Suicide's Girlfriend

Suicide's Girlfriend by Elizabeth Evans Read Free Book Online

Book: Suicide's Girlfriend by Elizabeth Evans Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Evans
small and uniform wave of gaiety that washed against the outer walls of the big house.
    He sat in the chair for a very long time, long after he had grown used to the dark and come to see that the shadow caught in the room’s pale curtains was not a fold of the curtain’s cloth, but the Mexican girl from the swimming pool, and that she was in hiding, too.

Beautiful Land
    T HOUGH SHE . HAD hardly known it back in 1951, Gwen Vander Schaaf had been in love with Randall Decker. She had known, of course, that when she sat behind Randall in homeroom, she’d studied the way his close-cropped hair made an opalescent sheen across his perfect skull. And that when Randall leaned far, far back to look at her, and laid his head right upon her desktop, she often found a way to touch him—sometimes with the provocative pink nipple of a pencil eraser. Still, along with all the chores Randall Decker had had to perform on his father’s farm, he’d had to bear himself up under the gray burden of Decker family life, and so the socks that hung around Randall’s ankles had made Gwen think of the just-loosened ropes of hangmen, and there were his dazzling blue eyes—one or the other always in some state of blackening. Too, a great oozing patch of scab often marred that perfect skull of Randall’s. And all of this together meant that the fact of loving Randall never knocked loudly enough at the gates to the world Gwen Vander Schaaf proposed for herself in 1951.
    So maybe it wasn’t love anyway? Maybe not?
    Gwen had dated Thom Muller back in 1951. Twelve years ago now.When she and Thom Muller had danced together in the Morrow gymnasium on Friday nights, Gwen made her breasts high and tight, but did not allow Thom Muller to press his thigh against her own, and thus she garnered a reputation as that most desirable of girls—one both passionate and pure—though, in fact, she knew herself to be neither with regard to Thom Muller, and could never understand all the work she and the other girls did to secure places in the hearts of a town they dreamt only of escaping.
    The whole of high school, Randall Decker had gone to just one dance: senior prom. Without a date. All that night, Gwen felt as if something magical were about to happen, Randall would put down the bottle of Coke he nursed over by the door, push himself off the gymnasium wall, and, with one of his long, fine fingers, tap on Thom’s shoulder. But the prom drew to a close. Thom guided Gwen toward the door. There stood Randall, blowing hollow notes across the top of his empty bottle. As if she were gorgeously amused, did not see Randall at all, Gwen threw back her head in laughter. Randall reached out to her, then drew his finger down her bare arm and whispered, “You girl,” words that dropped over Gwen like a silver net, cold and beautiful and impossible to escape.
    â€œWhat’d he say?” Thom wanted to know.
    â€œHe said my hair looked pretty.”
    And Thom said, “It looks the same as always.”
    In 1951, Gwen wore her hair in a pageboy, rolled each night around a fresh sanitary napkin pad: an extravagance, and an outrage against decency, which her Dutch Reformed father did not allow a place at the breakfast table.
    Suppose she had turned back to Randall that night—the way she wanted—and she had ended up married to him? Suppose even one of the reunions she imagined over the years had actually come true? Would she have brought Randall luck and happiness?
    Gwen thought of all this now, looking out the wavy glass of the teachers’ lounge window, as Randall’s little daughter, Lily, climbed down from the school bus and walked toward the elementary wing ofMorrow Consolidated. Last off the bus. Small for a fourth grader. Perfect braids, one hung over the right shoulder, one hung over the left. Proceeded precisely down the middle of the walk. Careful to avoid thawed muck. Looking back as the bus pulled

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