Authors: Megan Miranda
For Luis, who reminded me of the dream that I had forgotten
y mother hid the knife block.
In hindsight, that was the first sign. And then, two nights ago, she locked her bedroom
door. It had to be subconscious, but still, I didn’t want to think too hard about
what she was secretly thinking. I guess that was the second sign. And now there was
a suitcase on my bed. Which wasn’t really a sign at all. It was the actual event.
The suitcase was full, bulging at the top, but nothing seemed missing from my closet.
Jean skirts. Check. Twenty thousand tank tops. Check. Floor covered with mismatched
flip-flops. Check. When I unzipped the top and peered inside, all the hope drained
out of me in a single breath. Khaki pants, tags still on. A stack of identical collared
shirts. I recognized the emblem from my father’s old pictures. Gold crest on red material.
Oh, excuse me, not red
Those were the colors at Monroe Prep. Gold for victory, scarlet for the bond of blood.
They were wrong, though. Scarlet was not the color of blood. And despite what Nathaniel
Hawthorne led me to believe, it wasn’t the color of shame either.
I should know.
Brian’s blood had stained the kitchen tiles a fire-engine red. And as I watched him
slide to the floor, the color I felt inside was a deep, deep burgundy.
I closed the suitcase, tiptoed down the wooden steps, and curled my toes on the cold
tiled floor. The air conditioner was set too low and the vent rattled above my head.
It was Labor Day weekend, humid, practically stifling, but using the air conditioner
was a new thing in our house. We were a block from the beach and the cross breeze
kept things perfectly cool as long as the windows were open.
But we didn’t open the windows anymore.
I walked toward the couch where my parents were busy ignoring me and rubbed at the
goose bumps forming on my arms
partially from the artificially cold air, but mostly from the feeling coming from
behind me, from the kitchen. Like a high-pitched frequency with no sound. I kept my
back to it.
Dad had the newspaper folded open to the crossword puzzle in his lap, and Mom had
her feet propped up on the coffee table, painting her toenails a pale pink. But her
hands kept shaking, and the pink seeped out from the borders and onto her skin, spreading
I cleared my throat, and Dad looked up. Mom concentrated on her shaking hand, like
she wasn’t sure what it would do next.
“You’re sending me to Monroe,” I said. I phrased it like an accusation, but it still
came out sounding like a question.
Mom closed the bottle of polish and frowned at her feet. She wiped her nails with
her bare hand. Then she looked at her palm like she was confused about how the color
got there, mumbled to herself, and walked into the kitchen. She didn’t seem to notice
that the kitchen was pulsating.
Dad spoke. “Mallory, we’re incredibly fortunate. They usually don’t accept applications
this late in the process. But given the circumstances, and given my connections, they
were willing to make an exception.”
“The circumstances?” I asked, but he didn’t respond. Must’ve been an interesting conversation.
We have a bit of a
, being that my daughter killed a boy
specifically, her boyfriend—in our kitchen, and people are really none too pleased
about that here, you see.
He could rearrange the sentence any way he chose. It’d still end with me holding the
knife and Brian dying on the floor.
Mom walked back to the couch, drying her hands on a dish towel. “Mom?” I asked. This
wasn’t the first time Dad had tried to send me to Monroe. As a kid, he had dragged
me to reunions and weddings and charity golf tournaments. I guess he just expected
I’d eventually go there, like most alumni kids. So two years ago, before the start
of freshman year, he had sent in a preliminary application. Mom got the phone call
from the school requesting my transcript. It didn’t go over well.
“Over my dead body,” she had said back then.
Now she still wouldn’t look at me. She opened the nail polish, propped her feet up,
and started again. “It’s a fresh start,” she said to her toes.
Apparently, two years ago, my mother had lied. Apparently, any dead body would do.
I ran back upstairs, taking the steps two at a time, and dialed Colleen’s number.
Someone answered and promptly hung up. I tried her cell phone, but it went straight
to voice mail. Still grounded. Colleen was always getting grounded, though it had
never lasted this long before.
She typically got a weekend of house arrest for sneaking out at night. She was sentenced
to three days for plagiarizing an English paper once, but it was midweek, so that
barely even counted. And that one time she lugged her mom’s supply of alcohol down
to the beach in her guitar case and the cops dragged her home got her two full weeks.
I ran when the cops showed.
I always ran.
This punishment was going on six weeks. Six weeks for one lie. Such a waste. No matter
what she told the police, I wasn’t going to be charged. That’s what my lawyer said
He’d been here the week before, when the knife block was still on the counter and
my parents still left their bedroom door unlocked. John Defano or Defarlo or something.
He was tanning-bed dark with slicked-back hair, bleached teeth, and a gold chain that
was visible if his collar was unbuttoned (which it was)
and he was, unfortunately, as sleazy as he looked.
“Mallory Murphy,” he’d said, scanning my tanned legs resting on the coffee table.
“Just rolls off the tongue.”
“So does Lolita,” I mumbled, picking at a nearly invisible speck on the sofa. But
then I stopped digging at the couch cushion and stared at him, at his unnaturally
white teeth smiling at me.
The lawyer had never spoken to me before. It was always, “Keep her inside,” or “Don’t
let her talk to anyone,” with a thumb jutting in my general direction. And now he
was talking to me. And smiling. Even my parents could sense it. They leaned forward
in their seats, practically salivating for the news.
“It’s over,” he’d said. Mom jumped up and looked around like she wanted to grab onto
someone. Possibly me. Instead she wrapped the lawyer in an awkward hug. Then Dad and
the lawyer did this overly enthusiastic handshaking, and Dad smiled so wide I could
see his gums. Then they all turned to me, like they were waiting for something to
happen. Like maybe I should hug someone or smile or something.
“What happened?” I’d asked, staying on the couch.
The lawyer stretched his arms out to his sides and waved them around the open floorplan
of the downstairs, taking in the living room, dining room, and kitchen beyond. “This
is your home,” he said. “It’s yours to defend. Here in New Jersey, you have no duty
to attempt to flee the premises unless you are positive you can make it out unharmed.”
The lawyer’s gaze slid down my exposed arms, but this time he wasn’t checking me out.
He was eyeing the fading pink scars that covered my forearms. “Based on the evidence,”
he said, pointing at my arms, “the prosecutors are satisfied with your choice.”
I glanced at my parents, but they were looking toward the kitchen. No, they were looking
it. At the door. “The victim was committing a felony,” the lawyer continued. He motioned
toward the living room window, still missing a screen. And below it, the display table,
now lacking anything to display. “As such, the homicide is justifiable.”
Mom kept saying things like “How wonderful” and “Fantastic,” but I could tell she
wasn’t really listening anymore.
I squeezed my eyes shut so I wouldn’t sneak a glance at the kitchen. It didn’t matter.
I still saw it burned on the insides of my eyelids. The granite island in the center
of the white tile floor. The stainless steel appliances. The skylight. The knife block,
now missing one knife. And the door. Of course, the door.
I could’ve made it. It’s what the lawyer thought. It’s what my parents thought. It’s
what everyone thought. I could tell because they never asked.
I heard Mom rummaging around in the cabinets while Dad walked the lawyer to his car.
And that night, when I ran into the kitchen to grab a soda, the entire knife block
was missing. Just in case I didn’t already know what she thought.
I snuck out the side door
not the one in the kitchen
behind the laundry room, and kept to the sidewalk alley between the backs of the beach
houses. I walked, arms folded across my stomach, until I reached the intersection
two blocks away. Then I paused, took a deep breath, and ran. I didn’t turn my head,
but I still saw the pine-green car sitting at the corner, where I knew it would be.
Exactly two hundred yards from my front door. Where it had been every day since.
I barely caught a glimpse as I ran, but I knew she saw me. I knew by the way the hairs
on the back of my neck stood on end and the way my ears rang and the way my instincts
begged me to keep running. I felt his mom’s eyes on me. I felt her hate. I didn’t
have to look to feel it.
I never looked.
I kept running until I reached the back of Colleen’s house halfway down the next block.
I didn’t feel safe until I opened the gate of her high wooden fence, eased my body
through the tiny entrance, and latched it silently behind me. I kept off the noisy
pebbles by jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone. The house was one level
an older beach home that hadn’t been demolished and rebuilt like the rest of ours
and its windows were wide open.