To start reading “The Last House in Levittown” from the beginning, click here.
She always came back to this spot, measuring the merit of her life against the beige, puckered vinyl of the diner booth. Cold eggs, greasy bacon, a faceless waitress. Yes, more water please. Thank you.
The eggs were just a decoy, like every other meal in the joint. She could hear it in the din that rose up between the clinks of cheap cups on saucers:
“Nothing make you feels alive like almost dying.” Coughed a hoarse old man behind her.
“Miracles happen everyday–” a fat redhead with a thin voice implored in Penny’s right periphery. “Things that science can’t explain.”
That’s when she felt the hot breath on her neck and every follicle stood on end. She’d been tracked down, even here in this crowded, nameless diner, eating cold eggs that felt like eyeballs on her tongue. She couldn’t speak.
I see you, Penny. The voice said. I know you.
Penny turned her head, searching, even though she knew that was in vain. She’d been here too many times. This booth, that voice, these eyeball eggs. She knew exactly what she’d see and what she wouldn’t.
She would see that face, a harlequin mask painted on a thousand year old corpse.
But where was she?
I see you, dear. You’re all mine now. This is how I like my prey. Beautiful and scared.
She glanced around again, then heard the laugh—a nasty, secretive cackle.
Where am I?
“Yes, where are you?” Penny asked aloud.
“You want to see the dessert menu, hon?” The waitress interrupted, startling her.
“Oh, no. No thank you.”
The waitress waited.
“So, you just want the check, then?”
“Yes, that would be great. Thank you.” Penny burrowed a hole a mile deep into the laminated menu. Goat cheese and arugula salad. Walnuts with a blended fig dressing. It was always a mistake when these homespun places tried too hard.
The waitress lingered on. Slow country types.
“What—“ Penny started, making her mistake. She looked her waitress in the face—not her at all but the deathly mask—half black, half white, a scheme that followed suit down the length of her body. Her dead eyes preened and her lips peeled back in a ghastly, toothless smile.
“Do you know why they call me BlackWhite?” she hissed with gravel in her voice. It stuck in Penny’s mind like a pebble pricking the flesh of her foot inside her shoe.
“No.” Penny managed, surprised she could still make any sound at all. Surprised she hadn’t said, because you are black and white.
“Think about it, honey. Don’t you remember where you were standing when the world changed?”
A car engine sputtered outside, and Penny awoke in wide-eyed panic. In the half-second it took for her to open her eyes on the pitch dark of her kitchen, the dream had been cast off into the ever-growing pile of things she would never remember.
She had wedged one of the old kitchen chairs under the side doorknob, where she had drifted off, but the engine rattle had come from in front of the house. The previous owners had at one time tried to turn their cramped, suburban confines into an “open concept” living space, and done a shitty job at it. They had taken out the wall between the kitchen and the living room, but left the clashing paint jobs and floors. Penny had become more and more grateful for it, though, as it now allowed her to monitor the front of the house from the shadows.
To continue reading Chapter 2, click here.