Friday, March 30, 2012

Fiction Friday: City of Fear, Part 1

“New York, New York! It’s a wonderful town!” was stuck in her head as she flew to Chicago. She would have loved to disappear among the throngs of anonymous faces between 5th Avenue and Broadway, but instead she was heading for Oprah’s town, ice-cold and hunched over from the chill, where everyone looked down to keep their eyeballs from freezing.

She’d packed her bag two days ago, taken her trash and recycling to the curb, and opened her windows a crack to let air circulate while she was gone. She’d thought of everything. She was ready.

Except she would never be ready to face her past. Chicago was her destination, but also the pit of her fears. She’d left this city behind eight years ago for a new life alone. A new life away from the news reporters and double takes from passersby and thousands of people who knew her name. A city that hated her.

A boy had died. The man she’d loved and supported had killed him – done horrible things. And even though she took no part in any of it, she wasn’t considered a victim. She should have known, should have seen something, should have noticed the boy’s baseball uniform in her trash can, should have recognized the monster in her bed. She was to blame.

The trial had been swift – the city’s judgment even swifter. He went to jail and she went into hiding, desperately trying to avoid the dark stares of recognition, the notes left on her windshield, even in the snow, and the deep silence from her circle of friends, which had stepped aside and closed back up without her, revealing how little they’d truly cared about her all along.

So she did what any reasonable mouse would do. She ran away. To Portland, where she could hide in the cold and be anonymous. Where the hipster heartline of the town wasn’t up to date on true crime of the last decade so she could get gas for her car without people coughing so she could look up and accept their expressions of hatred.

She became the quiet girl at the office who never went out for drinks and brought her lunch every day. She let her work speak for her, so when the conference in Chicago was announced, her boss chose her for the honor.

She’d cried for an hour in the handicapped bathroom. How to get out of it, how to explain without explaining, how to refuse without drawing attention. There was no way.

So she was sitting on a plane, flying toward the fire, preparing to spend three days at a booth where thousands of people would look at her, put two and two together, and usher her back into her nightmare.

Click to read City of Fear, Part 2

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