A short story by Tina Konstant
Mindy Cooper slumped on her bedroom floor over a pile of pretty-in-pink dolls. It was her birthday. HER birthday too. Why did she have to sit here and play with stupid dolls while Kevin got to build carts and race them down the hill? It wasn’t FAIR.
Mindy punched her eight-year-old fist into the stomach of a rag doll. The stupid toy just grinned back at her. It didn’t even blink or cry. Mindy picked up a thick knitting needle and stabbed it in the embroidered eyes. It still didn’t object.
“Stupid,” she muttered, pulled her knees up under her ugly white and yellow spotted dress with stupid ribbons on the front and knobbly pearl buttons down the back. She hated that dress. Hated it when her mother pointed it out in the shop. Hated it when her mother made her try it on. Hated it when her mother bought it and hung it in her wardrobe and hated it when she made her wear it on HER BIRTHDAY!
Kevin got to wear trousers and a new blue shirt with a pocket to carry things. He was eight. She was eight. Why couldn’t she have a shirt with a pocket to keep things?
“Mindy!” Kevin called. “What you doing? Come in here.”
At last. No more dolls.
It took Mindy less than ten seconds to run from her room, down the hall to the kitchen. Her friends had left already. “It’s late,” her mother had said. “Girls need their beauty sleep.” It wasn’t even close to dark when they started to leave. Kevin’s friends though, oh no, Kevin’s friends could stay. Why? Because they were almost finished the cart, that’s why. “Please, mum,” Kevin had begged. “It won’t take long.” And their mum had patted his head and smiled and said okay.
“Don’t run, you’ll trip and tear your dress!” Mindy’s mum shrieked as she skidded to a stop at the door that led from the kitchen into the garage where her brother and his friends were building the cart. Mindy ignored her.
The main garage door was open to the driveway and the floor was littered with wood and nails and tools and wheels and paint and glue. The air in the single space where their dad’s car usually parked, was thick with the stink of oil and sweat and achievement.
Panting and barefoot, Mindy stopped at the door, held onto the frame and leaned into the garage. Kevin looked up from where he was fitting a number plate to the cart with a rusting, red handled screwdriver. His friends laughed and tossed insults at each other. Mindy soaked in every scent and sound.
“You look like a cup-cake,” Arty, the oldest and the ugliest in the group said and snorted a laugh through his fat nose.
Mindy scrunched her face up and took a step into the garage. The other boys giggled and went quiet.
“What do you want?” Mindy said to Kevin. “You want help?”
Arty and boys sniggered as Kevin shook his head and kept working on the number plate.
“What?” Mindy insisted. “Why did you call me?”
“Idiot,” Kevin muttered. “They just wanted to see how fast you’d come.”
Arty snorted through his nose again. “How fast she’d come.”
The other boys got a private joke and they all laughed.
Mindy didn’t get it so she didn’t laugh. She stood there, waiting for Kevin to explain while his friends whispered and stared. Then Kevin stood up. “Sorted. Let’s go.”
Without looking back or saying anything, but still snorting and laughing, the five boys shoved the cart out of the garage and ran down the street.
“What…?” Mindy couldn’t find the words to think let alone explain what had just happened. For the first time in her life she was happy when her mother called her in.
“Come here, Mindy. Come help me with dinner.” Her mother smiled as Mindy stepped into the kitchen dragging small dots of oil her feet had picked up in the garage. “Don’t worry, baby. Boys are different to girls. They’re wired differently. They don’t understand.”
Mindy didn’t understand either but she helped with dinner that night. She helped with dinner every night. And the washing up and the laundry. She made tea for her dad and helped her mother clean the stove. She wore dresses and made herself pretty and laughed at Arty’s jokes. And she thought about her eighth birthday and she never forgot.
Twenty years later there was another birthday. It was Arty’s. He had grown big and strong. His skin had cleared, his chin was square, his shoulders were broad. He didn’t laugh through his nose much and when he did, he apologised. He sent Mindy emails and texts and flowers. And Mindy did what girls do – because they were wired differently to boys – and texted back and accepted his flowers. So it was natural for Arty to invite her to his birthday party. Why wouldn’t he? It was what boys did when they wanted to go from texts, emails and flowers to what they really want.
When Mindy arrived a little later than agreed, Arty couldn’t help but hold the door open and escort her in like he was giving her the keys to his heart, his soul and his castle. “You look beautiful.” He kissed her cheek. She let him. “I mean really, absolutely beautiful.”
Mindy smiled, said thank you and walked ahead of him. She knew that he would be following the pearl buttons that ran down her back from the nape of her neck to just above her knees. There were more than a hundred people at the party. Mindy didn’t try to count. She was only interested in one.
At the base of the stairs, she turned around, put her hand on Arty’s neck and leaned close enough for him to smell the soft scent of perfume on her skin. “You want to go somewhere quiet?”
Arty grinned and cleared his throat. “Sure, um… I guess my room is upstairs.”
Mindy smiled, turned around and took the stairs slowly giving Arty all the time he needed to look.
He’d done well for himself. He had finished law school top of his class, got a job with a global law firm and was already building a reputation seasoned lawyers envied.
“You got the flowers I sent today?” he asked as Mindy led him up his stairs.
Mindy glanced over her shoulder and smiled. “I did. They’re lovely. Thank you.”
At the top of the stairs Mindy turned left and weaved through the mangle of men and women talking and laughing and groping and drinking. Some winked at Arty. He winked back. Mindy smiled and opened the door to Arty’s bedroom.
It was being used as a dumping ground for coats, but that didn’t matter. Arty closed the door and watched Mindy as she studied the room, turning around on delicate heels. The noise from outside all but disappeared. At last, it was just Mindy and Arty. Arty and Mindy.
“You’re amazing.” He put his hands in his pockets because he didn’t know what to do with them.
Mindy knew what to do with hers. She ran them down the front of her dress. It was white with small yellow dots. Beautiful.
“I’d like to freshen up,” she said.
Arty’s thoughts stumbled for a moment. “Ah, sure.” He pointed to a door behind her. “Bathroom is right behind you.”
Mindy smiled then turned, opened the door and disappeared inside.
Unbelievable! I can’t believe this is happening!
He’d been after her for years. Finally. FINALLY! Happy Birthday Arty Boy! He breathed into his hands to test his breath and sniffed his armpits. Fine. Good enough. He knew she’d give it up eventually. The boys said she wouldn’t. They took bets. Damn idiots. They were betting against Arty “The Tongue” McGinnes.
“Arty?” Mindy breathed from the bathroom. “What you doing? Come in here.”
Arty grinned and covered the distance to his bathroom in three steps. He pushed the bathroom door open. Inside, Mindy leaned against the sink and smiled.
“What?” Arty smiled.
Mindy didn’t say anything. From behind her back she pulled a red, rusting screwdriver and lunged. Arty didn’t move. Why would he? She’s just a girl.
Mindy dug the screwdriver deep into his gut then twisted and rammed it into his lungs.
Arty gasped. He wanted to say something but didn’t have the words to think let alone explain what was happening. “What..?” was all he managed.
Mindy shoved him onto the floor, straddled his chest and leaned close to his ear. “I wanted to see how fast you’d come,” she whispered.
At the trial, witnesses said that Mindy had a look of pure evil on her face. That she stabbed Arty over and over again so hard like she was trying to dig his organs clean out.
“I tried to stop her,” one girl said to the judge. “But she almost stabbed me too. She was crazy. Totally deranged.”