Sorry, I can’t seem to get this post to convert to audio, so there’s no podcast episode.
This is a work of fiction.
As I paint, I keep thinking about Mercy.
What did she mean about being able to sit and do whatever she wanted?
Whose funeral did she attend nine years ago?
Where had she been before she came to my house that night?
I want to ask her, but I also don’t want to pry.
I love her, but can it last? If I don’t really know her, how can I be her boyfriend?
I look down at the picture I’m working on. It’s starting to show a boy sitting on a bike that no longer has training wheels. The bike is already there, but I’m having trouble with the boy. His expression needs to be right. He’s scared, but he’s having fun, and I need to stop thinking about Mercy so I can become a little boy again, and remember what it was like to ride a bike like the big kids had.
She won’t leave my thoughts.
The half-drawn boy looks up at me, pleading with his still rudimentary eyes for me not to leave him like this, unfinished and unloved, but I know that if I try to draw him now, I’ll only draw Mercy’s tormented face.
What happened that made her want to jump off the bridge?
Why does she feel unworthy of forgiveness?
I put my paints away.
Mercy’s standing just outside the door. She’s very pale, and I wonder if she’s getting sick.
“Are you okay?”
“Not really. I can’t concentrate on anything. I’ve changed the channel at least a hundred times, but I can’t get into anything.”
“Let’s go sit in the living room.”
She nods and follows me there.
Once we’re sitting down, I take a deep breath and say, “When you first came here, you were feverish.” I take another breath. “You asked if Eva was here.”
“I remember,” she whispers.
“Can you tell me who Eva is?”
“Younger or older?”
“Younger. She was only a month old.”
I wait, but she doesn’t say more.
After a few minutes of silence, she says, “I’m sorry.”
“I wish I could tell you, but I just can’t. You’re such a nice guy, and I don’t want to ruin our friendship.”
I recover, and once neither of us is sick, I can go out for groceries. Good thing, as we’re almost out of almost everything.
Mercy doesn’t like grocery shopping, but asks me to drive her to a Walmart so she can grab a few personal things.
Once we’re home, Mercy starts making dinner, and I decide to paint for an hour.
I lose track of time and am mildly startled by a knock at my door.
“Billy?” Mercy says. Her voice sounds odd, but I can’t put my finger on her tone.
“Sorry, I’ll just be a minute or two.”
When I open the door, she’s standing right there, and her face is ashen.
“Mercy, are you okay? I’m sorry I made you stand there so long.”
Here I am, fussing with my stupid paints, and Mercy’s all alone with nobody to talk to.
Even if she doesn’t want to tell me about what happened to her, I could at least be there for her instead of locking myself in here and painting all day.
“It’s okay,” she says. “Dinner’s almost ready.” She smiles at me, and I’m afraid, although I can’t put my finger on why, which just makes it worse.
I follow her into the kitchen, and she serves dinner.
I offer to do the dishes, and she says, “I need to tell you something first.”
This is it. She’s going to tell me about whatever happened nine years ago.
She opens her mouth to speak, and the back door opens.
“What the heck?” I say.
I’m sure I closed the door all the way after I brought the groceries in.
I get up and turn around.
There, standing in the kitchen, is Victoria in her black rubber suit with the smileys instead of eyes.
She glides across the room and grabs me. Her grip is incredibly strong, and although I’m no weakling, I’m slow to react, and by the time I start to think that I should put up a fight, she’s got my wrists in handcuffs.
Mercy screams, and Victoria grabs her.
How can she still exist?
I watched her disintegrate in bright sunshine in my parents’ room.
My mouth is too dry to ask her, so I just sit there and watch her handcuff poor Mercy.