Lisa stood in front of Mark, biting her lip, her eyes coyly darting away as if she was shy, as if she’d ever been shy. Her fingers tugged at the strap on her dress, toying with it. Mark leaned forward in his seat, watching as Lisa slipped the strap over her shoulder, loosening the dress, letting it start to fall away from her body.
A sound like thunder cracked through the air.
They both froze. They both knew that sound.
Instantly, Mark grabbed his Glock 22, ready for the assault on the apartment building that he’d been anticipating since the day he moved in – and dreading since earlier that afternoon – but Lisa stopped him with a shake of her head.
“That’s not for us,” she told him. “That came from Johnny’s apartment.”
Mark was already racing out the door.
Lisa followed in hot pursuit. “Wait, Mark,” she called after him. “We don’t want to get involved!”
“Dammit, Lisa, we’re already involved,” he yelled back as they dashed through the apartment building’s corridors and into the alley outside. “This isn’t a game anymore.”
He hurtled up the steps to Johnny and Lisa’s condo, his hand flying to the door knob. He pulled at it, rattling it uselessly before looking to Lisa, who sighed.
“My key’s upstairs,” she groaned, turning to trudge back to Mark’s apartment to retrieve it.
“No time,” Mark shot, and hurled his foot into the door as hard as he could. The thick oak nearly rattled off his hinges with the force of the blow.
“What are you doing?” Lisa demanded.
Ignoring her, Mark kicked the door again. Wood around the door knob was beginning to splinter. With one last, mighty heave, his foot slammed into the door and it exploded inwards. Taking only a moment to let the damage to the living room sink in, Mark dashed up the spiral staircase, desperately scanning the apartment for his best friend. Behind him he could hear the click of Lisa’s high heels trotting up the stairs after him.
The first thing he saw as he entered the bedroom was a pair of shoes sitting on the floor, motionless. As cold fear surged through him, Mark’s eyes moved up over the still body lying in the jumble of clothes and sheets. A dark red stain was spreading across white pillows and blankets. Mark raced to Johnny’s side.
“Wake up, Johnny, come on!” he urged as he grabbed his best friend’s corpse by the shoulders and shook him.
Lisa knelt beside her future husband, her mouth agape in shock. Angry, accusing reds were everywhere, tangled in the sheets, pooling behind Johnny’s head, and dripping from Johnny’s mouth. She picked up his hand, but the warmth was already beginning to drain from it. Her lower lip quivered as the enormity of what she had done, her worst crimes, began to sink in. “Is he dead?” she asked Mark in an uncertain sob. She flung the dead hand away, no longer able to bear the thought of her transgressions. “My God, Mark, is he dead?” she demanded more urgently.
In response, Mark lifted the hand with which he’d been cradling Johnny’s head, stroking his hair. His fingers were sticky and red with already drying blood, and Lisa gasped in horror. Mark studied his hand for a long moment, not believing his own eyes. “Yes, he’s dead,” he finally pronounced quietly, admitting it to himself more than Lisa. Next to him, Lisa sobbed and sniffled, and he felt a sudden surge of anger. She had done this. She had betrayed Johnny, forced Mark to betray Johnny, and had shown no remorse. Lisa may as well have put the gun in Johnny’s mouth and pulled the trigger, smiling the whole time, and only now – now that her future husband was dead – only now did she have the decency to care. “Yes, he’s dead!” Mark shouted.
A long stream of tears flowing into her mouth, Lisa sobbed again. “Oh my god,” she cried, sniveling. She cradled her head in her hands, distraught for some reason.
Blocking out the sound of her crying, her body trembling with sorrow next to him, Mark leaned down over Johnny. Slowly, gently, he pressed his lips to his best friend’s forehead, saying goodbye for the last time.
“Oh my god,” Lisa sobbed again, and Mark gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. She leaned toward him, pressing her face into his sweater. Even through the thick material, he could feel the cool wetness of her tears, soaking through to his skin. “I’ve lost him, but I still have you, right?” she asked, her voice starting to gain strength. “Right?”
Another cold surge of anger went through Mark, wrapping its fingers around his heart and settling deep in his soul. Had this been Lisa’s plan all along, he wondered, getting Johnny out of the way like this? Even if it was never her intention to hurt him like this, Mark realised he would never know. He shoved Lisa away. “You don’t have me,” he spat as Lisa’s eyes pleaded with him. “You never had me.” Tears flowed down his cheeks, shining in the dim light. “You killed him.”
“Mark, we’re free to be together!” Lisa declared. “I love you.”
Shaking his head, not sure how he didn’t see it before, how he didn’t see how truly evil Lisa was, Mark watched her performance with disbelief.
“I love you,” she insisted again, reaching for him.
“Tramp,” he sneered, slapping her hand away. “You killed him. You’re the cause of all of this.” Deep down, Mark knew there was no way he could have prevented this, no way anyone could have prevented this. Lisa had dug her claws into everything around her, ensnaring both Mark and Johnny, doing what she willed with them as they helplessly danced to her song. “I don’t love you.”
Lisa sniffed, heartbroken by the revelation and presumably the still-cooling corpse of her future husband between them.
“Get out of my life, you bitch!” Mark screamed, echoing the words Lisa had told him, minutes ago, that Johnny hurled after her as she left. She had laughed cruelly then, and with a sick feeling Mark realised he had laughed along with her, but that was the past, when he had been blind. As Lisa sobbed, her face crinkling and her body quaking, Mark couldn’t believe he’d ever found her attractive.
“What’s happening?!” Denny’s voice shrieked from the staircase.
“Don’t look, Denny,” Mark told him, but Denny was already racing forward, filled with a need to be at Johnny’s side. Mark caught the eighteen-year-old, pushing him back as he sobbed.
“Johnny’s dead!” Denny cried in horror, stumbling, the strength leaving his legs. He collapsed to his knees, overcome with grief. “Wake up, Johnny, please!” he pleaded with the corpse as he struggled with Mark, trying to crawl to Johnny’s side. Lisa stroked Denny’s hair in an attempt to calm him, but he didn’t notice. “Please! It’s not right,” he moaned, “It’s not right.”
Finally breaking Mark’s grip, Denny fell forward, his hand on Johnny’s chest. He sobbed, looking from Mark to Lisa and back, his eyes wild and confused.
“Denny, he’s in a better place,” Lisa told him, hoping it would soothe him.
“Leave us!” Denny commanded Mark and Lisa. “Both of you, leave.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you can drop of the earth,” Mark growled harshly as he rose and stalked out. “That’s a promise.”
“Just leave!” Denny called after his retreating back before turning to Lisa. “Both of you!”
“Leave him, alright?” Mark told Lisa, understanding that Denny cared the most, that he was the one who most deserved to mourn Johnny. Mark and Lisa weren’t worthy. “Let him be with him.”
With one last sigh, Lisa climbed to her feet and followed Mark.
“Why, Johnny?” Denny moaned, tears dripping from his face. “Why?!”
Standing on the top of the spiral staircase, Lisa and Mark turned. For a long moment they watched as Denny, curled over Johnny’s body, whimpered, every so often another why? escaping his lips. They glanced at each other. They’d both been so angry – angry at each other, angry at Johnny, angry at themselves – that they’d forgotten about anything else. They’d been prepared to abandon Denny when he needed them. By mutual consent, they knew what they had to do.
Mark and Lisa padded forward, reassuming their positions on either side of Denny. As sirens blared in the distance, growing closer with every second, they knelt and embraced Denny, comforting him as best they could. They wept over Johnny’s body, the last time they’d all be together as a family.
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