No one saw it coming. Hell, I didn't actually see it coming. It was more like a rumor floating around my own head that I refused to pin down and look at seriously.
It's not like it wasn't painful, because I must confess, it hurt me just as much as it hurt her, and I'm still in a little bit of shock--like when you're sitting in your crumpled car trying to make yourself understand that yes, you've been in an real live accident. Even when it's your own fault for not paying enough attention, you're still as shaken up as the one you've hit.
I didn't kill her with a car, by the way.
I didn't take a poll before I knocked her off. Murder isn't the kind of thing for which you can ask advice.
I murdered her in the broad light of day. There was no struggle, really. More of a surprised look and a stupid little comment given with a Scottish accent, "Oh, yeah. Right. Well, let's get on with it, then."
Then she sat back into the fountain, wincing at the chill of the water as it flooded through her denim and reached sensitive parts. Just before her ears went under I asked if she'd mind closing her eyes. And she said, again in that Scottish accent (probably an unconscious bid for reconsideration), "I'll do me best."
There she was, submerged just a few inches below the surface, holding her breath, when one eye popped open and she frowned. "Oh, right," I said, and put my hands on her shoulders to hold her down. She nodded and shut that eye once more. And as if she could hear the countdown in my mind, on the count of three bubbles poured out of her mouth and mingled with the fountain bubbles that were floating over to see what the hell we were doing.
She looked up at me then. Both eyes boring into mine.
I held tight.
Her body jerked in protest as she breathed the water in, and for a little while her hands pulled at my arms, her legs kicked, even though she hadn't intended to struggle. And just before those eyes got that far-off vacant look, I heard her last thoughts as if they were my own.
"You don't need me anymore. Make me proud."
(And I'll be damned if I'm not crying now, as I'm telling it.)
Still I held on, even though I didn't need to; the struggle was over, the keys to the castle handed over without so much as a question.
Could it be that she had known what was coming before I did?
She was a clever chick, after all.
No body floated by in the swirl of cool water as it streamed past my empty hands. She was just gone.
Of course there are pictures and business cards. Her name has not been erased completely. There are accounts to tend to, announcements to be made, and a website to change. But every now and then, when her name pops up, I'll do a double take and try to remember other days, before the fountain.
So, rest in peace Ainsley MacQueen.
She won't be back.
I could never do this again. You'd end up calling my Sybil.
In lieu of flowers, buy the future books of Lesli Muir Lytle