Grace Olive Kettridge, who goes by her middle name, was born on March 7th, 1982 at 4:43 pm at St. Agnes’ Hospital in Townsville, Montana. Yesterday was her 32nd birthday. She woke at 6:02 am. She ate two scrambled eggs for breakfast. And she went on a nine mile run past the Johnson farm on the far side of town. It was the best beginning to a birthday she’d had in years. And it was exactly what she needed.
After her run and a nice, long shower, Olive got ready for her long day of work at her new job at Townsville Elementary. Olive’s hair was a point of great discussion throughout Townsville, as she wore it in a perfect spiral, resembling the beehive look of the fifties and sixties. It took thirty-six minutes every morning to get it ready. She wore perfectly kitsch vintage glasses and sang to herself constantly. It was her quiet singing that made Christopher Gerard Perry fall deeply in love with her on her nineteenth birthday.
As Olive walked down Broadway Street, enjoying the brisk spring breeze, she wondered how different her life would’ve been had she never met Christopher, had she not married him at twenty-two, had she not caught him cheating at twenty-six, had she not divorced him at twenty-nine, and had she not killed him at thirty-one.
Mrs. Robyn Benson walked by and waved at Olive, who politely and excitedly curtsied back. “Good morning, Mrs. Benson.”
“Good morning, Olive.”
The two continued on their ways, Mrs. Benson continuing to wonder what Mr. Franklin looks like naked and Olive continuing to ponder her life. She wondered if she would’ve gone to Europe and travelled Asia had she not met Christopher. She wouldn’t have. Olive is petrified of airplanes, and that was something Christopher had nothing to do with.
One year prior, on her 31st birthday, Olive woke in a very different manner. She rolled out of the motel bed, looked at herself in the fluorescent-lit mirror and made the decision that this world was not meant for both she and Christopher Gerard Perry. And since she had no intentions of leaving it, the remaining option was obvious.
She drove to Wilson’s Hardware in her 1993 teal blue Honda Accord and purchased twenty-six square feet of nine-gauge Galvanized steel chain link fabric, two sets of gloves, a bone saw, an axe, and three potting plants that had nothing to do with her plan to murder Christopher; she simply needed them.
Mr. Wilson greeted her kindly as she paid with her Bronson & Glover Mastercard. “Gonna put in a garden, Olive?”
She smiled and laughed and nodded coyly. Mr. Wilson blushed; he always had a bit of a crush on Olive, who left the hardware store and loaded her supplies into the two-door sedan. Then, she stopped for ice cream at Millers, because it was her birthday, after all.
Then, she drove to the house Christopher bought her for her twenty-third birthday present with money he borrowed from her father’s inheritance. Money he never paid back. She sat in front for a long while and thought about buying a pack of cigarettes. She’d never smoked before, but she’d also never killed anyone, and she thought, “maybe today will be my day of firsts.” But, then Christopher walked out of the front door wearing a t-shirt she’d given him after a football game in high school.
There wasn’t nearly as much blood as she thought there’d be. The axe seemed to have missed all the major arteries, which was fortunate but unplanned. Her second surprise was how quickly it all happened. She walked out the car, axe in hand. Christopher started to make a wise-crack about the large chopping tool. But before he finished the punch line, she buried it in his head, just above his left eyebrow. He fell right over.
As she wrapped him with the chain fabric and dug the hole out past Johnson’s farm, where Christopher will decompose slowly and eventually grow into a beautiful knoll, she was glad she hadn’t bought the cigarettes. Olive was’t out of shape, but digging a grave by oneself is arduous work.
Over the next year, Olive made a series of great changes in her life. She began running every morning, her route taking her past Johnson’s farm so she could wave to Christopher – just as she had done yesterday morning, on her 32nd birthday. She finished getting her degree. She began teaching. And she discovered that life on ones own has a freedom she’d always desired.
She arrived at Townsville Elementary seven minutes before the bell rang. Two minutes before James McMurphy and Elliot Testlend presented her with birthday cards. “Thank you, James. Thank you, Elliot. These are very nice. Did you make them?” The boys nodded and bashfully bounced away. Olive smiled and made her way to her classroom.
As she entered, expecting possibly a surprise party, maybe some students who arrived early, or even an empty room, Olive was greeted instead by Officer Carl Ykowski, who’s wife taught music at Townsville Elementary. “Hi, Carl. You here to see Janine?”
He took a deep breath and reluctantly shook his head. “No, Olive. I’m here on official business.” She took a deep breath, fully expecting the next words from his mouth to be the last she would hear outside of cuffs. She thought back to the freedom she was reveling in on her walk to work and a swell of joy surged through her, for even a day with that feeling was better than a lifetime of never knowing it.
“Yep. I need to make sure you are going to be baking that delicious apple pie again for the Police fundraiser next weekend?”
Olive burst into laughter. “Of course, silly!” Carl smiled and blushed.
“That damn pie is just too good, Olive.”
He gave her a hug and wished her a happy birthday. She continued into the classroom, ready for the day ahead, ready for the bake off the next weekend, ready for the year to come, ready to step into the life she always knew she wanted, but for some reason had walked next to for thirty-two years. She winked at herself in the window’s reflection, fixed her hair to make sure it was standing as tall as possible and welcomed her students to open their second grade math books to page 32.