Brenda folds her hands on the desk. This is the hard part to tell. The pressure ring around my throat tightens, and I look at the door. If I tell her, what will she do? What good will it do? But I want her to know why I can’t live with Angela…with Wade. But if he knows I know, if any of this gets out…
“Do you want some water?”
Her voice snaps me back. “No. I’m okay.” I straighten in the chair, both feet planted on the floor. My fingers entwine, pressing together. “I kept listening, hidden behind a half wall of the manure bin, looking through the cracks in the boards. Wade didn’t act surprised. He didn’t say he misunderstood or he was sorry. He didn’t make up any excuse. His face was swollen now and one eye was turning dark. Penny asked why he did it. Wade sneered. ‘Someone’s got to pay,’ was all he said. He turned his back on her, rummaging around in his truck, pulling out the drawers that hold all the meds and stuff. Penny moved around to get next to him. She looked up into his face, and I saw she was really angry. ‘You don’t care that you killed an innocent animal?’ I heard her ask him. Some other stuff, too, then she said she was going to report it. She started to walk off, and he grabbed her arm and spun her around. He had something in his hand. Penny yelled, ‘Hey, get off me,’ but he pushed her up against the truck. I couldn’t see around him, but when he moved out of the way, he had a needle in his hand. Penny started to slide down to the ground. He grabbed her, pulled open the passenger door, and shoved her in. He had to swing her legs around before he closed the door. He took a look around, probably to check if anyone saw him, then calmly closed up the back of the truck, walked around to the driver’s side, and got in. Penny was slumped with her face pressed against the glass, her eyes closed.”
“He drugged her? Because she threatened him?”
I nod. My face is wet and my nose is running.
Brenda pushes a box of Kleenex to the edge of her desk. I tear out a wad and press them against my nose, eyes. She gets up and leaves, but comes right back with a little plastic cup of water. The sip feels like a cold bullet burning down my throat and hitting the bottom of my empty stomach.
Her hand lands on my shoulder. “Are you okay, dear?” The hand is quickly removed, and for once I wish she’d put it back. I look over my shoulder at her and try a smile. Pretty weak effort, but she smiles back. She lowers herself into the chair behind her desk again. A dark expression passes over her face before she asks, “What happened to Penny?”
A sound like air escaping from a balloon echoes around the room, and I realize it’s me. Another squealing sob escapes before I cover my mouth with the wad of Kleenex. I can’t stop shaking my head no, no, no, no. I feel rather than see Brenda move to get up as the words burst out. “She disappeared. No one saw her again!”
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