They looked at her with fear and pity, the ones that knew. But didn’t everyone know? Everyone in the neighborhood certainly did, but she was sure the whole city recognized her. It had been in the papers and on the news for what seemed like years, her picture plastered everywhere.
But she didn’t hide. She didn’t move. As soon as she healed, she went back to her life, picking up where she left off.
She went back to work. She shopped for groceries. She went to the bars, refusing to avoid the one with the bad memories attached to it. She stopped at the coffee shop and wandered through the bookstore. She ate popcorn at the movies and giggled with girlfriends over dinner at restaurants.
But it felt as though her life still wasn’t being lived. It was hanging in a suspended animation of sorts even though it had been YEARS since it’d happened. She had insisted on staying in town and it was like that stopped the whole process of moving on right in its tracks. Because everywhere she went, people stared. She’d managed to move on, she’d come to terms with it, she’d gotten used to it, but they hadn’t.
To them, she was a conversation piece, a sideshow attraction. She was the final girl in a horror film, only a dubious one. Because it hadn’t been a horror film and not everyone saw her as a victim. And years later, it was still a matter of discussion, folks whispering to each other as she sat and drank her coffee or browsed the rows of books or stopped in an aisle to decide what soup to buy. The story never changed, but they told it anyway. The arguments never changed, but they still debated them. The facts never changed, but they still scrutinized them. People seemed compelled at the sight of her to bring up the past like a poorly cooked chicken breast coming back up only a few hours after eating it. It was involuntary almost. It was small town clucking in the big city neighborhood.
She killed Landon Bryce.
Oh, if it had been anyone else, maybe they wouldn’t still be talking about it. But Landon had been such a nice guy, such a good guy, a friendly guy. Nobody suspected that he was anything but a regular guy. Nobody suspected that he’d been assaulting women for years. Nobody thought that he might have been responsible for several corpses all over the city. And all over other cities. Because he was such a nice guy. He was clean cut and handsome and well-bred and friendly. He had money and a nice car and a great apartment. He didn’t look like a bad guy.
But, he was.
She’d left the bar with him that night years ago. She was a little drunk and Landon was a good looking, nice guy. He wasn’t a stranger, not really. She’d talked to him before. Everybody had talked to Landon at some point. Because he was a nice guy, a known face in the neighborhood. He had a nice car and he offered her a ride home. So, she accepted because why wouldn’t she? He was nice.
Instead of driving her home, Landon drove her to an alley. He pulled her out of the car and commenced to beating the living hell out of her. He landed a few good blows to her head, knocked her for a loop, but somehow, her survival instinct, her anger remained intact. Because that’s what she remembered most from that whole ordeal. It pissed her off to no end that Landon Bryce, perfectly nice Landon Bryce, was trying to kill her.
There was no panic. There wasn’t even the RAWR of survival mode. It was just pure anger. And it fueled her to fight back.
She caught him off guard when she started swinging, throwing elbows and kicking at him. She managed to land a couple of good shots, but not good enough. Landon grabbed her arm and nearly wrench it out of its socket. The pain was unbelievable, but it didn’t do much to stop her, to quell her rage.
He knocked the wind out of her when he threw her up against the building. That gave him enough time to pull out the knife and nearly slice her throat. Nearly. He made a good go of it, but he didn’t slice deep enough, he didn’t cut in the right spot.
She didn’t even feel it.
She kneed Landon Bryce in the balls and as he was doubled over and gasping, she grabbed the knife from his limp grip before pushing him down.
Staggering over bags of trash, she walked towards the end of the alley, sure her ordeal was over. And like a monster in a horror film, Landon Bryce got to his feet and limped after her in a rush, grabbing her from behind.
She turned around and stabbed him.
She didn’t think about it much. Instinct and anger. She just stuck the knife in him, turned, and walked away. She never saw what happened to Landon after that. As soon as she walked out of the alley and onto the sidewalk, she ran right into a passing group of people on their way to the next bar. Their horrified looks, the sudden chaos that ensued of them checking out the alley for themselves, of calling for help, of trying to stop the bleeding, she had no opportunity to look back.
But that’s all anyone does when they see her.
The scar stands out on her neck, an awkward pink line of smooth skin. That’s how they know who she is. People see that scar and their eyes bulge like they’ve just seen Bigfoot. They stare. As soon as she passes, they start whispering. A doctor once offered to revise the scar for her, make it invisible, but she decided to keep it.
It’s how she knows who she is.