The rain worried her more than it should.
Scurrying home from work, grocery bag pressed to her chest like an infant, Elaine tried to keep her thoughts from pushing her down to her knees.
The sad anniversaries don’t have a range of greeting cards. The horrible things you do, that stain your skin like a disease, well there’s no tangible evidence of those.
Elaine cannot wear sneakers. Unpleasant assocations with them so she buys simple leather shoes or ballet pumps. Her arches complain but each time she’s tried, even going so far as to spend thwarted hours trying to undo the negative associations that came with the simple act of walking into anywhere that sold sneakers.
She had tried to be brave. Even going so far as to walk into Sneaker Planet and made halting conversation with the clerk.
When she slipped them on, she would recall the jolt of sensation from where she had kicked Jessica Halloran in the ribs travel through her leg. Hot bursts of acid exploded up from the pit of her stomach and she had to run, hand cupped to her mouth as she spat bile into the gutter, weeping and shuddering.
It had gotten worse. Even with a sealed juvenile record, they had not escaped punishment.
Jessica, pills in her bedroom, a blank final statement despite the tears that ran down her cheeks, all the wiring kicked out of her by Elaine, Imogen Oswald and Rebecca Anderson at Rebecca’s house. Savage on wine coolers and tribal mentality. Jessica had moved away after her parents had tried to sue Rebecca’s parents but Elaine knew that a large part of her had been kicked to death on the lounge floor whilst Rebecca’s mother had been at a company christmas party. Elaine remembered how the blur of alcohol made the lights strung along the curtain pole look like blooms of light. The video had gone viral, swimming through the sea of social media like a shark.
Imogen. Neck broken in a single savage twist. Apparently she had a look of utter surprise fixed on her face, buttocks and eyes in the same direction. Discarded at the bottom of her garden like so much refuse.
Then, Rebecca. Hung from the rafters of the villa in Spain that her parents flew her out to. Stomach peeled open and the pink stream of intestines swinging between her tanned legs.
So, finally Elaine. Living under a different name, in a city with her aunt Bonnie, trying to get through each day without crying and knowing that it was all wasted time. She looked across the street, peering through the sheet of rain as she saw her at the kerb. Forever sixteen years old, but the eyes were dark copper coins pressed into grave dirt now and her hair hung, heavy with the rain.
Elaine watched Jessica dart across the road, arms by her sides, fingers splayed like spikes as she moved between cars. As she drew closer, Elaine saw how her teeth were gritted together, lips pulled back in a mechanical snarl. Elaine began to run, letting the grocery bag fall from her arms.
She ran full pelt, lungs burning as she took the corner and looked for somewhere to go. Anywhere that might provide refuge, or the illusion of it. Her feet ached but she kept going.
In it’s own way, it was a relief. She had to at least try and run, but in the end she knew that Jessica would not stop. That each day since they’d beaten that girl half to death had been a day more than they deserved. That this was better than the weeks and months of not knowing.
She thought of the christmas lights and kept running