Until The Day I Die

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Randy and his best friend Lucas made a promise to each other years ago. But Randy never imagined that a childhood pact could turn deadly. Written for my Workshop in Fiction class.

Submitted: October 21, 2012

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Submitted: October 21, 2012

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I met Lucas Jenkins when he and I were just five years old. He was white and I was black, but none of it mattered in our Pennsylvania town. His parents were so nice to me. They would let me sleep over whenever Lucas asked me to, and vice versa.  By the time we reached ten years of age, growing up in the middle of the Great Depression, we did everything together. Then came a day that will forever live in the back of my mind.

Fall arrived in a gust of chilly wind. Everything was about to change. Only, I didn’t know it then. In the tree house that my dad built, we played all kinds of games. Lucas and I spent nearly all of our time out there during those days. It wasn’t much, but it provided a little home away from my dingy shack of a home. In here, I could forget how bad things really were for us. After a tough round of “Go Fish” one afternoon, Lucas put down his cards.

“Randy, you wanna do something cool?” he asked in a mischievous voice.

“Depends on what it is,” I said.  

“Let’s make a friendship pact.” A pile of leaves flew through the tree house window.

“All right.”

We clasped our hands together in oath, and Lucas cleared his throat.  “Okay, repeat after me: I, Randy Powell, will be a faithful friend to Lucas Jenkins.”

“I, Randy Powell, will be a faithful friend to Lucas Jenkins.”

“I promise to never leave him in times of trouble.”

“I promise to never leave him in times of trouble,” I echoed.

“I promise to resolve every fight we may have.”

“I promise to resolve every fight we may have.”

“And I promise to do whatever he tells me.”

This sounded kind of like slavery at the time. But, like a fool, I kept going: “And I promise to do whatever he tells me.”

“Until the day I die.”

“Until the day I die.”

I never should have made that stupid pact.

-Fifteen years later-

So many things have happened since Lucas and I became friends. We graduated from high school; he went on to graduate from a major university, while I went straight into the work force (my parents didn’t see the point of college). I got married. Not to just anyone, but Violet Jenkins, Lucas’ younger sister. Yeah. It’s just a happy coincidence that I fell in love with her. Lucas was the best man, of course. To all of us, love knows no skin color.  

It’s been a month since our wedding, and I just had one heck of a day in the factory. I walk into our small apartment kitchen to the smell of a newly-baked yellow cake. Today happens to be my twenty-fifth birthday. My grandma’s tiny old radio sits next to Violet, blasting a jazz tune by Charlie Parker.  

“Hey baby,” Violet says while spreading vanilla frosting on my cake, wearing a bright red apron over her dress. She makes the best cake. “Have a good day?”

 I shrug. “Could’ve been worse, but you always know how to make me feel better,” I say, smiling widely. I lean in to kiss her cheek. Ringlets of her blonde hair fall on my face, in that seductive way that attracted me to her so long ago. I twirl one of her locks around my finger. “I guess it’s a good thing Lucas isn’t here yet.”

“Easy there, tiger,” she teases. “We’ll have time for that later. You sit down and rest.”

Just as I make myself comfortable at our little dining table, I hear a series of knocks on our door. I stand up, but Violet pushes me back into the chair.

“I’ve got this, Randy,” she insists.  

 Lucas waits on the other side of the door. Hey, there’s my lovely sister.” He puts his arms around Violet, who hugs him tightly.

“So glad you could come, Lucas,” she says. “I missed you.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

She puts a hand on her hips. “Has, too! You haven’t called me in three weeks.”

“Sorry. I just get so carried away with work. I barely have any free time.” Lucas turns to me. “Hey, Randy! Happy birthday!”

He marches towards the table, and we shake hands enthusiastically.

“You up for a martini?” I ask him.

“Hit me!” Lucas can’t say no to a good drink. He drinks so much that I worry about him. I know better than to get up in his face about it, though. I mean, nobody’s perfect.

 “Martinis, coming up,” Violet says, rummaging through our refrigerator for the ingredients and grabbing three glasses from the cupboard.  

The three of us talk and talk over dinner. It’s like we haven’t spoken in years. I’m telling you, Violet and Randy are the greatest family anyone could ask for. We always have a good time.  

“I’ve gotta go outside for a smoke,” I say when we’re done eating. Violet forced me to follow this rule, ‘cause she doesn’t want our place smelling like crap. Anything to keep her happy.  Besides, I like the calm of the outdoors. I slip on my old high school letter jacket and head to my special place behind a tree in the front yard. It’s cold as ice, but my addiction wins every time.

 I haven’t been smoking for long when a female scream cuts through the frigid air like a bullet from a gun. This isn’t some dainty scream. It’s a plea:

“NO! Randy! Help me!”

I know that voice. It’s coming from around the corner. My legs can’t run to her fast enough. I bolt in the direction of her screams, stopping at our little deck. I fling my cigarette to the snow-covered ground. By now, the screaming has stopped.

Then I see Violet, my sweet Violet, laying on the ground with a few stab wounds pouring blood out of her chest. She’s already pale as death. I go into a kind of shock that only people who have lost the love of their life would know. Standing over her, bloody knife in hand… is Lucas. When he sees me, he presses a hand to his forehead.

Somehow, I manage to get out the words, “You? You would kill your own sister?”

“I would, if it means that she’s not married to you.”  

I can’t even comprehend this. “You never said that you hated us being together.”

“Well, I was trying to be a good friend and accept your relationship. But the minute you told me that you were engaged, I couldn’t stand it.”

“Why?”

Lucas ruffles his curly mane of hair, just as blonde as Violet’s was. “You’re intelligent enough, Powell. You tell me.” Powell. He’s never called me by my last name. He only does that when he really dislikes someone.  

A pang of disgust hits me hard in the stomach. “Lucas, are you saying that you didn’t want me marrying Violet because of my skin color?”

“Bingo!” he exclaims with a snap of his finger. “I kept dropping hints to her: ‘Why don’t you get to know some of the nice men at church?’ or ‘How do you know Randy won’t try to hurt you?’ But of course, she didn’t listen. I had to do something to teach you both a lesson.” 

His words leave me speechless for a moment. How could I have not picked up on this earlier? I’ve been his naïve slave from the moment we made the pact. These days, we’re just enslaved differently than before.

“If I’m so bad,” I demand, “then how come you’ve been my friend for nearly twenty years?”

“I actually thought you were cool for the first few years. My eyes opened up by the time I turned thirteen.  I was walking home from school one day, when a Negro boy, who I’d never met before, came up to me. Then he started beating me up out of nowhere! You should’ve seen the nasty bruises. Dad made me cover them up so you couldn’t see them. Since then, I’ve never thought of Negroes in the same way.”

I roll my eyes. “Come on, Lucas. You know we’re not all like that. Violet was everything to me, and you just took her out of the world like she was nothing! Hey, I get that you were angry with us. But murder? How could you stoop so low?”

“I always get the urge to kill when feel like this.” It doesn’t sound like Lucas at all. This is a whole new side to him that he’s kept from me. He takes a deep breath. “Randy, I’ve never told you, but… I’m manic-depressive. Every day’s a struggle for me. Some days, I’m happy as a cloud. Other days, I just want to die or hurt someone. It magnifies my feelings to extreme heights. Mom made me take meds after a while, but they don’t work sometimes. I led Violet out here for a talk, and before I knew what I was doing, I stabbed her.

“Now, listen up: I’m calling the cops. When they get here, I doubt they’ll even look twice at me, because I’m the poor, brokenhearted white brother of the victim. You, on the other hand, are her poor, brokenhearted Negro husband. So who do you think they’ll want to arrest more?”

Me. He wants me to take the blame for something I didn’t do. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Like I said, they’ll immediately point a finger at you, anyways,” he reasons, handing me the knife. “I’ll need to trade clothes with you, too. We have to make this convincing.” I’d question this last request, but unluckily for me, we’re the same size.

 I can’t bear to look at him. All I can stare at is the blade in my hand. That’s Violet’s blood!  “No… I can’t…”

“Why not? You don’t understand what’s going through my head right now! I. Killed. My. Sister! Nobody would look at me the same if they found out!” Tears are streaming down his face. Then he suddenly grows calm. “Even though I’ve never trusted you, I kept telling myself that I could use the pact to my advantage sometime. You do this, and I’ll let you live.” Lucas says it like he’s reading me a grocery store list. His baby blue eyes show no trace of compassion or friendliness.  They might as well be black coals. “Otherwise,” he adds, “you’re breaking the pact.” With that, he pushes me indoors.

Fear paralyzes me as sit in my bedroom, putting on his ruined shirt and pants. Nearly every inch of them is stained with red. What am I supposed to do? Violet and I were together for three years, but I’ve been friends with Lucas for much longer. I can’t let him down. What’s more, he’s mentally ill. I don’t want to send him to jail for something he didn’t mean to do. How’d I get stuck in such a rut? My legs feeling numb, I grab Lucas’ knife and return to the scene of his crime.  

Three police cars arrive with sirens blaring.  Lucas runs out in his new clothes, ready to play the witness. He gives me a look that says, it’s show time.

I have no choice but to burst into hysterical sobs, shaking my hands as if I can’t believe what I’ve done. “Violet. I’m so sorry…

The cops go to examine Violet’s body. One of them hangs behind, staring at me.

“Randall Powell,” he says, “we received a call. You are under arrest for the murder of Violet Powell. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.” I let him handcuff me without another word.  

Needless to say, this is the worst birthday ever.

-Six months later-

“We, the jury, find the defendant, Randall Powell, guilty of murder in the first degree.” As if I didn’t see this coming. Even though I tried to say it was an accident, everything incriminated me: the fact that I was Violet’s husband, my fingerprints on the knife… oh, and my status as a Negro.  Like that should even matter. I swear; this society gets dumber by the day.

Sitting in my cell gives me time to think. Why didn’t I push Lucas out of my life when I had the chance? Maybe then, I wouldn’t be here, and Violet would be alive. I’ve had enough of this. I need to release myself from Lucas’ grasp. To rid me of the man who ruined my life. And I’ll do it at any cost.

Luckily, this cell has a small window. I pick at the screws with my nails over the next few days, little by little, so the guards don’t notice what I’m up to. I could care less about the blood that lines the tips of my fingers. Finally, the screws loosen to the point where I can yank the bars off.  I can’t help but be surprised. This prison isn't as secure as they claim to be. I slip off the orange suit, leaving me with my undergarments. Good thing it’s summer. Nobody will question me in an undershirt and boxers. Lucas’ house isn’t too far from here. But first, I stop by home to change clothes. Sunglasses on, I set off to see my old friend.

Lucas greets me at his porch. He flashes his goofy smile, the one I know so well. “What’s up, pal? I didn’t think you’d be smart enough to escape.”

“You can cut it with the ‘pal’ talk, Lucas,” I spit. “I’m turning you in to the cops.”

His face breaks into a panic. He looks scared out of his pants. As he should be. “But the pact…”

“After what you’ve put me through, you think I care about something I said a long time ago? I ain’t gonna be your puppet anymore.”

“Please,” he scoffs. “Even without it, you still don’t have the guts to rat me out.”

“You’re right. I don’t.” I pull out my gun, and with a shot, he plummets onto the pavement.  

Now I can return to the prison in peace.


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