A Moment in Disorder
At first, all Clara could smell was frying bacon. Slowly waking her, the tantalizing odor crept from the frying pan, under the closed bedroom door, across the floor, over the comforter and into her nose. Her smile was inevitable.
She rolled onto her back, gazing up through sleep coated eyes at the fan, motionless and covered with a thin layer of dust. She was warm, the memory of a dream slowly slipping away, replaced by the prospect of a hot breakfast, maybe some orange juice or coffee as well. A splinter of sunlight stretched across the ceiling and dug itself into the wall behind her. She stared at it, focusing on the strange angle at which the light bent down the wall, pointing directly at her head, as if highlighting her, marking her. She took one deep breath in, filling her lungs, preparing to expel the last moments of sleep from her body. The second smell sneaked in, light and low, slightly caustic.
And with that, she remembered the night before.
She’d only been defending herself. Too many college boys at too many bars who she’d easily tired of by eleven, and leaving her three friends behind she walked out of Sun and Moon, down the street towards the light rail station and home. It was her brothers suggestion that she carry the knife (four inch blade in a rubber sheath, the handle made of bone white plastic, connected to the steel with two copper screws), because he said, she lived “in a sketchy part of the city,” and you “never know” when something might go wrong.
Lydia hated the knife, but Lydia hated lots of things, and it was easy for Clara to ignore her. She’d never actually use the knife on anyone, could never see her self even pulling it out of her handbag. Lydia was the worrier, but her kisses were Christmas presents, and Clara loved Christmas.
But then that stupid boy had followed her from the bar. She heard him walking, talking, mumbling something at her in a drunken voice, slurring everything, ending each garbled sentence with the word “baby” in an upward lilt.
She heard him warble, “Stop.” She didn’t.
It had been effortless. She reached into her bag, unsheathed the knife and gripped the smooth handle. With rough fingers, he grabbed her near the elbow. She turned and plunged the blade into his shoulder, paused, then pulled it quickly out. Like photographs- The shock in his eyes. A recoil as he fell away from her. Hot blood on her fingers. Then she was running faster than she ever conceived she could run.
The knife she’d stuffed between the mattress and bed frame. Dried blood remained under her fingernails, though she’d washed her hands for what seemed like hours.
From the kitchen, she heard Lydia call to her.