Open 2024 Stories - C. Bee


Girls Like Her

By C. Bee


She was at the kitchen table with the newspaper open to the help wanted page when the police banged loudly on the front door. It rattled the picture of her late dog Sasha which hung on the wall. At first she couldn’t imagine who would be knocking this early when the sun wasn’t even up. And then she couldn’t imagine who would be knocking anyway no matter what time it might be.

Drawing her robe together, she cinched the terry cloth belt tighter and shuffled to the door, her house slippers scratching against the marble foyer making sounds like little night-timebugs.

“Police, Mister Krump. Open up! “

“Oh my God.” She stopped short but could see their mottled images through the wavy glass on both sides of the door. The Police. Not the police so soon. She thought they’d come for her at work, not to her own door, so she’d called in sick for the past week even though she’d used up all her sick and vacation leave. She was hoping to find another job before they fired her. Having added up the cost of the jewelry she’d stolen over the last few years, she realized it came to well over ten thousand dollars.

“Mister Krump? You best open the door. We’ll all get on a lot better that way.”

“That’s Miss Krump. Thank you.”

She turned the picture of Sasha to face the wall. “Don’t worry Sha Sha.”Mommy’s going to be alright.”She had made that promise more than a few times lately.
“Could you kindly come back another time? Say in an hour? I’m not dressed yet.”

“Miss Krump. We need you to come along with us right now. I’m authorized to tear down the door if necessary.”

“Well, I don’t really care if you do. The bank’s going to take it over anyway. But I’ll open up if you’ll give me a chance to get dressed before we go.”

“I think we can do that.” The officer’s voice had softened and Martha turned the knob on the deadbolt, the click of the lock hollow and vacant as she pulled open the door.

Martha stood there clutching her robe together at the neck. Her voice was so soft that she herself could hardly tell she was speaking. “You will let me change? Before we go?”

“I said you could. I don’t go back on my word.” She headed towards the hallway and he followed closely, a deputy staying behind, looking over everything.

“I’ll change in the bathroom. Where I can brush my teeth.” She reached for her purse which was on the sofa, but the officer was so quick, and pulled it away as she walked by him.

“No Miss Krump. You have to leave your purse here.”

“What about my make up?”

“You won’t need it. Just get dressed now. We have to get to the station.”

“Well it might take me a few extra minutes. I’ve just had surgery and I don’t move very quickly.” She wondered if she would have thought of the line if it hadn’t been true. Of course, she was purposefully moving quite slowly, far slower than was necessary as she made her way down the hallway to her room. Before the officer came to stand in the bedroom doorway, she had snatched the two twenties hidden in her underwear drawer, the last little bit of money she had in case of emergency. Not that life had escaped emergency status as a whole, but she’d managed to keep the forty dollars in case her hormone medication ran out.

In the bathroom, she dressed in her white Capri pants and chose the pink top with the laced collar and frilly hem. She put the bills in the side of her shoe and took a small bottle of pills from the medicine cabinet placing them in the shallow pocket of her capris. Then she flushed the toilet and took advantage of the noise to open the window and push out the screen.

It wasn’t far to the ground, but when she landed she felt the pulls and strains and hoped she hadn’t torn anything loose. That would be horrible! But she couldn’t go to jail. Girls like her would not last in jail or prison. She knew that.

Running was not easy, but she managed to get to the woods and unless they brought out dogs, she’d make it. As she ran, she pieced it all together. It was that Justine who’d turned her in, Martha was sure of it. Justine had been her best friend. Once. Well, her only friend, really. She was the only one who knew about the stolen jewelry, the operation, and the hard times.

It had been less than three weeks since the last operation and the running hadn’t done her any good. Coming out on the other side of the woods, she slowed to a walk. It was just turning light out when she stopped all together, her long brown hair falling across her face. She’d been growing her hair for some time now, and the softness of it against her cheek made her cry.

Bringing her large hands across her face it occurred to her then that she didn’t even have a suitcase to sit down on. So, she just sat down in the dirt along the gravel road. She was suddenly so tired.

She must have slept for a few minutes because she didn’t hear the truck pull up, but then someone was saying, “Hey! Hey lady. You okay?”

She opened her eyes and it was still early morning.

“What you doin’ out here all by yourself? You okay?” A man in his thirties, unshaven but handsome, stood looking down at her. She could have gone swimming in his blue eyes.

He had called her “lady,” and to her that was the kindest thing she could have imagined. Her eyes adjusted and the sun shining through the pink clouds looked like lace on the bottom of a dress. She had an image of herself wearing the cloud-dress, and she would twirl around and all the others would laugh and clap for her.

“Hey,” he said, softly now bending down to her, “You want me to call an ambulance or something?”

“Oh no. You’re so kind. I’m really quite fine.” She made an attempt to get up, but fell back slightly and he reached out and grabbed her arm helping her up. He was strong and sure, but unsuspecting of her weight as he pulled her to her feet.

When she stood, she was a little taller than him, and she hated that. She had chosen the soft canvass tennis shoes with the thin rubber soles because she liked the way they looked on her feet. They didn’t show her true size so much.

“Damn!”He said in surprise.

“Oh, I’m sorry to be so clumsy. I’m just very tired.”

She recovered then as she was so good at doing, recovered, storing his earlier compliment, knowing she would review it later.

“So what’s your name?”

“I’m Martha.” She dusted off and offered her pink nail polished hand, palm down which he took by the fingers and gave a little shake.

“Oh. I’m such a scatter brain. And I must look terrible,” she said patting at her hair. “My car broke down some miles back, and I just started walking thinking I’d come to a town soon. But…” She was looking down the road as if maybe a town had popped up while she slept. “But no town. And I’ve gone off and completely left my purse in the darn car. Can you believe that? So, you’ve come to my rescue! I have some cash and I’ll buy you breakfast if you can get us into town.”

He looked at her in a way she thought peculiar. He paused too long, his interest seemed diverted, and she thought how stupid she had been to say such a thing about money to someone she didn’t even know.

“It’s a deal,” he said and she tried to focus on his smile and let it be the thing that answered her doubts.

They walked to his truck and got in, he closing the door for her, then headed back to the main road. The truck had a seriously good air conditioner, and she turned the vent full force on herself. The cushioned cloth seats were a true comfort and she sat leaning back against the head rest forgetting about her large Adam’s apple. She straightened back up when she sensed him looking over at her, and again chastised herself for not remembering the important things.

“Funny. I didn’t see a car broke down along the road.”

“Oh. Well. I steered it off a bit so as not to be in anyone’s way. It may have been behind some bushes. Plus, I’m sure you weren’t looking for some crazy brunette’s car pulled off the highway!”

“Should we go back and see if we can get it started? I’m pretty good with cars.” He looked over at her with what she imagined was a hopeful face.”

“Oh. You’re the kindest thing! I can’t wait to tell my girlfriends what a handsome and gallant fellow rescued me!”

“I’m only just giving you a ride to town.” His voice sounded suddenly flat, as if he were perturbed.

“Of course. “

As he drove, she noticed cabin after empty cabin left vacant due to the Alabama August heat. She thought she should’ve just kept walking. She would’ve come to one of them eventually. Maybe she’d go back after breakfast and try to break into one that was a bit off the road. Most likely the owners would have left some food and she’d get a chance to rest and get her head together.

The diner where he took her was large and did a good business for a small town. They were seated in a booth with benches covered in cracked red plastic. She scooted in trying to avoid the gaping wounds in the padding that showed the fleshy yellowed foam beneath.

“So, what do you do for a living?” He was looking at the menu as he spoke. “You’re paying right?”

“Yes,” she said softly.

After they ordered, he asked again. “So you never said what you did?”

She paused and ran her finger over the chip in her nail polish on the left thumb. She thought chipped polish looked tacky, but she’d have to forgive herself that for now. Before answering she looked over her shoulder for the waitress, and in looking away thought about the question.

For going on six years she had worked in the jewelry department at Robison’s down on Central, and she’d been stealing from them for about half that time trying to get enough for her operations. Justine had been so supportive of her having the operations, had even offered to help a little with the cost when she found out Martha had sold her car for the money. That’s when she told Justine she was taking a few things from time to time.

“I’m a jewelry specialist” she said proudly, turning back to him. I buy for upscale jewelry stores across the state. Travel a lot. You know, the stress builds up and you just have to get away sometimes. But what a way to start a vacation, huh?

“So, you never told me your name,” she said trying to divert the downward direction of their conversation.

“Mike,” he said absently as the breakfast arrived. And then they both fell silent, eating ravenously.

Mike sopped the remaining yellow from his eggs with the last bite of biscuit and said without looking up, “So what’s your real name?”


He spoke with his mouth full, “You know you’re real name." Without the girl-clothes. Sam, John, Albert?”

She stopped eating and looked down at the napkin in her lap. Her hands had begun to shake and she ran her finger along the outer seam in the Capris.

“That isn’t very nice,” her voice was almost a whisper.

“No. What isn’t very nice, “he said leaning forward looking hard into her face and dropping his voice, “is you trying to convince everybody you’re someone you’re not. Someone pretty and shy and stranded. Look buddy, your teeth are too big, your hands are too big, your mouth, your nose, your feet, all too big.”

It reminded her of the Little Red Riding Hood story.

“I’m not a wolf,” she said. Someone dropped a plate in the kitchen and the sound of breaking glass stopped the conversation in the diner.

“Look, I’m just trying to do you a favor. You’re never gonna pass. You might as well just give up and go on home.”

“Well. I can’t really do that.” She had begun to cry despite how hard she had wanted not to.

“Yeah? So why not? Just give up this little game, this stupid charade and…” He paused then, letting it all sink in. “Shit man. Shit! You already had it whacked off?”


His eyes were big and he sat back in the booth in resignation. “Goddamn.”

“Removed,” she corrected. “As if it’s any of your business.”

“But how do you… and after all that…you aren’t even…” He paused again.

“Pretty? No. I don’t suppose that I am, really.” Her voice cracked as she still fought the hot tears. She looked around the restaurant as a distraction, as an attempt to get a hold of herself, but images were blurring badly, and she felt the tears spill over onto her cheeks, felt the lump in her throat ache and close in.

“I need to powder my nose,” she managed to say, getting up out of the booth.

She was aware of the overall conversation in the restaurant, how it seemed to wane when she walked by, how the silence was so deafening, making her hurry, and hoping she could be alone in the restroom. Just before she closed the door she noticed two policemen showing the cashier a picture, and the girl was frowning into it.

Alone in the restroom, she considered jumping out the small window, but decided against it. She was tired and hurt had surrounded her. After using the toilet, she washed her hands and then stood at the sink looking down into the basin letting the cool water runoff her finger tips. She knew he was right. It was like turning a light on in a room she was familiar with. She let herself cry, leaning over the sink, her shoulders creeping up around her ears.


She hadn’t heard the bathroom door open.

“Did that bastard break up with you? Well, you ask me, you’re too good for him anyway. Come on now.” The woman reached up and put her hand on Martha’s shoulder and when she took it away to open her purse, Martha could still feel where it had been – warm and comforting.

“Men are just never worth it, trust me on this one. Here let’s put your face back on.”Then the woman reached right up and Martha bent down automatically. She brought out a tissue and dried Martha’s face.

“Come on now, Honey. He’s just not worth it. Us girls have to stick together. You’re going to be okay. We always are. It just never seems like it at the time.”
She powdered Martha’s face with a little brush she smoothed across an open compact then used the ball of her finger to even out a spot. She pulled up the collar on Martha’s blouse, tugging a bit, trying to make it stay.

“You get yourself a turtle neck, Honey. I know it’s hot, but you’ll be mostly inside, I imagine.”

She got out a red lipstick and pulled the top off, twisting the waxy deep color to the top and handed it to Martha. It felt cool and glossy on her lips.

“There now. Doesn’t that make you feel a little better?”

Martha looked at herself in the mirror again. It did make her feel better, even if it wasn’t nearly as much as she could have done with all of her own make up.

“You’re so very kind,” Martha said looking at the woman who was now touching up her own make-up.

“You’ll be okay, Honey,” she said into the mirror. “You just go find yourself someone who deserves you. Which none of them really do, but you find somebody that it’s not so hard to pretend with. What you need are some good girlfriends.” She finished at the mirror and turned to look at Martha. Her voice was soothing and pulled Martha in.

“Sweetie, you’re just going through a rough time. My momma used to say, ‘There’ll be better days.’ And she was right. So I’m saying it to you.”

When Martha came out of the restroom the two policemen were still showing the picture around. The patrons were studying it and passing it along. It was then that Mike was suddenly there, at her side reaching out, guiding her back to the table, turning away from the police and the picture as it passed along.

When they were seated, he glanced over his shoulder. “Look. The cops are after you for something. I’m pretty sure it’s your photo they’re passing around except it’s a picture of a man. To tell you the blunt truth it doesn’t look that much different than you do right now. We gotta get you outta here.”


“Yeah. Well. Those bastards don’t know jack shit. You got the money for the breakfast?”

She reached into the side of her shoe, pulled out the two twenties, and gave them both to Mike. He scooted out of the booth quickly and moved to her side. She let him help her out, and then he put his arm around her waist.

“I’ll meet you in the car, Honey,” he said a little too loudly, and she knew he wanted her to get out as fast as she could. His kindness made her smile, and she left as the little bell above the door tinkled her departure.

The squad car was there in the quiet parking lot, there among the pickup trucks and beat up Chevys. She stood looking at it all in the hot August sun, the dust having settled on everything so thickly.

Passing the squad car on the way to the truck, she bent down and wrote the word, “Martha” in small letters above the key hole to the trunk. She hardly cared about the chipped polish on her nail now. Then she sat in the truck, waiting for Mike to come out of the restaurant. She was remembering how he had first called her “lady.”

She smiled as she looked out across the vast empty fields beyond the parking lot. But it was getting hot in the truck and she turned towards the restaurant door.


It seemed Mike was taking a really long time.


C. Bee from US holds an MFA in creative writing, an MA in professional writing, and a BS in English. They have published a book on beekeeping through the A.I. Root Company. Fiction publications appear in Nobody’s Home, The Monarch Review, Chug Magazine, and others. They have been featured as a personal narrative storyteller on NPR, Cold River Radio, and various live stage venues. They are currently working on a memoir about growing up in the South in the 1960’s as a transgendered youth and a novel entitled, Ottman Simms set in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1940's.


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