The day before, around noon, Hayley was walking at the side of the roadway, keeping her eyes on the screen of her smartphone. Cars passed by her and some of the people inside gave her weird glances, but she didn’t mind. There was only one point on the screen she was waiting for. The GPS of the app pointed out that it would be there soon. She was wearing gloves, which were uncommon in that weather.
Maybe because of the time, there weren't many cars around. So when her target pointed out on the roadway, Hayley walked with confidence, knowing the car she saw on the horizon was the one she was waiting for. She waited until the distance between them was just right. Too close to turning, far enough to break and stop in the middle of the road. When she walked to the middle of the street, the car screeched as the driver stepped on the break. The door was opened in a rush, making way to a pale young man looking terrified.
“The fuck you think you’re doing?!” He shouted as he walked towards Hayley. “Are you trying to die?”
Hayley was calm as she opened her backpack and pulled the gun she was carrying inside as if it was nothing. She pointed the gun to the man and he froze, his eyes almost jumping out of his skull.
“Don’t worry, dear,” she said with a calm voice, walking to the young man’s direction. “You do what I say and nothing bad will happen.”
“P-Please, don’t shoot,” the man said, his eyes looking straight at the gun. “If you want the car, take it, but don’t shoot.”
“Yeah, I want your car. Also, leave your smartphone,” Hayley said.
The man got away from the car, his face pale. Hayley approached, looked inside and saw the smartphone on the support and the keys in the ignition. She got inside the car and turned on the engine again. Before starting to drive, she threw a smile to the young man who was still staring, terrified, at her.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get your car back soon,” she said and made the car start moving again.
She drove until she arrived in the city and, in a rush, parked on the side of the road and ran to the back of the car. Opening the car trunk. She looked inside for some minutes and nodded with a smile. Getting back on the wheel, she stared at the smartphone. The ride mobile application was showing on the map what her destiny was, she confirmed it was the right location and nodded again with a smile. She started moving again, following the application GPS.
When she arrived in front of the destined house, a furious man was waiting in front of it. Hayley knew who he was, but he was too different from how she remembered. Her old classmate probably wouldn’t recognize her now. He opened the door and sat beside her. But when he finally saw her face, he made a perplexed expression.
“You’re not the driver who showed up in the application,” he said, moving his eyes to his smartphone.
“Oh, he’s my brother,” she said, letting out a shy smile. “I am using his car since he’s in the hospital today and can’t work. But you don’t need to worry,” Hayley moved the screen on the smartphone in front of her. “I see your destination is pretty far. Are you sure?”
“I’ll pay. Don’t worry. I’m following someone, so I want you to get there before her. She probably took the bus one hour ago.”
“Oh, I see. In that case, I’ll take a shortcut. Don’t worry, we’ll get there before her for sure.”
Hayley realized Colby had his eyes staring at her hands, still wearing gloves as if suspecting of her.
“Oh, don’t mind it,” she said with a laugh. “I just developed some allergy, so…”
Hayley started the car and began driving again. In a few minutes, they were leaving the city.
The whole way, Hayley was in silence and the man looked nervous. He was staring at his smartphone all the time and sometimes tried to make a call, but apparently, the other side never picked up.
“I’m sorry if I’m intruding, but,” Hayley said, keeping her eyes on the road. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
“Huh?” The man stared at her, confused. “Do I know you?”
“Hayley Fowler, from high school.”
“Ester’s friend…” He said, now looking straight at his driver.
“So you’re really Colby Gray, huh? Have you met Ester again since that time?”
He didn’t say anything. His eyes landed on the screen of his phone. After some minutes of silence, his voice was finally out.
“Y-You can leave me here,” he said, looking outside of his window.
“Here in the middle of nowhere?” Hayley said with a chuckle and her eyes stared deep into Colby’s. “What’s that? We’re old classmates. After all this time, meeting up like this, almost like fate, right?”
He remained in silence. There weren’t many cars on the street at that time, so the only sound they could hear was the engine of the vehicle they were on and the wind outside. Colby kept his eyes on the road, looking nervous.
“Well, you did meet Ester, right?” Hayley broke the silence. “After all, she’s your wife?”
Colby’s eyes turned scared to Hayley again, but she was just smiling as if nothing was wrong while staring at the road.
“Say,” Colby said, staring at his smartphone again. “I don’t remember you ever having a brother before.”
“Oh, I never said? Well, we weren’t that close, right? Did Ester tell you anything about me, or about how close we were? She was my treasure at that time, you know? I would never allow anything bad to happen to her.”
There was a threatening tone in Hayley’s voice and Colby clearly realized that.
“Please, you can leave me here…” He said again, but then he felt a hard metal press against his head.
“Just stay quiet there,” Hayley said. She was holding a gun against Colby’s head while staring at the road. Then she smiled. “Why the hurry? We’re old classmates, so let’s talk more about the old times. Like, for example, about the girl I loved and you took away from me.”
With a blunt movement, Hayley turned the wheel to the side, making the car leave the roadway in the direction of the large grass fields extending to their sides. Colby let out a surprised grunt.
“W-What are you doing?” He shouted.
“Just taking a shortcut,” Hayley said, keeping the same calm expression. “Please, be quiet,” she pressed the gun stronger against his head.
She drove the grass fields until the roadways could barely be seen behind them. She stopped the car and stared at Colby, who looked terrified.
Hayley let out a sigh. She had a serious face. Almost defiant.
“Yeah, I was in love with Ester,” she said. “I’m sure you knew that too, right? I mean, you were always good at perceiving these things.”
“I-It’s not my fault,” Colby said with his voice weak. “She chose me. I didn’t force her or anything. It just wouldn’t work with you.”
“I know,” Hayley let out a sad smile. “And I did make peace with it at the time. I couldn’t stand to stay around while you two got together, but I was satisfied with how it ended. Do you know why?”
Colby moved his head denying it.
“Because I loved her smile,” Hayley said, looking happy while immersed in her memories. “And when she was around you, her smile was the prettiest. That’s why I thought: that’s fine. Even if it wasn’t with me, that’s fine,” then her expression became gloomy. “Say, Colby, when was the last time you saw her smile?”
“I-I…How do you know...” The words died in his mouth as tears started to well upon his eyes.
“Get out,” Hayley said with a harsh voice and pointed to the car’s door with the gun.
“Get out!” She shouted in an angry voice.
Colby obeyed. He almost tripped as he tried to distance from the car. But Hayley’s voice stopped him again.
“Halt! Get on your knees and put your hands on your head.”
He obeyed. He was already crying as Hayley approached him. He mumbled almost inaudible: “please, not…”
“You know, Colby,” Hayley said in a calm voice again. She walked in his direction holding the gun in her hand. “I would be fine never having Ester by my side again. As long as she was happy. But when things got hard in my life, I needed healing. So I looked up for her again. I just needed her smile because that’s the only thing in the world that can heal me. But when I found her, her smile was nowhere to be seen.”
“I-I’m sorry,” he said with a crying voice.
“You know what I think about people who are only sorry when their life's on the line?” She said with a disgusted look. “Tell me, Colby, what would have happened if you reached her before meeting me?”
“L-Look. Just let me go and I’ll stay out of your way. Go after her. Take her by your side. I won’t follow you two anymore.”
“That won’t do, Colby,” Hayley stopped one meter away from him, staring right at his teary-eyed face. “That won’t do. It’s too late,” she sat on the ground in front of him, always with the gun pointing to his head. “Say, Colby, do you know why justice must be blind? It’s for situations like this. It’s because we, as humans, are biased. You see, even crimes have different weights depending on who is seeing it. That’s why judges can’t be personally involved in the cases they’re judging. We as a society agreed on common ground and put a universal weight on all kinds of crimes and, to live as a society, we sacrificed our personal views in the name of civility, don’t you agree?”
Colby nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but Hayley started again before him.
“For example, your crime. In our justice, you would spend some time in prison, maybe. Or maybe not even go to jail. That’s the weight society put on your actions. It’s not as severe as killing in their eyes. But for me, it’s different. For me, your crime was the only one I could never forgive. And look, I’m not a resentful woman, I’m pretty understanding and pragmatic. I could maybe forgive you even if you had killed children. I could forgive anything you could do to me. Beat me up, torture me, rape me. I could forgive you, maybe I would forgive you. We could come to a mutual understanding for the greater good of society. However, making the woman I love to lose her smile. That I can’t forgive. That’s the one thing I can’t overlook. Do you understand how I feel?” Hayley put her free hand over her chest while calmly staring at the terrified man in front of her. “No, you don’t. You can’t understand. If you can make her cry, you would never understand how deep my feelings are. How strong they are.”
Hayley stood up, still holding her gun. That made Colby startled. He rose his face to look at her and implored between his crying:
“Please, please, for God. Don’t shoot me.”
“I won’t shoot you, Colby,” she said with a serene voice and walked in the direction of the parked car. “You see, shooting you here is risky. Someone could hear from the roadway and call the police. Or come to see what’s going on,” she grabbed the backpack she left inside the car and took off a rope from inside it. “So don’t make any sudden movement and I won’t shoot you.”
Ignoring Colby’s begging words, Hayley walked behind him still with the gun in her hand and crouched.
“You can’t see where the gun is. Make any movement, I take it faster than you and it’s over,” she said and put the gun on the ground, close to her but not at Colby’s reach. She started tying up. She tied his feet and hands together like a pig and kicked him to the ground.
He stared at her with pleading eyes.
“Are you going to abandon me here?”
She took her finger to her lips, shushing him and put her hand inside her pocket. She took off a piece of cloth and used it as a gag, shutting Colby’s mouth. While he tried to speak with muffled sounds, Hayley walked back to the car, this time opening its trunk. When she turned around carrying something, Colby’s grunts turned more desperate as he struggled on the floor, like a fish out of the water.
Walking in his direction with a crowbar on hand, Hayley had a serious expression. She stood in front of him as he cried, trying to beg for his life.
“You know why you’re going to die, Colby?” As she said it, he tried to move more desperate, but she ignored it. “Think of it as it happens in religious conflicts. Yeah, like those people who kill because their god was offended. Just like them, I know it’s wrong and it’s a crime. I didn’t want to do it, believe me. But you offended my goddess, we could say. And this is beyond me. Beyond the morals and laws of this world. This is happening because, in my world, you committed the worst crime possible.”
Hayley moved the crowbar with all her strength, hitting Colby’s head. A muffled sound escaped from his mouth as he tried to scream and the grass around him was painted red. Hayley’s face writhed in a frown.
“You know, I hate this, too,” she said, ignoring his crying. “And I hate that you’re forcing me to do it. It disgusts me.”
She hit it again with the crowbar. But this time she kept hitting, ignoring his muffled cry. Watching the grass below and around him paint red with his blood. The bones on his face cracking and his eyes jumping out of his skull. It was all messy and disgusting in her eyes, but she kept hitting with an unperturbed face until he stopped making any sound.
When Hayley finally stopped, Colby’s face was completely disfigured and her clothes and body dirty with his blood.
Crouching in front of the body, Hayley put her finger on his arteries, verifying if his heart had stopped. After certifying he was dead, she stood up and stared at his body in disgust. She moved his face to the side using the crowbar. At the same moment, his right eye fell to the ground.
“Gross,” Hayley said and started removing the rope off his body.
She walked to the car and, putting the rope and crowbar in the trunk, moved to the front and started the engine again. She moved through the grass fields and arrived at a lake that she knew was close. There she took off her clothes and started washing her body in the water, removing the blood off her. She put her bloody clothes along with her gloves in a plastic bag and took clean clothes off her backpack.
She changed in clean clothes and put the plastic bag with dirty clothes on the bottom of the backpack. She looked at her smartphone to look at the time and turned back to the car. She drove while avoiding the roadway for a time, taking a shortcut to her destination.
Hiding the car behind some bushes, Hayley took off holding her backpack. She walked in the direction of the roadway and arrived just on time at the bus stop.
Ester almost fainted when she saw the photos of the crime scene on the TV screen. They didn’t show in detail but informed how it was a brutal execution that left the victim completely disfigured. It took some time for them to identify it as Colby.
Feeling weak, Ester stood up to take a glass of water but felt dizzy. Her mind went back to the backpack she saw at the bathroom and what was inside it. Ester wasn’t stupid. As much as she wanted to think they were unrelated, it was impossible now. She walked back to the shower room, knowing already what she was going to find.
Opening the backpack again, she opened the plastic sack inside, and the stench of blood almost made her throw up. Covering her mouth, Ester stared at the clothes dirty with blood inside and closed it up again. Trying to resist both her urges to cry or vomit, she went back to the bed and turned off the television. It was clear to her what had happened.
She wondered if she should go back home now. The police would surely look for her and she might be a suspect as they find out she left home. But if she goes back, her situation having no one by her side would get even worse. She had no work, no way to live by herself.
But something else was worrying her. Was Hayley dangerous? Could she trust her? Now she was thinking meeting Hayley wasn’t a coincidence. But what were her objectives? And since she killed Ester’s husband, it was natural that Ester should tell that to the police.
However, Ester realized she couldn’t do it. Just moments ago, Hayley was hope for her. The one she found to support and protect her. The thought of losing her now was just as scary as the thought of seeing her knowing what she did. Ester would be alone again.
She was considering that when she heard steps outside the door. At first, she was afraid the police could have caught up to her, but as the door opened up, it was Hayley’s smiling face that was behind it.
“I forgot my wallet,” Hayley said with naturality, then she stared at Ester, who was still sitting on the bed. “What happened?” Hayley put up a worried expression. “You look paler than me.”
The words didn’t come out of Ester’s mouth. It was as if her mind had frozen and she didn’t know how to answer.
For the seconds Hayley took to walk towards her, Ester received an influx of mixed emotions. Fear almost made her jump and run, but at the same time, there was gratitude, and maybe love. The image of Colby’s body, censored by the television was also in her mind. But also was the last night when her body was embraced with the other woman.
Finally, as Hayley reached Ester, she reacted. One emotion winning against all the others.
Ester’s body jumped and she hugged Hayley in a tight embrace.
“W-What?” Hayley said with a laugh. “I don’t have any food yet, you know.”
But Ester ignored Hayley’s word, took her face in her hands and kissed her lips. Hayley stared at her, astonished.
“Did something happen?”
“I just realized,” Ester said, pause between kisses. “I realized I can’t ever betray you. I’ll always be by your side, no matter what happens. I realized it now.”
“That makes me happy,” Hayley said, but slowly pushed Ester away. “Just tell me what got to you. Is something bothering you?”
Ester shook her head with a smile.
“Just, please, just tell me if you need something. If you ever need help. Or anything. I will do anything for you,” she said.
Hayley stared at Ester’s anxious face. She took her friend’s cheek in her hand and she was the one kissing her now.
“There’s only one thing I want from you, now and forever. Something only you can give me.”
“What is it? I’ll give you anything.”
“So just, always, always, just keep smiling for me.”
After hearing those words, Ester let out the brightest smile she could muster.
She knew that Hayley’s actions weren’t correct. She didn’t know what their future would bring. She didn’t know if what she felt was love, gratitude or dependency. All she knew was that her heart was beating strong, she was feeling safer than ever and she would follow the woman in front of her until the end of the world.