The leaves and branches crunched beneath her bare feet as she ran through the woods in a torn black dress. She tripped over a stump falling face first to the ground then instantly covered her mouth with both hands. Her ankle was twisted and she wanted to scream out in inconceivable pain, but knew if she did he’d hear her. She sat with her back against a tree and wiped the blood from above her brow and wept silently. It was completely dark and Kris couldn’t see anything except the breath that escaped her mouth and nose. There was no one around for miles and she had nowhere to go. She knew she couldn’t stay there but she wasn’t sure if Steven followed her into the woods or not. She had never seen her husband so upset before and needed to get as far away from him as possible. This weekend getaway was supposed to be about celebrating their anniversary but he found out she’d been having an affair. After nearly two hours Kris began to crawl back to the cabin hoping he would be gone so she could call for help. Halfway there she tried to stand and was hit from behind so hard that it knocked her unconscious. Steven woke up in his bed the next morning in hysterics and called the police. “Calm down sir” the operator said before asking “how long has your wife been missing?” “She wasn’t here, I got home from work around six last night and and she” Steven choked through his words “I thought maybe she went out with some friends.” The operator kept him on the line until police arrived at his home. After weeks of multiple conflicting interviews Steven was charged with murder and spent months in jail awaiting his trial. His day had finally come and before the verdict was read the judge asked him if there was anything he wanted to say. Steven stood and turned to Kris’ family with tears in his eyes and said “I loved Kris with all my heart and I’d never want to hurt her. I want to catch this person just as much as you do, and I need you all to believe it wasn’t me. I love you” he said to her mother who was grimacing and crying simultaneously. He sat down and his attorney patted him on the back. The judge began, “have you reached a verdict?” and the jury foreperson responded “We have, your Honor. We the jury, in the case of The State of Missouri versus Steven Edwards, find the defendant not guilty of the charge of second degree murder.” Steven fell to his knees in disbelief and Kris’ family erupted in agony. “Thank you, Jury, for your service today. Court is adjourned.” Steven stood and his attorney congratulated him just as Kris’ mother walked quickly towards him. She screamed through tears “I know you did it you son of a bitch! I know you killed my daughter.” A slow grin spread across his face and he mouthed the words ‘they’ll never find her body’ to her and walked out.
Heart sick sensations alloyed with contented elation
Chronic oscillation of obstinate pulsation
Thorny foundations stemmed into layered commiseration
Flirtatious formation and ignited creations
Fevered duration, impulsive temptation
Love is red.
My soon to be ex wife hated my guts and she took Maddie with her to Connecticut when she moved in with my mother-in-law several months ago. I watched my best friend die…I can’t believe I killed a woman and I spend the nights in this house all alone. What else do I have to lose? I bit down on the gun as hard as I could and a stream of warm liquid tickled my elbow. I pulled the gun out when I heard someone calling my name as two of the teeth in my mouth hit the wooden floor. “Max? What the hell are you doing?” Claire exclaimed bursting through the bedroom door. “Madison honey, don’t come in here go in the living room please!” She tried to keep my daughter at bay, but it was too late. She had already looked into the room with one hand on her mom’s leg and the other pushing the door as her face went flush. Her slate grey eyes were the size of silver dollars, and I couldn’t bare to look into them putting my head down in shame. “Daddy, you’re bleeding! Are you hurt?” She ran straight to me and grabbed me around the neck. My eyes swelled with tears and in that moment I was glad my child didn’t walk in to see her father lying on the ground dead. Claire’s bottom lip trembled and she swiftly moved her head to the side to get the hair out of her face, something she always did before she began to cry. She had a bob that cradled her cheeks and she didn’t look a day over twenty one. She was still so beautiful. Realizing what was about to take place before they walked in proved to be too much for her. I held Maddie tightly while she sobbed through confusion and gradually rose to my feet. She was only three but she was so inquisitive and full of personality. “Maddie” my voice cracked as I used my sleeve to wipe the blood from my lips. “Daddy is okay honey I just had a little accident. But I’ll be fine.” She sat up putting my face in her tiny clammy hands and frowned at the cut on my forehead. “Maddie come here we are going to let daddy get cleaned up. We have to go see aunt Donna okay?” Claire took Maddie and I stopped her from exiting the room. “Wait, you spoke to Patrick’s wife?” A small lump formed in my throat and a million questions raced through my mind. “Yes. You would have known that if you’d answered your phone. I’ve been calling you nonstop all day and it just kept going to your voicemail. I grabbed Maddie and raced down here because I thought something might have happened to you. Judging by the looks of it I was right. Were you with him? What happened?” I picked up the alcohol bottle off of the floor and walked over to the night table and placed it down. She could always tell when I was lying and I didn’t want her to know that she would be right. “Uh no, I uh heard about it at work. I must have misplaced my phone in the office somewhere. I’m very happy to see you, both of you.” Trying to get the focus off of me I leaned in to hug her but she walked away. “Donna is waiting for us. She needs us right now and I need you to pretend you aren’t drunk! Like always!” She stormed out and I followed her. Claire drove us to Patrick and Donna’s and I could feel my stomach twisting into knots. I threw my phone into a sewer before I got to the hospital earlier, how would I keep this lie going? Anxiety made a home inside of my head as we approached their driveway and I saw more cars than usual in it. I sat in the seat with my belt still fastened while Claire took Maddie out of her chair. Realizing these were unmarked cars, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was found out. I got out of the car dragging behind and nearly collapsed when I heard Donna’s wails as she opened the front door. Her words made no sense and she just screamed and held onto us. We were able to finally get her back inside and seated on the couch when I noticed someone staring at me. He stood in a corner jotting something down into a pad. As I got closer, he stopped writing and held his pen out to keep me from walking by. “Hey buddy, what happened to you?” he gave me a once over. “Long day boss” I nervously chuckled knowing he didn’t buy it. He glared at the cut on my head and I tried to inconspicuously look down and that’s when I noticed it. One of the buttons on my shirt were missing.
The speeding car slammed into her jeep causing it to spin out of control and land into the trunk of a tree. She laid there weakly, shocked and in unimaginable pain. As fate would have it, she was brought to the hospital. Here, with me.
I did all that I could do but it still wasn’t enough, and I was far from done. No, there was more to do. I’m no murderer, but I’d be responsible for killing two people tonight.
“Mr. Shaw, Ariana died tonight” I practiced in the mirror. “Ariana has died, Mr. Shaw.” “Mr. Shaw, I couldn’t save your daughter Ariana.” It still sounded so rehearsed and I knew I wasn’t ready.
‘Fuck! Why me? Why did I have to be the one on duty?’ I thought to myself as I scrubbed my forearms and hands feverishly with the antibacterial cleaning agent. I scoured for minutes milking the procrastination meter and dreading the thought of having to face her father, so much so that my skin looked liked it was going to crack and bleed. I cupped my hands and scooped the water onto my face looking for a sense of relief.
I sat on the arm of that chair in the waiting area about 30 minutes after the victim’s father left. I wanted to run very far and fast, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. It was like I was outside of myself yelling to myself, but the heaviness of that moment kept me cemented to that spot. My forehead was drenched under that bouffant cap but I couldn’t remove it until I was alone. My back ached and a couple of nurses helped me to my office. They chalked it up to me having a bad day, perhaps the death of this patient got to me. “Doctor Avery, would you like us to help you to your car?” one of the nurses asked. “Uh, no Helen it’s okay. I caught a ride in today. They should be here shortly, thanks” I stuttered over my words and shooed them along. It happens all the time, but what they didn’t know is I was closer to her than everyone thought.
My uber dropped me off a few blocks from home, and I needed it to be that way. Paranoia set in deeply now, and I raced through the door in search of the strongest bottle of alcohol I could find. I knew the cops would come looking for me eventually and I needed to get out of there. I didn’t mean to leave Patrick in the car, but when we crashed he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. The flashback of his head in the windshield brought me to my knees, and I began throwing up violently. I wiped my mouth and got up desperately needing to find that bottle.
I poured glass after glass and I tried to recount the events following the accident hoping I remembered to get any trace of me out of that vehicle. I took his phone just before I pushed the passenger door open and fell out of the car. But was it enough? I heard a faint knock at my front door and I stumbled away from it towards the bedroom. I dropped the glass breaking it, which prompted the person to knock again, this time much louder. I laid on the floor reaching underneath my bed for my gun. I made sure it was loaded and put it in my mouth.
Where do we go when they find out? You for me is taboo…Your poison so sweet I’ll take the cavity, be it fatal…
The best thing for me that I can never have.
We are forbidden…
So I’ll wait for your kiss in the wind, your touch in the rain.
I’ll love you until forever ends…
We walked back in from rec through the concrete filled halls that led us directly to our cells. A cracked fluorescent light overhead constantly emitted this monotone buzzing, one of the many culprits contributing to my insomnia. I could never find the leak, but every time it rained you’d here the echo from the drops hitting the bottom of a partially filled pail. I hoped the sight of this place didn’t haunt me in my sleep for years to come. Although it didn’t show, I was thrilled at the thought of getting off of a cot and actually eating food that I could identify. “What’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get outta here?” Lindsay asked, her lisp getting in the way. She was transferred to Raymore County Juvenile six months before I arrived. Said she wanted to give her brother a haircut and accidentally stabbed him to death. During breakfast on my first day, a couple of the girls decided to start a fight with me and Lindsay interfered. We’ve been tight ever since and now I’d be leaving her alone with them. “I don’t know Lins” I said after a deep sigh hoping it didn’t turn into an interrogation. She could tell I was bothered so she shrugged it off and we proceeded to our cells to brush our teeth. What would I do when I get out of here tomorrow? I don’t have any friends and for one reason or another the kids in my neighborhood always teased me, so I’m pretty sure they won’t be throwing me a ‘Welcome Home’ party. That night I laid there full of anxiety, wondering how I’d fit back into a life that temporarily didn’t belong to me. I left home a scared, abused, child only to return a lonely, confused, young adult. “Rise and shine ladies!” The officer’s voice blared over the loudspeaker. “Get your beds made and hit the showers. Breakfast is in a half.” I snagged about three hours of sleep but it seemed like only minutes and now I’d been faced with the harsh reality of figuring out life. Lins and I said our goodbyes and we promised to keep in touch. I grabbed my oversized trash bags full of the things I accumulated during my stay, and headed out to meet my ride. As usual my aunt was late picking me up so I decided to have a smoke while making a chair out of the bags. I used the tip of my shoe to smash the ants crawling on the ground next to me and suddenly felt sick to my stomach when I heard the screeching of tires. These weren’t just any tires, I knew the sound of that 1969 F100 anywhere and it was headed this way. I slowly stood up and felt my face go flush. I couldn’t believe my eyes because I knew for sure I had killed him. My aunt jumped out of the passenger seat and nearly lost one of her flip flops as she ran towards me. Hey aunt Lisa” I managed to whimper out. “Kid! You look great. Come on let’s get your things” she said with a serrated grin. Clearly she hadn’t stopped using because she looked as though she barely weighed 90 lbs. and she couldn’t keep still. I dragged my feet as we neared the truck and the closer we got, the heavier my legs felt. My uncle stood at the back of the vehicle with his arms outstretched motioning for me to walk into them. ‘Maybe he forgave me’ I thought, but the embrace was awkward and he squeezed me too tightly. We headed home and as he slung the truck around corner after corner, the debris in the back seat would topple over onto my lap. My aunt did a line right there in the passenger seat and this familiarity left me feeling as though I was better off at Raymore. My uncle stared at me through the rear-view mirror and I found difficulty in reading his face. We pulled into the driveway and nothing seemed to change from the last time I was here. The poorly scented furniture was soiled and stained, and some of the planks in the hardwood have rotted out. After picking through the McDonald’s we stopped for, I brought my bags up to my room and planned to unpack after my nap. I awoke to my uncle pressing my nose and mouth against his oversized dank fingers as I desperately tried fighting him off for air. “I’m glad you’re back girl, I missed you” he spewed with this demented look in his eyes, pushing me away and standing to remove his pants. “Please, no” I begged backing away from him, and he slapped me in the mouth drawing blood. He only covered my mouth this time while lying on top of me threatening more harm if I made a sound. I felt like he was ripping my insides out and I was furious at my aunt for turning a blind eye. He kissed me as he finished, wiping the blood from the side of my mouth and sauntered out of the room. I gasped loudly and when I was sure he had gone, I ran over to the door and barricaded myself inside. I rocked back and forth on the floor crouched in the corner crying until the sun went down. I must have fallen asleep again because I awoke to a note under my door that read “went to get pizza.” I glanced out of the window and his truck wasn’t there. I ran to the bedroom door tossing everything aside so I could get out of it and into the bathroom. I locked the door behind me and turned the light on, unable to understand how people could survive in such defilement. The bathtub was filled with rust and one of the faucet handles were missing. I didn’t want to get in but at this point it no longer mattered to me. I began filling the tub and hastily searched the medicine cabinet for anything I could find. ‘I can’t do this anymore’ I thought and took a handful of every pill in sight. I turned off the water and climbed into the tub silently crying myself into a peaceful sleep. I missed my parents deeply and I hoped when I awoke there they’d stand.
–Continued from ‘These Scars Have Names.’
I had to send her about thirty text messages, where was she? My friend Jackie was always late to everything and this time was no different. She and I wanted to celebrate a promotion she received at work and since I was only in town for the weekend, we decided on a quick drink at the bar. She knows I don’t like coming to these places alone, but at least the music was really good and my hotel in walking distance. “Refill, miss?” The bartender smiled while placing a hand on my martini glass. “Um, yea, no I’ll have a Long Island Iced Tea this time please” I smiled back. I felt my phone vibrating in the purse on my lap and immediately hoped it was Jackie saying she was here. Voicemail? I didn’t even know the phone rang! “Hey V I’m sorry I’m running a little late. Please don’t be upset with me, I’m on my way home to change and I’ll be there as soon as I can, okay?” I shook my head and bitterly threw the phone back into my black shoulder bag. The bartender placed my glass atop the diamond-shaped napkin and I quickly grabbed it up taking a long, deliberate drink. Tapping my fingernails on the bar out of boredom I noticed a gentleman slide into the empty stool next to me. His cologne was aromatic and breathtaking, mellow but definitely masculine. After ordering his drink he winked at me and I shyly smirked looking into my glass. “That’s a strong drink you have there, are you sure you can handle it?” he spoke in a deep tone competing with the bass of the music. “I’m sure I’ll manage” I replied back, twisting my curls around my pointer finger. “Paul” he stuck his hand out and mine reached up to meet his, “Vanessa.” He complimented my smile taking notice of the lip color, MAC‘s Brave Red one of my favorites. He wore a fitted navy suit and I could tell the gym was his cherished pastime by the definition in his upper body when he stood to remove his jacket. He loosened his mint green tie just a little and motioned for us to move to the floor for a dance. I couldn’t help feeling a bit too dressed down in a simple black ensemble, but by the way it grabbed his attention I started to think maybe I was wrong. Following a few up-tempo songs and small conversation, I headed back to my seat with Paul in tow. It’s been over an hour since receiving Jackie’s voicemail and she still hadn’t arrived, so I sent her a goodnight text. If I were going to make that eight a.m. flight, I needed at least a couple of hours of sleep. “Well Paul” I started, and he looked at me in full disappointment finishing my sentence “you have to go, am I right?” I hadn’t noticed before but his eyes were dreamy, deep and dark, or maybe I was starting to feel the drinks. Either way I almost didn’t want the night to end and being that I was beginning to feel like Jackie stood me up, I could spend the night getting to know Paul better. “Maybe I can stay just a little bit longer” I replied holding my hand up creating about an inch between my fingers emphasizing the time restraint. “Since this is my city and you’re just visiting, how about I show you around and then we continue this at my place? I’ll make sure you get back in time to rest before your flight.” Against my better judgment I agreed and we headed out to wander the New York City streets aimlessly. It felt great out, a little warmer than what you’d expect for a spring night, and it was easy to tell that it rained because the ground was slick and the sidewalk glistened under the street lights. Every so often a mild breeze would softly blow past, leaving a sweet-scented trail of honey roasted peanuts to tease my nostrils. We walked and talked about everything under the sun and as comfortable as Paul made me feel, there was a secret that I wasn’t willing to reveal to him. Two guys holding hands stood next to us at the beginning of the cross walk and the thirty-second countdown to cross felt like thirty minutes. I can’t believe Paul berated them the way he did, and the filth leaving his mouth showed me I was wise in choosing not to disclose everything about myself to him. I felt so much sympathy for them as we went in opposite directions, and felt shame for associating with Paul. There was an awkward silence all the way to his building, and as we walked into his apartment I started to feel as though Paul did this quite often. I have always heard that apartments here were tiny, but this place was huge. I knew from his style of dress that he lived a lavish lifestyle, and his apartment was beyond impressive. I played along accepting a drink and taking a seat on his couch while he started a movie. I woke abruptly out of my sleep a bit confused by the sound of my alarm. I fumbled with the sheets searching for the phone so that I could shut it off. Realizing that I set it down on the night table beside the bed, I jumped up when I saw that it was 4:00 a.m. I looked over at Paul sleeping peacefully putting together the pieces of the night. I wonder if I should wake him, I thought as I stepped out of the bed tripping over my shoe. He didn’t flinch, so I bent down and grabbed my clothes and my shoes quietly with a plan to tip-toe out of there. Something shiny caught my eye, so I blinked and looked a little closer before figuring out what it was. An earring surrounded by some dust underneath the bed that of course didn’t belong to me, and I wasn’t shocked. “Paul” I spoke sternly my voice piercing through his sleep and headed to the bathroom with my things. “Please call an Uber for me I’m just going to freshen up.” I came out of the bathroom closely mimicking the look I had before I left the hotel room earlier that night to meet up with Jackie. Paul was getting dressed to walk me downstairs, but I stopped him. I kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for a fun evening. He asked for a contact number but I told him it wouldn’t be necessary as I hadn’t planned on coming back. Paul let me out and headed to the bathroom to relieve himself, but stopped in his tracks when he turned the light on. Smeared across the mirror in red block letters read the words, I was born a male. Paul raced out of the apartment barefoot and shirtless only to see my Uber pulling off with me inside.