Thursday Thriller – Reunion

 

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Read Part 1 – Wallflower

Read Part 2 – Smoke

Read Part 3 – Fury 

Present Day

As I watch Cat and Charles, I think back to my escape from that burning house.  The violent pain in my leg, which I limped on painfully through the woods until I reached the main road.  Hitching to Alma’s house and grabbing the rest of my saved cash.  Starting over.

I keep drinking, thinking I need the liquid courage, but it only weakens my resolve.  I’m going to go home. I finally conclude.  Why am I even here?  I ask myself.  What’s done is done.  I have a good, if dull, life now.  Everyone’s moved on and it’s time I did too.

In the parking lot, I’m trying to decide if I’m good to drive or if I need to call someone, when a pair of powerful hands grabs me from behind.

I wake up in the trunk of a moving car.  My mouth is taped.  I’m not afraid, just angry and humiliated.  I’d been so foolish, thinking I was going to out all of them to the community, ruin their lives, make them suffer the way I had.

The car stops, and the trunk opens shortly after.  Cat’s face is the first one I see.  Meredith, Tommy, Laura, and Charles surround her.  Cat’s crying softly.  A gun gleams in the moonlight from Tommy’s hand.

“I never meant for any of this to happen, Casey.  I’m sorry.”  Cat tells me through her tears.  I look at her, making eye contact, and I nod.  I forgive her.  I forgive them all.  Why not?  I never really existed anyway.  None of it matters.  No one will look for me when I’m gone.

Charles looks at the ground as Meredith leans into the trunk, her lips snarled.  “You should have stayed away.  We won’t let you ruin everything we’ve all worked for.”

Tommy steps closer, until the gun is almost pressed against my temple.  I close my eyes, wanting it to be over, when I hear a scream.

“No!” Cat yells, knocking the gun from Tommy’s hand.  It goes off, grazing Meredith’s shoulder.  During the ensuing confusion, Cat pulls me from the trunk and we race deep into the woods as more gunshots sound in the distance.  I look at Cat, adrenaline churning through my veins, and, even though I have every reason not to, I smile.  No matter what happens, we are Cat-n-Casey once again.

 

 

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Girlfight

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The storm had been brewing a while.  It all started a month or so ago.  Madeline said something unforgivable about Karina to Chloe, something about Karina and a boy, which Chloe repeated to Riley, not knowing that Riley and Karina had made up after their fight the week before and were talking again.  Had she known, she would have never said anything to Riley, of course, but it was too late now. Riley sent a mass text to EVERYONE, including Karina, about the horrible thing Madeline said.  Then the insults started flying, profanity-laden texts, whispered conversations in dark corridors, glares across the cafeteria, escalating nastiness.

Then it happened.  Madeline and Chloe were walking down the hallway between classes, when Madeline tripped and accidentally bumped Chloe, which caused Chloe to bump into Karina, who was standing next to Riley.

“Skank!”  Karina shouted at Madeline, who responded with a sucker punch to Karina’s nose.  Soon fists, hair, and insults were flying, with a growing crowd around them spurring them on.  It took four teachers to separate the girls.  There was no clear winner or loser.  Both girls emerged with ripped clothing, disheveled hair and scratched, bloody faces.

That night at home, after receiving lengthy school suspensions, both girls turned off their phones, which were practically exploding with texts, and crawled into bed early.  Karina reached under her pillow for her favorite book as Madeline was pulling the same book from the bag lying next to her bed.   Elle King, another shared favorite, sang softly into the girls’ ears as they fell asleep, both wishing for a friend that would understand them.

For Sunday Photo Fiction

Wildflower

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The Reclining Gentleman

Tara noticed the flower every morning on her walk to the bus stop.  Sprouting through the cracks in the concrete sidewalk, it bloomed, arching toward the sky.  She imagined herself far away from this hopeless neighborhood, somewhere beautiful.

“Hey!” Nia, a notorious bully, called to her.  Tara ignored her, as usual, as her mother had taught her to do. Nia shoved her, causing her to stumble.  Everyone laughed.  It wasn’t their laughter that incensed Tara.  It was the sight of those yellow petals, crushed under Nia’s sneakered foot.  Tara closed her eyes, clenched her fist, and swung into the darkness.

For Friday Fictioneers

 

Thursday Thriller – Girls

GIRLS

We don’t like Erin.  I can’t remember why.   We just don’t.

One day, Mina sat down at our lunch table and just started talking crap about her.  Her clothes, her voice,  her hair, her family, even.  Erin was out sick that day.  Mina never told Kristin and me why she stopped liking her.   Mina sets the tone for our little group.  It’s a miracle she even befriended us.  We were nobodies before she came here.

So, Mina invited Erin to come out tonight.  She knows Mina is mad at her, so she must have been shocked when she got the call.  Her parents never let her out on school nights, but they must have made an exception.  Because it’s Mina. Her parents are crazy strict but they love Mina.  All parents do.  She’s smart and funny and gorgeous and charming.  As my parents say, she’s “going places.”

Kristin and I are hiding in the closet in Mina’s bedroom.  She is going to trick Erin into saying nasty stuff about us, then we are going to jump out of the closet, surprise her, rough her up a little bit.  Nothing crazy.

I hear our cue from Mina.  I nod at Kristin and we leap from the closet.  Erin screams.  We pounce, punching and slapping and scratching.  Erin  tries to fight back but it is pointless.  It’s 3-on-1.  This is epic!  Is someone recording this?

Mina emits a guttural scream, then slams Erin’s head against her heavy oak headboard.  She’s knocked out cold and we all laugh.  When she still isn’t moving minutes later, Kristin checks her pulse with trembling hands.

Hours later, I’m in a cold interview room at police headquarters with a hardened female detective.  She sits across the table from me and asks, “Why did you girls do this?  What were you thinking?”

I shrug and lean back in my seat.  “We just didn’t like her.”  The detective’s mouth forms a long thin line.  “When do my parents get here?”  I ask with a sigh.

“Really soon.”  She gets up and leaves the room rapidly, shutting the door with a slam, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

 

War

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It was a gruesome sight.  One none of the people present would forget.  A woman, lying in the street, neck twisted, eyes veiny and bulged in terror, arms bent backward at an unnatural angle.  The smell of burnt rubber and smoke.  The distant sound of sirens.  It was a night they would all come back to, years and years later, trying to remember why things happened the way they did, while the true culprit still walked among them, in plain sight, as she always had.

One Hour Ago…

Amie

She pushed open the heavy double doors with a sigh and rushed down the corridor.   Late, as usual.   Maybe if she hadn’t sat for so long in the car, composing and the deleting a text to a man she very much wanted to hear from again, she wouldn’t have to rush.  It had been three days since their perfect first meeting and she still hadn’t heard from him.  Was it too soon to text him? Was it too late?  She didn’t understand the rules any longer.

She tripped over her ballet flat-wearing feet as she rushed into the crowded classroom.  It was Parent Night.  Normally she avoided this place like it was Chernobyl, all of the petty mommy politics and dumb competition made her crazy.  She’d volunteered for a grand total of one school event since she’d enrolled Simone here a year ago.  If these women wanted to squabble over whose child was in what percentile or scored higher on which test, have at it.  It wasn’t for her.  But, Parent Night was important.  She wanted to know how her darling daughter was doing.  She wanted to show her face to her teacher and the principal.

She gathered her long locs and piled them on top of her head,  pulling a bobby pin from her purse and pinning them in what she hoped was a somewhat neat bun.  She slid into a seat at the end of the last row, just before the teacher began to address the room.  She congratulated herself for arriving in the nick of time, not noticing the pair of dagger-shaped eyes pointed in her direction.

Sophia

“Look who decided to show up,” Sophia whispered to her seatmate, Fern.  Fern’s brow furrowed.  Sophia knew she wanted to keep her attention on the teacher at the front of the room, but Sophia wasn’t one to keep quiet when there was juicy gossip to dish out.  “It’s her.  Amie.”  Sophia spit the name out as though it were a disease.

“Oh, don’t worry about her,” shushed Fern.  “Tonight is about our children.  Their education.”

“It just bothers me, that’s all,” Sophia continued as though Fern hadn’t spoken at all.  “These young women.  Single.  Flitting around going on dates and whatnot.  Ignoring their responsibilities…”

“She’s here now.  Isn’t that what counts?”  Fern insisted as she tried to jot down a note about the next school field trip.

“The first event she’s been to all year, if you don’t count the class outing to the farm last fall.  Which I don’t.”

Fern sighed.  Sophia knew what she would say.  It was time to let it go.  She couldn’t.  She had only trying to be friendly.  Hospitable, even.  She’d volunteered at the farm outing too.  She’d seen Amie passing out snacks to the kids, in her ridiculous boho-chic outfit, waist-length dreadlocks and a hoop stuck through the cartilage of her nose, and her heart had gone out to her.  She was clueless.  She’d offered to take her under her experienced wings, since she had two older children who’d already graduated from the same elementary school and gone on to middle.  She could help her get on the PTA, into the best playgroups so her daughter could improve her social skills and make friends with the right children.  Amie smiled politely and told her that her schedule was too full to make time for the PTA.  She was raising her daughter alone.  Sophia didn’t give up, insisted that she make time in her schedule, her daughter’s very future was at stake.  Amie smiled again and thanked her, but said she thought Simone would be fine making friends on her own.  On the bus ride home, she overheard Amie whisper to Laurie that all the “mommy politics” at the school were insane.   Then they’d giggled like schoolgirls.  Laughing at her.

Then, to add insult to injury, that little anti-social Simone had the audacity to be selected for the gifted group, over her little Imogene.   She’d done all the right things. The right playgroups and classes and nursery schools starting from when Imogene was three months old.  And that lazy, no-good Amie’s daughter ends up in gifted.  The injustice!

Fern’s attention was solely on the teacher now.  She was losing her.  Time to pull out the heavy artillery.

“And you know why most of these single mothers come to these school events, anyway?”  Sophia whispered, leaning closer to Fern.  “To flirt with our husbands.  This is their breeding ground.  They leave us and go on with them and have more children.  We’re just forgotten.”

Fern didn’t respond verbally, but her body stiffened.  Sophia had seen the text from Fern’s husband Kevin, though she’d tried to shield the screen.  He was running late again. He might not make Parent Night.  He’d been working late quite a bit lately.  She’d seen the profound glare of disappointment in Fern’s eyes as she put the phone back in her purse.

“Could you please be quiet, Sophia?!”  Laurie, who was seated in the row in front of them, scolded.

“I’m so sorry, Laurie,” Sophia said insincerely.  “I know you want to hear every single word.”  It was a jab.  A cruel one. Laurie’s son, Connor, was repeating the first grade.  He was struggling with his reading comprehension and attention span.  There were whispers of learning disabilities, ADHD.  All of the mothers were outwardly sympathetic as good manners dictated, but inwardly, they were all thinking, thank goodness it’s her and not me.  She and that Amie had made fast friends of course.

Laurie stood up from her seat abruptly, causing the rusty metal legs to scrape against the linoleum.  The teacher stumbled over her words as Laurie stomped out of the classroom, her eyes tight, drawn, and angry.

Fern

Does Sophia know?  Fern had told no one about Kevin’s affair.  If you could call it an affair.  It was a dalliance really.  Some woman in an airport bar when he was on a layover somewhere in the Midwest.  A layover.  She’d laughed hysterically at the absurdity of that term after Kevin had confessed his indiscretion.  Kevin had stared at her as though she were insane.  It was a year ago and they’d put it behind them, for their boys, Sam and Matt.  At least Fern had said she’d put it behind her.  But she wondered if there were others.  She wondered why he’d strayed.  Why she wasn’t enough?  Of course Kevin had given all of the right answers.  But she knew he was lying.  She knew it.  Too many late nights at work and extended business trips ever since the beginning of their marriage.  He was a liar.  Too smooth, too charming, too rebellious.  The kind of guy that was never interested in a woman like her, a lifelong good girl.  From the first day they’d met, she’d been hopelessly and pathetically addicted.

The teacher concluded her remarks and now the parents were invited to mingle and partake of the display of coffee and pastries on the front table.  Fern needed to speak to the teacher about her youngest son, Matt, but first, she needed some fresh air.  And to get away from Sophia.  Bitter, meddling, Sophia.

She leaned against a window in the front corridor, rapidly sending a text to Kevin.

Where r u?  We need to talk to the teacher about Matt.

She saw a flash of movement from the corner of her eye, and glanced out the window.  There was her husband on the front steps, talking to young, single, beautiful Amie.  And something inside her exploded.

Laurie

That Sophia!  Laurie cursed her name as she sobbed into her hands.  She was sitting in the driver’s seat of her tiny blue Toyota weeping for her son.  Her gorgeous boy, with his dark curls and huge brown eyes, so dark they were almost black.  He was struggling.  It broke her heart to see him work so hard, to try to make the words and letters on the paper make sense to no avail.  She’d taken him to so many specialists, with no luck.  But, she was hopeful. One day, someone would tell her how to help her son.

To add insult to injury, Connor was being bullied on the playground.  Stupid, idiot, retard.  The names he repeated to her through tears at the end of the schoolday.  She didn’t blame the children.  It was the parents.  The kids had heard their whispers about the boy who’d been held back.  According to Connor, Imogene, Sophia’s Imogene, was the ringleader.  The head bully. She would likely grow up to be a woman every bit as nasty and horrible as her mother.  Laurie was tired of cowering in the corner while the Sophias of the world ran everyone over.  How could she teach her son to fight back when she was in the car, crying like a little girl?

She turned the ignition and put the car in drive.  The tires squealed as she pulled out of her parking space, headed for the roundabout in front of the school.  She could see Sophia standing in front of the doors.  She was going to finally give her a piece of her mind.  She’d zip up to the curb, jump out of the car like a madwoman and stalk right up to Sophia, stand nose to nose with her and scream.

Amie

Amie had left the room discreetly after Laurie stormed out, in search of her friend.  But Laurie was too fast.  By the time she’d reached the front corridor, she’d vanished.  Amie had gone out the double doors, searching the front steps for Laurie, but instead, she’d laid eyes on the man she called The Elusive Stranger.  The handsome man she’d met at the bar days ago.  The one who’d kissed her breath away in the alley behind said bar.  It sounded seedy but in reality it had actually been quite sexy and romantic.  He’d handed her a business card with his work and mobile numbers quietly before telling her goodbye.

His name was Kevin, she saw it on his business card once she got in her car at the end of the night, her knees still trembling.  And now he was here, at Simone’s school.  It was incredibly surreal.

“What are you doing here?”

Kevin looked up, staring at her as though she were an alien beamed down from some foreign galaxy.

“Uhhh…my um…” he sputtered, not nearly as smooth as he was the night of their meeting.

“Do you have kids that go here?”

He nodded, his eyes nervously on the door.

“Wow, me too!  I have a daughter in first grade.  Small world!  How old are your kids?”

That’s when she heard it.  A scream.  Then the claws on the back of her neck. She was shoved.  She lost her balance and stumbled to the ground, her chin hitting the cement sidewalk.

“Why are you talking to my husband?!!!”

Amie stood, dusting herself off, looking into the eyes of Fern, that withdrawn, mousy woman who always went around with Sophia.

“Husband?”  Amie turned to Kevin incredulously.  “You’re married!”

“Don’t pretend you didn’t know you little slut!”  Fern shouted.  “And you!”  Fern turned her attention to Kevin.  “You’re a liar!  You do this here!  Where our children go to school?!  You disgust me!”  She leaped at him, clawing at his eyeballs.  Kevin cried out in pain.  Amie, who couldn’t abide the sight of any kind of violence, tried to pull Fern off him, which only infuriated Fern further.  She shrugged Amie off, sending her into the bushes next to the front steps.  The sharp motion caused Fern to lose her balance, sending her toppling into the street, just as Laurie zoomed into the roundabout at full speed, well over the 5 mph speed limit for the school parking lot.  The sound of the impact was sickening.  Bones cracking, Fern’s screaming, the crunch of her skull as it hit the pavement.  Laurie leaped out of the car and fell to her knees next to Fern’s crumpled form, screaming noiselessly as Kevin and Amie watched, frozen in silence.

Sophia

She’d been standing in the doorway.  She followed Fern.  She was going to try and get her to come back.  But then she’d seen it.  Fern enraged.  Leaping at Amie, then at Kevin.  Teeth bared, claws out, like an animal.  She’d seen it.  She stood in the shadows and watched, recording every moment.  She could repeat it to everyone who asked her to re-tell it.  Which they would, many times, for years and years to come.

She stayed there as people rushed past her after hearing the commotion.  As they stood in the roundabout over poor Fern’s lifeless body, cell phones out, screaming at the 911 operator to hurry.  She didn’t come out until the police cars and ambulances roared into the parking lot.  She walked down the front steps slowly, carefully, then approached a self-important-looking detective.  He must be the one in charge.

“Officer,” she said, trying to suppress her smile of satisfaction, the warm churning of pleasure in her middle.  “I saw it all.  I’ll tell you everything.”

Harm

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A girl had fallen in the snow.  Sara ran down the road, breathless, wanting to help.  There was no one else around.  People were locked up inside their homes, waiting out the storm.  When the girl looked up with a grimace, Sara gasped. It was Taylor Stokes.  Taylor was the reason why she’d had to change schools. The reason why she’d cried herself to sleep every night her freshman year. The reason for the jagged scars on the inside of her arm.

They limped slowly down the street to Sara’s warm house.  When they came through the door, Sara’s mother, Faye, was waiting.  She hadn’t seen Taylor since that awful day in the principal’s office.  The morning after she’d caught Sara with the nail scissors.  They’d moved to a new school district to keep the two girls apart.  And now here she was, in their home, needing help.

Faye iced Taylor’s ankle and elevated it, then called her mother, who said she would be there shortly.

“What were you doing out there in the storm?”  Faye asked.  Taylor looked sheepish.  They realized suddenly, she was there to do something nasty.  There had been little pranks, every once and a while, since Sara had moved.  A rude name spray-painted on the garage door or the driveway, an egg splattered on the car.  Faye said nothing.  Taylor’s mom arrived shortly after, full of humility and gratitude, and then they were gone.

“Why did you help her?”  Sara asked Faye later.

“Because it was the right thing to do.”

That night, Sara reached for the secret pair of scissors she kept under her mattress and threw them away.

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

Thursday Thriller – Odd Girl Out – Conclusion

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Read Odd Girl Out part 1

Read Odd Girl Out part 2

Read Odd Girl Out part 3

Read Odd Girl Out part 4

Read Odd Girl Out part 5

Megan freshened her lipstick and stared at herself in the mirror, delaying the inevitable.  She didn’t want to face the day.  Again, her daughter was being buried, but this time in the family plot, in the cemetery where their family had been laid to rest for generations. Something no mother should have to face.  She’d insisted on just a small, graveside service.  A few close relatives and friends.  She couldn’t handle a big crowd today.  But, she would get through it somehow.  Finding peace in finally knowing the truth.  And making the people responsible pay.

Of course, she’d had to do it alone.  Will, how she loved him, but he’d been so destroyed after Stella disappeared.  He wouldn’t have been any help.  He knew about her plan of course, and thought it was crazy, but she didn’t see any other way.

She’d married and had Stella young.  People always told her she looked much more youthful than her actual age.  A bottle of hair dye, a few shopping trips, colored contacts, some forged documents and a pair of over-sized glasses later, and nerdy Maggie was born.  That Gwen had never given her a second look. Maggie was an odd. All those people cared about was money and status.

She laid low that first summer.  She wanted to experience everything Stella experienced.  Her Stella.  A girl who lived in her imagination.  Who loved books and writing.  Who sang with her in the kitchen as they baked every weekend.  Such a sweet soul.  Megan wiped her eyes.  For Stella, she endured the cruelty, the bullying, the hazing, with quiet strength, then used the next year to turn Scarlett’s soldiers against her.  As she’d suspected, they all secretly detested her.  It didn’t take long to earn their trust.  And finally, one summer night, the windows open to a bright silvery moon, a cool wind rushing through the trees, Scarlett locked in the closet, kicking the door, trying to scream, Laina had told her the truth.

She tried to scare Gwen and Scarlett into confessing, leaving those notes, stalking them, but it hadn’t worked.  Neither of them seemed to have a conscience.  Laina, Regan, Ashlee, and Charity had all been arrested after she’d uploaded the pictures from Gwen’s phone to a zip drive, along with Laina’s secretly recorded confession, and sent them to the cops anonymously.  They all had fancy lawyers, would probably get minimal time.  They were just soldiers following orders.

As for Gwen and Scarlett – they hadn’t been seen in weeks.  A hastily composed resignation letter had been found on Gwen’s computer.  Rumor had it that Scarlett’s family was hiding her, which they vehemently denied.  Some said Gwen was on the run, living in a new state under an assumed identity.  Megan knew better.

She stood from her vanity and smoothed her dress, noticing something dark under one of her fingernails.

A tiny speck of dirt.

She washed her hands, checked her appearance once again, and went to join her husband.  They would get through this day together.

Thursday Thriller – Odd Girl Out – Part 5

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Read Odd Girl Out part 1

Read Odd Girl Out part 2

Read Odd Girl Out part 3

Read Odd Girl Out part 4

 

Two summers ago

“It’s unfortunate, but we all know how teenage girls can be…”  Gwen let her voice trail off.  In her office were two police detectives, and Megan and Will, the parents of Stella.  Gwen rubbed her eyes.  It had been a long night. When Scarlett told her what happened, that a girl’s lifeless body was stuffed into the back of a closet like forgotten hand-me-downs, she’d been furious, but not shocked.  These girls had been raised to care about nothing and no one but themselves.  It would serve them right if she called the police and had all of their little pampered butts thrown in jail.  But then the truth about the hazing would come out.  And the fact that she’d turned a blind eye.  And she wasn’t jeopardizing her future for these brats.

So, at midnight, when the rest of the camp was asleep, they’d piled into Gwen’s SUV, Stella wrapped in sheets in the trunk.  She drove miles and miles away, deep into the country, where the sky sparkled with stars, where it was so quiet they could hear the beating of their own hearts.  They carried Stella deep into the woods, and they dug.  It took hours.  When Stella was buried, they all vowed never to speak of this night to anyone.  They’d arrived at the camp just before sunrise, and Gwen had reported Stella as a runaway.

“Not our daughter.”  Will was resolute.  Megan was staring at her, and Gwen was struggling not to shrink under her gaze.  Megan was a striking woman.  Even with traces of worry in her eyes, her brow furrowed, she was gorgeous.  No one would peg her as the mother of a teenager. She realized Megan was staring at her hands.   Under one of her fingernails, there it was.  A tiny speck of dirt.  Despite how long she’d scrubbed in the shower, how meticulously she’d checked her appearance before this meeting, a tiny speck had remained.  She put her hands in her lap, under her desk.

“Well, being away from home for the first time can be traumatizing for some young girls.  And it didn’t seem that Stella was…errr…meshing well with the others.  She seemed to spend a lot of time alone.”

“She would have called.”  Megan turned to the officers.  “She wouldn’t let us worry this way.”  Her voice broke.

One of the officers turned and placed a comforting hand on Megan’s shoulder.  “We hope that she’ll call soon. It’s possible she’s just upset, or went to visit a friend.”

Megan nodded, clearly not convinced.

“I think we have all we need,” said the second officer, closing his notepad.  “We’ll file a missing persons report.  Call us anytime.  We’ll be in touch.”

The officers turned to leave, and Stella’s parents followed.  Before Megan turned the corner, she gave Gwen another penetrating stare, and Gwen had the distinct impression she could see right through her.

Read Odd Girl Out – Conclusion

Thursday Thriller – Odd Girl Out – Part 4

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Read Odd Girl Out part 1

Read Odd Girl Out part 2

Read Odd Girl Out part 3

Two summers ago

Scarlett, Laina, Regan, Ashlee, and Charity stood in a circle in the upper bedroom of the A&B Building, waiting.  It was Scarlett’s first summer, but she had already emerged as their leader.  A general.  Her mother had come here many summers ago, so she knew about the ritual.  Knew from day one that she had to exude confidence.  She had to be loved and feared.

The door opened downstairs.  Stella called out a timid hello, but was only answered by silence.  Stella.  So hopeless.  Her awkward posture, the fattening homemade baked goods she’d brought as gifts on the first day, which everyone had thrown in the trash behind her back, her eagerness, desperation, to fit in.  She stank of it. An obvious odd.

Stella crept up the stairs, pausing when she saw the girls.  Quickly, they engulfed her, dragging her to the floor.  She was going to be hard to pin down.  Charity dragged the metal cage, created to fit a large dog, out of the shadows.  It would be Stella’s home for the next eight hours.  Her arms would be cuffed to its roof. The cage would be pushed into the dark closet, where Stella would be forgotten.  The girls would go about their day.  They’d tell Gwen Stella was ill and she would nod, not responding.  It was what had been done to odds at this place for decades.  It’s what would be done to Maggie the following summer.

Scarlett the summer after that.

But Scarlett didn’t know that.  Couldn’t imagine it, as she sat on Stella’s chest to keep her still so Ashlee could snap handcuffs on Stella’s wrists, adjusting them so they would dig into her skin, leaving the tell-tale scar that all odds wore. Charity placed duct tape over the lower half of Stella’s face. Laina stood to the side, watching, looking  terrified.  Loser.  Laina should be thanking Stella.  If Stella hadn’t come along, Laina would have definitely been the odd.

Hours later, after the girls had enjoyed a day of sports, swimming, and tanning, they returned to the closet.  Scarlett unlocked the cage.  She noticed Stella wasn’t struggling anymore.  She undid the cuffs and tried to pull Stella to her feet, but she was too heavy.  Pig.  When she looked at her face it was obvious.  Stella was dead.  Maybe the tape over her mouth and nose had caused her to suffocate.  Maybe she’d had some sort of cardiac event.  Maybe Scarlett had crushed her when she sat on her chest.  They would never really know.

Scarlett composed herself as she faced her soldiers.  The other girls stared at her blank-faced, waiting for their next instructions.

Read Odd Girl Out part 5

Thursday Thriller – Odd Girl Out – Part 3

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Read Odd Girl Out part 1

Read Odd Girl Out part 2

Gwen took her job as camp director seriously.  These girls, some of them spoiled shamelessly by their indifferent parents, looked to her for structure, guidance.  Someone had to teach them how the real world was going to work.  When mommy and daddy wouldn’t be around to pay someone off, when everyone doesn’t worship you, when you’re not the most popular.  So, when she learned from her predecessor about the secret ritualistic hazing that takes place in A&B every summer, she didn’t mind turning the other way.  She viewed it as a character-building experience.  She’d been bullied mercilessly by the rich girls at boarding school growing up.  Her clueless parents had made her a target – she was already a scholarship kid, did they have to send her away with a suitcase full of her sister’s worn hand-me-downs?  But, guess what, all that mistreatment made her the woman she was today.  Director of an exclusive camp for girls for a month every summer, which was really almost like getting paid to go on vacation, Dean of Students at the boarding school where she was an alumnus.  She was marrying the older brother of one of her worst adolescent tormentors in the fall.  And how she loved to watch her squirm at every family gathering.  Yes, life was good.

She heard a tap on the window, a rustling in the bushes.  She rose and looked outside.  There was no one.  Probably a squirrel.  But as soon as she sat down she heard a loud banging along the side of the building, like someone was throwing something heavy against the wall.  I’m going to give these girls a piece of my mind.  She stepped outside and looked around.   There was no one there.  The banging had stopped.  She only heard the wind.

She returned to her desk, noticing that there was something covering her computer keyboard.  A picture.  A girl’s face.  She gasped.  Her eyes welled.  Stella.  There were words scrawled across her face.  A question.

What did you do with her?

Just then, Scarlett stormed back into her office, holding a sheet of paper above her head.  She could read the words on it from where she stood.  Where is Stella?  Her knees buckled.  She had to sit.

“Is this your idea of a joke?!”  Scarlett shouted.  “Is that why you were talking about all that queen bee crap?  Did you put one of the girls up to it?”

Gwen didn’t respond, just held up the photo so Scarlett could see.   The color drained from Scarlett’s face.  She slumped to the chair opposite Gwen’s desk.   Gwen could see her chest rising and falling in rapid succession.

“Someone else knows,”  she whispered.

Gwen nodded gravely.  “What are we going to do?”

Read Odd Girl Out part 4