by Kristin Hayes
by Kristin Hayes
Mandy pulled at the hem of her dress. The cotton fibers stretched
distorting the flowered pattern. It was hot. Her hairline was moist,
though her hair was pinned up tight. An occasional breeze brought the
smell of lilacs wafting from the neighbor’s yard bringing memories of
warm summer nights.
The memory of one night in particular pulled the corners of her mouth
down. Her eyes watered and she shut them wishing she could somehow close
the door to her mind and jail her thoughts. Cursing, she wiped her eyes
and sat up straighter.
She blinked at the hum of Cory’s truck idling down the lane. Mandy
stood. Leaving the impression of her curled legs in the grass behind,
she wandered to the edge of the lawn and leaned against the fence. The
truck rocked up and down. Despite the heat, the ruts in the drive were
still deep and wet from the last rain storm.
Mandy had rehearsed the casual stance she assumed. Her legs felt like
they might collapse but the fence kept her posture. Cory killed the
engine and the truck rolled to a stop. The motor choked and sighed
before dying out.
Feeling faint, Mandy’s grip on the fence tightened. Cory slammed the
door on the truck and walked toward her.
“What news?” she asked, straining to sound indifferent.
“Chuck Nelson got a television,” he said, “invited us over to see it
sometime. They must have had a good crop last year.”
“That’s nice,” Mandy said. “Hear anything about the Harper girl?” She
hoped she didn’t sound anxious.
Cory frowned. “They took her to Beaumont. I don’t think she’s expected
to make it. You know her?”
“We went to school together,” Mandy lied. She suddenly felt as though
she were outside of her body, looking down.
“Hopefully they’ll find out who did it and lock him up,” he added,
staring at the ground.
“Help me unload?”
“Oh, uh, I told Mrs. Johnson I’d help prune her roses.” Another lie, it
was becoming easier.
Cory nodded. “I’ll see you later then.”
Mandy stepped away from the fence and stumbled.
“It’s just these stupid shoes.” She hoped he didn’t hear her voice crack
or notice the tears in her eyes. She took a and steadied
herself and set off down the lane.
/I don’t think she’s expected to make it/. Warm tears ran down Mandy’s
face. They came faster and harder with each step. She sloshed right
through the mud puddles, not caring a bit. When the house was out of
sight she began to run. She never wanted to stop, though she was already
gasping. Her heart drummed loud in her ears, her pulse throbbing in her
Mandy turned right at the Johnson's house and headed toward a thicket of
pines. She knew the trail by heart and thundered down it toward the
river. The clear water flowed softer here. She’d come here to swim as a
child. Now she bounded into the water without thought, fully clothed.
Standing there, in the waist deep water, sobbing, she spread her arms
out, and willed the current to wash her guilt away.
Copyright 2009 by Kristin Hayes: All rights retained by the author