“Listen, it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.” Francis could feel his grip on reality start to slip. How did it turn out like this? He dropped his head to the steel table. Just what went wrong? He could feel the disgusted look she was giving him, even with his head hung low. The small room left him no room for escape, she made sure of it. Nothing he could use as a weapon, only him, the table, the chair and her.
“Well, that much is obvious,” she said in her curt, straight-forward manner. Mai Willows was a cynical woman, a woman who had everything anyone could ever want but still sought more. A woman who was bound to get what she wanted, no matter what or who stood in her way. The handcuffs digging into Francis’s wrists were more than enough proof of that.
“I- I didn’t mean-”
“Of course you didn’t. No one could be that stupid.”
“It wasn’t my fau-”
“But then again, you do have a habit of surprising me.” She roughly grabbed him by his hair and tugged him up, forcing Francis to look her in the eyes. Her short black hair was pulled back from her face by a ponytail, her brown eyes staring into his soul as she looked down on him. She’s enjoying this, he thought as the corners of her mouth rose into that patronizing little smile of hers. Willows yanked at his hair once more while simultaneously crushing his foot with the heel of her boots. Wincing, Francis gave a small hiss, not noticing how she finally released him only to grab his chin with her left hand. She once again forced him to look into her eyes while the pressure on his foot increased and her right hand rose up.
“Now then,” Her voice dripped with venom, “do you wish to tell me exactly why my baby sister was found all cut up inside your freezer?”
I twisted my ring nervously as I leaned against the pillar. Come on Sky, you can do it. It’s no big deal, it’s just as friends, he won’t notice that I-
“Miss Willows, please stop loitering around. Your break ended two minutes ago.” Mrs. Rutherford, the owner of the restaurant I worked at urged me inside. Rush-hour just finished, so I was primarily on cleaning duty, waiting for the few stragglers to finish so I could start closing up. The Western Ring was a restaurant that lied in the middle of downtown Chicago that also doubled as a bar after 8:30 pm. However today Mrs. Rutherford decided to close up shop early to go visit her son in the hospital. Poor Lyon.
“Sky you can head home if you want, I can finish up here alone.” A voice broke me out of the trance I was in. Francis Laurent was my classmate, coworker and apartment neighbour. He was a lanky man in his mid-twenties with shaggy brown hair and a charming smile. He was a few years my senior but we entered university at the same time due to some family issues he was having.
“You don’t have to do that, we can finish up here together then head home.” As much as I’d like to leave I couldn’t do that to Francis, I wouldn’t allow myself to take advantage of his kindness, no matter how minuscule. I’d be the one who gets hurt in the long run.
“I don’t think your sister would like that all that much,” he pointed outside to the woman advancing. She radiated sophistication and elegance despite only wearing dress pants and a blouse. I could already feel myself suppressing a sigh as I took off my apron and went to inform Mrs. Rutherford that I was leaving a bit early.
“Why are you here Mai?” I had a hard time suppressing the annoyance in my voice as I followed her across the street to the parking lot where she left her car.
“I heard my darling little sister was doing unnecessary tasks rather than executing the one I gave her, so of course I had to check it out myself.” She glanced at me from atop her sunglasses and I had to stifle the urge to strangle her right there. No surprise that my perfect older sister came to criticize me and all the things I was doing wrong in life. Mai constantly had to reassure herself that she truly did hold all the power. Coming to check on me periodically was proof of her accomplishments and a reminder to me that I should stay in line. I already showed her just how willing I am to comply with her wishes if it means I was allowed to live for longer. I was determined to succeed where my parents failed. Even if it means I don’t really get to live at all.
I avoided her gaze as I entered the car, deciding to stare out the window instead as I answered.
“I have it under control.” She hummed and turned on the ignition.
“Then why has it yet to be completed? I have given you more than enough time and resources. There’s no reason other than incompetence that the assignment has yet to be completed.” I shivered, I had no doubt that Mai would throw me away if she found me useless.
“Tonight. Please give me until tonight, it will be finished.” She looked me up and down, before stopping next to a curb.
“Don’t disappoint me. We would never want another Stacy, now would we?” I gulped and stopped in my tracks, halfway out the door.
“...Of course not.” I turned towards her, plastering on my best smile. Mai must have seen something that pleased her as she gave me a nod and returned my smile with her own tiny one.
“Good girl. Call me when you’ve finished.”
I nodded stiffly and watched her drive away. No matter what the future held, one thing was for certain. Someone would die tonight, and I would sure as hell try my hardest to make sure it wouldn’t be me. I tightened my hold on the bottle in my pocket before taking a breath and turning towards the apartment complex that surely wasn’t mine.
“...Francis, what are you doing here?”
“Sky, what- why are you covered in blood?!”
“STAY AWAY FROM ME!”
“GET AWAY FROM ME, MONSTER!”
“...I didn’t want it to come to this.”
“What are you-”
“Francis Laurent, the prime suspect in the Willows case, has been found. Or rather, his corpse has. The man who disappeared a few days prior to the discovery of Sky Willows has reappeared in pieces, with his remains scattered all over the city. What’s more, it has come back that Laurent was a man known to have mental problems, he was confined to a psych ward for a few years in his late teens through early twenties. What’s most puzzling about this case, however, is the possibility that Laurent did not even commit the murder. The lack of evidence….”
“Pfft, how funny.” Mai Willows leaned back in her chair, sipping from her wine glass as she stared out at the city, lowering the volume of the newscaster’s insistent chatter. A shadow watched her from a few metres away, stiff and trembling slightly.
“You should’ve been there,” Mai gave a little smile as she reminisced, “he was quite heartbroken, so easy to break. He was practically begging me to kill him when I finished.”
“Don’t tell me you're upset.” Mai looked over at the shadow, her voice amused.
“I did warn you, after all, reminded you of what happened to Stacy.”
“I’m guessing he reacted much the same as she did. He seemed almost as soft as her. What a shame, if only you could choose those with some potential.”
“Why? Well, it wouldn’t be fun otherwise. Can’t have you getting too comfortable after all.”
“Why couldn’t he have lived? It didn’t have to be like Stacy-”
“How cute,” Mai’s voice was cold and harsh. “They all leave in the end, I don’t see why you try so hard.”
Sky Willows looked down in shame, her heart heavy and eyes filled with angry tears that threatened to spill over. Mai sighed and made her way over, the burgundy robe swishing along with her graceful movements until the two stood in front of one another. Sky stiffened as she felt her sister envelop her in a hug. Not one of affection and comfort, but of control and Mai’s very own depraved form of love.
“I don’t see why you try so hard,” she repeated, “after all, I’m always the only one who stays.”