Image © Melissa Fitzgerald 2016
|by Melissa Fitzgerald||May 26, 2016|
If I had to decide, I’d say my biggest regret was the flimsy skirt I put on before going on this stupid trip to Stacy’s cottage. In doing so, I doomed myself to die in a flimsy mini skirt. When I fall down dead, the skirt will inevitably flop up and reveal my red lacy underwear. Then the first thing whatever man—and I’m sure it will be a man—who happens upon my body will see is my red lacy underwear. And that’s how I’ll be remembered.
I found myself harboring an inexplicable amount of rage against this anonymous man. He’d almost certainly neglect to pull down my skirt and close my legs, leading more people to see me and my lacy underwear. Certainly only stupid, inconsiderate men would dare stop at the small, dimly lit convenient store/death trap far off of Route 128. Jesus I’d even had the sense to not stop here. But Stacy’s bladder was even smaller than her pea-sized brain and I stupidly pulled on over. Now we’re being held hostage by two amateur robbers, not a single car has driven by, and everyone who stumbles upon my corpse is going to think I’m a floozy.
Come to think of it I have a lot of regrets.
To my left Lana snaps, “This is all your fault.” She’s speaking to Stacy on my right who never in fact had a chance to pee.
“Hey now…” I frown but the frown tastes odd to me, like my mouth could at any moment slip right off my chin.
Stacy ignores me and hisses at Lana. “My fault! You’re the one who took ten years deciding what kind of chocolate to get. We only had one more hour on the journey. I think you could’ve made it.”
“How dare you. They have a surprising amount of variety here!”
“That’s true…” I peek over at the two masked robbers. One is tall and lanky like an overgrown spider. The other is short and wiry like a coiled spring with tattoos stamped up and down his arms. If I blink quickly enough, I see a short oompa loompa in the guy’s place, black and white like a blown up checkerboard.
There is a loud bang by the front of the store. The short guy has kicked something—or someone—out of frustration.
“HEY!” The short guy yells.
“You think he’s talking to us?” I look at both of them.
I look up and swear the Spider Guy was looking right at me, into me, through me. Hello I tell him over and over in my head and he just smiles still.
“ONE OF YOU GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE NOW!”
“Well, I’m not going,” Lana yells. “I’m the prettiest! I’m in the most danger here!”
“Oh my God…” Stacy yells.
Suddenly I’m on my feet, and before I know it my legs have taken me to the two masked men. Spider guy’s mouth is a hard line when I get there.
“Finally,” the short guy says, his voice like a buzzing pack of bees, like Marlboro smooths, like a car engine stalling in my driveway. I shake my head.
“Reach in there and grab the keys.” He points to the door that divides the unconscious cashier and the rest of the store, too narrow for him and too short for Spider Guy and his spidery long limbs.
“And what do I get?” I say.
“Get?” Marlboro Smooth spits, his face a knot.
“As a reward for being your accomplice?”
He blinks a few million times and then snaps, “You won’t get murdered yet, that’s what you get, okay?”
“Not very generous,” I mutter.
Spider Guy turns to me; there’s a gleam of silver between us.
I try to breathe as I look at the knife in front of me.
“I’m gonna cut the tape off your wrists, okay?”
He walks behind me and I try to keep my limbs from metamorphosing into piles of lime Jello, my dad’s favorite. Maybe that’s what he’d say at my funeral—if he remembered to go. “Sometimes she made me Jello. Lime my favorite.” The thought soothes me.
Spider Guy’s standing in front of me. He cut the tape, and I am alive. I nod.
“Don’t be nervous,” he breathes as I pass him. Now his voice, his voice, is like a piano trill, like music, deep and serene. Like the lake by Stacy’s house, the soft hum of the waves and the sea gull’s occasional craw. His voice like the ocean…
Marlboro Smooth takes me roughly by the wrists. “And if you try anything funny. We’ll cut your pretty nose right off.”
“Get the keys,” Jim says and pushes me forward. And I climb up the tall door separating the cash register from the store, my skirt riding up and up and up. As I hop down, I fall next to the unconscious cashier.
“Is he dead?”
“Grab the fucking keys.”
I lean down beside the man; he has a nametag that says Raj and his legs are closed neatly, a graceful man.
I fish into his pocket, grab a ring of five keys, and stand up. I hand the keys to them, climb back over the gate, and pull down my skirt.
“Nicely done,” Short Jim buzzes in my ear and then sets to work trying the different keys to the door. My heart somersaults in and out of my body but nobody sees it.
Spider guy cuts another piece of tape for my wrists and wraps it around them. I imagine they feel looser than they had before. He doesn’t look at me.
He leads me back towards our spot on the wall.
I clear my throat, and my ever expanding tongue moves, “He’s loads of fun. Great choice.”
“Careful now,” he breathes.
He stops and looks into my eyes, my pupils, and frowns slightly. Then with his arm on the small of my back and underneath my legs, he sits me down.
“Now stay quiet,” he says to the three of us and disappears to the front.
“Um…what the fuck was that?” Lana—
There’s a sound of metal jamming and I realize they must have gotten the little door open. I see Spider Guy in the booth.
I find myself staring at him, this odd unstoppable desire quelling inside of me to figure out his name. Something hard with soft edges, like Andrew or Jonathan…
I look down and see Lana is kicking my leg. “What is wrong with you?”
“He’s kinda cute, right?”
“Who…the robber?” Stacy says. “You mean the man holding us hostage—is he cute?”
Lana kicks me again and giggles. “It’s like you don’t even have reflexes.”
Stacy moves so close to me, our noses our touching. “Your pupils aren’t moving.” Her head jerks back. “ARE YOU HIGH RIGHT NOW?!”
“Oh my God!” Lana hisses. “You drove!”
“We hit a mailbox! Oh God, was it a mailbox? Stacy, was it??”
Stacy stares at me, a medical examiner in the making. “What have you eaten today? Caroline?”
“I had um, a coffee, my donut, the rest of your donut, and… just those brownies.”
“Carol—” Her voice dies out like a purple flame and I look up to see Jim.
“I don’t know what is so important that you need to discuss it…” He is leaning so close to Stacy. His breath blows a strand of hair in her face. “RIGHT NOW…”
His voice is low but angry like a buzzing pack of bees coming closer and closer.
“…But this isn’t a FUCKING TEA PARTY. I remember I told you to shut up so why don’t you SHUT THE FUCK UP?”
A voice like the buzzing of bees, harsh and shaking and quak…
“What?” He turns to look at me.
I blink. “You have a voice like a buzzing pack of bees.”
“Caroline…” someone says.
“What?” The Oompa Loompa asks.
“It’s not a bad thing.”
“Jim, just go get the toolbox and get on with it. I’ll watch them,” Spider Guy says to Oompa Loompa Jim.
I look straight ahead as Jim walks out, a foot bobbing up and down on the periphery of my vision.
Suddenly Spiderman is leaning down in front of me, one tentacle on my knee. My leg stops.
“Hello,” I say.
“Hello,” he says and then turns to Stacy, “She’s…?”
“High as a motherfucking kite?” Lana says.
Stacy nods. “Brownies – they were for the weekend.”
“How many?” He says, his million eyes resting on mine. “Hey, how many?”
I blink. “What’s your name?”
“Jesus,” he says and stands up.
“You don’t have a gun, do you?” Lana asks.
“Lana, you can’t ask shit like that!!” Stacy yells.
“What’s he gonna do—shoot us?”
I burst into a long cadence of laughter, like an explosion of fireworks. I cannot stop it, this colorful laughter.
“Shut her the fuck up!” Oompa Loompa Jim yells. Then quieter to Jesus, he says. “And put them in bathroom. I just saw headlights pull in.”
“I need you to be quiet,” Jesus whispers to me and starts pulling me by the arms.
“OK.” I whisper reverently. “Hey, Jesus, sometimes your eyes look blue or gray and sometimes they look like a million in one…”
A ghost escapes from his lips and it smiles at me. “Count the numbers of candy in front of you okay? I need you to silently count.”
I need you. I need you. I need you. He says over and over, drilling into my ears. Me? You need me? Are you talking to me? I need you. I need you. I need you. And he presses against me. He must love me. He must…
“None of that now. Eyes open, please.”
I open my eyes to see two fingers kissing in front of me. We’re piled into the bathroom with the smell of urine and panic popping into the air like soap bubbles. The man Raj is next to Lana in a lump on the floor, his hands and feet tied. I feel myself dripping to the floor and gulp down a long breath.
Jesus is talking with Oompa Loompa. “Did you see what type of car? Who it was?”
“Do you think it’s professional robbers?” Pretty Lana whispers and Jim’s hand moves like a fly swatter, back then front. Her lip bleeds.
He steps outside. We are silent. The silence thickens and becomes a man. A blue man who dances wickedly around us. He keeps reaching under my skirt. I try to sit up straighter and close my legs, but I keep falling down more.
“Lana, are you—”
“I’m fine, Stacy, I’m A-OK.”
I close my eyes. I open them. I sit up.
“Caroline, stop moving so much. Your skirt’s already short enough.” Her voice wears a mask of lightness. Stacy giggles, “Why are you even wearing that?”
Pretty Lana laughs, but it’s a wicked sound, the blood on her lip forming a sinister smile. “Seriously you don’t know? Seriously?”
The blue man sits between the two of them and waves at me.
“What?” Stacy says.
Focus. Focus on the blue man—no—on the words. Focus on the words.
Short Jim comes back. “They saw the closed sign and turned back.”
“Are you sure?”
“Jesus. Yes, I heard the car pull out.”
“Even now she’s your favorite.” Lana shakes her head, “It’s unfathomable. How one person can be so blind…”
“But they’re probably suspicious?” Jesus says. Jim nods. “And the safe…?”
“Still won’t budge,” Jim finishes.
“Lana…” I whisper.
“No, you, shut up. Stacy, using your wild powers of inference, why do you think Caroline volunteered to drive?”
“Hey, how about you shut up now?” Jim yells.
“Why do you think she barely spoke a word on the way up here? Why do you think she snuck two pot brownies?”
“She didn’t know what they—”
“Girls,” Jesus says.
“Ha!” Ugly Lana says. “Caroline?”
My voice is a balloon losing all its air that goes, “I knew they were pot brownies.”
Stacy just looks at me, this stranger beside her.
“And now, why, dear Stacy do you think she chose that skirt to wear on this late late road trip?”
Take off your clothes. One piece at a time. Hi, Mr. Peterson. Call me David. That’s a nice dress. Thank you. David. Because I like you. Me? Yes. Why?
“I don’t know!” Stacy yells. “It’s just us at the lake.”
“Shut the fuck up!” Jim yells.
You’re so so so so beautiful. Me? Yes. I just get lonely sometimes. It’s hard. Me too. I like your smile. You should smile more. Take your clothes off. One at a time. I won’t tell. Me? Yes.
“And? Who else?” Ugly Lana asks.
Jesus turns his back on me. The blue man turns his back on me.
“And my father.” Stacy looks at my black holes. “You…?”
Come to the lake house. You and me for a week. Stacy won’t notice. Marriage is lonely. Life is lonely. Come to the lake house. Come for me baby. Come. Come. Are you nervous? No. Good.
A loud bang hits the ceiling, makes a hole. Jim holds the smoking gun.
“You guys don’t fucking get it, still you don’t fucking get it. We get busted: you die. We don’t open the safe—you die. We get the money—you die anyways because you’ve been so fucking annoying, but you definitely die if we can’t open the fucking safe. The only thing that’s uncertain is who wants to go first?”
Suddenly I vomit on the floor, blue and pink and brown.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
The gun kisses my forehead.
I close my eyes. Tell her I was just lonely – that’s all. Tell her he was just sort of nice and I was alone. That’s why. Good bye. Okay. Good bye. I’m sorry.
“His eyes are open,” a flat flat voice says. Stacy says.
Raj blinks at us. Jim picks him up by his collar and drags him out the door; the blue man goes with them.
Nobody looks at anyone.
“HE HAD A GUN THE WHOLE TIME!” Lana yells.
“Seriously, shut up,” Jesus says.
Stacy begins to cry. She covers her face. I look away.
“I need to pee,” I say and try to stand up.
Jesus runs forward, lifts me.
He moves me to the toilet. I stand in front of it.
I look at him, his two blue eyes. They’re so clear I can almost see through them.
I blink and whisper, “You’re not going to save us, are you?”
He is silent and after a few standstill moments, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out the knife, and cuts the tape around my wrists. Then he shuffles to the other side of the bathroom and turns. A spider that’s all he is. Just a spider. I pull down the red lacy underwear. Stacy scoffs and looks away. I take deep deep breaths. I look at Lana, but she looks away. I sit down and I pee it all out, everything I can, and I try to be clean. Focus. I pull up my underwear, flush the toilet, and run as quickly as I can.
I kick in the back of his legs, and he crumples like a slinky. I grab his spider hair and bang his head against the wall.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
He falls back and his head shakes the tiled floor like a maraca. I cut the tape around Lana’s hands and she grabs the knife from my dancing hands. She cuts the tape around Stacy’s wrists. The world’s in slow-motion.
The two twirl long pieces of tape into a rope. Jim bursts in and trips over it. I struggle to wrestle the gun from his hands when Lana runs up and quickly stabs him in the leg with the pocket knife.
My mind freezes. “Did you just stab him??”
She blinks. “A little bit.”
He starts to move for the dropped gun. Stacy scoops it up and hits the back of his head. He falls, his shirt falling up revealing a flabby, hairy back. We all pause to look at it.
“What do we do now?” Stacy breathes heavily.
We close the door and run to the car. The air tastes warm and unfamiliar. Stacy takes the keys from my pocket.
We’re silent in the car. I close my eyes and sleep for what feels like hours. When I wake up, we’re crossing a bridge. If I listen hard enough, I can hear the water crashing around us.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
After a long while, Stacy says, “Let’s not talk about it, okay? Let’s just forget the whole thing.”
“Agreed,” Lana says.
I nod, and we all stare into the darkness in front of us, seeing things we hadn’t seen before. People we thought we knew so well, now strangers, especially ourselves.
“Fuck!” Lana yells.
“What?” Stacy asks wearily.
“I left the chocolate!”
Stacy gasps. “Oh quick, let me pull the car around…”
Hostages of our own selfish petty natures, each of us. Good night. I close my eyes but the darkness follows me still. It’s inside me.
I open my eyes. Lana’s reflection is watching mine carefully in the window.
She opens the window and spits, spits out my secret. It belongs to the dark anyway, always has.
“Thank you for saving me guys.” Raj says, his head suddenly popping up from the backseat.
I gasp. “Where the fuck did you come from?”
“You guys grabbed me on the way out. Thank you,” he says and pats my arm.
“No problem,” I murmur.
“Jesus, Caroline,” Lana scoffs. “Like you did anything.”
“Are you kidding? I saved our asses. I knocked Spiderman out.”
“The only thing you did was trip over your underwear.”
“Which technically did knock the poor guy out,” Stacy added.
“Then when you stood up, the little guy had come storming in and tripped right over you.” They both giggle.
“Really?” I ask. “I remember that going very differently…”
Stacy pulls into the driveway and turns off the car. We all sit for a bit.
Eventually Lana opens her door.
“Come on.” Stacy opens mine.
I climb out, and the air whistles around me, singing songs of past selves gone and new ones reborn.
“Uh, where will I be sleeping?” Raj says as we walk inside.
“Not I,” Lana and Stacy yell in unison.
I giggle, close the door behind us, and turn on one single light.
Melissa Fitzgerald is a daydreamer masquerading as a student at Northeastern University. She can be found at coffee shops typing madly away and bursting into small fits of laughter because she told the barista her name was Matilda.