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Authors: Dia Reeves

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BOOK: Slice Of Cherry
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The sisters turned at the light onto Claudine Street and skidded to a stop.

Claudine Street looked as though it had been unzipped, bricks scattered everywhere. Cars and trucks were flipped over or teetering at weird angles; hard, white water from a burst hydrant swept past the sisters’ tires in a flood.

The sisters pedaled onto the dry, deserted sidewalk and parked their bikes at the nearest bike rail. Kit took Fancy’s
hand and led her up the street, deftly maneuvering around the pools of blood on the sidewalk.

“What do you think did all this?” Fancy asked, clinging to Kit’s hand, passing shop windows where wide-eyed people watched them go by.

Kit only shrugged. That was the problem with living in Portero—it could have been
anything.

“Don’t be scared, Fancy Pants. Look.” Kit pointed out the sun-bright green trucks lining the street. “The Mortmaine are here. Whatever it is, they’re already on it.”

If Porterenes were badass simply for surviving daily life in Portero, the Mortmaine were beyond badass, an elite group of men and women who wore only green, like a uniform, and whose only job was to prevent monsters from swallowing the town whole.

But just because the Mortmaine were out in force was no reason to be incautious. The sisters hurried into a dress shop midway up the block, a cool oasis with “Summertime Blues” thumping from a hidden speaker. A shopgirl in a slim dress with a mandarin collar stood behind the counter leisurely munching her way through a bag of pork rinds while flipping through
Vogue
.

“Hey,” Kit called. “What the hell happened outside?”

“Monster,” said the shopgirl, not looking up from her magazine. “Came up from under the ground. Usual shit.”

Slightly disappointed that an exciting tale wasn’t to be had, the sisters set themselves to the task of dress hunting, rummaging through the clothes racks for something ruffly and refined enough to pass muster at Cherry Glade. When they’d narrowed it down to two dresses, Kit sought the opinion of the shopgirl.

“What do you think of us in these?” Kit held up the black seersucker halter dress with white dots for herself and the black lace cotton pinafore for Fancy.

The shopgirl sucked pork-rind crumbs from her fingers, studying not the dresses but the sisters. “Ain’t y’all those Cordelle girls?”

The sisters sighed. It had only been a matter of time. “Yeah, we’re those girls. So what?” said Kit.

“Too bad they don’t still hang people,” said the shopgirl. “That’s what. Y’all’s daddy was purely evil. Lethal injection’s too good for him. After what he did,
hanging’s
too good for him.” She didn’t even say it in a mean way, as though Daddy’s “evilness” were such a foregone conclusion that it didn’t even bear getting upset about.

Kit took the dresses to the shopgirl, her friendly smile poison red. “Forget hanging,” she said as the shopgirl rang up the dresses. “
I
think they should peel all the skin from Daddy’s body with a fruit knife, fry it, and then
make him eat it
. Like . . . well, like pork rinds.” Kit helped herself to a handful from the bag on the counter. “Think of it! A pound of Guthrie Cordelle flesh, all crispy and delicious. Mm-mmm!”

The shopgirl turned pale at the sight of Kit’s bared teeth, so pale she was nearly invisible. “Th-that’ll be seventy-eight seventy-three.”

Kit swept the bag of pork rinds to the floor and then flung four twenties into the shopgirl’s face, making her flinch. “Keep the change,” she said sweetly.

Once they were outside, Kit’s friendly smile melted in the fervid sunlight as they stormed up the broken street. “Hanging’s too good for him?” she yelled, flinging the dress bag backward to Fancy. “What does
she
know from hanging?”

“The bike rack’s back that way,” said Fancy, running to keep up with her sister’s longer legs.

“You know what we should do? We should hang
her
and then ask how good it is. Get her expert fucking opinion.”

“Don’t say ‘fucking.’ And you can’t kill someone for being
rude. If we did that, we’d have to kill everyone in Portero.”

“So no downside, right?”

Kit detoured down a shaded alley and then another. Fancy realized they were behind the dress shop. A few of the bricks from Claudine Street had made their way back here—whatever had exploded out of the ground had done so with great force. Water from a leaky pipe sticking out of the building had created several tiny puddles that wet Fancy’s pink bobby socks and attracted thirsty clouds of mosquitoes.

Fancy looked around, uneasy.

“Why’re we back here?” “We’re gone wait for that shopgirl,” said Kit, her long spider hands picking carefully over the Claudine Street bricks, testing the heft of each one.

“Why would she leave the shop?”

Kit settled against the building opposite the side door of the dress shop, her cap pulled low over her eyes so that her poison mouth was the most visible part of her, the same shade of red as the brick in her fist.

“She smelled like an ashtray,” said Kit, “so she’ll take a cigarette break. And she’ll come back here because going out front and blowing smoke in the customers’ faces ain’t exactly good customer service.”

“We don’t
have
to hurt her. We could just . . .”

She had Kit’s full attention, but Fancy had no idea what normal people did when someone insulted them.

Fancy swung the dress bag a few times and then stood near her sister against the wall. “We can’t really hang her, Kit.”

Kit stared unblinkingly at the blank metal door of the shop. “Why don’t you go get us some snow cones?”

“You trying to get rid of me?”

“I’m trying to get a damn snow cone. Here.” Kit dug a few bills from the pocket of her leggings. “Now go on.”

Fancy crumpled the money in her fist and set the dress bag on the driest bit of the ground she could find. “Promise you won’t—”

“I’m not gone kill her,” Kit yelled, exasperated. “Now would you
leave
? Jesus. You act like you think I don’t have any self-control at all.”

You don’t,
Fancy could have said, but Kit was the oldest, and Franken had used up all of Fancy’s bargaining chips. The best Fancy could do was try to hurry back before any real damage was done.

On her way back to the alley with the snow cones, as she carefully crossed back to Claudine at the corner away from the
wreckage farther down the street, she saw Gabriel Turner. He was a tall, skinny boy with butterscotch-colored skin and long black braids that curled girlishly against his shoulders. Fancy usually didn’t notice boys the way Kit did, let alone remember their names, but even she knew who Gabriel was. His father had been Daddy’s last victim.

Gabriel was standing in an empty parking space in front of a music store, the kind that sold instruments, with his black shirt tied around his bare shoulders like a cape. A line of golden saxophones gleamed in a display window behind him that was streaked with blood. Fancy wondered if Gabriel had put the blood on the window, since a similar streak decorated his bare chest. And because he was prodding a severed human head at his feet with a stick.

“You don’t want any kisses from me, do you?”

Fancy faltered, thinking he was talking to her. But Gabriel was staring down at the head, frowning at it. He startled her when he jabbed the stick through its eye—it made an unforgettably wet sound.

“It’s too bad,” said Gabriel. He used the stick to raise the head to his face; he spoke into its ear. “Real monsters eat you from the inside out.”

She edged around the bright blue car that was in her way so that she could get a better look at what insanity looked like, but before she could get close enough, Gabriel’s older brother, Ilan, came out of the store. He froze when he saw what Gabriel was holding, and then he grabbed his brother and slapped him across the face. Fancy was sure she saw pearls of blood arc through the air, it was that hard of a slap.

Gabriel staggered back into the blue car and clapped his hand over his mouth. “What was that for?” he cried, his words muffled.

Ilan kicked the severed head and sent it flying into the ruined street before he turned to glare at his brother. “It happened again!” He had a gravelly voice, like he spent all day screaming at the top of his lungs. At Gabriel, from the looks of it.

Fancy got a good look at Gabriel then and saw not insanity, but fear and confusion in his eyes.

And then pain as Ilan slapped him again, this time on the ear.

Ilan was much darker than his brother, with none of his brother’s immature softness, but they both had the same light brown eyes. If not for the resemblance Fancy wouldn’t have
believed they were really related. Kit would never have treated Fancy the way Ilan was treating his brother. “It’s gotta stop, Gabe,” he said.

Gabriel pushed Ilan in the chest. “I don’t know how to make it stop! You act like there’s a switch I can turn on and off.” Gabriel crouched and hid his head in his hands. A customer walking out with a violin case nearly tripped over him.

“I don’t wanna be like this,” Gabriel muttered, rubbing his thumb against the gold cross dangling from his neck like it was a lucky rabbit’s foot. “I’m trying so hard not to be like this.”

“Try harder.” Ilan hauled Gabriel to his feet and gave him a shake. “You think I wanna chase after you my whole life? Cover for you?” Ilan let him go and looked up and down the street as if he wanted a taxi to drive by so he could hail it and take off, but taxis weren’t thick on the ground in Portero. Ilan turned to his brother, his face dark with resentment. “I shoulda strangled you the day Ma brought you home—we’d all be better off.”

Gabriel stilled at Ilan’s words, his fist tightening around his cross as if he wanted to rip it off and whip Ilan across the face with it. Instead, Gabriel let go of the cross, unknotted his shirt, and pulled it on over his bloody chest.

Both brothers wore tight, punk-rock clothes, but they didn’t really look the part—they seemed more wretched than rebellious. Ilan caught sight of Fancy standing and gaping at him and his brother, and the resentfulness seemed to leave him all at once. He wiped his hands on his jeans and sidled in front of Gabriel, as if hiding him from sight. “Got any wet wipes?” he asked her.

Fancy’s reply was to run away from Ilan and his weirdo brother as fast as she could. When she made it back to the alley, bursting with gossip, the sight of the shopgirl sprawled on the ground at Kit’s feet—the puddles ruining her black silk dress—killed Fancy’s urge to speak.

“Finally!” Kit yelled, grinning. Her face was spattered in blood; not much, but Fancy could have played connect-the-dots on it. “Is that pineapple?”

“I knew it,” said Fancy as Kit took the snow cone from her. “All that talk about trust so you can stand out here in
broad daylight
and kill some stupid girl—”

“She’s not dead.”

Fancy checked the shopgirl’s pulse and, upon finding a strong, steady beat, released a huge breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding.

“I just smacked her upside the head a little.” Kit flipped the brick and caught it behind her back with one hand. “Kit Cordelle aka the Bludgeoner.”

“Bludgeoner. Bonesaw Killer.” Fancy fished a wet wipe from her pocket, pushed back the newsboy cap, and cleaned Kit’s face, scrubbing harder than necessary. “I ain’t gone let you follow in Daddy’s footsteps.”

Kit dodged the wet wipe long enough to take a bite of her snow cone. “I guess I am too pretty for jail.”

“You didn’t have to send me away like that.”

“I thought . . . maybe you didn’t like seeing me go to work on people.” Kit looked down. “Like maybe you don’t like that side of me.”

Fancy studied Kit’s blood-free face and shoved the wet wipe back in her pocket.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Kit. I like violence just as much as the next person.” She thought of the Turner brothers and their horrible relationship and hugged Kit tight.

“And I like
you
. Just the way you are.”

 

FROM FANCY’S DREAM DIARY:

T
HAT CHUBBY-CHEEKED BOY
I
HAD A CRUSH ON IN KINDERGARTEN ASKED ME AND
K
IT IF WE WANTED TO GO ON A DATE; HE DIDN’T CARE WHICH ONE OF US.
W
E SAID WE’D BOTH GO OUT WITH HIM BUT WE HAD TO CHANGE FIRST.
S
O HE FOLLOWED US HOME AND WAITED WHILE WE WENT IN THE HOUSE AND CHANGED, BUT WHEN WE MET HIM OUTSIDE IN THE GARDEN WEARING NOTHING BUT OUR SKELETONS, HE RAN AWAY SCREAMING.

CHAPTER FIVE

The sisters sat in Madda’s car on Seventh Street before one of the tall, skinny houses that adorned the streets near Fountain Square, a white one with an orange-sorbet trim.

Madda craned her neck and frowned at her daughters slumped miserably in the backseat of her Honda. “What’re y’all waiting for?”

“You to come to your senses,” Kit cried, “and rescue us from this scam!”

“What this is,” Madda said, “is a sweet, elderly woman named Annice who’s gone blind and needs help. Not a scam.”

“Why do we have to do some old lady’s chores? Nobody ever does
our
chores.”

“Yeah,” said Fancy. “Can’t we just chip in and buy her a maid?”

“This is about being a good neighbor, not throwing money at a problem to make it go away.”

“She ain’t
my
neighbor.” “She’s a fellow Porterene, Kit, and that makes her your neighbor. Look!” Madda pointed out of the car window. “Everybody’s pitching in.” The old lady herself sat in a rocking chair on her stoop as people filed into her house or worked industriously outside of it weeding flower beds, painting the shutters, and washing the windows.

“This is how people behave in a community,” Madda said, staring gravely at her daughters. “They help each other.”

“Help schmelp. Just because they’re all jumping off a bridge doesn’t mean we—”

The stern expression on Madda’s face silenced the rest of Kit’s griping and sent the sisters scrambling out of the car. The heat was miserable after the coolness of Madda’s Honda.

“I’ll be at the Super Seven,” she said. “While I’m in there, I’ll pick us up some empty bottles for the ceremony. Pink ones, if they have any.”

BOOK: Slice Of Cherry
3.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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