Authors: Suzanne Brockmann
Copyright Â© 2014 by Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann
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To my writing partner, my courageous daughter Melanieâthe strongest person I've ever met. May you keep learning how best to harness your own amazing superpowers, and continue to use them for good.
For my mother. Thank you for teaching me that everyone is a Greater-Than in some unique way, and for showing me that the greatest superpower anyone can ever have is the ability to love.
I had not been under the impression that trophy wives owned guns.
Of course, my impression of a lot of things had been changing lately, so the idea of a homicidal contortionist with a designer handbag and a vanity license plate that read DRSWIFEY was, surprisingly, not very surprising at all.
“What's up with Little Miss Sunshine?” Calvin mumbled to me, tapping my forearm with his hand as we made our way to the front doors of the Sav'A'Buck supermarket. He motioned with his head for me to look behind him, and I glanced over at the lady. Huge, fake-looking boobs and even larger sunglasses. I doubted she needed them at nine o'clock at nightâ¦the sunglasses, that is. It
September in Florida, but come on.
“Dunno,” I answered, picking up my pace a little bit. I was eager to get inside the store. Even without the sun, the humidity made the air feel like it was about ninety thousand degrees. I had a bad case of swamp butt, and my jean shorts were sticking to my backside uncomfortably.
Calvin laughed as I fixed my wedgie with an apparently less-than-discreet swipe. “Could you fix mine too? It's really bad. Horrible,” he said, lifting himself halfway off the seat of his electric wheelchair.
I socked him once in the bicep. “Punk.”
The linoleum floors of the Sav'A'Buck were sticky, and the place smelled like pig grease and stale cigarettes. But that's what we got for venturing outside our pristine gated community and driving across the proverbial tracks into neighboring Harrisburg to the only place open after nine.
“Man, you really want to buy
from here?” Calvin grumbled, while two small kids whisked in front of us, barefoot, their faces coated with melted purple ice pop. The woman working register four turned around, her disastrous mullet matched only by the disapproving frown she offered Calvin and me as we strolled by.
Neither of us accepted it.
“We're making s'mores,” I insisted, my resolve strong. It had been a hellish week, and I wanted something chocolate. We had driven all the way out here; we weren't turning back now.
Calvin rolled his eyes. “Come on,” he said, steering himself sharply toward the right. “Cookies and crackers. Aisle seven.”
I followed behind him, breaking into a trot to keep up with his chair.
But Calvin pressed his brake and we nearly collided. “There she is again,” he hissed, tapping my hand furiously. “Doesn't she creep you out, even a little?”
Little Miss Sunshine, as Calvin had called her, was busy inspecting the nutrition information on the backs of two different bags of corn chips. Her long, blond hair was swept up in an elegant French chignon. She hadn't bothered to take off her sunglasses.
I scooped up a box of graham crackers and left the aisle. Calvin followed me this time.
Once the woman was out of earshot, I told him, “The only weird thing about her is that she looks like she's rolling in dough, unlike most Sav'A'Buck customers.” I shrugged. “But we probably stick out here too.” I found the aisle for candy and grabbed a humongous bag of chocolate. “So give her a break.”
Calvin acknowledged his two-hundred-dollar polo shirt and shrugged. “Eh, you're right,” he replied, and popped his collar.
“That's lame, by the way,” I said, and found an empty basket to dump my purchases into.
“What?” Calvin replied, his expression one of mock offense. “Girl, you are just jealous because you can't pull off the look.”
“Sooo jealous,” I replied sarcastically. I was perfectly happy in my jean shorts and plain black tank top. Nobody needed to know my mom had spent a fortune for both articles of clothing. If it were up to me, I'd wear clothes from the local consignment shop, thank you very much. People were going hungry these days, and obviously many of them were right here in Harrisburg. That was way creepier, IMO, than Little Miss Sunshine jonesing for cheap, salty grease.
Calvin poked his nose into my basket. “Would you mind telling me exactly how white girls from the north make s'mores? Where I come from, we use marshmallows.”
“Dammit!” I'd forgotten to grab a bag when we were in the candy aisle.
“Come on,” Calvin replied, and reached for my basket. He set it atop his lap and followed me as I sprinted back toward aisle eight.
“Skylar, slow your ass down!” Calvin whined, but when I did, he zoomed past me, laughing.
“Oh, it's on,” I said, pushing to keep up. “I could totally beat you in a race.”
It was Calvin's turn to roll his eyes when we both had to slow for oncoming traffic. “Oh, yeah? How much you wanna bet?”
“I'll have to think about it,” I answered, and that's when the screaming started.
Calvin grabbed for my arm. “What theâ¦”
I turned to see a little old lady frozen in fear at the end of aisle eight. Then other voices joined the chorus, including a woman reciting the “Our Father” in Spanish.
“Don't,” Calvin said, holding my elbow to keep me from walking toward them.
It was then that the screaming was replaced by a loud
All I could smell was fish. Lots of fish. Enough fish so that I hoped and prayed I would never, ever have to eat sushi again for as long as I lived. My nose burned, and I swallowed hard a couple times to keep from heaving.
And then, Little Miss Sunshine rounded the corner.
“Oh, sheee-it!” Calvin exclaimed.
And I had to agree.
At first, I thought her body was facing me, but after a moment I realized that, somehow, her head had pivoted almost completely around. Her chin rested awkwardly on her shoulder blade, and she was walking backward just to see where she was going. It was like that old
movie my mom watched every year at Halloween, but this lady was real, and she was heading in our direction.
She was also smiling.
“Okay, eff the s'mores, Sky. I'm out,” Calvin said, his voice carefully even. But I wasn't moving, and neither was he.
Little Miss Sunshine, on the other handâ¦
was getting closer.
I didn't know where her sunglasses had gone, but I could see her eyes now. They were wild. And she had a terrible smile, like the Cheshire cat had up and lost it.
“Sky?” Calvin said, and I knew for a second what it must feel like to be himâabsolutely paralyzed. I couldn't move my legs. I was stuck in that spot.
And she was smiling
People began to peek out from aisle eight to see what was happening. I spotted the old lady and the woman who had been reciting prayers. Mullet woman at the register was quiet too. In fact, the entire store had become terribly silent. The only sound was the canned music clinking through cheap overhead speakers. It was some terrible electronic version of an old Frank Sinatra song, complete with computerized steel drums. I swallowed hard, the smell of fish absolutely overwhelming me.
“Look what I can do!” the woman said, and snapped her neck back around.
“Ohhh!” the Sav'A'Buck crowd gasped. Little Miss Sunshine giggled. Her perfectly manicured hands held her head in place. She spun around to face me.
I've gotâ¦youuuuuuâ¦under my skinâ¦
The lyrics echoed eerily through the grocery store, and I looked down at Calvin for a second. He had turned a pale shade of green, which clashed with his chocolate-brown skin.
“Look what I can do!” the woman repeated, her voice horribly clear, her tone singsong, as if she were reciting a nursery rhyme. She clapped her palm onto the side of her face, and I watched her jaw completely dislocate.
“Mommy?” one of the little kids in the register line squealed, while the Hispanic lady said something fast in Spanish and fainted.
“Look what I can do look what I can do look what I can do!” Little Miss Sunshine repeated, and this time it sounded more like “Ooook Uuut Aaah Aan Ooo” because she couldn't close her mouth. Her eyes were wide, with a disturbing amount of white showing on the top and bottom. I watched her grab the top of her mouth and pull.
I've got youuuuuuâ¦deep in the heart of meeeeâ¦.
Four of her teeth fell out and landed on the linoleum floor, close enough to my feet so that I could see the blood.
“Oh God oh God oh God,” Calvin uttered, and his hand on my arm was clammy.
“On the ground!” The security guard who'd been dozing out front rushed through the sliding doors of the store. He'd drawn a Taser from his belt, and he sprinted toward the insane woman, pointing the weapon at her and blocking both Calvin and me in the process.
“Do it! Now!” he said. He was a stocky guy with a big salt-and-pepper mustache and squeaky black boots. I was close enough to smell himâcheap cologne, stale cigar smoke, and more of that terrible fish smell.
Instead of getting on the ground, the woman chuckled. A rivulet of red-tinged drool fell from her distended mouth and landed on the linoleum. The cop took a split second to look where it landed. And in that moment, Little Miss Sunshine high-kicked the officer in the bottom of his chin with her stiletto-heeled shoe. He fell backward, and from the way he hit the floor, I knew he wasn't getting back up.
The Taser bounced and skittered, and I swear that I don't know how it happened exactly, but somehow the weapon found its way over to my feet. And then it found its way into my hands.
“Really? I mean,
?” Calvin exclaimed, as I held the weapon with two extremely shaky hands. I felt like I'd chugged ten cups of espresso, I was jittering so bad.
But I lifted the weapon to point it at Little Miss Sunshine's chestâthe biggest possible target.
Somehow I knew, despite her bloodied, disfigured mouth and saucer eyes, that she was still smiling at me. Mocking me.
And then she knocked her jaw back into place with a horrible crunch.
“I think you should have listened to the officer,” I said. “Get
I acknowledged the cop with only a slight nod, not daring to look away from the woman even for a moment. I could see from my peripheral vision that he was completely still, in a heap between Calvin's wheelchair and the crazy lady. I inanely wondered how long people typically remained unconscious after being kicked in the chin with a designer shoe.
“Just pull the trigger, dammit,” Calvin urged from between clenched teeth.
Fingers shaking, I aimed the thing and squeezed.
Little Miss Sunshine looked down at her chest, at the hissing and sparking Taser that should have sent her to the floor. Then she plucked it from the front of her shirt, looked up at me, and smiled.
“Look what I can do look what I can do,” the woman continued, and yanked a massive-looking gun out of her bag.
Everyone in the store hit the deck at the sight of the gunâeveryone except Calvin and me.
She pointed the barrel at my face.
A nasty wave of dÃ©jÃ vu washed over me. It was mixed with a hefty dose of panic and combined with at least a small degree of consolation that Calvin, as always, had my back.
no!” he barked. All the fear had vanished from his tone, and now he just sounded pissed. “You wanna mess with someone? You wanna put your gun in her face? You're gonna have to shoot me first!”
And then, things got
“Hey!” someone called from behind Little Miss Sunshine. It was a girl, older than me but probably only by a year or two. She'd appeared as if out of nowhere, but she must've come in through the front doors while my attention was on that gun. Dressed in full motorcycle garbâa red leather jacket and black steel-toed bootsâshe hollered again. “Hey, you!”
Little Miss Sunshine whirled around.
Motorcycle Girl charged forward and flicked the pistol out of crazy lady's hands as easily as if she were removing a piece of lint from a buddy's jacket.
The gun spun a couple times before landing on the floor. Motorcycle Girl kicked it back into the air with her foot and caught it with one hand. She tucked it deftly into the back waistband of her pants and then slammed the crazy woman down onto the ground using the palm of one hand. I could have sworn Little Miss Sunshine took a nosedive before Motorcycle Chick even touched her, but then again, I'd been seeing all kinds of crazy things this week.
“Whoa,” Calvin said, while the crowd gasped again.
Little Miss Sunshine landed, hard, and made a gurgling sound. She looked up once at me and pointed, still smiling that awful smile, before her face dropped onto the ground.
The room once again was silent. Mostly.
heart, that you're really a paaart of meeeâ¦
Motorcycle Chick turned, running a hand gruffly through her platinum-blond pixie cut as she looked at me and frowned, her eyes the color of icicles.
Calvin could have caught flies, his mouth was open so wide.
, this music blows,” the girl said as she glared from me to Cal and back again, as if the soundtrack was from our personal playlist.
Around us, the crowd began to move almost as one, with everyoneâshoppers and clerks alikeârushing for the door.
I was about to turn tooâgetting out of there seemed like a brilliant ideaâwhen Motorcycle Girl spoke again. Her words stopped me. “Way to protect Tiny Tim here, Sky. What were you waiting for? A sign from God?”
I looked at CalâCal looked at me. And I knew we were both thinking the same thing.