“Oh, it was definitely love at first sight, he just hadn’t seen me yet.”
I took an enthusiastic swig of water from the Styrofoam cup that had been placed in front of me, and winced as a cluster of ice cubes clobbered my nose. I carefully returned the cup to the desk and patted at my face with my sleeve, playing it off as if the whole maneuver had gone according to plan. Regardless of my wet shirt, I had certainly built the suspense to an excruciating level. “Anyway, I already told the cops all about James.”
“I know, Gracie, but it will help in making my evaluation if I hear the story directly from you.” The geek in the pressed shirt tapped the notebook in his lap with an expensive-looking silver pen. It wasn’t your average Bic, that’s for sure.
This so-called doctor may think he’s hot shit with his dumb little pen, but he’s no James, I thought. I closed my eyes and was running hand in hand with my one true love on a never-ending white sand beach. I could taste the salty air as his blue (or were they green?) eyes gazed longingly into mine. We fell and rolled in the sand, laughing as our bodies locked in a magical embrace–
“Why do you refer to Mr. Edwards as James?” Dr. Glasses said.
The sea smell evaporated and I was back in the drab office, facing the inquisitive nerd with the fancy pen. I mustered up my most sinister glare for cutting short my reverie, but he didn’t flinch. I slumped in my swivel chair and sighed. Glasses might understand writing utensils, but he didn’t know jack shit about true love.
“You keep saying James,” he repeated as he scribbled in his notebook. “Mr. Edwards’ first name is Mark.”
Say what now?
“Well, um, he always comes into the store to buy Jameson whiskey,” I said. Mark? Really? I bit down on my lower lip to stifle a smile, as I didn’t want Glasses to think my glee was for him. I always knew James was a real man of mystery, but this was almost too good to be true. An alias? I’d never been so turned on in my life! Now, back to that beach–
“The store?” Glasses said.
Damn this guy!
“You mean your former employer, Super Thrift Discount Market?” he said.
“Former? Did I get fired from the STD Mart? Why?” I began to panic.
How would I pay my rent? The cell I’d been staying was nice and all, but not nearly as cozy as my studio apartment, which was warmly decorated with my extensive collection of Beanie Babies. I even had a first-edition Princess Diana Bear, which had become slightly less valuable since suffering minor fire damage during a freak incense lighting incident, but the half of its face that was intact was still squeezably soft.
“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you, Gracie,” Glasses said in his stupid monotone voice. “I just assumed you wouldn’t choose to return to work there.”
“Well you know what they say when you assume, right? It makes you a complete dick.”
Who the hell did this shrinky dink think he was, anyway? The fancy degree hanging on his wall didn’t give him the right to throw assumptions around all willy-nilly. If anything I’d probably get a promotion at the STD Mart. Perhaps even Employee of the Month.
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” Glasses said. Despite his insistent meddling into my love life, I was finding the lack of inflection in his voice sort of soothing. I feigned a snore, so he’d see how relaxed I was.
He raised his well-manicured eyebrows; said nothing.
“It’s okay.” I glared at him so he was aware that accepting his apology was a one-time deal. “I just don’t understand why I have to go over this crap again. I’m a busy woman. I have a wedding to plan, after all.” There’s nothing wrong with thinking ahead. I had the invitations designed; this startling name revelation would set me back at least a week. “Not to mention merchandise to protect at STD Mart.”
“The district attorney requested that I speak with you, Gracie. You can consider me your friend. I know you’ve already given a statement to the police, but I’d like to hear what happened directly from you.”
“The police recorded me. Can’t you just watch their movie? You aren’t the sharpest syringe in the river, are ya Doctor Glasses?”
“That’s Doctor Seymour.”
“Listen, Gracie; if I’m going to help you, I’ll have to ask you a few questions. Is that okay?”
His eyes were wide and almost friendly behind his thin, black frames. I decided talking to an uptight, meddlesome dweeb was better than sitting alone on the cot in my cell, so I’d humor him. For a little while, anyway.
“Okay,” I mumbled, being careful to not sound too agreeable. I didn’t want Dr. Seymour thinking we were BFF’s or anything. Although maybe he could be an usher at the wedding…
“Let’s talk about that night. How did you know that Mark and Rachel would be at the restaurant that evening?”
I scowled at the sound of her name.
“Mark was in the store that afternoon. He always comes in on Fridays. I was watching him on the security monitor, pretending that the liquor aisle was actually, you know, the aisle. Anyway, he was talking on his phone. It was so cute the way he tilted his head to hold the phone against his shoulder while he held his shopping basket over one arm and reached for his whiskey with the other. I actually had the Jameson lowered a shelf a while back…you know, just for him.”
While by far the most wonderful and handsome man in the world, Mark wasn’t very tall. Five foot five, tops. I was perfectly okay with wearing flats for the rest of our lives together, as I had been five ten and a half since sixth grade.
Dr. Seymour was jotting something in his notebook.
“Anyway,” I said, “Some teenager snagged a bottle of gin and stuffed it in his pants, so I had to go down to the floor to tail him. Um, that’s just jargon for when we follow potential shoplifters until security can grab them when they try to leave the store.”
Dr. Seymour nodded, obviously pleased that I dumbed it down for him. He was just a psychiatrist, after all. I couldn’t expect him to understand the inner workings of department store security.
“So I staked myself out behind a stack of Coors cases. I lost track of the teenager but James—“
“Whatever. Mark was standing on the other side of the beer tower, and for the first time I heard his voice.” I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as I relived that beautiful moment. “It was a little higher pitched than I expected, but it was still nice.”
“Was he speaking to you?” Dr. Seymour said, still scribbling.
“No, he didn’t see me. He was talking on his phone. To her.”
“No, the Virgin Mary. She was browsing the STD Mart’s vast wine selection.”
Dr. Seymour glared at me. Obviously they didn’t teach sarcasm in shrink school.
“Yes, to Rachel. He asked if she would meet him for dinner at the Olive Garden at five o’clock. He sounded…. tense. I was worried about him. But also glad he chose to beat the dinner rush. I love practicality in a man.”
“So you decided to go to the restaurant too.”
“No shit, Sherlock.” I threw my feet up on Dr. Seymour’s desk, knocking my water to the floor. Obviously he needed to be reminded who was in charge here. “But first there was a little incident.”
“Oh, now you want me to tell the story?”
“I won’t interrupt again, I apologize,” Dr. Seymour said.
“Good.” I raised my chin and paused for a moment before continuing, allowing Dr. Seymour to admire my strength of character. “Alright, so, I was crouched there behind the cases of beer when Mark glanced in my direction and mumbled ‘I love you.’ It was just as I’d dreamt it! I tried to leap into my true love’s arms but the tower of beer got in the way and sort of toppled over. I ran into the aisle to save my man from the ale-valanche…” I paused to let Dr. Seymour get my hilarious joke, but he kept to his promise of being quiet. I was sure he’d have a good chuckle about it later, anyway. “…but luckily he had already stepped out of harm’s way. A couple of bottles broke and I slipped in beer and fell, right on my ass.” I lifted and slapped my derriere for effect.
“But our eyes met for the first time, and I whispered that I loved him too. I hadn’t imagined sitting in a pool of beer when I finally said it, but if The Bachelor has taught us anything it’s that romance is unpredictable.
“Anyway, Mark was so overcome with emotion that he dropped his whiskey and ran from the store. True love can really incite panic, you know.”
The furious scratching sound of Dr. Seymour’s pen was a little distracting, but I managed to carry on. I’ve always been an efficient multi-tasker; just ask anyone at the STD Mart.
“And that’s when I saw it. The case of Budweiser in the middle of the Coors.” I paused to let the profundity of my revelation set in. “I saved some careless stockperson’s ass with my discovery. And that’s why I’m a shoo-in for Employee of the Month.”
“But he wasn’t talking to you, was he?” Dr. Seymour said, pretending that my tale of heroics didn’t impress him.
“Huh? Oh, the whole ‘I love you’ thing. No, he was still on the phone. But if you saw his face when he saw me—“
“So what happened at the restaurant, Gracie?”
“If you’d just shut up for a minute, I’ll tell you.”
Dr. Seymour sighed and motioned for me to continue.
“So, I was sent home early from the STD Mart because I was drenched in beer, which was good because I had to change into something fancier for a classy place like The Olive Garden.
“I got to the restaurant early and sat at the bar. I had a martini-“
“The police report noted no alcohol in your system,” Dr. Seymour said.
“Well, it was actually lemonade in a martini glass. Alcohol makes me act all crazy.”
I thought I saw Dr. Seymour’s eye twitch, but he once again motioned for me to continue.
“Anyway, I was on my second mar–, lemonade, when Mark and Rachel walked in. She… was… hideous. Seriously, who wears khaki capris with flip flops? They walked past the bar on the way to their seats, and when Mark saw me I could tell he was trying not to lose his mind with joy.”
“Did he speak to you?”
“No. He didn’t have to. He gasped a little, but played it off like he was just choking. Probably to save her dumb feelings. Rejection can really hurt, so I’ve heard.
“They were seated at a table just out of earshot, but Mark kept sneaking glances at me. I was going to make my move, but those darn lemontinis caught up with me. I was afraid I was going to pee my pants, and I was wearing my best leggings. They have little unicorns on them; they’re jumping over rainbows.”
My one man audience sighed and rested his head on his fist… a sign of being truly captivated.
“So I went to the ladies’ room. As I was in the stall doing my business, I heard someone walk in. It was her.”
“How did you know it was Rachel?”
“Um, she was wearing flip flops. On the fancy tile of the Olive Garden bathroom the thwit-thwat, thwit-thwat of those things was freaking obnoxious. How can anyone stand such a horrid sound?” I shuddered. “She was on her phone, telling whoever that she thought he was going to ask her some question. She sounded all giddy. I knew I had to do something, and fast.
“I lunged from the stall like a cheetah. She squealed and dropped her phone when she saw me in the mirror, flying at her. In my haste I had forgotten to pull up my pants, and as she turned toward me my leggings got caught on my boots and I started to trip. I dug my claws into her puny shoulders and pushed her underneath me.”
I leaned back in the office chair and took a deep breath through my nose; my muscles loosened, and I was weightless. I could feel Rachel’s frail body in free fall underneath me. My lips curled upward and Glasses and his office were gone. It was just me, Rachel, and the Olive Garden restroom.
“She squealed as the side of her head smacked against the marble countertop. I heard the wind rush out of her as I landed on her chest; her head bounced off the floor. I came down on top of her and immediately jumped back to my feet to pull up my pants. She didn’t budge.
“I stood there for a minute, taking in the beauty of the moment. Her eyelids were open just enough to see a little white beneath them. Her mouth hung open. There was a streak of blood on the countertop and an expanding dark red halo on the floor beneath her. The blood coagulated into still streams within the crevices between the floor tiles.
“She moaned as she started to come around. She tried to raise her arm to her head. I stepped on her arm with one boot and brought the other down as hard as I could upon her neck. It sounded like snapping twigs and her eyes bulged, but she didn’t struggle after that beautiful first blow. When I lifted my foot a melodic gurgling came from her throat.
“I stomped on her neck again. Then again. And again, harder. I jumped up and down on her stomach a few times and her body lurched with each strike. Blood oozed from her vacant eye sockets.
“I reached down and grabbed a fistful of her matted hair. I dropped to my knees and pounded her face against the tile floor. There was a crunch as blood exploded from her nose. Blood was everywhere, covering every inch of the bathroom, and I ran my hands through it and smeared it all over my face and hair, enjoying every beautiful drop.”
I took a few deep breaths and smiled, my eyes closed, remembering. Then I heard a wet cough and slowly lifted my eyelids and Dr. Seymour’s office returned. I glanced at him. He looked a little pale; I wondered what he had eaten for lunch.
He cleared his throat, shielding his white face in the arm of his sweater.
“Continue,” he said, weakly.
“Where was I?”
“You were standing over Rachel’s, um, remains.” Another juicy cough. He should really get that checked out. “Please Gracie, continue.”
“Okay, so I was trying to catch my breath, and that’s when I heard someone bellyaching. Not the typical bellyaching noises one makes in a bathroom, mind you, but a whimpering from the handicapped stall. The woman in there sounded hysterical. She must have been on the phone. I heard her whispering something about an attack at the restaurant.
“I panicked. I had to get to James—Mark, I mean. I ran out of the bathroom. I slipped on my way out and fell in a pool of that bitch’s blood. Second time that day I fell on my ass!” I giggled. “I can be so klutzy sometimes!
“I peeled my wet pants off and threw them on top of Rachel’s face. What was left of it, anyway. I ran to greet my one true love.
“Even though I had gotten rid of the pants, I guess I was still pretty messy. I probably didn’t really look my best when I got to Mark’s table with all that blood on my face and caked in my hair, but I knew he wouldn’t mind. I jumped into his lap and threw my arms around his neck. He just stared at me, obviously dumbfounded by my beauty. I tried to whisper into his ear that our love was finally free, but a bunch of disgruntled diners grabbed me and pinned me to the ground. I didn’t try to stop them; after all, I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
“Lying on the floor, I could hear a lot of commotion in the restaurant. I couldn’t see what was going on but there was certainly some sort of melee. Anyway, after licking some breadstick crumbs off the floor the cops came and arrested me. Have you had the Olive Garden’s breadsticks? Oh my God, they’re to die for.”
I locked eyes with my audience. I hoped I hadn’t sounded silly as I recalled my magical night. After all, even twenty two year olds can get a little flighty when it comes to love.
“Um… Gracie, do you think what you did was wrong?” Dr. Seymour said.
“Yes. I should have left my pants on. Trotting around in my underoos probably did no good for the state of sexual deviance in this country.”
“I mean, killing someone. Rachel is dead. Do you see the harm in that?”
“Love is a battlefield,” I sang, perfectly on-key.
Dr. Seymour stared over his glasses. My singing must have impressed him; he seemed agitated when I stopped.
“I think that’s enough for today.” He tossed his pretentious-looking pen onto his desk and walked me to the door. Our visit was over.
In the hallway I was greeted by the two kind officers who had escorted me from the county jail. They weren’t great conversationalists, but I appreciated the protection. The world can be a dangerous place, you know. Lots of crazies out there.
A few hours later I was rudely awakened from my afternoon nap by a guard tapping on my cell door. It was Alex the Androgynous; the burly afternoon guard whose gender I hadn’t yet figured out.
“Hey Rotini, you’ve got a visitor.” I’m not sure if the nickname was a reference to my curly hair or the wide selection of pasta available at the Olive Garden, but it had caught on quickly among all of the guards. I didn’t mind; it beat the hell out of my high school moniker: Bunsen Beaver. Burn your pubic hair one time in a chemistry lab experiment gone wrong and no one will let you forget it. Kids can be so cruel.
I followed Alex’s asexual gait to the visiting room, rubbing my eyes groggily.
“You’ve got fifteen minutes,” the guard grunted.
Sitting in one of the plastics chairs bolted to the grimy floor, wringing his hands nervously, was Mark.
He stood up and smiled awkwardly.
Was I dreaming?
“Mark, you’re here—“
“Please,” he said as he took my hand and helped me to my seat. His soft hand caressed my arm as he returned to his seat across the table, never pulling his eyes away from mine. “I’ve always gone by my middle name. Call me James.”
Kimmy Dee is the author of several popular articles at Cracked.com, and has been a regular contributor to Horror Homework. Her previous fiction has appeared in the anthology CRAPPY SHORTS: DEUCES WILD. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI, surrounded by cats.