My worries about Lyndee being innocent are put to rest one evening in November when I decide to take the bus home from the Rag. In winter it gets dark around four o’ clock. The chill creeps in from the Sound, blowing over the Bone, then skirting on to Seattle. The early darkness paired with the dragging rain is enough to chase an avid walker to the bus. I stand huddled underneath the shelter, my jacket soaked from the short walk over. My limbs, which have become accustomed to the walking, long to be stretched and pushed up hills. But, as I climb onto the bus and choose a seat in the back, I am glad to be out of the nasty weather. I wonder what Judah is doing tonight, and if he wants to watch a movie. When I look up, I notice Lyndee sitting across from me. Her short hair is plastered to her forehead like she was caught in a bad downpour. Aside from being wet, she looks quite happy, smiling down at her phone every time the chime of a text sounds. She’s not wearing the T-shirt with Nevaeh’s face this time, but a low-cut top and a cheap-looking necklace that spells out SEXY. When we arrive at her stop, she reaches for the backpack that has been sitting between her knees. Unzipping the top, she pulls out a bottle of water, upsetting some of the contents inside. Her keys come falling out, and I am given a glimpse of a small, pink bear—Bambi. My heart hammers.
I look away quickly. Too quickly. Lyndee sees my reaction and zips up the bag, her eyes fixed on my face in a bold challenge. Does she know who I am? Does she know I was one of the last people to see Nevaeh alive, and that I gave my statement to the police? I look out the rain-speckled window; I look at the ripped seat next to me. I cannot look at her face. Everything I’m feeling is naked on my face. She had something to do with it. My heart feels sore, like it’s tired and bruised. Mothers hurting their children, mothers giving up on their children, mothers loving something more than their children. I watch her sling one strap over her shoulder and climb off the bus in a hurry. To get away from me? I follow her down the stairs. When we reach the pavement, we head in opposite directions. For several minutes I keep my eyes straight ahead, pointed toward Wessex and the eating house. But, as I pass the corner store, and Knick Knack waves to me from the window, my curiosity gets the best of me. I stop walking and turn just my head, just enough so that I can see her. She’s already looking at me, paused on the sidewalk, her whole body facing my direction. I am racked with chills. She turns on her heel, quickly, almost running now. I watch her with the bitter look of conviction. I’ve convicted her in my head. Me, the jury of one. And I’ve issued her a death sentence. I decide to burn her, the same way she burned her daughter. An eye for an eye.
I COLLECT THINGS. It’s an art to buy weapons and not look suspicious. Rope, a hunting knife, arsenic, sleeping pills—my mother has a myriad. I won’t use most of them, but it’s become a compulsion. I think about burning Lyndee every day. I don’t buy a new lighter because I have the pink one and also a book of matches. That’s what I’ll use. I wonder if I’ll be able to watch, or if it will make me squeamish.
Some days, when I see her around town, laughing and flirting, I decide that I’ll watch every moment—the bubbling and crackling of her skin, the charring of her pretty white flesh. And other days—days when I feel sad and sluggish—I just want it to be over: fast and clean. She shouldn’t be here, walking around … living. It irks me. When I watch her, I pick at myself—the skin around my fingernails, the sides of my mouth. I have little scabs on the back of my neck and behind my ears. But I watch her every day. Just to be sure. You can never be too sure.
In the time not spent watching Lyndee, I search the house for my birth certificate. I get it now. Why my mother wouldn’t let me see it. She didn’t want me to see who was listed as my father. But I want to get a driver’s license. Open a bank account. I find it one day as I’m searching the attic. It’s stuffed in the middle of a book tossed with all my mother’s things. It’s one of those travel books that people get when they’re going to Europe. It’s yellowed, turned up at the edges. Well worn. I wonder if she was planning a trip before I was born. Perhaps with Mayor Delafonte. But who cares? I have my birth certificate. She listed him as my father. I can’t imagine why except if she was keeping it to use against him. Ammunition. My mother wasn’t stupid; she was just mentally ill.
I call from the Rag and make an appointment to take the test to get my learner’s permit. That will have to do for now. I need a way to leave if I have to. I stress for weeks about how I’m going to get Lyndee alone. Should I drug her? Lure her somewhere? Would she come alone? I planned for every possibility. Plan A. Plan B. Plan C. That’s what you need: a dozen plans in case something happens to change Plan A. I can’t sleep at night when the eating house is awake, making noises around me. I catnap during the day and stay up most nights—planning, thinking about the tiny coffin in the oven, the little body in the corner of my mother’s bedroom. Bones and blood, all in the eating house. Children died because of the evil inside of grownups. Selfish evil. The only time I don’t think about killing Lyndee Anthony is when Judah is near. He takes all of my vengeance away. Replaces it. But he’s not around very often anymore. His father comes to get him in his big, shiny truck, wheelchair folded into the cab, Judah’s face smiling. I am jealous, and I am not. I want him to have things, be happy.
I am in bed. I squeeze my eyes shut, block out the shadows that are dancing across my ceiling. Next to me, on the floor, is a bottle of chloroform that I paid Mo to make. Five hundred dollars for ten measly ounces. But Mo doesn’t ask questions, and that’s worth every penny. I open my eyes and pick up the bottle, lifting it to my face. I sniff, but there is no odor. Everything is sealed so there won’t be any accidents. Chloroform seemed like the boring choice at the time, but sometimes a choice needs to be boring to work.
When the sun comes up, I sleep. Just for a few flat hours while the house is still. Lyndee Anthony is up, eating the strawberry yogurt she buys from the market—have some in the fridge downstairs—putting on her uniform for another workday at the carwash. Today will be her last day. Today will be a good day.
At noon I get up, dress. I go to the shed first, to get things ready, then I stop by the carwash to make sure Lyndee is there. I see her through the window, talking to a customer. She hands him his change and points in the direction of the coffee machine, where customers can sit and drink muddy caffeine while their cars are pushed through the washer and dried by two meth heads named Jeremy and Coops, who I went to school with. I touch the rubber band on my arm as I watch her, and suddenly I am struck by what I am about to do. It’s like I am looking at myself from some high vantage point outside of my body—a stranger. I remember the girl, who, just a few months ago, was timid and afraid. Now she is something else. Something deadly. Determined. I am scared of her. I go home to wait out the afternoon. At six o’clock it begins to rain. That was not in my plan. I worry about the rain making it difficult to drag Lyndee’s body through the woods. But, in the end, I know that I will get her to the cabin … rain or not.