The Soul of the Witch
Coming July 22, 2014
The summer night was black and the inky trees loomed up on all sides. The only light came from the pale moon shinning down, like the judgmental eye of God watching their every move.
Through the woods and to the shore, the Ohio River lapped at the bank in a steady rhythm. She could hear the sound of it steady and low, almost like the beating of her heart.
She struggled to listen for other sounds...Voices of the crewmen aboard passing barges, possible footsteps coming up the path, anything that might prove that someone knew what they were doing.
Devan knew no one could see them from the river, even if they did look to the bank where tangled and twisted trees stood and where the remains of Rose Island Amusement Park lay hidden. They were safe, or at least safe enough, for now.
With each passing hour, the morning pressed against the night and Devan’s hands blistered and broke on the rough wooden handle of the shovel. She knew this night would live on in her nightmares for years to come, the wet burning of her palms, the scraping sound of the shovel digging into the dirt, and the two dead bodies lying in the darkness.
Devan stopped for a moment and held her aching side, each breath stinging her throat and chest. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her gritty, grimy hand and looked over at her best friend.
Janesa glanced up at the same time. She paused for only a moment and then stabbed her shovel back into the damp earth, her pale hair falling over her tanned face in damp strings. They didn’t speak. There wasn’t any need...Not until the bodies were buried.
Not until the bodies are buried...
She shivered and tried not to think about the two corpses waiting in the darkness to go down into the grave they were digging. She couldn’t think about it. If she allowed herself to think about it, even for just a minute, she wouldn’t be able to go through with any of this and then what would they do?
Devan took up her shovel again and forced it down into the soil, biting her lip as the stinging heat hit her hands again and again.
Hours later, they climbed out of the open grave. Devan turned and looked down at the hole with the broken tree roots poking out from the sides like serpentine teeth and tried to convince herself that this was real.
We are going to put two people down there...
The night took on an even more unreal quality as they walked through the dark trees, tripping over exposed roots, back to where the bodies waited. Devan couldn’t bring herself to look down at their motionless faces or their dead grey eyes looking off into nothing. She reached down and took hold of the woman’s ankles, cringing at the feel of the cold skin, and began dragging her back down the path. She didn’t look back, but she could hear the heavy rustling of leaves as Janesa pulled the other body along behind her.
Devan tried not to think of these cold, dead things as people. She didn’t want to think about the bones and tendons just under her fingertips. She tried not to hear the moist thud as the woman’s head bounced over a root or the flopping sound as her arms and hands followed.
Finally, the open hole loomed in the distance, waiting to swallow these secrets whole. Devan dragged the body of the woman up to the grave, knelt down beside the hole, and shoved the body in. There was a snapping sound as it fell against the sides of the hole and then a fleshy thud when it landed at the bottom.
She staggered to her feet and covered her ears as Janesa did the same with the other body, but even with her ears covered, she heard the clap of the dead flesh hitting the other corpse. She ground her teeth together to keep from screaming.
Just breathe...Just keep breathing...
At last, she lowered her shaking hands. The only sound then was the scraping of Janesa’s shovel in the loose dirt and the soft patter as the dirt was dropped into the hole. Devan took up her shovel again, and without looking down into the grave, began shoveling the dirt back in. She was ashamed when she felt the damp tears on her cheeks, but when she looked over to Janesa; she saw that she was crying too.
It was the smack of his head against his car window that jolted him awake. Nick Cayne rubbed his hands over his face and shifted in the driver’s seat. He looked down at his watch; it was just going on ten. He couldn’t fall asleep. Only one of the girls was inside and he had a job to do.
The parking lot was dark and he was in the far corner, safe from drawing attention or being noticed. The streetlamp across the street had burned out almost a month ago and the city of New Albany had yet to replace the bulb. The bar was the only business for blocks that was still open at that hour, so he was secure in his obscurity.
He rubbed his eyes again and looked across the parking lot and through the large front window of the bar. He saw Janesa, all by herself, looking lonely and lost. It sent a strange mix of attraction and fear through him.
Remember they are evil...
Nick looked to his right where one open file sat atop the stack of yellow envelopes holding more files. Each of the files held letters and reports dating back over four hundred years. It was those files, the four centuries of research, which warned him to be careful.
Clipped to the open folder on top was a black and white photo of the two girls. It was an enlargement of a photo booth picture they accidentally left on a table at the same bar a few weeks ago. Their beautiful, smiling faces stared back at him, one blond, the other brunette, both promising so much in their eyes.
He flipped past that photo, his recent notes, newspaper clippings, and photocopies of school records to the senior portraits of the pair. They were the first photographs he had seen of them after reading and studying the other files.
“They don’t look evil,” he had even said when he saw the photographs for the first time.
“Don’t be deceived,” the elderly librarian warned as his watery eyes scanned Nick. “Better men than you have died by underestimating them.”
At the time, he was new to all of it. His history professor at Yale mentioned the position, explaining little other than a need for total secrecy, and a week later, he was transcribing the old files and organizing incoming information.
Nick said nothing else to the librarian. Who was he to argue? He just looked back down at the two pictures and tried to reconcile everything that he had read and knew with those two hopeful faces smiling back at him. How could evil hide in such innocence?
Janesa. She assumed the mandatory and predictable senior portrait pose, leaning against the trunk of a tree. It was obviously a real tree and the picture was definitely taken outdoors because the sunlight turned her blond hair almost platinum. Even in the photograph, her height was apparent, it was something about her stance, as if still trying to get accustomed to her final growth spurt. Perhaps in New York or Los Angeles she would have been a model, but in Small Town Indiana USA, she was just another awkward kid.
Then there was the other one. Devan. She too posed next to a tree, possibly even the same one, her darker hair almost blending in with the brown bark. She leaned back against it, head tilted and arms crossed. Nothing about them was the same, not their hair, not their height, but yet...
There was that something...
What drew his attention the most was their eyes...Janesa’s were seawater green and Devan’s almost amber, totally different, but so alike, just like their smiles, wry-like and almost mirror images of each other. They were a strange mix of youth and age, as if already jaded by what life had offered them.
He lay awake at night, going over the facts and trying to convince himself that the girls in the photographs were some of the same women that dominated the files. It just didn’t seem possible, but yet all of the evidence was there.
Day after day, he read the copied letters and private investigator reports. He thumbed through sketches, and then the thick sepia toned photographs, then black and white portraits, only to come again to those two smiling photos. He didn’t understand what it all meant.
It all had to be some sort of coincidence...But if it wasn’t...How?
It was over a year later when Nick Cayne was at last given the approval to travel to Indiana and monitor them for himself. He came to the small town of New Albany in the late spring, the two-week limbo in the Midwest between the crisp warmth of May and the miserable heat of June. The town had the feeling of suspension, as if it was from the wrong time and was somehow the wrong place. He wandered the streets at first, just trying to get a feel for it and understand it.
New Albany sat at the Southern tip of Indiana, just across the river from Louisville Kentucky. Although geographically a northern state, it had the feeling of a small Southern town full of conservative politics and resistant to change of any sort. He saw it everywhere he looked, big businesses turned away to protect “Mom and Pop” stores while those same stores were closing down because Mom and Pop’s kids didn’t want to take over the business and live small town life.
Its impracticality didn’t take away from its beauty. The downtown sidewalks were lined with flowering pear trees, littering the pavement with white blooms with every spring breeze. He loved to walk the street along “mansion row”, stare up at the old homes, and try to imagine the lives of the people that once lived there. The area was filled with history, constantly pushing back against the present day and demanding to be heard. It was if the entire town and all of its residents were stuck, too tied to the past to move on, but too far removed from it to stay the same.
It was strange to him that these two intriguing girls could come from such a place. It was all so ordinary and they were so unordinary. It wasn’t something he could put his finger on exactly, but it was obvious. He had only been in New Albany for about a week when he realized just how obvious it was to everyone, not just him.
He was in the grocery, buying a few necessities to get him by, when he recognized one of the teachers from the New Albany High School yearbook that was part of the more recent files. It was Mr. Waterston, the English teacher from Devan and Janesa’s senior year.
Nick immediately went over and struck up a conversation, passing himself off as one of the old man’s former students. The teacher was retired by then and was only too eager to reminisce. He did not seem to notice that he was the one doing most of the talking.
At last Nick interrupted, “You know who I remember best of all? Jessica Shaw and Devan Montgomery. I had such a crush on the two of them.”
The old man paled, “Yeah, I remember those two.”
Mr. Waterston shook his head, “Ah, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“I guess none of it matters now,” the old man said with a shrug, “But there was something strange about those girls.”
“What do you mean?”
Mr. Waterston leaned closer and dropped his voice to a whisper, “I didn’t imagine it and I’m not making this up, but other teachers told me not to sit them next to each other or the clocks might stop working or the lights may flicker. I thought it was all nonsense until I gave that quiz.”
“A quiz?” Nick was more interested in what the other teachers said about the clocks and lights, but perhaps the old man was going to share something equally impressive.
“It was a pop quiz.” He said, “My way of seeing who did their homework and who didn’t. Anyway, there they were, on opposite sides of the room, and when they handed in their quizzes, they were the same.”
Nick shrugged, “What’s odd about that?”
“You’re not listening to me. The quizzes were exactly the same. The answers were worded exactly the same way.” Mr. Waterston shook his head, “That doesn’t happen. There was something weird about them and all the teachers knew it.”
“That doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.”
“Maybe not to you,” the old man said. “But see I knew all about them, and I knew what it meant.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I taught their parents too and they were normal enough,” he said with a far off look. “Just the usual high school rebellion, but I went to school with all of their grandparents.”
Nick felt the top of his head tingle as a chill came over him. “And what were their grandparents like?”
“They were always talking about how they came from fortune tellers.” The old man said with a smile, “We all just thought it was something children say, you know how it is, pretending and such, but then I had Devan and Janesa as students and I have to wonder if some of it was true.”
That night, alone in his hotel room, Nick wondered if Janesa and Devan had ever known what their teachers said to each other about them. Did they know they were all afraid of them? Did they know any of it?
Nick had asked that very question when he was first brought in to help the old man librarian with cataloging all the research. As he read the letters and notes, he began to wonder about these two girls. How much did they know?
The old librarian had smiled, “I thought the same thing when I began reading about all of this. I thought that perhaps everything that was in front of me, all the years of research, was wrong.”
“I know better.”
Nick didn’t ask what changed the old man’s mind. He just went back to reading. It was just a few days later that more pictures of the two arrived and he was in charge of cataloging them and adding the photos to the file. Looking down at the images, he shook his head and sighed.
I just don’t see it...
He looked down at those same images now and then back through the window to Janesa sitting all alone inside the bar.
I just don’t see it...
He knew he should just get out of the car and go in. He should go inside and talk to her, perhaps witness for himself what these girls say and do. What was he so afraid of?
Nick cussed himself. Wasn’t this the very thing he came here for?
She didn’t feel it yet, that shift from the daytime Devan Montgomery into the real and better version of herself. Right then she was just Devan, the girl of no ambition that worked long days in a fabrication warehouse, biding time until the next great something came her way...Whatever that might be.
When she was just normal daytime Devan, she didn’t have to live, she just had to be. She didn’t have to feel her life or the thousand ways it disappointed her.
It was exhausting, being that normal version of herself, the responsible version that went to work every day and put in her eight hours as if she had never longed for something more, by the end of the day she felt the weight of it down into her bones.
In the shower, washing off the dust and grime of work, she was very aware of it all in the detached sort of way her brain worked. The people she went to high school with, the faceless names in her memory, were all in college now or married, but here she was just existing and for some reason she was content with that. It didn’t matter if she was happy, she didn’t ever let herself think about it, but she just didn’t want to be like them.
She was always different from everyone else. Why change now?
Devan’s fondest memories of childhood were solitary ones, either playing alone or being in the company of others and wishing she were alone. That was her life until Devan turned thirteen and Janesa Shaw came into her life like the gentle breeze of a hurricane.
It was around that same time Devan grew tired of always being on the outside, of speaking and no one listening, of always being told how she would never fit in. She withdrew even further, sitting apart from the others even when she was invited along, and quietly writing in the journal she had begun that year. Her English teacher told her it would broaden her mind and help her find herself. Devan wasn’t aware that she was lost and didn’t know what the woman meant, but at least by writing in it she didn’t look quite as pathetic when she wasn’t included in things.
Like that day...
She sat in the floor of Daphne Clark’s room, wishing someone would go ahead and kill her, trying very hard to just be normal and failing miserably.
Daphne was the leader of a small group of girls that made a halfhearted attempt to tolerate Devan’s remote nature. She was pretending not to notice the stale stench of outdated Avon products while trying to invent an excuse to go home without alienating the few people that were civil to her. The group sitting in the center of the floor kept disturbing her thoughts with their senseless chatter.
Four girls were sitting on the pale, silvery green carpet. Their backs resting against the side of the twin bed, mindless that they were rumpling the unicorn bedspread. It was a very child-like room, seemingly not the place for the girls to be exclaiming over the pubescent male centerfolds of their fan magazines.
“Oh, I love him!” Daphne exclaimed each time the page was turned.
Devan tried to ignore her. Daphne was at best an annoying young girl who at some point in her life had been told that she was pretty out of kindness. Unfortunately, she believed it and still had not forgotten it, despite the reality that met her in the mirror each morning. Her hair was always a dark frizzy mess and her skin was too pale; not even an ivory type color, but a chalky dry white that brought to mind dried paste. To make the situation worse, she was always dressed in the taste of a blind transvestite.
“He’s just amazing!” She said as she turned the page and pointed to another photo.
The others quickly chimed in, echoing her reaction. Devan went back to her journal, making her notations of how miserable she was at that moment. Only minutes passed before squeals of laughter interrupted her thoughts again, this time the four were giggling madly at the bulge in one man’s jeans.
“Oh my God! You can see right where it is!”
Devan turned away, bored with their immaturity.
I wish I were anywhere but here right now...
“Me too,” a voice to her left answered as if Devan had actually spoken.
Looking up, Devan noticed the blond tall girl in the opposite corner. It was Janesa Shaw. They had been in the same classes since kindergarten, but that was the most that Devan had ever heard the timid girl say.
“Yeah, seriously,” Devan mumbled. “Why don’t they just shut up? Could they be anymore stupid?”
Janesa smiled, “Give it time. I’m sure they’ll outdo themselves.”
At that moment, Daphne stood with the unfolded magazine, staring intently at the crotch in the picture. “I wonder how big it can really get.”
The two girls smiled at each other from their separate corners.
“I warned you,” Janesa said with a wink.
They were inseparable after that day, the best of friends, closer than sisters. As Devan’s father said on more than one occasion during their rebellious teen years, “One will lie and the other will swear to it.”
No one else really got it. No one else understood why they did the things they did, why they craved the attention of men, but eventually they would push those same men away. Devan and Janesa knew and understood it, even if they couldn’t put it into words. They knew they were only those better versions of themselves when reflected in the eyes of others, and it was fleeting, sooner or later, it all just became ordinary.
“You’re just a cold hearted bitch,” Devan’s last boyfriend said when she broke things off after just three months. “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you. I thought things were fine between us.”
Things were fine...Normal and fine...That was the problem...
“Things were fine,” she had told him, explaining it the best she could. “I’m just not looking for a relationship.”
The reaction was always same. Anger...As if there was something wrong with her for not wanting the version of happily ever after they were offering.
She tilted her head back under the water and rinsed the last of the shampoo from her hair. Closing her eyes, she felt the tiny glimmer of her other self coming to life.
What did it matter if her ex-boyfriends didn’t understand? Wasn’t that exactly why they were ex-boyfriends?
She shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, immediately the air-conditioned air chilled her. Wrapping herself in a thick towel, she used the edge of it to wipe the steam from the mirror.
There she is...I’m starting to see her in there...
Devan smiled at her reflection and combed back her brown hair. Now she was feeling it, that other her coming to life. She felt the alertness...The actual being present.
The daytime version of herself was still there, worrying about the ordinary things of life, but that better version was taking over. That other her that didn’t mind the small little apartment her and Janesa shared or the way it always smelled like instant noodles. That was the face looking back at her from the mirror, that other her whispering for her to come and play.
She pulled on her favorite faded jeans and tee shirt, grabbed her keys off the kitchen table littered with unopened mail, and was out the door. Her car, the same one her parents bought her when she turned sixteen, started with a smoky roar.
Let’s go have some fun...
All she had to do was just sit here. That shouldn’t be hard, should it? Just sit there and enjoy her drink. That’s all she had to do.
But why is it so hard?
Janesa Shaw knew better than to come to the bar this early. She cussed her own impatience as she sipped at her drink. Why didn’t she just wait at the apartment for Devan?
Because we’re not kids anymore...I should be able to go places without Devan...
Of course, it would have been nice not to have to walk the mile and a half to the bar, but after wrecking her car a month ago...Well, that deserved a drink in itself.
She sipped her drink again, trying not to shudder as the warmth went down her throat. She liked that warmth, the way it settled in her core and then spread out, filling her. That warmth filled the hole and stopped the thoughts.
She hated the thoughts, the echoes of her own failures. Why couldn’t she be like her sisters and just settle into a normal life? Did she plan on acting like an out of control teenager her entire life? Why couldn’t she find a nice guy to settle down with? Where did her parents go wrong with her?
Those thoughts always came in the voices of her parents, usually her mother. After a drink or two, Janesa didn’t hear them anymore. After a drink or two, she could pretend to be normal.
And how is that working out for you?
Janesa took another sip of her drink and let the warmth spread out over her a little more.
Not quite there yet...
The loud party a few tables away was impossible to ignore with their shouts for more drinks. It was obviously a bachelorette party. Janesa glanced back and realized she would need a lot more to drink.
She went to school with all of them, spent years passing them in the hall every day, and now here they were. It was like one of her nightmares come to life.
Seriously? Why this bar?
The regulars, the men that came to the bar every night, didn’t know anything at all about these women. They didn’t know the years Janesa spent hating them from afar and wishing for the day she could pay them back for every stupid high school rumor they ever started about her and Devan.
She dared to glance back at the table, noticing the way it was littered with bridal magazines, and immediately she met the eye of none other than Laura Martin, the very bane of her high school existence. It seemed Laura was the bride-to-be and the noisy celebration was in her honor. Recognizing Janesa, she smirked a fake cheerleader smile and narrowed her eyes.
Janesa turned back around and took another sip of her drink, hating the girl just as much as ever. She took another burning sip and motioned the bartender for another drink.
It’s no big thing...Just be the bigger person...Go and tell her congratulations...And then what...Smash her face into the table?
The thought of it made her smile. She could almost see it, going over and making polite conversation the way people were expected to do when they ran into someone from high school. Maybe she’d act as if she wanted to give Laura a hug...And then she’d grab a handful of her bleached hair and drive her face right into the table.
Yeah...I like that idea...
All the back and forth was pointless. Janesa wasn’t going to say anything. She glanced back over her shoulder just as Laura possessively curled up in the lap of one handsome regular. Laura caressed his cheek and glared at Janesa, almost as if gloating.
Oh sweetheart...I could so have him if I wanted him...
It was a gift of sorts, her and Devan’s ability to draw male attention. It was almost an art form, cultivated over time, going back to their days of early adolescence when they were just trying to fit in.
Hours were wasted back then walking up and down the polished corridors of the mall, the only nightlife allowed to kids too young to drive. Janesa and Devan were still included in Daphne’s circle of friends back then, but they were hanging on by a mere social thread, and of course, none of the girls that were in Laura Martin’s crowd would speak to them. No, the popular kids in Laura’s group were always at parties where the parents were out of town and left the mall to the social pariahs.
Janesa remembered almost choking from the starchy new smell emitting from the individual shops and the antics of their companions. Daphne always chose her clothes in her usual appalling taste, but she also seemed to dress each of the others. They were a herd of mismatched atrocity in their pop star inspired wardrobes, looking more like Halloween trick-or-treaters than the idols they were trying to imitate.
Janesa and Devan tried to distance themselves from the loud, immature group. The two walked slightly behind the others, falling further and further behind with each step. They spoke quietly to each other, condemning the other girls for the way they called out to boys that caught their eye. Unfortunately, that drew the laughter and snickering of older teenagers nearby, a fact that was impossible not to notice.
They noticed something else as they followed the other girls, the laughter faded away as the two solitary girls approached. The males of each group would stare as the two girls walked past. They weren’t laughing, not smirking, only staring at the two with knowing smiles flashing in the pale florescent light. Even adult men would turn to stare at Janesa and Devan with the same strange look, despite the ladies at their sides pulling at their arm. As the night wore on, the attention became more obvious. Some called out to the girls, as they walked by.
“Oh, I’m in love!”
“Check that out! Hey baby, don’t rush off.”
“You look too good to be by yourselves! Give a guy a chance!”
Janesa and Devan only smiled and continued their whispered conversations. They were unsure of the sudden on rush of attention, not sure what was causing it, but they desperately wanted to know how to encourage it.
As the night progressed, the admirers became bolder in their efforts. The attractive young men would come and walk right beside them, often in groups of three or more, asking their names, offering them rides to parties, wanting to take them to the little four-screen movie theater across the parking lot. The girls didn’t have to say much; the men rarely waited for the reply to one question before asking another.
With each approaching admirer and proposition, Daphne and the others moved further and further ahead until they were not even in the same part of the mall. As nine o’ clock approached, the two broke away from the crowd that now surrounded them, mumbling some excuse about having to meet their friends. The two went off to find their companions, smiling until the muscles in their face hurt.
Standing outside at the back entrance of the mall, Daphne scolded them as if they were children. “What did you two think you were doing?”
“What do you mean?” Devan questioned.
“You know what I’m talking about!” Daphne accused, “Going off and leaving us like that!”
Janesa remembered breaking into such a fit of laughter that she had to sit down on the small wall that circled the landscaping.
“We didn’t go off and leave you,” she had said between giggles. “We just couldn’t keep up.”
Daphne placed her hands on her hips, the others crowding behind her, obviously choosing their sides.
“Yeah, we all saw how you got sidetracked.” Daphne said, “It was embarrassing the way that you two acted.”
Devan’s face went red and her jaw tightened.
“We embarrassed you?” She hissed, “Have you looked at yourselves? This isn’t a costume party.”
Narrowing her eyes, Daphne glanced back at her little army of friends, perhaps gathering courage in their number. “You two acted like cheap little sluts.”
Janesa stopped laughing, stood, and moved next to Devan. “Is that jealousy I hear?”
Daphne’s face turned crimson with anger, but said nothing else as Daphne’s mother’s station wagon pulled up to take all of the girls home. The ride home was a silent. No one would even sit near Janesa and Devan in the very back of the car, but they were courteous enough to glare back at the two girls from time to time.
That night was the start of it. As the next few months passed, an evolution took place in Janesa and Devan. Remembering the adulation they had received at the mall, they were determined to have it again. While other girls their age were learning about cosmetics from their mothers, Janesa and Devan were at the cosmetic counters of the department stores getting professional advice. After each lesson, the two would return to Janesa’s room and practice for hours.
In study hall, Janesa would have the recent issues of Cosmopolitan and Glamour spread out on the tiny desk, making notes in the margins of the pages of things she needed to share with Devan later. On a separate sheet, she would write down ideas on how they could copy the sexy fashions in those layouts with their modest adolescent attire. In those magazines, Janesa and Devan were learning how to deal with men, what to wear, and men’s deepest fantasies. They studied the contents more than their schoolwork, quizzing each other each weekend when they stayed over at each other’s houses.
“What do men really want from women?”
“Mystery. What do men fear most?”
“Commitment. What is the most popular fantasy?”
“Doing the baby-sitter. What’s the biggest turn on?”
“Confidence. What do all men want?”
“The woman that they can’t have.”
Those lessons served them well over the years and Janesa knew that with a single look she could have every man at Laura’s table at her side.
Janesa turned around again and shook her head, suddenly amused by the whole thing. What was Laura Martin trying prove? That some drunk guy thought she was attractive? That her life wasn’t pathetic? That she wasn’t doing exactly what was expected by marrying the former quarterback?
Yeah...It’s all fun and games until he’s boning the secretary...
Taking another drink, Janesa smiled to herself. She remembered the day in elementary school when Laura Martin and her minions had cornered her near the monkey bars. They had teased her, saying she was so tall she should run away and join the circus since she was a freak anyway.
Janesa remembered how she had told the teacher, but all Mrs. Petrovich did was bat her heavy false eyelashes and say that Janesa had to be mistaken because she could not imagine Laura Martin or her friends doing that. After all, what reason would they have for being so mean? She went on to tell Janesa that maybe they would be nicer to her if she would stop trying to get them in trouble all the time.
Janesa was not sorry when Mrs. Petrovich died the following week in a car accident. She did not add her straw and tissue paper flowers to the wreath her classmates made to send to the funeral home, she did not sign the card they sent to their teacher’s family. Why would she? She was not sorry the woman was dead.
Odd, she hadn’t thought about eye batting Mrs. Petrovich in years. Maybe it was the alcohol...But then where were the memories every other night?
She glanced over her shoulder, knowing it was probably the sight of Laura Martin more than anything else. Why did Laura have to turn up here?
It was then, as she sat there silently hating the girl, that Janesa felt it, the odd hum that traveled through the air and settled somewhere in her chest. She turned, this time looking past the bachelorette party, to the door just as Devan walked in.
Janesa smirked, feeling the mood of the bar shift as her friend sat down beside her.
“Seriously?” Devan asked, motioning to the group with a toss of her head.
“Can you believe the luck?”
Devan turned back with a devilish gleam in her eye, “You want to have some fun?”
“Oh, hell yeah.”
It was simple really, almost pathetically so, the way she and Janesa shifted the attention of the men in the bar over to themselves. They each finished their drinks in a single gulp and Devan felt that other her take over as she savored the burn in her throat.
Janesa tossed back her blond hair, “Ready?”
Devan nodded and they both turned and slid from their bar stools. They approached the table slowly, walking just to the left of it as if they were moving toward the dartboard. It was so planned, their casualness, walking just close enough to draw attention and yet far enough away that it seemed undeliberate.
Devan focused on matching Janesa’s stride, one foot at a time, slightly crossing over with each step, so that their hips swayed with almost a dancing suggestiveness. The walk that was part Marilyn Monroe and part innocent girl next door.
The men at Laura Martin’s table took the bait, leaning back in their chairs as the girls passed and inhaling as if trying to smell their perfume.
“Hey baby, don’t tell me you all are alone!”
And they take the bait...
Devan smiled to herself, turned and tilted her head to one side teasingly. “We are for now, you want to change that?”
Easily enough the men were snared; they abandoned the table of bachelorettes and stepped closer to the two girls, taking them in from head to toe.
When none of them replied to Devan’s question, Janesa also tilted her head to one side. Turning her sea green eyes on each one of them, she crossed her arms in mock frustration, “So, are you going to stare or are you going to talk?”
“Are you two alone or will we get our necks broke for speaking to you?” One of the men asked.
“Well, you’re talking now,” Devan whispered as she stepped up to one of them and ever so slowly and gently pushed a strand of his hair aside, letting her polished nails tickle his warm skin. “And your neck looks fine.”
He turned his eyes to Devan. His face was a mask of the dazed expression that she knew so well.
“I see you in here all the time. I’m Kyle.”
Janesa stepped closer to him as well, “We’re Devan and Janesa.”
“But who’s who?”
“You can sort that out later.” Devan replied, giving him the teasing smile that she was known for, an even flash of white teeth, not too broad, but more of a smirk.
Kyle smiled back at her, enjoying the flirtatious game. “You two are trouble if ever I’ve seen it.”
“And there ain’t nothing like getting into a little trouble is there?” Devan replied with a wink, loving the way his eyes widened.
He smiled at the two of them, “How is that the two of you are single?”
“You’re breaking the rule.” Devan warned, letting her hand glide over his shoulders as she circled him.
Janesa leaned in to stroke his cheek and draw his attention to her, “Our one rule...Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”
Devan almost felt sorry for him the way he looked then. Couldn’t he see it was just a game? A little payback to the high school mean girl? Did he have to look like a little lamb going to slaughter?
As she watched, Janesa brushed her lips across his cheek. Devan saw the way his eyes closed and his breath caught. He believed it. He believed all of it.
What are we doing?
The kiss drew Laura Martin’s attention too. She elbowed her friends and then pointed to Janesa.
“Don’t you wonder where her mouth has been?”
Janesa pushed the guy away and glared at Laura. For a moment, Devan thought for sure that Janesa was going to hit her. She saw Janesa’s hands clench into fists and the way she crossed the floor in two strides.
In the blink of an eye, Janesa was at the table, reaching across to grab two handfuls of Laura’s hair and pulling her over to her. Janesa brought her lips down to cover the girl’s mouth. The kiss was brief with pursed lips, almost like something out of a cartoon.
Janesa pushed the girl away when she was finished and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Think about that the next time you wonder where my mouth has been,” she hissed as she walked back toward the bar.
Devan followed her, but could not help but to look back at Laura, all red faced and panting, as she wiped her mouth again and again with napkins. Kyle looked after them with the expression of someone mentally composing his letter to Penthouse.
For just a moment, less than a single breath, she was jealous of Janesa and the scene she had caused. She wished she were the one that kissed Laura and shocked the room into silence.
She bit her tongue and went on to follow Janesa. Just as she passed the bachelorette’s table, she heard Laura’s voice.
“She’s just a skanky slut.” She whined as she continued to wipe at own mouth, “She always was and that’s what she’s always going to be.”
Suddenly all she could think about was all the taunts from high school and every dirty look when they had passed in the hall.
Just who the hell does this bitch think she is...?
Devan stopped and spun on her heel, covering the distance to the table quickly. She slammed her hands down onto the table, making it rock precariously. She leaned down so that her face was only inches from Laura’s.
“That is the last time you are ever going to say another word about her,” she hissed. “Because I swear to God, next time I will fucking kill you.”
As Devan straightened, her hands slid back across the table and brushed over one of the many bridal magazines on the table. She couldn’t fight the juvenile urge to grab it and toss it into the air.
And then she stood frozen as it burst into flames...