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  • Writer's pictureBritt Leigh

What's Left of Sarah Quinn


Sarah sits quietly, staring at the same blank wall she stared at yesterday. She’s long since removed all of the colorful artwork that once adorned the ocean-stained walls framing her bedroom. Her once pink cheeks and rose-colored lips have slowly become ashen, washed out by a lack of vitamin D and fresh air.

Nana brings meals to her room three times a day, regardless of whether Sarah decides to eat them. Many days, she does not.

Today, Sarah’s eyes affix to the darkness of a nail hole, one Pappy must have missed when he removed the photo of her brother. The longer she stares, the larger it becomes. It’s dark black hues turn brown, then the sickening red of the coagulated blood that adorned her mother’s temple the night her world changed forever.

Weren’t her parents just snuggling on the couch together earlier that night? Weren’t they the picture of nauseating perfection?

“It started with your brother,” Nana attempted to explain the day after the incident, recounting the police report.


Marcus wasn’t a bad kid. He just marched to the beat of his own drum, and sneaking out in the middle of the night was one of his favorite things to do. Marcus often joked with Sarah that he believed his soul was meant for an owl or a bat but was mistakenly placed in the body of a human. He lived for the night.

So when Sarah realized he had snuck out that night, she wasn’t at all worried. Sure, it made mom and dad angry, but they had also grown accustomed to his sneaky ways. In the morning, mom would say she was disappointed, and dad would shake his head, but there would be no real punishment. Marcus was never punished.

This time, however, Sarah was wrong. The Quinns had grown weary of Marcus’s insubordination and wanted to teach their son a lesson.

They concocted the perfect prank. Mr. Quinn contacted his friends at the fire station, and they brought over one of the ambulances they sometimes used for demonstrations. Coney, dad’s partner, parked his police cruiser in the front yard, flipped on the lights, and waited patiently for Marcus to turn the corner onto Jetson Ave.

“What’s going on?” Marcus screamed as he sprinted toward the house.

“It’s your mom,” Coney said, putting his arm out to stop Marcus from getting too close. “She realized you weren’t in your room, and she panicked. The guys think it might have been a heart attack.”

“What do you mean? Is she okay?” Marcus asked, his heart rising into his throat.

A gurney spilled out into the driveway, carrying the lifeless body of Marcus’s mother.

“Mom!” Marcus shouted. He raised his head and made eye contact with one of the EMTs, who swiftly buried his face in his jacket.

That was Marcus’s first clue.

Mr. Quinn followed the gurney, keeping a steady hand on his wife’s head.

“Dad?” Marcus asked. “Dad, is she okay?”

“Don’t, Marcus,” his dad barked. “Just don’t.”

Unfortunately for him, Mr. Quinn was a bad liar. He couldn’t prevent his lips from curling into a brief smile before forcing them back into a frown. Then there was Mrs. Quinn. Coney said it was a heart attack, but she held her hands over her eyes and lips, not her chest. The EMT equipment wasn’t quite right, either. Where was the oxygen? Why wasn’t mom strapped down to the gurney?

Something wasn’t adding up.

Marcus glanced back at Coney, who had to quickly cough away a laugh. A prank? Could they really be this extra?

Marcus pushed himself forward, forcing his body to the back of the ambulance.

“Is she going to make it?” Marcus asked one of the EMTs.

“It’s not looking good, son,” an EMT whispered, trying a little too hard to keep a stern expression.

“Dad, what happened?” Marcus asked again.

“You just can’t listen to us, can you?” Mr. Quinn seethed. “We told you to stop with this sneaking out nonsense. Now, look at what you’ve done.”

The words were meant to be angry, but the tone was wrong. Mr. Quinn was lying, and Marcus wasn’t about to be the butt of the joke.

“Dad, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But, does this mean you’re going to make things official with Aunt Anna?” Marcus asked, a coy smile and an arched eyebrow painted across his face.

“Aunt Anna?” Mr. Quinn pondered for a moment before realizing that Marcus figured them out.

“WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?” Mrs. Quinn snarled, her eyes shooting daggers at her husband. “I knew it! I knew the two of you were getting too cozy at Sarah’s birthday party. YOU’VE BEEN FUCKING MY SISTER, HAVEN’T YOU?”

“Janie, what? No! How could you think that?” Mr. Quinn sputtered.

“It wouldn’t be the first time you cheated, would it, Daniel?” Mrs. Quinn spat.

“Janie – what are you talking about? That was a long time ago. I thought we worked through this. Dammit, Marcus. Tell her that you’re just kidding,” Mr. Quinn pressed.

“Mom, I’m sorry. I was just kid…”

“You’re both liars. I fucking knew it,” Mrs. Quinn charged through the front door of their home, leaving Marcus and Mr. Quinn standing in the front yard.

“Perfect, Marcus,” Mr. Quinn said. “Do you know how long it’s going to take to talk her down from this?”

“I’m sorry, dad,” Marcus replied, feeling shaken. “I hadn’t realized that… I just thought it would be funny. I didn’t realize I would strike on something real.”

Of course, Marcus didn’t know about his father’s infidelity. Most children rarely learn of these things until a divorce is filed, but the Quinns decided to make it work. It took years of therapy to win back Janie’s trust, but it was worth it to Daniel. He knew he had made a mistake, and he couldn’t stand the thought of losing her.

“I’ll figure it out, son,” Mr. Quinn said. “I should have known this would backfire on…”

“Janie, put the gun down!” Coney shouted, his weapon drawn and aimed at Mrs. Quinn.

“How could you do this to me again?” Mrs. Quinn cried, her teeth chattering. “How. Could. You?”

“Mom? Mom! I was just…”

Mr. Quinn grabbed his son by the arm and pulled him away from Mrs. Quinn, using his body as a barrier between his wife and his son.

“Janie, Marcus was just kidding,” Mr. Quinn explained. “I would never do that to you.”

“You did, though, didn’t you?” Mrs. Quinn replied. “You did it with Ellie, and now you’ve done it with my sister.”

“No, that’s not true,” Mr. Quinn said calmly as he caught Coney advance forward in his periphery. “Coney, don’t point that damned gun at my wife.”

“Mom, please!” Marcus cried.


Her shouting was so loud it almost drowned out the bang of the gun. Marcus caught the shock on his mom’s face as the bullet ripped through his dad’s chest and struck him in the center of his forehead. Neither Marcus nor Mr. Quinn was alive to see Coney’s bullet rip through Janie’s temple a millisecond after her first, and only, shot.

Two bullets. One second. Three people dead.


Doctors say that Sarah’s trauma is severe, that they can’t be certain whether or not she will ever speak again. Whether she will ever return to herself. Despite being asleep during the incident, doctors believe that survivor’s guilt and extreme PTSD have taken a major toll on her body.

Coney remembers finding her that night. Curled up in a sweaty ball in the middle of her bed, Coney couldn’t believe she hadn’t heard the commotion. For that, he was thankful.

Coney visits Sarah almost every day. It’s the only way he can think to do right by the best friend he couldn’t save. Each visit, however, plagues him. Was there something else he could have done? Could he have prevented this? Does Sarah blame him?


It was the shouting that woke Sarah from her sleep as the hazy pull of terror gripped her throat and drug her to the front door.


She peered out the glass-paneled windows as the first shot rang out. She watched helplessly as the bullet from her mother’s gun claimed her dad’s life, then her brother’s. She continued to watch as Coney’s bullet then claimed the life of her mother.

In an instant, she was an orphan.



Her mother’s words still ring loudly in her head, repeating themselves on an infinite loop.

The blood from the nail hole in the wall has disappeared as Sarah’s mind returns to her bedroom, a knock on her door pulling back to reality.

“Sarah,” Nana whispers. “Aunt Anna is here to see you.”


Sarah smiles.


Coney ran to Janie’s side to kick the gun away, sending it skidding across the driveway to rest at the front door. He bent down to check Janie’s pulse before sprinting toward Daniel and Marcus, but they were already gone.

The EMTs who had just participated in a prank moments ago were suddenly thrown into the chaos of a murder. No one noticed the opened front door. No one saw the hand that reached out to retrieve the weapon. No one questioned the sweaty daughter miraculously sleeping through the screams and gunshots that echoed outside her window.

And no one ever did find that weapon.

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