By Andrew Gettings
Mel was good. She had brown hair. She did girl's track. She had no piercings except for one in each earlobe, which were only ever adorned with conservative studs. Mel didn't listen to rap music, she liked country. She was always home by eleven and she always had her schoolwork in on time. Mel never had any stories to tell at camp or fingers to put up when playing "never have I ever".
It was a few days after Mel's birthday when she told her little brother Ian that he'd have to walk home from school. She told him she had stay after school and work on the yearbook. Mel didn't like to lie to her brother, it made her feel like a mean older sister, which she wasn't.
That day after school Mel hurried to her car and drove out of the student parking lot. She was careful to not be seen by her brother or anyone who might stop her and ask for a ride. She needed to be alone.
Mel drove for fifteen minutes before pulling into a gas station in the next town. She got out of the car, her palms were damp and her breath was short. A cold winter breeze pushed Mel forward as she walked into the store and swallowed her nerves. She was going to be fine.
She walked up to the counter and surveyed the array of cartons behind the cashier.
She cleared her throat.
"Can I have," she played with her car keys, "can I have a pack of Newports please?"
Mel was afraid to look up as the man turned around to get the little box she had requested.
"Can I see your ID young lady?", the cashier softly placed the carton on the counter.
"Here." Mel slid her license out of her paisley wallet. She could hear her heartbeat.
"Alright is that all?" The man's finger levitated above the cash register.
"Yes." Mel handed him a ten and said, "You can keep the change." He thanked her as she walked briskly to her car, not looking back.
Mel turned the key and pulled out of the small lot. She drove for what felt like hours, just going in circles, stalling. She was excited but terrified at the same time.
Finally when she was ready and she took a left into the North Point Beach parking lot. She could hear her tires grind against the sand and the asphalt.
In the summer this lot would be full of beachgoer's cars but now it was empty. No Ice-cream truck jingle. No seagulls squawking overhead. The lot was silent.
Mel rolled down her windows. She took a deep breath.
Mel opened her cigarettes as quietly as possible, and took one out. She turned it over a few times in her clammy hands, checking for imperfections.
She reached to her right and opened the glove compartment. The day before she had hidden her family's long fireplace matches in there.
She put the cigarette in her mouth. It felt dry. She lit a match, held the flame to the end of her cigarette and inhaled. Flames licked up the sides and her mouth felt warm. She took the cigarette out of her mouth and coughed, then she inhaled again. It tasted like cigarettes smell. Mel didn't like it but she continued.
Smoke swirled out the windows. The smell was strong and unpleasant.
She started to feel a little weird, but not bad. Why not bad? This is bad, she thought, but she didn't feel that way. She was frustrated. Angry. Her plan had failed, she was still Melissa Greene. A good girl. She wanted to cry, to scream.
She looked into the faint glow at the end of the cigarette and, without thinking; she quickly put it out on the underside of her forearm.