What Goes Around Comes Around

The salmon-coloured sky stretches overhead, catching the last remnants of daylight. Tara’s hands grip the steering wheel as she zig-zags through the traffic lights and a maze of glowing cones marking the edges of an abandoned construction zone. It’s been a tough day at work with multiple ER cases, but relief washes over her with the end of the day in sight. Tara hums along to the soft melody on the stereo. She glances at the dashboard clock–quarter past eight, and she can’t help but smile at the thought of finally being home. The road stretches before her, illumined by the fading light of the setting sun.

The sky paraded ribbons of dark gray clouds. The school had long since dismissed. The campus was deserted and eerily quiet. Only the faint echo of footsteps and the distant hum of traffic broke the silence in the classroom alley. A skinny girl stood alone in the dim light filtering through the overcast sky. She had retreated to the secluded corner at the backside of the junior high building. Thick vines snaked their way up the walls, their tendrils reaching out like fingers, while the drainpipes emitted a rancid odour that turned her stomach. Her breath came in ragged gasps. Was someone else out there, listening, waiting? Her pulse quickened, her palms clammed with sweat. She wanted to go home.

As Tara approaches the final bend in the road, she eases off the accelerator. But before the curve is fully rounded, she’s forced to slam on the brakes, her heart lurches as she narrowly avoids colliding with an unexpected blue Honda without headlights. She wrestles with the wheel, the tires screeching against the sudden change in momentum. The car swerves before coming to a jarring halt against the guardrail. The Honda stops behind her. Tara’s breath comes in rapid bursts, her jaw clenched tight.

Her pounding heart urged her to flee to the exit gate. A quick left turn into the building, followed by a right, then down the stairs leading to the hallway. She edged toward the door with hesitant steps but stumbled and fell, crashing into the floor. Before she could rise, she was intercepted. Three pairs of black school shoes clacked against the cobblestone, looking for the girl they deemed too much. Too kind. Too likeable. Too skinny. Too weak and alone.

Tara parks her car and trudges to the blue Honda, hand trembling as she flashes the light from her phone through the window. The woman in the driver’s seat lolls to the side. Tara calls out to her, tries the door, but it’s locked tight. She pounds. With a sudden startle, the woman stirs, her eyes flickering open. Clutching her swollen, distended belly, she grimaces. Then, without warning, a gush of liquid spills onto the seat, pooling beneath the woman. The woman’s fingers spasm as she reaches for the door. Tara’s breath catches in her throat. With a click, the door unlocks.

A cold hand seized the skinny girl’s arm with an icy grip. Before she could act, two more hands closed in, pressing her thin frame against wall. With a jerk, her head snapped backwards. Though she tried to scream, no sound escaped her lips.

Tara scoops the woman into her arms. A truck approaching from the opposite direction hurls its headlights at them. Parts of the woman’s face become visible—her head cradled in a capacious cushion of straight black hair rests against Tara’s shoulder. Her well-defined lips pucker, hints of crimson in the cracks. The blue eyes twitch with every contraction. And then, it hits Tara like a bolt of lightning—the woman’s features, the curve of her jaw, and the colour of her eyes seem strangely familiar.

The stronger blue-eyed girl pranced around, laughing raucously, revelling in the sickly delight of teaching the skinny girl a lesson. With each step, the world seemed to spin; black spots appearing and disappearing rapidly before the skinny girl’s eyes. The welts beneath her skin throbbed, leaving her voice trapped in her throat for years.

Tara rifles through the contents of the purse. Panic sets in. Where is it? Where is her ID? Her fingers finally close around the card. There it is, in bold letters—the woman’s name. Tara slams the Honda’s door. An uncontrollable ache blossoms on Tara’s skin. She sinks to the gravel, the tiny rocks cutting into her knees.

Back there, in the Honda, the woman is wheezing. She’s groping at her clothes wildly, screaming, but the screams are no longer perceptible. Her body is turning limp. Her hands reach out for Tara, who is watching the woman’s life drain from her body, her blue eyes flickering like a candle in a storm. Tara doubles back to her car, laughing raucously, her anxiety taking its most inappropriate form.

The skinny girl curled into a ball in the dark. Outside, the sky hung heavy with dark, brooding clouds. A faint scent of moisture lingered on the breeze. The skinny girl huddled into herself, hoping that somewhere, somehow, there might still be a glimmer of light.

A minute goes by, and more, as Tara stands by her car. She turns around and back toward the woman. With practiced hands, she gently secures her into the passenger seat. In moments, Tara is behind the wheel of the blue Honda, scurrying between red lights to make it to the ER in time.