This story is by Bob Nimmo and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“Slow down!” Mary screamed. Rick smiled as he glanced over at her and then stepped down on the accelerator even harder. The road was smooth and she could see turns coming up ahead and her heart began to beat faster.
Rick had a crazed look on his face as he gripped the steering wheel, now with both hands. A new car. A Candy Apple Corvette! It ran like a top, never hesitating, just wanting more speed. Mary didn’t mind the delicious feelings of velocity and gravity but the look on Rick’s face made her uneasy. He sped up.
Mary started to feel sick. She felt like she was going to faint or vomit or both. She clutched her purse into her stomach and told herself to breathe. This was supposed to be fun. She should be enjoying this. A nice leisurely drive to the beach. She had made ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch and had picked fresh apples for dessert. She closed her eyes and took three deep breaths.
He really is a sweet guy. He just likes speed. That look in his eyes is just because he’s excited. It’s not because he’s mean … I don’t think so.
“Isn’t this fun?” Rick yelled. Mary couldn’t even respond.
We’re almost there. We’re almost there.
Finally, Rick slowed down and turned right off the highway and into the beach entrance. Mary breathed deeply, the smell of fresh foliage wafted through the air dissipating the urban smog.
They had only been dating over the summer. They met in the spring on the boardwalk at Winnipeg Beach. Mary had gone with her girlfriends, but had taken a moment to stand out on the pier, alone watching the boats and smelling the air.
He was tall with neatly cut auburn hair. He smiled, showing brilliantly white and perfect teeth. He had pilot sunglasses on, the kind that reflected back at you so she couldn’t tell what color his eyes were.
Oh God, he’s rich. He’ll never have anything to do with me. Why is he staring at me?
So, they met that day. After that they had become inseparable. The summer sped by faster than a bolt of lightening. A whirlwind of pleasure and laughter, Mary had fallen in love for the first time in her life. Being in her early thirties, she had almost resigned herself to the black and grey life of spinsterhood.
Catching up with the present moment, Mary couldn’t help but notice that something seemed different about Rick today. They walked along the water westward looking for a place to plant their picnic.
“Rick, is everything okay? You seem distant, quiet.”
Rick chuckled, a fake and forced chuckle. “Well, yes, I suppose that after our little picnic there is something that I would like to tell you. More accurately, something that I would like to show you.”
Something is definitely wrong.
Mary wrapped her shawl a little tighter around her and watched Rick straighten the blanket out onto the fine white sand. The sound of geese flying south seemed very loud. In late November, it always depressed her as it signaled the approaching winter. This year, times were particularly tight. No harvest. But, she tried not to show it.
Rick smiled magnificently at her. His blue eyes twinkled and the navy cardigan that he wore made them even more pronounced. How could she not smile back?
I can barely breathe. Why am I smiling back?
They ate in silence. Mary gathered up the napkins and put them in the picnic basket. The sky had turned from blue to warm oranges and reds mixed with pink as the sun gently slid into the water.
What is going on? Why is he acting so strange? Do not let him bring me down. Always rise.
Still, more silence. Rick reached into his cardigan pocket and pulled out two peppermints and a little brown bag. “Eat this first,” he commanded, placing a peppermint into her hand. Mary cocked her head, uncertain, but obeyed him.
“Now, here is what I want to show you.” He took the small brown paper bag into his lap. He looked over at her, smiling, passing the bag to Mary. “Here, a present.”
Mary’s hands shook slightly as she took the tiny bag and began to open it. It felt very light. A wicked smell drifted from the bag. Mary gagged and she vomited into the sand. She dropped the bag and struggled to grab her shoes and get up. She clawed at the sand looking for her second shoe, but then felt Rick grasp the back of her dress, then her waist, then her shoulders and he threw her down.
Tears rolled down Mary’s cheeks, “Who? Wha … what have you done?” Rick shook her and reached over for the little brown bag again, reaching inside. “Do you recognize this?” He pulled out a tiny finger. It looked like a woman’s pinky finger. Mary’s jaw fell open as Rick twisted the grotesque finger between his own.
“No-No Rick. No, I don’t.” Rick held the finger up into the air. Blood had dried around where it had been severed.
“It’s Cora’s! Mary, I should think that you would recognize your best friends finger.” He shook his head and admonished her, “You should be ashamed. You’ve been a very bad girl.”
Has he gone mad? I’m going to faint. I thought I could handle anything! This isn’t happening. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
Mary struggled to get to her feet but Rick grabbed her before she even had the chance. Gripping her wrist tightly, he reached behind him and pulled out a jar of honey, grinning as he twisted open the top. “Now, I will swirl the finger into the jar and you will suck the honey off. It’s good for you. Cora would be happy that you did this.”
What is happening? What is he saying? I think I’m going to pass out. Oh God, how can I do this. This is not me. This is not me.
He held the finger to her mouth, his eyes once sparkling blue, now dark and beady and certain.
Everything spun. The geese flying south seemed to thunder above her. She closed her eyes and tried to squeeze the reality out of the moment. Mary opened her mouth and let Rick slowly put the finger into her mouth. Tears streamed down her face.
Rick continued, “You see Mary, Cora and I have been lovers for quite some time. Now she’s having my baby. She has money. You have none. I have no choice.”
Cora? Cora? All those times she said that you two were just having coffee? Just coffee? Where is Cora now? How and why did you sever her finger? I can’t breathe. Keep licking finger. Keep sucking finger.
“There, there. You’re almost done Mary. Good girl.”
Rick took the finger out of her mouth and put it back into the paper bag. “Well, shall we be off, now?”
Pale as a ghost, Mary weaved as she stood to stand.
Stand up! Stand up!
“I need to sit down, Rick. I just need to think.” Mary felt numb.
Rick took a handkerchief out of his pant pocket and looked solemnly at Mary as she sat staring at the water. He pressed his fingers into the handkerchief, feeling the new razor blade hidden inside its folds. He planned to slice her neck, one quick cut across her jugular and he would be a free man. He turned from Mary to the lake, mesmerized by the waves slowly and rhythmically rolling in, as if they were breathing.
Mary cut a quick glance towards Rick. Stealthily, she reached into the picnic basket for the apple-paring knife. With one swift movement Mary had the knife in her hand and thrust it deep into his stomach before he could move. Blood began to spew and Rick tried desperately to pull the knife out but Mary had plunged it in as far as it could go. He fell down on his back, hopelessly trying to stop the blood flow.
I didn’t think it would be this easy. I suppose it can get to you, people thinking that you’re less because you don’t have money. I have come to realize that people treat you as you let them.
Rick was helpless as Mary leaned over and slid the car keys out of his right front pant pocket. She stood and walked slowly back to the car, through the soft white sand dunes, embracing the sweet earthy air and listening to the choir of frogs in the swamp to her left.
Comfortably sitting in the car she revved the engine, revved it once more, and put it into gear. She knew exactly whose cabin she was going to, anticipating the look of surprise on Cora’s face.
Like a phoenix, I will rise.