This story is by Sally Carroll and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“You are certainly a difficult person to track down. Thank God for technology. How did you end up in Pennsylvania? I suppose this letter comes to you as quite a shock. I believe the last time we spoke was at the Olive Garden after our mother’s funeral…eleven years ago. I know you are wondering why I am writing you now. You are thinking, ‘He must want something.’ I could feign being offended, but the truth is there is something I need. Before I get to that a little about what’s been going on with me: I was angry that day at the restaurant. As always, you were the center of attention. Everyone flocked around poor, frail Constance, crying in her spaghetti. So shocking how her mother had died. I, of course, spent most of the time outside smoking. Everyone was more comfortable that way. Aunt Helen was the only one who bothered to check on me. She brought me a token breadstick and said that I should come in and join everyone. I tried. But as soon as grandma saw me, she frowned, totally disgusted. Our cousins glared at me, and the rest of the table just looked away. So I left. Will you meet with me? I’ll explain the rest later. We can do lunch? I am staying at the Tranquil Travels Motel in Shadowbank. It’s important, Constance, or I wouldn’t ask. Will noon on Friday work? I found this place, The Golden Spoon. It’s between where you live, and I’m staying. I hope you will join me. I look forward to seeing you again. With love, Conrad.”
Constances’ hands shook as she read. Conrad. Her twin brother. They had once been very close. He was the epitome of the over protective brother. Growing up on the barrier island of Sweet Memory, South Carolina, was a dream life. It was just the three of them. Their dad died when they were babies. Mom worked as a real estate agent to support the family. Memories filled her with visions of a happier time.
Conrad had written the letter in his usual chicken scratch. A man of little patience, he regularly found himself in hot water. But he was a smooth talker. Constance was smart and beautiful and everyone wanted to be around her. It was hard to believe that they were twins, him tall with dark hair and deeply tanned skin, while Constance was tiny and blond. The only indicator of a relationship was their bright, clear blue eyes. Hers were amazingly innocent, while his were startlingly intense. She went over to the computer and looked up both the Tranquil Travels Motel and The Golden Spoon. The motel looked like a dump.
“Great, if that’s where he is staying, he probably wants money,” she thought. “I wonder what he has been doing? Probably drinking” she thought. “Although, you’d think he’d have learned that lesson.” She closed her eyes and went back to the memory of that night. They had been celebrating Conrads’ new job as a concierge for Sandbanks-by-the Sea, the barrier island’s most posh resort. His buddy Eric knew the manager and had put in a good word for him. It was a dream job in a beautiful tropical location, great pay along with generous tips, and he was rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Conrad never was lacking in the charm department. The job was perfect for him.
Conrad wanted to take his mom and sister out to dinner. He hadn’t even received his first paycheck. Yet he was already spending it, in typical Conrad style. He made reservations at The Saltie Lady, a restaurant located on the barrier island of Captains Cay, which was about a forty-five-minute drive. The Saltie Ladie had earned two Michelin stars, and its Executive Chef, Belmiro Santos, had won the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award. The champagne flowed, and the food was excellent. They completed their meal with molten chocolate lava cake and brandies.
“Everyone was so wasted,” Constance remembered sadly. Conrad had slipped into the driver’s seat. The warm sea breeze was calming. The top was down on the Supra, and they settled in for the ride home.
Conrad kept crossing the centerline, and would then jerk the car back. He narrowly missed a family biking along the beach highway.
“Conrad! You are swerving all over the place. You’d better let me drive.” She had insisted.
“I’m fine. Relax! If it makes you feel better, I’ll stop for coffee.” He pulled into a gas station with a mini-market.
“Fine, I gotta pee” Constance said.
“Me too,” mom added from the back. They headed inside to the restroom. When they came out, Conrad was flirting with the tattooed cashier who was telling him the stories of her tattoos.
“This one,” she giggled pointing to her inner thigh, “is a strawberry milkshake.”
“Does it bring all the boys to the yard?” Conrad asked unsteadily.
“Only the ones I want there,” she teased.
“Conrad…time to go” Constance was getting irritated.
“Another time,” Conrad slurred and blew the girl a kiss.
Mom fell asleep on the way home while George Strait sang about his exes. No one saw the grey fox until it was too late. They swerved through the guardrail right into crashing waves. The water was rough and pulled the car out further and further. It was sinking fast because the top was down. Mom was screaming. She was trying to get out of her seatbelt. Constance kept swallowing water and getting pushed back by the strong tide.
“Conrad, help!!!” She couldn’t see him. She was so tired and couldn’t stay above the water.
She woke up on the beach with an EMT standing over her. Conrad was sitting on the beach with a blanket wrapped around him. The police were there, along with a boat that was shining a light into the water.
Constance, sobbing, asked the EMT, “Where is my mother? She was in the car, and I couldn’t get to her. Please find her,” she screamed hysterically.
Of course, when they finally did find her, it was too late.
Close family members attended the funeral. Arrangements were made at the Olive Garden for a luncheon afterward.
Friday arrived. Constance reluctantly drove to meet her twin brother. She had put that part of her life behind her.
A month after the funeral, Constance printed out a United States map and purchased a dart. She had to get away from the beach. With eyes closed, she threw the dart which landed on Lilac Haven, PA. Gathering the money from moms’ insurance policy, she headed north. Conrad had completely vanished so she took his portion.
Lilac Haven proved to be a good move. It was the perfect place to start over. She found an apartment above a quaint gift shop. The woman who owned it needed help, so Constance took the job and settled in nicely.
Everything was fine until the letter arrived in the mail. She pulled into the parking lot of The Golden Spoon. It was at that moment she realized that she despised her brother. He had killed their mother. He took off and never even bothered to look for her. She took a deep breath, her heart pounding, and headed into the restaurant. It didn’t take long to spot him. His dark hair had some gray, but otherwise, he looked the same. He saw her at about the same time and stood up. After an awkward hug, she asked,
“So, what do you want?”
“You have always been one to get right to the point.” he glared at her. He sat down.
“I have a life. I haven’t heard from you in years. You never bothered to check on me. Why now? Let me guess. You need money.”
“You took my portion. But I don’t even care. I tried to find you, but no one wanted anything to do with me. All they could see was the drunk who killed our mother.”
She was furious. “Well, what did you expect? Our mother died because of you. And you didn’t even care. You just left.”
Conrad stood up, his face beet red in anger. “Are you really that stupid? You seriously want me to believe that you don’t remember? It was YOU who was driving when we left the mini-mart, not me. You were so trashed. I hoped you were in better shape than me. This all happened because of YOU! It was YOU who drove the car into the water. I protected you like I always did. Everyone turned on me. Is it starting to come back to you now you stupid bitch? Do you have any idea the hell I’ve lived for the past eleven years? Have a lovely rest of your life, Constance. I hope you rot in hell!”
Everyone was staring at Constance who was frozen in shock watching Conrad leave the restaurant a totally freed man.