Thoughts & Prayers

Such a big, fancy house. 

She pretended to sleep the last hour, waiting for silence so she could get up and see. Earlier the pretty mother pulled juice from the fridge, a stainless steel box so big it was like a secret room. And she couldn’t look away. Even though they were opening presents. 

Birthday girl opened a card.  A crisp $100 bill slid to the table. 

Say who it’s from, the mother lined pink cups on the marble island, the fridge open behind her. And Lucy stared at jumbo brown eggs lined in the door. Blue vein cheeses wrapped in plastic. Carrots that weren’t orange. Organic juice boxes and several little glass pots of something she couldn’t identify.

The mother extracted a new Sharpie from a smooth opening drawer, closed it with her hip, then wrote names on cups in enviable print.

But Lucy eyed a small mound wrapped in butcher paper, tied with string. A wine bottle, its cream label kissed with delicate black cursive. Chocolate milk in a glass bottle. Birthday girl tied a pink ribbon around her head and everyone laughed.

But now they slept.

Lucy rose from her palette and peered down, for a moment feeling regal under the high, recessed ceiling with all of them still, at her feet. She crept between sleeping bags past open mouths and twitching fingers. The deep, soft, carpet swallowing her noise.

Such a big, fancy house.

The kitchen was cold and smelled of geranium candles, its earlier birthday chaos wiped clean.

She opened the fridge. 

Icy brightness illuminated her small face and tall shelves behind, showcasing heavy white stoneware stacked to perfection. Just like the fridge contents. Lines, not jumbles. No leftovers. Everything tidy.

Butter lettuce, purple cabbage, bright red radish in a clean white drawer. Green grapes, tight and firm in a black stone bowl, to crunch in your mouth, not squish. And there were the little glass pots. The things she couldn’t identify. The thing she had to touch.

She reached inside.

It was heavier than expected, its label indicating something french. She recognized the word mousse. Lucy peeled back the gold foil, scooped the contents with a crooked finger, then sucked pillowy cocoa past her knuckle until it was gone.

Hours later the pretty mother could’ve sworn she bought twelve.

Violins screeched a jarring note on tv and Lucy snapped from the memory.

Where did that come from

She eyed the bottle next to her, relieved she had a full glass left. What was that girl’s name? Did she grow up thin and pretty like her mother? Did she still have that gap in her teeth? Maybe she was tubby and unmarried. If so, she’d never know. People like that didn’t brag on Facebook. 

She drew a long, cold mouthful and glanced to Nick’s end of the couch. To Luxury Living on the floor where he left it, twisted from so much handling. Because that’s what he was doing with that stupid subscription. Looking in other people’s fridges.

She drew a mouthful of Chardonnay and checked her phone. His last words on repeat.

I don’t love you anymore.

That wasn’t the first thing he said.

You’re a sociopath was the first thing he said. But that other sentence. 

She forced her eyes on the tv, watching Norman Bates watch that lady through a hole in the wall.

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Because here it was, Hitchcock night. Yet here she was alone. 

I don’t love you anymore.

And he just blurted it like a sudden realization. Like something whispered, Go on Nick! Say it out loud! So he did. 

And now she ate his words for breakfast. Drank them for dinner. She banged her tooth taking another sip, the acidity prickling her tongue. The space beside her whispering, look look. 

I won’t look!

But she looked.  

To the opposite end where he should’ve been, rubbing his socked feet together. Twisting his wedding band. Leafing through Luxury Living when she got up to pee. Watching movies with her and acting like a normal fucking husband. 

Instead, the sagging brown leather punctuated his absence and she regretting looking. So she topped her glass and increased the volume on Psycho. On Marion Crane starting her very last shower.

What kind of man abandons his wife? 

A man who lines his socks in rainbow order, she reached for the cheese knife. And why didn’t he answer her texts? She broke a cracker edging it with brie. Fuck. She shoved the crumbly mess in her mouth then sucked cheese off her finger. Because he doesn’t love you anymore. She chewed slowly. Thickly.

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He didn’t even look at her when he said it. And that was days ago. And she’d been trying to reach him ever since. 

Especially after googling sociopath. 

Ha!

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Lucy watched Single White Female the night he left, then Cape Fear and American Psycho the next morning, constantly checking her phone. If he was waiting on her, he could keep on waiting. It was he who said that thing. 

She sank into the cushions, arranged her hair, puckered her lips then snapped a breasty selfie for Instagram.

 #wokeuplikethis

#messyhairdontcare

#missingyou

#whilethecatsaway

#meow

She watched Silence of the Lambs and We Need to Talk About Kevin, smiling in her wineglass because, whatever, it was past noon and she was NOT a fucking sociopath. 

She checked her phone. And she would not text because he needed to wonder what she was doing. She passed out during No Country for Old Men, still in her morning pajamas and opened her eyes to darkness. Was that night sky or early morning sky? And whatever happened to talking things through? 

She shuffled to the kitchen, made toast and took 3 ibuprofen expecting to hear his key in the door. And when he did, the house needed to look normal. Like she hardly noticed his absence. But first she had to finish studying. To see what he meant. 

She watched another movie.

So far she could tell he was just being mean. And mean people said ugly things. It didn’t mean they were true. Nick was just feeling weak right now. Insecure. 

She checked her phone and took a few glasses to the sink. Maybe she would text him. Show her capacity for being the bigger person. Games were for children, after all. She watched Seven then Girl, Interrupted wondering how dare he align her with psychos.

I am NOT a sociopath

— she texted finally, heart pounding.

And waited.

Staring for a response.

No three dots.

No indication of receipt.

His silence clawed. 

Was he on someone’s couch? In someone’s bed? She took a shower then fuck it opened the dusty bottle of Chateau Latour he was saving for his 40th. She snapped a photo of the cork, enlarged it and texted that, too.

Friday she woke on the couch and checked her phone. Nothing.

Seriously, Nick?

–she texted furiously.

WHERE ARE YOU?

Her tongue felt like the bottom of a birdcage. 

Maybe she was handling this wrong. 

I miss you.

Please come home.

Let’s talk, okay?

— she added a gif for good measure.

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Saturday she sent another message, left eye twitching.

Way to be a man, Nick. 

Run away.

Real fucking mature.

I could tell you things.

Sunday she tore the cover off his precious, first edition Gatsby tossing both pieces in the neighbor’s recycle bin then picked up her phone.

Nick.

Nick.

Nick.

Nick.

Nick.

Nick.

Monday morning the phone rang.

“Nick?” 

She dragged the phone across her cheek, tacky with saliva.

“Hi! Is this Lucy Martin?” 

The voice sliced through her right ear. 

“Lucy?” the woman repeated.

Jesus, what time was it?

“Hello, good morning!” the woman chirped. “This is Norma with Verizon? I was hoping to speak to you about your wireless plan? We want to avoid a disruption in service. Your —”

“It’s 8 am, Norma with Verizon.” 

She pressed her temples with her thumb and middle finger. Did she really open a second bottle? Lucy pulled the phone from her ear, staring at Nick’s pillow while Norma recited something about rates. She had to figure it out. Why he went away. 

I don’t love you anymore, he said, watching tv. 

And there she stood like an idiot in the doorway, holding a handwritten grocery list. Itemized by aisle. She was going to make pulled pork. Kristy’s recipe. Everybody’s fucking favorite.

Ya’ll know how picky my kids are! Kristy posted on Facebook above an empty crockpot, scraped clean. No one tell them there were onions in it, lol! 

Nick hated kids. And Facebook. 

But the post got 92 likes.

“What?” She stepped forward, glancing at the screen. Why was he watching the next episode without her? “I’m going to the store,” she repeated. “It’s Kristy’s recipe.”

She watched his profile.

Something in his stillness scared her.

“She said her kids always ask for seconds.”  

She said it weakly.

He didn’t look over.

And she dared not continue. 

It’s not that she didn’t hear him. It was just easier to pretend she hadn’t. 

So she left. And took her time selecting the shiniest apples. Nitrite-free pork. Brocollini and two bottles of pre-chilled Chardonnay.

By the time she got home he was gone. 

Always so dramatic, Nick. 

Like their fight last week.

Again?” He fisted the crumpled letter from HR. “This is not dramatic. This is you getting fired again, Lucy. Again for some fucked up shit. What is wrong with you?” He slammed the pink letter (her copy) on the table.

“I didn’t do anything,” she said evenly. Except leave that stupid letter out. 

Really?”

Yes, really. With ruddy cheeks and pulsing eyes, he looked a little like Prince Harry.

“So they fired you for no reason? What the fuck are you smiling at?”

“I didn’t do anything.” She glanced briefly at her nail, pushing back a cuticle. “They wanted me gone and needed an excuse.”

“So that girl’s credit cards ended up in your purse on accident then you accidentally vandalized her desk.” He waved the crumpled pink slip in her face. “You signed this, so don’t fucking tell me you didn’t do it.” 

“It wasn’t credit cards, it was a gift card.” She under-reacted, his very least favorite thing. “And I told them, just like I’m telling you, it was a mix-up. And spilled coffee is hardly vandalism. That stupid girl just wanted attention.”

“You’re lucky they’re not pressing charges.”

“Omigod, seriously?”

“Yes, Lucy. Se-ri-ous-ly,” he spat the syllables. “It’s called stealing. You don’t accidentally spend someone’s gift cards on your lunch break.”

She opened her mouth in protest.

“Stop.” He lifted his palm when she stepped forward. “Just stop.” His weary eyes met hers. “I’m done.”

And the next day he said it. 

That sentence. Watching the next episode of Breaking Bad without her, jerk. But he’d be back. He left all his clothes. And his craft beers. And they had tickets to a Dave Ramsay seminar next week —wait, now that was this week.

“Norma?” she interrupted. “Can I call you back?”

“That’s what I’m trying to explain, Mrs. Martin. Your husband asked this number to be removed from his existing plan. You’ll only have service through Thursday.”

Lucy breathed down nausea, holding the wall and banister for support.

Who gave up after three years of marriage? A coward, that’s who. A coward who doesn’t love you anymore. She crossed the foyer into the kitchen, gag reflex threatening. She needed to eat something quick. 

The kitchen was their favorite room once upon a time. Armed with stainless steel and an arsenal of Le Creuset after their wedding, it was the place they tried new recipes. Splurged on wine. The room where his friends treated her best, oohing and ahhing over her industrial oven and she liked that, topping their glasses one by one with a Mondavi Reserve.

Nick chopped onions while she de-sprigged rosemary. Someone remembered something that happened in 8th grade and they all laughed, sucking olive-oiled fingers. Spitting cherry pits in a designated bowl. Finishing her expensive bottle in five medium pours, don’t worry we have another. 

And gastronomy really did carry them awhile. Until Nick resented the credit card bills, and one bottle a night became two. Because gastronomy is a just fancy word for gluttony, isn’t it, Nicholas. She shuffled across the unswept floor.

So what if she lost a job or two. Did the for better or worse part confuse him? Sorry, were her imperfections an inconvenience to his metro-manhood? He whose DNA unraveled if the checkbook didn’t balance, who cleaned his iPhone with baby wipes? Who knew a man could crumble so easily. 

Grit gathered on her bare feet and she swiped them on her calves. Not once did he warn her about his oppressive OCD. Or that sex would eventually become a nuisance. Or that his small circle of besties were actually exclusionary assholes. 

And look at it now, their Tuscan-inspired kitchen. The empty bottles. The bread she left open. The butter knife caked with brie. The growing pile of dishes. The wine gl—  

Oh my God. 

She approached the sink. 

Was that —

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A swollen cockroach floated in an unfinished swallow of chardonnay.

She closed her eyes and grabbed the glass, dumping it the sink where it thwapped to the topmost dirty plate.

 “FUCK YOU!” she shouted at the carcass, its antenna curled in defeat. Stupid bastard scrittled in there for a drink and couldn’t get out. 

Just like her husband.

“I hate you,” she hissed, slapping on the tap, moving dirty plates to the counter. And where was her sweet husband now? Probably at lunch, pinkie in the air, blue cheese on the side. Every hair in place. Him and his ironed tee shirts and full blown tantrums if you changed the station while he was driving. He was enjoying this. Playing games. Leaving her alone to wonder. Clearing up fucking roaches. 

She edged it over the drain with a dirty fork then turned on the tap.

Seriously?” she yelled at the roach, so swollen it wouldn’t slip down. Oh, the devil was laughing right now. Well, fuck him, too! She stabbed it down and flipped on the disposal, the carcass crunching briefly as she scanned her filthy kitchen.

The greasy backsplash. Four days of dishes and wine store receipts by the smudged toaster and her crumpled pink letter from HR.

Bitch, Lucy glared.

That stupid girl was probably gloating right now. Playing victim. Sponging everyone’s sympathy because that’s what girls like her did with their rhinestone jewelry, Bible-verse decor, and once-every-six-weeks highlights. She snatched the pink slip, hurled it at trash but it missed and hit the floor. 

And that ridiculous family photo perched high in her cubicle like a declaration of superiority. Her entirely blond family in pastel Ralph Lauren on some white sand beach with We-Go-To-Disney-Every-Year grins plastered on their tan faces. Lucy filled a glass with tap water and gulped it down. Too bad coffee ruined that photo. Such a shame. 

She slid the glass with the others then headed for the fridge, wiping her mouth. Bottles clicked as she opened the door. One egg left. A tub of cottage cheese. Organic pesto. A wilting red cabbage and way too many other things she’d have to cook. Probably one glass left, she considered last night’s bottle then extracted a gummy slice of roast beef from a plastic bag. She folded it in her mouth. What was today, Monday? She chewed mechanically, staring at nothing. Realizing the meat tasted . . . off. 

She sniffed her fingers but kept chewing because the salt felt good on her tongue. Why hadn’t he answered her calls or texts? He was probably at Kyle’s.

She swallowed. 

Kyle.

Her gums pooled with saliva.

She ran to the bathroom and gagged until it gurgled up.

The meat.

The wine.

His words.

Yellow and sour, splashing in the toilet.

Over and over, the third time this week.

An hour later she sat on the couch with her second coffee, milk and three sugars. She’d find him her damn self. She stirred slowly, pulling up Facebook. 

Nick’s tiny circle was ironclad. He wouldn’t have gone far. His oldest friend Kyle was married to Marissa. Marissa was besties with Kristy, whose husband died last year. Those five had been friends since elementary school, which made them exclusionary by nature. Marrying Nick in no way meant inclusion, even after Kristy’s husband’s cancer left her a spot. Even though she played nice and bought expensive wine and catered to Marissa’s gluten-free bullshit.

She hit the keys harder than necessary. 

Nick never defended her place among them, never. Though really, why did she care. If ‘remember whens’ were the lowest form of conversation then those four were world class losers. And who were they to judge her drinking? What else was there to do on the outskirts of every memory and inside joke? Babysit Kristy’s kids? Load Marissa’s dishwasher?

Quit taking everything personally! Nick always said, refusing to see how they treated her. How Marissa side-eyed Kristy every time she spoke. How she never got invited anywhere without Nick, despite her efforts.

“She invited you to that make-up thing!” he yelled.

“She wanted the commission!” she spat and stomped off. 

And so it went.

She sipped her coffee, scrolling through Facebook. He was one of two places. She scanned green dots for people online. 

Bingo. 

Kristy homeschooled her kids and was always online.

Hey girl!

–she typed.

Kristy’s green dot disappeared.

Seriously?

She clicked on Kristy’s home page, scrolling past pumpkin patch pictures and a gaudy flashing image about missing someone in heaven. 

Kristy had 1,100 friends and someone was always posting virtual flowers and Thinking of You messages. Her page was a fairground of attention when the deathaversary rolled around, but everything Kristy posted garnered attention. Even stupid things like yesterday’s trip to the Target Starbucks.

Fall’s coming!

–she posted in a fuzzy pink sweater holding a bag of candy corns, SnapChat filtered with Harry Potter glasses and a constellation of brown freckles across her button nose. She looked like a startled owl. Was there anything more irritating than a soccer mom trying to look 16?

Lucy liked the photo, drained her coffee then sniffed her pits. God, she stank. When did she last shower? She stretched out her legs. At least her toes looked nice. She wiggled them in admiration, repositioning so her coffee, laptop, and pedicure painted a picture of early morning luxury. A girl with no worries.

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She snapped the photo when Marissa’s green dot appeared. 

She drained her coffee.

Marissa was that rare female that sexified sweats and a ponytail. She was an expert salsa maker and prized her ability to confront people publicly. She also declared a gluten allergy which Lucy knew was a ploy for attention to her body.  

Hey Pretty!

–she typed. 

All she had to do was cater to this girl’s vanity.

Who does your hair? SO over these roots, lol. 

She peeled a hangnail with her teeth.

Did she know? 

Oh god she was responding.

Jules at Hot Box.

Lucy exhaled.

But maybe she was playing dumb.

Cool, thnx! How are you? 

Haven’t seen you in forever haha 🙂

Not forever forever. Marissa hosted a Lash Boost party at her house last week where a raspy CrossFit junkie conned them into a $30 tube of bat shit. If five people purchased, Marissa got hers free. Total waste of money.

LOVE my mascara, btw. 

Marissa replied with a thumbs up then went offline.

Because that’s what these people did, she fumed at the emoji. Got what they wanted then fucked off. Who did they think they were casting her aside? Especially her husband. WHERE WAS HE? 

She white-knuckled the bannister heading upstairs.

Think, Lucy. Think.

Their bathroom was an art-deco nod to Nick’s obsession with Gatsby. Pine green walls and chrome fixtures with bleach white towels next to a vintage porcelain sink. She opened the mirrored cabinet, spying his razor. His beard butter. His aluminum-free deodorant. He’d be back. She uncapped the deodorant, momentarily unhinged by a northeasterly smell of pine and sailboats. Yes, he’d be back. Despite his awful words. 

She stared in the mirror, mascara flaking under her tired eyes. What kind of person gave up after three years of marriage? She rubbed his deodorant down her arms and across the fleshy part of her lower belly, dropping it in the sink when her phone pinged. 

Nick!

She stared at the text, hope surging.

Hey Lucy 

But it sank right back down. 

Kyle.

She stared at his name, imagining his fingers. Those thick, prodding fingers on the other side of his text. But she would not be baited. It was his fault, what happened. Not hers. He was the one that trapped her in the hallway with everyone else outside.

He could’ve used his own bathroom. But no. He was standing there when she opened the guest bathroom door, taking a long swig of beer, eyes locked with hers. He knew what he was doing. He’d been doing it all afternoon, sneaking long gazes when no one else was looking. 

Fine, she could’ve walked past him, there in the dark hallway. But she’d be lying if she said the attention wasn’t nice. Or that his scanning eyes didn’t send a jolt between her legs. She could’ve slipped sideways when he stepped forward. But she didn’t. Nor did she flinch when he pulled her shoulders and pressed her into the wall, sliding his tongue in her mouth with his wife in the distance, on the other side of the patio door. Laughing about high school. 

Warm and acidic their tongues danced, the back of her head against his and Marissa’s engagement photo. And she reached down involuntarily, feeling him bulge in her cupped hand. He whispered something unintelligible. And this is what happens when your husband doesn’t touch you, she rationalized, allowing her pleasure to rise. And he pulled her into him with both hands, grinding. She whimpered in his ear, breath growing short. If they were alone she’d–

The patio door slid open in the distance.

Oh god she was almost —

“Kyle?”

Marissa.

They broke apart and he slipped in the bathroom.

“Kyle?” Marissa stuck her head around the corner.

The door clicked while Lucy heaved against the wall, cheeks flushed. Panties wet. “I think he’s in the bathroom,” she gestured with her thumb. An unnatural move of idiocy and overcompensation.

Marissa paused like an alert feline, glancing between her and the door.

Lucy stared at the carpet.

“Use ours,” she said, finally. Evenly. Slicing the unspoken thing between them.

So she did. Slipping through the sanctity of their bedroom, their other-couple smells, to a cluttered bathroom where she finished herself off by cheap towels and a clutter of Wal-Mart toiletries. And anyway, that was last month so it practically never happened. Also, it was just a kiss. Kyle wouldn’t have told her. And Marissa had invited her over since then so she couldn’t know. No one wanted free mascara that bad.

So why the fuck was he texting her.

I hate to ask  . . .

The three dots continued.

Then stopped.

 but Marissa’s bracelet is missing. 

The one with the silver cross? 

She stared at the moving dots, jaw tight.

Have you seen it?

It was in our bathroom.

She trembled, staring at his words. Self-righteous assholes were staging a coup! She dropped her phone and ran downstairs. Bullies, that’s what they were. Grown-up bullies! All of them! She yanked last night’s bottle from the fridge. 

“And bullies thrive on weakness!” she said aloud. And approval. She slammed the fridge door. But they would not win.  “No they will NOT!” she laughed, wine sloshing in the bottle as she ran upstairs. 

One little glass wouldn’t hurt. There was hardly any left. Then she’d bathe, clean house, maybe even look for a job. And you know what? She was going to stop liking and commenting on Kristi’s posts. Maybe even unfriend Marissa. But not before leaving a few one-star reviews on her Lash Boost Consultant page. Anonymously, of course. Let those heifers ponder how very little she cared. Them and their stupid clique. She uncorked the bottle with her teeth. 

Only weaklings let others determine their happiness. She was lots of things. 

“But I’m not fucking weak!” she sneered at Nick’s favorite photo of himself holding a bunch of fish he didn’t catch.

Lucy grabbed a used glass from her bedside table and splashed wine inside en route to the bathroom. She didn’t have time to sit around waiting for God to settle scores. Maybe that was part of the lesson. Having the courage to act and punish people for their unkindness.

She twisted the bath taps then sat on the toilet, pulling up Facebook. Yes. A nice, eloquent, scathing one star review. Of course she’d alter syntax so Marissa wouldn’t suspect. There were several girls at that party, so nothing would obviously point to her. She smiled at her genius, fingers poised to type realizing her entire homepage was a long stream of

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Crying teachers. 

Hands over mouths.

Ambulances.

Police yelling into walkie-talkies.

A red brick building surrounded by yellow tape.

A hallway, slippery with blood.

A line of small body bags.

Mothers screaming at the sky.

Dear god. 

Lucy sank to the floor and backed against the wall.

MONDAY MORNING MASSACRE!

–she read, pressing the glass against her lips.

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Kristy posted a video warning graphic content and Lucy clicked through, watching shaky iPhone footage of a sunny classroom.

A pretty black teacher trying to quiet everyone down then shouts and pops in the hallway and the teacher wide-eyed. Urging her children to stand, index finger over her mouth. Wiggling her fingers. Come, children. Hurry. She pulls them to the corner. POP POP POP in the hallway. Lucy can tell the children think it’s a game. A man’s unintelligible shouting. The teacher’s fingers beckoning madly.  And they follow her to the corner, crouching. Huddling.

Their baby whispers and light-up shoes.

The excitement of a drill.

The door slamming open.

The teacher screaming “PLEASE!” her hands in defense.

The children screaming, too.

POP

POP 

POP POP POP 

A little girl cries openly.

POP.

And the phone falls.

Recording blackness.

Audio capturing whimpering and scraping metal as the gunman pushes through desks back to the hallway. Children screaming, adults shouting, further away now. The pounding of doors, distant police sirens and another muffled POP followed by running, squeaking shoes.

The video ends.

SUSPECT COMMITS SUICIDE!

–Lucy read, wine souring in her mouth.

Charles David Wyburn, 17, commits suicide by gunshot after morning rampage at Harbor Heights Elementary, killing 30. Victims include Wyburn’s father, Principal “Duke” Wyburn, 61, and sister, Hannah, 9.

Jesus.

She put down her glass.

What kind of psycho—

Omg! The bath!

Lucy jumped up, turned off the taps then sank back to the floor. This was horrific. Just awful.

So awful!

–she typed beneath Kristy’s post.

Thoughts and Prayers! 

She added a prayer emoji for emphasis and stood laboriously, walking to the sink. What a shit day.

Could sadness make you tired? Because she was tired. Needed a nap. Or maybe to just disappear awhile. Hide under their pale blue duvet, so pale it barely even counted as blue. More like ivory with a kiss of blue but anyway, she needed to rest. Properly rest. Sleep until it felt better.

She traced a small circle on her chest with a fingertip because yes, it ached in there. Not a void like Nick’s absence, but a heavy burrowing darkness like she might sink through the floor. 

She squeezed toothpaste on her toothbrush and stared in the mirror. Didn’t this just happen at another school? Like, last month? And another before that? Concert, club, movie theatre? She couldn’t remember. 

She brushed hard, grimacing at her reflection. She used to be so much cuter. And that awful video! Pink spit traveled down her wrist, pooled at her elbow then dripped to the sink. And since when did 3rd graders have iPhones?

She spat, then brushed again harder.

Everything was getting worse. People were getting worse. She scrubbed her bleeding gums. Bunch of uptight Google intellectuals spewing vitriol from the safety of their laptops. Crafting snarky little comments. Pointing fingers until the next tragedy. Planning multi-level marketing parties. Waiting for Old Navy to tell them what to wear. She rinsed her mouth, reached for her wine glass then paused, grabbing her phone instead. What kind of psycho mowed down a bunch of kids? 

Charles David Wyburn, 17.

PORTRAIT OF A KILLER

–the headline read above a snaggletoothed Charles in Cub Scouts, grinning above a yellow scarf tied crooked around his neck. And another wet-headed Charles holding rabbit ears behind baby Hannah’s head, her swim diaper bulging beneath a frilly yellow swimsuit.

And the last photo, taken 4 days ago with Charles sticking a middle finger to the camera, face swollen with acne beneath a mop of greasy dark hair, a Confederate flag hung behind him askew. 

Lucy sighed, threw down her phone and opened her bathroom cupboard. Those poor, innocent kids. How could this happen? Too many violent video games? Did “Duke” not say I love you enough? Was Charles bullied? And where was the mother? She pushed ibuprofen and nail polish aside, reaching to the back, extracting a box of tampons. What overcame people? Their compulsion to hurt. Their inability to STOP. 

She opened the empty box, sliding Marissa’s bracelet into her open palm, wondering what the world was coming to. She stared at the silver cross. People were so messed up. She squeezed the bracelet then dropped it in the box, pushing it to the back of the cupboard then checked the water. 

It was almost noon which meant she could go to the store for wine. A sudden energy surged within. It would be a good day. Right after her nap. Then she’d clean. And she wouldn’t text Nick. Because he needed to worry what she was doing. 

And maybe she would confess what happened with Kyle. Put a little crack in that foundation. She smiled at the thought then peeled down her panties, checking Kristy’s post before sliding underwater, pleased to see her comment already had six likes.

 

4 thoughts on “Thoughts & Prayers

  1. Leslie Woods

    You’re good. And yes, it was the perfect time to publish it. We have a light to shine, even when it is on our own apathetic darkness.

    Like

  2. Valarie M Guzman

    Yes. This is exactly the problem today. The majority seem appalled briefly and then back to our own lives and drudgery or luxury. We still seem to believe our elected officials will take care of everything for us. Sadly there is so much of what a community is and is now lacking that goes into creating these killers. Great story.

    Like

  3. Linda Heider

    Good read Jennifer, it was a good time to release your story. It’s sad how quickly we are learning to absorb tragedy’s and move on to our little lives. This gives us a pause for our thoughts to gather. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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