“I want to go back to the way things used to be!”
It was such a cliché line, but Sophia’s glittering tears and quivering pink lips made it work for her. When she looked at Leilah beyond her unkempt locks, the dim lamplight caught her desperation, the pleas she was trying to convey.
And Leilah listened to them, as she always did.
“Let’s go back to before, okay? We can just calm down and figure things out, like we always do.”
Relationships build on compromise. It was smart of her to draw that card into play. Now Sophia had her full attention.
“You won’t run away anymore?”
She tried wearing a soft reassuring grin. “Not even for the life of me.” Inch by inch she crept closer to her, reaching out to take her hands. “Aren’t we in this together?”
Carefully, she pressed her hands atop hers until she lowered the gun. Before her, Leilah’s shoulders depressed, and she dropped it altogether. Her left hand shakily intertwined her fingers with the other’s right. Her right hand lifted up and curled into her hair, guiding it so their foreheads pressed together. They never took their eyes off each other for one second.
“... I think… becoming your acting coach was the best thing that ever happened to us.” Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Leilah, one of the women from the video playing on the television, rested Sophia’s head on her lap. She was the one holding the gun in the video, before her crying partner persuaded her to put it down. The latter was the one lying down now. Slender fingers were combing out her knotted hair.
“You’ve really improved since I first saw you. After your performance in that play last year as just a minor character, I saw something special… but you were lacking.”
From the camcorder’s point of view, the lamplight caught the gleam of a knife in the former gun wielder’s back pocket. The smile she returned had her captive completely fooled.
Looking away from the screen and what came next, she stared down at her actress. “Sorry, I guess I wasn’t a good enough coach. Even then, I was too selfish to let anyone else teach you.” She cupped Sophia’s reddening cheeks. “You still put on a fine performance.”
She lifted up the severed head, eyeing the neckline where she made the best clean cut possible with her knife. The blood still on her hands were staining the pale face she had adored.
“I loved you regardless of how you failed to live up to your full potential, my beautiful actress,” she whispered, then kissed Sophia on her cold, still lips.
First published: November 2017
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