Carrie stood in front of the police station with her hands in her pockets, sweating slightly in the Carolina sun but trying to ignore it because she liked the jacket she was wearing and it brought out her eyes or at least she thought that was something the young pretty girls would say about their jackets and seemed like it was a good thing to be a young pretty girl. She had found the jacket in a trash can out behind Bernie’s drugstore two weeks ago, and it didn’t smell too bad so she had taken it home and had worn it every day since. She hadn’t told mother about the jacket, since mother didn’t usually like the things she brought home. Mother said she should “act her age” and instead of taking home treasures Carrie should make friends and try to be like the other girls who go out with men and have jobs and are respectable. But Carrie learned much more from the rabbits she talked to and then threw rocks at than she could ever learn from dancing on a Friday night.
Her right hand was clasped tightly around a button and some old fingernail clippings, which had come with the jacket and had felt sort of like a present and since Carrie never got presents she felt like she should keep this one. Her left hand hung limp at her side, only moving to brush the slightly greasy hair out of her face. She didn’t enjoy bathing too much. It took time away from exploring old alleyways and sitting on the corner of Tenth and Washington to watch people pass by on their way to work or lunch or whatever else people did at eleven o’clock in the morning.
Carrie stared at the front door of the station. She had loved him, you know. That was why this had all happened. But she was here to make it right and it was going to be great because she was going to be the hero and he would be avenged and all was going to be right.
She had first seen him three months ago. He had come into town for the summer, like many people do, to work on investments or something of the like. Carrie didn’t know much about business, but that was what he had said to her mother when she had inquired. It was a small town, and new people coming in and out was somewhat of an occasion. Carrie’s mother had asked because it was the fifth time he had come into the diner she owned, the same one Carrie worked at, and Carrie’s mother couldn’t stand not knowing someone’s life story if they were willing to give it.
His name was Henry Bradley. He didn’t say much about himself, only that he didn’t have any family nearby and was in the business field. He was staying in town for a few months before heading back to Chicago in the fall. Carrie eavesdropped the whole conversation until the chef saw her hiding behind the counter and hit her ear with a rolled up magazine.
When Carrie first saw Henry Bradley, she felt something inside her that she had not felt before. It was sort of like her stomach did a cartwheel and then turned into a rock and settled heavily. Her palms began to sweat and her heart started pounding. She thought she might be dying. When he left the diner and she couldn’t see him anymore, the pounding and sweating stopped, but the image of him stayed in her mind. The image was still there during lunch and the afternoon and dinner and bedtime. He was the last thing she thought about at night and the first thing she thought about in the morning.
A few days later Carrie saw Henry Bradley walk by her street corner. For several days she continued to watch him walk across the sidewalk with the same briefcase but a different suit and every day she thought about him more and more. She found herself wanting to be with him and one day she decided she was going to talk to him because maybe even though she wasn’t one of the young pretty girls he would want to be with her too.
Carrie sat down on the curb in front of the police station.
On Tuesday morning she had sat down on the street corner at ten-thirty, just in case someone else was going to sit and watch him and she wanted to make sure she didn’t miss him because today was the day he was going to meet her and he was going to like her as much as she liked him and he was going to want to be with her and she couldn’t wait.
At eleven o’clock she saw him walking down the street and jumped up and walked quickly over and stood right in front of him. Henry Bradley jerked to a halt, gave her a puzzled look, and tried to move around her. Carrie blocked him. He moved to the other side, and Carrie blocked him again.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Can I get through? I’m running late.”
“I like you,” Carrie said.
He looked around, then straight at Carrie. “What? Who are you?” he asked.
“My name is Carrie and I like you and I want to be with you and I was wondering if you would want to be with me,” Carrie said.
Henry Bradley laughed nervously. “Is this some kind of joke? I’m sorry, I really need to go.”
He walked past Carrie and continued down the street. Carrie watched him go, bewildered. Why didn’t he want to be with her? At first she felt sad, then she felt angry. Why didn’t she ever get smiles like the young pretty girls? She was just as nice as the young pretty girls and she deserved to have a man and she wanted this man and that was that.
Carrie decided she was going to wait for the man to back down the sidewalk at the end of the day and talk to him again when he wasn’t running so late. She waited all day on the street corner, watching people run here and there. Everyone always seemed to be in a rush.
Just as the afternoon was beginning to cool off, Carrie saw Henry Bradley coming back down the sidewalk. She rushed towards him.
“Oh my—you again?” he asked. “I don’t know who you are, so please just leave me alone.”
“Do you want to see my house?” Carrie asked. “I have my own.”
Carrie had built a small hut out of scrap metal and wood she’d collected over the years.
“No, I do not,” he said. “I’m going to call the police if you don’t leave me alone.”
“There’s a little boy hurt near there.”
Carried didn’t know why she said that. There wasn’t any boy. She just wanted Henry Bradley to come by her house so much and maybe if he thought a boy was there he would and then maybe he would love it and then maybe he would love her.
“Are you serious? Where?” He asked wildly.
Carrie led him past the store and the post office and through a grove of trees to her house.
“What—do you live here?” Henry Bradley asked.
“I built it.”
A man came out of the police station.
“Can I help you, Carrie?” He asked.
Carrie turned around and the man gasped.
“There’s a man in my house,” she said.
“A man in my house.”
The man paused and took a deep breath.
“Is he trespassing?”
“Did you invite him in?”
“Is he still there?”
“Then what’s wrong?”
The man’s eyes turned into saucers.
“What? Are you sure?”
“I tried to save him.”
The man yelled something inside without taking his eyes off Carrie.
When Carrie reached the house with Henry Bradley she paused outside the front door to decide what to do. That’s when the voices came and there was yelling and she didn’t know what to do and she didn’t know what not to do. She didn’t remember what happened next.
Another man came outside and stood next to the first man. They seemed nice.
“Carrie, we need you to tell us what happened,” the other man said.
“There’s a man in my house,” Carrie said. “He’s dead.”
“Yes, you said that,” the first man said. “Do you know what happened? We’re sending police there right now to find him.”
“Good,” Carrie said. “He’s dead. I tried to save him.”
“Is that why you have blood on you?” The first man asked.
Carrie looked down and saw that her hands and dress were caked with blood.
“Yes,” Carrie said. “I tried to save him.”
“What do you mean you tried to save him?”
“He was bleeding. I tried to save him.”
The men looked at each other.
“Carrie,” the first man said slowly. “Why is there a knife in your hands?”
Carrie looked down. She was holding her pocketknife in her right hand. It was also covered in blood.
“I tried to save him,” she said.
“Carrie, can you drop the knife?” The other man asked.
“I’m not bad,” Carrie said. “I’m good. I don’t know who hurt him but I tried to save him.”
“You are good, Carrie,” the first man said. “Please drop the knife. Then we can go inside and talk.”
Carrie shook her head.
“He didn’t want me,” she said. “He was mad at me. So, I lied to him. I told him there was a boy hurt behind the house.”
“Please drop the knife, Carrie.”
“I thought he might want me.”
“I don’t think he wanted me.”
“Why doesn’t anyone want me?”
“Carrie, please drop the knife.”
Carrie didn’t drop the knife.