This is a work of short fiction in the Thriller genre. Please comment!
Ten bony fingers, knuckles and nails, divided between two fleshy palms. Kyle Kavendar, 28 years old, sat contemplating his hands. The sound of forks and knives, scraping silver across porcelain dining service, the chatter of early evening diners—just-a-salad-thank-you types—swept up into his ears.
He was startled by an average waitress of an average age standing next to him. The lines in her face were plump with makeup. Even as he looked at her, he had a hard time trying to recall her hair color (brown) or the shape of her nose (Grecian). Her overall demeanor hinted at sympathy. As if to declare “Hello, I’m Julie or Andi or Stormy or who the fuck cares what my name is. I’ll be your server this evening. Don’t worry, I forgive you for making everyone uncomfortable with your loneliness.” She had already refilled his drink twice.
“Would you like me to take this extra place setting?”
“I’m waiting” Kyle spat, almost a whisper.
“I’m sorry, sir?” Leaning her head to one side, not quite hearing.
“I’m waiting for someone.”
“I’ll leave these, then. And an extra menu.”
The waitress smiled again and placed a menu on the table. Kyle
…Your hands are shaking, Kathy…
saw a glint of white gold and diamond and he heard the clink of a salad fork against glass before it fell to the floor. She knelt to pick up the fork, and he watched as her average hands with her average fingers snaked around and gripped the silver.
His own hands had been called to his attention as a child. Mom had liked them. Artist’s hands, she had called them. They weren’t special, he didn’t think. But his nails were always clean and trim; a compulsion he would carry his entire life.
He took a certain degree of pleasure in the roundness of his nails and in squeezing them against his palms until his knuckles went white. And when he released: eight half-moon indentations, purple and blue (and again—)
White just at the edges, as if to dance with the knuckles while the circulation recovered.
Tonight, these ten bony fingers had the distinction of nine perfect nails— the tenth broken and bloody, wrapped in thick gauze. His breath caught as he recalled black and red; the feeling of the nail being torn almost in half. He would sort it out later.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll get another. Can I refresh your drink while I’m gone?”
The waitress indicated the contents of his glass, small fragments of melting ice diluting whiskey until it was only an afterthought.
“Yeah, please.” Kyle smiled and exhaled deeply.
He watched the waitress leave and then forgot the incident entirely.
Mackenzie was running late. She had hired a sitter, given her a phone number for the restaurant. She wouldn’t go home with her date; she wasn’t that kind of girl. Right? Right? Her boy, Bill, now just four-years-old, would be asleep.
She knew his name was Kyle, and that he owned horses in his childhood but not to speak to him about it, because it made him very sad. That’s all that Jodie had told her. Jodie always knew single men. Time to get back on the horse, as it were.
As she approached the restaurant she thought the place looked nice enough. It wasn’t a chain, so, she couldn’t possibly know the menu or the type of cuisine it offered. It wasn’t in the best neighborhood. Neither was it uptown or downtown of one. Despite this, it had once graced the list of top ten restaurants in the country, and taste could say a lot about a man. Points, she thought, were to be earned here.
Her heels clicked up the two small stairs leading to the entrance. She’d worn the black heels tonight, just to hint at long legs, the arch of her foot, the arc of her back. But she wasn’t that kind of girl. Just to hint.
She’d opted for a navy gingham dress. It was just cool enough outside so of course, she’d cap her shoulders with something in lace, to show the naked skin of shoulder shrouded in fog.
Fog is worth nothing to salt and spit, though. This hit the back of her mind, invading her coolly kept space. Fog is nothing to the fluids in my mouth.
She sat down to dinner after having been led haphazardly there by the average waitress Kyle could not recall. His demeanor shifted, drumming out patterns on the table when Mackenzie sat down.
“I’m sorry I’m so late. Thank you for waiting.” She blurted out, a trickle and then a spray of words.
“It’s alright,” he stared at her blankly. “Jodie told me that you don’t keep a cell phone. I find that strange, but, you know, intriguing.”
Mackenzie wasn’t sure if she should take this as a compliment, so she smiled and nodded.
“Strange, sure. I’ve never heard intriguing.”
“I only just wonder why you don’t keep one. Jodie also said you have children.”
“Is that a problem?”
“Having a child?”
“Yes. I mean, is it like a deal breaker or something for you?”
“Not really. It only adds to the intrigue. I guess, with a child at home, you know, you’d think you would want a cell phone, right?”
“They make me uncomfortable. I don’t know. I always make sure to leave a number when I leave. I only go to work, and then back home. And my son is with me when I go grocery shopping. This is the first time I’ve been out in ages, just ages.” Her words continued in a frenzy, finally congealing into a globular mass of excuses. Times were tough, she finally confessed, and the cell phone was simply the first bill to be cut.
Kyle nodded while Mackenzie fretted. He folded his fingers together.
“Is that all?” He smiled.
She bit her lip.
“Whatever all might mean. Is it all to you?” She spoke softly nervously hesitantly.
She was searching now. Searching for his approval and validation like a bear sniffing out a mussel. Kyle didn’t like this, but he knew how it worked. He’d seen it in the way the other women had looked at him, had spoken to him. He knew what to say. The right words. The right questions to ask. Just a game, he thought.
“Is it alright if I call you ‘Mac’?” He asked her in a sweet, flattering tone.
She nodded, something kicked in her throat.
He would prove more dexterous at this game than she.
Another waitress had appeared in place of the waitress he couldn’t remember. He had seen this one arrive an hour before shift change, and she sat in a booth, jotting down notes in a small notepad and drinking hot water with lemon. She was sick. Probably the flu, he thought.
…your hands are shaking Kathy…
He smiled up at her. She had a scar above her eyebrow. The sight of it made him cringe. He thought of the blood and the way it must have dripped. The whole of this small terror had healed up into a neat little scar, and it stared down at him. It was a matter of fact little thing, preposterous for the setting, so fine and white against the skin of a tanning bed regular. He ran his fingernails over the table linen as he watched Mackenzie order.
The waitress turned to him now.
“Water. What’s the special?” He answered the questions she hadn’t asked.
Now he watched the waitress talking. Her lips formed round, seductive o’s and long cool e’s. He imagined them parting wider and
…stop fucking crying or I’ll give you a reason…
then he said “That’s fine,” not caring what he had ordered.
Mackenzie mistook his lack of interest in his food to be an interest in the waitress and not Mackenzie herself. This flustered her and sweat beaded over her forehead.
“You alright, Mac?” Kyle asked her.
“Sure. Yeah.” She answered.
Kyle reached across the table, his hand touching hers.
“Tell me what’s wrong, darlin’.” He said this with a kind of comforting familiarity which flustered her further.
“Ah. I don’t know.” She felt her throat tightening. “Well, Yeah. I guess. I don’t know. That waitress is really pretty, huh?” She smiled and lowered her eyes.
“She has a scar.”
“Oh.” Mackenzie perked up at this. Not so perfect, she thought.
“Don’t worry, Mac. I think you’re interesting, probably more so than all of the people in this place. Besides, you’re beautiful, too. I do wish you’d keep your hair out of your eyes, though. You’re positively lovely.” Kyle spoke in a slow steady rhythm. He felt his muscles tense as he felt her fingers lace with his.
“I’m sorry,” Kyle said. “I don’t mean to be so forward.” He pulled his hand away.
Her color deepened.
…your hands are shaking, Kathy…
Kyle was tired of this part of the game. He wanted to be further forward than this. He wanted to be cleaning up. That waitress was pretty. After this one, he thought, after this one he might even come back for that one. But probably not. All of the women he had were of a certain sort.
So, they had finally pulled up, right up to the spot at her curb. Street parking in front of a row of painted stucco townhouses, reflecting blue. Click click click heels, clac-clac on slick pavement resounding into the air.
Kyle took her hand as he led her to the door, smiling.
“You’re very beautiful, Mac.”
Mackenzie smiled back at him. Was she beautiful?
Kyle reached to run his hand along the roundness of her cheek and then, almost a schoolboy stutter—
“Can I…. can I ..kiss you, Mac?”
Mackenzie smiled again, a hint of surprise in her tone when she squeaked the word “Yes” and found her own hands pulling his face down to meet hers.
When she pulled her face from his, she turned the door handle and then released it, the door swinging wide behind her—welcoming, expectantly. She turned her face upwards to his a second time as if to lure him in with fluttering lashes and a toothy smile.
Kyle reached under her chin, pulling her face close to his own and placed his mouth next to her ear. He began to whisper, Mackenzie’s knees weakened, expecting sweet nothings to caress the secret folds of her ears, just enough to stir her sex.
Kyle grabbed her wrist with more force than she had expected and so she gasped. And when she had gasped, Kyle pressed something cold, hard, menacing steel against her belly and he told her not to make one sound or he’d kill her.
“The sitter is still here.” She managed.
“Dismiss her. We have a very interesting night ahead of us.
Mackenzie was terrified. There was no other way of describing that kind of metallic taste slipping between her teeth—no mistaking a precursor to blood and fire. His eyes were like hard black stone, pressed-in-the-past coal, obsidian sheen blank, receding further in the sockets and the glare the harder she looked.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” he said this with a hiss, mocking her as he nudged her forward over the precipice.
“Jackie?” Mackenzie called out gently as Kyle moved the steel from her belly to just under her shoulder blade. They took a seat on Mackenzie’s couch in the darkened room, side by side, waiting for the sitter.
“Jackie, sweetie, I’m home now.”
Kyle rasped violent intent. “If you say one word about me or about this, I will skin your child alive while you watch.”
Mackenzie’s voice caught in her throat.
“Was Bill alright for you tonight?”
“An angel, obviously. Asleep now.”
“Oh, you’ll be wanting your check, I imagine.”
Jackie walked through the dimly lit apartment, picking her way over toys and the play table with its plate of leftover ketchup and mashed fries.
“It can wait, Ms. Kimper. It looks like you have company anyway.” Jackie winked at the pair, gave Mackenzie a thumbs up and let herself out the front door.
Kyle peaked through the curtains to watch as Jackie drove away, and when she was gone, he stood and smashed the butt of his pistol into the back of Mackenzie’s head.