Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sharing a Ride on a Rainy Morning

First published in Dark Valentine Magazine (2010)

The sound of tires creeping over gravel alerted Cassidy to the approaching vehicle. A fender edged past followed by a tinted window on its way into hiding. She knew the car. There was only one black BMW in town. Cassidy kept walking until the driver spoke.

“Cassidy Parker, right? Hop in. You’re getting soaked.”

The car and Cassidy came to a halt. She bent down and placed a hand on the door frame. Mrs. Allenby sat torso forward, twisted, her head tilted back. The pose reminded Cassidy of the yoga DVD in her backpack.

“Hi, Mrs. Allenby," Cassidy said, forcing a smile. "I’m fine, really.”

“Nonsense, you’ll catch a cold dressed like that. Get in.” Mrs. Allenby patted the leather seat. “I know it's not raining hard now, but there's a chill. It's the kind of weather that fools you." She looked at the hand resting on the door frame. "Is that blood?”

Cassidy looked at the back of her hand, lifted it to her lips, and silently cursed herself for being so careless. “I scratched it on a nail sticking out of the neighbor’s fence."

“You need to have that wound checked by a doctor? It could get infected."

Cassidy lowered the hand to her side. She felt her heart racing. Her hands shook, but not from the cold. This wasn't part of the plan.

“It’s just a scratch. Besides, my dad thinks doctors are quacks.”

The woman and Cassidy locked eyes for a moment before Mrs. Allenby waved Cassidy into the car. “Come on. I’ll see you get home.”

“But I’ll get the seat wet.”

Mrs. Allenby tossed a leather briefcase into the backseat between two boxes. “Nonsense. Water can’t hurt them.” She patted the seat again, harder this time.

Cassidy glanced toward the town where Jared waited. He would be angry if he saw her with someone. Not knowing what else to do, she settled into the seat and placed the backpack on her lap. Her eyes scanned the dashboard. Unlike her dad’s pickup, it was dust free and shiny. There were no empty beer bottles on the floor, and the ashtray held only coins. A crucifix and air freshener hung from the rear view mirror. She heard the sound of a small motor and watched the passenger window return to its closed position, her lower lip tucked between her teeth.

“Sorry about the mess.” Mrs. Allenby put the car in gear and rolled onto the highway. “I usually keep stuff in the trunk, but I hope to finalize three contracts today, and the back is full of For Sale signs.”

Cassidy spied a leaf on the floor and toed it through an imaginary maze. The car being immaculate except for the leaf, Cassidy assumed it came off her shoe.

“I need to pick up a prescription, then I’ll take you home.”

A hint of a smile appeared on Cassidy’s face when a large insect splatted against the windshield, and a wiper smeared the glass with bug body parts.

“It’s been what, two, three years since I helped your parents purchase the house on Peach View? They got quite a deal.”

“Three,” Cassidy said, before her dad lost his job and the drinking became a problem. She fidgeted with the backpack’s buckle, opening and closing it, and watched a herd of cows laze in the misty rain.

“Let’s see. That means you’re seventeen now. Still a straight-A student?”

“I’ll be eighteen in two months.”

“Have any plans for college? An education is very important these days.”

Cassidy saw the pharmacy up ahead.

“Would you mind parking around back?” Cassidy asked. “Billy Jacobs has been stalking me. I don’t want him to see us.” She wasn’t used to lying and was surprised at how easy it was.

“You poor thing. Have you reported him to the police?”

“Not yet.”

The last people Cassidy wanted to talk to were the police. She sat in silence as Mrs. Allenby maneuvered the car between two SUVs. Cassidy had never considered herself the killing type, but had learned today she’d been wrong. Given the right circumstances, anybody could kill. Jared had been right. The only way for them to be together was to get rid of her parents. She took a breath to calm herself. It didn't help. She needed more time. They needed more time. It was too soon for the police to find her parents. Why had this woman interfered? Damn her. Cassidy couldn't let this woman ruin everything. Not now.

Mrs. Allenby shifted into park at the same time Cassidy reached into the backpack and clutched the bloody knife handle. She gritted her teeth and turned to the woman. There was no other choice. Still, Cassidy regretted having to mess up such a nice car.

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