How best to kill her?
I could do it like mother. Slip in a long blade where the spinal cord exited her head and sever it. Quick. Minimal blood. Seemed too easy.
Father would always find the most humane way to die, the least painful. Most often, he settled for a single shot of tetrodotoxin. Or carbon monoxide. Courteous even to his enemies. Empathetic to a fault. Perhaps he would have let her go with just a warning: blind, mute, missing a limb.
Uncle Jimmy would make it theatrical. Put her in front of a mirror. Tie her to a chair. Start by cutting out her tongue; none of those distracting screams. Slowly peel off her fingernails, her toenails. Rip out her hair in chunks. Saw off her fingers and toes. Bleed her out, slowly. Make her mad with pain. Turn her into a horror, but leaving her eyes through the whole thing so she could see the monster she became. There was an art to it. But it was always so much time.
Sissy would simply put a gun to her head. She liked the sound of gunshots. She was comforted by the the way a brain looked when it splattered out of a head and onto a nearby floor, wall, carpet. She used to paint rooms with blood. Mother got so mad when her white silk curtains could not be bleached.
And then grandma was traditional. Old English shit. Hung, drawn, quartered. She taped the sound of bones cracking: shoulders, legs ripped from sockets, backs snapped, wailing, screaming nonsense from their mouths. Lullabies of my childhood.
I looked from the road over to her. She sat tied up in a chair. Her sniveling face. Her hands already tied. Slashes across her cheeks where Antonio had marked her. She was gagged, still sobbing: tears streaming down and mixing with makeup and blood and dirt.
She was the one to blame. You do not cheat my family. Not if you want to live.
I ripped the gag from her mouth and she started blubbering nonsense.
“I said, stop crying.”
“Please, Henry. You don’t have to do this.”
“No, you don’t have to. You don’t. Please.”
Sniffing. I didn’t have to look at her to know the snot was dripping down her face, mixing with everything else running down.
“Just shut up.”
I couldn’t feel my fingers; I was clutching the steering wheel so hard. Full of white-hot anger. Choking. Icy hot tingling, everywhere at once. And then so numb. Maybe I could just slit her wrists, her throat, puncture her femoral artery; leave her to bleed out in a ditch somewhere. Oh, but mother would want the body. Proof of revenge.
“Henry, I love you.”
Teeth clenched. There were so many things I wanted to say. But I focused on the ways she would die. Strangled. Cut to pieces and fed to the piranhas in mother’s courtyard pond. Starved. Burned in the oven. Endless possibility. Death was so creative. It was so final.
“Can you even hear me? I love you!”
“How do you want to die, Marie?”
I glanced over and her eyes were filled with terror. Bugging out. The tears had abated. Thank God.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been thinking about how I should kill you.” The road was twisted in front of me, lights barely bright enough to see the next turn. “But I can’t think of how I would do it. None of the normal ways seem right.”
“That’s because you don’t want to kill me. You can’t.” She said it as a question. “You love me.”
It was raining now, and I switched on the wipers. “But what happens when the one you love betrays you?”
“I betrayed your family; I didn’t betray you!” High-pitched screaming. I winced. “I was trying to save you.”
“From your family! From yourself!” Such strong moral conviction. I could not help but admire her for it.
“I do not need to be saved, darling. I am happy. I have everything I could ever want.”
“You don’t know what you want. Your parents tell you what you want: do this, take that, buy this, kill them. One day you are going to wake up and realize you have never done a thing of your own accord, never done a thing for yourself.”
Her words rang in my ears and took a moment to settle in my brain. Perhaps she was right…But if she was, it did not matter. There was nowhere to go; there was no one to be other than who I was.
“You are avoiding the question, sweets. How would you like to die?”
Silence. Finally, quiet.
“I want you to poison me in the slowest, most painful way. I want you to watch as I writhe in pain, as I scream and shake. I want you to see the life leave my body. I want you to hold me as my body grows cold and stiff.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am completely serious.” I looked over, and her face was smooth, eyebrows lifted in the way they did when she wanted to make a point. “You will kill me. And it will be slow. It will be painful. You will watch. You will wish it were not happening. But it will be too late.”
There was no way to respond to that. No way that was not insane. She was losing it. The fear of death does that to some people. She had never been rational. She had always been full of emotions. Perhaps it was the woman in her. But, I didn’t really believe that. All the women in my family were cold as ice. Instability was personal, not gendered.
The car was full of silence, moving along the wet, winding highway in the darkness. I drove in the middle of the road; there was no one driving at this time of the night. We would be to the house soon. Less than an hour. It felt as if we had been driving forever. This was the last time her body would be in the seat beside mine: warm, alive, all intact and still beautiful, even with sliced cheeks. Such a waste, her death. If only I could find a way to undo what she had done.
I didn’t notice that she had made it out of her ropes. But she was grabbing the steering wheel, and it was all hands and elbows and hair and screams. The lights switched off and I felt, but did not see, us leaving the road, flying over rocks and gravel and plowing through the fields of wheat. We were lucky we were past the forest, or we would have hit a tree. Fighting with her, I felt as if I were in two places at once: one part of me wrestling for the wheel and the other watching, somewhere above, waiting to see who would win.
“Henry, please; stop the car.”
She was crying, climbing all over me, pulling the wheel this way and that, stomping on my feet to find the brakes. I could feel her tears falling on my hands, her hair all over my face and in my mouth, her warm body on mine. And I gave in. My body couldn’t help itself. I wanted her. The betrayal didn’t register.
The car slowed, then stopped, and she put it in park. It was quiet. I wanted to kiss her: blood and snot and all. I wanted to kiss her and I wanted to kill her. I wanted to kiss her as I ripped out her hair and I wanted to kiss her as she melted away into nothing, disintegrated. I wanted to melt away with her.
But that couldn’t be right. I didn’t want to die. I wasn’t afraid of it, but I wasn’t ready for it. I knew I had too much left in life. But then I tried to think of what I had to live for. My parents? They were psychotic. My sister? There was no relationship there. My grandparents: dead. My family a business, nothing more. And then Marie.
But no, she had betrayed me. I had to find something else. But what? I could not think of a thing. She was it.
And then she was kissing me. And I was melting, but not in the death sort of way; I was melting in the burning, tingling sort of way. Her hands in my hair. Chills. This was a moment I could live for. This is the moment I would live in forever.
She came out for breath. “Henry, I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
I said it through half-open lids, her body a fuzzy darkness in front of me, the moon behind her. I didn’t need to open my eyes to know the lines of her face. They were etched in my memory. The curve of her lips. The bridge of her nose. The freckles below her right eye and above her left eyebrow. She was all there, in my head. In my heart. And right in front of me.
There was a rap on the window, and I felt her jump. My eyes snapped open. I looked over to see Sasha. Black lined, crazed eyes. Hair pulled tight. Flashlight in her hand. And above me Marie’s terrified face.
It fell all on me at once. Suffocating. Marie. She couldn’t die. I loved her. My family was a sham. This was real.
Sasha was pounding on the window now. I couldn’t let her in. The moment I opened the door she would pull out a gun and Marie would be gone, brain blown to bits. I saw a future flash of her glassy eyes in front of me and my heartbeat roared in my ears like a drum.
“Henry, you have to do something.” Marie whispered.
My instincts turned on. “She can’t break the window; it’s bulletproof.” I gave her a quick squeeze. “You have to get off of me.”
She climbed off and over to the seat. Her eyes still on me. This was the moment. This was the decision that would change our lives. Forever.
“Buckle up, babes.”
She was beaming. I could feel it. I heard the click of a seatbelt and looked over to see her cheeks split back open, blood streaming down, but no recognition of the pain on her face as she shone away like the sun.
I put the car in reverse. “You ready?”
She nodded. And we were flying back through the field of wheat, onto the asphalt, whipping around, tires squeaking, burning rubber down the highway. Racing through the rain.
Sasha would follow us. My mother would come, and my father, and Uncle Jimmy, and grandma. Grandfather’s spirit would haunt us the whole way. I did not care.
I was looking into Marie’s eyes and she was smiling, smiling, the blood running down down down. I realized my lights were off only after it was too late. I realized we were on the wrong side of the road right before impact.
Bulletproof glass breaks under the pressure of thousands of pounds. Shards. Carving away at my skin. I wondered if there was anything under there besides flesh and bones. I tried to move my legs and looked down. I couldn’t tell where my body ended and the car began. It was all metal and flesh and so much blood. So much blood. Marie.
Glassy eyes of my nightmares. Real. Staring back at me, mouth open with final words I had not heard. I ripped the metal from her chest and the blood shot out, bubbled out as if I had popped a champagne bottle. Still warm. And the metal was in me, in my heart. Her blood mixing with my blood. A comforting thought as the world went black.