Paul and Mary sat in Mary’s kitchen, books and laptops lying forgotten on the table between them, wearing identical vacant expressions. They had long since stopped pretending to study. Mary broke the lengthy silence, startling Paul and bringing him back from wherever his mind had wandered. He blinked a few times until his eyes refocused on the sun washed kitchen’s stark white cabinets and yellow speckled linoleum floor. Mary’s voice drew his eyes to the puzzled look on her face.
“When did we start behaving like this? I don’t remember being this cruel when we were younger. Come to think of it, until the last two days, it never even occurred to me that we were being cruel. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Paul cocked his head to the side to consider Mary’s question. Used to his long silences while he weighed all sides of a question, Mary waited patiently until he was ready to answer, content to watch the expressions dancing across his face.
“You’re right. Although this town is pretty insular and we’ve never been overly fond of strangers, we didn’t go out of our way to make anyone feel unwelcome either. Even if we did, we were never mean to anyone. It seems like something changed when Sasha moved to town, but my memory is uncharacteristically fuzzy on this topic. I wonder why?”
Mary slammed the book she hadn’t been reading closed and demanded “Why do you think things changed with Sasha? What is it about her, in particular, that brings out our worst qualities? In fact, brings out qualities we never even possessed before now.”
“You know, Mary, if it was just us, I might have an answer, but even our parents and the other adults in town are encouraging us to make this girl miserable. Maybe not overtly, but I can&rsquo...