Becca leaned against the hood of her car, smoking a cigarette, looking like the Queen Bee in every high school movie with her tight jeans and T-shirt, her blond hair in a high, shiny ponytail. Not even the towering trees and mountains could compete with her beauty.
I parked my dented little Volvo, the car I’d worked overtime at the diner to pay for, saving up my measly tips and depositing them at the bank on my way home. For months, I’d been collecting them in an envelope in my underwear drawer, until one day I went to get the money and all that remained was a five-dollar bill. Becca swore she hadn’t taken it, my $1,287, but I knew she had. I went to the bank and opened an account, and Becca came home from the mall with a new wardrobe. My parents knew but were too wary of her to do anything, which probably had a lot to do with how we came to be at the hiking trail.
“It’s about time.” She tossed her burning cigarette on the ground, heedless of the nearby trash can and dry leaves that littered the area.
“Um…” I looked around. We were alone. The air was clean and warm, scented with dirt and pine, but there was something else there too. An undercurrent that made me more uncomfortable than normal.
“What are you wearing?” Becca groaned at my jeans and T-shirt, Cookie Monster printed on the front, gobbling a cookie.
I resisted the urge to tug at the hem of my shirt, the fabric clinging to my muffin top just a little too tightly. If I drew her attention there, she’d make a snide comment about my weight, the extra ten pounds everyone swore was baby fat until I was too old for the excuse.
She rolled her eyes. “Well, come on.”
But when I started for the mouth of the trail, ready to follow even without knowing the destination, Becca didn’t budge.
“What?” I asked, staring back at her.
She sighed, her glossy lips turning down in a pout. “We have to get something.”
I glanced around again. Apart from the ignored trash can and a wooden sign with a map of the trail dangling by a single rusty nail, there was nothing to “get.”
“Where is it?”
Her pout deepened, as though my question disappointed her, and Becca yanked open the back door of her car—my parents bought it for her as a graduation gift—to retrieve a yellow bag with a garden store logo stamped on the side. She dumped out two pairs of garden gloves printed with bright-purple flowers, still held together with the tags. While I was surprised to see the gloves, I was more surprised to see the bag. Becca didn’t normally “pay” for things. She just took what she wanted, and always got away with it. I shoplifted a pack of gum when I was twelve, got caught seconds later, and had my picture posted on the wall of shame at the front of the store for a year. My parents were very disappointed.
I accepted a pair of gloves and copied Becca, snapping them apart and pulling them on, though there was almost certainly no garden in the vicinity. With one more heavily exaggerated sigh, like this was the most tedious day of her whole life, Becca reached in through the open driver’s-side window and pressed a button to pop the trunk. The lid lifted slowly, and even from my position in front of the car, my heart started to pound, and nausea roiled in my gut.
I’d never seen inside Becca’s trunk before. It had never occurred to me to check; there was no reason. But in that moment, I knew I definitely did not want to know what was in there.
“Well, come on,” she said, like I was the problem.
I didn’t budge. “What is it?”
“What is it?” My voice rose an octave, and Becca finally looked at me, really looked at me, and a little furrow appeared between her perfectly arched brows. She opened her mouth to speak but then closed it, her cheek twitching while she chewed on it. She always chewed on the inside of her cheek, was always spitting blood. Her blue eyes grew shiny with tears.
“Something bad happened,” she whispered.
My feet propelled me forward automatically, the need to help, to fix, so ingrained I didn’t even have to think about it.
“What?” I was also whispering, though there was no one around to hear. The trail had been deemed unsafe years ago after three hikers fell to their deaths, and no one came out here anymore since Brampton boasted plenty of other, less deadly, trails to enjoy.
Becca’s wet eyes flickered to the trunk, and again my feet moved, one step, then two, until I could just see the edge of the black carpet lining. I couldn’t see anything more than that, but the smell I’d noticed earlier, the one that felt out of place in the clean, bright forest, was stronger.
I inched forward and saw a foot. A human foot. In an orange-and-white canvas sneaker, laces neatly tied, a pale ankle peeking out beneath the hem of a pair of black pants.
I recognized the sneaker as Shanna’s before I recognized her face, covered in crusted blood and bruises, lips and eyes swollen shut, dark hair matted and stuck to torn flesh. She was the person in a movie who’d been hit by a bus and barely survived, so brutally damaged it was almost impossible to believe. Except the way she was folded into the space, limbs at weird, crumpled angles, her neck clearly askew, made it all too believable that my sister had a dead girl in her trunk.