Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rest In Peace, Dear Francie

Rest in Peace, Dear Francie
A short story by Ellie MacBride

She didn’t even put up a struggle as I ripped off her clothes.  Her white jumper, once covered in a geometric pattern of pinks and greens, was now caked in mud and trailing behind as I dragged her by her hair, past the cankered wicker bench and farther into the garden.  I picked up the thorniest rose I could find, tore off the head, and wrapped the stem across her plump pout and over her ears, piercing her ivory glow.

 “You think you’re better than me?!  So you have nice clothes and eyelashes longer than summer—that doesn’t mean shit!” I spit, sending a glob of saliva across her perfect coral cheekbone.

I wanted her to suffer.  For years, I had been teased for the way I looked; I had the most popular boy’s haircut of 1996, but looking like Matthew Lawerence wasn’t as cool when you were a twelve year-old girl.  My boobs were as big as my areolas and since my mom wouldn’t let me shave my legs until I got my first boyfriend, I started to believe my name really was Wolverine.

Earlier that day, I had taken the utility lighter I found in the cupboard—next to the half-full box of candles from my birthday—and practiced lighting it the way my mom had showed me.  “Slide up with your thumb and push with your pointer,” she said, before handing it off to me so I could light my own cake.

I slid up with my thumb and pressed with my pointer three times before I brought the flame near Francie’s perfectly placed golden mane.  Her seraphic expression melted as her ember eyes flickered with the reflection of the approaching blaze.

While holding her down with my left hand, I reached into the oversized back pocket of my grass-stained jeans with my right, and pulled out a pair of shiny silver tweezers my older sister used to shape her eyebrows into two little sandy pyramids.  The blue rubber grips helped keep the pincers in my hand as I plucked each of her lengthy eyelashes out, one by one.

Francie and I had been best friends since the day I lost my first front tooth.  She was the only one who didn’t laugh at me at recess when I bit into my Red Delicious apple and got stuck.  I tried to hide my face as I wiggled the apple off but it was too late; the impenetrable fruit had won the battle and I had won a new crevice to poke my tongue through.

This day, however, I decided Francie and I weren’t friends anymore.  We were having lunch together in the greenest patch of grass under the climbing tree when something hard hit me in the back of my head.  I felt a stream of blood dribble down my neck, past my t-shirt collar, and descend all the way until it reached my belt.  I gently closed my eyes and accepted the fact that I was dying.  I went to fall back into Francie’s delicate arms, but she wasn’t there to catch me.  Instead, I landed on a fizzing can of Dr. Pepper—the same Dr. Pepper that I thought had killed me.  Whoever had thrown the soda was gone, so I pulled open the tab the rest of the way and drank the remainder of what I had thought was my blood, as Francie just sat there with the same stoic semblance she had had the day the apple won my tooth.

Now naked and hairless, Francie was less beautiful than me.  My back was soaked in sweat and soda as her defectless porcelain legs resisted my attempt to bend her knees behind her back.  I yanked my laces out of my sapphire-striped Adidas and secured her arms and legs together, tying the same knot my little brother had showed me they used in his Cub Scouts troupe.

I left her next to the Amaryllis as I went to get a shovel.  The tool shed was closed with a wraparound chain and padlock, but I had practiced using a hairpin to open doors, once even breaking into my next-door neighbor’s house.  I never stole anything—just liked the feeling of opportunity.  It took me all of ten seconds to pick the lock, beating my record of fifteen.  The heavy chain fell to the dirt as I slid open the creaky door, allowing the midday sun to creep in and bounce its blistering beams off a rusted hand saw.  I rehearsed what I could do with each item in my head before I remembered the Amaryllis and grabbed the pointed green shovel.

Once I broke the sun-hardened crust, the rest of the hole was like digging sand.  Francie and I used to love playing in the sandbox.  Sometimes, we would pretend we were royalty and I’d spend all day building her a castle, only to destroy it once it was finished and say, “No castle is worthy of you, my Queen!”

But this was no castle; it was a prison—an inescapable dark grave where there weren’t any jesters to make you laugh, feasts to make you full, or friends to make you merry.  I looked over to where Francie lay—her cheeks still as rosy as the Amaryllis—and apologized for what I was about to do.

The voice from behind caught me off guard.  Shrill yet stern, I knew it all too well; it was my mother and she was coming our way.  Panicked and terrified as to what might happen once she found out what I had been up to, I froze.

I couldn’t tell if it was shock, disgust, or anger that made her lip curl and nose twitch as if about to sneeze; her sea-blue eyes grew so wide I thought I might sink if she got any closer.  She looked once at the empty grave, once and Francie, and then right back at me before she spoke.  Her tone was hard to pinpoint but her words were very clear:

“Laura, you really need to stop burying your Barbies!”

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