She had this pristine thing going on, like she was porcelain, you know, and I wanted to be her friend but she just didn’t like anything about me, so me and the boy who once got together with her – and I mean really together-, well we talked and I said it wasn’t fair that some people thought they were better than us, and he said he thought the same. Then I said, my Dad’s got a gun somewhere and we could shoot her if you like, and he laughed, you know the way you laugh when you’re not supposed to really want something but deep down that’s all you want? So I waited until my parents were out somewhere and I went to the shoe box in the back of my mom’s wardrobe and I took the gun and I put the bullets in and then I took it to the boy, and I said to him,
‘You’ve got to do it because she broke your heart and that means more than her breaking mine.’ I thought it was romantic. So we waited until the girl was in the playground just after recess and everybody was on the way back to class and he called her name. ‘Lucrezia,’ just like that and she whipped back her black hair like you see in the cartoons and he shot her right through her chest. She could have survived if the bullet hadn’t splintered into her lungs, into everywhere really, and I was close by so I heard her die.
I went home and got some soda from the icebox. I like my soda so cold that my belly turns hard. I had the gun hidden in my room and as I sat there in the kitchen drinking my soda and watching Facebook, I thought of how Lucrezia had died looking at me. I don’t believe in ghosts so I don’t think she followed me home but I felt she could have if there hadn’t been so much blood.
My mother came home first. She put her briefcase so gently on the breakfast counter and she tried to smile but she couldn’t. I knew she was looking at me as if I was an animal that had just leaped from a television nature programme. I opened my mouth and yawned. I imagined I had fangs.
My mother was trying to be nice. She poured me some milk since she knew I liked the taste of it and maybe she hoped deep down I hadn’t changed so much but I wanted to tell her that when you fix it for someone to die, and when you see it happening in front of you, something happens inside of you at the same time.
You can feel your heart squeezing out its feelings until there is nothing left.
Jones, that’s the name of the boy that killed Lucrezia. Jones said I had a hard eye right in the middle of my forehead. He said he only saw boys like that, never girls, so I leaned over in his bed, took his cigarette and said, well now he’s met a girl like me, and I was like something he had never met before.
I really liked the smile he gave me after I said that. He wasn’t any Lucrezia but he was okay. He looked long and nice laying there on his bed. He said he had always liked guns.
His dad was making breakfast in the small kitchen down the corridor. He yelled up to us, ‘How do you like your eggs?’ then he giggled. He sounded sleazy but I didn’t mind. My body was all warm and fuzzy from the toes up.
It hadn’t been much with Jones but the afterwards was cute. We nuzzled. His nose was a bit wet at times because he had a cold. He had kissed me right inside my mouth. His teeth had jammed against mine. He had got so hard inside me that I’d wondered: Is this way it’s done?
Jones’s Dad served us up pancakes as well. They were burnt on the edges but he squirted chocolate syrup all over mine.
‘You look like a girl who needs feel good enzymes,’ he said.
I just said, ‘Thanks Mr Maddox.’
Jones and I walked back over the streets to my house. He snuggled into his jacket and he kicked leaves on the way. I walked tall. I was thinking of the gun.
I asked him, ‘What’s she like to kiss?’
Jones whipped his head round to look at me. ‘Soft,’ he said. ‘Like a pussy-cat, you know.’ He licked his lips against the cold. ‘She got all wiry on me,’ he said, ‘like she wanted it then she didn’t want it anymore. I told her to make up her mind then she slapped me.’
‘You slapped her back, right?’
Jones laughed. ‘Hell, no. I don’t slap them. I love them.’
He sounded like his Dad.
My Dad didn’t like Jones. Neither did my mother. They watched him do homework with me, and even when Jones showed how good he was with co-ordinate geometry and logarithms, Dad wasn’t all that impressed.
Instead he asked me, ‘What happened to Lucrezia?’
Lucrezia originally came from Korea. She stood at the top of Mrs Allsop’s class and she looked down through all of us from behind her glasses. Some boys snickered. I don’t think Jones did. Jones was always quiet when he saw something interesting. Even grasshoppers interested Jones. He admired the hinges on their legs and the shine of their bug eyes.
I didn’t love Lucrezia straight away. I didn’t know if I even wanted to like her. She was smaller than me and she smelled of some kind of oil. She later said it was coconut oil to keep her hair neat and behind her ears. Once I licked her hair without her knowing it. It was just a strand that had got caught in her desk. It swayed in the breeze made by everyone who walked by it. I wound it round my finger then I licked it.
‘What happened to Lucrezia?’ my Dad asked me.
I said I didn’t know what happened to her.
She sat in front of me the first day and at recess, some boy nudged her so hard her glasses fell. ‘Slap-head,’ he called her. She blinked over at me but she didn’t have any tears. I told her that Charlie Adams was a useless excuse for a human being as well as a racist and why didn’t she have some of my granola bar with cherries in it?
It went on from there. I walked over to her house on a Saturday morning then we walked over to the Community Pool and played being fish for a while. She was a better swimmer. I just liked to see how the water ran drops on her arms and legs. She laughed when I belly-flopped. She laughed when I tried to beat her at length trials. She said my legs weren’t made for duration. She pointed at my knees and said they were to blame. They were like big tight balls.
Like this, she said and she crunched her fist.
‘Your knees don’t allow the water to flow.’
I said, ‘Who died and made you Fu Man Choo?’
After that she refused to sit next to me at lunch break. She got different friends. I found her in the library and I asked her why aren’t we friends anymore? She put her glasses back on to look at me. She said I had a disturbing aspect to my personality. I said, don’t you talk like you don’t know me. Mr Georgis, the second library assistant told me that I shouting when I said that. Mrs Allsop called my parents in and said my work had taken an alarming nose-dive and she was worried about my emotional wellbeing.
In a way Jones happened to Lucrezia.
He hung around on the edges of her crowd and he laughed at her jokes. He listened to her stories about South Korea and how North Korea wanted it bombed out of existence. He said she was beautiful. I listened because he’d still talked to me at the school bus stop.
He said his dad was going to buy him a car for him to fix up. Jones wanted something to go fast with plenty of smoke. He blubbered his lips when he made the sound of a fast smoking car.
‘Put Lucreiza in the front seat,’ he said, ‘and ram right through to the highway.’
Someone told me that Lucrezia liked to slum. I don’t remember who the someone was, just one of those blonde girls from her group, and she whispered it to me in the corridor, shoved up close so no one else would hear and she said,
‘Tell Jones he’s just the slum picking of the week.’
I didn’t tell Jones for three weeks. He highlighted his relationship status on his Facebook page. He didn’t drop me but anything I posted didn’t get so many likes. He told me that Lucrezia said that I was a sort of loner girl and if I got raped then she’d feel sorry for the rapist.
At home I ate my Mom’s vegetarian dishes and I listened to her talk about yoga while my Dad pretended to listen and afterwards I hid in his study and I heard him talk soft and low on his cell phone to someone. He called her Suzanne. He made her sound precious. I went out to Mom and watched her drink one glass of wine then she grabbed her car keys for the trip to her yoga class.
‘You should finish the beetroot salad, she said. It’ll give you colour.’
Lucrezia refused my friend request.
I drew a picture of her in my homework book. I concentrated on her hair. Someone found it and wrote on Mrs Allsop’s blackboard.
Caitlin is a homo swine.
It was the swine bit that got me. I didn’t mind the homo bit because it wasn’t true and neither was the swine word either, but it got to me and so did the oink, oink noises that followed me in the corridors.
Then someone drew a pig with fat knees on Mrs Allsop’s blackboard.
I threw up in the toilets but even then I didn’t stop loving Lucrezia. I didn’t stop loving her until she dumped Jones and his name went up on the Facebook post Slum Dump of The Week.
So Jones and me started seeing more of each other after that and my Dad said,
‘I don’t want you spending time with that boy.’
I was eating food Mom had left in the refrigerator.
‘I don’t want you talking to Susanne anymore,’ I said.
Dad’s face crumbled from the eyes down and I felt so glad inside that I had made him afraid of me and when Mom came home, Dad went into niceness overdrive. He talked about a vacation to anywhere, anywhere Mom and me liked.
I said nothing and I kept Dad’s secret under my tongue like it was syrup.
My mother curled her fingers inside her hands while I drank my milk. It was so quiet I could hear her breathe. I could feel and hear everything I touched, the fake marble Formica breakfast bar, even the sweat under my thighs as I sat on the stool, and the slow hum of the refrigerator made me think of Lucrezia lying on the ground.
Jones had said, ‘Wait ‘till you see how she dies.’
She died funny. She died with her eyes wide open, and they were still moving as they looked at me, and blood came out her mouth, red but turning purple when it reached her blouse collar, then she tried to say something but then she stopped and I listened to her stop.
Órfhlaith Foyle’s first novel Belios, was published by The Lilliput Press, (2005).
Her first full poetry collection Red Riding Hood’s Dilemma was published by Arlen House (2010), and shortlisted for the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award in 2011.
Arlen House also published Somewhere in Minnesota, her debut short fiction collection in 2011; the title story of which was first published in Faber and Faber’s New Irish Short Stories (2011), edited by Joseph O’Connor.
Her second short story collection titled Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin, will be published by Arlen House in September 2014.
Banner image: ‘The Brouhers’ by Ric Bower