“Tu Mejor Amiga” by Carmen Jaramillo
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Carmen Jaramillo takes us to Panama City, where shared secrets make bonds grow stronger.
I felt like God, even though I must’ve been the palest lady on Vía Argentina. I was one lone gringita standing outside a bar full of red lights and Don Omar music, watching people use the tens and twenties tucked in their fingers for cab fare or a bottle of rum to mix with Coca-Cola. I was just a dirt-broke chick who sprinted out of the States like a scalded rat, hoping I’d never see certain people again.
But at that moment I had Emi clinging to me, her skin and dress and hair fanning out in the hot breeze, all of her glittering gold like everything else in Panama City at night. She was so grateful I thought she might cry.
“Everything is okay . . . everything is going to be good with Máximo. Gracias, Freddie.”
Emi acted like I’d just saved her life, and I almost blushed. A girl with a topaz-colored skyscraper in Punta Pacifica named after her family leaned in to me, like she wanted to slide herself right into my purse.
I had told Máximo earlier in the day that Emi had called me, sobbing, when she found out he brought whores home every Saturday night. He asked for my help. Let her come to my place, just one floor below his. Comfort her. Give her the keys to his apartment, where he’d be waiting to surprise her, show her he stayed alone at night, convince her he was faithful.
I agreed even before he finished the plan. Thanks to him I spent a lot less time wondering if, one morning, a bulldozer would hoist my lifeless corpse out of the mouth of Río Juan Díaz. So when Máximo came up with more schemes to get me out of trouble, I had to keep paying him back. If you want help from someone, you’ve got to be a friend.
I left Emi alone with the keys and waited outside the bar on Vía Argentina, where it intersected with Calle Arturo D. Motta. A gold streetlamp made a row of blue sequins on my dress glint. About a half hour later, instead of just texting me, Emi came out to me herself.
She held the sleeve of my dress, her fingernails smooth as glass from her seventy-dollar manicures, and gushed at me about how they’d made up. She looked right into my face, pleading, the reflection from the streetlights trembling in her eyes like a cartoon.
“And, Freddie . . . I don’t really want for too many people to know . . .”
I knew that sound, when girls like her give themselves up just so other people won’t know they’ve been humiliated. I knew the sound of desperation.
I nodded, and brushed some gold strands of hair off her shoulder.
“It’s okay. I won’t tell.”
She thought I was her best friend. She didn’t care that I knew, that I’d know tomorrow and the day after, and that bonds start to grow between two people who share a secret. It’s more than a little exchange of favors; it’s one person depending on the other. And if Emi depended on me, she’d have to protect me. But she just beamed and let me put my arms around her, steering her back up Calle Arturo D. Motta like an old mare.
I saw Máximo at my building behind a cordon of yellow caution tape—sprawled on the sidewalk, bent in half-backwards with a head of black hair in a puddle.
In a straight line above him, five stories up, his window was open.
I couldn’t suck enough oxygen into my lungs. I rasped.
“You pushed him?”
She sighed into my ear.
“Ay ya, la vida. I hate to be, to get, tricked.”
Red light from a siren blinked in the puddle on the sidewalk. I traced it up to the police car, to the uniformed officers.
“You . . . fuck you, I could go over to those cops right now!”
“And what if I tell the police about what I found inside of Máximo’s apartment?”
Emi came in closer, winding herself around my back.
“What will they do to you if I tell them about the Panamanian passport he was making for you?”
My throat closed up.
“Where . . .”
“I have it. I will keep it safe.”
I started to shake. I kept staring at Máximo.
Emi laid her hand with her glossy fingernails on the bare part of my back, like she was gripping my spine.
“It’s okay. I won’t tell, mi amiga.”
CARMEN JARAMILLO is a Minnesota-born, half-Panamanian pulp writer. Her stories about women behaving badly have appeared at The Flash Fiction Offensive and Crime Factory magazine, and are forthcoming at Shotgun Honey. She lives in Chicago and currently works on a novel. Hit her up on Twitter: @jaramilloc2.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 21, 2015
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