GOOD GIRL • by Gustavo Bondoni

I was a good girl today. Really good. Probably better than any eleven-year-old you’ll ever see.

It started in the morning when I got out of bed without my mom even having to wake me up. It’s not hard, I just get up when her alarm goes off. I ate my breakfast, washed my teeth and was dressed to go long before it was time to go for the bus.

That’s when I got lucky.

Mr. Peters was backing his big van, the one with all the bumper stickers, out of his driveway when snotty little Lilly Giordano drove her pink big-wheel tricycle right behind it. There was no way Mr. Peters could see her on time, and Mrs. Giordano was looking at her phone.

“Mr. Peters, stop!” I shouted.

He had his window open. He heard me. He hit the brakes just about an inch from Lilly.

Lilly’s mom ran up and hugged her. She thanked Mr. Peters for being careful.

Mr. Peters said if it hadn’t been for me, he would never have seen Lilly. Mrs. Giordano hugged me and cried into my hair. I smiled and said she was welcome.

I was on a cloud.

I had saved a life. A life.

That was like the most good anyone could be. Of course, it’s not like I planned it or anything. How could someone plan something like that?

But it had happened, and I had done it.

Something that good would take a lot of balancing out. I couldn’t wait to see how much.

The school day passed in a haze. It didn’t really matter. How good could you be at school? You could do everything the teacher told you and help out your friends, but that was pretty much what you had to do anyway, just to get along.

But when I got home, I had an idea. I could sharpen mom’s knives. She was always complaining that they were getting dull, and that it was boring to sharpen them, even though we had that plastic cutting table with the knife sharpener.

I took my time, and worked carefully. If I cut myself, my mom would get mad, and if I made mom mad, I wasn’t being very good, was I?

Steak knives first. Then the medium-sized knives whose function I never really knew. Then the big knife for carving large pieces of meat, and also for peeling pineapples. Finally, almost with reverence, the cleaver.

I could barely stand to touch it. It felt electric in my hand, as if the blade was magical.

I finished the knives and put them exactly where they were. Being good counted even more if you didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know why, but that was how it worked.

An hour later, my mom came in and I smiled. “Hi mom. I finished my homework.”

She called me a good girl and told me I could use my iPad if I wanted.

So I went up to the attic.

My iPad was up there. So was my beanbag and my table full of books.

I ignored all of that. I used to love them all, before I came to understand that they were symbols of the childhood I hated.

The childhood in which my mom had left my dad for another guy, just to break up with the new guy a year later and leave us a broken family which spent almost no time together. Either she was at work, or she was at home, staring into her phone, scrolling down at God-knew-what. We moved five times. Five. Each time except the last to somewhere worse than the place before.

Finally, things seemed to stabilize. Mom got an office job and we actually went from a crap apartment to this house. There was a yard. I could walk to the bus stop because it was a good neighborhood.

And I had an attic which had been set up as a miniature playroom by some former tenant.

They had left a mirror there. It had been covered with a sheet when I arrived, but I removed it right after putting my beanbag by the window.

I looked in the mirror and saw myself looking out at me. I smiled.

She frowned.

We learned to understand each other, and I realized her world was exactly the same as mine… except that we mirrored each other perfectly. When I laughed, she cried. When I thought mean things, she thought bad. We couldn’t hear each other, but we didn’t need to.

I walked up to the mirror, shivering with anticipation.

Then I opened it and looked out on myself.

I was there. The house behind me was there.

My pajamas — I wondered how I managed to stay in my pajamas all day — were sprinkled with blood. My hair was matted.

My reflection held something in her hand. At first, I thought it was some plush toy hanging from long strands of string, but then the bottom turned and I saw that it wasn’t a plush toy. It was my mom’s head, hanging from her hair, open eyes now staring at me emptily, now invisible as the head turned.

“Wow,” I said. “You were really bad.”

My reflection smiled.

“I tried to be good for you.”

The me in the mirror nodded and gave me a thumbs-up.

“I was really, really good. I saved a life.”

The reflection held up the head.

“Wow,” I said again. “I guess it balanced out after all.”

She smiled.

“Do you remember our deal?”

She nodded.

“After… after this, can you be good tomorrow? Good enough for what I need?”

Another nod.

“Good. Then tomorrow is my turn.” I turned away from my reflection. But then I turned back. “You be good now.”

She smiled and nodded.

So yes, I was a really good girl today.

But tomorrow will be much, much better.


Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages. He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Splinter (2021), a sequel to his 2017 novel Outside. He has also published four monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019), Jungle Lab Terror (2020), Test Site Horror (2020), and Lost Island Rampage (2021); two other science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), and Siege (2016); and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019), Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011). In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest. His website is at www.gustavobondoni.com.


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Every Day Fiction