I scrape the last bit of tortilla soup from the bowl. As I raise the spoon to my lips, the server stops at my table placing a container on the surface.
“Here’s your tacos to-go.” His gaze wanders past my face to the empty tables behind me. “Can I interest you in a dessert?”
“I don’t think I should.” I bite my lip to keep my foot from tapping. “New Year’s resolution and all.”
I look back down at my bowl to cut off anymore conversation.
He acts as if I hadn’t spoken and drones on with his script. “Today’s special is key lime pie.”
Why won’t he go away? I force a smile. “A slice of pie would top this meal off.”
“Great.” He yawns. Without asking what kind of pie, he turns and walks back toward the kitchen.
I turn around to take in the restaurant’s dining area. The place is dead. A rush of relief runs through me. They’re not here yet. But they’ll be here soon. With that thought my shoulder muscles stiffen. I rub the back of my neck with my fingers but the stubborn ache remains. I adjust the novel with a purple cover that I set on the table when I got here. My finger traces the raised script of the title The Book of Love and Death. A lump grows in my throat as I do so. The book is how the informant will know it’s me. Checking my phone, I don’t find any new messages from them. They are now 20 minutes late.
Aunt Louise would have said anyone who wasted your time wasn’t worth the effort. I have a habit of being at least a few minutes behind. If she thought I was a waste of time and effort, she never showed it. My favorite memories are of our reading marathons. We would borrow a ridiculous amount of books from the library then spend the weekend reading as many as we could. The winner was whoever read the most books and could recall the most plots. I only beat her twice. She read romances and mysteries like they were her only sustenance. I once asked her why she loved those genres so much. She said nothing simultaneously captures the soul while breaking the heart like love and death.
She was good to me even though I was an awful kid. I ran away several times as a teen. Even when I wasn’t officially running away, I’d crash with friends without telling her. She’d leave her door unlocked even though it’s dangerous in the city just so I could come home whenever I was ready.
My Aunt Louise was found dead on the floor of her home three years ago. She was bludgeoned to death. The murderer got in through her front door which she left unlocked when I went out with friends all night.
Panic rips through my abdomen. What if the informant doesn’t show? What if they do but can’t help me? Why did they ask me to bring this novel of all the things in the world?
My stomach flips and I rush to the restroom. It’s a bright small room that’s as empty as the rest of the place. Turning on a sink faucet, I splash cold water on my face. My breathing slows.
Aunt Louise was my dad’s sister. She’d raised me since I was eleven after my dad died and my mom left to start a life without me. She was the only person who ever believed in me. I thought I was worthless because everyone abandoned me. I took my anger and pain out on Aunt Louise–knowing she had nothing to do with it–but punishing her out of terror that she’d, too, leave me alone one day. And she did… but not because she wanted to.
I look myself in the mirror. She did everything for me. I will do this for her. I will bring her justice no matter what it takes. As much grief as I gave her growing up, I vow to bring ten times the suffering on her murderer and anyone who gets in my way.
A fire of love and death grows in my heart. I step out of the restroom ready to go to battle. The dining area is no longer empty.
A customer sits at my table. They turn at the sound of my approach. In their hand is Aunt Louise’s novel The Book of Love and Death, a mystery romance that she wrote. Holding up the book with its purple cover, they say,
“You’re Wendy Charring? Let’s talk.”
Thank you for reading! This is an entry for the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge. This time around the challenge is different so please check it out at the above link or on lisabeesim’s MSSSC blog to understand the scope of the next three months. January was to write a character with their background. This will be part 1 of a 3 part story so strap in. Max words/pics allowed: 800/8, my word count/pics: 766/7. All CC in the screenshots are from Around the Sims 4. You can find Wendy Charring in the Sims gallery under my forum name: Qnshr5 or with #MSSSC.
Update: Read Part 2!