The air felt cold and wet, like a pile of fall leaves that had been raked up and left to sit overnight, decaying. The smell of burning fireplaces wandered into the streets, and the half-moon illuminated the gray streaky clouds from behind, turning them into silver yarn stretched thinly across the evening. The moon strained its brilliance to just barely mark the path to the headstone of a man who had died twenty-five years ago.
Juliet was already there, plaid blanket spread on top of the grave. She poured two glasses of red wine and lit candles. It was a celebration of sorts, an anniversary. She put poison in one glass, stirred it with a finger, wiped it on the blanket. She set the glass on the top of the headstone, smirking.
Kim had brought lilies in two small pots, and a spade. She placed them on the ground so she could hug her sister.
“Hi sweetie,” Juliet said warmly. “How’s life in marketing?”
“Ok, I suppose.” Kim folded her arms and looked around. The flickering candles on the headstone cast random shadows that outlined her tired eyes. “I’m not sure I’m drinking tonight. I’ve got a meeting tomorrow and a real chance to impress some people.”
“Your choice, I guess. We’ll just keep yours there in case.” Juliet gave her a smile that had just the right amount of empathy. Kim crouched down and began taking the plants from the bag, while Juliet ran her finger slowly around the top of her wine glass, idly staring at the swirling wine for a while. As her sister worked, Juliet asked “So, Why didn’t you introduce me to that VP last week at the restaurant?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I just forgot. Hey, Let’s get these things in the ground before we kill them, too.” She looked up at Juliet, and the sisters shared a cold, silent stare.
“C’mon,” Kim repeated, resuming her work. “These things don’t plant themselves.” She grabbed the spade and began to hack at the ground.
“He deserved it, you know that.” Juliet whispered, and bent down to grab some weeds. “He thought he was so great. He thought he owned us.”
“Maybe. Whatever. I don’t think about it.” Rings on Kim’s fingers, now covered with wet dirt, barely reflected the scant moonlight; gold bracelets were coated with thin mud. She began to remove a lily from one pot, while Juliet grabbed the spade and started working on the other side of the headstone.
“And what he did to me…” Juliet tore at the ground with the spade, fresh anger from twenty-five years ago rushing to her hands. “He deserved to die.”
“I’m not getting back into this.” Kim dropped the plant into the fresh hole and began to cover the roots with dirt. “It’s over. We’re older. It’s done.”
“You don’t think we should’ve done it? You don’t think we should have erased this bastard from the face of the earth? You never take my side! You never do! Dammit!” Juliet was screaming now, her voice ricocheting off marble headstones everywhere. She threw the spade towards her sister, nearly hitting her. “Why didn’t you introduce me to that VP the other night? I need a job, he’s a contact. He works in my field. It would have been perfect. You never, ever take my side!” she stopped for a moment and looked around for help, only to notice a stone angel, perched on a nearby monument, glaring at her. “You’re embarrassed by me,” she said desperately. “Is that it?”
“I do take your side. Jesus, I killed a man with you. Isn’t that enough? Do I think we should have done it? No.”
“What?” Juliet shrieked. “He needed to die! We should have killed him twice!”
“Maybe you think so. I would’ve liked to see him rot. And you know what I would have done?” She leveled her gaze and looked into her sister’s eyes. ” I would have gone to his jail cell every day of my life and read to him about hell. I’d have told him that the devil was going to eat his soul. I’d have made him think about his blood boiling and his eyes being gouged out. Every day. Dying was too good for him.” And then she paused, looked down at her hands and began to rub off the dirt. “And you know why I didn’t introduce you to that VP?” she said in low voice. “Because I don’t know him. I was showing off. For you.” The statement hung in the air like a tattered flag.
Juliet was shocked at Kim’s vulnerability. She was considering the many things she might have misconstrued through the years, when Kim stood up and said, “Now I need a drink.” Juliet still holding the other lily and kneeling on the ground, was powerless to stop her sister from draining the glass that was on top of the headstone. She screamed, “NO!”, and the word was still echoing in the graveyard as Kim grabbed her chest and began to choke, a quizzical look on her face, which then turned to horrific, familiar realization as she fell to the ground.
Juliet threw down the plant, fell over her sister and cried. It was a while before she sat up, and began stroking Kim’s hair, and whispered in her ear that she was sorry and that she loved her. And it was a while after that when she felt the burning stare of the stone angel upon her. Judging her. Pitying her. Hating her. As it neared morning it was the angel who was the only witness, when Juliet poured another glass of wine, sprinkled on a bit of powder, stirred it with her finger, and licked it clean. She laughed out loud through tears as she finished the glass, and collapsed to the ground. Off in the distance, behind far tombstones, the sun was beginning to brighten the night sky.
This story was written by Ceil Kessler for the Ligonier Valley Writer’s (www.lvwonline.org) Flash Fiction Contest, held every year for Halloween. The story had to be 1,003 words, including the words “twenty-five”, “anniversary” and “silver”. This story was awarded first place, and was read at free, local events during the 2011 Halloween season.