The Quiet One by Debra Zannelli


I’m the quiet one. The one they, whoever they are, tell you to look out for. They’re right.

Two years younger than my sister, I had been devastated when she went into the first grade, leaving me behind. I tried to make friends but back then, Cumberland was a place for the well-to-do. Our converted hunting cabin, second-hand clothes and yesterday’s toys told them all they needed to know. Not making friends, I began to live inside my head where I could be the hero, the most popular girl in school.

As the years passed, the stories changed, the list of villains growing. Their names filled the dark places of my mind.

The fifth grade was my worst or best depending on how you looked at it. There was the tumor. I didn’t mind being in the hospital. Nobody cared about how expensive your clothes were. No one saw them and my johnnie was as nice as anyone else’s. The nurses liked me, so I got to walk the corridors. It was there I learned that too often the wrong people die. Sometimes Death needs a little help.

High School flew by. It’s easy to be top of your class when you have nothing else to do. With so much free time, I turned once again to the stories in my head but even they could not dispel the quiet. It was so loud. My words darkened. They were my shield. They became my sword. The villains starting dying.

I graduated, prepared to give my words life. Who would believe a person not quite five feet tall could kill? I had my list and just like my characters, it lived in my head.

Diane was first. Years had passed, but I still remember her patting my chest, laughing at its determined flatness.

So consumed with her beauty, she was not beautiful; she didn’t see me. I followed her for days.

It’s easy to steal a car. I took hers. I watched as she waited for her friends. They were not about to leave a party just to take her home. When her car jumped the curb, pinning her between the hood and the wall, she was confused. When I got out of the car, she was afraid.

“For old time’s sake.” Gunning the engine, the car sprang forward. I was miles away when the party ended. She died, the news reported, from internal bleeding. I hoped it hurt as much as hearing the baseball team laugh at my immature body.

I would like to say he had broken my heart, but mostly he’d broken my soul. The call had been unexpected and it had filled me with delight.

“I know we don’t talk much but I’d like to take you to the dance. Want to go?” Charles had been one of the few boys who never laughed at me. This had real potential, but he had turned out to be the Tommy Ross to my Carrie, a Carrie without telekinesis.

“Sure.” I’m certain he heard my grin.

“I’ll pick you up Friday at six.”

I turned to my sister, who had never yet been asked out on a date, face splitting into a grin it had never worn. The next day, still floating on a bubble of happiness, I heard their laughter. Charles thought it would be a great joke, knowing I was waiting for him. I didn’t wait, at least not for him to take me to the dance.

It took four years, but eventually he was sorry he’d made that call.

It was easier than it should have been. Charles moved from pot to cocaine. Not using myself, it was difficult to follow him, but once again being the least frightening person you’d meet was a good thing.

Air is not good for veins. I put the syringe directly into the vein in his neck. After a week it settled in his brain causing a catastrophic embolism.

The third was, so far, the most difficult. If she hadn’t been such a pig she would have noticed. The job paid minimum wage but it was her favorite fast-food joint and Pauline loved fast food. Her eating fast was good for me, not for her. Destroying Angels are rather cute, until you eat them. They are the deadliest mushrooms in Rhode Island and somehow her hoagie had them. I understand they make you very sick. Pauline never made it to the hospital. What was left of the sandwich was found molding in her fridge.

I quit that job and concentrated on writing. My first novel debuted to rave reviews. The story was not very different from the life I lived. My pain resonated with those who’d felt the sharp-edged tongues of the privileged.

Number four brought me home. Fingernail Freddie was famous in Cumberland long before the movies. He supposedly killed the three kids who burned down his property near Camp Keranna, killing his family. Freddie haunted the woods, attacking young lovers parked by the roadside. Brady was making a name for himself by debunking hauntings. The hands that had once groped me, laughing when I could not get away, now groped around in the dark. Going to the abandoned camp, Brady waited to meet Freddie. He met me. Laughing when I told him I loved his show, he didn’t see the knife, but I’m sure he felt it. He bled to death, the weapon never found. I took it home and carved the Thanksgiving turkey.

My next three novels were murder mysteries. My publisher wonders where I get my inspiration. I never answer. I don’t talk much. I am the quiet one and there are more stories to write.

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