by Robert Swartwood
I remember her as the girl across the street, such an innocent, pretty thing, her brown hair in pigtails during most of the summer and the sun darkening the freckles on her face. We were the same age and did almost everything together — played games, went to the park, swam in the river, and there was even that one time in her backyard, behind the shed, where we shared what was for both of us our first kiss. Then we entered middle school and we had different classes and saw each other less and less; high school came and we hardly saw each other at all. After graduation, I went to college, she went wherever it was she went, and to be honest, until this morning I haven't once thought about her. But there she was on the front page of the newspaper, her face having aged poorly in the past twenty years, vivid crow's-feet around her eyes, and the article told about how she had beaten her husband to death with a baseball bat, how she had drowned her two children in the bathtub, before calling the police and telling them she was ready to go to jail now. And as I stared at her picture all I could think about was the girl I used to know, the one that lived across the street, the one who had smiled at me behind her parents' shed and asked could I keep a secret before leaning forward and closing her eyes and placing her soft warm lips against mine.
Robert Swartwood's work has appeared in Chizine and Every Day Fiction.