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Life didn’t prepare you for death.

“Shut the fuck up.”

Life did, however, have a funny way of making death seem tolerable.

“Fucking bitch, I’LL KILL Y-”

Life allowed people like Andie to kill bastards like Johnnie Smalls.

Bang.

Life always won. Andie always won.

 

Andie lowered her arm, index finger resting against the trigger of her pistol. She popped a bubble in the peppermint gum she stole from Johnnie’s kitchen when she let herself in and sighed. The gum was getting rubbery, signaling that she spent far too long playing around with the man. Poor Johnnie lay unmoving in his leather armchair, the hole in his head leaking blood and what Andie assumed to be bits of brain. She didn’t stick around to investigate.

She left not long after, only pausing to take a decanter of whiskey from Johnnie’s wet bar near the back door leading out to the deck just off the kitchen. She didn’t bother turning off the lights before sliding the door open with her foot and slipping out silently. She sauntered across the yard and stopped to pet a stray tabby near the road before hopping onto her bike, securing the decanter in a side pouch, and tearing out of the neighborhood.

It was still dark out, but the moon was full and bright in the sky. Andie loved her motorcycle and how her adrenaline spiked when she went a little harder on the throttle, toeing the line between reckless and certain death. She lived for the thrill and loved to push the boundaries of her own morality constantly. She wasn’t always that way, she supposed, but it was very hard to determine when exactly her view of the world shifted into what it was. Andie couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment she lost her humanity but she liked to link the destruction of her once-concrete morals to the destruction of her life, courtesy of her dear old dad.

 

Her father was a hard man to read, constantly frowning and muttering under his breath. He was always looking over his shoulder, eyes frantically searching for that which was not there. He was never still, whether it be twitching fingers or bouncing legs—he always moved. Andie’s mother had long since left them both; her vow to come back soon was made with no real promise and after a few months it was like she was never there. Most would think it odd, losing a mother so suddenly and with no explanation, but the young girl was more worried about her father and his eternal paranoia. When Andie was about fourteen, she thought he was getting better until a hulk of a man busted their door down one night. He was a monster through and through, right down to the bulging muscles and gruesome scar holding his mouth in a permanent sneer. He’d grabbed Andie by the hair and held a knife to her throat, shouting curses at her father and whispering promises into her ear. Andie did nothing but stay still, not even moving to shed a single tear, because in the next four seconds the monster was dead and Andie was dropping to the ground. She fell on her side and willed her brain to understand what had happened and how it had happened so quickly. Her father was upon her then, hands warm against her neck as he applied pressure to the shallow slice exposing her throat to the world. It was then that she realized she was bleeding and crying.

It was then that she realized her father was not shaking.

She spent the next few days unconscious in the hospital and by the time she woke up, her father was gone. She supposed it was a long time coming but it didn’t stop the ache in her heart when she realized she was alone. Five days after Andie was released and taken into custody by the state, her father was on the news, wanted for the murder of a famous politician. The country launched a nationwide manhunt for her father but being the elusive and paranoid man Andie knew him to be, he evaded them for months.

The night he died was a regular Tuesday. Andie was meandering through the aisles of the corner mart a few blocks from her foster home when she was pulled into a tight hug. Of course, she had frantically tried to escape, but her father’s quiet murmur of greeting in her ear stopped her in her tracks. Her basket clattered to the floor as she stood still, wrapped in her father’s embrace. He was shaking. He began to talk then, muttering words Andie could barely hear over the roar of her heartbeat in her ears. He said things about where he’d been, the things he’d seen, and things about his will. Distantly, she thought she heard him ask how she was and how her new family was treating her, but then he started whispering in an almost harsh voice, practically spitting into her ear about the fucking government and their fucking corruption. She had never been so overwhelmed in her life—not when her mother left and certainly not when that man died in front of her. Her father’s entire body stiffened and he whipped around, searching with furrowed brows and wild eyes. There was no one else in the store and the girl tried to remember a time before her father was like that—a shell of a man looking over his shoulder as if he would actually find something; when she couldn’t, she guessed that he had always been like that, long before she was ever in his life. Andie did nothing but stay still. He thrust a wad of papers into her hands and turned away, leaving without another word. Andie went home.

Later that night on the news, the pretty blonde anchor with a voice made for television reported that Dean Kearney was killed by officers after a standoff in an abandoned warehouse near the outskirts of town. She said that Kearney pulled a gun and shot at a tire on one of the squad cars surrounding the building. His life was over within a minute and the cops were marked as heroes. The anchormen in the studio talked for a bit afterwards, outlining Dean’s schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder and how he was a stone-cold killer that deserved what he got. Andie did nothing but stay still.

She went back to her old house one morning a few weeks after her father’s murder and was surprised to find most of their things untouched. After the police seized his body, she assumed they would have taken everything as evidence in their investigation. There was still a bloodstain in the hardwood from the man that broke in all that time ago. It made sense, really, that it wasn’t gone. Her father was always the one cleaning, and Andie doubted that he had time to come home and scrub their floors while on the run. She spent the entire day rifling through their belongings, trying to find a reason as to why her father suddenly acted out. The stack of papers he gave her sat unopened in the pocket of her coat.

After sorting through all of her father’s books and magazines she came across a messy pile of newspaper pages. It was odd seeing them thrown about so carelessly in the normally orderly home office her father kept. She sat on the ground, flicking through the pages of months-old clippings of headlines. It was all nonsense about random events that had happened, about people that had been appointed for positions, about people that had died. Andie spent half an hour reading all the different excerpts, unable to connect the dots about why her father saved them. There was nothing special about the clippings that she could see, other than the fact that most of them were about public figures in their state. She spent another half hour looking through notebooks for something—anything really—that would make everything make sense. She came up short and left disappointed.

Three years later, after Andie had killed a city councilman with a cellar full of tapes of children he’d assaulted over the years, she finally understood.

 

Andie pulled into the alley behind her apartment building, thanking the darkness of the street for concealing her arrival from prying eyes. The night was quiet as she parked and covered her bike with a tarp. She made her way up the stairs to the third floor, toting the decanter and trying not to skip. It had been a few weeks since she’d been home and she was feeling high on adrenaline from killing Johnnie for his secret dealings in human trafficking of teenagers.

She stopped in front of apartment 307, grinning as she heard the faint sound of classic rock through the door. With a raised fist, she rapped her knuckles against the door, taking a step back into the hallway.

“One second!” A voice from inside called. Andie’s stomach twisted and she felt as lightheaded as when she pulled the trigger; the only difference between that and standing in front of the door was that Andie trembled slightly as she waited, heart ready to leap out of her throat. A few moments later, the lock clicked and the door swung open, revealing a pink-haired woman dressed in Andie’s favorite band t-shirt and black joggers. Andie bounced on the balls of her feet, laughing as the woman’s face changed from one that would kindly greet a stranger to one that could kill with just one look. She didn’t have time to say anything before the woman was pulling her into the apartment and shoving her against the door as it shut. Andie leaned against the hard surface behind her, unable to stop smiling as the decanter was taken from her hand and practically tossed onto the entryway table and she was kissed within an inch of her life.

“Asshole,” the woman whispered after pulling away, wrapping her arms around Andie’s shoulders and sighing. Her voice lacked heat. “You should’ve called.”

Andie felt a weight she didn’t know was on her shoulders lift as they stood together. “Sorry,” she murmured, squeezing tighter as if her embrace could be accepted as some form of an apology. She knew the woman had already forgiven her. “I missed you, Luna.”

Luna pulled away and pouted, cheeks flushing. “Maybe if you would have called,” she began as she turned and walked into the apartment, “then you wouldn’t have missed me as much.” Andie laughed and followed her into their living room. A soft thump sounded by the couch and after a second a loud meow brought Andie’s attention to the floor. Monty—a big-boned calico that Andie rescued the year before—circled her ankles, wrapping his tail around her calf and saying hello in the way only cats could. Andie leaned down to scratch behind his ears and the bastard practically screamed when she took her hand away and stepped over him to follow Luna into the kitchen. Luna laughed as she started washing the dishes.

“He missed you too, you know,” Luna said accusingly. “You didn’t give him a kiss goodbye.”

Andie grinned and leaned her hip onto the counter beside the pastel-headed woman. Luna eyed her from the corner of her eye, biting back a smile. “I’ll be sure to kiss him goodbye next time I leave,” Andie promised, voice teasing. “I would hate to make him feel like I didn’t love him more than life itself.”

Luna flicked water at Andie with a groan, looking more flustered than before. “Shut up.”

“Aw, come on,” the brunette cooed, reaching out and tugging at the hem of the band shirt. “Monty is my favorite person in the world and I would do anything to make him happy.”

“I hate you,” Luna grumbled as a laugh spilled from her lips.

The rest of the night, Andie and Luna sat on the couch and talked about what they had missed the few weeks they were apart. Andie told Luna about Johnnie and she cursed him to hell for what he had done. Monty sat in Andie’s lap the entire time, alternating between napping and nuzzling into the hand absentmindedly scratching his neck. Andie was glad to be home and away from all the ugly parts of her life, away from the death and destruction. Though the apartment wasn’t the nicest and her shirt still had some of Johnnie’s blood splattered on the fabric, Andie couldn’t find a thing to be mad about as she talked with her girlfriend into the waning hours of the morning.

 

The next day found Andie on her way to the small café a few blocks from their apartment. The morning was brisk, the clever fingers of winter teasing their town with fluctuating weather patterns that strove to madden. Her keychain jangled in her pocket as she shoved her hands deeper into the pockets of her pea coat and tripped on a dip in the concrete. She huffed out a small laugh and steadied herself, cheeks coloring pink as she made eye contact with a man walking her direction that had seen the small event transpire. He smirked and slowed to a stop directly in front of Andie. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“You alright there, sweetheart?” the man greeted in a teasing voice. “I would hate to see a pretty thing like you get hurt.”

Andie’s fingers tightened on the keys in her pocket. It was too early for this shit. She forced a friendly smile onto her face and took a step back, ready to exit the conversation. “Yes, thank you. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.” She moved to walk around him and threw a swift, “Have a good one!” over her shoulder, dropping the smile as soon as she was past him. The café was just across the street and she wanted to get as far away from Mr. Good Samaritan as possible.

The universe, however, seemed to think she ought to deal with him for a bit longer, and much to her displeasure, a large hand wrapped around her elbow and she was stopped from her quest for caffeine. Andie looked down at the hand on her arm and then turned to face the man; she didn’t bother to hide her annoyance. He chuckled when she shook off his hand.

“I didn’t get your name.”

“I didn’t give it to you,” Andie replied.

The man shifted his weight to his right leg and he leered at her. Andie didn’t even really know what the hell a leer was, but there was nothing else to describe the way his face contorted. It made the skin at the back of her neck crawl. She took a second to take in his appearance: clean-cut suit, wool overcoat, expensive-looking shoes, and—ugh—leather gloves.

Who the hell wears leather gloves?

Andie supposed he wasn’t ugly, but she could almost guarantee that he wasn’t as good-looking as he carried himself. His hair—both on his head and face—were well-maintained, but the awkward shape of his jaw and the almost-too-large size of his ears distracted from his otherwise sharp features. His eyebrows were a tad too thick and his nose a tiny bit crooked; there was a slim scar by his mouth that was barely noticeable against his fair skin. His teeth were straight enough that Andie thought he could have had braces as a teenager, but they were just imperfect enough to make her also believe that they hadn’t been corrected at all. She thought herself to be very sympathetic of other people’s circumstances and tried not to judge a book by its cover; she really did try her best to keep an open mind, but Prince Charming looked like every douchebag she has tried to avoid her entire life. If the glove fits, right?

“Feisty,” he said after a beat, grinning. He extended a hand and the leather made an unpleasant sound as his fingers flexed. “I’m Hayes.”

Andie longed for coffee. She released the keys and took his hand to shake. “Dana.”

Hayes squeezed her hand and took a small step forward, not letting go. “There’s no need to lie,” he said, that stupid smirk twisting his face menacingly. Andie ripped her hand from his and distanced herself from him slightly, clenching her fist at her side as he watched her with thinly veiled glee. “I know who you are, Andr-”

“Who the fuck are you?” Andie hissed, reaching for the small pocket knife in the pocket of her coat. She held it in her hand, steeling herself. She would hate to have to kill a man in broad daylight, directly across the street from her favorite coffee shop. The owner probably wouldn’t let her take the extra muffins that weren’t pretty enough for the display anymore. That would not fly with Luna. Or Monty, for that matter.

Hayes’ smirk somehow grew even wider—Jesus Christ, how big was this guy’s mouth? —and he seemed all too happy to be threatened at knifepoint. Andie knew the knife wasn’t in sight, but if he really knew who she was, then she knew that he could also surmise that his life was in the balance at that moment. “I’ve been watching you for a while now.”

“Listen, asshole,” Andie said, fingers tightening around the handle of the blade. “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t leave me alone right now, I will take action to protect my life as I see fit.”

“Now, now. No need to get all riled up,” Hayes responded calmly, reaching into his coat and pulling a card from the breast pocket of his suit. He held it out to Andie with a knowing smile. “I’m just here to give you this.”

Andie didn’t move. Hayes’ smile grew.

“I understand how you must feel,” he continued, waving the card as he spoke. Andie’s eyes didn’t leave his face because she sure as hell wasn’t going to fall for a trick like that. “Like I was saying, I’ve been following your, ah, work, for a while now. I have a proposition for you, if you’re interested.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. And I’m not interested.”

Again, his smile grew wider. It was unsettling. “Of course. I actually have to get going, but here’s my card if you change your mind. Give me a call and I would be more than happy to set up a time for us to meet about my proposition.” His smile didn’t waver as he leaned over and placed his card on the ground at her feet. He stood up and turned before he looked over his shoulder with that same menacing shark like grin as before. “I hope to work with you soon, Andromeda.” He walked away and Andie watched with a pounding heart, clutching the knife in her pocket with a renewed ferocity. She looked down at the card, white and minimalistic, and didn’t move. The glossy black letters and numbers mocked her. After a staring contest that lasted about two minutes, she picked up the card and walked back to the apartment in a daze. Luna said something about muffins and coffee. Andie did nothing but stay still.

Sometime that night, Andie explained to Luna what had happened on her trip to the coffee shop. As she told her about Hayes and his supposed knowledge of her endeavors, Luna’s hands shook. They didn’t stop shaking as Andie presented the business card Hayes had left on the ground for her. “What do I do?” Andie asked quietly. The dull glow of the streetlights outside illuminated the small apartment in a soft light. Neither of them got up to turn on a lamp.

Luna traced patterns on Andie’s knee, frowning and chewing on her bottom lip nervously, a habit Andie typically thought to be endearing but dreaded in that moment. She sighed and leaned her head on Andie’s shoulder, entwining their hands and squeezing gently. “As much as I hate it,” she began, “I think you need to call him. Meet up with him and pick his brain about what he knows.”

Andie hummed in agreement. She wanted to know what Hayes knew, if he actually knew anything—and she was also curious as to what his “business” proposal was. If he had told truth and really had been following her trail of breadcrumbs she’d left for the police, she had every right to assume he wanted someone killed. “I’ve been reckless.”

“No,” Luna said immediately. “You’ve been smart. It’s not your fault that this Hayes guy has been watching you like a hawk.” She turned her face into Andie’s neck. “The police don’t know your identity, only that the same person is connected to all of the victims. He has to be working with them, or he’s known who you are for a long time and somehow connected the dots. Maybe he’s a PI or something.”

“I don’t know,” Andie replied, frowning. Monty clambered into her lap and meowed until he received a few scratches from Luna. “He seemed too calm to be approaching me. Like he’d been planning exactly how he wanted it to go for a while.”

“Either way, if he’s telling the truth, he knows more than the police. That can be used against you. Against us.”

“That’s why I wanted to get your opinion on it.” Andie’s voice was quiet, trembling. She had worked so hard for so many years to make sure that Luna would be safe. Anyone that dared to threaten that would be dealt with swiftly and with extreme prejudice.

“We’ll figure it out,” Luna assured Andie, picking her head up and smiling before pressing a kiss to her girlfriend’s cheek. “Call him and we’ll go from there.”

 

Hayes looked as smug as Andie remembered, leaning back lazily and regarding her with a small smirk, as if he was sitting on the juiciest secret he couldn’t wait to tell. They sat in the café she was on her way to a few days prior. The night after Andie and Luna had their discussion about their plan, Andie called Hayes and set up a time to meet with him in a neutral location. She doubted it was actually neutral, however, if Hayes was as knowledgeable about her past as he claimed. He had the upper hand in every interaction between them, and Andie hated him for it.

“I’m glad you called,” the man said, taking a cautionary sip of his coffee. He smiled around the cup, satisfied with the temperature, and took a larger swig, eyes never leaving Andie. She sat in her chair across from him, back tense and arms crossed over her chest. Around them, the buzz of the Friday morning rush kept their conversation somewhat concealed. There were too many voices talking over one another, too many spoons and forks clinking against plates, too many chair legs scraping back against the hardwood floor. There was too much.

“Don’t act like we’re friends,” Andie snapped loudly. An elderly woman sitting a few tables away looked up from her crossword with a scowl. “Tell me what you want.”

Hayes—ever the optimist—grinned like she’d just told him he’d won the goddamn lottery. “I want to work with you.”

“I heard that, asshole. You don’t even know what I do. Why should I work with you?”

His grin twisted into a nasty smirk—he looked like a douchebag, if Andie was being honest with herself, but that wasn’t news—while his eyes narrowed, feral and predatory. He leaned over the edge of his chair to dig in his briefcase. After a moment, he found what he was looking for and pushed a manila folder across the table. Andie frowned and Hayes tapped the tab on the side. “That’s why.”

Andie’s blood ran cold as she read the name marking the file. Dean Kearney. Her heart apparently thought it would be a good idea to try and exit her body via her throat because she couldn’t breathe. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?” Her voice trembled and judging by the way Hayes’ expression grew even more sinister, he knew he had her in the palm of his hand.

“It’s interesting,” he said, slinging an arm over the back of the chair. “The media never mentioned a daughter of the notorious psychopath Dean Kearney. All they cared to talk about was how he was sick in the head, how he heard voices speaking to him when there was no one there, how he tortured that poor Senator’s wife and children before killing the old bastard. They talked about his mysterious wife that disappeared into the night a few years before, how he probably couldn’t control his psychopathic urges and how he probably fucked her dead bo-”

“Shut the fuck up.” Andie couldn’t breathe. There was too much. This was all too much.

“Something to add, Miss Kearney?” Hayes laughed. He leaned on his elbows and held a hand out to her, fingers curled as if he was holding a microphone. His voice was low—practically a stage whisper—when he said, “Please, the people want to hear your side of the story. What was it like being raised by a killer? How does it feel knowing he probably would have killed you next? Or your girlfriend?”

Andie moved her hands to her lap and clenched her fists together to stop them from trembling. Her chest was tight; her throat was on fire. Everything hurt and she shook in her chair. “I have no idea who that man is.”

“Drop the act, Andromeda,” Hayes said, emphasizing each syllable of her name and rolling his eyes. “What kind of name is Andromeda anyhow? Did your psycho dad pick it?”

“My name is Andie,” she responded, clenching her fists in her lap. “And you still haven’t told me why you keep harassing me.”

“Well, Andie, like I said before, I want to work with you. I have a target in mind and I need your… marksmanship, as well as your discretion.” Andie scoffed. “Don’t be like that. I also happen to have information about the murder of one Johnnie Smalls that I’m sure the police would be happy to receive.” Andie took a shuddering breath and frowned deeply. She worried her lower lip with her teeth. Hayes smiled. “Your cooperation would be greatly appreciated.”

“I will put a bullet in your head,” Andie promised. She’d never meant anything more.

“Now, now. What would the girlfriend think of you flirting with your business partner? I’m disappointed.”

“Fuck you.”

Hayes’ stupid, feral grin overtook his features yet again. Andie wanted to put his head through the table. “Maybe later. For now, let’s go to my office so we can discuss the details in private.”

 

Andie stormed into her and Luna’s shared apartment a couple hours later. She was livid—absolutely fucking seething—at the nerve of Hayes. After threatening to expose who she was to the police, threatening her girlfriend, and threatening Andie personally, that half-witted smug bastard had the balls to think he could manipulate Andie into getting her hands dirty for him. Fuck that. Fuck him.

She yanked her coat off and threw it over the back of a chair, gripping the wood and taking a deep breath. Luna walked out from the direction of their bedroom and she stopped in the middle of the hallway. Andie shook her head and kicked the leg of the chair. “You know what the worst part about that entire thing was? I still have no clue how the hell he knows me.” She looked at Luna and laughed bitterly. She wanted to throw up. “He threatened to expose me. He threatened your life. He had my father’s file from the Senator’s murder—and not the police files. They were more detailed, more researched, more… Obsessive, I guess. You know those people you see in TV shows that do their own mini investigations and they tape all their shit on the wall, connect the dots with red string? The entire file was like that, except it wasn’t a crazy conspiracy theory or anything—it was the truth, and he had information about me from even before my mom left. I already had a bad feeling about Hayes when we met but today just confirmed that he is a fucking lunatic.”

“What did he want?”

“For me to kill some asshole that apparently killed his mom! He was driving drunk and hit her at some intersection, I guess,” Andie responded, wiping her face with her hands and groaning. “How fucking ridiculous is that? Luna, he wants me to murder someone, as in shoot-em-in-the-head, kill-them-dead murder them. For absolutely no reason other than to satisfy some sick need of his to, and I quote, “get revenge”. Luna, he actually said that; he said it like it would convince me to actually fucking do it!”

“He sounds like an asshole.”

“He is!” Andie exclaimed, waving her hands around. She started to pace around the room. “I swear to God, he is crazy. He started spewing all this shit about how my dad was a psychopath and how he was probably gonna kill me next, and the worst thing about hearing that was that it’s the farthest thing from the truth. Yeah, his methods were fucked up because, hello, he killed the dude. But that Senator was literally stealing children from their homes and selling them-” Andie choked on a sob and paused to catch her breath. “I thought I was doing the right thing, you know? Getting rid of the scum of the earth, just like my dad was trying to do. I don’t care that I’m a villain or whatever childish superhero-complex shit the media spews. Those fuckers deserved to die, and I’m glad it was me behind the trigger because I got to watch the life leave their worthless bodies.

“But now? I’m not so sure. I mean, who am I to decide who lives and dies? I’m not God, and I know I’m not religious or anything like that, but the principle of the thing is still there. Just because I think what I’m doing is morally right, how does that make me any better than the literal serial killers that think what they’re doing is right too? How-”

Luna had somehow moved across the room and she took Andie into her arms, holding her while the brown-haired girl didn’t hold back her tears any longer. The last few years, she had been wound tighter than a rubber band being stretched, every single thing she’d done haunting her while simultaneously moving her forward, and it was a matter of time before she snapped. As she shook in Luna’s embrace, Andie choked out a laugh at herself. How didn’t this happen sooner? Luna said nothing, just rubbed soothing circles into her back. She let Andie cry into her shoulder for what seemed like hours and when the woman exhausted herself and her tears, she kissed her temple and squeezed her tighter.

“I love you,” Luna whispered into Andie’s hair. “And it is because I love you so much that I am going to tell you this very bluntly: you are being a dumbass.” Andie giggled quietly and grabbed her wrist so her arms would stay around Luna as she leaned back to look her in the eyes. Luna had a soft smile on her face and she brought her hands up to cup Andie’s face, gently rubbing away the tear stains on her cheeks. “If you need me to tell you who the hell you are, then I don’t know what you’ve done with my girlfriend because she is the strongest, most self-aware person I have ever met. Besides Monty, of course.” They both laughed as the calico meowed at them from the top of the dining room table. “Andie, one of the reasons I fell in love with you is because of your strong moral compass. Yeah, murder is bad, blah, blah, blah, but you’re killing truly awful people so… it’s okay? I think? Two negatives make a positive, right?”

“That only works in math, hon.”

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Luna said immediately, screwing up her eyebrows and pursing her lips before grinning. “Wise words spoken by a true revolutionary.”

“Shut up,” Andie mumbled, cheeks turning pink. She tucked her head into Luna’s neck and smiled. “Thank you. I love you.”

“I love you too. Now, please stop getting snot all over me. It’s gross.”

“Fuck you,” Andie laughed as she shoved her away playfully. Luna grinned before pulling Andie back in for a kiss. Andie wondered how she ever doubted herself and thanked whatever gods were listening that she found Luna all those years ago.

 

“Andromeda, I swear to God I will fucking end you. Your life is in MY hands, you hear me? I will make you regret the day-” Andie deleted the sixth voicemail she’d received from Hayes in the last day with a sigh. He’d been persistent about meeting with her again but after Andie shut that down with a phone call that had so many expletives it would’ve made a sailor blush, he got aggressive. Every voicemail he left was progressively more and more threatening, and at that point, Andie was tired of his shit.

“Just block his number,” Luna suggested after she complained about his newest threats. She was on the folding laundry on the couch and trying to keep Monty from getting hair all over the freshly-washed apparel. “Shoo, fatass. You don’t pay rent so you don’t get clothes.”

“Oh, so that’s what happens when I don’t pay rent? I’m sure our landlord will love that.” Luna gave her a pointed look and Andie grinned. “What? It’s like you’re asking for it. It’s way too easy.”

“Obviously the same rules don’t apply to a cat. Monty is a cat.”

“Well that is news to me. How-”

Sharp knocking on the door startled the three of them and Monty ran into the sanctuary of their bedroom. Andie and Luna stared at the door with wide eyes. Andie walked out of the living room and into their bedroom to grab the knife she kept under the mattress in case of an emergency. She held it behind her back and approached the door silently, motioning for Luna to get behind her. She dropped the pair of pants she was folding and grabbed Andie’s free hand before they reached the door. Andie dropped Luna’s hand to keep the knife hidden while she unlocked the door; they both held their breath as Andie inched the door open, peering out into the hallway with caution. In the hall stood a tall elderly man, probably somewhere in his 60s. He had a bible and a friendly smile.

“Good afternoon, ladies. Do you have a few minutes to talk about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”

Andie sighed and relaxed her grip on the knife behind the door. Luna peeked out from behind her shoulder curiously, wrapping an arm around Andie’s middle and holding her close. The man saw the small action and instantly went from friendly to disgusted.

“Homosexuality is a sin,” he said, face growing red. Oh, how Andie so did not need this shit today. “Through Jesus, you can find salvation-”

“Shut the fuck up, boomer,” Luna snapped. “Go bother someone else with that fake Christianity bullshit.”

Before he could say anything else, Luna pulled Andie inside, flipped him the bird, and slammed the door in his face. Andie laughed and high-fived a smug Luna before going to put the knife back in its spot. When she came back, she flopped onto a cushion not occupied by folded clothes and sighed in relief.

“I thought that was Hayes. I’m glad I was just being paranoid.”

Luna hummed in agreement. “If he does show up, wha-”

Knock. Pause. Knock. Pause. Knock.

“Fuck,” Andie hissed. “That has to be him.” Luna dropped the pants and sped to their room for the knife her girlfriend had just hidden. Andie went to the locked closet in the hall that held her gun safe and pulled a small handgun with a silencer. She approached the door with her finger over the trigger and motioned for Luna to hide behind the couch. She got to the door and leaned against it. “Who is it?”

Open the fucking door, Andromeda!” Hayes bellowed, slamming his hand against the middle, jarring Andie as she felt the vibrations. “I’m going to kill you, bitch! How dare you-”

Andie opened the door and quickly raised her arms to point the gun at Hayes, who genuinely looked surprised to see the weapon. Good. He looked like hell—his hair was matted in places and his skin was oily, but somehow it didn’t distract from the wild look in his eyes.

He laughed and stepped forward with a feral grin. “You gonna shoot me, Andie? Huh? You’re just like your fucking father, killing anything that moves. You’re gonna regret saying no to me. I’ve already given all that information to the police and they’re on their way now. I hope they don’t get here before we can have a bit of fun because I’ve always wanted to fuck a lesbian. After I’m through with you, I’m gonna get your g-”

Bang.

Hayes fell.

Monty meowed.

Luna dropped her knife.

Andie did nothing but stay still.

 

Later that night, after they packed the essentials and got the hell out of dodge, they checked into a hotel about a hundred miles from the city. Andie sat on the windowsill, her hand holding a disposable cup of coffee from the shitty pot in the lobby. Luna and Monty were asleep on the bed and the sun had set, but the last remaining rays of light still lingered.

Andie always won.