Thirteen Days

copyright 2008 by Chris Benedict

They’d said sex would be fun. It hadn’t been. Instead, it had been awkward and humiliating, and even slightly painful.

Afterwards, as Larry was lighting up a cigarette that he stole from her mother’s purse, he remarked upon the shadow on her bedroom wall. It was the shadow of a big, old, raggedy bush that stood just outside her bedroom window, spotlighted by the neighbor’s porch light.

“Looks like a demon,” he said. “See? It has little devil horns and glowing eyes, and a mouth full of big, sharp teeth.” Then he’d taken a draw off the cig and offered it to her.

Cynthia took it and put it to her mouth, but didn’t really inhale any of the smoke. She was close to crying as it was, and she knew she’d cough, like last time, if she smoked it. After he’d found the tissues stuffed in her bra, he’d called her all sorts of unkind things. Not that it had stopped him from having sex with her anyway…

“I gotta go, slut,” he grinned, pulling on his jeans and buttoning them. “Jeez, the guys are never gonna believe it! They’re gonna laugh so hard…”

After he left, she let the tears run down her face. It had all been a huge mistake – her step-mom had tried to lecture her about sex. But she had been so sure that she was ready for it – except now she was pretty sure she wasn’t.

The house without her dad and step-mom was dark, and way too quiet. After cleaning herself up and spraying some air freshener around to hide the tobacco smell, she put on her nightgown and crawled into bed.

But she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the shadow on the wall. When she was eight, she’d decided it was a kitty, with pointy ears and a Cheshire-cat smile. Now, she couldn’t see her friendly cat anywhere.

Only an evil, grinning demon that reminded her of Larry, and every hurtful word he’d said to her.

“I hate him, I hate him, I hate him,” she muttered, over and over. “I wish something awful would happen to him!”

******

“Get me a bucket and some soap.”

Harold looked in at the inhabitant of the tiny, death row cell. “Awww, Larry; it’s just a piss stain.”

“It’s a demon.” Larry just stared through the bars with his “might-do-something-crazy” eyes. He didn’t move. Larry never moved – he could hold that pose for hours.

With an inward sigh, Harold turned and headed to the janitorial closet. He returned with a bucket of water and a brush.

“Here. I bought you some of that Oxy stuff from the TV,” he said, handing each item through the bars. “Maybe that’ll take it off.”

Larry glanced back at him, his expression surprised and unguarded for once. “That was mighty nice of you, Harold,” he said softly. Then he took up the worn, bristled brush and went to work.

Harold watched the prisoner, scrubbing doggedly, for a while. He did it every day. Just scrubbed and scrubbed at the stain on the wall. Harold figured it kept his mind busy, kept him from dwelling on the dwindling count of days he had remaining. There was no harm in that.

And it looked like the Oxy stuff was working, at least a little. An uneven pattern of streaks, like jagged teeth, appeared in the lower part of the stain. Harold shuddered and turned away. For a moment he’d imagined that he saw it – the demon Larry talked about – and it was grinning.

They’d never found Cynthia’s body, just a bloody scrap of her white nightgown, snagged in the bark of an old, scraggly bush growing outside her bedroom window. But the DNA evidence on her torn sheets, along with the fact that he’d bragged to half the school about having sex with her… well… No matter how Larry protested, nobody could come up with a better explanation of what might have happened to her, or where she might have gone.

In thirteen days, Larry’s battle with the stain would be over and the cell would be empty. Ready for a new inhabitant.

Maybe a new coat of paint would cover it over. Or maybe not.