Extract: Best Forgotten by Kathryn White
Just for fun, I thought that I would share an extract from my latest novella, Best Forgotten.
April 16 2010
Purse. Car keys. Textbook. Mobile. Okay, I can do this. Act cool. Pretend everything is normal. I slip on my sunglasses and dump my satchel on the front passenger seat of the Hyundai. I take a deep breath. So far, so good. It is amazing, really, just how ordinary everything seems today. Here I am, going about my morning routine like nothing strange or out of the ordinary happened last night. Like I’m still the same innocent, untainted girl who stood in this same place, at exactly this time yesterday.
I wonder if anyone knows that I killed a man between now and then?
I cast my eyes across the car park, just to see if anyone from the flats is out and about yet. On the other side of the fence, at the front of an old weatherboard shack, James is trying to persuade his son to get into the car so that he can go to school.
‘I don’t wannna go!’
I know how you feel, kid. I never liked school much either.
Tyson makes a dash from the driveway to the veranda. ‘Come on Mate …’ James lifts his arms in the air. In one hand is Tyson’s Spiderman backpack. In the other, James holds his car keys. I stifle a giggle. Poor James. ‘It’s not that bad.’
‘I’m not going.’
Tyson plonks his tiny bottom down on a rotting old sofa that lives on the Smith’s front veranda. The sofa has been there for two years now. The story is that after James split up with Tyson’s mum, Holly, she wanted the sofa. He left it on the veranda so that she (or anybody else) could take it whenever she wanted to. Then Holly must have changed her mind about wanting her sofa back, because she never came around to collect it. Such are divorces in this neighbourhood.
‘Come on …’ James looks toward the sky. ‘It’s going to start raining soon.’
And you’ll probably get a horrible disease from that sofa if you’re not careful, Tyson.
Tyson sighs and stares down at his lap. James lets out a sigh of his own. He turns to the fence and stares at me. ‘Never, ever have kids.’
Hi James! How’s it going? Did you know I murdered someone last night?
‘Nah, he’s all right …’ James lets out a chuckle. ‘Just moody because he’ll be going back his mum’s this arvo … he doesn’t like it that she and her partner have a new baby.’
I can understand that. Poor Tyson.
It’s never fun, being the unfavoured child.
‘Anyway, how have you been …’ Pausing momentarily, James looks me up and down. Why is he staring at me like that? Maybe he knows. I feel my heart pound a little faster. After all, James does work for the emergency services. Maybe he was the paramedic that attended the scene last night. And then, maybe the police worked out who did it, and they know that he lives in the house next door to the flats and they’ve asked him to keep an eye on me. Maybe he’s even recording this conversation in the hope that I might say something that makes me look guilty and then …
James offers me a smile. ‘It is Kellie-Sue, right?’
Oh. James doesn’t know which twin he’s talking to. Wow, that’s really … weird. I turn and look in the mirror. Maybe being a murderer makes me resemble Cassie even more closely than before.
‘Of course it’s Kellie-Sue.’
A sigh echoes through the car park. Cassie runs a hand through her long, blonde hair. A pair of ice-blue eyes gaze at James. ‘I’d never be caught dead in clothes like that.’
I wear jeans and a t-shirt with a picture of Wembly from Fraggle Rock on the front. Cassie wears hotpants with hoop earrings and a white singlet top. No bra underneath. Because Cassie is just like, way too cool to bother about things like underwear.
‘I bet you wouldn’t.’
James keeps his face completely deadpan.
Cassie turns toward the Hyundai. She takes my satchel from the passenger seat and tosses it in the back. ‘You leaving any time soon?’
‘Would you like a ride?’
I roll my eyes and then walk to the other side of the car. I give James a quick good-bye wave and start the engine. ‘And probably a poof as well.’ Cassie rolls her eyes. I try not to smile. In Cassie’s eyes, the only reason a man would not be completely and utterly in love with her was if he was gay.
‘I think he’s okay.’
Actually, I think that James is very nice, even if his long, dark hair and beard don’t really suit him. And the scar on his face, just on his left jaw, is a bit freaky.
‘I can’t get through to Morgan.’
Cassie sighs and stares down at her mobile. She has the latest model Blackberry. Because, lets face it, Cassie is just way too cool to own a Nokia or Samsung Galaxy. Or even an iPhone.
‘Morgan, where are you?’
Cassie sighs into her mobile. ‘I couldn’t get through to him last night, either.’
Maybe there is a reason for that. Still, I don’t think Cassie would react very well if I told her that Morgan was dead. So instead I say, ‘I tried looking up the cemetery records online last night.’
‘What do you want to do that for?’ Cassie rolls her eyes.
‘So we can finally know where Dad is buried.’
Our dad died when we were seven, shortly after he and Mum split up. I don’t remember much about him, apart from his accent and that he always used to wear plaid shirts with jeans. He was originally from Atlanta, Georgia and was responsible for giving me a name that would ensure that I was ridiculed relentlessly in the schoolyard. Because God knows, it’s completely unacceptable to have a name like Kellie-Sue when you attend an Australian public high school.
Oh well. At least it was better than the other names they used to call me. Like Fat-Arse-Sue. Or later on, Anna Rexia.
‘He’s dead.’ Cassie sighs. ‘Knowing where he is buried isn’t going to change that.’
‘Yeah, but …’
My voice trails off as I realise that Cassie is no longer listening. She has her Blackberry pressed to her ear, as she chats away with one of her many friends. ‘Nah, can’t find him anywhere …He was supposed to meet me last night at the Stag and never showed, the lazy prick.’
Oh, Cassie. If only you knew why that good-for-nothing Morgan never showed at the Stag last night. Or that his killer is sitting right beside you …
* * *
Before you ask, Morgan is not Cassie’s boyfriend. He is mine. Well, ex-boyfriend.
And yes, I killed him.
I’m sure that you think this makes me a horrible person. And maybe I am. Maybe I’m a completely rotten person. Be assured that I did call an ambulance. Okay, I might have used a public telephone, and I hung up when they asked me my name, but I did call the emergency services, just in case they could do something. So maybe I’m not totally evil.
Morgan is someone that Cassie and I have known since we started high school. He was a year and a half older than us, but had been kept down a grade after a long illness. He and Cassie because good friends straight away. Most of the kids thought that they were an item. You couldn’t really blame them for that, seeing as most of the time, Morgan seemed to trot around after Cassie like a puppy in search of his master. He never paid that kind of attention to me. For a little while, I was jealous, but then I got sick and had my own problems to deal with. After I got better (or more accurately, after I gained a certain amount of weight,) Mum and Brian thought it was best to send me to a private school where I could have a fresh start. Consequently, I didn’t have that much to do with Morgan, until I started uni and we kept seeing one another on campus.
This time, things were different. I kept noticing just how attractive Morgan was. Tall, buff, golden blonde hair, brown eyes. I wasn’t planning on doing anything about it. I mean, every time I saw him, Morgan always had hundreds of girls flocking around, vying for his attention. Why on earth would he notice me, some friendless, stick thin virgin with rabbit teeth and bad clothes, when he had outgoing, beautiful supermodel lookalikes hanging on to his every word? And then, suddenly it seemed like everywhere I went, Morgan would be there too. He’d compliment me on my appearance, laugh at my jokes and stick up for me whenever I needed him to. And he had a quirky sense of humour of his own. I liked the way that he could never merely like something. He’d always describe himself as ‘loving’ it. Morgan did not merely like toast on vegemite. He loved it. Especially the way I made it when he stopped around the flat in the mornings for breakfast. He loved my hair. He loved my sense of humour. He loved the heroic way I had fought my illness. (Or so he put it.)
So, you can see why I fell in love with him. Despite all of the obvious clues, I had no idea that he was in love with me, until one evening when we were at the uni tavern and he confided that the reason he didn’t have a steady girlfriend (yes, that’s actually when he called it, a steady girlfriend,) was because he had been hurt by a girl. Deeply. The hurt was so deep that he had never been able to fall in love with any of the girls he had dated. He had been in love with the same girl since high school, but she had never even looked twice at him. And if she didn’t start soon, he didn’t know what he would do.
Naturally I thought that he meant Cassie. I even promised to talk to her. Then Morgan took my hand. ‘The girl I am talking about, Kellie-Sue, is you.’
That’s what he said. Even now, the words send a shiver down my spine.
Anyway, suffice to say that the next morning, I was no longer a virgin. Cassie was pissed about that. She kept telling me to break it off with him, but I figured that she was probably jealous. After all, she was used to having Morgan all to herself and then it turned out that he liked me better. Ha.
Morgan was a fun guy to hang around with. One time, we went on a picnic to the botanic gardens and he climbed up the top of this weird sculpture thing and got stuck. Another time when he came to visit me at work, he stood behind the customer service desk and did a wonderful imitation of my boss. And then there was David, Morgan’s disgusting creep of a housemate. David’s favourite pastime was going online and looking for underage girls to exchange sexy messages and photographs with. Morgan would pose online as various girls, just to embarrass and humiliate David. He always vowed that as soon as he had enough evidence, he would take it to the police and have David charged.
Then, over the summer, something changed. I can’t even pinpoint when exactly it happened. Maybe it was when I noticed Morgan checking out other women. Or the first time he was late for a date. Or maybe it was when he commented that I should wear better clothes. But anyway, suddenly, it seemed like I had to try harder and harder to get Morgan’s attention. I changed my clothes, started to wear more make-up. And I never, ever nagged him about where he had been, whom he had been talking to and why he didn’t call. Morgan hated that. And I didn’t want Morgan to hate me. I wanted him to keep on loving me. I wanted things to be good again, like they were in the beginning. Is that really so wrong?
The first time he hit me, I didn’t complain. The first time I caught him kissing another woman, I did not complain. The first time I caught him in bed with another women he fractured my ribs and asked me why I could not take a hint. It was then and only then that the truth became clear. Morgan did not love me. Nor did he love Christina, the girl I caught him with. Or Shannon, the next girl who came along. Or Emma, Mel or Lisa. I watched as he reeled in, chewed up and spat out a number of girls, each one dumber than the last. Every girl was always going to be the last one, or so he’d promise Cassie, who had stanchly remained his best friend through it all. But then within a week, or even just a day, another girl would come along to take her place. When I saw Lisa, the seventeen year old that he had deflowered, sitting on the side of the road, crying for a pregnancy that she had terminated just days before, I knew I had to take action. It took me days, and much deliberation about the rights and wrongs of the situation, but soon, the answer was clear.
Morgan had to die.
It was the only way he would ever stop hurting other people.
And if that makes me a bad person, then so be it.
* * *
The traffic is a bitch today.
In front of me is a blue Pajero. The Pajero has nearly rear ended the bus in front three times now, because each time, the driver has not pressed the brakes soon enough and has been forced to come to a very sharp and very sudden stop. Which may not be a good thing, considering that the road is quite wet at the moment. The rain is really coming down. Pissing cats and dogs, as my dad used to say. I’m not sure if that is an American expression, or an Australian one that he picked up after he moved here.
Meanwhile, Cassie is still busy speaking into her phone. Cassie is so much like our mother it scares me. Even sitting in the car, she has her body perfectly poised and her legs crossed at such an angle that makes them look long, and slim. The boys in the Commodore beside us seem to appreciate this.
‘Yeah, I know, he thinks he’s such a womanizer … The truth is no one with half a brain would go anywhere near him … just look at what he did to my sister … no, the closest thing she’s had to a date lately is talking to that freak who lives next door … yeah, I know, I should stop saying things like that …’
Cassie gives me a condescending smile. I roll my eyes. Talk about me like I’m some kind of freak. That’s okay Cassie.
Cassie ends the call a moment later. ‘Amy hasn’t heard from Morgan either.’
‘Geez you’re a bitch.’
‘Geez, we must be more alike than you think.’
That silences Cassie for a whole three seconds. Then she pulls out her trump card. ‘Except I’d never date Morgan.’
‘No. You just chase after him night and day.’
I still think that Cassie is jealous.
‘Did you find out where Dad is buried?’
‘No.’ The Pajero slams on the brakes again. ‘I couldn’t even find out where he died, when, or what of.’
‘Why don’t you just ask Mum again?’
‘Because she doesn’t like to talk about it.’
That was probably the understatement of the year. Every time I mention my father, Mum starts dabbing the corners of her eyes with a lace hankie and sobs that I must hate her to bring such a terrible subject up. Don’t I know how much pain it causes her? ‘I’ve never known a more selfish person than you, Kellie-Sue.’
Really? I remember the first time Mum came to see me when I was in hospital. She spent the whole time dabbing her eyes with the same lace hankie, while she demanded to know how I could do this to her. And she hardly ever attended the family therapy sessions, leaving Brian to take on the role of parent. Even Cassie visited me in hospital more times than Mum did. Then again, I suppose the fact that I was in hospital gave Cassie the perfect excuse to take time off from school.
Meanwhile, from the back seat, the theme song from The Muppet Show begins to play.
‘Is that your phone?’
Cassie stares at me.
‘Well I don’t know.’ Cassie sighs again. ‘It’s not like anyone ever phones you.’
For the record, people do telephone me. They’re just people that Cassie considers to be inferior species. Like my friend Ada who colours her hair pink and plays the tuba. Or Tanya who has psoriasis and works on checkouts with Ada and me at Foodmart.
‘No one normal anyway …’
The Muppet Show theme song plays on.
‘Do you want me to get that?’ Cassie leans toward the back seat. I narrowly miss hitting the Pajaro in front of us, yet again.
‘Geez, learn how to drive why don’t you? Now, where the hell is your phone …’ While I crank the windscreen wipers on to full throttle and do my best to stop the Hyundai from sliding all over the road Cassie keeps up a running commentary about her search for my phone. ‘Which pocket is it in … I can hear it Kellie-Sue, but I can’t … Finally ...’ Cassie flops back on the passenger seat, phone in hand. She stares down at the screen. ‘It’s Morgan calling …’
The Hyundai slams into the back of the Pajaro with an almighty crunch.
Run, run, running as fast as I can.
Everything is happening so fast, it is difficult for me to keep up. I remember sneaking inside Cassie’s room. I remember pinching her favourite hoodie, the grey one that is just that bit too snug around the bust. That’s Cassie’s look. Even when it’s too cold for a tank top or boob tube, she will find one way or another to draw attention to her breasts. Consequently, everyone thinks that she’s the twin with the better breasts, despite the fact that we both take the same bra size. Cassie even steals my underwear whenever she’s too lazy to do her laundry. (On the occasions that she actually wears a bra, that is.)
Dressed in Cassie’s hoodie and an old pair of jeans, I leave the flat. I turn into the alley. There’s no one around. Good. I pull the hood up. I keep walking. At the moment, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I’ve decided that it’s best if I’m not too easy to recognise.
Morgan lives a little way from us, in a 1970s style brick veneer ex-housing trust place that is more or less typical to the area. His front window has a good view of the rotting old Torana that Mrs Burns and her sons keep in their front yard, along with an old, graffiti covered washing machine. A pair of old sneakers, tied together at the laces hangs on the overhead wires. I wonder who would go to the bother of putting the sneakers up there? Morgan’s former housemate, David, reckons the sneakers mean that they’re selling dope, but that seems pretty unlikely to me. Considering that Mrs Burns spends most of her days wandering around the front yard in just her bra and a pair of tartan shorts, and says, ‘Aye?’ any time that someone tries to talk to her, it seems improbable that she’s got the smarts to be a drug dealer. I shared that theory with David once. He just laughed at me and said that it is her son who is selling the dope. Which is pretty sad if it is true, seeing as her son is only seventeen.
It is quite a long walk from the southern end of Southcoast, where Cassie and I live, up to the northern end, where Morgan’s house is located. I walk most of it along the beach, careful to keep my head down and not talk to anyone. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I know that its time someone sorted Morgan out for good. I wonder what he’ll do when he opens the door. He’ll probably just smile at me, like he always does and ask me how come I’m not over him yet. And then he’ll try and get me into the bedroom. He always does. We’ll be arguing and then, the next thing I know, his body against mine, his crotch rubbing against my jeans, while he whispers in my ear that he’s missed me and he doesn’t want to fight. I’ll try to resist him, but then, because I’m an idiot, I’ll …
Not this time. This time, I will be strong.
I arrive at Morgan’s house a little after eight. It’s completely dark. The streetlight nearest to Morgan’s house is not working. Good. There is no one hanging around outside the Burns house, though I can see the blue flicker of a television screen through their curtains.
I walk up the cement steps to Morgan’s house. The front door is open and the screen door, unlocked. I remember touching the handle on the screen door and then …
All sorts of grotesque images, all muddled up in my mind. Shouting, blood, Morgan’s body. Blood, Morgan’s body, shouting. Morgan’s body, shouting, blood.
I can’t remember a thing. Just these stupid images.
I find a public telephone a couple of blocks away. I dial triple 0, and tell the operator that a man has been hurt and that an ambulance is reuqired. I give them Morgan’s address. And then I hang up.
I run down to the beach, and straight into the ocean.
The salt water cleans Morgan’s blood from my clothes and my hair.
Even when all the blood is gone, I still feel dirty.
Later. Much Later.
Lots and lots of little noises. Sneakers squeaking against a linoleum floor. A cart being wheeled down the hallway. The wheels on the cart are squealing, crying out for grease. A sharp ping pierces the air as an elevator arrives on our floor.
I do not have to open my eyes to know where I am. The bigger question is how did I get here? What is the last thing I can remember? Something about driving. Driving in the rain. Cassie was there. She had my phone.
A male voice. ‘Kellie-Sue … Kellie-Sue can you hear me?’
Who are you?
There are more noises. And footsteps. The male voice speaks again.
‘She’s waking up.’
I struggle to open my eyelids. For a moment or two, the light is so bright that it almost blinds me. ‘It’s okay.’ A man takes my hand. It takes a little while for the figure to come into focus. He is a tall man, with long and shaggy dark brown hair and a beard. He had tattoos on his arms, a beard that does not suit him and quite an interesting scar on his cheek.
Why on earth is James here?
‘You’re in hospital … its okay Sweetheart, the doctors and nurses are taking good care of you.’
The expression in his brown eyes is gentle. ‘I’m here … everyone is taking good care of you …’
I try to swallow. My throat is dry. ‘Thir …’
‘Don’t try to speak yet. The doctor will be here soon.’ Suddenly, his head snaps up. He looks at the door. ‘She’s awake.’
Armed with a clipboard and stethoscope, a middle aged woman walks inside the room. ‘I was wondering when you’d join us, Mrs Smith.’
‘My name is Kellie-Sue Jones … No, no, Jones, not Smith. I’m nineteen years old. I’m in my second year of an arts degree, majoring in English. I have a twin sister named Cassie.’
And last night I killed someone, but I don’t dare say anything to the doctor about that.
Copyright © Kathryn White 2012