Rose couldn’t stop swearing. It was daylight by the time she rolled out of her bed, grabbed the day’s first cigarette and ran to the bathroom.
She was always running to the bathroom. The baby seemed to be continuously stomping on her bladder.
Rose swore some more, as she turned on the showerhead just long enough to sprinkle a little water on top of her head and face, but not much else.
“That much water wouldn’t even get a Catholic baptized,” she mused, as she began tossing shirts and pants around, looking for whatever seemed the cleanest and freshest –or even just the least foul.
Regardless of what she wore, Rose resigned herself to smelling at least a little off for the bulk of the day, but this was, again, Matt’s fault. She hadn’t been supposed to work yesterday, let alone open and close. She shouldn’t be working today, her second day off, the Lord’s Day.
She stopped and exhaled a long plume of smoke.
Rose half hoped he would fire her. Margie, at least, was seriously considering it, she knew.
“Whatever,” she said.
Worst case scenario she’d go on welfare and start talking to lawyers, see if any of them hated Matt enough to drag his sorry butt into court. There was bound to be at least one, she thought. He’d pissed everyone else off.
Rose settled on sweat pants and an oversized t-shirt that said George Washington High School. She had no idea where it came from. She’d gone to Riverside High School. Jake, her shiftless ex-boyfriend and baby daddy, had graduated from St. Albans.
G.W was approximately halfway between the two.
It was a genuine mystery, but not enough of one for Rose to devote too much time thinking about it at the moment. She slipped on a pair of sandals, grabbed her purse and keys and walked as quickly as her seven-month pregnant body would allow to her car.
As soon as she got there, she stopped and turned around. She wasn’t leaving that gun in the house. She went right back, picked it up off the coffee table, shoved it in her purse and tried to leave a second time.
She fired the engine up of her old Toyota and drove too fast up the gravel road that led from her grandfather’s small farm to the main road. She didn’t stop to check the road but had already glanced down the way and seen absolutely nothing coming past the burned-out Dollar General store.
There was seldom any traffic out this way. The people who lived out this far valued their privacy. They grew dope, made meth and/or homeschooled their children as far away from the corrupting influence of American society as they could manage without actually immigrating someplace else.
Rose liked living out this way. Everybody did. It was a good neighborhood. Nobody talked to anybody and they left everyone alone. Nobody left the holler except to go to work or to buy groceries at the Walmart.
At the end of her driveway, Rose merged on to the main road in a screeching arc that veered right. She punched the on-button on her radio and half-listened to Kenny Chesney sing about drinking on a beach somewhere.
She’d never been to a Kenny Chesney show, though she vaguely remembered that he played in town once. That might have been before she was born, though.
“I hate you, Matt,” Rose said. “I really hate you for this.”
She had half a mind to call him and wake him up, but then realized in the rush to get out of the house, she’d left her phone plugged into the charger and sitting on her nightstand.
“Oh, hell,” she said and began looking for a place to pull over. There was no way she was going to spend the day cut off from humanity and stuck relying on just the radio for company.
It would only take her a couple of minutes to go back and get the phone. She was late already. What did a couple of more minutes matter?
As soon as they saw Rose leave the house in a wild hurry, Ryan told Kelly to get going.
“Let’s make this quick,” he said. “Go!”
The two of them had been hiding in the woods overlooking Rose’s house. Ryan’s car was parked about a hundred yards back, well-hidden behind the ruined building.
“I think we should both go,” Kelly said.
“No,” Ryan said. “It was your idea to come here. You go to the house and take a look around. I’m going to head back to the car and get it in position. If you find anything, let me know and I’ll come pick you up. If there’s any trouble, I’ll warn you. You need me over here. I’m your look-out.”
Sighing, Kelly said, “Fine.” Then he began trotting from the tree-line, across a broken field toward the house.
He got about twenty yards and slowed to a walk. He was tired. He hadn’t slept, had walked a couple of miles the night before and his damp jeans chafed the insides of his thighs.
Ryan looked back toward Ryan who motioned for him to get a move on it.
Kelly nodded and picked up the pace, but he didn’t understand why Ryan couldn’t just drive him over.
Ryan watched Kelly jog and then walk and then jog and then stop and then start walking again before he began hiking back to his car.
They’d watched Rose come out of the house. She’d come out once and then gone back in, but she hadn’t brought out a suitcase or anything else that looked like it could hold a million dollars before speeding off like a crazed bat.
Ryan could only guess what she left behind –probably her lunch or some pregnant woman stuff. Maybe she needed to throw up. He really didn’t know. It didn’t matter all that much to him, so long as she was out of the house and on her way somewhere else –anywhere else.
She had to open the store, this morning. That much he knew for sure and given the way she was driving, Ryan thought she was probably late.
He didn’t know when the Shopaminit was supposed to open. Their hours were posted on the front of the building somewhere, he remembered, but Ryan had never paid attention to them. They were always open when he stopped in before work and they were generally still open by the time he locked the door at the Pizza Hut and started home.
Whatever. What was important was that Kelly would have as much time as he needed to search the house. They’d spent a couple of hours discussing where he should look –the obvious places first, of course. Rose might have hidden the suitcase under a couch or chair in the living room or maybe somewhere in the kitchen.
Actually, Ryan thought she probably would have chosen and easier place because he doubted Rose would be much for crawling around on the floor or climbing ladders.
“Just be thorough,” he told Kelly. “And then call me when you find it.”
Kelly had surprisingly gone along with everything Ryan said. He put up no fight at all, offered no other alternatives and seemed perfectly willing to subjugate his will to Ryan’s without much pressure.
He liked that in a henchman but doubted Kelly would make much of an employee. It’s probably a good thing that he’d tossed his application in the “Grins and Giggles” file. Ryan was required by company policy to hold on to every application for no less than six months and every now and again, Ryan went through the reject file to have a good laugh.
As he ambled along to the car, Ryan felt the call of nature and paused behind a tree to take care of the need. Afterwards, he zipped up, looked around and wondered why anyone so close to Charleston would want to live out in the boonies like this. He didn’t.
Ryan got to his car and cranked the engine to warm up the car. He and Kelly had been standing out in the woods for a couple of hours, waiting and watching the house.
He turned on the radio and caught an old Def Leppard tune and sang along with until it ended and became the morning weather report –partly sunny skies, but no rain expected.
As the engine continued to warm up and the rock station moved on to its next song, “November Rain” by Guns N Roses, Ryan got out of the car and walked toward the face of the store to take a look down the road. He’d seen more life at a cemetery. He shrugged, went back to his car and turned up the music.
Axl Rose sang how nothing lasts forever, “not even cold November rain.”
Rose’s car pulled up to the front of the house with a loud, sliding crunch and Kelly nearly wet himself. Ryan hadn’t called. There’d been no warning and he was standing on top of the kitchen counter with his hands fumbling through the greasy cobwebs above the cabinets.
“No, no, no, no,” he moaned, in horror.
Kelly tried to climb down as quickly as he could, but his foot got caught on the pile of dishes in the sink and he tumbled onto the dirty floor with a loud crash.
His ankle turned with the landing and he fell hard on his knees.
Kelly was barely up when Rose came through the door and screamed.
Guns N Roses was followed by a Journey song. Ryan had never been a fan, really. He barely considered Journey a rock band. They were more of a guitar-heavy pop band, whose only use was to get high school girls in the mood to make out, about 30 years ago.
He listened to a couple of bars and then decided it was a good time to go check the road again.
Ryan left the car, stretched and yawned by the door and then walked over to the edge of the building again.
He stood there for a couple of minutes, enough time to let the song finish, but not so much as a crow came down that road.
He went back to the car and sat down.
Rose screamed at the man crouched on the floor of her kitchen. It only took her a second for it to register that it was Kelly and he looked as terrified as she felt.
The baby kicked.
Rose wasn’t thinking. She didn’t ask questions. She just started yelling, “Get out. Get out now!”
Kelly began yelling back. None of it made sense.
Rose tried to back away, to get away, but then Kelly got to his feet and pulled out a gun.
Ryan hadn’t wanted him to bring the gun. He’d warned him against it, but then Kelly had said, “What if somebody else shows up to get the money? What if they’re armed?”
He needed to protect himself. He needed to have a way to get away.
He didn’t mean to point the gun at Rose. He pulled the gun out and pointed it at her. Then he started apologizing. The words just spilled out of his mouth.
“I’m sorry, Rose. I’m sorry. We didn’t think you’d be home. We don’t want to hurt you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Just tell me where the money is, and I’ll go.”
Rose only caught about half of what Kelly was saying. He was babbling about money, the money. He kept repeating it over and over. Somehow, he knew about what had happened last night.
“I don’t have the money,” she said. “I don’t have it.”
But he wasn’t listening. Kelly’s eyes were open wide. He was freaking out. The gun was shaking in his hands and he kept repeating, “I’m sorry, Rose. I’m really sorry. We didn’t think you’d be home. We just want the money. That’s all. Give it to me and I’ll go. I’m so sorry, Rose.”
Ryan got through Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” before he decided now would be a good time to check in with Ryan. By now, he ought to have a good lay of the land, he thought.
He pulled out his phone and called.
“Money?” Rose said, breathing hard and clutching her belly. “OK. I have money. It’s in my purse. Can I give you that?”
Kelly seemed confused.
She repeated, “I have money in my purse. Let me give you that.” She opened her purse and began digging around inside.
“No,” Kelly said, shaking his head. “That’s not.”
Kelly’s front pocket began to ring. He looked down. One of his hands fell toward his pocket, while the other, still holding the gun sagged a little.
Rose’s hand touched the butt of the gun she’d been given. Kelly wasn’t paying attention to her. She wasn’t thinking straight. She dropped her purse. It fell to the floor with a clatter.
Kelly had his phone out, which was still ringing, but was startled by the noise.
Rose charged him.