“Sometimes it takes heart to write about a thing, doesn’t it? To let that thing out of the room, way in the back of your mind and put it up there on the screen.”
It seemed that I was the most boring and plain person at Porter Stanton High School. I’m not saying that I had a boring personality or a plain sense of style either, I just wasn’t by any means extraordinary. I wasn’t an all star or an athlete, I wasn’t a cheerleader with an unlimited list of friends, and I didn’t win any academic achievements. I suppose I was just average that way. Another face to disappear until the high school reunion. I was simply a girl who no one talked to. Not to say I didn’t have any friends, I had a few, they were just closer with other people.
That wasn’t to say I didn’t have any talents either. Things that I was good at, none I would really call a talent anyway, were things that most other people could do; or at least it felt like everyone could. Whenever I brought it up to somebody and said ‘hey, I’m good at reading’, they would comment on how good they were at reading, too. In a way that made me feel inferior. I suppose that was my fault though, for feeling inferior or not picking a better hobby.
Something rare though, that I really did enjoy was solving cases. I used to go on a website that would give you scenarios of crimes for children to practice using their thinking skills. I'd sit for hours doing the same puzzles over and over again. I'd move to more challenging puzzles as I grew older.
My parents weren’t very influential but that’s how you knew where you were placed on the social hierarchy in my town. They say that the popularity thing fades when you get out of high school but apparently here, it doesn’t. Depending how cool your parents’ jobs are and how much money they roll in is what defines your popularity at Porter Stanton. It’s like hand-me-down uncoolness from your parents’ experience. My mom was a nurse at a local home for the elderly and my dad worked at the Marynn Casino. They weren’t high-paying jobs, but it was honest and that was enough for me.
We lived in a small town near Albuquerque, New Mexico called Las Cruces where the sun was shining most days out of the year. Despite living in a quiet place in town, my street seemed the busiest. There wasn’t a moment without a car on the street, unless it was three o’clock in the morning.
My last day as a senior in high school; I never thought that day would come. I was so ready to get on with my life at the age of nineteen and somehow, that seemed wrong. In a couple of months, I would be in Central New Mexico, a community college not far from me. Even then, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I had told everyone I wanted to go into Business, but in my head I was still undecided. What I really wanted to do was work with people, like a counselor, but that didn’t sound as nice to my family as Business did.
I woke up at around seven in the morning for my final day at Porter Stanton until my graduation the following week. That morning I woke up very groggy. I was so anxious the previous night that I couldn’t sleep. I tied up my freshly cleaned hair and put on a romper. It was my favorite because it had somewhat deep pockets, big enough to fit my phone into.
When I went downstairs, my mom was sitting at the island in the kitchen, sipping coffee.
“Has dad gone to work yet?” I asked her and she shook her head. Mom didn’t talk to me very much at all. She had wanted me to always be sweeter and girlier than I was. When I had refused, she wanted me to be more intelligent, and mild-mannered but I couldn’t seem to manage that either. She had always wanted more, but not for me just from me.
My mom was wearing the clothes she always wore when she went to work; Khaki pants, a polo shirt, and comfortable shoes. She wasn’t like herself when she went to work. When she was at the nursing home, she was pleasant and helpful. She had even offered one of the old girls over to our house on Easter when her family didn’t take her out for the day. But whenever my mom was allowed the time to drink, she would. My father noticed how excessive it was getting and reprimanded her whenever she’d drink in front of him. So naturally, she hid booze from my dad and drank until he came home from work around midnight. She was never abusive, she was just catatonic. I wasn’t sure if he was aware that I knew, but he never spoke about it to me.
My father was a very shy man. A family man. He wasn’t the kind to strike up a fight, even with me or my mom. If he had something to say, he would bring it up to one of us like a request. He was meek, almost skittish. I had never heard him raise his voice to anyone.
My father walked downstairs in his uniform for the casino. He usually ran the blackjack table. It was perfect for him too, because he was good at taking orders. You tell him to deal you another card, and you’d have one in your hand before you finished your sentence.
“Hey Sweetie,” my dad said as he pulled me close and hugged me.
“Hey, have you seen my hat? I think I put it in the wash by accident,” I asked, looking up at him. My dad wasn’t very tall but neither was I. I was around five feet tall and one hundred and fifteen pounds.
“I did actually, it’s on the dryer,” he said and I ran to retrieve it. I saw my wide-brimmed hat resting on the dryer and I picked it up.
I had gotten that hat at a festival I went to with my friend and my father. I got it during my ‘Stevie Nicks phase’ but it was still a good sunhat.
I strategically placed it on my head and noticed something underneath it. It was a pair of black slacks that belonged to my father that had been worn the night before. I could tell because they were bunched up and smelt like cigarette smoke. There was a gambling stub peeking out of his right pocket.
In New Mexico, it’s illegal for someone under the age of twenty-one to gamble. So, at the Marynn, they requested a ticket machine that tells the time at which the person entered one of the high stakes gambling rooms. That way, they could keep a record of whoever went in there, for legal reasons. According to my prediction, I was right; the date on the ticket was the night before.
That seemed otherworldly, my dad would never gamble and never in one of those rooms. Whenever he would participate in school raffles, he’d get so excited, he’d have to leave and miss the rest of it. He would never stand a chance against any of the regular high-ballers that went there. It threw me off my day to say the least.
Not to mention the fact that, unlike most people who gambled at the Marynn, we didn’t have money. We had enough, I should say, but not enough to gamble with. My mom had enough money for her weekly alcohol, and my father had what he needed for our daily expenses. I had a good $20,000 tucked away for college.
I heard my dad calling me and saying I’d miss school if I didn’t hurry. I balled up the receipt and put it in my pocket and ran out my front door, shouting a last goodbye to my parents.
I used to opt to walk to school instead of taking the bus because it would help me clear my head. I guess old habits do die hard because there I was, walking to school. I could drive, I got my license and everything but I liked walking.
When I walked into the school, I saw my one true friend standing at her locker. Alexis had long dirty blonde hair and chocolate-brown eyes. She had a short, upturned nose and small mouth. She was friends with all of the popular girls and when they weren’t around she’d talk to me, probably out of boredom. That being said, she was nice to me and she’d defend me if someone would talk about me behind my back.
I think the reason I garnered so much attention from the school, even though I was a self-claimed nobody, was because I was nineteen. People were lucky to be eighteen at their graduation so that they could rub it in their peers’ faces that they were older. I would have given anything to have been younger at my graduation. I missed the cutoff date for kindergarten, so I had to wait a whole year to be enrolled again. People at the school thought it was strange and made rumors that I had failed classes, which was untrue. But Lexi believed me when I told her it wasn’t.
“Hey, Lex. You look kinda stressed, what’s up?” I asked, concerned for, as far as I knew, my only friend.
“I’m freaking out ’cuz I didn’t do my makeup today because there’s like, a serial killer and I’m stressing out and that Jake won’t think I’m pretty and-” I cut her off.
“I’m sorry, go back a step, what did you just say?” I asked with extreme worry. Then she looked at me like I was crazy, but it was mostly because no one interrupted her when she was bitching.
“I said, ‘Jake wouldn’t think I’m pretty’- well I always am bu-” I cut her off again. Her boyfriend wasn’t much of my concern after that.
“No Lex, the serial killer part,” I said, almost frantic to know. I think she rolled her eyes at me when I said that.
“Don’t you watch the news at all? There have been murders scattered across America and the FBI think they’re coming here! Like, what if I’m next?” she said, frantically fanning herself with her hands.
“Who were the victims? Were they all girls?” As I asked that, I got a little nervous myself. If Alexis was worried about getting murdered, I should’ve been equally as worried. Part of me wasn’t worried at all. Alexis came from a wealthier family than I did and I felt like they would be more likely to take her. I didn’t pose as much as a ransom payout as she did but if these were merciless killers then that wouldn’t matter. Plus, she was definitely prettier than I was; she was like a model, legs and all.
“No, they were all like, thirty year old men,” Lex said, looking off to the side and I rolled my eyes.
“Something tells me you’ll be just fine,” I said and she crossed her arms with a huff.
“Can you at least like, come over my house after school or something?” she said, looking a little worried, but only for herself. Like she wanted me there to protect her or take her place if there was a killer.
“I can’t, I have to be home tonight,” I said, truthfully and she nodded.