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by Stephen Buehler

Brenda couldn’t take the torture anymore. Yes, she had bright red hair, and yes she was flat as a board and so what if her father was the janitor at their high school. That didn’t give them the right to make fun of her every day and treat her like a monkey in a zoo. Or even to post nasty messages on Facebook forcing her to close her account. It never stopped.

Brenda tied the knot in the rope. The worst was Heather Klausen. Any chance she could, she would kick Brenda’s chair out from under her, sending Brenda toppling to the hard floor. Heather was also quick with the insult. She knew how to make it hurt: “Hey, Brenda, my six-year-old sister has bigger boobs than you do.” “Hey, Big Red, I just vomited, call your dad so he can clean up my puke.” “Hey, Firecrotch, I’ve seen better teeth on a beaver and his legs weren’t as hairy as yours.”

Brenda tied several more knots wanting to make sure it would hold her weight. The last straw was earlier today outside of school. Heather and her posse of mean girls surrounded Brenda and wouldn’t let her pass. One bitch grabbed Brenda’s hoodie and pulled it over her head. When Brenda couldn’t see, they beat the crap out of her with their fists and books. They always treated her like garbage. At least now that will end.

Brenda stood on the stool and looped the rope around the rafter in the garage. It hurt her ribs to raise her black and blue arms but she had to do this. She was too ashamed to tell her parents. She was supposed to be their golden child, not a poor excuse for a daughter. Besides, they could never understand how much pain and suffering she dealt with every day. Every day! There was only one way to deal with her mess of a life.

The rope was at neck level. Brenda took a deep breath. This was it. No more taunting, no more crude remarks, no more chairs kicked out from under her. She wasn’t going to leave a note. Oh, they’d wonder what drove her to it; maybe it was because she didn’t get straight A’s or maybe because she didn’t pass her driver’s license test. Who knows why teenagers to do what they do? Was anyone’s life as perfect as it seemed? She prepared herself for her fate. With one more step she’d be at peace at last.

Brenda dragged Heather’s unconscious body from her car and looped the rope around her neck. Brenda couldn’t smell the ether anymore. Standing in Heather’s garage Brenda smiled for the first time in months. Brenda struggled with Heather’s limp body at first but was finally able to hoist her up. Brenda tied off the rope with knots they learned in Girl Scouts together. Brenda’s favorite part in Heather’s suicide was kicking the stool out from under her.

Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous online publications, including Akashic Books. His story Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and was a Derringer Finalist. A Job’s a Job was published in Believe Me or Not — An Unreliable Anthology. His novella, The Mindreading Murders — about a magician, psychics and, of course, murder — will be published by The Stark Raving Group in 2015. He is currently shopping around his mystery/comedy PI novel Detective Rules. He is also a script/story consultant, a magician, and a nice guy.