I’ve just gotten rid of the last of her when the radio says the police are going to be searching the woods today. I fight the urge to speed as I drive through town.
“Weather looks good today, Amber!” Oliver, the gas station owner calls out to me, his usual greeting. I smile and nod at him as I fill up the truck’s tank. Kim tells me how her kid is while she rings up my groceries at the store. My cheeks start hurting from maintaining my polite smile. Alibis, like peoples’ good opinions, are shaky things that can be ruined by one mistake, one off interaction. They need to be built carefully to withstand the storms suspicion can bring.
Janine can’t get me in for a manicure at the salon until next week. It’s not ideal but I go ahead and schedule the appointment anyway. My nails are jagged from digging but if anyone asks, I’ll say that I’ve been planting flowers. No one’s asked so far today or cared about how dirty I am but at least I have an answer.
Dana had been digging around in front of the house. We were going to have a lovely walkway of peonies leading to two boxwood bushes that would guard the door. I’d even taken her with me, both of us disguised of course, to pick out the plants we wanted. There had been missing persons signs around with her picture on them but I made sure she didn’t see them. But then she’d overstepped. Then she’d made me mad.
I browse the library for half an hour then buy a six pack from the liquor store just to put the cherry on top of my alibi. Radio reception grows spotty and full of static the closer I get to home, but there’s no update on how the search through the woods is going. I take that as a good sign and decide to have a beer on the porch once I get back. That way I can keep an eye out and enjoy a cool drink on this sticky day.
My late parents never could understand why I loved this three room cabin that we would rent for a week during summers. As soon as I got enough money, I bought it from the old couple who never knew what a treasure they had. I can hear myself think out here. The only noise is the wind in the trees. The only eyes that look at me strangely are those of the animals. They’re generally more afraid of me than I am of them so they’re pretty easy to scare off. Not unlike most people, I’ve noticed.
I shove my groceries in the cupboards, thanking myself for mopping up the blood last night instead of leaving it for today like I thought I would have to. I pull a beer from the six pack and bend to put the rest in the fridge. That’s when I notice it.
A strand of hair, long and brown that in no way matches my shoulder-length blond. Dana had such lovely hair, wavy and thick. I’d loved playing with it, twisting and teasing it into all sorts of styles. I’d pull on it when she wouldn’t stay still. She often flinched or tried to get away and once even cried out because of it. I think she secretly liked it when I pulled, though she never showed it. Toward the end she’d started yanking on her hair all the time. She wouldn’t stop, no matter how many times I asked or yelled at her to. I had to cut her hair while she was sleeping. This hair must have gotten in here before that.
I pluck it out, close the fridge, then throw it away. I take my beer to the door and stop when I find another hair, easily noticeable against the kitchenette’s while linoleum. I throw that one away, too. There’s another one wedged in the metal grooves that line the threshold. How did I not notice these before?
I set the beer down on the counter and go into the bedroom, just to make sure I vacuumed the carpet good enough. It looks alright. I check in the closet and see one of her hairs sticking out of the pocket of my jean jacket. There’s one on the hem of a skirt. Three strands in a pair of shoes.
I open my dresser. Her hair is everywhere. In my socks, on the waistband of my panties, pooled in the cup of my bra I thought she looked so beautiful in.
“I think they’ve found her scent!” A man’s voice rings out, too close. Dogs bark then go quiet and I hear the earth being turned over as they dig. Dana had kept pulling at her hair while she’d been getting our pathway of peonies ready. Burying it. She’d seen the missing signs after all; made sure she did what she could to lead them right to me. She was so smart. One of the reasons I loved her and wanted her to stay.
The banging on the door is like a judge’s gavel calling the court to order.
“Police! Come out with your hands up!”
Elizabeth Hoyle is from southern West Virginia. She should spend more time doing her reading for grad school than writing whatever comes into her head. Her fiction has been featured in The Daily Drunk, Blind Corner Literary Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, and other print and online publications.Her poetry has been featured in Poke: A Journal of Kink and Erotica, What Rough Beast, and others. Find her on Twitter @ERHoyle.