Along with all the other portions of her plan to eliminate the threat of Sophie, the last had arrived in her mind fully formed. But she needed Sal to complete it—and to do so unwittingly. He would drink his tea, might say something like, “This is nice,” and Maureen would draw a breath and tell him she had something serious to talk about. Holding his hand, she would reassure him that Leo was safe and would blame herself for not being more vigilant. She might even cry as she’d recount what Sophie had done—what she’d attempted. Regaining a resolute calm, Maureen would insist the family had to leave, and with a fuller grasp of Sophie’s capabilities, Sal would agree. They could offer them two months rent-free and give them the security deposit back. Sophie and her parents would be gone in eight weeks. Stunned by the news, Sal would maybe nod blankly as she’d tell him, “Go up and tell them now.”
She’d walk him to the door, and follow him into the hall, where she’d hug him tightly, lovingly, kissing his cheek and thanking him for doing the dirty work. Then she’d pause, suddenly asking, “What’s that?” He would turn to look and pick up the torn pieces of the envelope. Maureen would stare dumbly for a few moments before she’d utter faintly, “I left it up there on the ledge, for tomorrow, for the paperboy. I thought it would be hidden up there, but” and she’d look up at the stairs and say, “I guess you can see it if you’re coming down.” She’d wait a second before sneering with disgust: “My god, she steals twenty bucks on top of everything else.”
Sal would go upstairs to inform them of what Sophie had done to Leo, about the two months plus security that they’d kindly give them. And he’d ask for the twenty dollars back, which would make it clear to Sophie that her new enemy took her for a sap.
Sal walked groggily into the kitchen. “Don’t worry. I took the cake out before I fell asleep.”
“Thank you so much. Have some tea.”
“Okay. How was the walk?”
“It helped clear things up.”
“Everybody’s been napping. The girls had a big day. And judging by the way Leo zonked out, I’d say he had a big day, too.”
Sal was a good guy, and she hated even having to share the horror of just knowing what had happened to their son. But Sal was lucky not to have that image of Leo on the ground in his mind forever. Fate had given that to Maureen, and she was glad. If Sal had come upon them, had discovered someone—even a kid—trying to kill his son, he might have done something without thinking—maybe something crazy.
Bud Jennings completed the graduate creative writing program at NYU, and his work has appeared in Word Riot, Serving House Journal, Gertrude, 34thParallel, Educe, and Superstition Review. He received a finalist award in Fiction/Creative Nonfiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and two residencies from the Blue Mountain Center. He lives in Salem, MA with his husband Rick.