Home > The Kind Worth Killing(7)

The Kind Worth Killing(7)
Peter Swanson

I turned and looked at my body from all sides, disgusted by the patch of red hair sprouting between my legs. At least my breasts were barely noticeable, unlike my friend Gina who lived down the road. I pulled my shoulders back and my breasts completely flattened out. If I held a hand between my legs I looked the same as I had when I was ten years old. Skinny, with red hair, and freckles that darkened my arms and the base of my neck.

I dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, even though the night was still sweltering hot, and went downstairs to make myself a peanut butter sandwich.

I stopped swimming in the pool. I don’t know if Chet continued to look for me there. I would see him sometimes on the top step that led to the apartment above my mother’s studio, smoking a cigarette and gazing toward the house. And he was occasionally in our kitchen, speaking with my mother, usually about art. His eyes would find me, then slide away, then find me again.

My father took off that summer for about three weeks. It happened immediately after a visit from several of his English friends, including a young poet named Rose. He introduced us by saying, “Rose, meet Lily. Lily, meet Rose. Do not compete. You are both beautiful flowers.” Rose, skinny and with large breasts, smelled of clove cigarettes, and when she shook my hand she stared at the top of my head. I was worried that after my father disappeared Chet would show up in the house more often. Instead, another man showed up, with a Russian name. I liked him, but only because he had a beautiful shorthaired mutt named Gorky. We hadn’t had any animals at the house since Bess, my cat, had died three months earlier. With the Russian around, Chet disappeared from view for a while, and I was beginning to feel safe. Then Chet came to my bedroom late on a Saturday night.

I knew it was a Saturday because it was the night of the important party, one that my mother had been talking about for over a week. “Lily, darling, take a bath on Saturday because of the party.” “Lily, you’ll help your mother make the spanakopita for our party, won’t you? I’ll let you hand them out the way you like.” It was strange that she cared about this particular night. She had parties all the time, but usually with teachers and students from the college. For this party, people were coming from New York to meet the Russian. My father was still gone, and my mother was nervous, her short hair sticking out at the back because of how often she ran her fingers through it. I stayed away from the house for most of that Saturday, walking through the stretch of pine trees to my favorite place, a meadow edged with stone walls that abutted a long-abandoned farmhouse. I threw rocks at trees until my arm began to ache, then lay back for a while on the soft hummock of grass near the willow. I daydreamed of my other family, the imaginary one with boring parents, and seven siblings, four boys and three girls. The day was hot. I could taste salty sweat on my upper lip, and as I lay there, I watched dark, swollen clouds build in the sky. When I heard the first low rumble of thunder, I stood, brushed grass from the back of my legs, and returned to the house.

The thunderstorm pelted Monk’s for a dark hour. My mother drank gin and pulled things from the oven, telling the Russian how perfect the storm was—how she couldn’t ask for a better sound track to her party—although I could tell she was upset. When guests began to arrive the skies were blue again, the only evidence of the storm the cleanness of the air, and the steady dripping from the swollen gutters. I passed appetizers to people I’d never seen before, then snuck away to my room, bringing two cold Pop-Tarts with me for my dinner.

I ate in my room, and tried to read. I had taken a paperback from my mother’s stack of books by her side of the bed. It was called Damage, by Josephine Hart, and I’d heard her talking about how she didn’t like it, how it was just trash dressed up as something literary. It made me want to read it, but I didn’t really like it either. It was about an Englishman, like my father, who was having sex with his son’s girlfriend. I hated everyone in it. I gave up and pulled a Nancy Drew from my shelf. Number ten: The Password to Larkspur Lane. I knew I was too old to be reading Nancy Drew but it was by far my favorite. I fell asleep while reading it.

I woke to the sound of my bedroom door being opened. Light fell in from the hallway and I could hear loud rock music coming from downstairs. I was curled on my side, a single sheet pulled up to my waist, facing the door. I cracked open my eyes and could see Chet standing in the doorframe. The light was coming from behind him, but he was easy to identify because of the beard, and the dark-framed glasses, an edge of which had caught the yellow light from the hall. He swayed a little, like a tree in a strong wind. I didn’t move, in the hopes that he would go away. Maybe I wasn’t who he was looking for, even though I knew I was. I considered screaming, or trying to run from the room, but there was a steady thump of bass and drum throughout the house and I didn’t think anyone would hear me. And then Chet would kill me for sure. So I closed my eyes, hoping he would go away, and with my eyes closed, I heard him step into the room, quietly shut the door behind him.

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