‘”How did his science fair thing go?” Dean asked, smiling tightly. The woman sitting across from him could have been a model; she drew air through an inelegant black tube, and, pursing her lips, exhaled a colourless, odourless blend of gases.
“Fine,” she said tersely. “He didn’t win or anything, but he made a cool little thing that makes some lightbulbs go on.” An awkward series of moments passed in silence; Dean absently tried to count them before obsessively second-guessing his estimate of the length of a moment. The woman puffed almost unconsciously on her tube. “So? Daycare money?” she huffed impatiently after a while. “I have shit to do.” Dean winced visibly; he glanced around, searching for familiar faces, sighed, and reached for his back pocket. He fumbled purposely with his wallet, stalling.
“Jessica’s getting more comfortable with that whole deal?” Dean asked, almost too quietly to be heard over the chatter of voices and fountains and grilltops in the food court; his voice flat and resigned, as though he didn’t really care to be heard. The woman made a distracted, vaguely affirmative sound as she twisted slightly to catch a glimpse of a trim man in Armani. Dean nearly said some very immature things, clenching his toes so hard that his feet cramped. He snapped a cheque out of his wallet – one he’d been fingering nearly a full forty seconds - and shoved it forward with a little less anger than he felt.
“Look, great having lunch with you, but I have shit to do. Tell the kids I love them.” He blurted abruptly as she snatched the slip of paper. “Tell them I’ll see them this weekend.” He stood, grabbing the small styrofoam box containing six grains of rice and a small, mangled flower of cheap wasabi. He punched it viciously into a nearby disposal bin, hurrying through the lane of mediocre ‘ethnic’ food. The stench of such delicacies, mingling with the aroma of a crude mockery of South American cuisine, nearly pushed him into a rage.
It reminds me of an easier time. The things we used to do. The way we didn’t really know anything about each other.
It reminds me that things used to be good.
It was all a waste. A complete waste. Six years. Six fucking years, and I even quit smoking and it’s never enough for her.
I never even wanted the fucking kids.
Suddenly, Dean felt calm, and a little ashamed. He slowed his pace, turned another featureless corner, and realized with mild shock that he was already back at the store. He pursed his lips as if to whistle, but failed and tried to pass it off as an unusual facial expression. Nobody else was watching; nobody else was present. Had this occurred to Dean, he might have felt that he wasn’t quite present either. He knocked on the door, a little aggressively, and a chubby girl with cat-eye glasses stopped reading and rose laboriously from an enormous cushion in the display case.
She ambled around to the door, slid away the flimsy metal security gate and unlocked six latches before returning quietly to her post as Dean turned the knob and shuffled inside. “How was that?” she asked, not sounding altogether interested.
“Fine. She’s a bitch.” he growled, stalking past her and towards the back door. “I’ll be in the back smoking.”
The girl smiled a little sadly and almost made a clever comment about the bottle of Ballantine’s she could hear cracking open in his hands as he kicked at the door’s security bar. As she heard the door slam closed, she immediately burst into tears and ran out of the shop.
Dean regained consciousness, and instantly remembered what had transpired since his last nap. He relived the first gunshot, and then the second, the third… he felt the warmth of the bullets as he frantically dug them out of the boy’s flesh. He stared at the circle of rope hanging in the middle of his bare cell, and suddenly the moment felt very real as the memories melted away. He walked towards the rope.
They’ve left me in a self-hanging cell. I’m never getting out. I won’t even get a lawyer. They set me up.
I can’t go back to the labour camp. I can’t… the kids.
I can’t see them this weekend. I fucked up. I really fucked up. It’s their fault. Fuck.
I can’t do this. I can’t handle this.