A Heart So Pure
by Shannon Fay
Eddie tapped the ash of his cigarette into an empty Pepsi can and, through a cloud of cigarette smoke and the grimy windshield, watched Lily Snow leave the community center. Lily Snow, winner of the Georgia Princess Beauty Crown and runner-up in the Miss Georgia Gardenia pageant. Lily Snow. Snow Lily. It was a good name for a beauty queen. Her parents had chosen well.
She was with two friends but to Eddie’s relief they said their goodbyes and parted ways. The two friends took off in a silver Audi while Lily walked deeper into the parking lot towards her Jeep.
Even wearing an old tank top and jeans she was stunning. Her near-black hair shone in the afternoon sunlight and her skin was a perfect brown tan. Eddie wouldn’t have been surprised if Lily had a black granddaddy somewhere in her family line. It was also, he suspected, why she had only taken second place in the Georgia Gardenia pageant. A good 99% of the winners were blond, blue-eyed debutantes. Forget about having a black president: as far as Eddie was concerned, the real barometric for race relations in America was whether a black girl had a chance at being the Georgia Gardenia.
Eddie thought of how she had looked on TV, swathed in yellow gauze and glitter on her face. Watching hours upon hours of beauty pageants had inured Eddie to poufy gowns and styled hair. Personally, he thought she looked better now.
“I don’t see why you girls go to so much trouble,” he said to Regina one day. “I like the natural look myself.”
“Oh honey,” Regina said. She was in the trailer’s bathroom, putting on eyeliner. “You don’t know how much work that natural look takes.”
But Lily didn’t look as though she had just spent hours touching up her make-up. Eddie watched her in his rearview mirror. She was at her jeep, hands on her hips and head cocked, eyes no doubt zeroed in on her slashed back-wheel. Lily took out her cell phone.
Eddie scanned the parking lot. They were alone. He took a deep breath and got out of the car.
At first he had tried to compromise with Regina: did he have to kill the girls? Couldn’t he just, say, throw acid in their face and maim them a bit? Regina didn’t say anything at first, just kept her eyes on the TV while she filed her nails. Thanks to an illegal satellite dish they had over two hundred channels, but Regina only ever watched The Mirror Network. Its mainstay was broadcasting local beauty pageants. Regina would watch as the young beauty queens glided across the stage, their taffeta and sequins moving around them like a dream. Regina used to be up there. Several crowns in several states: she wasn’t just a beauty queen but an empress. Fifteen years later she was still beautiful, but it was a kind of maintained beauty rather than the loveliness that came with youth.
Finally during a commercial break she told Eddie that if he loved her, he would hunt down these pretenders to her throne and bring back their hearts.
Eddie walked towards Lily with steady, quiet steps. No matter what Regina said, natural beauty did exist, and this girl had it. Regina did too. It was in there in the morning just before she woke up, or when she came out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel, or when she stretched out on the bed after sex. Eddie tried to tell her how beautiful she was, but she would just scowl. It seemed the more he loved her the more she hated him. The only time Regina seemed happy anymore, the only time she looked at him with any warmth, was when he put some girl’s pan-fried heart onto her plate. As she tucked into the gristly meat Regina would glow and shine and look almost sixteen again.
“So I’ll see you in twenty minutes? Okay, bye hon.” Lily clapped her phone shut. She turned and saw Eddie standing there, rope in hand. Comprehension and fear filled her face. She had probably seen the news reports about the missing beauty queens. Probably imagined what had happened to them. Heard their screams, shrill and sharp and cut short as the rope tightened. Felt the crack of the collar bone as the chest was cut open. Smelled the iron as the blood pooled out over the skin. Felt the tug inside as the girl’s heart was pulled out--
Lily Snow was running. Eddie stood there, watching her go. He just couldn’t do this anymore he realized as the girl disappeared into the trees at the edge of the lot. With a sigh he got back into his truck and pulled out onto the highway. About half-an-hour down the road he saw some hunters loading a deer carcass into the back of a van. He pulled over and paid the hunters fifty bucks for the creature’s heart. He kept the bloody parcel beside him on the passenger’s seat as he drove back to the trailer park. He figured Regina wouldn’t know the deer heart from a human one.
Eddie knew it was only a reprieve, not a pardon. It was only a matter of time before Regina learned that Lily Snow was still alive. And the girl had gotten a good look at him, and his truck. It wouldn’t take long for the police to find him.
When that happened, Regina would be so mad. His hands shook on the steering wheel. She might not forgive him this. But if the cops came, surrounded their trailer and demanded he give himself up, he would offer himself to Regina first. Offer her the heart that had always been hers.
Issue #3 Contents
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY
Kirsten Imani Kasai
A Heart So Pure
Slips of Yew
The Anointed One
The Flustered Husband’s Guide to Spices
The Gallows Tree
The Gardener Estate
When You Love Someone
Shannon Fay was born in the spring, specifically Easter Monday in the year of the rabbit. Since then she has lived in Shanghai, Phoenix, and the U.K. She’s learned that your hometown is not where you’re from but where you choose to be. When she was a small child she dreamed about a girl who crashed her rocket ship on an alien planet. She wrote her dream down as a class assignment and has been writing ever since. She has a degree in journalism and is no stranger to non-fiction (though she still often finds it stranger than fiction). She currently lives in Nova Scotia.