Writing by Kyle Freelander
If I could do it all over again, I probably would have picked out my new hair color before I faked my own death. That way, I could just dye my hair right after instead of having to sneak into stores with every inch of me covered as if that would keep people from staring. If I looked half as ridiculous as I felt, I couldn’t blame them. I just took comfort in the fact that there was no way anyone would recognize me as the woman on the news whose car was found abandoned in the lake –the woman whose body they were still looking for. My chin wasn’t distinct enough for recognition and my wooly black hat and pink-framed sunglasses would keep them from getting a good look at any of my more recognizable features. That’s at least what I told myself in an attempt to steady my breathing as I snatched up the last box of black dye and headed to the counter.
I handed exact change to the cashier who was too distracted by my shaking hands to realize that I was the woman on the tiny TV screen next to him. “Have a nice day,” he said as I grabbed the box off of the counter.
I tried to express my thanks in a smile but my lips just formed a straight line. I hurried out of there, stopping only to shove the box into the pocket of my red sweat pants. I don’t know why I chose red sweat pants as the outfit that I wanted to run away in. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I was trying as hard as I could to differentiate myself from the Prada wearing redhead on the screen and these sweats seemed to be the way to do just that. Now I wondered if I was drawing too much attention to myself. Maybe my wardrobe would lead to my demise. Or at least my second demise. Either way, my current outfit had the potential to ruin everything.
“Miss! Excuse me, miss! Wait!”
Someone must have figured out who I am. Run. No. They’re probably not even talking to me. Run anyway. No, just turn around. Act like nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all. I could hear the footsteps pounding on the pavement as the voice made its way closer to me. It was too late now. I had to talk to him.
I took a deep breath and turned around just as a man came to a stop in front of me. He glanced down at his hand before extending his arm towards me with a closed fist. “You dropped this, Emily.”
I took a step back. How did this man know my name? Was this the end of everything? Would I have to return to my house, to my life, to my husband? I couldn’t go back there. I just couldn’t. The man bounced his fist in the air and I knew he wasn’t going to leave until I had taken the object from him. I held out my open hand and a warm chain was dropped into my palm. Now I knew exactly how he knew my name.
I stared at the silver bracelet, taking in the engraving I had forgotten about over the years: I love you, Emily. It had been a long time since I had seen those words paired with my name. I almost hadn’t brought the bracelet with me at all. I was going to leave it in my car at the lake where it would sink like the rest of my past. I changed my mind at the last minute though. If times got tough down the road, I would be able to pawn it somewhere. If I could build a better life for myself, as I hoped to do, I would always have this bracelet as a reminder of what I had overcome.
A tear rolled down my cheek and I reached up to wipe it away. I was never one to cry in front of strangers and even this shell of who I was as I waited to form my new identity wasn’t pleased with the idea of crying in public. I ran my fingers swiftly across my cheek, grazing my sunglasses enough to knock them off of my face. The man picked the pink plastic up off the ground, handing the glasses back to me.
“Hey, you look a lot like that woman on the news. The one who died in that accident at the lake.”
“Well, I’m not her,” I said, snatching the sunglasses from him. I tried to compose myself, but the man continued.
“Her name was Emily, too.” He stared at me and I could tell that he was putting together the pieces in his mind. Any minute, he would have all the proof he needed to inform the world that I was very much alive. It wouldn’t even be the sweatpants that did me in. The bracelet would be to blame.
“Thanks for all your help,” I said, putting the sunglasses back on. Before he could say anything else, I turned around and ran. I couldn’t let my past ruin my future.
I kept running, expecting any moment to hear the man’s voice crying out that I was alive. Any moment I would be stopped and taken back to the very place I was trying to avoid. That didn’t happen though. My name was not uttered by anyone as I ran into a 7-11. I headed straight to the bathroom and locked the door. No one would expect to find someone like me in a place like this.
A few hours later, I was ready to leave. I took one last look in the mirror and made eye contact with someone even I didn’t recognize. I grabbed my belongings off the ground, shoving my remaining cash in the pockets of my new jeans with the bracelet, and left to start my new life. The door slammed behind me as I left my disguise in a pile on the floor with the pink sunglasses perched on top like a cherry on a sundae. Every thud of my boots on the tile seemed to say the same thing: Emily is dead. Emily is dead. Emily is dead.
I smiled and kept walking.
Emily is dead.