Green: Chapter Thirty
Lonephalt, Tenth County
Eight Years Ago
Stefanie stared at her bare body in the full length mirror on the back of her parents’ bedroom door. The scars on her flat chest where her breasts used to be looked angry and puffy. The ends of her long blond hair would soon cover them if she kept it draped over her shoulders like she had it now. It would be like they weren’t even there. Maybe Stefanie could be normal again.
But that wasn’t true. The scars would always be there. She would always look like less of a woman than anyone else. Just because she hadn’t wanted the implants. Her mother had been right about that, especially at her age. Implants would’ve at least looked natural. And kids at school would not have necessarily known the difference. She could’ve told them she had been out for any reason.
But she hadn’t. Her damned moral compass repulsed by the silicon had ruined her life.
“Stef, honey,” her mom’s voice called from downstairs. “I’m going to the store for some groceries. Do you want to come?”
Stefanie pulled her parents’ door opened and stepped into the hallway where she had left her pile of clothes. Today was a school day, but her recently-stay-at-home mom had allowed her not to go. It was so easy to feign sickness these days with what Stefanie had been through.
“No,” she called down the stairs as she began to pull on her jeans. “I’m still not feeling well.”
“Alright,” her mother said. “Take it easy and rest up. I’ll be back in a couple hours.”
“Kay,” Stefanie said, pulling the t-shirt over her head. She no longer had to bother with such things as bras.
She stood at the top of the stairs listening for her mother’s departure. She knew that her mother, a former school teacher, had to hate her. It was all Stefanie’s fault that her mother had to quit her job and stay home. Stefanie never asked to get sick. She never asked for anyone to take care of her. And she certainly never asked to ruin her mother’s life.
The floor vibrated lightly beneath her stockinged feet as the garage door opened and then closed. Stefanie’s father was at work too, him being a city planner and this being a Wednesday afternoon. The house was empty. Stefanie was alone, alone with the voices of the kids at school. Kids two or even three years younger than she was. The cancer had been that bad. It made her a seventeen-year-old freshman in high school. One that all the boys and girls picked on.
She was a he-she. A shim. She-male.
Whenever Stefanie closed her eyes she saw their laughing faces. And her mother’s sorrow. Her father’s ridicule.
But no more.
Stefanie jogged down the stairs and sifted through the key bucket on the mantle for the keys to her father’s shiny red Mazda Miata convertible, the car he only drove on the weekends. With nothing else, not even shoes on her feet, Stefanie went out to the garage and climbed in the car without putting her seatbelt on. She lowered the roof before leaving, closing the garage door behind the car and promptly throwing its controller on the gravel in front of it.
She pulled onto the road and cruised towards the Street of Saint Apollos. Her dad called it the bowels of Lonephalt. But Stefanie knew it by a darker name. She had heard that a person loses their soul in the takeoff from the stoplight. They no longer had control of their body and it no longer controlled the car. Nothing stopped them from approaching the ninety degree turn going way too fast. There was no way to stop the car or to turn the steering wheel.
Stefanie was hoping that it was true.
She knew where the Street of Saint Apollos was, though she had never been there personally. It didn’t take long to navigate the zippy little sports car through the light traffic of Lonephalt. She was mostly competing with police officers and taxis on her way. Soon, large concrete walls rose up on either side of her. The oncoming traffic lane vanished as Stefanie cruised onto a one lane street. A side street was on her left ahead where the single red traffic light hung just before a large concrete wall.
The rumor was that the light always started red. No matter what time it was or who was around. It was a perpetual stale red light until someone sat in front of it long enough to tempt it to change. The green light lasted only long enough to let one car through before jumping back up to yellow. By that time it was too late. The driver would smash headfirst into the concrete wall. If they were lucky, they were killed on impact. If not, they died later, in the hospital.
Stefanie didn’t care where she died as she eased to a stop at the stale red light. She just hoped she would.
The street was deserted and the light didn’t change immediately. It took long enough that the roaring sound of an engine whooshed through the street on her left. She turned her head to see a silver car rushing up the alley-like street. The tires squelched through a puddle as the driver slammed on the brakes.
Stefanie’s grip tightened on the steering wheel. Maybe that was why her father called the Street of Saint Apollos the bowels of Lonephalt. She hadn’t been expecting to run into anyone down here, much less one of the notorious street racers. At least, the silver sports car seemed like it would belong to one of them. She fixed her gaze back on the stoplight, willing it to turn green before the street racer caught up with her.
“Hey, beautiful!” Too late.
Stefanie cranked her head to the side to stare at the man. He had stopped his silver car a few feet into the intersection as though obstructing it. Stefanie’s Miata was small enough to squeeze by, though, the second that light turned green. The man had left his door opened as he stood in the street watching her.
Stefanie rolled her eyes. “What?” she growled. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“What’s a pretty thing like you doing in a place like this?” The man had to be in his late twenties though he had an innocent expression.
Stefanie’s knuckles were turning white on the steering wheel as he stopped to stand next to her door. “This is Suicide Road, isn’t it?” she asked all haughty like. Stefanie was done caring what other people thought of her. She just wanted to end it all.
“It is,” the man said tipping his head down as if in respect. Perhaps for all the lives the corner had claimed. “But what is a gorgeous woman like you doing here?”
“What does it look like?” Stefanie asked. “And stop calling me pretty.”
The light was still red.
The man’s innocent expression fell and he grabbed ahold of the top of the car door as he leaned down. “Okay,” he said. “Why do you want to kill yourself, sweetie?”
If the light turned green then, Stefanie was going to take the man’s hand off. Which probably wasn’t fair to him. “I’m no good to anyone anymore, not even myself,” she said. She blinked her eyes rapidly as they began to fill with water. Stefanie bit her bottom lip and hated herself in that moment. She had promised herself that she wouldn’t cry anymore.
The man reached out with his other hand to cradle her cheek. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
The light turned green.
She sniffed her nose. “Stefanie Souther.”
The light turned yellow.
“I’m Bronze,” the man said. “Come with me.”
The light turned red.
About the author
Hello! I am a yet-to-be published novel writer. You can find some of my rough pieces posted here as well as a series of articles on writing advice. If you want to get in touch with me, you can reach me at @B_M_Valdez on Twitter.