In the midst of the sleeping hour, the street grew quiet as the residents of Verona Lane settled in for the night.
Claire smiled as she examined herself in her floor-length mirror. She held a beautiful purple sun-dress in front of her body, and was considering whether or not she’d wear that it for the evening. Krys, her girlfriend, had told her before how she loved the way the color purple accented her glimmering black hair and bright green eyes. At the tender age of nineteen, Claire knew she’d found her soulmate in Krys.
The duo had known each other since they were running around the neighborhood in pampers.
As Claire settled into her dress and matching shoes, a chime sounded from her cellphone. Her heart lit up into a smile when she saw that it was a text message from her lover.
“Are you ready?” Krys asked.
“Ready. The parents are finally asleep.” Claire smiled.
“Don’t wake them.”
“No worries. Mom’s probably downed half a bottle of sleeping pills already, and Dad’s a deep sleeper. I’m on my way. XOXO”
Claire pulled the front door closed, twisting the knob until it was shut, so as not to make a sound and wake her slumbering family. As she turned toward the street, her eyes rested on Krys, who stood in her front yard just across the street with her hands in her pockets.
Krys had auburn hair and blue eyes that sparkled when she laid eyes on Claire. Fuck, she’s so beautiful.
“Hey,” she smiled as Claire ran into her arms. “You look beautiful.” She grabbed Claire’s hand and spun her once, then pulled her back against her body and kissed her forehead. “Let’s go.”
The sand gave way beneath their feet as the couple walked the length of the beach, basking in the moonlight.
“I wish we didn’t have to sneak around all the time,” Claire said, looking at the ground and kicking her feet into the sand.
Krys examined Claire’s face silently. She knew something was troubling her girlfriend, but she didn’t know what it was.
“Then let’s not sneak. I want to watch sunsets with you forever,” Krys said, lifting Claire’s chin with her finger and pressing their lips together.
“My father will kill me if he knows I’m dating you,” Claire said, breaking the kiss. Literally.
Claire’s father was Timothy Jameson, the most prominent Judge in the county. He was an abrasive man, and he was often swift to pound the gavel. Claire’s mother had been a corporate attorney until she’d started suffering from depression after having a baby in her forties.
Krys’ father was Gregory Knight, the wealthiest business man in the city. He owned a chain of liquor stores, and he also had his hand in several other companies. His wife was Aileen Knight, the most looked up to woman in town. She’d raised five wonderful children, participated in numerous community affairs, and every Sunday she hosted a lunch party at the park for the children so their mothers could have a break for an afternoon.
The two families had been mortal enemies since they’d moved across the street from one another nineteen years ago. The Knights had tried to befriend the Jamesons, but the Jamesons had an incessant need to be better than their peers, thus causing conflict between them and many of the residents on Verona Lane.
“Claire, what’s wrong?” Krys asked with an emotion-filled voice.
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You can tell me anything. You should know that by now!”
“My parents just aren’t happy with us seeing each other. Hopefully they’ll come around. I don’t know if I can keep doing this.”
“What’s that supposed to mean!?” Krys’ eyes welled up with tears. “Are you breaking up with me?”
“N-no, babe. It’s just that if I get caught being with you again, my dad’ll be so angry,” Claire said, turning away from Krys to hide the pain painted on her face.
“Why do you care what they think, Claire? I love you, and I know damn well you love me! If they don’t support you, fuck ’em.”
Claire whipped around and looked in Krys’ eyes as a tear dripped to her rose-colored cheek. “I do love you, Krys,” she said, exhaling a troubled sigh. “There’s a lot more to it than just ‘fuck ’em’.”
“I can’t do this right now,” Claire cried. “Please, just take me home.” She wished she could confide in Krys. She wanted more than anything to tell her what was bothering her, but she couldn’t bring herself to trouble Krys with her problems. Not this problem, anyway.
Krys didn’t argue. She guided Claire back to her truck and took her home as she’d asked. On the drive home, Claire stared out the window silently as Krys’ hand lay on top of hers.
The Jameson Residence – 1:00 am
Claire walked into her house and quietly shut the front door behind her. She jumped when she turned around and spotted her father sitting in his recliner.
“Where were you?” He asked, standing to his feet.
Claire backed against the wall and clutched her chest. “I-I was. I, Uh. I–”
“I know where you were! You were with that girl across the street again! ”
“No, Daddy! I wa–”
Claire’s father lifted his hand in the air and swung it down against Claire’s cheek, knocking her onto the couch. “Don’t you lie to me, girl! Are you trying to give your mother and me and a bad name after everything we’ve done for you!?”
“Daddy!” Claire sobbed, clutching her cheek. “I love her!”
Timothy stood in stunned silence in the aftermath of Claire’s outburst. His eyes lit up with rage as he cracked his knuckles. “You, what?” he asked calmly.
Claire’s silence only caused Timothy’s rage to boil over. He clutched a fist-full of her hair and yanked her off the couch.
“You don’t love anyone until your mother and I say you do!”
Claire whimpered as Timothy shoved her against the wall and she slid to the floor.
“Get up,” he rasped, kicking her in her side. It would be two hours before he would finish administering his punishment.
The Knight Residence – 1:00 am
“Hey, mom,” Krys said as she closed the front door behind her. “Waiting up again?”
“You know I can’t sleep until my babies are all safe for the night. Did you have a nice evening with Claire?” Aileen closed her book and pulled her glasses off her face, letting them hang from the beaded chain around her neck.
“Something’s wrong, Mom,” Krys said, sitting on the couch next to her mother.
“Honey, if something’s bothering her I’m sure she’ll tell you when she’s ready.”
“Her parents don’t like that she’s a lesbian. I think all the sneaking around is wearing her down.”
Aileen turned toward Krys and rested her hand on her daughter’s knee. “Sweetie, some people are just old school. I’m sure they’ll come around eventually. You and Claire are grown women, and if you love one another, then you ought to be with one another. Give it time.”
Aileen stood from the couch and yawned. “This old gal’s going to bed now that you’re home. Goodnight, my love.”
“Good night, Mom. Hey, mom?”
“Yes?” Aileen questioned, smiling.
“I love you. I’m really thankful for you and dad being so supportive. Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been.”
“Your our daughter! We don’t care who you love. We just want you to love.”
Aileen leaned down and kissed Krys softly on the forehead before turning to leave the room.
Fair Verona Lane – 2:00 pm The Day After
Krys sat on her front porch steps, reading a book. She’d been outside for hours, hoping to see Claire. She was less than confident with their relationship after the previous evening. She smiled when she heard the front door across the street creek open.
Claire walked down her porch steps and toward her car. She wore a long cardigan sweater even though it was seventy degrees out, and large sunglasses covered half her face.
“Claire!” Krys hollered as she ran across the street.
Claire looked toward Krys, but didn’t smile.
“What’s wrong?” Krys asked. Terror took over her expression when she spotted the hint of a bruise peeking below Claire’s sunglasses. “What the fuck happened to you?!”
“Nothing. I can’t talk right now,” Claire snapped, hurriedly.
Krys looked toward Claire’s house. She pursed her lips when she saw Timothy peering through the blinds. Suddenly out of nowhere, it dawned on her exactly what had happened to Claire.
“Claire,” she said. “Did your dad to this to you because of me?”
Claire took a deep breath and whispered, “I gotta go. Let’s meet tonight at the usual time. I’ll explain everything.”
5:00 am the next morning.
Krys waited anxiously as the hours ticked by. She’d been once again sitting on her front porch. She’d been there all night, waiting for Claire’s bedroom light to spring to life across the street. She repeatedly looked at her phone screen, waiting for Claire’s response to her text. It wasn’t typical for Claire not to answer. She always showed up when they were supposed to meet, but this time she hadn’t.
Krys whipped her head toward the Jameson house when she heard commotion inside the residence. Claire’s shrill scream pierced through her heart. She grabbed her brother’s baseball bat from the porch and sprinted across the street.
Krys looked around as she crashed through the door leading into the Jameson home. There was no one around. She looked up toward the ceiling when she heard thumping above her head.
She jumped up the stairs two at a time and ran to Claire’s door. It was locked. With one swing of the bat she knocked the doorknob to the floor and kicked the door open.
Claire was in her bed with Timothy on top of her. She was gurgling beneath him as he squeezed her neck. He hadn’t even noticed Krys barging into the room.
She ran up behind him and swung the bat against his head, knocking him to the floor. Claire started grasping for air as she clutched her throat.
“Claire!” Krys said, taking Claire’s head in her hands. “Are you okay?” Both girls were now crying; Claire, because of what she’d just gone through, and Krys because of what Claire had just gone through.
“I think so,” Claire whimpered. Her voice was hoarse.
“Where’s your family?”
“They went to my grandmother’s. Mom and Dad had a fight.”
Krys walked around to the other side of the bed, where Timothy lay on the floor, writhing in pain.
“You son of a bitch,” she whispered, kneeling down next to him. “You’d do this to your own flesh and blood?” She stood up, and kicked him in the face, rendering him unconscious.
Claire stood from the bed and stumbled over to Krys, who stood up and held Claire steady on her feet.
“Is he dead?” Claire asked.
“Not yet,” Krys answered, nudging Timothy with her foot.
“We can’t kill him. We’ll go to jail!”
“Have you forgotten that my grandfather is the mayor? He knows what kind of man your dad is. I’m sure we’ll be fine. Are you okay? We need to get him downstairs.”
Claire and Krys dragged Timothy down the stairs and out the house.
“Now what?” Claire asked.
Krys looked around trying to think of their next move. “Help me get him into the passenger seat of the truck.”
The lovers propped Timothy up in the seat.
“He’s got handcuffs in his glove box,” Claire said.
“Why?” Krys asked, starting the truck.
“You don’t want to know. ”
The girls drove the unconscious Judge to the lake area. No one ever went there, because of rumors of how haunted it was.
Krys parked the truck at the top of the hill, facing the lake. It was a mile from the hilltop to the water’s edge.
The girls got out and Krys grabbed the gas can from the bed of the truck. She had matches in her pocket from smoking the night before.
Krys looked to Claire as if seeking her approval. Claire nodded solemnly.
Krys dumped the gas all over Timothy and tossed in a lit match. She walked to the drivers side and pulled the gear shift into neutral.
Krys and Claire stood at the tailgate and heaved the truck down the hill.
They watched in silence as Timothy rolled into the sunrise, burning to his death.