I laugh. “Yeah...”
“Hey, Margo,” says Judah. “You’re pretty tough you know that?”
“Tough?” I repeat. “No. If I were tough I’d be a normal girl. I turned out all crazy and shit.”
“And shit,” he smiles. “Well, whatever. I like you anyway.”
“Go home,” I say, standing up and dusting off the back of my pants. “It’s starting to rain.”
He blows me a kiss and wheels himself back on home.
I like that kid.
I bathe, and eat a little of what Judah’s mother brought me. I am still thinking about the berries I saw when I climb into bed. I have dreams filled with corpses and hollow-eyed humans stuffing blackberries into their mouths ‘til they choke. When I wake up … I know.
I am in the kitchen when I find my mother’s last correspondence. On the last Tuesday of every month, she’d leave four envelopes on the kitchen counter; three of them were for me to take to the post box: the power bill, the water bill, her cellphone bill. The last envelope was blank. Inside was always a list, written in her near-perfect handwriting, of the things she wanted for the month. Sometimes the list would have things like: shampoo, Advil (large bottle), crackers, bananas. Other times it would say: New Stephen King novel, tweezers, mascara (brown/black). She’d tuck a fifty in the envelope, and that would be that. I finger the envelope. What had she wanted this month? Did I even care? I rip a thin strip off of the top of the envelope and pull out the notebook paper inside.
There are only three things on her list this month. I look at the first: laxatives. Not an unusual request, but there were girls in my school who used laxatives early in pregnancy. The rush of wet bowels flushed out the barely fertilized egg, or that’s what they believed anyway. You could often see a bottle of MiraLAX being passed from hands, shoved in a backpack. A home remedy that never worked. Also on her list is a request for a birthday card—(something masculine) she writes next to it. I wonder if it’s my father’s birthday, or one of the others. Who would she feel is special enough to receive a paper acknowledgment? My bitterness causes me to temporarily fold the paper. No birthday card for me. No acknowledgment. When my bad feelings subside, I unfold it to see what her last wish was. Written in different color ink than the first two items is something that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Tell Margo. That’s it.
Why would my mother write this on her shopping list she’d know I’d see? What does it mean? Had she meant to write more and forgotten? Tell Margo about…the baby? Maybe she thought I didn’t know about the money underneath the floorboards. I bury my face in the crook of my arm.
Howard Delafonte had his offices on Main Street. And when I say offices, I mean both the law firm and the wine bar five doors down that he’d opened a year earlier. Someone else ran the wine bar for him, and he had partners at the firm, but the ex-mayor was keeping himself busy. “Busy, busy like a bee,” I say under my breath as I watch him walk into the bar, a paper latte cup in his hand.
It is amazing what you can find out on the internet. A little trip to the Harbor Bone Public Library, and bam, more information than you know what to do with. There is no such thing as not airing your dirty laundry anymore. Anyone’s shit-stained knickers are just a web search away nowadays. Howard Delafonte’s knickers had a divorce smeared across them. I guess the Missus finally left him. And, according to the internet, his oldest son is addicted to heroin, while his youngest has an arrest record for battery. Between my mother and Howard, I was part of a pretty nasty genetic cesspool.
He’s in the wine bar for a good thirty minutes before he comes out—a paper bag in his hand. He’s whistling, though I can’t hear the tune from my bench across the busy street. I wait until he’s almost to his car before I stand up and follow him. He hits the electronic button to open his car—not the Mustang, I notice, but a shiny, white Mercedes. He puts the paper bag in the backseat, then opens the door to the driver side. That’s when I make my move. I sprint across the street and grab onto the passenger side door, sliding into the car at the same time he does.
His face blanches. I expect him to leap out of the car, but after giving me a long, hard look, he buckles his seat belt, and the engine purrs to life. It’s raining. The wipers whip water back and forth as he pulls out of his space and onto the road. I feel slightly uneasy. I am at his mercy, and he can do anything he wants with me buckled into his front seat. I won’t give him the upper hand. I relax into my seat and wait for him to speak first. I want him to ask me why I’m here. I had to take five buses to get to the quaint little town he calls home, and I wonder now if he’s paranoid about one of his small town people seeing us together.
“Your mother … did you bury her?”
“Cremated,” I say.
“Did you give her the Misoprostol?”
He nods again. I clench my fists and stare at the side of his face. It’s a strange thing, looking at your father. Knowing that you’re somewhere in his face—maybe the curve of a cheek, or the dip of a nose—and searching so hard for it that you want to cry, because you’re ashamed and desperate.
“You killed my sister. Why did you let me live?”
“How do you know … how do you know it was a girl?” he asks. He glances at me briefly.
“Because I found her on the floor.”
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