Authors: Amber Kalkes
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Copyright © 2015 by Amber Kalkes
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The Sweetest Kill
By: Amber Kalkes
I would like to dedicate this story to my mother, my husband, and my son. They have been there through the darkest of times and provided a light bright enough to lead me home every time.
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I want to die.
It’s not an overdramatic claim of embarrassment or anything of the like. It’s a real desire that has the strength to overwhelm, drown, and eventually fester into something darker and more twisted. It’s also something that a lot of people wouldn’t understand.
They wouldn’t understand the need to no longer be on this earth. They wouldn’t empathize with the wish to make all the pain just go away, along with whatever it is that keeps somebody going. After years of feeling this way, I want to bail out. No matter how much I want to please those who want me to stay, I’m not sure how much I have left in me.
The bell above the door rings, and I snap out of my thoughts and get back to reality. My confusion as to why I feel this way is only matched by my confusion as to why I still work here. I’m not a people person and as much as I try, I do suck at my job. So why do I continue to linger in this place? Aside from the stability that this job offers and Dr. Reynolds’s insistence that this will help me, I really can’t think of any other reason.
“Can I help you?” My co-worker’s cheerful voice catches my attention.
I peek over at Melanie, my co-worker for the day, and study her. She’s the kind of person who fits in here and seemingly enjoys her job. She has a bubbly and charming personality, which is why everyone like her. At least, I assume everyone likes her. I’m not much for gossiping around the water cooler—on that front, I’m pretty uninformed—but it seems that my other co-workers are on good terms with her. And, I’m sure she loves this job. In fact, she probably has a great life.
In a fantasy world I created for her in my head, Melanie is surrounded by friends and family. She has a boyfriend who is handsome, caring, and with whom she always has a good time. Her apartment is probably well decorated, often filled with generous laughter and fun times. She laughs genuinely and smiles so wide, that her cheeks often hurt from the joys of her life.
I avert my gaze from Melanie and frown. I wipe down the counter, envying this fantasy life I’ve given her. I wish I could be like that. Hell, I’ve tried to be like that. I used to have a few friends, ones that didn’t look at me with pity or treat me like glass. But after my last release from the hospital four months ago, they too have faded away and have left me in my own misery. I guess I must admit that even before I left for the hospital, I didn’t have anything close to Melanie’s life.
My doctor thinks the new pills he gave me might help keep these kinds of thoughts out of my head. They taste like shit and make me feel even worse, but he says I have to give the anti-depressants another try. They aren’t the same kind that sent me over the edge last time. They’re from a new brand, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. Being crazy seemed to suit me much better than whatever kind of false reality I’m making for myself now. But I’m not a medical professional, so what do I know?
“Hello?” An annoyed voice calls and pulls me out of my thoughts. I turn around to see a middle-aged man in a business suit and a long overcoat with an iPhone in his hand. I look around to see that I am alone and assume that Melanie has gone on a break, sending me into an acute panic. “Are you going to help me or what?”
I swallow thickly and nod, as I hesitantly make a move towards the front counter. I don’t really have much of a choice on this one, do I? I can’t exactly pull Melanie out of her break to do a job I’ve been trained to do, right? But god, I wish I could. Willing myself not to run in the opposite direction, I place my shaking hand on the counter and try to stay calm.
“C-C-Can I help you?” I ask quietly.
He sighs, still annoyed, “Yeah, a coffee. Black, to go, and a… cherry strudel. Make it fast, would you? I’m in a hurry.”
I nod quickly and type the prices in slowly, so I don’t screw it up. Clearing my voice, I try to speak a little louder, “T-T-That’ll be s-s-seven dollars and s-s-seventy five cents.”
“Here,” he grunts while handing me a crisp twenty-dollar bill.
The cash register slides out suddenly, making me flinch before I start to retrieve his change for him. Apparently, I’m not fast enough because as soon as the money is in my hand, he practically rips the wrinkled bills from me. The three quarters sitting on top fall onto the counter, but I manage to save them before they land on the floor.
When I shakily hand them back to him, his hand brushes mine. I quickly pull my hand back, feeling like I’m going to cry any minute. I don’t like the way he’s glaring or his tone of voice. His reaction to me is overwhelming, and the skin contact is pushing me over the edge.
I don’t like to be touched.
“You know, you should be friendlier,” he says in a patronizing way that has me staring at him blankly. “I mean, you are in the food service industry.”
I could see the frustration in his light brown eyes, so I look away and slowly nod my head. I really don’t have much to say to that. He’s probably right. But hell, I’m not going to tell him that. Instead, move away from him and head to the display case, just in time for Melanie to come back.
She pauses and looks from me to the aggravated customer. Then, she places a wide smile on her lips and approaches him, “Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes, I’m in a hurry and she’s taking forever.”
“Oh.” Melanie says in a surprised tone. But she recovers quickly and turns to the computer. “Right! Well, let me see here. A black coffee and a strudel, am I right, sir?”
“Yeah, that’s right and can you hurry it up? I wasn’t saying I was in a rush just to be fashionable here.”
“I totally understand.” Melanie agrees before adding, “Shoshanna is a bit new here so you’ll have to excuse her.”
I can feel his eyes on me. My palms begin to sweat as I pull out the strudel from the display case. Wrapping it in one of those wax paper napkins, I head back to the counter and hand it to him. He stares into my eyes as if challenging me, and I immediately look down. I really don’t like this guy.
“Yeah, you’ll go places.” He mutters as he turns to Melanie, who hands him his coffee.
“There you go sir.” She chirps happily, “Have a good day.”
He just snorts and gives me one last disgusted glance, before making his way to the door. My eyes follow him as he walks out and passes by one of the large windows at the front of the café. I watch, seemingly spellbound by his tie as it blows in the wind. It’s a rather nice tie, dark navy blue accented by red stripes lined with silver. If only the man were as nice as his tie.
“Did you give him the right change this time?”
I jump at the sound of Melanie’s voice so close to me, but I still nod, “I-I-I think so.”
“I don’t know why Lawrence keeps putting you on the floor. It’s clear that you’re not right for it,” she says nicely as possible.
I just shrug, unwilling to dwell on the reasons why Lawrence—one of the two alternating managers of the café—insists on putting me where I obviously don’t want to be. To me, he’s just a sadistic pervert who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no”. Talking to him makes my skin crawl but he controls the scheduling, so I have no choice but to deal with him.
That should probably be another thing I need to add to the list of reasons why I should quit this job. I’m saving as many reasons as I can, so I’ll have something valid to present to my parents and my doctor when the time comes. I think they just like telling me what to do. They don’t actually want to help me. Not that they can, though. But I think a part of me just likes to watch them try.
“Any plans tonight?” Melanie prods.
I shake my head, but again, I don’t elaborate.
“I’m going to this new restaurant downtown called Sticky Icky. It’s a Chinese place, but with a more hip vibe and a really cool atmosphere. You know what I mean?” she asks but doesn’t wait for me to reply. “Anyway, my boyfriend Trevor is taking me. It should be fun.”
I just nod, while silently marveling at how much she can talk about nothing.
“Do you want to come?”
I shake my head and give her a small smile, “I have plans.”
“Like what?” she asks, beaming. “Come on, join us. It’ll be fun. I have lots of single guy friends. Maybe you’ll like one of them.”
“Thank you, Melanie. But I just can’t tonight.”
She purses her glossy pink lips at me, “Okay. Maybe next time then?”
“Maybe.” I lie timidly.
Another customer comes in and thankfully, Melanie’s attention shifts from me. I know that, in reality, I probably am lying to myself. I have opportunities to try to be normal, to be like Melanie. She asks me to come do things with her and her friends from time to time, but I always say no. I think sometimes, I like to be this miserable. It’s harder for me to be happy than to be a depressing mess. I’ve been the latter for longer than I can remember. What’s that saying again? You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, you can’t teach a manic-depressive to suddenly be well adjusted.
About three hours later, my shift is over and I’m headed back home. It’s the beginning of winter in this part of the country, and when it starts, it sets in fast. Clutching my second-hand coat close to my body, I walk home as I do on most evenings. I can’t really afford to ride a cab or the subway so walking, even in this weather, just seems more economically responsible. Besides, I kind of like the bite of the cold and the feel of the city air weighing heavily in my lungs.
The best part about living in the city is that it’s the polar opposite of where I grew up. I never liked it there in the suburbs. The mere thought of it makes me shudder. My dad is an ex-naval officer and current insurance salesman, while my mom is an ex-teacher who is now retired. They met when Dad was stationed in Japan and Mom was the one teaching him the native language. They got married, popped out two kids, and settled down in a nice plastic house, in a nice plastic neighborhood.
Things were pretty good for them until their younger daughter became terminally ill and their elder daughter turned out to be mentally unstable. I’m pretty sure that we were not what they had in mind when they decided to have kids. My sister Charlotte didn’t make it past her ninth birthday, and I tried not to make it past my sixteenth. My parents really had a lot to handle. In retrospection, I have to admit, they’ve done the best they can. I can’t even imagine how hard it is being cursed with so much bad luck.
After walking for about half an hour, I spot my apartment building and dig in the pocket of my jacket for the keys. It’s a shitty place, anyone looking at it can tell you that. But it’s the roof over my head and one that my parents aren’t paying for. It’s probably the first thing in twenty-two years of my existence that I actually ever owned. Well, that and my cat.
As I make my way to the fifth floor of the building, I feel my body begin to relax with every step I take. Every morning, I have to talk to myself into leaving my apartment, which has become my sanctuary. There are some days when I’d win and some days when I’d lose. Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m talking to myself.
When I reach my apartment, I get inside and quickly close door behind me. I made sure to lock the deadbolt before placing my head against the door. I sigh and feel my body completely relax. But before I can savour my relief, I am distracted by something rubbing against my pant leg. Looking down, I see the black and white body of my cat Florence.
I found her one day in an alley while I was on my way home from work. She was abandoned and starving when I stumbled upon her, so I decided to take her home. I was wondering what to name her one night, then I spotted a biography of Florence Nightingale among my book stack. I decided to name her Florence not only because of my lack of creativity, but also because of her ability to consistently cheer me up. She puts a smile on my face more than anyone has during these past months. Although, I’m not sure if that is sweet or plainly pathetic.
I crouch down and pick her up, smiling slightly when her purr intensify. Then, she begins rubbing her head against my jaw. I hold her for a little while but she starts to squirm, so regretfully, I let her jump out of my arms. I watch her crawl onto my bed to groom herself and I smile a bit more. She always cleans herself on my bed and I have no idea why.
My apartment isn’t much. Even for a studio apartment, it would certainly be considered a shit hole. I’ve been living in it for about a month and so far, I haven’t gotten around to do much decorating. I don’t have much flair for indoor décor, to be honest, but I do try my best.
Since it is a studio, it mostly consists of one large room that I have filled with minimal furniture. There’s a mattress on the floor with a box spring underneath and a small desk on the opposite side of the room with a terribly uncomfortable wooden chair, which I found on the side of the road. At the foot of my mattress, a medium sized box TV sits on top of a small cabinet that has a missing door. My clothes hang on a metal rack that stands near the only widow in the whole apartment. A small plastic container full of my bras and other underwear sit at the foot of the rack.
My bathroom is separate from the main room, but it’s still too small. You can’t stand at the sink without the back of your legs hitting the tub. You can also easily hit your knees on the tub when you’re sitting on the toilet. My kitchen is a whole mess of its own and is hidden behind folding closet doors. All it really consists of is a sink and about four feet of counter space, which I’ve managed to balance with both a hot plate and a toaster. Above the sink are two cupboards: one is filled with my minimal flatware, while the other is filled with as much Ramen and soup as it can hold.