Garbage

Lila had been gone for three weeks. It was only three weeks ago that my little sister had been helping me take out the garbage. She liked to sniff the new garbage bag (Mom always bought nice-smelling ones) while I would take the old one out to the curb. She would skip behind me and hold out the new bag so it would catch the wind she created. It would billow out, like a lemon-scented cloud. Then we would go back inside and Lila would place the new bag inside the tan garbage pail. Lila was turning six tomorrow. I hope she won't miss her birthday party. A clown was coming, and a pony. Lila loved horses, though she probably wouldn't appreciate the clown. She thought she was too old for clowns. Lila's picture was posted around town, in case anyone spotted her. She was pretty and petite, unlike me. She had long brown hair and chocolate truffles for eyes. I have blue eyes, not sparkling diamond ones like my friend Marcia, but stormy grayish ones. My hair is the color of dirty rust and I'm big-boned and manly. I am nothing like Lila; that's why I liked her so much. Everyone liked Lila actually. She was always smiling and singing songs she made up. She tried to teach these songs to the other kids on the block, but only Mrs. White's dog howled along. Lila never walked or ran; she skipped. She was the only person who could make old Mr. Rane happy, and it sure was hard to please Mr. Rane. He was a Vietnam vet and sometimes he believed he was still in the war, but whenever Lila came to visit, he would light up and play his harmonica for her so she could dance. It was actually quite sweet. I'm sitting on the step of my house, my head resting on my knees. I am staring at a little ant, struggling with a cookie crumb. I hear a "Hey, Cheryl!" and startled, I sit up. It's just Jack from across the street. I used to think he was cute, but ever since he spread a rumor around that I was a lesbian, I haven't talked to him. "Hey," I called back unenthusiastically. He was the last person I wanted to talk to. "Have they found Lila yet?" he asked. "No," I said glumly. Every time someone brought up the subject of Lila, all the pain would come back again. I started to cry. I couldn't believe myself. I was crying in front of Jack, the worst person to cry in front of. Now he was probably going to call me a crybaby or a dyke or some sort of combination of the two. Instead, Jack started running up my walkway. He knocked over the garbage can by accident. Out spilled the lemon-scented garbage bags. I cried harder. "I'm so sorry, Cheryl, I didn't mean to upset you." He looked awkwardly down at me. "Go away!" I shouted. My tears had drowned the ant I was watching, and it washed away into the grass. "Look, I'm really sorry I mentioned.well, you know." Jack sat down beside me. "And I'm really sorry." He paused. "I'm really sorry I told everyone you were a lesbian." "You mean it?" I sniffled. I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hands. "Yeah, I mean it." Jack paused again. Then he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. As soon as he did it, he took off, running back to his house. I stood up and looked around, wondering who had witnessed what just took place. There was no one, and I was glad. I went to go pick up the overturned garbage can. I started to place the bags back into it when I saw a rather large bag with something red leaking out. I walked over to it and tilted my head. After a minute of wondering what it was, I ripped into the bag, tearing it with my ragged nails. Inside, there was Lila, in small little pieces.