Speed of light


“Rose, your sister’s here,” someone called.

Rose came out in time to see Renee stagger and almost fall. Blood trickled down her chin from a split lip. One eye was swollen completely shut. There were bruises on her arms and face. Her right foot was twisted in.

Rose sighed. The twins had been close since the day they were born, but their lives had taken very different turns. At sixteen, Renee had gotten involved with drugs and some minor criminal activity. It had landed her in juvenile detention several times, and not even their parents’ strict religious upbringing could keep her out of trouble. After she graduated from high school, she moved in with the first in a string of boyfriends who used and abused her.

Rose on the other hand excelled at school. She stayed out of trouble, got good grades, and graduated with honors. Yet to her parents’ dismay, she didn’t take the scholarships she was offered to the more prestigious universities, and instead settled for a job at the cafe and started at the community college. She was there because Renee needed her.

“Come on, Ren,” Rose said. “Let me grab my purse and I’ll take you to the hospital.” Again, she added silently.

Renee didn’t say anything until they were in Rose’s car. “No hospital.”

“Ren, you could have broken bones this time. I told you Nick was bad news,” Rose said.

“No hospital. You can fix it,” Renee said.

Rose took a deep breath. “Not if you’re going back to Nick.”

Renee coughed. “I need him.”

“No Ren, you don’t. You need me. You need Crystal and Sabrina.” She named the only two friends from high school Renee had left that were still decent human  beings who cared for her. “You don’t need Nick.”

“But he loves me.”

Rose sighed. It was always the same story. Renee clung to her abusers because she mistook control for love. That was a carryover from their lives with their parents, whose control was supposed to be absolute. Neither Rose nor Renee had ever seen it that way, but Renee was the one who’d acted out the most so she was the one who’d come in for the most punishments.

“Ren, he doesn’t love you. How many times do I have to tell you that? If a man loves you, he doesn’t try to beat you to death?”

Renee coughed again. Her head lolled forward. “So…tired.”

“Snap out of it, Ren. We’re going to the hospital.” Rose turned the car and hit the gas. She didn’t care if a cop saw her. Renee was fading fast and not even Rose’s magic – a magic Renee once shared – would be able to save her. This would require modern technology over ancient witchcraft.

She got Renee to the emergency room. She ran in. One of the security guards saw the blood on her uniform. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“My sister was beaten badly by her boyfriend. She’s in my car. I need to get her inside,” Rose said. “She’s unconscious and I can’t wake her.”

Those were magical words. Nurses scrambled to get Renee out of the car. Rose filled out paperwork while doctors took her twin back to work on her. An hour later, a young doctor with a sad face came out to her. “Rose Cramer?”


“I’m sorry. We did what we could, but we couldn’t save her.” There was a pause. “The coroner will do an autopsy on her, and then he’ll release her body. Are you the one we release it to?”

“Yes,” Rose said. “I am. There should be a power of attorney on file with the courts that proves that.”

“Just make sure you have the paperwork as well, in case someone challenges your right,” the doctor said. “Again, I’m very sorry.”

Rose stood and walked out of the hospital. She got into her car and started driving. She was almost to the small house Renee had shared with Nick before she realized where she was. She could see red and blue lights flashing. The police were there and they were talking to Nick. She pulled in across the street and watched. The handcuffs came out and Nick was arrested.

There was a flash of blue and a snippet of a vision crossed Rose’s mind. Nick would only be found guilty of manslaughter, serve only three years in prison, before he was out to do this to another family. Rose’s hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“Not this time,” she muttered. A tiny thread of light, no bigger than a hair, worked its way from between her fingers. The police car was still there. They were just putting Nick inside. The thread worked its way across the street and up Nick’s leg. It worked its way under his shirt and then pierced his chest. It wrapped around his heart.

Rose closed her hand slowly. Nick started gasping. He fell and the cops holding him started yelling for him to get up. She sped up her movement. Nick screamed and the cops were forced to drop him as he fell writhing to the ground.

Rose held him there for a few moments before clenching her fist. The thread tightened on his heart, stopping on it. Nick made a few more gasps before going still. The thread slithered back across the street and into Rose’s fingers. She continued watching as they tried to revive him, called for an ambulance. She saw the EMTs try to resuscitate him but fail.

Rose shifted her car into gear and drove away. She sighed. Another death to add to her body count. “And mom and dad called Renee the evil one.”

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