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Short Story by Donya' Green II

I heard my phone endlessly vibrating in the top drawer of my office desk, knowing it was my wife. I convinced myself I couldn't listen to it. I had just finished organizing the mass of applications on my desk from the numerous people I had interviewed that day when I got a call from Sarah at the front desk.

"Mr. Dewey?" She asked. Sarah seemed to have a head full of air, always talking with spacey inflections and a sense of confusion. "There's one more person here for an interview. You know, for the administrative position? The one Ariel used to have, but then you fired her for incompetence?" I sighed a stressful breath while rubbing my heavy eyes as I imagine the candidate was standing in front of her as she declared this out loud. Maybe I should be interviewing for a new receptionist.

"Send them back." I plopped back in my brown leather office chair and straightened up my tie. A knock on the door implored me to invite in the interviewee, and his presentation was underwhelming. His dark hair was long, thin, and greasy. The gray suit he wore was oversized and wrinkled, with a dark stain right on his chest. The tethered dress shoes on his feet were covered in fresh mud. It took everything in me not to insist he stop before dragging dirt along my floor, but I bit my tongue. If I get through this last hurdle, I thought, I can start my well-deserved weekend. Even so, the man looked familiar. He sat down from across my desk, and the first thing he did was pick up the picture I had of my wife and me. He smiled before I took the photo out of his hands and placed it face down on my desk.

The interview quite honestly went better than I anticipated. He was charismatic, engaging, and had a sense of charm to him. The best candidate of the day. As we wrapped things up, I asked, "So, how did you hear about the job opening?"

"I was referred to it by someone who used to work here," he said with his head down, twiddling his thumbs. He looked up before saying, "Do you remember Ariel?" My heart sank into my stomach. "The girl at the front desk said she was fired for 'incompetence,' but that's not the story I heard. You see, Mr. Dewey, I'm Ariel's brother." With feelings teetering between mortification and rage, I stood up, but before I could throw him out of my office, he had a gun pointed at me as he sat relaxed in his chair. "I just want to hear your side of the story," he said conversationally. "It would be out of character of my little sister to lie, and she's a horrible actress. So when she came to my apartment crying and traumatized, telling me how her boss slammed her against the wall and ran his hand up her skirt, then had the nerve to fire her after she pushed him away, how could I not believe her?" Sweat as cold as his glare trickled down my neck. "I'm just curious what your perspective is."

"She's a liar!" I yelled. "I did no such thing!" The young man stared at me with icy blue eyes.

"I figured you'd say that," he claimed lackadaisically. "You are the worst kind of man. Cowardice and never can seem to admit your wrongdoings. That's why I took the liberty of explaining to your wife, Lisa, what you'd always be too pusillanimous to confess."

"What are you talking about?" The gun pointed at me was the only thing holding me back from mauling him.

"I drove to your house earlier. It wasn't hard to find out where it was. I knocked on the door, trying to see if you were home. This very gun barrel was pressed to the peephole, and if you answered, I would've pulled the trigger. But luckily for you, you're beautiful wife is the one who opened it. Things not going great between you and her, Mr. Dewey?" I was immediately inflamed to the point I couldn't even speak. His voice became stern as his right eye twitched under his furled eyebrows. "Is that why you assaulted my sister?" He firmed his grip on the gun. "That's what I asked your wife after she fell to the in terror and before she began to wail like a true banshee."

"You did what!?" I lashed out explosively, but as I stepped towards him, he quickly cocked his weapon. "Is she okay!?" My legs felt as if they were stuck to an iron ball with small chains. I couldn't move an inch, but I had to do something. Should I yell for Sarah? She was all the way downstairs, and if she didn't hear me, this deranged man could kill me in one second.

"I didn't hurt her," he responded with a chuckle, "But because of your actions, I don't think she's well."

"What do you want from me?" I barked. My blood's boiling intensified the more I processed what this could mean if he did say all of this to Lisa. "I'm sorry about what happened to your sister."

"What I don't want is an apology. That won't bring her back now. Nothing will." His voice slipped momentarily into a gloomy, albeit sincere manner. "The only thing you can do for a speck of absolution is turning yourself in today and rot in prison for the rest of your life. The alternative is I shoot you right here in this very room, and I go to prison with the lifelong satisfaction of avenging Ariel and knowing there was one less predator in the world on my accord."

"You're neurotic!" I shouted.

"No, Mr. Dewey, I'm broken." Without room for negotiation and seemingly out of options, I rushed for the gun and saw my life flash before my eyes.

Jasper shot me in the neck. I lost one and a half liters of blood that evening and would've died on my cold office floor if Sarah hadn't found me moments after Ariel's he fled the building in haste. I don't know how I survived, but most importantly, I don't know why. I woke up in the ER three days later. The doctor told me I flatlined on the operating table, but they were able to revive me "miraculously," as the doctor put it. The bullet vaporized a vertebra, leaving me paralyzed from the shoulders down. I was cursed.

Jasper was sent to prison after being caught a week later trying to flee the country. His mugshot was featured in the local paper, being the most exciting thing that's happened in our town in a long time. That picture haunts me every waking moment. Lisa never visited me in the hospital or called me again. Nurses were able to get a hold of her, and they told me she said while she's sorry for what happened to me, she could no longer be involved or see me ever again. When they took me back to my house, it was completely empty. The one sole item left for me was an air mattress we had for camping that we never used, which she had the courtesy to inflate for me before she left as I lay there the first night with a young hospice nurse outside my bedroom door being the only company I have. I am consumed with guilt for what lead me to this. I will be consumed for the rest of my life.

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