If not for my sisters and the tragic circumstances of our upbringing, I would be living an empty life and bound for heartbreak.
It started when we were nineteen.
Iris called me, frantic, in the middle of the night. She had her own apartment above a laundromat in downtown Clovis. She was so proud of that place—all five hundred square feet of it. She kept it tidy and burned incense at all hours to hide the smell from the dumpster in the alley outside her bedroom window. At night, there was the persistent throb of the bar across the street, the music loud enough to rattle the porcelain angel figurines on the shelves. They’d come with the place, and Iris had decided they made her living room look homey—a word she’d never used before, because we’d never had a home.
“Just come,” she’d sobbed and then hung up. All of my calls went straight to voicemail. I sped the whole way over there, sure that someone had just climbed up the fire escape to murder her. But what I found was a different sort of violence.
Blood, deep and dark, pooled on her oriental rug, and splattered across the angel figurines.
She’d been sleeping with her old high school guidance counselor—a fifty-one-year-old married father of two. He strung her along for months, promising to leave his wife. He broke her heart a hundred times, and then Iris plunged a kebab skewer through his.
“You watch all of those crime shows,” Moody said, emerging from the kitchen with a bottle of bleach she’d found under the sink. “Help us make this go away.”
We moved with a practical calm, the three of us, and when it was through, Iris’s ill-fated lover was resting in six garbage bags, wound tightly with duct tape. If it were only one of us, or even two, I’m sure we would have been caught. We would have missed a detail. But we were a perfect team, the three of us.
After a lifetime of being torn apart, we were finally together, finally able to help one another in all the ways we never could when we were being jostled helplessly by the foster system. All those years of loneliness, of wanting, of being kept apart, had brought us to this desperate moment. Knee-deep in the water of the San Joaquin river in the velvet black night, we weighed the pieces of the man with rocks, and a promise started to form. In the coming days, it slowly became obvious what we needed to do.
We wouldn’t deprive ourselves of love, but our hearts would be weapons. We would love the men we found completely and without inhibition, put a lifetime into our brief time together. Live out every fantasy we desired. And then we would kill them.
There would never be another lover to break one of us. We would break all of them first.
“Excerpted from HOW I’LL KILL YOU by Ren DeStefano published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Ren DeStefano”