I so have to figure out who killed, no, who murdered Hannah and why, Francis thought, staring eye-level into a half-empty wineglass as though it were her best friend, a day after Thanksgiving. Why didn’t she have the fucking Smith & Wesson I bought her last Christmas? Francis drew a syringe on an envelope. An uptick in Seattle suburbia murders had cops prioritizing a local politician’s killing over Francis’s wealthy aunt.
Shannon hated her mother. I didn’t care for the woman either, but I had no reason to see her dead, at least not at first. But Shannon, Shannon wanted the bitch dead as fuck. I couldn’t reconcile the sweet, long blonde-haired churchgoing girl with the vicious, spoiled brat. But here she was, and here I am, driving in a car with the woman I love right after I may or may not have killed Shannon’s mom.
Mindy’s father hated me, especially when he found out we were more than friends. I couldn’t help that I fell in love with his daughter, and she couldn’t help that she fell head-over-heels for me. She was white, and I was half-black. Mindy’s father, Jim, said people should stick to their own race. Mindy and I had to sneak away to spend time together. Her father threatened me he’d kill me a time or two. Mindy told him if he didn’t stop his threats, she’d leave.
Where is she? I glanced at my watch. She should be here by now. I folded my arms across my chest. It’s too cold to be waiting for an Uber. The December air whipped through my jacket and numbed my fingers. My first date in ten years, and I was going to be late. Screw my life. Another few minutes circled the clock, then a blonde woman in a Jeep approached the curb. “Ahh. You’re finally here,” I said as I slammed the door.
I’d been with Sarah for five years, and she was getting anxious, anxious for me to pop the question or move on with her life. And rightly so. At thirty-five, I’d hoped to marry. We’d hoped to marry. But we both came from broken homes and had abandonment issues. The last thing Sarah wanted was for her mother to throw a potential divorce in her face and say I told you so.
It was the bone-chilling Northwest winter of 1994 when I stood with my shaky hands folded before Granddad’s grave. I stared at his name with a million things on my mind. His name was Shawn Black. Even during prayers with Mom, I didn’t close my eyes; I was always thinking, eyeing everyone else’s closed eyes, wondering what they were hiding from God.
Ben and Angie had been friends since they can remember. They told each other everything. Ben would marry Angie, but there’s one problem: Angie is gay. Ben goes through years of tumultuous relationships when Angie signed him up for a dating site, and who he meets isn’t the person he expected.
It was the bone-chilling Seattle winter of 1994 when “Breakdown” by Mariah Carey played on Mary’s radio. Outside was a winter wonderland with five inches of snow pushed to either side of the steep road. I’d lived just three blocks away, so I tromped through the snow in boots and a stocking cap covering my ears. I stomped my feet before entering Mary’s two-story upper-middle-class house. We needed to finish our high school science project, and I needed to study her lips.
As I closed the door behind me, the scent of her naked body and cologne, someone else’s cologne, didn’t escape my attention. I raked my fingers through my thick brown hair. It had to be Hannah cheating again. I held my finger to my lips. “Wait here, Becca,” I told my sister. I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and kicked the door open.
It was the winter of 1995, and Christmas was three weeks away. I was out with a couple of friends at Mojo’s sports bar. We’d meet up every few months to catch up. Our meetups were like a Facebook post, reminding me of how messed up my life had become.
Becca’s eyes were cold and lifeless as she stared at me. We stood in a crowded hallway, but our eyes locked and all I heard was the screaming silence on her lips and everything I was sure she wanted to say. What I knew she had to tell me about how I’m such a horrible person for doing what I did. I still haven’t forgiven myself for it, and I doubt I ever will.
Anna and Becca, on a road trip through West Virginia, stop for gas, meeting a stereotypical country, hillbilly, who saw too much. Anna physically threatens the clerk and gaslights him into disbelieving his eyes.
Hannah, an arrogant, beautiful high school student, wants to spend the night with Ben (her boyfriend). Ben is an insecure classmate. She lives on the wealthy side of town; he on the working-class side of town.
When Hannah’s mother goes to a writing conference in Seattle, Washington, Hannah gets to have the sleepover.
Mark lives a sheltered life. As the son of a pastor, kids make assumptions about how he can’t watch movies or listen to music. What his friends really wonder is if Mark is gay? Mark isn’t allowed to date unless he sneaks out of the house. But his friends wonder if it’s a facade.
So his huge crush, Jessica Robinson, makes a deal with him: Ask your dad to take you to a strip club, and I’ll take you on a date!
The brisk December breeze carried with it flakes of the white kind. Sliding driving conditions gave me a ticket for reckless driving. Well, pardon me. The kitchen sink pipes froze ice to the led. I was good with my hands; at least that’s what she said. I kept her out of my head. That is until I read the words she left on my side of the bed, and now red is what I see through a tall glass of wine and three days before Christmas and ten days after an anniversary. The last conversation spread thin white lies to soft goodbyes. Departed she did to wherever she went. Ten years to the day, she returned on Christmas Day.
She loses her cool as if a rock tossed at a glass house, breaking through the tension of napalm skies, coming like a villain, staying like a lifesaver in the hills of California. Smoke billows through her flared nostrils. Embers hover under her eyeliner. When she slips through the door, calmness cascades in waves of dopamine, resting on the hillside.
Macy whisked me with her soft, pale grip. I followed the footsteps of her hourglass frame to a salty lake. A nervous smile in her enchanting eyes sparkled a clever disguise. Hearing but alibis hid white lies over the wind, whipping waves into a frenzy. There and then, Macy strips to her — I’ve never tanned a day in my fucking life — birthday suit. The vivid green of her oval eyes undressed me. And if I don’t shake out of it, this will never work out.
Drizzle slapped rattled windows, and joyless smiles in cracked slanted frames collect memories of dust to a heart of distrust, rearranging rusty door hinges on a careless phrase—beyond that of a shout—tucked in your back pocket, let out when you left just like before. Faces of traces of indecision send chills the length of my spine; behind the oak tree, settled sickles stick to the pavilion to tufts of dead grass, poking through white flakes. What’s missing, what’s out of place, is a cigarette kiss from you to me.