The girl’s face loomed pale under the porch light. She narrowed her yellow-green eyes. “You better let me interview you,” she said to Mara, “or I’ll just make stuff up.”
How old are you? Fourteen? Fifteen? The question flared in Mara’s brain. At that age, she’d hitchhiked to L.A. Back then fearlessness felt as instinctive as breathing. The memory intoxicated her. She barely sensed the girl brush past her into the house with its carpet of dust.
The girl sat at a table in the shadow of Mara’s piano. She hauled her backpack onto the table. It landed with a thud.
“Tea?” Mara asked, startled. The cup in her hand smelled of wild rose and jasmine, like the steep, winding streets beyond the door she closed behind her.
The girl shook her head no. Pulling a Thermos from the backpack, she twisted off the lid. She hadn’t smiled, not once, but then neither had Mara. The stitches in Mara’s upper lip left her smile conspicuously off.
“Are you recording this?” Mara slipped into a seat where she could look the girl in the eye if she’d wanted to.
“No, my hearing’s really sharp. My memory too,” the girl said. She gulped a drink from the Thermos, then asked, “So, what does it feel like to sell out?”
Not, as Mara expected, “Why weren’t you wearing a helmet?” Reporters crowding the hospital exit had shouted out this question. She’d ignored it. If she’d worn a helmet while riding her Harley, she wouldn’t have felt her hair beat against her face like wings.
“I got bored with the spare sound I started out with. I’m experimenting with lusher orchestrations,” Mara told the girl. Her fingers drummed the teacup. “I talked about this in the interview with Rolling Stone.”
Mara’s tea had cooled to room temperature. She pushed it away. Anywhere in between hot or ice cold was intolerable.
“What made you start playing it safe?” the girl persisted.
“What makes you so sure I’m playing it safe now?”
“Prove it.” The girl’s lips were wet from whatever she was drinking. She slid off the chair and vanished into the hallway with its peeling wallpaper.
“Where are you going?” Mara called after her. She cursed her broken leg. The cast had been sawed off days ago, but she struggled to stand. She entered the hallway just as the girl was leaving it. “Where did you get that?” she shouted.
The gun in the girl’s hand glinted like a meteorite before becoming just more wreckage on the planet. “You know where, you put it there,” the girl answered. “There” was in Mara’s bedroom, in the lingerie drawer. Mara might wear jeans and T-shirts mostly, but underneath, she liked to feel lace. “You talked about it in an interview on Sirius XM. You said, ‘Screw the coyotes. I’ve got a Smith and Wesson.’” Coyotes would appear out of nowhere in L.A.’s canyons at night. The first thing you noticed were their eyes, the way they burned like cigarette butts.
“I unloaded all but one bullet,” the girl said. “I know you know how to play roulette.” The lyrics to Mara’s hit single, “Trigger Happy,” made that obvious. Cradling the gun, she settled back into her chair. “I’ll start,” she said. She tossed back her reddish hair. The hand pointing the gun to her temple didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. The click echoed through the indifferently furnished room.
She set the gun on the table. “Dare you,” Mara heard her whisper.
Mara took a seat and grasped the gun. She was also grasping the handlebar of the Harley. She cocked the trigger. It was like shifting gears. What were the chances of mangling more than a motorcycle, a leg, and half her face? She’d show the little bitch she wasn’t the type to fold her hand just when the stakes were raised. She plucked the trigger.
Mara placed the gun next to her on the table, the handle still in her grasp. “Game over,” she said.
“This isn’t a game,” the girl countered. “And it’s not over.” Lunging across the table, she dug her nails into Mara’s hand. With a cry, Mara released her grip.
The girl snatched up the gun. “My turn,” she said. Her eyes were flecked with fire.
The girl spun the gun over to Mara. It whirligigged, then lay still.
The gun felt incredibly heavy. Like the first microphone she ever picked up.
Amy Allison’s short fiction has appeared online at HotValleyWriters.com and at PittsburghFlashFictionGazette.com. She lives in Southern California.
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