You Owe Me a Murder(10)

Nicki took a deep breath as if shaking off her sadness. “I swear I don’t usually just spill all my secrets to a stranger.”

My chest expanded with pride that she felt she could tell me things.

“I promise not to tell anyone how much you hate Connor if you keep the truth about my mum to yourself,” she said.

I raised my hand as though I were taking a vow. “Hey, what happens on the plane stays on the plane.”

Nicki dived down for her purse and pulled out a Moleskine notebook. She tore several pages out of the back and passed them over. “Let’s get all the evil out. You make a list of everything you hate about Connor and I’ll make one for my mum. It’ll be cathartic.”

I flipped the tray down and seized a sparkly blue gel pen from her hand, my fingers tingling with excitement. I wanted to put him behind me and this was exactly the kind of thing I needed to do. I’d had so much to drink that I needed to squeeze one eye closed to see the page clearly.

I scribbled WHY I HATE CONNOR O’REILLY across the top and drew a sharp line under it. “I might need more paper,” I said, and Nicki laughed as she started on her own list.

The anger I felt poured out of me and through the pen. I listed everything, from how he licked his finger before using it to turn a page in a book (seriously? gross) to how he made this weird fish-lip face when working on complicated equations. As soon as I finished, Nicki took the list from my hand and looked it over.

“He quotes sports stats?” Her lip curled up. “Oh god, does he play that stupid fantasy football stuff too, where he makes up his own teams?”

I snorted, picturing him checking his sports apps on his phone compulsively through the day and talking to his friends about trades. I inhaled vodka into my nose, choking for a second, until Nicki clapped me on the back. “You’re right, he is a knob,” I said. The tight ball of dread I’d been carrying around for weeks in my gut began to melt away. He wasn’t worth crying over.

“The guy deserves the death penalty for being terminally in poor taste,” Nicki declared. I giggled. She pointed to the top of my paper. “You should add that.”

I scribbled AND WHY HE DESERVES TO DIE under the heading. I paused. My mom would say being that vindictive gave the other person the power. I considered scratching it out, but Nicki was already reaching for the paper.

She folded our sheets in half and tucked them into her bag, then held up her hands as if she’d made them disappear. “Love, the entire world would be better off without him and my mum. Now the list is gone and you can let go of him and the anger.”

“I can’t let him ruin this trip for me.” My voice was low and serious as if I were making a promise to myself. I’d already let him ruin the summer. I couldn’t let him keep dragging me down.

“Do you really want him gone?” Her voice was quiet and merged into the hum of the engines, making me lean forward to hear. “We have the perfect solution, you know,” Nicki said.

“Solution for what?”

Her eyes glittered like broken glass. “For our problems. I kill your ex. You kill my mum. We both get what we want.”

I jolted, shocked at what she’d said, and looked at her nervously. Her eyes glinted with mischief. She had to be joking. Then she started giggling and I broke down too, the laughter burbling up from my chest. “And we’d both get about twenty to life in prison,” I pointed out. “No thanks. I’ve seen enough prison documentaries to know I wouldn’t make it a week. I look like crap in orange jump suits and I don’t have an ounce of street smarts.”

She gasped, trying to get her laughter under control. “But that’s why it’s the perfect crime. There’s nothing to connect you with my mum. You’ve never even met her. Why would you murder her?” Nicki winked. “No motive—?no reason for the police to suspect you. Most murders are committed by someone the victim knows.” She nodded at me. “An ex-girlfriend, for example.” Then she pointed at her chest. “Or a daughter with an ax to grind against a loser parent.”

All the vodka in my system was slowing everything down, blurring my thoughts, but I could still connect the dots of her plan. “But we’re total strangers, so if we did the other person’s murder, we’d never get caught.” I started to giggle again. “It is the perfect crime. You’re a genius.”

Nicki made an exaggerated seated bow and almost slipped out of her chair. I had to grab her and pull her back by her shirt. I picked up the bottle to toast her with another drink and was disturbed to see how much we’d already consumed. I burped, a hot sour taste in the back of my mouth. I decided against drinking any more. The last thing I needed was to start throwing up.

“I love the concept, but I’m no killer,” I admitted. I held the vodka out to her, but she waved it off.

“You didn’t think you were someone who could steal a few hours ago,” Nicki pointed out. “Maybe you sell yourself short.”

I swayed in the seat, thinking about what she’d said, about how maybe my biggest problem wasn’t Connor or my mom, but me. I didn’t like to do things that scared me. I was always more worried about living up to what other people wanted. Trying to be what they wanted. I didn’t push myself and then I was mad that things didn’t happen. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be in the driver’s seat, but it didn’t make sense when everyone else seemed to do it better.

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