Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence and mature content.
A/N: This is based off a strangely vivid dream that I had last night and am writing down in hopes of it helping to get it off my mind. Trigger warning, there is a school shooting that might be disturbing to some readers.
Jeanne was draped across the couch, one arm dangling down to brush the shaggy rug beneath her as she listened. There was the gentle hum of a fan oscillating too-warm air across the room, the soft whisper of each breath she drew and released, and of course the sound of her sister’s voice. Jane was sitting in the recliner opposite her, happily rattling on about her upcoming wedding.
“And of course, you can make the cake.”
The words hung in the air for several long, tense moments. Jeanne was silent, unwilling to register that the words were directed towards her. Of course she couldn’t make the cake – that was an absurd notion.
“Well, will you, Jeanne?”
“You want me to make the cake?” Jeanne asked incredulously, pushing herself up on one elbow to fix her sister in a skeptical glare. Jane’s hair was cropped short and bleached blonde, body slender and muscular, and eyes sincere as she stared back at Jeanne.
Jeanne blinked once, twice, trying to process the information. She couldn’t do what her sister asked. She didn’t know the first thing about wedding cakes and wasn’t about to set herself and her sister up for public humiliation on a failed attempt. “I can’t make wedding cakes.”
“Sure you can. You make such delicious things all the time.”
“Well… yeah, I guess, but that’s stuff like brownies and cookies. Easy stuff. I can’t decorate a wedding cake.”
“Oh, won’t you try? For me?”
“Why don’t you hire a professional?” Jeanne furrowed her brow, pushing herself the rest of the way up to a sitting position. Jane was still perched easily on the recliner, gaze unwavering.
“I don’t want a professional. I want my sister. It’ll mean so much more knowing that you’re the one who made it for me.”
“But why not Lynne? She’s twice the cake decorator I’ll ever dream of being.”
“Jeanne…” Jane worried her bottom lip. “Please?”
Jeanne took a deep breath, then slowly sighed. It was a bad idea. No amount of pleading or pouting would change the fact that it was a bad idea. And yet, it was clearly what her sister wanted – and who was she to deny her sister’s wishes for her wedding day? She grunted. “Fine.”
“Yay!” Jane sprang up and hurried around the coffee table separating them to throw her arms around her sister in an excited hug. “You’ll do great! I know it! Thank you!”
“I got to get going,” Jane said, straightening her back and taking several steps towards the door. “I’m scheduled to meet with the photographer later this afternoon, and I’m sure you’ve got lots of things to think about now. Bye!”
“Bye,” Jeanne said, walking her sister to the door then closing it firmly behind her. She’d gone insane. That was the only explanation for such a bizarre request. Either Jane was insane to ask for it, or Jeanne was insane for having heard it. There was no chance two sane people would agree to such a foolhardy plan.
Jeanne pulled her cellphone from her jean’s pockets and quickly dialed her oldest sister’s number. Lynne had been decorating cakes for many years, and produced beautiful cakes that people often mistook for professionally made specimens. Jeanne just added a bunch of chocolate chips to places recipes didn’t call for.
“Hey! How’s it going, Jeanne?”
“Okay, I guess,” she answered. “Have you talked to Jane recently?”
“No? Why? What’s going on?”
“She’s lost her bloody mind,” Jeanne complained. “She wants me to make her wedding cake.”
“You? That’s weird…” Lynne said. “I’m the one with all the cake decorating equipment.”
“I know!” She sighed dramatically. “I tried to get her to ask you, but she’s set on it being me for some reason.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll help! You can come over to my house when you’re ready and we can do a practice run. You free this afternoon?”
“Yeah, I am, actually,” Jeanne said, glancing at the clock. It was barely past lunch time – there was still plenty of the day left to learn how to decorate cakes. “You home now?”
“I will be in like half an hour.”
“Okay, that’s perfect! I’ll stop by the library to see what sorts of cake decorating books they have, then come on over.”
“Great! See you then!”
Jeanne hung up her phone and slid it back into her pocket. She made a quick lap around her little apartment to grab the things she’d need for an afternoon out. She grabbed her keys, pulled on a tee shirt over the tank top she currently wore, and threw her phone charger in her small purse for good measure before walking outside.
Her phone buzzed again as she was locking the door. She looked down to see a text from one of her best friends, Marie. “Hey, wut r u doing?”
“Nm,” Jeanne texted back. “Going to stop by the school’s library to see if they have any books on cake decorating, then going to my sister’s. You?”
“Nothing, just bored,” Marie answered. “I’m going to the library later too. Why do you need a cake decorating book?”
“Long story. I’ll tell you later. Driving now.”
Jeanne tossed her phone in the passenger’s seat as she got to her car and slid the keys into the ignition. She sped along the road to the school that sat squarely between her and her sister’s apartments. It was a combined middle and high school, built in the past few years, with a sizeable library that the public could use during hours students were in class.
Jeanne pulled into the parking lot just off the library, grumbling about how far away she had to park. The parking lot was long and narrow, and most of the spots closest to the building were filled with vans for the sports teams.
She pushed open the outside door and walked up to the receptionist desk, flaunting the badge she’d earned after a thorough background check and a fifteen-page application to receive her library privileges. The receptionist tiredly pointed towards the sign in sheet, then reached under her desk to buzz Jeanne to the inner sanctum of the library.
Jeanne shoved her badge back into her pants pocket and wandered inside. She meandered down the aisles of books, pretending to know where she should be looking for the books that she wanted. She didn’t have a clue. She’d never looked for this type of a book before, and she doubted that cake decorating would be kept near the science fiction – surely, she would’ve accidently stumbled across it by now, if it was that near.
Jeanne reached down to check the time on her phone, only to realize she’d forgotten it in her car. She grumbled under her breath and kept walking. By the time she finally found the right section, nearly a quarter of an hour had passed – and it only rewarded her with a single, beaten, paperback book geared towards beginners.
She set it on a nearby table and decided to find a restroom before she checked out the book and continued with the rest of her afternoon. She walked through the door opposite the one she’d entered through and cut straight across the hall to the girls’ locker room. A gym class was just letting out, and a multitude of sweaty girls were pouring in through the door a little further down the hall.
Jeanne slipped into the closest stall and did her best to ignore the chattering of the high school girls around her as she did her business. She walked to the sink across from the stall and began thoroughly scrubbing her hands, focusing on the lather of soap forming between her fingers. She rinsed every bit down the drain and then got a paper towel and set to drying her hands as meticulously as she’d washed them.
The shrieking of the girls came as a shock to Jeanne. She cringed at the sound and looked around in confusion as she heard pop pop pop – one loud bang after another. Her eyes got wide in horror as they landed on the girl sprawled across the floor, just inside the door all the other students had poured in through.
She was lying on the cold tile, eyes rolled back in her head, towel still half-wrapped around her and becoming more soaked as crimson blood spilled from the prominent wounds on her back. Jeanne yanked her eyes from the girl just in time to see the gunman entering the room.
He strode in cockily, with the swagger of a man who knows he has nothing to fear from the sheep he is about to slaughter. He was thin and tall, his arms pale but muscular and exposed under the black tank top he wore. His hair was blond and sticking out wildly in all directions, mustache short but repulsive, and eyes crazed he soaked up the terror his presence caused.
He waved the black AR he held once, sending girls shrieking and diving onto the ground to get clear of his line of sight. He cackled like the madman that he was and trained his sights on another girl. Bang. She crumpled to the ground. Bang. Bang. Bang.
Jeanne could feel her heart racing in the pit of her stomach – a worse fluttering than butterflies could ever hope to achieve. She felt sick, and outraged, and terrified at the same time. But mostly she felt the urge to run. Her flight or fight response had caught up – no longer was she stuck staring in a dumbstruck silence. Her adrenaline urged her to run away, to protect herself.
She whirled around and dashed for the door she’d entered through. Tiles from the wall just beside her head shattered and fell to the ground as bullets struck them. She thrust both arms out ahead of her and burst through the door, running as hard as she could.
“You can run! But you can’t hide!”
His voice chilled her to the very core, sending a shiver down her spine as she sprinted across the hall and to the library. She tore down the middle aisle, desperately longing for the freedom of the parking lot. Her hopes seemed to shatter like the tiles in the bathroom, as shots echoed down the hallway just before she heard the library door burst open.
She cut down the first aisle to her left, heart pounding even faster than her feet were willing to carry her. She could hear the man in his large boots clomping down the aisle, casually firing at the other patrons in the library as he approached. She pressed her back against the end of a bookshelf, hidden – she hoped – from the eyes of anyone at the middle aisle.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are.” His voice was taunting and sing-song as he called out to her. “I just want to shoot you.”