1st Place – December 2020

Purple in the Moonlight

by Gary Christenson

I rushed home to Jeremy, savoring the thought of steamy afternoon delight with my husband. We’ve been married for six months and I’m hot for him all day, every day. I love unexpected time off when the boss leaves early on Friday afternoon.
After parking my car, I hurried up two flights of stairs, and entered our tiny apartment. Grunts and moans of pleasure emerged from our bedroom. I didn’t yell, “Honey, I’m home.” Instead, I froze. A knot formed in my gut. I glanced into the living room mirror and saw my dark red lipstick highlighted against my deathly pale face. Then my gut turned from cold fear to anger.
I marched into the bedroom expecting the worst. A young blond writhed on her back in our bed. She moaned with pleasure as Jeremy exerted himself between her legs. The scents of sexual passion, human sweat, and her perfume assaulted my nose.
I went ballistic and screamed, “You bastards.” I grabbed the belt from Jeremy’s pants, swung hard, and struck him across his back, leaving a nasty welt. Good! In that moment, I hated him, and wanted to kill the home wrecker screwing my husband. Then I realized the blond was my younger sister, Anne.
Jeremy yelped, rolled off Anne, and put his hands up to ward off my next blow. I could have grabbed my handgun from the dresser drawer and killed them. Instead, I abandoned all sense, dived onto the bed, and tried to knee Jeremy in the groin. Then I wrapped my hands around her throat and squeezed. Killing her was not enough. I wanted to inflict intense pain and fear as I choked the life out of her.
Jeremy recovered from my attack on his manhood, yanked me off my slutty sister, and pinned my arms. I struggled to escape, but he was too strong.
He yelled, “Joan, stop it. Chill!”
Anne coughed, rubbed her throat, and stood. Fury and hatred flashed in her eyes as she slapped me.
I split blood, quit struggling, and screamed at her, “Anne, I hope you die a horrible, miserable death, and soon!”
Anne picked up her clothes and yelled, “Joan, screw you. You’ve always been a crazy bitch. Besides, I make him happy. You don’t.” She stomped out, naked, while massaging her throat.
We didn’t call the police. There was no make-up sex. I yelled obscenities at him. Jeremy packed his clothes and left. I hate them.
I drank a tasteless bottle of wine and part of a second before I passed out.
Days later I drove toward my apartment from an out-of-town party, reached a dirt road, and noticed a parked car, Anne’s Volkswagen.
I should have ignored it, but I wanted to sneer at her as she begged me for a ride.
It was nearly midnight, so I carried a flashlight. In a thicket of bushes moonlight reflected off something white. Insects buzzed and mosquitos sucked my blood. The thicket smelled of decayed vegetation, a hint of perfume, and something worse. My stomach tightened. I pushed branches aside and directed the flashlight toward the white cloth, a fragment from a ripped blouse. Ann’s bruised and nude body lay on the ground. Lifeless eyes bugged out at me. Her face looked purple in the moonlight. A rope encircled her neck several times. Death had frozen an expression of terror upon her face.
I gagged as my gut tightened. A week ago, I had wished her dead. Tonight, I discovered someone had murdered her. Did I cause her death by cursing her? Is this partially my fault? Am I an evil person?
I gasped but didn’t call the police. I ran back to my car and drove home, scared, worried, and guilty. My hands shook as I gripped the wheel. Even though the heater blew out hot air, I couldn’t get warm.
I didn’t sleep. What happened? Did my curse help kill her? Will the police find my footprints and accuse me? Dump my shoes in the lake? Will God punish me? Confess to the police? What should I have done about her body?
In the morning, after three strong cups of coffee, I decided to do nothing. I hadn’t killed Anne and could pretend surprise when someone informed me of her death.
Her death isn’t my fault. I’m an innocent victim of her betrayal. It isn’t my fault!
A few days later, the police questioned me. Alfred, an older detective with steel-gray eyes, bald spot, and rumpled grey suit played bad cop. Angela, a younger woman with perfect makeup, stylish clothing, a strong chin, and high cheekbones sold the good cop role. She smiled at me and acted sympathetic. Her smile never reached her eyes. Detective Angela Barnes scared me. My fingers twitched under the table.
I told them, “My husband admitted he was having an affair with Anne and didn’t love me. I screamed at him, kicked him out, and haven’t seen either of them since that day. I didn’t handle the shock well.”
They hammered on me, trying to catch me in a lie, but I stuck to my simple story. They had no evidence I killed her. I refused to admit I found Anne’s body.
I drank every night to dispel the memory of Jeremy screwing my sister. I tried to forget wrapping my hands around Anne’s neck and wishing her dead.
On bad days, I screamed at fellow employees in my office. That behavior earned me a verbal reprimand followed by a written reprimand.
My doctor prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs and sleeping pills. He strongly encouraged professional counseling. Instead of confessing my deplorable behavior to a counselor, I drank more. The nightmares didn’t stop.
I’ve got to lay off the booze. My life is spinning out of control. I don’t understand. What is God doing to me?
Detective Angela Barnes visited me at my apartment. I hadn’t cleaned since Anne’s death. She wrinkled her nose when she walked into my living room. Embarrassed by filth, nasty odors, and clutter, I cleared fast food boxes, wine bottles, and trash from a coffee table and invited her to sit. After preliminaries, she informed me, “Your sister was raped and strangled. We tested DNA from your husband, but it wasn’t a match. We have no suspects. The case remains open. Can you tell me anything that will help?”
I shook my head, feeling numb. I had wanted her dead and soon thereafter someone killed her, a horrible death. “Her ghost haunts me in my dreams. I don’t know what to believe about anything.” I stared at my filthy carpet and couldn’t say more.
Ms. Barnes didn’t respond. I thanked her for the update and sucked down a glass of wine before she reached her car. Staying sober didn’t last long. I tried to strangle Anne. My life is about to hit the wall. I need a miracle.
Nightmares plagued my sleep. The most common one involved me screaming at Anne, “I hope you die a horrible death.” In those dreams, I locked my hands around her throat and choked her, again and again.
Daytime was awful. Nights were worse. Drugs didn’t help. I hadn’t enjoyed a decent night’s sleep since I kicked Jeremy out of our apartment.
I lost two jobs and developed a terrible reputation. With few career choices remaining, I drifted into barmaid jobs where I served drinks to assholes who reminded me of that cheating bastard, Jeremy. I flirted with jerks to earn tips and hated myself when I went off shift. I kept drinking to forget Anne, Jeremy, their betrayal, and how much I despised myself.
One night a young blond woman who looked like Anne drank beer at the bar. I sniffed the same perfume Anne wore. I froze and couldn’t serve her. The bartender looked at me like I was crazy.
Maybe I am crazy.
Terrifying dreams plagued my sleep that night. In one dream, Anne walked into my bedroom and screamed, “You cursed me and caused my death. For that, you’ll burn in hell.”
In my dream I flared with anger and shrieked, “You deserved to die.”
The next day, my gut turned cold. Anne’s ghost was correct. I wanted her dead and tried to strangle her. I didn’t kill her, but I could have. I will burn in hell for my sins.
I grabbed my handgun from the nightstand and drove downtown to find Jeremy.
He was drinking beer with his buddies at his favorite watering hole, a dimly lit tavern. He laughed, told stories, and didn’t see me enter. After I shot a .38 hollow point into the back of his head, he crashed to the floor. Moonlight shining through a tavern window illuminated his prostrate body.
I deserve to die and burn in hell.
I blasted a hole in my head. On the tavern floor, our blood mingled into a puddle, purple in the moonlight.

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