Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes.
Almost forgotten were the days when right was right and wrong was wrong; a guilty verdict the line separating the two. Sarah James had once lived in color. She knew the precise moment when her world became defined by mottled shades of gray.
A wide-brimmed hat shaded her face from the unforgiving June sun. Arms folded over her chest, she surveyed her home. From the outside, it was just another blemish in a pock-marked neighborhood. As part of a “revitalization” project, she’d lucked into it for a bargain.
“I see you’re new to the area. I’m Margo Godfrey.”
Preferring solitude, Sarah took a deep breath before turning to find an older woman with graying, frizzed curls standing behind her. Her gaze lingered on the woman’s clothing for a couple seconds, caught off-guard by the midday donning of a hideous floral house coat.
“Saw your Jersey plate. ‘Lotta east coast transplants out here.”
“I suppose. I’m Sarah James.” Sarah turned her attention back to the stucco wall. She ran the scraper along the cracked mustard paint. The flakes of baked paint and worn stucco fell away, revealing a softer canary yellow. She’d chosen Serengeti Sand as the new color to represent her home, in honor of her sister who’d dreamed of studying lions in Africa.
“This house was a gem back in the sixties.”
“It is lovely.”
“Not no more. Been haunted for twenty years.”
“I don’t believe that stuff.”
“A teen died here. Never found her killer, neither.”
“Tragic.” Sarah continued chipping paint.
“What brings you to Arizona? Why central Phoenix? Why this house?”
Sarah dropped the scraper into the weeds popping out from the foundation and wiped her hands on her jeans. She stood, towering a good six inches over the stubby woman.
She took a step back.
“I like a dry heat. I like history. I like a challenge.”
The woman narrowed her eyes. “You look an awful lot like Cornelia Fowler.” She reached for Sarah’s hair. “If your hair was brown…”
Sarah clamped her hand around the woman’s wrist. Her blond ponytail flipped when she jerked her head toward her childhood home. “I have to get back.” She released her grip.
The old woman pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Of course.”
Sarah watched the woman hurry away. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. She shrugged it off and continued working.
She knew its history. She’d never forget finding her partially-clothed twin sprawled on the living room floor, face down in a pool of blood. Losing Stephanie was the pulled thread that unraveled the family. A few months later, police recovered her father’s rigid body from a gutter near his favorite bar. Grief took her mother exactly one year after Stephanie died. Her official cause of death was alcohol and barbiturates. Dr. Meyers had prescribed the medication to “get her through the tough time” and in a way, Sarah figured they worked.
Cornelia found Stephanie’s murderer before police could. For that, Cornelia spent seventeen years in prison- almost half her life. Three weeks ago, she’d outsmarted the guards and embraced her freedom. She became Sarah James.
Sarah had always imagined the family reunion taking place after their home’s restoration, but she couldn’t shake the prying visit from Mrs. Godfrey. Her comment about the police never finding Stephanie’s killer niggled at her mind. Cornelia knew her sister’s boyfriend was guilty- they had a date that night. She made sure Shane Godfrey died in the same spot Stephanie did. A jury found Cornelia guilty and sentenced her to life.
Never found her killer. Sarah had to fix the mistake.
Later that night, Sarah slipped into her neighbor’s house. “I know it was you.”
The woman smiled. “Never underestimate the power of a mother’s love, Cornelia.”
Sarah cleaned Margo Godfrey’s blood from her hands before entering her own house. Margo had feared Stephanie would keep her son from attending college, so she removed the distraction. Never underestimate the power of a mother’s dream.
Sarah decided the reunion had to be tonight. Inspired by a man who’d lost everything, Job’s words came to mind. Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. May the name of the Lord be praised.
As she pulled the trigger, she hoped her taking an eye for an eye wouldn’t be judged in black and white.
This is my response for the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 743 words) (1) using “Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes.” as the first sentence AND (2) include some sort of reference to a photograph posted on the Speakeasy site, taken by Czintos Ödön.
Thanks to everyone who read and voted for my poem “He Said/She Said” last week. It was voted first place and I really appreciate all the wonderful feedback I got from that piece!
The challenge is open to everyone, so if you’re interested in joining in, check out the full guidelines by clicking the badge below. Have a beautiful Monday 🙂