The day I killed my brother’s girlfriend started with me handpicking leaves off our front lawn.
“Did you lose an earring, Anna?” Mrs. Caldwell called. She was wearing navy blue sweats with racing stripes up the sides.
“Um,” I called back. “Yeah.” She stepped onto our brick pathway, probably to help me look.
“Oh,” I said, loud, before Mrs. Caldwell could get too close. “Got it.” I held my hand high in the air, as if I was showing her something I’d found. She nodded and then turned around right as my brother, Jack, backed the Honda out of our garage, music blasting.
“You want to help?” I called. I mean, he could have helped.
“Nope.” He let the car roll slowly backward. “Sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry. But still. I guess I wouldn’t have helped either. He cranked the music up even louder.
“What is that?” I shouted. He’s always listening to bands nobody’s ever heard of.
“Barking Duck.” Which is what it sounded like.
“Do you like it?” he asked, turning the volume down.
“Very funny,” I said. “And don’t forget, I have the Honda tonight.
“You won’t need it if you don’t finish the lawn.”
And then he left me there, picking up crunchy brown leaves the size of hair clips. Picking them up one by one, and dropping them into a plastic grocery bag. Exactly the way my father had insisted. Not raking, because that might damage the grass. Not leaf blowing, because the noise was too loud and the gas smelled. Not watching some crew, because why should my father hire other people to do his lawn work when he had two perfectly able-bodied teenagers?
My mom poked her head out our front door, holding my cell phone. Damn. I thought I had it clipped to my back pocket. “It just rang.” She had the top flipped up. “I think it was Ellen.”
I blew a big breath of air and straightened.
“Do you want company?” She has a bad back, so it went without saying that she wasn’t going to help.
“No, I don’t want company.” I snapped. “I want not to do this.”
“Is it such a big deal?” My mom handed me the cell.
“It’s ridiculous, Mom.” I put a lot of emphasis on the dic of ridiculous.
“Well,” she said. Then she went back into the house.
I picked up two more leaves and dropped them with the others. And then something weird happened. I didn’t plan it. I hadn’t even been thinking about it. But all of a sudden I opened the plastic grocery bag, turned it upside down, and dragged it through the air. I watched the leaves scatter sideways and then spiral downward toward the wispy blades peeking up from where my father had made Jack sprinkle seed last weekend. How do they say it? In one fell swoop. Well, in one fell swoop I dumped out all those leaves I’d been so stupidly gathering up. Just dumped them right out.
I remember that moment as clear as the accident. Sometimes clearer. Who knows why.