There Are No Happy Endings


Author: Leah Johnson – Third Place Senior Division 2024

The music at the Qui Plume La Lune Café is too bland for my taste. However, Delphine argues that the warm, chocolate croissants make up for it. Although, I must admit that the sweet scent of cinnamon that fills the air along with the plentiful amount of lit candles along the window sills are attractive features. I’m sitting at a small metal table near the street view window. The café is quite full today, with only two out of the ten tables being empty.

I peer out the window at the gray sky of Bordeaux. Today is the perfect day for a warm cup of hazelnut tea. I glance towards the door to see Delphine eagerly strutting towards my table with a troubled look on her face, her deep orange ringlets bouncing with each eager step. She plops down onto the wine-red metal chair.

“Navier, I need your help.” I can sense the shakiness behind her voice.

“Let me guess, you lost Bijou again?” I raise one eyebrow as I tuck a piece of my strawberry blond hair behind my ear.

“Yes…” She tilts her head down slightly, an embarrassed expression spreading across her face, aware that this is the third time this month that she’s lost her orange tabby cat. “Please help me out; you can find anything, no matter where it may be!”

As I’m about to respond, a small, clearly stressed waitress approaches our table with two glasses of the ever so lovely hazelnut tea and two freshly baked, chocolate-filled croissants,

Delphine’s favorite. I slide the food to Delphine and thank the waitress before continuing our conversation.

“I wouldn’t say anything…”

“Well just about anything then! Please Navier, I beg you!” She pleads as she takes a large bite of her croissant.

“Of course, anything for my dearest friend,” I say, with a small sigh in my voice, making it known to Delphine that I’m only doing this because I care about her.

“Thank you! I’ll be sure to repay you!”

I take a long sip of my tea. Everything about this magnificent tea reminds me of the first seven years of my life. It was perfect, I was able to live without a care in the world. I was safe. I was happy. Oh, how I long for life to go back to how it was. If it weren’t for the disgusting sight of both my parents, slaughtered by a sickly rich man and hung from our kitchen ceiling, my longings might’ve never existed. I snap back to the present and look up from my tea. Delphine is waving her hand in my face in an attempt to regain my attention from my fantasyland.


“You were zoning out there,” Delphine says with a chuckle, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, have you caught any leads on Pierre Dupont?”

“One; it’s extremely small, but we might be able to use it against him.” I sigh, taking another sip of my tea.

“Really?! Well, go on, tell me!”

“His daughter.”

“His daughter?”

“Yes, Amandine Dupont.”

“Navier, what exactly are you suggesting?” Delphine asks, her nerves showing in her voice.

“It’s simple, my dearest Delphine, we kidnap Amandine and kill her if her father still refuses to show himself. I’ve been keeping track of her routine for the past year along with the names of everyone she has been associated with.”

“Navier! Have you lost your mind? Truly, you cannot fathom doing such a thing to her!” Delphine is tearing up at this point. Perhaps choosing such a softie to be my accomplice wasn’t such a great idea.

I had grown up with Delphine. Despite us not being related by blood, she was more or less my sister. Her parents were killed in a house fire when she was no older than five. My family took her in from the orphanage as my mother’s heart shattered after hearing her tragic backstory. She has been by my side ever since, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything she’s done for me.

“Don’t stress about it too much, Delphine. I won’t hurt her unless Pierre refuses to cooperate.”

“I don’t know about this one, Navier…”

“Let’s change the topic. I don’t feel like discussing this matter in public.”

“Ok, then, what shall we discuss?”

“Nothing. I’ll be leaving now. Thank you for coming. Oh, and don’t worry about the bill. It’s already paid.”

Delphine stays seated, her gaze following me as I leave the dreary atmosphere of the café. I step outside into the slightly busy streets of Bordeaux. As I begin my stroll towards the market, I see something from the corner of my eye. I turn my head to see Amandine Dupont sitting on a washed-out oak bench conversing with a young man who appears to be around her age. I must admit, Amandine is a strikingly beautiful young woman. The only flaw she possesses is a large, coffee-colored birthmark on her left cheek, and even then, most would consider it an

addition to her beauty rather than a flaw. In a way, I envy her. Not because of her beauty, but because she still has a family to run home to; for now, at least.


My gaze shifts from Amandine to the young man sitting next to her. His hazel eyes are locked on her, a love interest I suppose. I study his face, making note of how he can be of some use in the future. I turn back to my original path, but I don’t make it more than two blocks before I overhear a conversation between a police officer and a seemingly troubled young woman.

I’ve never seen her before in my life, but just from seeing her blank expression, I can make a fair guess at what has just happened. I watch her fall to her knees, a steady stream of tears flowing from her empty eyes. I know her emotion too well as it was the same way I reacted when struggling to explain to the police what had happened to my parents. I pity her. I truly do. However, I must not focus on her emotions too much; otherwise, I fear they’ll consume me.

I kept my head down for the rest of my stroll, deciding to pass on the market as I only had enough francs for half a loaf of bread. I’m sure whatever may be in my pantry will suffice for a fair enough dinner. The rest of my walk home is quiet, except for the occasional sound of the train passing through the mountainous countryside.

When I step inside, I throw my small beige handbag onto the small kitchen table and make my way over to my two-seater cream-colored sofa. I throw my head back as I sit down with only one thing on my mind. I need to act fast on Pierre if I’m going to avenge my parents. I raise my head back to its regular position and pull out the notebook from under my left sofa cushion. It contains Amandine’s daily schedule, hobbies, and connections built up from the past three months. I flip through the first few pages, which contain her usual morning routine. As long as she keeps to this routine, sweeping her up off the street should be no problem.

I’m about to go eat my bread and jam when the telephone begins to ring. I slowly walk over to the telephone. This is the third time anyone has ever called me. Cautiously, I answer.

“Hello?” I ask curiously.

“I know what you’re doing,” answers a stern voice from the other side. It sounds like a male, no older than twenty-two.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I know who you are and what you plan to do to Amandine.” I try to respond, but the mysterious man’s voice cuts me off.

“Don’t even bother. It’s my job, and I intend to fulfill it without you getting in my way,” he says, ending with a brief chuckle of amusement.

“I’m sorry, but I believe you have the wrong number. I know of no Amandine and certainly nothing about this kidnapping you speak of.” I’m about to hang up the phone when I hear his voice come from the other side.

“Who said anything about a kidnapping, Miss Monet?”

Damn it; I just screwed this all up. But how does he know my name? Who even is he? “My apologies sir, I’m not Ms. Monet.” A sudden shakiness begins to form within my voice.

“My, Miss Monet, you can make up these lies all day if you must, but it’s no use.”

“And what makes you so sure?”

“Look out your window.”

My window? Who is this guy? A stalker? I set down the phone as I make my way over to the small window that’s placed in the center of my wall. I carefully peel back the dark gray curtain to an unsettling sight. Outside, a man is standing inside a phone booth near the streetlamp. He’s wearing an olive-green suit under a long, black trench coat. He looks out from the booth, and I see his face, but not for the first time. I recognize him immediately as the man sitting with Amandine earlier this evening. We make eye contact as he presents a large smile across his smug face. I quickly shut the curtain and hurried back over to the phone. “What do you want from me?” I demand in a fit of rage.

“It’s simple. Just leave Amandine alone and I’ll take care of it.” He states this like I’m a five-year-old crying over a toy I can’t have.

“Who are you?” I’m surprised I haven’t asked this question sooner considering that I’ve never spoken to this person before.

“I’m afraid that’s none of your concern. My sincerest apologies.”

“Hey. You know who I am; why can’t I know who you are?”

“Good day, Miss Monet.”

“Hey, you can’t just-”.

He hangs up the phone. I don’t think that I’ve ever wanted to strangle someone more than him in my life. Well, besides Pierre Dupont. I quickly run back towards the window in an attempt to spot the man, but he was already gone. I fight the urge to throw my lamp to the floor. I angrily throw my body onto the couch and drift off to sleep.

I awake the next morning sprawled across the floor. I cannot recall my dream, but based on how much I moved, I can imagine that it wasn’t pleasant. I slowly stand up, holding onto the sofa for support. I sit back down and throw my head back. It feels heavy, maybe it’s because there are so many thoughts running around inside. I fight the urge to go back to sleep and instead head over to the telephone. I need to call Delphine and inform her about the mysterious man from last night, along with his intentions. The phone rings, but to no avail, she doesn’t answer.

This is strange for Delphine, maybe she had gone for breakfast? I decide to shrug it off. I quickly dress myself and head out the door to the eerie streets.

I begin to saunter towards the Qui Plume La Lune café to search for Delphine. I walk no more than two blocks before I’m suddenly dragged into an alley between two abandoned shops. I feel a rag, laced with Rohypnol, pressed over my mouth. I can’t move. My thought-heavy mind begins to feel as if an anvil has just been dropped upon it. My eyes begin to feel the same and slowly fall shut. I collapse to the floor, limp and lifeless. Despite my body’s dysfunction, I can still hear faint conversations every now and then.

I hear the voices of two men; I assume they are the ones who jumped me.

“So, what do we do with her now?” one says with a sense of regret in his voice.

“He said that we are to bring her back to the old Chȃteau de Charmante,” the other replied.

The Chȃteau de Charmante is an abandoned winery about 260 miles south of Bordeaux. It was only abandoned due to an accident that resulted in more than thirty casualties. The police refused to give details of the incident to the public; however, the incident was more than twenty years ago, so it simply slipped the minds of many.

“How do we get her to the car? Do we drag her? Carry her?”

“I’ll pull the car around the other side. You drag her over and throw her in the trunk,” the first man whispers in an almost threatening voice. “Be quick; he’s getting tired of the first girl.”

I feel him tightly grip my ankles as he drags my limp body the long thirty feet to the other side of the alley. They aren’t gentle when they thrust me into the trunk of their car. I lie there, limp and useless, for the majority of the long ride. After what felt like two hours, I can feel my eyes begin to open and feeling come back to my body. I regain my mobility and begin to panic. While I’m quite smart on the topic of logical matters, defending myself is another story.

My arms are comparable to twigs and I’m not skilled at fighting others. I’m done for. I lie in the damp trunk for the remainder of the drive, tears are fighting to form in my dry eyes.

It feels like hours have passed by the time we arrive. I remain in the trunk for roughly twenty minutes before I can hear the two men from earlier standing outside of it. Their voices grow louder as one of the men pops open the trunk. The look on his face tells me that I shouldn’t be awake right now. Without hesitation, he takes his left fist to my face. The taste of metallic and salt as blood fills my mouth. I barely have time to comprehend what’s happening before he strikes again. This time, an aggressive left hook, straight to the nose. I can feel it begin to crack and crumble, like a stale piece of cornbread. This isn’t good. I take one final swing from him and then, just like before, my eyes grow heavy.

* * *

I wake up again. This time, I’m tied to a chair with a gag stuffed into my mouth.

However, I see the silhouette of a girl tied onto a chair. I assume she has a gag too as her cries are muffled and hard to understand. Suddenly, a bright light turns on above us. The girl sitting before me, all tied up, is none other than Delphine. Her eyes are red and swollen from crying. I don’t know how to feel. All Delphine was in this mission was an alibi if I ever needed one. I never meant to drag her into this part of my risky endeavors.

Before I can do anything, I hear footsteps approaching from behind me. I look at Delphine, her eyes are as big as baseballs. I wait for the figures behind me to make themselves known as I cannot turn around to see them myself.

“What a foolish girl. I thought you were supposed to be smart?” laughs a deep, strangely familiar voice. I recognize the man behind me within seconds. If my memory is serving me right, I believe it’s none other than Pierre. I feel my chest tighten.

“Did you really think that you’d be able to touch my dearest Amandine?” he says with great force. He walks in front of me and gives me a clear view of the man who murdered my parents. My memory did serve me right. In front of me stands the one and only, absolutely disgusting, Pierre Dupont. His bald head would look great mounted on a wall.

“Oh, how I understand your pain.” He slowly lowers and shakes his head. “However, you are in no place to act upon my family in such a manner.”

What does he mean I’m in no place? Out of everyone in this whole cruel world, I deserve this the most. I deserve a man’s severed head at my feet while his daughter sits there in horror.

Then maybe she’ll know how I felt. How it feels to be alone, lost, scared.

“Don’t be so upset my dear, as I still have one more lovely little surprise for you.” He begins to laugh. He walks over to the wall and flips on another light switch. And to my surprise, the mysterious man is tied to a chair, just as I am. His head was hung low with a look of defeat on his face. He lifts his head slightly, just enough so I can see his recognizable hazel eyes, then proceeds to shut them as he lowers his head.

“All three of you children are in the wrong. Therefore, you must pay. It only hurts for a second; and you’ll be free to roam in hell together as soon as I’m finished with you all.” A sinister smile grows across his disgusting face. He raises his shotgun, and the light glints off of it, shining right into my eyes.

If I’m faced with an eternal wall of darkness, I won’t know how to feel. How should I feel? I’m a failure. I failed at everything: keeping Delphine out of this gruesome situation, avenging my parents, and mounting Pierre’s head to a wall. It’s truly a shame that things ended up this way. I guess there are no happy endings after all.

I raise my eyes to meet the barrel of the gun. The last thing I hear are three quick gunshots, each one striking one of us three hostages.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

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