With an unceremonious thud, Destiny drops a small box on the kitchen counter. It’s an ordinary-looking box, except for the slightly soggy bottom. As her boyfriend gets up with a start from the couch, she says, “Jojo, I just need to keep this here for, like, three hours tops. I got the time between killing the target and bringing his head to my client confused. Is it cool if I chill here? I already picked the backdoor open, so…” She trails off, waiting for Joseph to respond.
He sighs, puts his hands on her shoulders and stares into her calm eyes. “First of all, quit breaking into my apartment. Second, Destiny, I love you, but,” he takes a deep breath in, “you cannot bring a dead body into my house! What is wrong with you?”
Destiny laughs. “Calm your underdeveloped tits, Jojo, it’s only his head. The rest’s buried off the side of the highway. Totally different. And this asshole gave me trouble, we had a legit knife fight and everything. Mind if I raid the fridge?” She starts to move away, wobbling a little.
Joseph blocks her. “No way. Get the box out of my house, Destiny. Put it in your car or something.” He picks it up and immediately drops it on the floor. “God, why’s it sticky?”
She puts the box back on the counter. “It’s definitely not the dead guy’s blood and other dead body juices, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Jesus Christ, Destiny, what the hell?” Joseph runs over to the sink and scrubs his hands for a solid five minutes. When he’s done, he turns around to see Destiny digging around her duffle bag, her back to him. A ring of blood is forming around her left side, between her waist and her hip.
“Holy shit, Destiny, you’ve been stabbed in the back!”
She remains by her bag. “I’ll say, you won’t even let me keep a box in your house for a couple hours.”
“No, smartass, I mean you have an actual stab wound in your back.”
Destiny puts a hand on her back and winces. “Wait, like literally?”
“What other way could I possibly mean, ‘You’ve been stabbed?’”
“The metaphorical way like I said earlier, for starters. It’s basic English, Jojo. And by this point, assuming I’d been stabbed while killing this dude, I’d be getting lightheaded.” She attempts to stand up and falls over on her back. “Oh, there I go.”
Joseph crouches down beside her, shaking. “Shit, how’d you not notice this earlier?”
Clenching her fist in the air, Destiny answers, “The euphoric rush of killing a man.”
“No, dumb-dumb. Adrenaline.”
“Asshole. I’m gonna flip you over and lift up your shirt, okay?”
“Ha, shouldn’t you buy me dinner first?”
“Oh my god, Destiny, please focus on not dying on my living room floor.”
She points to her bag. “Fine, grab the Ziploc in there.”
He pulls out a little bag with white, circular pills. “Okay, what are these?” Joseph hands it over with a suspicious glance.
“Painkillers. Always keep them for emergency surgery. You want some?”
“No, I — Wait, emergency surgery?”
Popping the pills, Destiny motions for Joseph to come closer. “I need to stitch myself up before I bleed out. Help me up, will ya?”
Taking extra care not to touch her wound, Joseph picks her up. “So, uh, can you operate on yourself?” He carries her out of the living room and puts her down on the bathroom sink.
“It’s basic training, Jojo, but I’ve never done it on my back before. All I should need is another mirror to look into.” Destiny looks over her supplies and waits for Joseph to grab a mirror. Right before she begins to operate, her eyes widen and she slams a fist on the counter. “Oh, goddammit!”
“What, what’s wrong?”
“My honor, it’s ruined!”
“All my wounds are on the front of my body, meaning I’ve never run from a fight. With this, I look like a giant bitch. My reputation’s gonna be shit now.”
Joseph grabs Destiny by her shoulders. “Hey, don’t say that. You’re the bravest person I know. You sure you don’t want me to, uh, help you out?” The color leaves Joseph’s face as he takes the needle in his hand.
Taking it from him, Destiny says, “Slow your roll, Jojo. I got this. You just grab me a bandage and some disinfectant to put over this, yeah?”
With a deep breath, Joseph responds, “Yeah, okay, sure.” As he searches for the supplies in her duffle bag, Destiny’s curses and grunts echo from down the hall. When he returns, she’s leaning against the mirror, sweating and pale.
She throws her hands up weakly and says, “I did it! Yaaaay.”
With Destiny leaning on him, Joseph applies the disinfectant and bandage. Once he’s done, he says, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Been through worse.”
“Worse than being stabbed?”
“I’ve had to take out bullets and cauterize the holes.”
“Yeah.” As her labored breathing returns to normal, Destiny wraps her arms around Joseph. “Jojo, I’m so frigging tired.”
“Hold on.” He carries her out to the living room couch and sets her down.
“Thanks, Jojo. You’re the best.”
He plops onto the cushion next to her. “I know.” The couple sits in silence, each taking a moment to process.
Interrupting it, Destiny leans onto him and says, “Hey, did you mean it when you said I’m brave?”
“Yeah, of course I did. You just stitched yourself up; you’re a badass, Destiny.”
With a smile crossing her face, Destiny closes her eyes and says, “Love you, Jojo.”
Joseph looks back at the box on the counter, the bloodstain on his carpet, imagines the mess in the bathroom and the blood soaking into the couch as they speak. With a glance at Destiny, he answers, “Love you, too.”
Shaenna McCumber is currently a BFA student at Truman State University majoring in Creative Writing. She lives and writes in Missouri, United States.