BrokenJPG

A Copywriter’s Blog

She left the bar clutching her purse as though it meant the difference between life and death. She wasn’t far wrong.

She walked down the street, her eyes darting left and right, seeking an alley, an abandoned construction site, or even a secluded parking lot. Nothing immediately presented itself.

She should never have gone in that bar. She should have just kept going. Walked into a Starbucks or something. Gone shopping. But no. Instead she stupidly went into a bar. Something completely out of character for her cover. She’d realized her mistake immediately, ordered one drink on the off-chance it looked less suspicious, and then left almost immediately. Now he would know she was rattled. He would realize he’d been spotted.

The question was, what would he do with that knowledge? Did she dare look behind her? He had to know he’d been spotted. She had nothing to lose. Lifting her phone as though searching for signal, she was able to twist it so that it reflected a glimpse of the street behind her. He was half a block behind, walking in her direction.

She swallowed hard, and gripped the purse with white knuckles. This was it. Well, if her back was going to be up against a wall, she might as well pick one she liked.

She saw an empty playground up ahead, and turned toward it. She knew it was impossible over the dull roar of the city at midday, but she could swear she heard his footsteps following.

Ducking around a jungle gym, she spied a toddler-sized climbing wall. It was only five feet high, but it would be enough. She thought she heard the steps’ tempo increase, but she was probably just imagining it. There was no time to look.

She spun behind the wall, slamming her back into it and dropping to one knee in the same motion.

Pounding feet approached. He rounded the wall at a dead run.

Her fear was gone. Her purse was gone. But her Walther PPK was pointed right at him.

Inanely, his last thought was to wonder what she had ordered at the bar.

She fired.

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“Please come this way, Ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

“Forgive me, but have you been drinking?”

“Just a glass. I…just a glass of wine. That’s all.”

“I see. In here.”

The door opened, and she walked into the room. It was dim. The glass, she felt, was too clear. It should be darker. How did she know he wouldn’t be able to see her? They should leave it darker, just to make witnesses feel safer. The officer indicated a folding chair.

“They’ll be brought in in a minute. Can I get you anything? Water?”

“No, thank you.”

This was a police station, she should feel safe here. There were police. There was two-way glass. He wouldn’t even know she was here. Except why else would he have been brought out as a witness, unless she was here? Her heart jumped into her throat. He would know.

The officer looked like he was going to leave the room. She clutched her purse convulsively, suddenly gripped by a fear of being alone.

“Uh-excuse me!”

“Yes, Ma’am?”

“I- uh-”

She could feel the wine in her stomach, and fought down the urge to retch. The room tilted, her fingers caught the chair in a death grip, and it took all her strength to keep from falling over. And then they came in.

The glass should be darker, she thought again. And then she saw him.

“The one in the middle.”

“I need you to say the number, ma’am.”

“The middle! Number- number three.”

“Number Three, step forward….are you sure that’s the one? Do you want to take more time?”

She stared at the floor, refusing to look at him. Terrified to think that this might somehow be the wrong room, that the glass wasn’t mirrored at all.

“Ma’am? Do you need more time? If you’re unsure-”

“No, I-” she swallowed, hard. “That’s him. That’s my son.”

She sat on the train, head bowed, willing herself not to cry. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

Besides, she’d already spent the morning depressed. Alternately sobbing into her pillow and holding a tear-choked and one sided debate with her cell phone. “I am NOT boring” she had gasped at it. The text on the backlit screen, barely discernible through her tears, offered no consolation.

Then, once she’d run out of tears, she got angry. Who was he to call her boring? She could go out. She could go out anytime she chose. Why, she’d go out right now. “Besides,” she thought as she went into the bedroom to dry her eyes and get dressed, “the best revenge would be a life lived richly.”

What time was it? 2? Hah! She’d go out and- and- and start drinking right now! She put on the sexiest clothes she owned: A pair of pants that didn’t so much hug her curves as hide them, and a very sensible blouse. She almost left an extra button undone, but didn’t want to look like a whore.

Then she grabbed her purse, hailed a cab, and rattled off the first intersection that came to mind. She would get a drink at the first bar she found. Which had turned out to be the questionably named “Hairy Monk”. She paid the driver and, with a burst of willpower, stepped inside.

She blinked a moment, allowing her eyes to adjust to the sudden gloom. She would have taken a table, but the only other people there were sitting at the bar, and she didn’t want to do anything that made it look as though this was the first time she’d been in a place like this alone. She chose the stool at the end of the bar, next to the wall.

She ordered a drink in a voice barely above a whisper. Red wine- chosen because it was a safe bet between the white wine she only sipped on special occasions, and ordering something like whiskey.

She sat stiffly, her head bowed so low her chin almost touched her chest. This was all wrong. The TV’s were too loud. The air was too thick. And everything seemed just a little too sticky. This was a terrible place. She wanted to be gone.

What sort of revenge was this, where her hands shook and her throat closed and the tears gathered just behind her eyelids? The wine appeared, and she grasped it, grateful for something to do with her hands. She took a drink, tilting the glass higher and higher. The liquid burned her throat, but she no longer cared. She put it down empty, telling herself the rising lump in her throat was from the wine. She placed a dollar on the counter and slid off her stool in a single motion, halfway to the door before she had even pulled the purse back over her shoulder.

Hailing a taxi would have meant speaking to someone, so she had taken the subway instead. And now here she was, fighting back tears in a train car at 2:35 in the afternoon. The most pathetic- and boring- person alive.

When she got home she stripped off the clothes she had been wearing, putting on a familiar pair of sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. Then she sat in the window seat of her apartment and picked up the book she had been reading. She did not cry. The lump in her throat was gone. The last thought she spared before losing herself completely in the pages was that it was true. The best revenge was a life lived richly.

*If you’re interested, my own comments on this story are below in the- um, comments. For an understanding of where this story came from, read this post.