Affectionately Yours, Sherry By Diane Bechtler

I stepped into the humid night air looking for the white SUV. I had a romantic sex filled night waiting for me in that roomy vehicle which held my lover, Craig. Where would we go? What would we do? Maybe he’d bring champagne and burgers like last week. I was hungry-for him and for dinner. He usually parked near the escalator but his car was rows away. I scampered across the asphalt.

The passenger door opened and I crawled on the seat leaning towards the driver. My eyes were closed; my lips were puckered for a welcoming kiss. When he didn’t kiss back, I opened my eyes.

A woman sat behind the wheel.

“Get in,” she said through a toothpaste ad smile. “I’m Sherry, Craig’s wife.” The woman with the head of blonde curls motioned to the empty seat as she emphasized the word wife. Craig had never shown me a picture of his wife, only of his kids. In my mind, Sherry had been fat with greasy brown hair, wearing long, shapeless dresses to hide her swollen ankles. In truth, she had nice hair; she was thin and tanned. At 30, Craig’s wife was beautiful with her big blue eyes and nice clothes.

What did I think? That she was taking me on a picnic? But I was a teenager. I lived at home. I had a boss at work. Customers demanded my help all day long. I was used to doing as I was told.

I got in.

Still smiling, she said, “Now, buckle up, deary.”

While I fussed with my seat belt, my eyes shifted from her smooth rosy complexion to the little red Indian head air freshener jiggling from the rear -view mirror. The Indian gave off a sickeningly sweet rose smell.

Jack-in-the-box music played behind me. I turned my head. Craig’s kids were in the back!

Seven-year-old Annabelle resembled her mother complete with her blonde curls. She cranked her toy and started chatting. “Are you here to play our game? My mommy said we’d play racetrack tonight and we’d have fun. She said not to be afraid if it gets noisy.”

The little girl munched her McDonald’s fries while swinging her bare feet. “Mommy told us to yell and clap after we caught the witch. Are you the witch? You don’t look like a witch except you have black hair. Witches have black hair.”

Sherry had kids thinking this was a game.

I had put on fresh makeup after my shift ended, but my jeans were ripped and dirty. My thin T-shirt stretched across my big breasts with my nipples plainly visible. I wore that for Craig. Sherry didn’t notice.

She looked fresh in her pressed ivory pantsuit, with her matching leather briefcase near my feet.

I glanced back at Annabelle again. She ate her fries.

The baby slept in a car seat, spittle dribbling down his chin, and a half-empty bottle in his lap. Both children wore double seat belts.

Dumbstruck by the sight of the kids, I stared ahead. Then I turned my attention to Sherry.

“Where are we going?” My voice sounded small and distant.

“I thought we should get to know each other. After all, we share the same man.” She rolled the car into traffic.

“Where’s Craig?” I wondered how hard I would hit the pavement if I jumped.

Sherry carefully negotiated the dark mall parking lot and the nearby streets. “Oh, maybe I left him tied to the stove with the ticker of the bomb set for, let’s see,” she glanced at her watch, “10 o’clock. That would be in about 30 minutes.”

Not sure what was happening or what to believe, I stayed quiet and examined her. She wore a huge wedding ring endlessly circled with diamonds. Her perfect nails were the same watermelon color as her lips.

Good sense began seeping back into my numbed brain. I was being kidnapped. I scrambled for the door handle. It wouldn’t open.

Sherry smiled, “Won’t work. Childproof locks. You’re not going anywhere, you bitch.” Her face was serene without even a frown line.

“Can I borrow your cellphone?” I sniffled, as I reached for the shiny box beside her leg. “My mother will be worried.”

Sherry grabbed the phone and flung it out her window. “No, your mother won’t be worried because she doesn’t expect you home tonight. You told her some lie so you could spend the night with my husband, you slut. Do you think this is the first time I’ve been here? I’ve watched you for weeks. I thought I’d have some fun playing detective.” She named the store where I worked then rattled off several places Craig and I had been in the last few weeks.

“See, I can play games too,” She added.

After a few more stoplights, Sherry peeled rubber. She jerked the car to the left and circled a deserted strip mall, then slammed the brakes in front of an abandoned Kmart. I lurched forward. Sherry lunged and shook me, her nails digging into my arms. She grabbed my leg and ripped off half the leg of my jeans. A little line of blood dotted the path of her nails.

“You worthless piece of shit, who do you think you are? Look in the mirror. Huh?” She flapped down the visor and pushed my face to it. “You’re not even particularly pretty.“ She hacked out words like gristle.

“You think what you’re doing is cute? Spreading your legs for another woman’s husband? Whore. How old are you?” She shook me again. My purse flew open.

She asked, “How old are you”? Answer me when I ask you a question.”

Tears ruined my makeup. “I’m eighteen.”

“You’re a legal adult, old enough to be sued. Good.” She leaned back. “But why should I involve the police when I can take care of this in a neater way. Do you know how sweet revenge is going to be? Huh?”

“Yes,” I squeaked, wishing I could talk to my mom one last time. Sherry grabbed the steering wheel and roared around the empty parking lot until she slammed my side of the car into a pole supporting a flickering light. The seatbelt cut into my shoulder and the airbag inflated. And I could see, Sherry punched it with something sharp. A knife glinted in the streetlight.

The airbag deflated with a pop like a kid’s balloon. My eyes jumped from the limp bag to the knife in Sherry’s hand.

“Guess you’re worried about what else I might have.” She slid the knife under her right leg and patted her plump purse. I didn’t wonder if she had a gun; I wondered what kind it might be and how much it would hurt to be shot.

“Mommy, mommy,” peeped Annabelle. The kids must have been drugged. I wished I were drugged.

“It’s okay, baby. We having fun, aren’t we, Annabelle? Now mommy’s going to yell at the witch we caught. She’s a bad witch from the Wizard of Oz. She escaped. Now we caught her. She’s a mean witch. We have to get rid of the mean witch.

“Mean witch. Mean witch,” Annabelle parroted.

“Look at those sweet children, slut. You’re not going to hurt them. You will not take their father away from them, you bitch. You’re going to leave my husband alone. Do you hear me? What? Do you hear me?” She shouted so loud that I figured traffic two streets over heard her.

“I hear you.” I wailed, staring at the hanging shreds of gray airbag.

The kids had to be drugged. Jamey slept on and Annabelle’s head flopped from side to side. Sherry must have been drugged, too. Was I the only one sober?

“Slut, slut. Goddamn slut.” She spat on me and I took it.

“I put the bastard through college. I have my family, and I have Craig. You only have had a part of him and you’re giving that back. Tonight. Right now, you whore. I’ll break your goddamn neck. I’ll knock the few brains you have all over this car.”

She whacked me with her rock-hard purse before I could get my hands in front of my face. My own purse fell to the floor dumping everything. My lipstick rolled around her car. My diaphragm case popped open. Sherry grabbed it and frisbeed the rubber circle into the parking lot. I curled up and prayed. I swore to myself that I’d never see Craig again, if I lived through this.

Sherry zoomed back onto the main road where all stoplights became green in her eyes. Screeching cars slammed into each other, avoiding us. We fishtailed into the freeway path of an 18-wheeler. He lay down on his brakes making them squall while his horn bleated. Smoke poured from the truck as it jackknifed, but we sped on.

I hid my eyes. We must have been going 120 miles an hour.

I looked back at the kids.

Sherry said, “Annabelle, what do you think of our fun ride?”

“Mean witch,” the little girl responded. “Mommy can I have my surprise now?”

“Yes, baby” Sherry handed Annabelle a lollipop that appeared from nowhere.

“I’ll leave him alone. I swear I will.” Sweet Jesus, I prayed. Please get me out of this. The road behind us was a mess of banged together vehicles. Flames engulfed one car. Sirens wailed, but they weren’t coming for me. Sherry swerved off an exit catching the edge of a yield sign. The sign caught on the car front and banged into the grill rhythmically. The SUV slid down the embankment sideways.

Eventually Sherry abandoned the highway for back roads with no streetlights. I was covered in black velvet air. Traffic thinned

I pled with her, “Please let me go. I’ll leave you alone. I swear.”

Still looking as calm as lake water, she said, “Of course you will, you bitch. I’m taking you to the woods to kill you. Do you know that?”

“You’ll leave Craig alone, you whore, because you’ll be dead.” She drove to an empty baseball field. Sherry slammed the car into the empty bleachers crunching my door in my lap. The windshield imploded and arrows of glass jabbed me.

“Please let me out,” I sniffled. She flipped my seat belt and unsnapped the master door lock. Sherry stepped out of the SUV like she was on her way to accept an award. I crawled over the seat and ran like my ass was on fire.

Sherry tackled me and coldcocked me with that damn purse again, and I lay there, face down, dazed. I rolled to my back, wiping away blood and snot. Sherry stood a leg on each side looming above me. She opened her purse slowly and reached in. I wet my pants. Sherry pulled out a cigarette and lit it, the blue flame jumping into the night. Then she fired shots outlining my body. Sherry shot calmly, in no hurry, drawing in the dirt with bullets. Her face was in shadows but her teeth caught light. The red circle of her cigarette glowed. I heard a child crying in the distance somewhere. Each bullet spit dirt on me as it pierced the field. Then the gun clicked a few times. I heard the pop of a new clip being loaded.

After taking a few puffs of her cigarette, she left me, her heels punching more holes in the dirt on the path back to the car.

She shouted in my direction, “I’ll tell Craig you said hello.”

She drove away. Finally, I heard only crickets against distant traffic.

I sat up slowly, bawling, and brushing off dirt. Checking all of my limbs, I found nothing broken, but I was pretty banged up. My head was bleeding and I knew a bullet had parted my hair. Tomorrow would be a black-and-blue day. But at least tomorrow would happen. I hobbled to the highway and thumbed a ride home. I told the driver who stopped that I’d been in an accident. I had.

At home, I sneaked in and sat in the tub sobbing while dirt, blood, and memories slipped down the drain.

I don’t know what happened to Craig. I don’t care.

Now I live alone, in a city far away from Sherry, but about once a week a woman with her curly kind of hair walks through the store sometimes with a Craig-like man at her side. I return to that field. She, who is not Sherry, passes. He, who is not Craig, passes. I chew a Valium and wait for calm.

Once or twice a year I receive great greeting cards in the mail signed Craig and Sherry.

In my nightmares, I zoom along black highways.

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