No Squealing

            “What the hell are you doing here, Miki?” 

            “The better question, Meg, is why are you sitting in a gas station parking lot after midnight with your car doors unlocked. It’s as if you’ve forgotten your training.”

            Meg rolls her eyes and ignores her older sister. Mikaela’s programming prevented her from being anything other than critical of Meg. No matter any success that Meg had, it would never be enough, not for Mikaela, not for her father.

            “I know it’s about the boy, dear,” Mikaela interrupts Meg’s thought spiral, nodding towards the seedy fluorescent building in front of them. Visible through the window, a man, reasonable looking but not handsome, purchases a carton of cigarettes. He catches Meg’s eye and smiles, paying no mind to Mikaela.

            “He’s not a part of this.”

            “What makes you so sure?”

            “He’s not a mark, Miki. He says it’s for real.”

            “I don’t think so.”

            “He’s harmless; he’d never figure it out. I promise I’m not losing my edge.”

            “Can’t lose what you never had,” Mikaela declares, sliding on a pair of sunglasses despite the lateness of the hour. She opens the passenger side, starts to exit, and turns back to her sister. 

            “Don’t let yourself be blind. You know it’s too good to be true.”

            With that parting warning, Mikaela vanishes. Meg tries to rid herself of suspicion, but Mikaela’s words hang in the air. Too good to be true. She is right. When has Meg had anything for herself? Her whole life has been a footnote to her family’s ambitions. First her stepmother’s, then her sister’s. Mikaela may well be right, but what is the harm in trying to find out for yourself?

            “Penny for your thoughts?” says Jacob, sliding into the passenger side.

            “I’m afraid they aren’t worth that much.”

            “Why do you always say stuff like that?”

            “Only kidding, of course.”

            “Oh,” he responds, raising his eyebrows, “ready to head back?”

            “Sure.”

            He made her feel mediocre at best, but at least Jacob made her feel something. Lying next to him in that dingy hotel bed, Meg couldn’t help but stare down his nightstand, littered with personal items. The badge should have been the biggest obstacle, but it was the circle of gold sitting next to it that caught her eye. Does his wife know the way the light shines off of his wedding band? He doesn’t even try to hide it. Sighing, she lifts his arm off of her and walks into the bathroom. 

            Meg leans down into the sink to rinse her face. When she looks into the mirror, Mikaela is standing behind her.

            “Jesus Christ! You’re everywhere, aren’t you?”

            “Everywhere you are,” Mikaela says, stepping forward and playing with Meg’s hair, “Somehow, I have a hard time believing this is the real deal.”

            “You’re jealous.”

            “Of what? Your married cop boyfriend?”

            “I have someone who cares about me, something you’ll never have.”

            “Oh, darling, you and I both know one call from his wife and he’s gone. He belongs six feet under with the rest.”

            “You know more about that than I do.”

            “Who’s fault is that?” Mikaela says, pushing her hair back to reveal a dent in her skull, “You know what you have to do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have that gun in your purse. Mama taught you well.”

            “Piss off.”

            Meg steps into the room and studies Jacob. He looks relaxed. Good. She hesitates, then reaches into her purse, brandishing a pistol and twirling it around her finger. Lining up the shot with a shaky hand, Meg fires.

            Mikaela places a hand on her shoulder.

            “Feel better?”

            Meg lowers her hand, but she does not respond.

            “Clean this mess up, Meggy. Don’t call Dad again; you know he doesn’t like to be disturbed.”

            Meg sits down with her head in her hands and sobs.

            “Get your story straight, stand up, and get your shit together,” Mikaela says, lifting Meg to her feet, “No one will believe I was here. No squealing and remember that it’s all in your head.”

            Mikaela vanishes.