(NPR 3 minute Fiction *Here is the story I wrote and submitted. On one hand it makes me ill to post this, on the other, I am still posting it, aren't I?)
Table for Two
This café is our favorite. It’s located not far from our home and the view out onto Bleaker Street affords excellent people watching--which is something we can’t deny ourselves. By us, I mean myself and my younger sister, Alex. More than that, she is what keeps me sane; keeps the heart beating in my would-be empty chest.
She is prattling on about something I am only barely listening to. I am more interested in the fact that the SUV across the street (with its darkened windows) doesn’t seem to have moved since we got here. Its stillness makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. People on the sidewalk pass by in a steady stream. Even the light outside has begun to fade from orange to the dusky blue of faded denim. That car remains, still and settled, like a corpse. Anxiety about what this could mean tightens my gut. I can’t help but think, Why? Why here, and why now?
In a flash the headlights switch on giving me the only indication there is life inside the metal box. It’s a sign that they are waiting, and more importantly, they want me to know that they know… but what? My coffee is strong as I slowly sip at it, staring and waiting for the executioner to emerge. As the hot liquid hits my tongue and slides down my throat, it wakes me as well as a cold shower would.
“Abby, are you listening to me?” Alex’s voice cuts into my thoughts.
I turn my face from the window to hers. Her eyes are just like mine, a light ghostly grey. Our hair is the same; a warm dark brown as straight as a sheet. Hers is in a long braid running down her back, like it is most days. Mine is always in the standard bun, which is traditionally required for our gritty line of work. All the women abide by this rule, except Alex. Alex bends many rules and manages to get away with it every time. She doesn’t seem to notice the SUV, so I keep my face composed. I can tell that my lack of attention has bothered her. Even with my tensed thoughts, I can’t deny her anything.
“I am sorry, what were you saying?” I offer; shifting not only my eyes but my body towards her.
Alex stares at me with her mouth partially open; her gaze penetrating. Her expression for the briefest of moments is desperate and she begins to speak again. Before even emitting a word, however, the server returns with our check.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” he asks through a set of perfectly straight teeth. Perfect, like a picket fence. I manage to shake my head and make sure to express a nice smile as he turns and leaves. I turn back to Alex and her face is fully composed, though stern.
“I’m leaving the Corporation. I’m done with it: the games, the lies; but mostly the killing. I can’t sleep Abs, and the nightmares. I just…..” The words leave her mouth and hang dead in the air. This is why they are here. No one leaves.
For a few long moments nothing registers but a low ringing in my ears.
I’m brought back by a sound across the street-- car door opening. It’s the sound of death approaching.