The “if I’s” began to play through Abby’s mind.
If I live through this, I’m going to let Jack buy the snake he’s been wanting. Compared to all this, a snake in the house won’t seem so scary. And he’s going to be thirteen, after all. God, is he really almost a teenager? Tinges of guilt ran through her bones as she considered all the parts of those almost thirteen years that she’d missed out on because she was too busy with unimportant things. Now, she may never have a chance to see the next thirteen.
If I live through this, I’m going to stop being so hard on Megan. She frustrates me because she reminds me of myself at her age, and I get angry, and it makes things worse. She’s a good girl…
she’s a good girl…
“I’m a good girl.” she whimpered.
“What?” Croucher barked.
“I said, I’m a good girl!” Abby pushed the words through salty streams. “I’m a good girl! I don’t deserve this!” Her vision of the road before her was blurring, from tears or hysteria, or because she was low on caffeine.
If I live through this, I’m drinking all the damn energy drinks I want! Tim can deal with my fat ass!
“Look where you drivin’ Lady!”
“I’m a good girl. I’m -”
“It was just a Monster,
just a Monster…”
Abby’s Passatt jumped violently, breaking her emotional daze. She’d hit something. It wasn’t a bus stop or a giant plate of glass.
Median. I’m stuck on – Oh! I’ve flattened a tire!
She could hear the air, fast escaping. A fresh surge of panic rushed over her; she’d not be able to get to Market Street. Croucher wanted to go to Market, and he’d have to find a different way – likely he’d blow her away first.
The weapon pressed against her neck with impossible force, displacing vertebrae, scraping flesh. All she heard, once the tire finished leaching the last of its air, was the hurried breath of the croucher in blue. He was gearing up, gathering fury to do the last thing of all. She lowered her head, pushed her face against the top of her steering wheel.
The car, the street, the gun, her own body – all the world was fading, like a dream turning to deeper dream. In the distance were mixed shouts of alarm and doors of other cars opening and shutting, and “Is every one OK??”, but in Abby’s mind, there was only her, her sputtering heartbeat, and the croucher breathing, and the quiet
Oh, sweet Jesus. Be here with me.
So forceful and definite was the pressure of the weapon against her neck, she knew it would always remain. If there were an eternity – she hoped and trusted there was – she wondered if she wouldn’t still feel that gun barrel, attached to her head, fooling her nerves forever.
A clinking sound, nearby. Very near.
She lifted her face from the wheel, just slightly, and there was a strangeness born of something missing. Her head felt like an empty milk carton. There was no longer anything pushing it down. She did not look behind her; she didn’t bother, for she knew to look out – out her window, where she caught glimpse of a blue hood, flapping behind a boy, running – perhaps fourteen years of age, if that old. Blood was on his jeans and his white Nikes were stained red as they carried him toward an alleyway across the street. Undoubtedly, the police would soon appear, but the kid would be far gone by then, and Abby would likely have forgotten where she saw him run. And now she believed him – he hadn’t killed anybody.
On the pavement, four feet from the open passenger door, lay an object of metal. She couldn’t remember what it was called, but she’d seen several like it in her husband’s unused tool box. Its shaft was long, and it had a circular attachment at its end. Many young boys might use this tool as a toy. They’d imagine, as young boys do, that they are kings of the world – dangerous. They might pretend this thing was a gun.
Her face still turned, still gazing at the alleyway where Croucher disappeared, she blindly reached over and grasped the sugar-coated can.