Monday, June 30, 2008

An Affair to Die For

Brian stood in front of the bureau mirror, preening and admiring the long hard lines of his body. Sweat glistened across his chest and his face was flushed. Running his hands over his dark hair, he caught Lana’s reflection behind him. She was tangled in the covers of the king-size bed, her nudity barely concealed. She caught him looking and lowered the sheet to give him a better view.

Her voice was low and husky when she spoke. “Are you sure you have to go?”

“Baby, you know I have to. I don’t want to, but--”

“But what?” she protested. “If you want to stay, then stay.”

“Lana, I can’t. There would be hell to pay. You know it and I know it. I’m not up for a fight, okay?”

“So you’re telling me you’d rather upset me than fight with your wife?”

“Honestly, yes.” Moving back to the bed, he reached out for her, feeling himself rising as he inhaled the scent of the sheets that were still redolent with their pheromones. She pulled away from him, but he didn’t fight her, choosing instead to talk some sense into her. “Honey, please try to understand. I’m still married.”

Eyes blazing, she glared at him, then swung her long legs off the bed and strode across the small room. She pulled her green silk robe from the hook on the back of the door and turned to him. “I know you’re married. I can’t believe I was stupid enough to get involved with you.” Tears were wobbling in her eyes and threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. “You say you’re unhappy, but you won’t leave. So why bother with me?”

He could see that she was losing the battle with her tears as the first one leaked out of her left eye and trickled down her face, leaving behind a pale, shiny streak. Getting up, he gently took both of her hands in his own. “Baby, I know it’s hard for you to understand. I’ve been married to Molly for four years and I guess there’s a part of me that still loves her.” He cupped her chin in his hand and tilted her head upward. “But Lana, you’re the one I’m in love with. I hate every minute I’m away from you.”

Lana shook her head free, her long hair brushing against his arm as she whirled away from him. “You hate every minute you’re away from me? That’s a good one. We’ve been sleeping together for the past month and as far as I can tell,” she waved her arm around the cabin he had rented, “the only thing I’ve been good for is an occasional booty call. I don’t want to be your personal whore. I want more than that.”

His face bore a pained expression and for just a split second, he felt ashamed of himself. The feeling, however, quickly faded when Lana stripped off her robe and headed for the bathroom. Her nakedness made him weak in the knees and weak in other areas, too. There was no way he could resist her young, firm body. At thirty-three, he was afraid that he’d be missing out on the great adventures of life, especially since Molly had been so determined to have children right away. Last year, he’d had a brief affair with his office nurse, but Molly had gotten wind of it and he’d been put in an awkward position. Not wanting to risk his lucrative medical practice and be stuck paying child support for the next eighteen years, he’d fired the nurse, giving her some lame excuse about her inaccuracy in one of the medical files. She’d gone away quietly and Brian had been horribly depressed.

Two months ago, his office manager suddenly quit and Lana came into his life. Twenty-four years old, long legs, long brown hair, big hazel eyes and pouty lips. Brian could barely contain himself around her. A month ago he’d asked her to stay late one night to help him organize his dictation files and they’d ended up going at it furiously on his desk for over an hour. He’d sent her a diamond bracelet as a little thank-you gift. Now, she worked as much overtime as he needed or wanted with no complaints. Until now.

Today had been spontaneous. He’d been at home taking care of the rug rats while Molly went grocery shopping. The hour he’d spent babysitting was too much for him to handle and as soon as she got home, he’d gone into his study and pretended to work for an hour, then emerged and told her that he’d gotten a call to do a consult at a hospital in the next town. It sounded feeble even to him, and though he was pretty sure Molly saw right through it, she said nothing to him. He’d called Lana on the way to the Mountain Ridge Resort, telling her to meet him in cabin number nine.

Lana never asked questions, just did his bidding. She’d arrived just after three o’clock in the afternoon. Standing in the doorway in a down-filled winter coat, her breath forming clouds of white vapor around her head, she’d casually opened the buttons, revealing that she was wearing high black boots and nothing else. She was barely inside before he threw her on the floor, satiating his lust as she bucked against him, crying out his name and digging her nails into his back. They eventually made it to the bed, and now, six hours later, Brian was ready to go home.
He suddenly became aware of Lana’s voice and snapped to attention.

“—why I feel the like this. I know you don’t understand that, but I’m twenty-four and I still have a lot of living to do. I’m not going to wait forever,” she said, though Brian had no idea what she’d been rambling about before that.

Brian met her in the doorway of the bathroom where she was standing with her arms akimbo and he encircled her tiny waist with his hands. “I know, I know. I just need more time to figure things out. It’s not as easy as just throwing my clothes in a bag and taking off. There’s more to a divorce than just that.”

“Like what?” she asked, her tone sharp and unforgiving as she started the hot water in the shower. “Like you have to figure out how much it’ll take to pay her off? Come on, Brian. You don’t want the kids anyway, and you’ve got another house, plus this cabin. You can’t tell me that it’s a money issue.”

Her hazel eyes met his baby blues and he sighed. He spoke to her using a soft, agreeable tone. “You’re right. I worry about my reputation, too. The medical community is full of gossip mongers, and I worked so hard to get where I’m at.”

Lana stepped into the shower and spoke over the running water. “You think I’d be bad for your reputation? Is that it?”

“Maybe a little. My friends really like Molly.”

“Screw Molly. You’re not happy with her. You’re happy with me.”

Brian glanced into the mirror over the sink. She was right. What else could he say? He grabbed his shaving cream and his straight-edge razor as Lana emerged from the shower. Lathering his face, he watched her out of the corner of his eye. She toweled off and pulled her robe back on before sitting on the edge of the marble sink.

Brian began to carefully run the razor over his skin, feeling a slight sting as the sharp blade raked over his whiskers. Lana took the razor from him. “Let me do that,” she said. “You always end up cutting yourself and bleeding all over. I had two years of beauty school before I came to work for you and I’m pretty handy with a razor.” The razor moved deftly over his face, light glinting over the steel blade as it rode over his contours without so much as a tiny nick. “There has to be some way for us to be together.”

Brian held his head still as he responded. “You know I want to be with you, but as long as Molly’s in the picture, it’s complicated.”

“Can’t you just get rid of her?”

“What? You mean, like, kill her?”

She gave him a tiny shrug and a sly smile. “Why not?”

Brian laughed. “I’m not a killer. I’d have to hire someone to do that.”

Lana laughed with him. “Chin up so I can get your neck.” The razor ran smoothly over his Adam’s apple and their eyes locked in the mirror. She moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. “You could hire me. I’m already on your payroll.”

“Come on Lana. Let’s be serious. Who would hire a female assassin?”

“Your wife.”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Untitled.

Prologue

She couldn’t explain her attention to the Yann Tiersen song as it came through the speakers of her stereo. There was something about it, the piano, that when she closed her eyes, she could see his fingers glide across the keys, never missing a note. It reminded her of his hands though, and the way that they had traced over her during their time together. It hadn’t been nearly long enough though.
For a moment she thought that she felt her eyes begin to fill with tears, but then she felt him sit down on the bed beside her and pat her leg softly. “Come on. It’s time to go.”

* * *

He came to a stop at the light just as his phone buzzed. He flipped it open and when he saw who the message was from he pressed the READ button.

I’m going.

It wasn’t until the person honked behind him that he realized the light was green.





Chapter I

“Please, you have to do this one thing for me!”
Rachel Turner closed her locker, revealing her best friend Matthew’s face. The look on his face was pathetic, but she couldn’t stop the corners of her mouth from tugging upward.
“Oh come on! I will owe you my life!” he begged.
She swung her bag over her shoulder. “That’s funny, I think you still owe me your life from last time.”
“I didn’t know what I was thinking back then.” He fell into step beside her as they made their way down the hall. “She was….”
“A slut,” she offered with a smile.
He narrowed his eyes at her, causing her to laugh. “It was true and you know it.”
“Okay, fine. Maybe Jessica was a little too… promiscuous for me. But Naomi… She’s so…”
“Out of your league.”
“Thanks for the support, Rach.”
“I’m sorry, Matt, I truly am, but tonight….”
“It’s not like you have plans.”
She shot him a look and he wiggled his eyebrows. “Two can play that game, honey,” he said with a smirk.
“Well if you’re going to take that attitude….” She pushed through the school doors entering onto the green.
Matt rolled his eyes. “You know you’re going to go with me, so I don’t know why you feel the need to do this every single time.”
“I feel the need to do it, Matthew, so that maybe one of these times you will realize that you don’t need a wing woman to make sure all your smoothness plays out.”
“Oh, please. You dance. You have fun. You take the attention of every guy in the room, even the ones there with their girlfriends, I may add. You have a great time. You aren’t arguing.”
“I’m not the arguing type.”
“Ha, yeah, if you say so.”
She rolled her eyes as she tossed her bag in the backseat of her car. “Get in the car, Matthew.”
His smile stretched across his face. “I’m glad that we have this agreement.”

Catastrophe Cait

Caitlyn stared at the genius standing at the counter in front of her, dumbfounded.
"Can anything be saved?" she asked. Although she tried to keep her tone neutral, she was sure that there was no way she had been able to completely mask her annoyance.
"It's highly unlikely. We'll do our best, but I've never seen anything this badly damaged come back fully restored."
What could she say? Thank you? She settled for an, "OK."
Cait filled out the necessary paperwork and left it with the young man who was assisting her.
"I don't mean to pry," he said as he looked at the forms, and then back at Cait, "but are you the Cait Malone?"
She waved her hand in the direction of the useless machine sitting between them. "It would seem so," she responded. Then she rose from the stool she had been sitting on, and she walked out the door. Let them scramble to see if they could save anything now, she thought uncharitably. It would be an amazing coup, and a story to be told across the dinner table and at cocktail parties for years to come--if they could help her. Or even if they couldn't. No one could resist a story about the Cait Malone.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Confessions in Black & White XII

Chapter XII

      Kay got out of the hospital the next morning and proceeded to live her life as though she’d never been close to losing it. The film was shot with only a slight change in schedule, which was supplemented by a make up shoot on Sunday, much to some groans amongst the crew.
      “We’ve got to put in the time if we ever want to finish,” Kay told them all sternly, and they all took her orders with better humor than normal, having all heard of her accident through the papers.
      “How’s the film?” Will ventured to ask a few weeks later, having not gone to any of the recent shoots, and actually having avoided the topic entirely.
      “It’s good. –Why?” she asked somewhat suspiciously, uncorking a bottle of wine for them to drink with their dinner.
      “You’ve just been working on it a lot lately.” Will shrugged, which he rarely did.
      “It’s getting close to being done,” Kay said quietly, and poured out two glasses of the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon.
      Both of them knew that they were talking about more than the film. Although it was true that the film was almost done, both knew that it wasn’t the film that Kay was working on late into most nights. While it did take up some of her time, she still had plenty of idle hours, and hours not often filled with a brush in her hand. On the contrary, she had continued working her way through the men of London, almost grimly, but with a lingering and perverse determination. Though Will was vaguely aware of this, he had yet to accept it, and until he did, he was unable to bring it up bluntly or confront Kay at all. This, in turn, convinced Kay that she could keep smiling, keep pretending, keep sleeping in Will’s arms without offering him any more of her body.
      Of course, the end of the film was also the point they’d designated for a discussion of the living situation: whether Will would move back into a place of his own, whether they’d stick with where they were at, or perhaps even move someplace bigger: someplace they could really share, that wouldn’t be completely “Kay’s” as Will still considered the flat. This they talked about even less than their lack of intercourse, and it was somehow even more dangerous to their relationship.
      After the kind of honeymoon period that dominated Kay’s weeks after the accident, things became increasingly tense between her and Will, and Kay eventually became reckless with her behavior again. One early morning, around three a.m., she tripped into the bedroom where Will had not managed to fall completely asleep, lying awake thinking of her. He sat up and turned on the light, partially so that she wouldn’t hurt herself stumbling around, and partially to confront her.
      “I thought you were out with Krystof,” Will observed, which had been what Kay had told him before she’d left eight hours earlier.
      “I was,” she said, pulling off her sunglasses and heels.
      “Who did you go home with afterward?” It was the bluntest he’d ever been with her, and the words left a tingle in his mouth, like hot food burning his tongue.
      “What do you mean?” She was trying unsuccessfully to be evasive.
      “You don’t smell like your brother, Kay. I’ve known Krystof long enough to be familiar with the only two types of cologne he wears, and you smell like neither. You smell like smoke and booze, and strange men and sex.”
      Kay might have acted affronted, but instead asked calmly, “Are you accusing me of something, Will?”
      “I’m just asking you, Kay,” Will said. “I’m asking if you’re still sleeping around.”
      “What do you want from me, Will? Do you want me to say yes?”
      “I want you to tell me the truth,” he said, but they both knew that he didn’t really want to hear the truth –he just thought he did.
      “Then yes. Yes, I am. Sleeping around. With everyone and anyone but you.” Kay stood tall and almost defiantly in the doorway between the bedroom and the bathroom, her hands bracing her against the door frame.
      Will bent his knees up and rested his elbows on them, letting his head fall into his hands.
      “Do you want to hurt me?” he finally asked, sighing heavily, but not sounding either broken or dejected.
      “I don’t know,” Kay said honestly.
      “And that’s all you have to say?” He looked at her sideways and she shrugged, spreading her hands and gesturing with her palms upward. “I can’t believe this…” Will told her. “I can’t fucking believe this.”
      They looked into one another’s eyes for a few minutes and then Kay announced that she was going to shower. She took a long time washing and then soaked herself in the tub. By the time she got out an hour later, she found the covers thrown back on the bed, and the spot empty where Will had been sitting. Although it was possible that he had simply gone to sleep on the sofa, which he’d done a handful of times in the past when they argued, there was something different about the air in the flat. The whole atmosphere felt vacant. Empty.
      Kay crawled unto the spot on the bed where Will’s outline was still partially distinguishable. She pressed her face into the down mattress cover and breathed in the permanent smell of him that lingered even after the sheets were washed. She rubbed her palm over the quilt, smoothing it and at the same time hugging it to her, feeling suddenly lost and confused.

      The next day, I was more than a little surprised to run into Will in Dover.
      “What are you doing here?” I asked, although I knew that he was originally from the town and that his whole family still lived there.
      “I’m just…home for the weekend. –What are you doing here?” His voice indicated that his surprise was even greater than mine.
      “Oh!” I laughed, flustered by him and amused by our confusion. “I’m just here to take some photographs of the White Cliffs and take a couple notes. Kay is considering altering one of the scenes in the film to include the cliffs, and I wanted to get a real feel for them. –I’ve never seen them before, you know.” I rambled a little and laughed again.
      Will smiled. “What is it with you London girls never seeing the sea?” he teased.
      “I don’t know. I’ve been to Brighton though.”
      “Brighton’s not the sea,” he informed me in a conspiratorial whisper. “And if you’re looking for a tour guide, I have an entire afternoon available.”
      I smiled back and assured him that he would be doing me a huge favor.
      “I don’t want to miss anything, and you being a native and all, you’d be such a help.” I was lying through my teeth. What I really wanted was his company.
      He put both his hands on my shoulders as though to steady me, and looked me in the eyes very closely. “Beck. Really. You don’t have to convince me,” he said.
      We both laughed and then he led me down the street, mentioning the words “fish and chips” and “great neighborhood pub.”
      After a couple of pints and a decent lunch, I found myself clambering over the chalky surface of the cliffs.
      “There’s not really a trail here,” Will explained. “But I used to come down here all the time as a kid. Me and my brothers.”
      “You have several of them, don’t you?” I asked.
      “Yeah, four. One’s older, Paul, and then three younger. What about you?”
      Although Will and I’d grown close since he and Kay met and moved in together, we still had holes in our information, especially about things as obvious as family life. We forgot sometimes that we hadn’t been friends all our lives.
      “Only child, remember? Just me and my folks.”
      “Ah, so you don’t have any competition,” Will teased.
      “It’s not as great as everyone thinks. All those expectations, you know?”
      “I’m sure you fill out fine,” Will said over his shoulder as the path narrowed and we moved along single file. “—Now how about this view?”
      He flattened himself against the cliff to show me what he was seeing, and the Channel stretched out before me, sparkling with the sunlight filtered through a thick haze. The choppy waters were a muddy green, almost a color from Kay’s landscape painting.
      “Beautiful,” I breathed. “And you came here all the time as a kid?”
      “Yeah,” he nodded nostalgically.
      “No wonder you turned out so well.”
      We laughed, and after that, headed back to steadier ground. We went to the castle and I took pictures of the crumbling stone, hoping to turn a couple into paintings.
      “Smile,” I instructed Will occasionally, but he was an uncooperative model, often wrinkling his face or covering it with his hands whenever my lens pointed toward him.
      “Put that away,” he’d tell me.
      “Just let me take your picture!” I’d argued back. I felt sure I got a couple good ones, especially once I stopped announcing that he ought to smile.
      As the evening got later, Will asked if I was getting hungry.
      “A little. I should probably be getting back to London, I suppose,” I said, packing up my camera into its case.
      “Why not stop by the house for dinner? You could meet my folks.”
      I fiddled with the straps of my camera bag, debating what to do. On the one hand, I wanted to meet his parents, but I felt slightly awkward. Although we hadn’t talked about it openly, I’d been able to judge, correctly of course, that he and Kay had argued and that he wasn’t sure on what terms, if any, he’d be returning to her.
      “Sure,” I said finally. “Yeah, that would be great.”
      And we walked slowly back toward town together as the sky was swallowed further into the darkness coming from the east, across the water. In fact, by the time we reached Will’s house, all the lights were on, and a clammer could be heard from outside the front door,
      “Don’t mind them,” he whispered to me. “They’re just your average crazy family.”
      I stifled a giggle before crossing the threshold, and instantly felt a warmth as familiar as my own home. Unlike the sleek new things I was constantly surrounded by in London, the Lawley home was full of antiques that reminded me of my childhood, and I was smiling at this when Mrs. Lawley came into the front hall.
      “William!” she scolded. “You didn’t tell me you were bringing a friend for dinner!”
      “Sorry, Mum,” he grinned. “I didn’t expect to run into Beck, but lo and behold, here she is… She’s a friend of Kay’s,” he added as an afterthought.
      “Oh!” Mrs. Lawley cooed. “Come on in, dear. I hope you don’t mind shepherd’s pie. It’s nothing fancy tonight. –How do you know Kay?”
      I couldn’t imagine what Kay had been like breaking bread with the forthright and honest people that the Lawley’s were. By the end of the meal, I felt I had told them every secret I’d ever kept, save a select few, and I had heard tale after tale of Will’s childhood misadventures.
      “Who would have guessed he was such a troublesome cild?” I teased as Mrs. Lawley laid out dessert.
      “Oh, I wouldn’t say troublesome,” she assured me. “Boys will be boys, as I learned raising five of them. I tell you though, it’ll turn an old woman’s hair grey.”
      “Oh, Mum,” Will smiled. “What grey? You’re still young as ever.”
      She smacked him playfully with the wooden spoon conveniently in her hand, but she laughed girlishly, and Mr. Lawley grunted something I didn’t quite hear.
      “Well, I can’t thank you enough for having me,” I said, as I prepared to leave an hour later.
      “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather sleep in one of the extra rooms?” Mrs. Lawley asked for the tenth time.
      “No,” I assured her, giving her a tight hug. “You’ve been so kind already. I really should get back to the City.”
      “I’ll make sure she gets to the train safely,” Will assured her, and she scolded that he had better. When we were finally outside, Will apologized.
      “What are you sorry for?” I protested. “I had a wonderful night. Your parents are so kind.”
      “Yeah, they are…”
      The drive to the train station was accomplished in comfortable silence, both of us full of good food and good memories from the day.
      “Thank you again for everything,” I said as I got out of the car.
      “Any time,” he replied with another of his smiles. “Have a safe trip back, Beck.”
      “And you?” I asked. “When will you be back?”
      “Tomorrow,” he said. “Just not sure what time yet.”
      I nodded. “Well, hopefully I’ll see you.”
      I slammed the door and had to suppress the skip I felt welling up inside of me as I walked calmly up to the station.

      The following morning, Will took a breath before putting his key in the lock. He’d seen Kay’s A4 out front and knew there were good odds that she was inside. Opening the door as quietly as he could, he slid inside and shut it just as softly behind him. He felt like a thief, breaking and entering, even though he’d lived there for months.
      There was harp music playing, and it was soft, but beautiful. It sounded like a brook, flowing deep into a wood. There was the hint of birds, and sunlight, and Will was tempted to close his eyes and just listen to the notes, though he still stood in the foyer. Instead, he walked further into the flat, down the hall where the harp music grew clearer. It was likely coming from the spare room, and he headed toward the half-open door, expecting to find Kay curled in the armchair there. Peeking around the corner of the doorframe though, he saw that she was actually seated on a low stool, her back toward him. In front of her, facing the window, was a large harp, which he wasn’t certain, but felt confident in guessing was her concert harp.
      Kay’s head was tilted to one side, and he could hear her humming the notes her fingers plucked out of the taut strings. Her eyes were free of her sunglasses, even though the late afternoon sunlight washed over her face and made her hair seem a honey color. Will rested his head against the door, his left hand still on the doorknob and his other hand in his pocket. He knew that she had studied it, of course, and played to audiences, and although he’d seen the CDs on her shelf that boasted her face on the covers, he had never bothered to pick one up and actually listen. It was amazing to him that such a woman as she was could make such angelic music.
      “Hi,” Will said, quietly, but loud enough to be heard over the music.
      Kay stopped playing, but didn’t jump at the sound of his voice. She turned her neck slowly until her chin was resting on her left shoulder and her grey eyes, dark and warm in that moment, met his.
      “Hello,” she said.
      “Where did that come from?” he asked, gesturing with his left elbow, but not removing his hand from his pocket to actually point.
      Kay put her hand on the ornate flower that crowned the top of the harp and rubbed it idly with her thumb. “I picked it up yesterday from my Mother’s house. –I haven’t played in years.”
      Will nodded, although he had no idea what he was nodding at, and they were both silent. Kay’s hands fell from the harp unto her lap and she swiveled on the stool so that her whole body was facing him.
      “Where’d you go off to?”
      “Dover,” he answered simply.
      “Why?” Her voice sounded casual for the most part, but Will was able to detect the slightest impression that her nonchalance was forced.
      “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “To clear my head, I suppose.”
      “And is it clear now?”
      “I don’t know,” he answered truthfully.
      Kay stood up and tried to kiss him, but he turned his face so that her lips only landed on his cheek. She reached for his waist, to pull him close to her, but his hands closed on her wrists so that he could physically keep her distant from him. His eyes were cloudier than she’d ever seen them, almost as unreadable as hers were perpetually.
      “Not right now,” he told her firmly, and his usually soft lips formed a firm line that stopped her from attempting to touch him again even more than his words did.
      Kay tucked her hair behind her ear, a gesture Will had never seen her make, in all the time he’d known her, and she avoided his eyes.
      “So are you staying?” she asked him, crossing her arms over her chest.
      “Staying where? Here?”
      “I don’t know. Here, London, I don’t know anymore what your plan is.” Her voice sounded brittle.
      “I don’t know if I have a plan anymore.” His voice sounded harder than he’d meant for it to.
      “Well…” Kay said. “Then I think I’m just going to—” she gestured behind him, “go out for a while then. Will I see you when I get back?”
      Will shrugged, but couldn’t make himself say anything, so she squeezed past him into the hall and a few minutes later he heard the front door close. Will exhaled and banged his head a couple of times against the door, frustrated with himself almost as much as he was frustrated with Kay. She’d shown him, suddenly, completely without a warning, a new facet of her character. Kaysa at the harp was gentle and uncertain, not domineering and controlling, commanding respect and worship. Why did she have to appear so human when he had come back, he had thought at least, to tell her that it was over between them?
      He stared at the harp for a long minute, and then closed the door to the room with a resolute click of the knob.
      I was at the Red Lion at the time, and when Kay stalked in, I had not been expecting to see her. She looked agitated, and I wondered what Will had eventually decided to tell her. When we’d parted ways, his heart had still seemed to be in limbo. From the look on her face, he’d probably decided to cut her loose.
      “What are you doing here?” I asked once I’d waved her to my empty table.
      Kay lit a cigarette with an odd combination of calm and disquiet. She took several puffs before finally answering me, her voice more composed than she looked.
      “I think Will is leaving me,” she said.
      “Oh… Oh, no. What happened?” I wasn’t sure what to say, not knowing how much I even knew about her current situation, let alone what I should tell her that I knew.
      Kay shrugged and didn’t meet my gaze, smoking the cigarette more quickly than she normally did. “The usual shit,” she finally said.
      “Well…” I again paused. Then, making a decision, I said, “I can’t say that I’m all that surprised. You really messed him up, Kay.”
      She smirked, taking a drag of the cigarette and then scratching her nose. When she finally looked at me, her eyes were unkind, judging me rather than judging herself. “And what’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded.
      “It’s supposed to mean exactly what it means.” I felt suddenly exasperated. “Women in love with nice men, men as nice as Will, don’t fuck around with half of London while keeping their boyfriend waiting in the wings. Or in their own bed, as it were.” Of course, neither Will nor Kay had ever really said girlfriend or boyfriend, let alone “love,” as far as I knew, but the substance of what I was saying was still there.
      “He should have wanted to wait for me though,” Kay insisted, her tone unyielding.
      “Wait for you to what?” I demanded. “For you to finally get a clue? And how long should he have waited for that?”
      “As long as necessary.”
      I rolled by eyes and put my money down on the table. “Whatever,” I told her, mentally washing my hands clean of the situation.
      I got up to leave, and as I walked out the door I glanced over my shoulder to see Kay unmoved, smashing her cigarette into the ashtray on the table and sipping from the half-pint that a server had just brought her.
      I drove over to Kay’s flat and took the stairs two at a time up to her door. I knocked, and when Will answered his face was expressionless, which I wasn’t sure was a good sign, but it didn’t seem entirely bad, either.
      “How are you?” I asked, putting a hand on his arm.
      He moved aside to let me in and he assured me that he was fine.
      “I’m fine, really. It’s all going to be fine.”
      That seemed an ambiguous statement to me, but I took off my coat and followed him down the hall to Kay’s room. There, he had his suitcases open and he was filling them with clothes and towels and linens and books.
      “What are you doing?” I asked.
      “Packing this stuff up. I just don’t think I should stay here right now. Not while we’re trying to sort all of this out. It’s too confusing: sleeping with her, but not sleeping with her, arguing with her without ever really arguing with her at all… I don’t know.” He shook his head as though it would clear the moths and cobwebs, the doubts that had seemed to form overnight but which had been building up for months.
      Silently, I began to help him pack. I folded his shirts and pants, wanting to ask him where he’d go, but chewing my lip instead and stealing short glances at him. He didn’t look entirely unhappy, although he was far from looking happy, either. A crease formed between his eyebrows above his noise: a worry line. I thought about teasing him that he shouldn’t think so hard, but he he had been thinking too much from the moment he walked into Southwark on a Monday to help me and Kay move backdrops into the warehouse.
      This is what happens, I thought to myself. This is what happens when you fall in love with a lie. The thought was too cruel to share with him, even if I believed that it was true. It wasn’t that I thought he’d never loved her, I just still thought that he’d never known her, and so his love had only been able to be realized up until the point that it hit Kay’s brick wall, the fortress around her heart.
      “What am I doing?” Will said aloud, interrupting my own reverie.
      He sat down on the bed, rubbing his hands across his face and through his hair. He looked tired and I wondered if he’d slept at all the night before.
      “Hey, now,” I soothed, moving next to him and putting my arms around him. “It’s all right. Things are going to be just fine, remember?”
      He smiled a little, but his smile told me that he thought I was being naïve.
      “You’re a sweet girl, Beck,” he said, putting his hand on my cheek, and we both paused. I, for one, stopped breathing.
      I closed my eyes and leaned in, but my lips never met his. Instead, his hands closed around my shoulders and he held me away from him.
      “What are you doing?” he asked, and although there was no anger in his voice, he didn’t sound pleased. He stood up and turned me around so that my back was to the bed. He took a few steps away before saying. “I thought you were Kay’s friend…”
      “Will, she’s done with you.” I let my arms fall helplessly to my sides. I opened my mouth and then closed it, trying to put my thoughts to words. “It’s over, and I’m here; she’s not. She’s done with you,” I repeated.
      “Just because she’s done with me,” he said, pointing his finger as though he were scolding a child, “doesn’t mean I’m done with her.”
      “What?” I asked incredulously. “After everything that’s happened? After all that she’s done to you? You still want to be with her?” He hadn’t said it in so many words, but I could see, when he avoided my eyes, that I had hit the nail on the head with my analysis of the situation. “God,” I hissed. “What is it about her? What gives her the power, the right, to fuck people up and still have them come crawling back to her for more? I’m so tired of it! I’m sick and fucking tired of it.” I shook my head and walked toward to bedroom door, avoiding Will’s hand when it reached out to stop me.
      “No! I’m tired of it! I’m tired of her, I’m tired of you, I’m tired of Krystof…I’m tired of all of it!”
      I stalked out of the room, grabbing my coat and slamming the door of the flat behind me, running down the steps even more quickly than I’d climbed them. Ironically, I practically ran into Kay, who was about to enter the building. I went past her without saying anything though, getting into my own car and driving off to the studio without even knowing what I would do when I got there.
      Tears threatened to come. Tears of frustration and anger, and even hate, but I held them back. Kay never cried. Krystof never cried. I considered Will, and although I concluded that he was probably human enough to cry, I still held mine back. I wasn’t like Will, after all. And I wasn’t like Kay or Krystof either, but I needed to prove to myself that I could be as cold and numb to feeling as them. –At least in that moment.
      My tires squealed as I shot down the street.

      “What was that all about?” Kay asked as she entered her own flat.
      Will, who stood in the foyer looking confused, shrugged wordlessly and helplessly at her. “I have no idea…”
      “To tell the truth,” Kay said, removing her scarf and coat, “I didn’t even expect you to still be here.”
      “To tell the truth, I didn’t expect to, either.”
      Will turned then, and went back to his packing in the bedroom. Kay followed, but stopped at the door for a minute, watching the muscles play across Will’s back as he folded things and shoved them into bags and suitcases. When she did finally approach, she did so without speaking, and began to help him, her fingers feeling tight as she did, as though they wanted to resist.
      “Is this really necessary?” she asked.
      “Is what necessary?”
      “This. You. Leaving.”
      Will stopped and hung his head over the suitcase in front of him as though he was feeling nauseous. “Kay,” he began.
      “I won’t make you stay,” she interrupted quickly, and her voice sounded foreign to both of them. “It’s not my style. If you really want to leave, then that’s it. I won’t do a single thing to stop you, but I do want to know if it’s really what you want. If it has to be like this.”
      “I don’t know,” he said, his head still drooping over his pile of folded clothes. “I don’t think it’s always about one thing or another, Kay. It’s not always this or that, black or white, here or there… There’s always an in between.”
      “In between is purgatory,” she argued. "It's slow torture."
      “Maybe,” he said, closing the suitcase and standing up straighter. “But this doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I just need to think.”
      “What did thinking ever get anyone?” she demanded of him, though she still refrained from reinforcing her words by touching him.
      “I’m still hoping it’ll get me something,” he joked, smiling kindly at her and lifting the suitcase off the bed.
      “Where will you go?” Kay asked after a pause.
      “A hotel for now. And then I’m going to sublet from a friend of mine who’s heading to America for a few months.”
      “And after that?”
      Will sighed. “Not sure. Depends on what happens.”
      A slow smile spread across Kay’s face. “And you find that kind of existence, that kind of reckless uncertainty appealing?”
      She was echoing not his words, but his thoughts from the time when they were still getting to know each other and he’d been floored by her lack of ties, of work and responsibility.
      “Yeah.” Will, too, smiled, picking up most of his bags.
      Kay picked up the others and she walked down with him to the black BMW she’d bought him –used, rather than new, upon Will’s insistence.
      “Well…good luck then,” Kay said a bit awkwardly, offering him her hand.
      He took her hand, not to shake, but to pull her close, and he kissed her soundly on the lips before getting into the car.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Confessions in Black & White XI

[This is my monthly post! First one out of the gate!]

Chapter XI

      A week later, Will came back to Kay’s flat after work an hour earlier than usual so that he would have time to change before they were scheduled to make their appearance at the gallery. They were meeting Beck and Krystof and a couple of other people at the studio first, and then they planned to arrive together. Will was surprised to find the door unlocked.
      “Hello?” he called, a little uncertain as he came in and locked it behind himself. Straining his ears, he could have sworn he heard shuffling in the bedroom. “Kay?”
      Down the narrow hall, the door to the bedroom was slightly ajar, so he opened it, his coat still on and his briefcase still in hand. There, he saw Kay sitting, pushing her hair out of her face, a young man’s frightened face underneath her. Although Will didn’t know it, it was the same young man, Dean, from the week before. Having run into him earlier in the day, caught up in the excitement of the gallery show, Kay had gotten carried away and brought him back to the flat with her instead of the slightly-more-discreet studio. One thing had naturally led to another.
      Kay moved to let Dean up, and he hurriedly grabbed his pants and shirt in a scene that was quite familiar to Kay, and would have been just as familiar to Krystof, who was thankfully not there to complicate matters any more. Once dressed, Dean slipped past Will awkwardly, mumbling and sending a half-wave toward Kay, who sat cross-legged on the bed in nothing but her underwear. When she and Will were alone, the silence was nearly overpowering.
      Will sat down in such a state of shock that he couldn’t even be repelled by the bed. He couldn’t seem to stop shaking his head, his eyes still inadvertently wide in shock.
      “Why are you doing this to me…?” he asked at last.
      “Why are you letting me do this to you?” Kay answered almost too quickly.
      There was more silence, and Will didn’t look at her, didn’t look at the tainted bed he sat on, just stared at his hands, or perhaps the hardwood floor.
      “We have to go meet K and Beck,” Kay finally said, putting her hand on Will’s shoulder to help herself off the mattress. “We should probably change.”
      She went into the bathroom and the water ran for fifteen minutes, but just in the sink as far as Will’s distant senses could tell. When she emerged, she was zipping up a dark purple dress that was almost black. It was form-fitting and hugged her angular frame like a second skin, flaring only slightly at the bottom, the hem trimmed in black lace. Her hair was pulled back in a twist, held in place by a diamond-studded clip that Daniel had bought her a few years ago. Diamonds hung from her ears and around her neck, and her eye make-up was heavier than usual. Darker. She was pulling on elbow-length black gloves, and her eyes were impassive.
      Will stood when she came back to the bedroom, and then changed into his tux in the walk-in closet. He had intended to shave, but the thought had disappeared and Kay didn’t bother to remind him as they prepared to leave.
      “Do you have everything you need?” Will asked automatically.
      “Yes,” she replied, picking up a black purse and slipping on a simple pair of open-toed black heels. She pulled a black shawl off the back of one of the armchairs, and they left the flat without looking at or touching one another.
      Will sailed through the show in a haze, shaking hands with arrogant and vaguely artistic strangers. He eventually circled around to talk with me, and I persistently asked him if he was all right.
      “You’re sure? You look so pale…” I was all concern, but he brushed it aside.
      “Really, I’m fine,” he assured me, but his lips pressed tightly together whenever he looked at Kay, and I had strong suspicions that they’d fought, though I couldn’t guess yet over what.
      “He walked in,” Kay said bluntly when I approached her later about it.
      “Walked in where?” I asked dumbly.
      “In the bedroom. Dean was over…under…whatever.”
      I covered my mouth with my hand. “Dean Holt?” I accused in a whisper through the fingers of my glove. “In your bed?!” It was one of those piercing whispers that seemed to echo, but thankfully the murmur that filled the room didn’t quiet down to hear it.
      “Yes,” she replied, seeming to lack shame.
      “Oh my God…” I continued, still shocked.
      “Don’t act so surprised,” Kay ordered. “You’re almost as bad as Will, for fuck’s sake.”
      She moved away from me to Krystof’s side, and by the time the show was over and twelve of Kay’s paintings had been sold for exorbitant prices, the awkward and even shocked silence between Kay and Will had evolved into a tension that made me uncomfortable and Krystof, no doubt, amused. Nonetheless, we continued on together to a bar not far from the gallery when the show closed. In a suspiciously jovial mood, Krystof took his drinks at the bar quickly and in good humor, eventually turning his attentions upon me. On the one hand, I nudged him away when he stroked my hair or kissed my cheek, but on the other, I was not so sober myself. Krystof was one of the most attractive men I’d ever met, and when he put his mind to being charming, he was very nearly irresistible. The tension between Will and Kay added to the attraction I felt, too. Although it wasn’t precisely a sexual tension, its origins were sexual, and they stimulated all the wrong parts of my brain and body.
      “Oh, knock it off,” Kay finally ordered her brother, pushing him away from me.
      “What?” he asked indignantly, slapping her hand away from his arm.
      “Stop trying to seduce her, or whatever it is you’re trying to do right now. I don’t have the stomach for it.”
      Krystof smirked, not completely drunk, but not sober enough for his own good. “I wish I had the stomach for half the things you did, Kay,” he taunted.
      “Fuck off,” she informed him, poking his chest. “You know that I’m not nearly as bad as you.”
      “But I don’t do it like you, Kay,” Krystof insisted, attempting to put his arm around her waist, his breath coming out in gusts of alcohol. “I don’t take people’s perfect lives and tear them down, brick by brick, fuck by fuck… I’m honest about what I do, at least. I don’t make promises I’m never going to keep. I never promised Beck or Hannah or any other fucking girl any-fucking-thing. And it’s not my fault if they expect what I never promise.”
      “Not your fault? Is that what you think? Is that what you think you do? You want to talk about tearing down people’s lives, K? Let’s talk about that…” Although her brother’s face was already close to hers, she pressed her face even closer. “Let’s talk about all you take, take, take. But what the hell do you ever give back?”
      Krystof grabbed her suddenly by the hair, and he did it so hard that the diamonds of her clip dug deep into the skin of his palm. I gasped and jumped back as he put his other hand on her throat, which was arched from the force with which he was pulling the back of her head.
      “And what do you give back exactly, Kay?” he asked through clenched teeth
      “Get your hands off her,” Will ordered, reappearing from the men's room. There was authority in his voice, and that was a sure ticket to ruffling Krystof’s feathers more than Kay already had.
      “What?” Krystof snapped. “You want to defend the little whore? You know what she is as well as I do!” Krystof’s grip tightened, and Kay’s eyes narrowed more hatred toward him.
      “I said let her go,” Will repeated, and he had no more love for Krystof than Kay in that moment.
      With a snort of disgust, Krystof pushed his sister away from him and reached for his drink on the bar. Krystof and Will’s eyes were locked in a silent battle that threatened to be epic.
      “Don’t do this,” Kay said, although it was unclear whether she was speaking to Krystof or Will. I, for one, wrung my hands.
      “Yeah. Don’t do this, Will,” Krystof sneered.
      “I’m pretty sure she was talking to you,” Will retorted, taking a step closer to a man he considered to be his personal nemesis.
      “I was talking to both of you,” Kay said tersely, still physically separating the two.
      “Well, thanks for the suggestion,” Krystof said sarcastically, setting his glass down so hard that some of the drink splashed unto his hand. “But I think that we’re a little old for a babysitter.”
      Will put his hand on Kay’s shoulder and moved her firmly out of his path toward Krystof, and Krystof protested, “Whoa, whoa, whoa… Who’s the one manhandling her now?”
      “I don’t treat her with even half the amount of disrespect you do,” Will spat. “You are nothing but a jealous pervert who can’t stand his sister’s happiness.”
      “Jealous? Pervert?” Krystof prodded.
      “The way you look at her, the way you touch her,” Will elaborated. “It’s disgusting. Indecent. And I won’t tolerate it anymore.”
      “I wonder why you tolerated it at all…” Krystof took a menacing step forward, and Kay turned her back on both of them.
      Rummaging through our things on the bar, she fished out a pair of car keys.
      “What are you doing?” I demanded, my hands still clutched to my chest from the stress the evening had continued to create.
      “I didn’t come here for a barroom brawl, and I’m not going to stick around to watch it. I’m not drunk enough for that,” she told me.
      “Kay, wait! You’re not sober enough to drive,” I protested, attempting to catch her wrist. She was too quick for me though, and was headed toward the door. “Kay!” I shouted.
      As she reached the door, I could hear Will repeat his warning to Krystof that he ought to, “Just leave her the fuck alone.”
      “She’s my sister,” Krystof said with as much, if not more, authority than Will had used earlier. “I’m not leaving her life any time soon. And I’m not so sure that I can say the same for you.”
      Although I half-expected Will to throw a punch at last, he just turned away with a snarl and snatched up his tux jacket.
      “Where’s Kay?” he asked me. Clearly, he presumed she had just gone to the ladies’ room.
      “She left,” was all I could manage to say at first.
      “Left? Where? How?”
      “She took your keys…I don’t know.” I again wrung my hands as I gradually found my tongue again. “She wasn’t too sober either. I tried to stop her…”
      “Fuck,” Will muttered, pulling out his mobile and speed dialing Kay’s number, “—No answer,” he reported.
      We all threw money on the bar and left quickly, I was sure to the relief of the other people there, and probably even the management. We had not been the happiest or best-behaved bunch by far.
      “Fuck,” Will cursed again. “What if something happens?”
      “It’s your car,” Krystof said unhelpfully. “You’re the one liable.”
      “Well if you hadn’t acted like such an asshole—” Will began to accuse.
      “Enough!” I cut in. “We’ve had enough of this, haven’t we?” I motioned for quiet with my hands. “Let’s just think about this! What are we going to do?”
      “What can we do?” Krystof asked unhelpfully. “She’s already fucking gone.”
      An hour later, we got news of the accident.
      Krystof called me just as I was getting into bed, and I frowned at my mobile before answering it reluctantly.
      “Kay’s in the hospital,” was all he said in response to my hello.
      “What?”
      “She wrecked Will’s car. Wrapped around a tree. Good thing it wasn’t through a shop window, I guess. I figured you’d want to know,” he said curtly.
      “Did you call Will?”
      Krystof snorted. “No.” And then he hung up.
      I debated whether to call Will, but I could just imagine him lying awake, maybe even sitting awake by the window, waiting for her to come home so they could hash out all the things between them. On the one hand, I was afraid he’d be furious about Kay driving drunk and ruining his car on top of his life, especially with his flat fire in such recent memory. On the other hand though, I felt just as afraid that he would be so concerned that he’d let her get away with everything.
      I dialed his mobile and he answered before the first ring could even sound.
      “Hello?”
      I could tell from his voice that he wanted it to be Kay instead of me, or at least Kay with me, and it took me a second before I could force out even his name. “Will?”
      “Yeah, Beck? What is it?” There was a kind of terror in his tone.
      “Kay was in a wreck. Your car…I’m sure it’s totally smashed. Kay’s in the hospital…” I didn’t know what more to say.
      “Where? What hospital?”
      It occurred to me that I hadn’t asked Krystof. “I should think St. Thomas’s, but I’ll check. Should I pick you up?”
      “No, I’ll meet you at St. Thomas’s. –Thanks, Beck,” he added as a hasty afterthought before I heard the click on his end indicating he’d ended the called.
      Luckily, Kay was, in fact, at St. Thomas’s Hospital, and her condition wasn’t serious. She’d been so relaxed in the crash that she’d escaped with relatively few injuries: nothing broken, but some severe bruising along her chest, and there was a lump on the side of her head, scarcely visible under her hair. The doctors all had positive prognoses, and the fact that there was no internal bleeding was nothing short of a miracle.
      She was cognizant by the time I made it to her hospital room, and Krystof and Will we already there. Krystof had commandeered the chair at her bedside, and Will skulked in the corner, his shoulders slumped and his hands shoved deeply into his pockets. I went immediately to the other side of her bed and took her hand.
      “You gave us a run for our money,” I teased, more cheerful than even I’d intended.
      “Guess I shouldn’t race cars,” she teased back. “I’m not near as good as Daniel.”
      Even Krystof let out a short laugh at that, but Will was silent, seeming almost in shadows, though the room was well lit.
      The three of us stayed late in the room, despite the attempts of nurses and doctors alike to make us leave. I left first, offering to take Will back to Kay’s flat with me, but it was clear that there was to be another battle of will between Krystof and Will, this time over who would stay the longest at Kay’s side.
      “You should all get going,” Kay unexpectedly declared, her voice sounding adamant. “It’s late.”
      Krystof and Will both murmured protests, and Krystof took Kay’s hand in his.
      “Don’t you want someone to stay the night with you?” he asked her.
      “No, don’t be foolish. I want to go to sleep so I can get out of here tomorrow. There’s no way I can cancel the shoot for tomorrow, although Beck,” she said to me, “can you let everyone know that we’ll be moved back ‘til ten? They won’t let me check our before eight.”
      “No problem,” I assured her, nodding.
      “Great. Now get out of here already,” she told her brother, kissing his hand.
      Will approached the bed and asked, “Me too?” His eyes cloudy with emotion.
      “You stay just a second,” she relented.
      Krystof and I left the room then, and silence reigned for the few minutes immediately after our departure.
      “Is there anything you need?” Will asked, toying with the end of the blanket near the foot of the hospital bed.
      “I’m sorry,” was all she said, and her face was so expressionless that Will wasn’t sure what exactly she was sorry about.
      “I’m sorry, too,” he said, and he wasn’t sure what he was referring to either. He wasn’t even sure he had anything specific to be sorry for.
      Kay reached for his hand and he slid it into hers.
      “I’ll replace your car,” she began, but he protested. “No,” she insisted firmly. “Don’t worry about the money. I’ve got too much of it anyhow, and it’s the least I can do. Especially over something as stupid as whatever happened tonight.”
      Again, Will couldn’t be sure if she was referring to her infidelity, the incident at the bar with Krystof, or the accident, but he nodded his acquiescence, squeezing her hand a bit more tightly, and putting his other hand over it.
      “You gave me a scare,” he confessed.
      She leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes with an unusual smile on her face. “Gave myself a bit of a scare, too,” she admitted.
      “Kay…?” Will hesitated, but when she hmmed, he knew he had to force out what he meant to say. “Kay, I love you.”
      “You’re sweet,” she said, but her eyes didn’t even flicker open, not even the slightest. Her fingers merely moved slightly in his hand.
      Aware that this was the most he could expect in response, Will kissed Kaysa on the forehead and closed the hospital door behind him, taking the long hallway quickly to the elevator at the end. He suddenly found himself looking forward to sleeping in her bed, even though she wouldn’t be there. The fact that another man had been in it earlier escaped his mind entirely.