by Aosora Hikaru (青空ヒカル)
She had a black eye again.
Veronica always tried to convince me it was nothing, always with the excuses, or always with makeup applied just so, but I always knew the truth. She knew I knew, but we played the game. I never acknowledged what I saw, and she never admitted the truth.
Of course, if Joe knew I wasn’t just Veronica’s friend, he’d probably kill us both.
Tonight, as she crawled into my bed, she winced as I touched her side. It filled me with such a mix of rage and despair that I broke our unspoken rule.
“You need to get away from him, V,” I said.
“It’s nothing,” she whispered, though she refused to meet my eyes. “I can handle it.”
I lifted her chin with my fingertips and looked into her eyes, not speaking but still letting her know I saw through her bluff. I knew she was financially dependent on him, and that he’d managed to isolate her from everyone but me (purely because I refused to give her up), and I knew she felt she couldn’t escape right now. I also knew, though, that it had been getting worse and she wouldn’t be able to handle it much longer.
So I didn’t speak again. I pressed my lips to hers as I gently skirted my hand over her side, careful to avoid the area which pained her. She melted under my touch, and hummed contentedly as I lifted her tank top with my fingertips. I let them brush over her breast, my thumb circling her nipple.
What we did certainly wasn’t right, but it felt good, and she needed someone in her life who genuinely cared for her. She was so beautiful, so willing to be with me. So deserving of better than what she got from her husband, and I was more than happy to give that to her.
She had a hand in my pants now, and I rolled onto my back to make room for her fingers as they explored between my thighs. She knew just what I loved and she wasted no time in throwing herself into it wholeheartedly. It didn’t take long for her to bring me to the edge the first time, and not much longer past that to push me over it a second time. I took a moment to catch my breath again, then rolled us so I straddled her hips.
“Ryann, I–” Veronica nearly managed to speak before I started kissing her. While I appreciated what she’d done for me, I wanted to show her so much more. I was gentle with my touches, but still slid off her and worked her pants down around her hips, then her knees. She lifted her hips to help me undress her, and I settled myself between her legs, brushing my lips against hers. I let my tongue dance amongst her folds, ran my hands over her thighs, sucked softly on that most delicate pearl. With my name on her lips she came, her legs clamping around my head like a vise.
I gave her time to gather herself as I savored her taste on my lips. Once her breathing slowed, I crawled up to lay alongside her and pulled her gently into my arms. We stayed there in comfortable silence, until Veronica spoke again.
“I can’t stay, Ryann. Joe will come looking for me.”
I heaved a heavy sigh, and ran my fingertips over her stomach. “I wish we could run away.”
“He’d come after me, Ryann. You know that.”
I traced over a particularly interesting scar — she’d never elaborated on its origins, and I’d never asked — and once again repeated something I’d told her time and again: “You should divorce him, V.”
Veronica sighed. “You know I can’t.”
“Then we should kill him.”
Veronica started, then sat straight up and stared down at me. “Have you lost your mind, Ryann?!”
“Come on, V. Wouldn’t you rather be a widow than a divorcée anyway?”
She contemplated this for far too long for someone who acted like they didn’t want to commit murder. “Well… yeah, but…”
“We’ll figure it out, V. We can do it. You can be free.”
Veronica sat there in silence for a few more minutes, then bent down to kiss me. “I need to go, Ryann.”
The words themselves were a dismissal. The tone she’d said them in, though, let me know it wasn’t off the table. I would need to do research.
A few days later we met for lunch. Joe didn’t know Veronica wasn’t eating the lunch she’d packed for work, and I’d pay for the meal to make sure he didn’t find out.
“So I was thinking,” I said, poking a french fry against my sandwich. “About what we talked about a few days ago.”
Veronica’s eyes grew wide and she waved her hand as she shushed me. “Not here, Ryann.”
“If not here, then where, V?” I sighed, scrubbing a hand over my face. “I hardly ever get to see you anymore. I’m lucky I managed to see you today at all.”
Veronica sighed. “Fine.”
“So,” I said. “You said there was something wrong with your roof, right?”
“I didn’t say–”
“It’s leaking, right?” I said, more insistent this time. I had a plan, an idea. I needed her to play along. “Joe is handy, isn’t he?”
I saw the moment it clicked into place for her, and V’s face brightened. “Yes, he’s worked for a few contractors. He could definitely get up there and look at it.”
I grinned at her. It was dangerous to discuss this in public, but we had the advantage of having danced around many topics in discussion before. I knew what she didn’t say in each phrase, and she could see my true meaning in every sentence.
We ate our lunch in relative quiet, but just before I paid the check, I pulled a paper from my purse. “Oh, hey, V, I thought you’d want this new recipe I found!” I slid it across the table to her, and watched her eyes grow wide as she read what it was.
It was a recipe all right, but it was for a drink so strong it would knock Joe so hard on his ass he’d fall over. Or off any roof he happened to be on.
“Thank you,” Veronica said. “This is perfect.”
I grinned, and we hugged. I gave her a peck on the cheek, and whispered in her ear, “Let’s do it Saturday.”
It had rained most of the day on Friday and I started to worry about our plan, but to my delight it turned out sunny by evening. It stopped raining early enough in the afternoon that convincing Joe to go up on the roof wouldn’t be too difficult, but late enough that it also wouldn’t make it any easier for him to be up there in the state we’d put him in.
I came over, knowing full well that I’d endure some verbal abuse while I was there, and I was right.
“The fuck do you want?” Joe said when he opened the door to find me on the welcome mat.
“To help Veronica make you the perfect lunch,” I said with the sweetest grin I could muster. “She said she needed an extra set of hands to bake cookies, so here I am!”
Veronica flinched when Joe turned to her, and I had to try very hard to keep from punching him in the face. He glared at her for an uncomfortable length of time, then turned his scowl back to me. “I don’t want you here all fucking day.”
“That won’t be a problem,” I said, still putting in the effort to be as cheery as possible. “I’m only helping cook, then I have to go anyway.”
Joe only grunted in response, then walked away from the door to allow me entry. I was secretly pleased to note he stopped at the fridge for a beer on his way back to the couch. Pre-gaming would only make our plan easier.
I did exactly as I’d told Joe I would — I pulled the flour and sugar from the cabinets, and butter and eggs from the refrigerator, and got to work baking cookies. He didn’t deserve them, but even inmates on Death Row get a final meal of their choosing, and he’d said before that he liked my cookies.
As they baked in the oven, I pulled the alcohol I’d brought out of my bag. “Let’s make him that drink.”
Once we’d made the first drink for him, I sent Veronica out to give it to him. I braced myself to inevitably hear him yell about me, but he was remarkably quiet — perhaps he was so pleased she was bringing him a drink, he forgot to be an asshole.
She slipped back into the kitchen, and we got to work making him a second drink, then finishing up the lunch we’d cooked. I gave her a quick, soft kiss on the cheek and murmured that I’d be back later.
It was up to Veronica, now. She had to make sure he got nice and wasted, convince him to get on the roof, and make sure he fell off somehow. With luck, he’d die as soon as he hit the ground. If we were unlucky, we would have to finish off the job later.
My phone chimed later with a text message from Veronica. Joe was about to get up onto the roof, so I gathered up my things to head over to their house. I wanted to be nearby when it was all said and done. I didn’t want Veronica to have to deal with it alone.
We had a plan: As soon as he hit the ground Veronica would check for a pulse. If there was no pulse, we’d move ahead with the relocation of the body. If he was still alive… we’d make sure he didn’t linger too much longer. Not because he deserved a quick death, but because it’d be easier for Veronica if he were gone faster.
I waited around the corner in my car for her next text, confirming he’d slipped and fallen. I parked in front of her house and ran to the backyard, playing a part I didn’t have to play. They lived in a secluded and rural area, and Joe hadn’t only been an asshole to her. What precious few neighbors they had ignored them because of his behavior.
Joe lay on the deck, his neck cocked at an unnatural angle, limbs splayed in an inhuman configuration. Blood seeped from his nose, the corners of his mouth, an ear.
We didn’t need to check his pulse. He was most certainly dead.
I cast a look over at Veronica, and she silently dragged over the tarp. It was difficult to wrap him up in it, but we managed. The hardest part was shoving him into the back of his truck. She drove the pickup as far back into the woods as she could, and I followed behind in my SUV. Once we got to the area we’d settled on, I parked my SUV a safe distance back and brought over the can of gasoline and the matches I’d bought on the way here.
“Ready?” I asked, holding the can out to her.
She shook her head, her eyes wide with shock. “I mean, yeah, I want to finish this, but… I want you to do that.
“Are you okay, V? Do you want us to… we can call the police. Tell them it was an accident.”
She shook her head again, more adamant this time. “No. Burn him.”
I poured the gas over the top of the truck, lit a match and threw it back into the box, then threw the entire box on top of his tarp. It ignited instantly, and we stepped back to watch for a few moments.
“Burn in hell, you fucking bastard,” I murmured.
Veronica made a thoughtful noise next to me, then leaned against my side. “Let’s go before the tank explodes.”
We climbed back into my SUV, and I started driving west, to the apartment and new life together waiting for us in California.