss him."
She nodded. "Where's he going? The bridge again?"
"Nah. I saw some police officers around there the other day. Let's just find a dumpster. She'll have to go in the water, though. Finish the job." I glanced at the trunk. "Did you really like her?"
"I don't know. I guess. Why? Are you jealous?"
" . . . no."
She leaned forward and kissed me. "I could never date someone like her," she said. "Come on. You want to get some fries or something after we pitch these two?"
"Sure," I said.
"Good," Claire said, smiling. My angel. "Hurry up, then, I'm starving."