A Story of Little Consequence

Carol tossed her penny off the side of the building and watched it whistle through the air. “Do you think it’ll hurt someone?”

“Considering we’re only five stories up, doubtful,” Jenny answered, swinging her legs back and forth. “There’s no one out here, anyway.”

“We’re out here.” Carol contemplated the handful of coins she’d dug out of the smashed vending machine in the hall, then tossed them all over at once. They looked like a fistful of glitter in the hot summer sun, glinting silver and copper as they showered down on the empty street. Carol picked up her baseball bat. “You know, I think what I regret most is never having a midlife crisis. I thought, you know, I’m young, I’ve got time to build up a life for myself and then ruin it.”

“We could do it now,” Jenny suggested, hopping down from her perch. “There’s still time to make bad decisions.”

Carol scoffed and kicked open the door to the stairwell. “Bad decisions require consequences!” she called, sliding down the railing, waiting for the clomp of Jenny’s boots to follow. “How can you have consequences now? What’s the point?”

“What’s the point in throwing loose change off a scuzzy hotel roof?” Jenny’s voice echoed. She hopped over the railing to catch up to Carol, her hair streaming behind her, dull copper in the dim stairway. She hit the step with a loud thud. “Come on,” she said, an arm around Carol’s shoulder, “it’ll be fun. Use your imagination. What do people do when they’re forty and insane?”

“Buy a car,” Carol said.

“Excellent. And where do we get the money?”

A slow grin broke out over Carol’s face. “We rob a bank,” she said.

* * *

The plastic masks weren’t necessary, but they were trying to create a mood, so they stopped by the only costume shop in town and took their pick out of what was still there. Carol found a Scrooge McDuck, the same as her first Halloween costume; Jenny chose a black mask with large pink feathers glued to the sides. Before they left, they drew dollar signs in silver sharpie on the sides of a couple black trash bags, for good measure.

There wasn’t much left when they got to the bank; looters had already got most of it, months ago, when it seemed like it might still matter, somehow. Carol smashed in the few intact computer monitors she could find still tucked away in their offices while Jenny fished around the vault.

“Is twenty thousand enough for a ridiculous car?” Jenny called.

Carol rolled her eyes. “Do you have any concept of what money is worth?” Her bat swung into a plate glass door, and the sound was the most satisfying thing she could imagine. “Actually, let’s just say we talked down the dealer, I’m bored and this mask is getting really… moist.”

“I told you to pick something more breathable. Do you have a car picked out?”

Carol smiled.

* * *

Carol parked the motorcycle in the middle of the square, by the fountain, filled now with rainwater and algae. “I have always wanted to do that,” she said, twirling the keys. “I’m a little bit attractive to you right now, right?”

“A lot attractive.” Jenny pulled Carol to sit on the lip of the fountain. When they sat, she didn’t let go of her hand. “Was your midlife crisis everything you hoped it’d be?”

Carol shook her head. “I feel like I’ve got one bad decision left to make.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.” Carol bit her lip, and brushed Jenny’s hair behind her ear. “I’ve loved you since third grade, you know that, right?”

“I know.” Jenny pressed their foreheads together and laughed. “I’ve loved you back since fourth. I wish I’d said something.”

“Close your eyes,” Carol said.

It was harder than she thought it’d be; Jenny’s thin shoulders felt like they’d snap as Carol pressed down, trying to keep her from thrashing. Jenny’s arm rose out of the water, grasping, and it was all Carol could do not to press her lips to that white wrist. It felt like it hung there for hours, for months, but it could have only been minutes at most.

When she finally stopped moving, Carol pulled Jenny out of the water, brushed her hair from her forehead, hanging wet like rotting reeds. She kissed her then, cradling her head in her lap, lips not yet cold. Carol had known for years she would die alone, and for the first time, she was glad. She sat there holding Jenny’s body close, and waited for the flesh to peel hot from her bones.

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