a Women Writer's' Showcase
by Jessica Del Balzo

“I remember you,” Claire says, staring into the steaming carton of Chinese food. “It’s been awhile.”

Tessa comes over to see and asks, “So you found him?”

“Absolutely. Just look.”

Tessa leans down and breathes in the scent. Claire was right. It’s him, at long last. She hasn’t seen her big sis this happy since the day the little bloodsucker OD’d.

Matt Brother was his name. For a five-foot-ten twig-boy with dork-chic glasses and a drug addiction, he seemed pretty tame. “Seemed” being the operative word. However, he was a genius. the guy did manage to create “Drop Dead, Gorgeous,” his very own twisted little computer game.

Well, that was all before he was a piece of meat, anyway. But here he is now, a skinny, slimy, slippery little three-inch-long slab of beef.

His new name is Dwayne. He’s limp and chewy as the pieces of broccoli he’s hanging out with. He tastes like them when you lick him. He smells like them. Not too different from the way things were when he was human.

That’s what Claire says, anyway, as she pokes Dwayne with a splintery chopstick for emphasis. If he feels anything, he’s not showing it.

“He always just acted like whoever he was around. And after while he was always around them.”

Tessa’s heard it all before.

The once-sweet boyfriend-with-an-edge gives up his vices to prove to Claire that he can and then blames her and goes nuts on her. Starts hanging out with all his old drug-dealer friends. Then the madness begins-parties, lies, cheating, abuse... Blah, blah, blah. Claire feels trapped and doesn’t leave.

Then he dies in a bathroom at the theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Supposedly it was the O’Henry bar that found him. Claire and Tessa drive for hours and listen to all the CD’s he left in Claire’s car and forgot about. They drink coffee and eat ice cream and pass “landmarks” while laughing, hair blowing in the electric-blue air of summer evenings. Completely forget about what went on in that car they’re in.

But it’s really very sad. Oh, Claire. She’s had a bit of a delayed reaction. It’s been several months now but it’s really just the last month that she’s been this way. Her eyes are even more cynical than they used to be. These days, everything she says has a shadow. Even her smile has places for hurt to hide.

“I know he’ll find a way to come back, just to piss me off,” she’s been saying. “It’s so like him, that Taurus. Stubborn as hell.”

“What should we do with him now?” Tessa asks. It’s a good question.

“You know, you’re right. I’d been expecting a skunk or a spider or some disease-carrying rodent-thing, but I’m not quite sure what to make of this.”

“Do you want to eat him?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe we should put him in the fridge and then see how we feel on Tuesday. This stuff keeps a couple days, right?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Claire turns the corners of her mouth up in a brief smile and closes the carton. She carries it slowly to the refrigerator and gently places it on a shelf, next to a devastatingly glowing jar of Maraschino cherries.

“I just want to make sure you get what you deserve,” she whispers as she closes the door. “I’d leave the light on for you, but it just doesn’t work that way anymore.”

My name is Jessica Del Balzo. I am currently a senior at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey. I have been published in my school’s literary magazine, Loch and Quay. The summer of 2003 I attended the New Jersey Governor’s School of the Arts. My work has also appeared in an anthology recently put out by the Live Poets Society of New Jersey. Contact Jessica