There's a half-empty bottle of wine on the coffee table. Blackstone. Cheap. I know it's cheap because it gave my dad nausea last night. Cheap wine does that to him. Why he drank it, I don't know. He's such a dumbass sometimes.
Lindsay, his new fiancée, sits on the couch behind the coffee table in her black nightgown, a lit cigarette between her fingers. She's not supposed to smoke in here. It's bad for my asthma. It's also against regulations. But of course, she doesn't care.
She passes awkward glances at me between each hit. I stand in the threshold to the front room, my arms folded, staring down at her, not knowing what to say or do. There's no school today and Dad's at work, so it's just me and her.
It occurs to me as I stand there that this is the first time she and I have been completely alone. We've been the only two people in a room while Dad was somewhere nearby, but we've never been alone like this, with Dad gone and only each other for company.
My stomach flutters. I feel my throat close and I know it's not from the cigarette smoke. I want to run. Go back to bed.
Lindsay wigs me out. Not because she's ugly or because she's my dad's fiancée, but because she's only five years older than me. I can see why my dad wants her: nice breasts, nice hips, nice outfits. But ever since Mom died, he's been picking them younger and younger, and this one cuts it a bit too close if you ask me.
It doesn't help matters that she tries to play Mommy, which is what she does now. "You should get some of your homework done," she says through ringlets of smoke.
"Don't got any."
Finally I move from my spot in the threshold and take a seat on the sofa, facing the couch. I lean back and spread my legs as wide as I can. She hates that.
"Sit upright," she says.
I want to tell her to make me. I want to tell her to go to hell. But I don't. I sigh and right myself.
She flicks ash onto the saucer that she's using as an ashtray. Scratches behind her ear.
"I wanna watch TV," I say.
"I think you should give it a rest on the TV watching. There's this great thing—you're probably too young to remember it—it's called reading. You should give it a shot sometime." As she lifts the half-empty bottle of Blackstone, a smile splits her face. "I'll be glad to help you if you need it."
I scowl at her. She takes a swig of the wine and then says, "Aww, come on, that was funny. You need to learn how to take a joke."
Heh, here we go, the old "it was only a joke" trick. She uses this when she wants to be a bitch but doesn't want to create an argument. It's pathetic. If you're gutsy enough to say to someone's face that they're an illiterate moron, at least have the guts to stand by it without covering it up.
She snickers and I gnash my teeth. I want to say, "That wasn't a damn joke and you know it." Even more than that I want to say, "Go off yourself."
But I say neither.
"Go do your homework," she tells me.
"Told you, don't got any."
She flashes me a doubtful look. "Bullshit."
She finishes off her cigarette. Rubs the burnt end against the saucer. Then she stands up and heads over to the kitchen, saying she's going to get herself something to eat. "You want anything?" she calls over her shoulder.
What I don't want is to be anywhere near her. But when she opens the refrigerator door, my stomach growls and before I can stop myself, I'm on my feet and walking towards the kitchen.
By the time I reach the refrigerator, Lindsay's at the counter next to the sink with an apple in one hand and a knife in the other. I watch her from the corner of my eye as she uses the knife to slice the apple into four pieces, and then sever the core from each slice.
I take a container of spaghetti—leftovers from yesterday—out of the fridge and then go over to the microwave. As it's heating up, I grab a fork from the silverware drawer.
Lindsay is eating her apple slices behind me. I can hear her lips smacking, hear the crunch of the apple between her teeth. "Hey Simon, wanna hear a good joke?" she says.
I tilt my head to look at her. She's sitting at the kitchen table now, holding her last apple slice to her lips. I want to tell her to choke on it.
"You know what the definition of a teenager is?" she asks. I roll my eyes. I've heard this one before. It's one of my dad's favorites. She no doubt heard it from him. "God's punishment for enjoying sex." She grins, real wide, almost menacingly, and then takes a bite out of her last apple slice, her eyes never leaving mine.
"Wanna hear a better one?" The words come out before I can stop them. "Simon says go off yourself."
She stares at me in silence, as if not knowing whether to laugh or not. Truth be told, I'm not sure if she should either.
Finally, after finishing her apple slice, she stands up, faces me, and says, "Apologize."
I snort. "No."
The microwave beeps behind me. I turn around to take out the spaghetti.
"Yes," she says.
I dig my fork into the noodles. Twirl them.
"Simon, I mean it." Her voice is no-nonsense. Very listen-to-me-because-I'm-in-charge, which makes me want to ignore her.
She grips my shoulder. Tries to whirl me around. "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" she shouts.
I jerk away. "Back off, bitch!"
"What did you just say to me?" She sounds genuinely incredulous. I get why. I've never called her a bitch before. In all truthfulness, I've never much said anything to her before. This is the most I've talked to her since she said "yes" to my dad.
"Let me explain something to you, kid," she tells me in her best don't-fuck-with-me tone. "I don't have to back off, and you don't get to call me a bitch."
I shovel a fork-full of spaghetti into my mouth. Chew it.
Lindsay's eyes are glaring daggers at me. She's pissed. "You better start respecting me," she says.
"Sorry, I don't respect snotty little girls who try to pretend they're grown-ups."
She cocks one of her eyebrows, ready to duel. "Oh yeah? Well guess what? I'm old enough to marry your father. And I'm going to, whether you like it or not."
"Think I care?"
"You should. I'm going to be your new mommy."
"Whoa, whoa, let's get one thing straight, okay? You are never going to be my mother." I take a step towards her. "Ever. You get that?"
She sneers, knowing she's gotten to me. Set my blood on fire. "Oh, I am." The sneer widens. "And you really need to get used to the idea of me sticking around 'cause I ain't gonna kill myself like your real mother did."
And just like that, without thinking, I take up the knife that she left on the counter and ram it into her neck.
There's more blood than I would have expected. It seeps through her fingers as she tries to apply pressure to the wound. Her eyes wide and disbelieving, her mouth in the shape of an "o," she tumbles to the floor, and then lies motionless in front of me, the blood forming a puddle on the white linoleum.
I run to the bathroom and throw up into the toilet. After flushing, I step over to the mirror above the sink and study myself: brown hair matted by sleep, hollow eyes, forehead wrinkles too pronounced for a fifteen-year-old. I suck in a long, steady breath, tell myself to remain calm, and then point to my reflection with my index and middle fingers, making a gun out of my hand. I bring my thumb down—"Pow." It's my way of telling myself it could be worse, my way of telling myself now is not the time to be an idiot.
It takes me a minute or two to get myself composed, before I walk out of the bathroom and go over to the laundry room where our trash bags are kept. I grab three really big black ones and open them. Place them in one another for extra protection.
Bit by bit, I heave Lindsay inside. I have to bend her legs—put her into a praying position—to get her to fit, but I finally manage.
I sigh, wipe my brow, take a moment to think. I need to clean up the blood. Quick, before it hardens too much.
Our paper towels hang on a small shelf bolted to the kitchen wall. I break off about eight squares and use them to mop up a vast majority of the blood. I take an actual mop to the rest—one of those Swiffer wet jets that come with their own cleaning pads and soap solution. Once I'm done I pull off the pad, throw it away, and put the mop back.
Then an idea hits me.
Our trashcan is nearly filled to the brim with take-out boxes, crumbled papers, empty alcohol bottles, pop tart wrappers, food cans, price tags, cigarette butts, and God knows what else. I pull the bag out of it and bring it over to where the trash bags containing Lindsay and the sopping paper towels are. Overlapping the rims so none of the contents spill out onto the floor, I lift the bottom of the bag and pummel Lindsay with garbage.
Once I do that I put the now-empty bag back into the trashcan, and then tie Lindsay and the garbage securely into the three bags with a hefty knot.
I decide to finish my spaghetti before heading out. It's still early morning. Dad won't be home for several hours. I've got time to kill.
Lindsay's heavy but I manage to drag her out into the hallway. The beautiful thing about mornings—especially snowy mornings when school's not in session and a good number of people can't make it to work—is, people sleep in. The hallway is vacant. The only sounds that can be heard are the scuffing of the trash bags as I drag them across the floor and my own grunting.
Whoever put the garbage chute so far down the hallway should be stabbed. It takes forever for me to get to it, and by the time I do, who should I run into but Tiffany Mulligan—a girl who goes to my school and lives on the floor below me—standing in the hallway wearing a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. I don't so much run into her as I do her belly. Last I heard, she had about four months to go, but she already looks like she's about to pop.
"Oh hey, Simon!" she says.
Her hair is a tangled mess. What look like dark bruises linger beneath her eyes. Sleepless night, I assume.
"Hey Tiffany," I return.
"Whatcha got there?" She nods towards the bags I've been dragging.
I look from them to her and can't help but smirk. "Trash."
She nods as if she understands. "Parents make you take it out?"
"Decided to take it out myself."
She nods again, then pauses. "Why so early?"
She shrugs it off, deciding she doesn't care. Then looks down and rubs her belly. There's a long moment of silence between us before she and I say "listen" at the same time.
"Go ahead," she says.
"No, you go ahead," I tell her.
She gives an awkward chuckle, pulls a strand of hair behind her ear. "This is gonna sound weird," she says, "but, uh, I need a place to stay. My boyfriend and I… we just broke up. And my parents don't want me around." Her eyes leave me and venture to the side wall. "This is so awkward, but I was wondering—"
"You can't stay with me," I interrupt.
She nods, but I can tell by her face that she's disappointed, and perhaps a little desperate.
The funny thing is, I used to have a huge crush on her, and if she would have asked me this last year, I would have said yes. Even without my dad's approval. I would have let her live in my room, eat my food, and sleep in my bed… with me.
But then the kid she's carrying would probably be mine, and my dad would probably have killed me by now.
"Look, I gotta get rid of this," I say, glancing at the trash bags.
"You need any help?" she asks.
I consider it, but then shake my head. Probably not a good idea. She might feel something through the plastic. She might overexert herself and kill the kid. I don't know, but I ain't taking chances.
She watches as I lift Lindsay—Lindsay inside her trash bag womb, surrounded by garbage—and hoist her into the chute, then throw her down. Down, down, down she goes, until she hits the large bin below. I'm not too worried about her being there. Lots of people use this chute, several times a day. She'll be buried before too long. Buried under piles and piles of garbage, and then hauled off somewhere.
No, I'm not too worried.
"So, uh, can I walk you back to your apartment?"
I shrug. "Why not?"
Tiffany and I walk back to my apartment in silence. When we get to the door she asks, "Would it be alright if I stayed over for a little while? Just today?"
"I don't think that'd be a very good idea, Lindsay."
"Tiffany." Damn it. "I've got homework to do. Plus, I don't think my dad would appreciate it." Not to mention I have a blood-covered knife in the kitchen that I forgot to take care of.
Hand reaching for the knob, I stop and meet her eye. She looks so sad. "Wanna hear a good joke?" I ask.
"Absolutely," she says.
"You know what the definition of a teenager is?"
"God's punishment for enjoying sex."
A small laugh escapes her. "You're a funny guy, Simon," she says.
And with that I open the door, walk into the apartment, and shut the door behind me.