When I saw Nicky Murphy was back with a story titled "BFF," I wondered why she was writing about me and Tom, but then I remembered they do things differently across the pond.
But this ain't no pond, is it? This is Devil's Lake...
But this ain't no pond, is it? This is Devil's Lake...
BFF by Nicky Murphy
We’re sitting in Janie’s car, sharing a bucket of wings from Chico’s Chicken Shack, watching the sun sink into the horizon beyond Devil’s Lake. It’s December, and our breath is steaming up the windows. Last year a man was found frozen on the far shore, his face half-eaten by foxes. It’s bleak and lonely, which is why Janie likes it.
“We gotta get outta here,” she says. For a moment I’m startled.
“Why? We done something wrong?”
She laughs and bags another wing.
“No, silly. I meant outta here. Outta Stinkbug County.” She takes a delicate bite and swallows. “I have a plan.”
While she tells me her plan I take the chance to gaze at her, drink her in. Her waist-length hair is the color of caramel, turning the purest white in summer. She has the face of an angel, the type you see in them old paintings, smiling yet sad, with jade eyes and a mouth like the girls in my brother’s magazines that he keeps hidden under the bed. I have exactly zero chance with her, which is why we’re the best of friends—but it doesn’t stop me dreaming sometimes.
“…then we hit the interstate and drive like hell till dawn.” Janie stops. “Jimmy, were you even listening?”
The plan is simple. As well as helping out her parents in their drug store during the week, Janie is a weekend waitress at the Black Tiger club down Main Street. ’Cause she’s been there forever, Gus the manager trusts her with sorting out the week’s takings for him to bank on Monday. After everyone’s left on a Saturday night she sorts out the cash, tallies it up and puts it in the safe.
Only this weekend that ain’t gonna happen. Instead Janie will bag up the takings as usual. And I’ll be waiting outside in her car. She’ll put the bills into two suitcases, stash them in the trunk, then we drive through town, cross county till we hit the interstate—and drive like hell till dawn.
“And what happens after that?” I ask.
“Then we choose,” Janie says. “We could go to California, work in a vineyard, pick grapes all summer. Or we could go to New York where I could be a muse for a famous artist. Or London, or—”
“We could always wait tables,” I say, joining in with the dream. “You’re good at that.”
Her face hardens.
“No more, Jimmy,” she says. “I’ve had enough of men going ‘Are yeuuw on the menu?’ like they’re so fucking funny, or shoving dollars down my tits and thinking that gives them licence to grope my ass. No more. I’m better than that.”
It all works out perfectly.
I drive Janie’s car through town and hit the interstate. Janie seems a little edgy, but I reckon that’s just nerves at having over twenty grand in the trunk.
“Jimmy, there’s a diner and gas station just after the turn-off for Roseville,” she says. “We’ll eat there, then I’ll tell you what we do next.”
“But I thought we were—” I look over at her, and she’s curled up, head resting against a rolled-up sweater, eyes shut.
I pull up outside the diner, parking right on the edge. Janie opens her eyes.
“Thanks Jimmy,” she says, smiling. “I knew I could rely on you. You’re the safest driver I know.” And her smile melts me inside, and I swear I’ll always look after her.
We dine on greaseburgers and fries, the yawning waitress keeping us filled with hot, thick coffee. I want to ask Janie so many questions—what happens next, why did she want me to come with her—but her closed face keeps me dumb.
She pushes her burger to one side.
“I’m done,” she says. “Look, Jimmy, I need to freshen up, do girls’ stuff, you know? You finish up and wait in the car, I won’t be long.”
I must have dozed in the car, ’cause I wake up when a stranger slides into the seat beside me. I scream.
“Shh, it’s me you idiot.” It’s Janie, and it’s not. Her beautiful hair is gone. She’s hacked it. Now it’s ragged, showing her ears and the nape of her neck. The chemical smell hits me, and I see that she’s dyed her hair dark brown.
“They’ll be looking for a woman with long blond hair,” she says. “She doesn’t exist anymore.”
She hands me a bottle of Dr. Pepper.
“Here, I bought you this, your favorite. Sorry I took a sip already, I couldn’t resist.” She smiles and squeezes my hand. “We’re on our way. Janie and Jimmy. Best friends forever.”
“Thanks, Janie. I’ll drink it later.”
She sighs. “I bought it for you for now,” she says. “If you don’t want it—”
And because we’re best friends, and I love her so much, I drink it all.
Suddenly I feel achingly tired. As I close my eyes, Janie strokes my hair.
“That’s it, Jimmy,” she soothes. “You sleep now.”
It’s the pain that wakes me. I must have been sleeping on my arm, and as I’ve shifted position the blood has rushed back, stinging, burning. I try to rub my arm but something’s wrong. It takes a few seconds to realize that my hands are tied behind my back. I try to stand up, but my legs don’t want to work. My feet are bound too. Whoever did this did a great job, thick plastic twine and tight knots.
“Janie? Janie!” Shit, if they’ve tied me up, where’s Janie? What have the bastards done to her? I look ’round at the undergrowth, the trees, the gently lapping water, and then I recognize where I am. The sun is sinking into the horizon beyond Devil’s Lake, and I think of the frozen man and his face, and I start to scream even though I know that no one will ever hear me.