“Can you…” I panted. “Keep a secret?”
“Dave...” Sarah eyed me, as if she couldn’t believe I would have to ask. “Is now really the time?” Her sharp glare felt particularly frustrated. Stress did that to her. It ate away at her personality to reveal something worse beneath.
I stuck my shovel into the mud, resting my foot on its edge.
“Jesus. Don’t turn this into another argument,” I sighed. I knew I shouldn’t have, but it was hard to not poke the bear. “Can’t you take a joke?” Something buried deep inside wanted to see her reaction.
She stopped and confusion riddled her face. For a second, all was silent save for the crickets. It reminded me of how much I missed silence and all of the wonderful things that came with it.
“Another argu--” she threw her rusted shovel to the ground and grabbed the corners of her golden hair. “Dave. We’re in so much shit if they find us. Are you not even a little bit worried?” The dirt had sullied it, darkening it and ruining the hair that first caught my attention all those years back.
It wasn’t completely the reason I chose her. Her wicked smile and flirtatious eyes certainly had no trouble winning my affection. And then there was the daring attitude--it was almost too brazen. I’d grown tired of the submissive types. Somehow, our goals were always lost in translation and I wasn’t the type to stay when I sensed conflict.
Maybe that’s why I fell so hard for Sarah. We didn’t feel like partners lovingly helping one another; we were rivals who begged to be tested. And it was explosive.
“No.” My response shocked her. “I know I can trust you to keep a secret.”
“Why are you acting like this?” Her lips curled into a hiss. “You’re treating this like it’s a game, David. And I’m getting sick of it. I’ve been keeping your secrets for years!”
It was, at least, to me. Maybe I was just getting bored? It was the same thing every time. The same tiresome arguments. I was starting to miss being single.
I shrugged. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve been keeping each other’s secrets. This isn't the first time something like this has happened.”
Her eyes turned to daggers--a scream brewed deep underneath her petite chest.
Her fingers dragged down the sides of her cheeks and a sound similar to a scoff slipped from her mouth. I could hardly take her anger seriously thanks to her plum colored lips. She thought they made her look quirky--I thought they made her look like a fool.
“You act like I’m the only guilty one,” I laughed.
“Are you seriously talking about that? It happened once. One fucking time and it is in no way comparable!” Sarah growled. “I didn’t see it in the road. It was too dark. Fuck me for being blind at night!” I looked ahead at my truck, momentarily blinded by its headlights. Toward the bottom of the grill, a dribble of now black blood had dried in the mesh. “Besides, if we didn’t take your piece of shit truck, I would have been fine. But this is--”
“Piece of--” My scold became illuminated by its dim, yellow lights.
“You heard me.”
“That’s a collector’s piece right there. You know how long it took me to find one?” I smirked. “And its previous owner, for your information, did not want to budge during negotiations. Getting it took a lot of sweat and blood.” It wasn’t hard to imagine myself speeding down the road, rock music blasting. The passenger seat filled with snacks for the aimless journey.
She trembled, her skin shaking in the night air. Unlike her, I was thankful for its chilled company. Digging a hole in the middle of summer was by far the worst; fall was tremendously easier. I hadn’t even broken a sweat yet.
“Dave… what’s gotten into you?” She shook her head. “You’re… An animal is one thing, but... Don’t you understand what we’ve done? We should tell someone. We should--”
Her eyes bounced to me without hesitation. “David. They’re going to know. I-I’ve never done something like this before. Stealing is one thing, but… this?”
“It was an accident. It happens.”
“It happens?” Her voice shifted. Perhaps she didn’t feel the sudden shift, but I did. It was like a different person stood in front of me.
“Yeah,” I shrugged. “It happens. It was part of the risk. We clean it up and then we leave--we don’t talk about it ever again. Tomorrow’s a new day.”
“No,” she shook her head again and paced. “No. I’m not doing this again. Ever! I’m going home and then… I don’t know…”
I smirked. We’d been together too long, and her threats were always hollow. “You know what I think? I think it’s the opposite; I think you’re getting too comfortable. I think you feel invincible when you walk in there, strutting your gift. You want them to catch us red handed, or at least a part of you does." Her eyes wobbled. My words were like scalpels cutting away the fat I'd grown to detest. "I think you’ve gotten lazy, and now look what happened.”
“What… Dave what the fuck does that mean?”
“I think we wouldn’t be in this position if you just did what I said,” I replied. “But you’re always pushing the limits. Never listening! And now look what you’ve done.”
“You know what? Fuck you!” Her arms crossed as she peered deeper into the forest. “You’re such a psychopath,” she muttered.
There was something special about this area. Something that kept us coming back time and time again. We migrated to it every year. The forest had changed in our repeated visits, as had we. New trails were carved through the pines for the rare hiker brave enough to venture inside, and now there were cute maps made of the place waiting at the entrance to be ignored. They even built a parking lot not twenty minutes away.
It was hardly monitored.
We came to this forest when we first met. We hiked its peak and exchanged fantasies, building upon each other’s, and unknowingly feeding a deeper desire in her.
I circled her, carefully avoiding the pit she stood an inch too close to. Another gust of wind and she’d no doubt fall in.
“You know I’m right.”
“I know you’re not as smart as you think you are,” she corrected as she pushed past me and stormed off deeper into the dark woods.
“Neither are you.” I caught her off guard. She stopped, frozen thanks to my opposition.
She spun around, a fresh snarl unleashed in my direction. “Take that back!” She stomped the mud, spraying dirt over her ripped jeans. “I did everything right the last time. He didn’t even see it coming. I even beat your record,” she screamed and it drove me wild inside. “The cameras didn’t even see me. I bet they still don’t know it even happened. You're just upset I don't need your help anymore to survive on my own.”
“Perhaps, but not this time.”
“I couldn’t have predicted something like that would happen. Even you couldn’t have. There wasn’t supposed to be a security guard.”
“You should have been able to…” I lamented. “I told you, it’s the smaller hauls that keep us moving forward, but no…” I followed with an over exaggerated whistle. It echoed like we were in a tunnel. Just the two of us. “You wanted the bold one. You wanted more of a challenge.”
Her upper lip curled and her nose flared. It was coming. The explosion.
She sucked in a gulp of the chilled air, and stopped. A pout emerged; a contingency plan. This wasn’t the first time she tried it, either. She new she could never win in an argument.
“This act… I think you do it just to get me riled up,” I rolled my eyes. “It won’t work. Now get back here and help me finish what you started. Then we can go home.”
She stopped. Her head peered over her shoulder.
“My mess?” Her eyes widened as she turned around. “No… I didn’t do that. It’s not my pocket knife in his neck!” She protested. It was too late--I already had her.
“He found you, dear. Caught you red handed, not me.” Her shoulders slouched; her arms fell to their sides. “Your pretty face is the last one he saw. Not mine.”
Her face melted. Her mouth sagged into something beyond a frown and quivered. Streams slid over her thin cheeks, shining like ice in the headlights. She sunk inwards of herself, grabbing her stomach. The realization was setting in. Her guilt was eating her alive.
“What if he had a family?” She cried.
“He most certainly did. Perhaps even a son.”
“No. No… no… this isn’t happening.”
“Shh,” I opened my arms and waved for her to come to me. I would make everything better, she knew that. I had always cleaned up after her. “Come on, dear. We’ll work through this together.”
She fell into my arms. Her return sparked little inside of me now. There was a time when it would have felt like a fire was boiling my blood, but now it was bone cold. I just wanted to get this done.
“We won’t speak a word of this,” I glared. “Understood?”
Her breath touched my cheek. “David… what are we going to do?”
I eyed the hole just in front of us. It was deep enough--one more could fit. I made sure to dig deeper than they’d look, just in case. But we were far off the trail. I doubt anyone even knew this spot existed.
I nodded. She would never know. I would make it quick. Painless.
My eyes returned to hers, which wavered with a puppy dog stare. “David?” She whispered.
“Everything will be alright. You’re going to keep my secret,” I smiled, hiding the toothed grin I could feel forming. “And then we’ll both be happy. How do you like the sound of that?”
She nodded and nestled her head into my chest in a hesitant fashion.
She didn’t know it, but I could see her eyes look beyond me, to the truck. Her hope was palpable. With the grace of a drunken sailor, her fingers floundered over me. They searched my pockets, hopeful to make it seem like their destination was different.
She made this too easy.
I leaned beside her, pulling her ear close. “I don’t have the keys.” Her eyes widened and a chill rippled through her skin. I savored it. “I left them in the car. Now do me a favor… get in the hole.”
Her claws dug below the cloth; a whimper clung to her frozen breath. I wonder how long she was oblivious to this eventual moment. It was fated in our history to happen. Had she been scheming with a plan all her own?
No. She wasn’t that smart.
“Shhh,” I pressed my finger to her lips. “Just get in the hole. There’s room for one more. Go on.”
I grabbed the shovel still stuck in the dirt like a spear embedded in a stuck pig. Slowly, but surely, her eyes fell from mine to the wooden handle, then to metal. I imagined she knew what came next.
“Just be a good girl,” I sighed. I was already exhausted and dreaming about how wonderful an empty bed was going to feel. “Don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be.” I pointed the end of the shovel to her belly. “Go on.” I rolled my eyes. “Go!”
My bark shook her back to life. Her eyes bounced between the truck and myself. Eventually, with a storm of sniffles and sobs, her legs started to move. I almost felt bad.
“David… please… you don’t have to do this… I won’t tell anyone,” she pleaded. Her words stammered in an obnoxious way. “I love you."
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t be hoarding a stash of cash in one of your socks,” her face collapsed. “I’m no fool. I’ve been watching that sock grow fat. You could have hid it better. Let's be honest, we've both seen this end coming for a while now. But we had a good run.”
“I wont tell a soul!"
“I know you won’t.”
She stopped an inch from the hole and looked away. She couldn’t even look at what we’d done. Even if I spared her, soon she’d start looking at me the same way as she did her mistake. I wasn’t a fool. Paradise could only last so long, and it would last a lot longer alone.
“You’re going to keep my dirty secret. Every last one of them, because you love me,” I sucked in the cold air and admired our surroundings. It was such a perfect place to be buried. I was almost envious of it. “Don’t worry, I’ll come by every once in a while to visit.”
“Now, go on and get in the hole. Don’t make me ask twice.”
She complied and climbed inside, scurrying to the corner. I didn’t blame her. There was a bleeding security guard taking up most of it, and he wasn’t particularly a looker.
I squeezed the wooden handle. I wanted to savor the moment. I only needed one strike and it would be done. One perfect hit. I lined up the metal with her head and her body shuddered.
Goodbye I happily fantasized.
I raised the shovel over my head like I was a child again, at the local fair, a hammer in hand and ready to ring the bell of the high striker. This time, a ding would not be my prize; a scream was to be my victory bell.
And then it hit me--pain. Searing agony. A burning sensation seeped into my eyes and nose. Snot poured from my nose and tears streamed out of each eye like a dam had just been ruptured.
I dropped the shovel and clasped my face, digging my fingers into my sockets in the hopes of squeezing out the poison. It didn’t work.
“Fuck!” I shouted so loud I thought I ripped a vocal cold. “Fuck--my eyes! What did you do you little...”
I managed to open them just enough to see the blurry image of Sarah holding a red spray bottle aimed at me. Another stream shot out and blasted me again.
Pepper Spray. It was the security guard’s. That clever bitch.
I dropped to my knees and watched as her foggy figure hoisted herself up and out. “You litt--”
“You’re right!” She shouted. “This has been a long time coming. Rot in hell you psycho!”
A sharp pain struck me upside the head. Suddenly I felt weightless.
Something squishy caught my fall. My groans and grumbles bounced around me as I felt my surroundings out. There was dirt. A lot of it, along with something sticky.
I forced open one eye to see Bert, the balding security guard. His surprised face was like looking into a mirror; my pocket knife was still stuck in his neck.
Above us, my truck’s engine roared to life. I watched as its lights gradually vanished as it drove away, and complete darkness returned save for the blurry night sky.
Even now, I wasn’t alone.