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“Days Like This” by Van Morrison crooned through the speaker system inside of Ellen’s Lexus as she pulled into a parking garage across the street from Denise’s dormitory building. She didn’t much care for this particular SUV.
She adored the Porsche Cayenne she had prior to leasing this Lexus, but Terry had grown tired of paying the rather expensive maintenance bills on it. The Cayenne did not drive noticeably better than the RX, Ellen had simply enjoyed the prestige factor of pulling into a Starbucks inside of a car that said “Porsche” on the front.
She thought about that Cayenne with a smirk on her face and figured that once Terry’s life insurance paid out she’d be able to drive any fucking car she wanted to. For now though, she needed to see her daughter.
Her calls to Denise’s cell phone on the ride from Darien to Storrs had gone unreturned and now Ellen, sitting in the driver’s seat with the car still running had some things to think about. What does one do to cover their tracks after committing a crime? Had she left any incriminating evidence?
The minutes following the crack to her husbands skull were a blur. She had rushed things. There was no question about that. But off the top of her head, she couldn’t think of anything that would immediately tell investigators to consider this case a domestic disturbance.
She popped a few Dots into her mouth and started the laborious process of chewing them into swallowable pieces.
Just last year, she had ripped out a crown on her back right molar eating this candy and her dentist, a man whom Terry often played tennis with and was quite fond of, had urged her to stop eating the things. This was a special circumstance, though. She kept an emergency box in the glove compartment of her car and it seemed like an indulgence of some kind was appropriate after having just committed premeditated murder.
Tucking a half-empty box of Dots safely into her purse, Ellen vacated the vehicle and began walking down the flight of stairs in the parking garage. It was a pleasant enough day outside. A light breeze with temperatures in the low 50s had Ellen sweating in a floral A-line Kate Spade jacket that really screamed, “I’m difficult.”
It was while Ellen stood at the crosswalk waiting for her turn to walk across the street that she saw a young man and woman sitting on the lawn outside of the building. The woman was smoking a cigarette and had her legs draped over the man’s legs. He was sitting cross-legged rubbing her feet and they appeared to be people watching, snickering amongst themselves when someone particularly gruesome would walk in their line of sight. That was most definitely Denise.
Now towering over the laughing duo, Ellen created a shadow over them, thus blocking the sun from view. Denise squinted up for a brief moment and hurriedly put out her cigarette in the grass.
“Hello, Dee,” Ellen said matter of factly. “And who might this be?”
Denise sprang up, now self-conscious of her breath which surely smelled of nicotine and the two beers she had been drinking upstairs earlier in the day. “Hi Mom, I was just about to call you back! This is Gitanas, he’s a friend from one of my classes. What are you doing here?”
Ellen cleared her throat, preparing to use a voice that she only used when talking to people she referred to as “the help.” She removed the sunglasses on her face, placing them in her purse slowly. She looked Gitanas up and down for what felt like hours. Next, she pulled the box of Dots out and extended them towards her daughter and the man with features which were quite clearly Eastern European.
They declined her offer, and after taking one for herself Ellen began chewing and said “Gitanas, it’s so very nice to meet you but I’m going to have to ask that you leave me with my daughter. Something important has come up and I’m afraid it’s a private matter.”
The boy nodded solemnly and sensing that a reply to this woman would only make the situation worse, began walking away. Denise told him that she’d text him later and stared at her mother disdainfully.
“Why do you have to be so rude to everyone? What the hell are you doing here? It’s a Monday mother I have class,” she snapped.
“I thought I’d pop in and take you to lunch, dear! Maybe go to Target and get you a few things for the dorm.”
“Mom, I really don’t have time for this.”
“I just drove two and a half hours to see you, honey. You are going to lunch with your mother and there’s really nothing more to be said on the matter. I don’t know where you got this catty attitude from but it’s really unbecoming. Seriously. Come on, anywhere you want! I’ve got some news about your father.”
Denise, with her shoulders now slumped looked like someone who had just been sentenced to the gallows. A mid-afternoon lunch date with her mother was lower on her list of things to do than going to her communications class that started in an hour. She unzipped her bookbag and located the pack of Marlboro 100s in the front pocket. Empty.
“Goddamnit,” she whispered under her breath.
Ellen turned away from Denise and started walking back towards the car with a smile on her face, her veneers glistening in the September sunlight.
She knew full well that her daughter was behind her. That little bitch should be grateful. She was doing her a favor telling her about all of this before police became involved.
In Ellen’s mind, the following conversation was going to go one of two ways – either Denise would play along and help her adoring mother craft a believable alibi, or Ellen would be forced to frame her only child for the crime.
The “L” insignia on her keychain was a painful reminder that she still drove a Lexus, and the thought of driving around in one was becoming more repulsive by the second. The faster that life insurance policy cashed in the sooner she’d be able to return the RX and get another Cayenne. Or maybe a G-Wagon. The possibilities were endless. .