That year the floodwater stayed.
Each afternoon for those four days of raging torrent my father rowed across the field to daub a new mark on the barn door; each one drawn a good six inches above the last.
Every evening he sat by the fire; and every evening he sat and he prayed.
That was three Decembers ago.
Floodwater was common on the lowlands - if you consider once every few years common - but after a week or so it always receded back to the river it spewed from.
But it didn’t that year.
My parents waited. Mother swore it would all be gone come New Year. Father just shook his head and said nothing.
I think the flood was my doing.
Our house is built on higher ground - like they would have a medieval fortress - but our home is no castle. It is just a simple farmhouse, with thatch on the roof, logs on the fire, and a mother and father working more hours than they could ever find in a day.
In November I’d just turned 14. I’d inherited my father’s body and my mother’s eyesight. I wished it were the other way round, but that wish - my first - never came true. I was almost 6 feet tall, bigger bodied and flatter chested than any other girl at school, and had crept my way to the front of the classroom; and even then I had to narrow my eyes to make sense of the teacher’s scribbles.
Nothing goes unnoticed, and nothing goes unpunished. And sometimes, children can be the cruellest of the cruel - and there was one girl in particular.
Unlike me, Marilyn Nelson wore glasses. Marilyn Nelson was stylish, and Marilyn Nelson was pretty, so Marilyn Nelson was allowed to wear glasses. Her glasses were stylish, her make-up was stylish; she was the bomb, and she let everybody know that she was the bomb.
One day she deflected her hurt onto me - the same day she got dumped by Ollie Peterson. It was a brutal beating, inflicted by her goggle-eyed cronies, but she was the ringleader, barking out commands from a safe distance. That was when I wished her dead - my second wish - and this one nearly came true. The next day Marilyn Nelson arrived at school with her ankle set in a white plaster cast. Word went round that it was a close call involving a number 16 double-decker bus, and black ice that should never have been there at that time of day. How strange, everyone said. She thought it was my doing, I could tell.
She had to hobble about on crutches. Crutches are definitely not stylish, not even on Marilyn Nelson.
My third wish was when I wished Ollie Peterson dead. To be honest I only half meant it because he was boy-band cute, but once uttered, I couldn’t take it back. My push was a tad too firm, and he got tangled underfoot, stumbled backwards over a long-fallen branch, and cracked his head on a mossy stone wall.
It was instant, I’d seen death before - in cows and in sheep, and this was no different. I could tell by the hush in his eyes, and of course, the stream of blood pooling on a bed of fallen leaves.
It happened like this. It was a week after the Marilyn Nelson incident. The day Ollie Peterson actually talked to me - not at school, of course, but whilst I was walking home, on my own as always. Ollie Peterson must have followed me. I didn’t hear him and certainly didn’t see him. He appeared from nowhere and tapped me on the shoulder. I almost jumped out of my skin. Then he started talking, saying nice things, smiling at me - he’d never smiled at me before, no boy ever had.
I couldn’t tell then that Ollie Peterson was acting. He was a good actor. Good enough for me to forget that he and Marilyn Nelson had gotten back together.
Good enough for me to forget the smirk that Marilyn Nelson had given me earlier that day.
He was a good enough actor so that I forgot all of that and more.
He smiled some more and then asked if he could kiss me. I had never been kissed. But before we did, he took out his phone and set the camera. He told me he wanted to capture this moment forever. He said he needed evidence. So we kissed - well, kind of kissed I suppose - it was new to me, and nothing but a whole load of unpleasant and awkward.
Then it occurred to me - needed. That’s what he said, needed, and evidence.
And in those two words I saw through their charade.
I broke away and challenged him.
He didn’t even deny it. He just stood there laughing, waving his phone about, waving the evidence about, taunting me, laughing, saying how he was going to post it online and watch it go viral and... well, that was when I wished, and I pushed him with all of my father’s strength.
And that was when it began raining - wish number 4 - and that was when it didn’t stop.
It’s February now. Three years later. From the window I stare over at the barn. I can see one of father’s marks on the door. The floodwater has finally decided to leave us. It will be gone in a matter of days.
I wonder if they’ll find the body where I hid it, or had it floated away to the ocean? I wonder if he is nothing more than cloth, hair and bones, or if still fully preserved by his liquid grave.
I wonder if they really can retrieve photos from phones long submerged in murky floodwater.
I wonder if being a murderer is considered stylish.
Time to make wish number 5.
Lee is a writer of short fiction. He has also had stories published with: F(r)iction online, Flash Fiction Magazine, Sick Lit, STORGY, The Red Line, The Londonist, and was shortlisted for the BBC's 2015 Opening Lines competition. Originally from London, he now lives in Greece.
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