The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 17
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief chapter 17 Anne and Sam (III)
She hadn’t been able to get the image of that white sheet out of her mind. There was a body underneath it. No doubt about that. Anne drifted through the day like the hushed whispers drifted throughout the store. By afternoon the story of the body had got around. Everyone agreed it was murder. Which meant somewhere in town there was a killer. Somebody that could be a neighbor or a friend. They’d killed that person. Left that dead body there.
You’ve see a dead body before.
Two of the younger girls sat in the break room. Brie Gleeson and Judy Potter. They were still in high school. Both were seasonal hires. The two stuck together all the time. Judy following Brie around like a lost puppy. Anne hadn’t talked to the two much. They were crunching loudly on chips and talking when Anne entered. Neither of the girls acknowledged her presence as she walked past them on her way to the soda machine. To Anne they looked like the type of girls that would have made fun of her and Sam when they were still in high school.
As a can of Coke rolled through the machine they noticed Anne there.
“Anne.” Brie said. Waving her over excitedly. “Did you hear?”
This was a surprise. Anne didn’t think they even knew her name. “No. What?”
“That body they found. It was Carol.”
The color drained from Anne’s face as the words sank in. She felt her knees get weak. Putting a hand on the table to steady herself. Feeling the smooth cool surface of the table against her skin. Cold and unfeeling. Anne wished she could be the same.
“I know.” Judy said. “I can’t believe it either.” Her voice no different than if they were talking about high school dating.
“Oh…shit.” Anne finally managed to utter.
“Yeah. Some messed up shit. Jack in hardware said she was all chopped up.” Brie jabbed her hand into the bag of chips.
“Probably tried to boss around the wrong person.” Judy said.
“Creepy. I saw her leave last night.” Brie snapped a large chip in two before chomping on it.
Anne felt a cold sweat on her forehead, back and arms. She hated Carol. Couldn’t stand her. She’d been glad when Carol hadn’t been around today. But she didn’t want her dead. Anne felt her lunch churning in her stomach. Brie and Judy chattered on, oblivious of Anne’s unsteady posture.
Dominic, a cashier knocked on the open break room door. “Girls, Hendricks is going to say something about Carol. He wants everybody there.”
Brie got up. “Oh wow. Maybe we’ll get to leave early.”
“That would be cool.” Judy said. “You coming Anne?”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
Brie and Judy left. Leaving Anne all alone. Her stomach made a strange noise as she left the break room. Sweat beading up on her forehead. Rushing to the restroom, Anne threw up in the first sink she could reach. Retching up her lunch. Washing her face off, Anne made her way to the assembly. Leaning on the wall as she went. She hid in the back of the crowd as Hendricks rambled on about what a loss it was. Telling everybody some bullshit that they were all family.
After work Anne stopped by the apartment. Sam was sitting on the couch watching TV still in the t-shirt and sweats she’d worn to bed. Going out on a Saturday was the last thing she wanted to do. Especially when she had the place to herself. Lucy was still away. Gone to her family’s place for Thanksgiving. Seeing how shaken up her friend was, Sam couldn’t refuse.
Over coffee and a slice of cheesecake Anne told Sam about seeing her coworker’s body earlier. Sam cut into the slice on her plate. The cheesecake was too good to waste. Even if she was having it under less the idea circumstances. She listened as Anne told her about the feeling that overcame her after hearing it was Carol. Hesitating when she got to the part about being sick. Not wanting to spoil Sam’s appetite. She needn’t have worried. There was no spoiling the cheesecake.
“God Sam, that was her body there. I can’t shake the image of it.”
“Fuck.” Was all Sam could manage to utter.
“Yeah.” Anne took a sip of coffee. Her eyes flickering over the other patrons.
Sam studied her friend. There was something else bothering her besides Carol. She was holding onto something. “Is that all that’s bugging you?”
Anne turned back to her. Their eyes met briefly. She looked ready to burst open. Instead she set her coffee cup down.
“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s nothing.” She opened a packet of sugar and poured it into the coffee. Little specks of sugar danced around on the coffee before being swallowed up. “It’s just that-that I don’t feel right. I feel off.”
“Off? Like how kiddo?”
Anne stirred her coffee. Watching people walk by on the street. Christmas lights and tinsel hung from the street lights and store fronts.
“Dunno. Maybe it’s the holidays. Or from when I got sick. I feel tired all the time. After supper, most nights I fall asleep on the couch. I sleep there half the night. I get these headaches and my body aches a lot.” Anne took another sip of coffee. Before breaking open a second sugar packet.
“I think stress is taking a toll on you.”
Anne seemed to struggle with the next words out of her mouth. “Thanksgiving night. I swear there was someone else in the house.”
“Whoa. You mean a burglar? Did you call the cops?”
Anne shook her head. “No. Mom said I imagined it. By the time I got her downstairs the tracks I saw in the snow had been covered up. Nothing was missing. Except the stuff I wore to the party.”
“Weird. Why steal just that stuff?”
“I know. I asked mom. She claims I got sick on them so she threw them out,” Anne dumped the second packet of sugar into her cup.
Sam remembered that night clearly. She’d helped Anne get out of that costume and into bed. She didn’t like Anne’s mom very much. But Sam wondered why the woman would lie to her own daughter.
“We got you changed before you went to bed. I don’t remember where we put that costume.”
Anne obsessively stirred her coffee. “I don’t know. I’m starting to think maybe I am going crazy.”
Sam reached across the table. Touching Anne’s hand. “Honey. You’re the most un-crazy person I know.” She caressed the back of her friend’s hand. “What you need is to get out of that house. Sell it.”
Anne pulled her hand away. “Mom barely goes anywhere now. She’d never sell it.”
Sam withdrew her own hand. Feeling a little self-conscious. “Move out. Get a place of your own. I know some friends looking for roommates.”
Anne gulped down half of her coffee. Setting the cup down with a thud. “I couldn’t leave her there alone. She couldn’t handle it. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to her. No matter how she treats me sometimes.”
Anne let out a heavy sigh. Bowing her head in defeat.
“Hey we should do something to take your off everything. Want to go shopping tomorrow? We can laugh at shit. Like old times. How about it?”
“I think I’d like that.”
Anne walked down the sidewalk on main street. She wasn’t ready to head home yet. Christmas music played from speakers attached to the street lights. There was something Anne else bothering her she didn’t tell Sam. It was something she’d noticed recently. A feeling of emptiness had crept into her. Anne wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Everything she felt was tainted by a sense of hollowness.
A woman walked by her humming tunelessly. Anne nearly bumped into the woman. Anne been so caught up in her thought’s she hadn’t seen the woman.
“Sorry.” Anne said.
The woman glared at Anne. Not saying anything, the woman just shook her head and continued on her way. That was something Anne hated about the holidays. There were so many people around. The holidays made people act insane. They acted like getting their gifts was all that mattered. Fuck everyone else. That getting the best bargains was their only concern. Anne had seen a few fights in Save-Mart days before Christmas. Men and women fighting over some doll for their kids. It made her sad they’d ruin the holiday being so selfish.
Anne reached a corner. She stopped as a little dog came at her. Yapping loudly, forcing Anne to back up. It jerked backwards as the leash attached to the dog’s collar went taut. The little dog landing on it’s rear. An old woman stood at the other end of the leash. She wore a large floppy hat and square shaped glasses. Her dog got back up and started yapping fiercely at Anne.
The old woman tugged hard at the leash. “Atlas! Be still!” She adjusted her glasses. A chain attached to them hung around the old woman’s wrinkled neck. “Don’t worry girl. He’s quite harmless.”
“I’m not. Just surprised me is all.”
The old woman picked her dog. Cradling the dog in her arms and stroking its head. “You should worry though.” She said. Her voice became threatening.
“That murder this morning.”
“Yeah-Yeah. Of course.”
“Why twenty years ago we never had this kind of thing here. The world is going to hell. Crime everywhere. Sex on the television. They let crazy people room the streets. And there’s an actor in the White House.” The old woman scoffed. “It’s all going to hell.” she walked past Anne. “Not even safe to walk down the street now.”
The old woman continued talking as she walked away. Anne wondered if she was still talking to her. Maybe the old woman was just talking to herself. Or maybe the dog. Whatever the case, Anne grinned wearily. Was half of Frostwood just crazy old ladies? She wondered.
Anne sighed. She’d put it off long enough. She might as well head home. Walking back to her truck, Anne saw a man in a trench coat across the street rifling through a trashcan. As Anne passed by, she could see he looked young. Somewhere in his twenties. His clothes appeared clean. But his skin looked dirty. His hair a mess. Perhaps he was homeless. Or maybe a drug addict. Anne had heard there were a few homeless in Frostwood. And she knew there was drug addiction in town. It had become a big problem in recent years. She considered going over to the man. Asking if she could help him. Then she thought about what the old woman said. This guy could be crazy. Worse yet, he could have killed Carol. Trying to rob her for cash to get high.
Anne felt a little guilty when she got to her truck. Maybe that guy just needed and helping hand. She hoped somebody better would come along to provide it.
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