Book 2 - Part 5: Changing Evil - Chapter Ten
She spent the better part of an hour with Ricky Austin, informing him there may be an attempt on his life.
She found out that he’s married, twin daughters, both twelve, and that his wife, Carol Anne, works at the music shop, ‘Melodies If You Please.’ Neither of them ever were arrested or had so much as a traffic ticket.
Baker informed him there would be a twenty-four surveillance at his home from the time he left for work and from the time he came home. Baker cleared that with one phone call to Captain Todd.
After her interview, she drove to Dianne’s house.
Once she parked the car in the driveway and walked up the front steps to the door, she saw a note attached to it that read: Baker, I’m in the bedroom.
She tried the door. It was unlocked.
Then she thought aloud. “Oh, God! Please, no!”
She ran to the bedroom on the second floor and the first thing she saw were her legs, slightly bent away from each other. Then she saw her right arm bent in close to her chin.
Then she saw the gun resting on her chest.
She quickly rushed inside and looked at Dianne.
Baker shook Dianne awake.
Dianne sat up in bed and looked at Baker, her thoughts dulled at first, then she started to cry.
They held onto each other until Dianne’s tears ebbed away.
“I tried, three times. And I made a promise to myself that if I survived, I would do the very best I could with my life without him in it any longer.”
Softly, Baker, holding Dianne’s hands in her own said, “You’ve never, not once in all the time I have known you, have you ever mentioned his name. What was his name.” It came out as a request, not a question.
“I haven’t? Not even once?” Dianne tried to make her smile broader, but it was a struggle.
“His name is Kenneth Allen, but he’ll always be Bear to me. He was a huge man. Almost 380 and 6’10”. Hairy as all get out. That’s why I call him Bear.” She was smiling through the tears that took over again.
All Baker did the rest of the afternoon was listen. She felt deep inside herself, from every word Dianne said; became a reflection of her own life.
Call them kindred-spirits, call them sisters. Call it being a woman and understanding to the root core what losing your soul mate felt like.
Ed heard the call on the radio. Satchell and Devon were enroute.
When he pulled up to the scene, paramedics, the F-Team, and a few other police cars were already there. Satchell was getting information from a distraught, and now widowed wife, Darlene Randall, explaining how she found her husband.
“Ed.” He looked at Devon. “Take him inside to the bedroom, Andre.”
Satchell continued his questions, remembering to be subtle in his wording as possible. Mrs. Randall looked as if she might go into shock.
Ed, tagging behind Devon, was following an all too familiar trail.
He stopped at the entrance of the bedroom and stared long and hard.
There he was still. Paramedics were standing off to the side waiting for clearance to remove the body.
Spread eagle on the bed, his throat splayed open. As he came closer, he could see the deep incision like a small X, and the heart removed, and like the last victim, the heart lay on his torso with a piece either torn away or chewed off.
“Just like the last one, Lieutenant.”
“Yeah, and this makes it even worse. His death ties into the Meadowood killing somehow. Same M.O.”
“Hey, Ed. What’s doing?”
He turned around.
“Hello, Carl. Same as before, only he’s older.”
“After my team finishes here, I’ll go over everything and see what I can come up with. I see the heart’s either been chewed or torn like the last one. On that last Vic, I did everything I could to bring up something off the markings, maybe this time I can.”
“Appreciate it. Be careful today. Snow is really starting to pile up.”
“Don’t I know it,” replied Carl. “Today would be a good day to stay indoors, mix up a couple of hot totties, set a warm fire, and forget the world out there exists.”
“Nice fantasy. Oh, if you can, try and see if you can get a rundown on that perfumed scent.”
“We’ve tried. It’s sold in just about every store in the country. Nothing special about it, but I’ll have the team run another test on it.”
“Good enough for me. Catch you later, Carl.”
He went back outside and stood on the front porch.
Satchell handed him his notes along with Devon’s. Ed looked them over briefly, then handed them back.
“None of the neighbors heard or saw a thing. Since this happened sometime over the weekend, it could have been someone that knew him, and knew when the neighbors would be away.
“Like maybe at a basketball game.”
“Makes sense. Head on in and file your report. I’m on my way to Findlay’s Garage. I have a few questions for a mechanic there named, Jeffery Collins.”
As Ed drove away, he could see Mrs. Randall, standing by the side of the house in a long black winter coat as the snow clung to it and her hair. She was still crying.
After Ed spoke with Collins, he did all he could do. Just as with Austin, he would apply the same thing with Collins. Surveillance. From time to time, he was home usually until he went to work, then from work to home. Collins couldn’t understand it though.
“Why me? Man, I’m just a mechanic. I ain’t got a ton of bread. I ain’t nobody famous. Why me? I don’t get it.”
When Ed explained what happened years ago, and that his father was involved, and what’s happened since, it started sinking in.
Collins picked up a heavy monkey wrench.
“She gets too close to me, I’ll pop her one alongside her head, is what I’ll do.”
“Mr. Collins, you’ll do no such thing. She may have a gun, sir. We are affording you the best protection we possibly can. Just do your job as you always do, including your personal routine at home, and let us handle the rest.”
What a day, thought Ed. Now that Collins was out of the way, he could concentrate on other things, but as always, the day was far from over.
This time he tried moving a little faster than before.
It was almost like a skip-hop, skip-hop, but he didn’t tell them.
What was cooler; he didn’t miss a shot. 60 for 60. The last two in a row were unreal.
“Kellie, I have to leave a bit early. There are only four orders to put together. All but one will be picked up by eight this evening. The orders are right by the register.”
“All right, Maureen. I can handle that. Want I should make the bank deposit, too?”
“Yes, if you would, please.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Kellie. I’m off to meet a friend. Be careful driving home tonight. They say the roads might ice up.”
“I will, and you be careful, too. Have a fun time. Bye!”
As she walked out the front door into a blanket of heavy snow falling, she slid behind the wheel of her car and thought aloud, “Kellie, if things work right, I’ll have a very good time.”
The Squad Room – 6:12 p.m.
Ed used the Internet and searched out anything on a Justine Grant from twenty-three years ago.
He couldn’t find anything other than Taylor Packard was arrested for the rape and attempted murder of Justine. There weren’t any other names mentioned that were actually involved.
According to statements, Packard was innocent. Grant was paid twenty-five grand to point the finger at Packard. So, if she’s the one committing the killings; tack on giving false testimony somewhere along the line.
We were expecting, hoping, to get something back from the National DMV website as well.
Nothing was showing up. It was as if Justine Grant was nothing more than a ghost. But ghosts can’t kill, right? Right.
Ed spent more time searching through the National Data center for Raped and Exploited Women. It gave a known list of all the names of women from ages ten to seventy-three from that time period, which included nine men brutally beaten and raped by female gang members. Don’t laugh. It happens.
Some names matched pictures. Most didn’t.
Scrolling down, Ed found what he hoped for.
DOB: 06/15/65. WT: 121. HT: 5’5”. Eyes: Green. HAIR COLOR: Mousey Brown.
The information had been recently updated, just not a recent picture.
“’Since 2012, all of Ms. Grant’s attackers have yet been brought to justice. Two have died due to natural causes. We, the staff, and also all the victims of rape and abuse; not only physical, but mentally and emotionally, here at: wonttakeitanylonger.org; understand that after decades of searching, a trail can and often does go cold. We will never stop believing rapists will go unpunished. One day they will get the justice that awaits them.’”
Ed let the words speak loudly in his head. Obviously, somewhere along the line, Justine told someone the truth. But they have no idea justice has finally arrived. Terrible and swift.
Ed highlighted the photo alongside her bio, scrolled down and hit print. It came out as a one-by-one inch shot. Then he went into an artwork program, transferred the picture into the program, resized it enough where it wouldn’t pixel out, and printed two copies. One he would give to a sketch artist to work up a composite for what she may look like today.
The other copy? Come the next meeting in the morning, after checking with his Jan tonight, he would know whether to make more copies for the team or wait.
But tonight, he was done.
Something was wrong. She could feel it.
He was home. Alone like always. Something felt different.
A police car is coming up the street. Keep walking. Wait. The car is stopping next to a dark Chevy.
Dammit! Somehow, they’ve tied it together! But they don’t know. They haven’t figured out it’s me. That’s still my advantage.
But I know Collins work schedule, and Thursday nights, he always works late. I’ll do him there.
What if the cops watch him there?
Then Jeffery Collins may get to live.
Leaves like wings
I watch the butterflies dance around the oak tree,
Fluttering in and out, with the breath of the breeze.
But if I am silent enough, If the blood stops rushing,
I can feel wind from its wings, like waves in seas.
Let it be silent, in always reminding me,
That the leaves will fall, and I am like the tree.
The flowers are long gone, now I bear fruit.
And as the branches empty, my heart follows suit.
I think back to climbing trees, my knees always scraped
but my hands became strong, holding roses and thorns.
Soon, the butterflies stop dancing, they land one last time,
Falling like leaves, but the tree never mourns.
I suppose it knows, what we would all find out.
That butterflies will be born again, it does not doubt.
But I will sit, in the dead of winter,
And long to feel the tree, this ache much like a splinter.
A dim sun rises, over mountains made of mist,
And we became cold in the rain and dark in our towers.
Until the days become long, they whisper to me,
That the butterflies are dancing again, and I finally have flowers.
"Aren't you going to be late?" I watch Lexi pause packing her backpack to put on lip gloss.
She waves a hand at the table we're standing at--we're advertising the ice skating club--and smacks her lips. "No, I have, like," she checks her watch, "oh crap, I have five minutes to get to class." She grabs her bag. "You'll have to take it from here," she tells me, blowing a kiss.
I make a face at her in response, and she laughs as she dashes across the quad, dodging tables as she goes.
I adjust the flyers on the table in front of me, waiting for the next round of classes to let out and release a new wave of students. There's quite a lot of people here already, seeing as it is the Fall Activities Fest and the weather is nice, but most everyone is attending their own booth. Or they're not interested. Or they're walking by and I haven't said anything.
Moral of the story is I'm not very good at attracting attention. That's Lexi's job.
I pick up one of the ice skates we have on the table. It's for figure skating, and it's Lexi's, so naturally it's coated in glitter. A pile of shimmery dust falls onto the table, and when I set the skate down, I notice it on my hand as well. I try and brush the glitter away, but it just sticks to my palm more.
"So, what club is this?"
I look up and into the face of a boy whose skin is darker than my own. His dreads hang across one of his eyes, and he picks up a flyer off the table, barely looking at me.
"Um, ice skating," I tell him, pointing at Lexis' skates.
He laughs. "Yeah, I thought so." As he meets my eye, though, he tilts his head. "Hey, have we met before?"
I rub my palms together, a nervous laugh coming out of me. I'm staring at a cluster of autumn leaves behind him, getting trampled by a group of freshmen. I think I would've remembered him. "No?"
The freshmen approach, and there's four of them, all blonde girls that probably just came from some sorority table. I can feel the boy's brown eyes watching me as I explain the club to them. He's stepped off to the side, but is listening.
I'm surprised, because most guys won't touch ice skating if it's not hockey. At least, not in a club form.
Two of the girls write down their info on the sign-up sheet, and I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear, smiling. Success. Lexi and I promised our club advisor that we'd get a hundred sign ups, which seems very ambitious to me. I think right now we're at thirty.
Make that thirty-two.
The girls drift away, and I look around but the guy from earlier has gone too. I can't say I blame him, looking around at the other tables. Most of the other clubs have cool stuff, like snacks or music or dogs (which is cheating, really) or, in one case, VR headsets. Granted, it is VR club.
The wind blows, and I slap a hand on the fliers before they blow away, but the sign-up sheet, which one of the girls must've pulled out of its clipboard, takes off. I follow it with my eyes as it swirls in the air, a blink of white amongst the orange leaves.
I grab Lexi's skate, chuck it on the stack of fliers, and head towards the paper, which just hit someone's ankle but they just kept walking, and now it's under someone's boot, and I almost bump right into someone else, and for a moment I lose sight of it. I stare at the pavement, but it's just crumpled leaves.
It's the same voice, and I startle.
The boy that was at the table before is holding the sign-up sheet, a small smile on his lips. It's enough to make me think he planned this.
"Oh, thanks," I say, but he's not offering me the paper.
He holds it at his side. "It was at Lucky L's, by the way," he says. And those words conjure a flash of images: his dreadlocks, a handful of playing cards, my friend Brie and a bottle of wine.
I press a hand to my eyes, temporarily mortified. Lucky L's, or Lucky Library, is what everybody calls the basement floor of the main student library. It's all archives and study tables and dark corners, and all the upperclassmen have stories of 'getting lucky' down there.
It's a good place to take a break from studying, contrary to other parts of the library, and my friends and I have visited once or twice. Not entirely sober. But we just like to go to chat and play cards.
I don't know why this guy was there that night though.
"I'm sorry, yeah, ok. I remember we played Hearts?"
He nods once. "Do you have a pen?"
Someone bumps my shoulder, and I step backwards to avoid being mulled by a group of Frisbee golf guys. He takes a step towards me in response. "Why?" I ask, a swirl of leaves building around us.
He points at the sign-up sheet, still in his hand. "Your spiel convinced me. I just ran into a friend and was gonna come back to sign up. Until the list found me, anyway."
"Right." I lead him back to the table, where no one is waiting, unsurprisingly. He picks up a pen and scribbles his name, and I try not to seem too obvious as I lean in to see what he writes.
I lean back, pretending I never looked. Brad?
When I glance back at him, he's silently laughing. "You should see your face. My name's Amir, actually," he says, filling out a new line on the form.
Embarrassed again, I laugh and chew my thumbnail, a nervous habit I picked up from my mom. "Right. Good."
His eyes flit up at me, that nice warm brown, like the trees. "You shouldn't do that," he says, a faint smile still on his face.
"What?" He's looking at my mouth and my insides all turn upside down so suddenly I think I might need to sit down.
His smile just grows, and he lets the silence linger long enough for me to nervously raise a hand, about to chew my fingernail again.
"Your hands have glitter on them, and it's on your lip," he says, setting the pen down on the table.
I drop my hands and look at them. Shit, I forgot. I rub at my bottom lip with the back of my hand, which is glitter-free. I'm almost afraid to look at him. "Right, thanks. And thanks for signing up," I tell him, wondering where I can go find a mirror.
I notice he hasn't moved. "I hope I'll see you at club..." He sticks his hand out, his eyes flicking between the glitter on my hands and the glitter on my face.
I should be embarrassed still, but I smile and hesitantly reach out my hand. "Shani," I tell him, taking his hand.
He gives me a firm handshake. "I hope I'll see you at club, Shani," he says, then lets go.
I nod. He steps away, shoes crackling on the fall leaves, but looks back at me and waves. His hand shimmers with glitter.
Chapter Three: Secrets Laid Wide Open
It had only been two weeks since they landed. Two weeks of constant awareness. At least they were all safe within the confines of Star Ride.
Several times, hordes of zombies would pound repeatedly on the capsule’s door either with their fists or with heavy metal objects, but it got them nowhere.
When they went outside in a group of three or more (never just one), at least they had their fire lasers to protect themselves but even that was soon to be put to an end. They were running out of fuel and when they tried getting fuel, they would often have to run back to Star Ride as the deathly dead-walkers would begin to descend on them.
Clint and the others knew without the fire lasers, they were no match when it came down to it. The odds were too great. Seven against hundreds and what felt like thousands would be impossible to win. The idea now was survival. Survival the best way they could.
When all seven left the ISS, they took with them a radio transponder, electronic records of what had transpired, including those logs of the men and women who died as well as assorted video compiled by thirty cameras stationed on the ISS.
These were things Clint knew he had to go through but at the same time he kept putting it off only because he couldn’t bear to read about the deaths of his wife and son. Starvation. That had to be a hell of a way to die where your insides start feeding off yourself.
Clint set up a schedule from dawn to dark where someone would be on the radio to raise someone up anyone that wasn’t a zombie. For that matter, anyone that's still alive.
Clint made certain there were ample batteries for the walkie-talkies so when outside they could maintain constant touch with each other if split into groups of three and four.
It was his turn on the radio and as he continually sent out may day signals, he started watching the tapes. Most of which showed the ISS crew doing their jobs. It also showed his wife, Carla, with a small girl by her side who looked remarkably like Carla. Could it be he had a daughter? A daughter that also died on the ISS. Neither Darryl nor Elana ever mentioned a young child on board. Why is that? When they return to Star Ride it will be one of the first things he questions them about. And why would Carla, or for that matter, Mission Control allow such a thing? Had things been that bad then?
Clint felt a few tears trickle down his face, not just for Carla but also for the daughter he would never come to know. Did Darryl or Elana know her name? He needed to know her name.
Again, he tried transmitting.
“This is Captain Clint Raymond from the United States, transmitting from the Houston’s Mission Control area. We have returned from a mission from outer space. Is there anyone out there? Do you read me? Is there anyone out there?”
Like all the other times, nothing but static could be heard. Giving it a break after several unsuccessful attempts, he started browning the video reels again. After eleven go throughs, the twelfth one caused him to sit back, pause and then scream in a fit of rage. He saw both Carla and his daughter murdered, and it was all on film.
He could make out Dale’s brother Mark, t6he other man he didn’t know, but neither of them were responsible. But the video reel showed a partial segment of two people running the opposite way of where Carla died. Two people that were on the ISS murdered his wife and daughter.
Thinking back on conversations with both Darryl and Elana, and thinking on it now, some of the things they told him, and his crew were starting to not add up. The more he thought, the more his anger was welling inside him. He would have answers before the day was over, although he already suspected what the answers were.
What is that saying? When it rains it pours? There was no rain, but the shit did hit the fan.
Clint called us altogether for a meeting shortly after we came back with more food sup0plies, mostly canned goods and bottled water, and coffee. I can’t think straight without coffee.
Truth be told, after Clint showed us the video reel, I felt more like downing a fifth of vodka. It was a cruel thing to see. And Dale had tears in his eyes when he saw his brother.
After we all watched, Clint started questioning Darryl and Elana on the supposed deaths they said everyone succumbed too. Clint wanted to know what had happened to the bodies of Carla and the young girl. He wanted to kno0w where the other bodies went.
It was all coming to a head and the look in Clint’s eyes told us everything. He didn’t buy into their story of malnutrition, and frankly neither did anyone else. Hell, Brad and Jules and I had to restrain Dale. He was all set to lay into Darryl. Maybe we should have let him.
It was Elana who told us what really happened.
“Darryl had this plan and at first, I was against it. But the more he said our chances of survival out there would be greater if we eliminated everyone when each person was alone. As to the weapon, it was small but deadly. It was a Swiss mini-gun, about the size of a fob. It fires tiny 2.34mm shells at 270mph bullets powerful enough to kill at close range but the beauty of it, it makes no real sound.
“At first, I was against the idea but then I started thinking of how much longer we would be up there—trapped, without a way home. Suddenly, the idea of survival at all costs built inside me. But I tell you now, it was Darryl who killed them all. I only got each person away from those on board. Isolated, they were easy targets.
“As for the bodies, they were jettisoned off the ISS and are probably still drifting in space.”
The way she explained everything was such a matter of fact without an ounce of sadness in her voice. I wanted to strangle the bitch myself.
Clint did something I had never seen him do before and that was knock out three of Darryl’s teeth and kick him in the head. No one bothered to stop him but when he had his senses back intact, what he did say made us all stand up and take notice.
“I’m not a judge, but today I am your jury. There are no prisons left more than likely to send you to, but I can send you off Star Ride for good. As of right now, you are to leave here and never come back. Neither you nor Elana are welcomed here.” Turning to Elana he said more than asked, “What was the little girl’s name.”
It was 2016 hours when we were finished, and at 2019 hours, both Darryl and Elana disembarked off Star Ride and all their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Personally, I hope the zombies get sick eating their bodies. This is Margo Jessup. Signing off.
Written By: Danceinsilence
The Power of Red
The world wakes up and goes to sleep depending on where you live. People rise to start their day while others retire after a long grueling day. It is a cycle humanity has lived in for centuries. Some see the day as an opportunity, others a grind to “just get by’.
Unemployment reigned, wars escalated, hunger remained rampant, and disease was never-ending. The world and its inhabitants live in a vicious cycle with no clearcut way out.
There was a time when Chuck Reynolds was just your average guy, living an average life. He was like many people. He would play the lottery every week, never winning, but he kept thinking one day he would be on easy street. He worked at a restaurant as a cook. He had an on and off again girl he would date. He paid his bills on time. There was a time for concern for his health when he contracted Covid, but with time and patience and a few shots, he was back in business again.
Every day, his life plodded along, and Chuck always had a belief his life wouldn’t be near as bad as it had been for others. He had plans. Not big plans, but plans for his future, his retirement one day and living what he would consider to be a good life. An okay life.
But one day, his life and the world he knew—changed.
He had a vacation coming up and decided to take a trip to witness the Aurora Borealis on the southern border as that was the best place to view this marvel. It was one of those places that was on his bucket list.
It was on his third day, or in this case, night, when his life took a turn. Gazing upward at the streaming colors that floated across the night sky, green cascading lights, the deep blues, sparkling baby blues, deep purples, pink and red hues. It was approximately 1:35 in the morning when a shift in colors happened. Very few people were out that early dark morning, but they witnessed a phenomenon unlike anything ever experienced, but most of all, Chuck became the inadvertent cause.
A rift occurred in between the colors and lowered itself over Chuck. This is something that never happened before, and Chuck remained immobilized at the sight and found himself immersed in the rich vibrant colors. Then he felt his body changing, he started to tremble. What had once been a green light—changed. The green became a bright, resonating red.
Normally, according to scientists, solar particles react with oxygen at higher altitudes, generally above 150 miles, meaning they should never reach out where Chuck stood.
But it did and Chuck was turning red. He didn’t feel pain, but he did feel a newfound strength he never had before, but the strength was different than what might be expected. It was a strength of resolve, calming.
What few people that were there, broke out their cell phones to record what was happening. It was a moment that otherwise without proof, would never be believed. As they videoed him into the four-minute mark, that was when they witnessed his disappearance.
Chuck again felt no pain, but what happened to him went beyond incredible. His body began to separate into minute red molecules and was pulled upward in a spiraling, almost circular motion, and beyond into the green hue that stretched across a vast night sky.
Chuck was gone.
And yet, Chuck had knowledge of what was happening to him. He knew he wasn’t dead, and he knew where he was going and why, for a voice no one could hear entered his mind.
“Have no fear. You are safe. Soon, you will be coming home.”
Six months later, Chuck returned from the place he was drawn to—Zylar; a not known planet that lay behind Saturn. A planet filled with the greatest minds people on earth could never fathom.
When he returned, people would stand in awe of his appearance. He was different in his looks. His hair, eyes and skin were a deep red. And when he spoke, he gave the world a message of what to expect in the coming years. He spoke of how to rid the world of disease and hunger, where everyone could live in peace.
He gave instruction to scientists, educators, the medical world, and humanity.
“Follow these instructions and your life will be blessed. Ignore them, and your life becomes forever held in the dark mysteries of the what if. Take advantage of what is offered. You will not get a second chance.”
When Chuck was finished, he disappeared again, never to be seen again.
That was thirty-five years ago. Today, more people visit the Aurora Borealis in hopes of either seeing Chuck again, or, being taken away as Chuck had been. But the green night hues never again produced any red solar particles that reached out for another human being.
What really became of Chuck when he returned to Zylar, no one can say. We would like to think he lives in peace and is happy.
If people knew, they would be envious. Chuck would live forever and never age. He would remain happy with each day that passed and not want for anything. One couldn’t ask for more than that.
Here, on earth, the world took his advice, his knowledge, and put it to good use. Hunger and disease were eradicated, hatred turned to love, and everyone had a place to live and work, but—five years ago, things started changing back to the way they were before Chuck reappeared.
It just shows that people cannot handle a good thing.
I went to a concert
that I wanted to go to
for ten years this week
I cut my hair
I bought another ticket
to see Allan Rayman
I’m going alone
I have a tattoo scheduled
I tell myself
you wouldn’t even
recognize me anymore
Space for Rent
There’s space for rent inside my heart. The plus side is there’s not much in there. Not many tenants, but they’re here to stay—don’t have the heart to evict them. Yes, I know some of them have moved out. Doesn’t matter. I’ll hang on to their stuff for them for as long as they want.
Most of this empty space I’ll admit I’ve been afraid to lease, worried I’ll find the wrong person to fill some rooms. But all this empty space makes me feel a little lonely. That’s gotten worse with time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my current tenants. They live rent free—the space they occupy I make sure stays theirs.
I’ve gotten better at putting out my “For Rent” signs. Most of my applicants are boring though. Nice enough, I’m sure, just…not for me. I’m picky, I guess. Then again, one has to be selective when renting out space in the heart.
“For Rent.” What an odd concept, considering I give the space away for free. Maybe I should change my signs. But I don’t want anyone getting any ideas and taking advantage of me. I’ve got plenty of room. No hurry to change that.
I push open the bathroom door, still a little dazed. “Sister Bertha was just out there…” I start to say, then stop. What else could I say? She told me to come in here and help? That doesn’t sound true.
But somehow it is.
Pearl’s still crouched next to Henry, whose legs are drawn into his chest, his head resting on his knees. “Crap, she is?” Pearl asks, looking up at me. She stands.
I shake my head. “She’s gone now. Back to the chapel with Katherine.”
Pearl blows out a sigh of relief, then glances past me. “I’m going to get a bottle of water. Stay here. Just talk to him, ok?”
She’s about to step past me, and I suddenly realize how foolish I am, being here. How am I supposed to help? What am I supposed to do? I grab Pearl’s forearm, stopping her. “What do I talk–”
She puts a hand over mine and flashes a small smile. “Have him talk about one thing. Anything. Other than…” she tilts her head at the door. “Her.”
I pull my hand back slowly and nod.
A moment later, I sit next to Henry on the bathroom floor. Which, to be honest, is probably disgusting. I try not to look, just make a mental note to wash this skirt before wearing it again.
Henry’s breathing is rapid and sharp, and he flinches when I say his name.
“Uh, Henry, it’s me. Um.” I look around the bathroom, but find no inspiration. The walls are bland and dingy, the mirrors are scraped and cloudy. I look back at Henry.
“Where is that from?” I ask, pointing at his wrist. A silver chained bracelet hangs from it, plain and charmless. I’ve never noticed him wearing it before, but then again, why would I have?
He takes a few beats to look down at his wrist. He stares at it as if it’s not a part of his body, as if he’s never seen a wrist before. “Jackson gave it to me.”
I’m not sure if this is helping, but I continue. “Oh, cool. When was that?”
He touches the bracelet with his other hand, spinning the chain left and right along his skin. “It was a month ago, just about. It’s his, but he told me that since I liked it, it’s mine.”
I can barely imagine it, someone liking you enough to give you their things. “That’s nice of him. So, you like bracelets?”
Henry laughs a little, and I wonder if I’ve ever heard him laugh before. “Not usually. But I thought it made him look badass. That made me like it.” I smile and watch him fiddle with the bracelet some more.
After a beat, he continues. “It’s cold. Metal. But it was warm when he put it on my wrist, because he’d been wearing it.” From the distance in his voice, it sounds like he’s recalling a memory.
“Was he wearing other bracelets, too?”
Henry breathes out deeply, thinking. “No, just the one. I remember because that made me more surprised, that he’d give it to me. His one bracelet.”
The bathroom door swings open then, and we both jump, but it’s just Pearl with a plastic water bottle in her hand. She hands it to Henry.
None of us return to the school service, and no one interrupts us. Henry focuses on the bracelet Jackson gave him, and his breathing returns to normal. Pearl tells me later that focusing on an object helps, that it grounds him.
I’m just glad when he’s standing again and feeling better.
. . .
The next day, everything returns to normal, for the most part. I still feel like Sister Bertha’s watching me, but now I know she is, and I’m not sure that’s any better. I keep scouring the halls for her, expecting her to pop out and laugh and point and tell the whole school about yesterday.
Now, of course that wouldn’t ever happen. But.
Katherine doesn’t look at me, or Pearl, or Henry, or even Andrew. The hallways run rampant with rumors that Katherine and Andrew have broken up, that Andrew is dating Flora. I hear these rumors mostly from Maggie, as you might expect.
Somewhat surprisingly, no one talks about Henry. I guess Katherine hasn’t said anything. I wonder how long she's know that he's gay. I wonder a lot of things about her, now.
Henry ducks his head but smiles at me when I pass him in the hall, and I smile back. Funnily, Kelly does the same thing.
“No, I didn’t finish the history homework, I’ve been practicing for the talent assembly!” Maggie and Mary Kate are fighting again, or something. Mary Kate dumped Charles Lee at the beginning of this week, and he’s been moping about school, but she seems to have forgotten about him.
I glance over at the history worksheet Maggie’s working on now. It’s on the Civil War, because, of course it is. I swear eighty percent of our history lessons are on the Civil War.
Mary Kate sets down her pudding cup and licks chocolate off her lip. “Look, the dates are all right here,” she says, pointing at the textbook spread in front of them. “Do you really need to practice that much?”
Maggie sits up and squares her shoulders. “Yeah. It’s a scene from a play; I need to learn my lines.”
As if on cue–maybe it is on cue–Erica starts muttering lines. Abbey claps her hands. “Oh, I’m so excited to see you guys act it out!”
Rachel shakes her head. “It’s going to be miserable,” she says into her planner. “I can’t believe I agreed.”
Becca holds up a hand. “Is Charles still helping us? You know, since he and Mary Kate…”
Mary Kate shoots her a glare, and Maggie sighs and shuts her textbook. “Listen. We can practice this weekend.”
“No you can’t!” Abbey interjects grinning, and I accidentally catch her eye. She doesn’t look away until I give her a confused smile back.
Erica and Becca giggle about something, and Mary Kate sulks behind one of her graphic novels. I eat my cafeteria pizza slowly, observing.
“It’s my sister’s birthday, remember?” Abbey says, louder this time.
Maggie looks up. “Oh, darn it. It is, isn’t it? I completely forgot.”
“I reminded you, like, ten times this week,” Abbey says with a little laugh. It’s true, she had mentioned it. But no one had been listening at the time.
Becca turns to me. “Wait, Trinity doesn’t even know your sister.” I shrug, because it’s true, but I’m not sure if that matters.
Abbey’s eyes light up, and she begins to chatter excitedly. “She’s in college now, but she’s super cool. She still comes home, when my parents aren’t around, which is, like, all the time. And she’s got cool music and cool friends, too.”
Rachel shakes her head. “I don’t think I can come. Last year was crazy, and I’m not doing that again. I have to study, also.” She punctuates her statement will a long sip from her water bottle protein shake.
Maggie chuckles. “Casey knows how to throw a party, I’ll give her that.”
“Oh, but you’ll all come? You said you would!” Abbey pleads. She’s looking at me again. I look at Maggie.
With a nod, Maggie replies, “Oh, of course. I’ll be there. Mary Kate?” Mary Kate rolls her eyes and sucks on her pudding spoon, but agrees in the end. “Trinity?”
I laugh a little. “I don’t know if I should go to a party…” I say tentatively.
“It’ll be fun,” Abbey says.
“It was fun last year!” Becca adds.
“Oh. Well. Ok, then.”
At the time, I didn’t know what I was signing myself up for.
(first part: https://theprose.com/post/432343/trinity)
(previous part: https://theprose.com/post/458624/trinity-40)
(next part: https://theprose.com/post/459929/trinity-42)
My Blood’s Not Red Anymore
My blood’s not red anymore;
It leaks from my shredded soul,
Seeping tar-like from blackened wounds—
The gashes came from many things, but
Oh, the largest ones, those came from me
Tearing out chunks to ease the pain
Of a thousand missing parts.
Funny how the brain—deranged by overload—
Decides it’s time to die
And tears away the parts of you
That should’ve stayed inside.
Oh, no my blood’s not red anymore
But my filthy heart still beats;
It pounds away inside my chest, but
It's not blood that swims within.
My blood’s not red anymore,
But it oozes from your lips—serotonin vampire,
Midday like it's midnight, but you’re still alive.
Hard to kill something that lives forever,
Embodiment of greed and vulturous lust,
Circling above my head as I fall to my knees
Crushed ’neath my terror and your bloodlust.
Oh, but I know all your dirty secrets—
I wrote them in my Book of Lies
Where the black drips down from pages smeared,
Scarred with everything that makes you hide.
Oh, no my blood’s not red anymore
But my filthy heart still beats;
It pounds away inside my chest, but
It's not blood that swims within.