Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued
Fiction Saturday – Continued
“Well that didn’t happen, did it?” she said out loud as she popped a bagel in the toaster. She wanted a life that was simpler, not filled with so many dangerous possibilities. “Didn’t get that either, did you?” she said as she picked up the morning paper from outside her door.
Your timing sucks, girl. Why did this have to happen now? Twelve years ago I would have jumped for joy. Now I’m sick about it, just sick.
“This man…this fine, wonderful, funny, and tender man says that he loves me, and I believe him. I think that I love him, too. Oh, hell, I know that I do. I know that I love the way he smells and the way he tastes. I love his voice in my ear and his breath on my neck. He makes me gasp.
“It’s like I’m reading a book for the first time. One I should have read a dozen years ago. One that everybody else has already read, and now I want to memorize every word.
“He says that he wants to be with me. He doesn’t know what that really means. If I tell him, I’m afraid he’ll run, and I’m afraid for him if he doesn’t run.
“I didn’t know that my skin could ever be so… so in love with someone else’s skin. He kissed my little scars. He kissed my moles. I didn’t know that love could be fun. I didn’t know that love could be my choice. I didn’t know love, period.
“I would never hurt him and I’d kill anyone who tried to. I hope he’d be able to do the same for me. Hopefully it will never come to that.
“Maybe I can stay here. Maybe I can be safe. It’s been only a couple of months, at most. Oh, why can’t…? Why can’t…too many things?”
The pungent aroma of the coffee brought her back into her kitchen. She poured herself a mug and picked up the newspaper. Quickly scanning past the local news she got to page four.
Deep in the small of her back, he had noticed a trio of tiny moles. When he mentioned them to her she smiled and congratulated him for finding them and asked him if he thought they were sexy. They were in a rather inconspicuous place—a place where only a doctor or a lover would visit close up.
She also had a small crescent-shaped scar in the hollow where the neck meets the collarbone. It was a memento of a childhood fight with her cousin. The cousin’s scar was much bigger, she assured him. She laughed. Her laugh excited him and made him want to look for more scars.
He had first heard her laugh when they had both tried to wrap their fingers around the last frosty carton of Cherry Garcia in the supermarket freezer. What a way to meet. No lingering eye contact across a smoky room. No electrifying tendril of Chanel snaring his senses in an elevator. Not even a growing closeness over time at the office. No, they met digging their nails into a cardboard container of ice cream.
That first morning, after they left his small, but very neat apartment, they had walked the streets near the Marina Green. As the traffic streamed past, carrying much of San Francisco on its way to work in the financial district, they sat and dangled their legs over the seawall and watched a sailboarder head out across the bay.
She told him that she was divorced and that she had moved here because it was as far away as she could get on the little bit of money she had.
He wanted to probe for more information. What idiot would do something so frightening as to drive her to desperate flight? What had happened that made her self-imposed exile an acceptable option? He wanted to ask, but didn’t. That door had to be opened from the inside.
He purchased her a cellular phone. She protested, complaining that she didn’t know anybody other than him.
“I’d feel better if you had it, Laura, for emergencies or even some late night calls to your man.” She couldn’t say no.
She let down her drawbridge and took him to her apartment. It was smaller than his and felt very temporary.
Every night together was another leg of a journey through uncharted lands. He told her the well-edited accounts of his life and she served up sweet and tiny slices of hers. It was like the first taste of a baklava. Layer after layer—honey sweet, indulgent, flush with exotic flavors, almost exhausting. All of it was surface. Nothing too detailed. Nothing much you could point to and say, “That’s a lie.”
He didn’t know that most of what she was telling him was pure fiction. His stories were true in essence, but he candy-coated the heartaches.
Over cappuccino, they explored each other in the way one wanders in the stacks of a library, pausing to slide a book from its place and enjoying the language for its own sake.
On a chilly Tuesday morning, Davis left his apartment early to go to his office for an appointment. He was going to talk with the owner of a Union Street boutique about taking over the shop’s payroll, tax, and cost control. Explaining the advantages of having a professional handle the bookkeeping was going to take most of the morning.
Davis finally got around to reading the morning San Francisco. Chronicle over lunch at his desk. On page four, above the fold, he saw a fuzzy photograph of a woman. The photo had the grainy quality of a picture taken with a telephoto lens. It looked surprisingly like the woman at the center of his universe. The sidebar told of a woman on the run, with a name he didn’t know. A woman who had disappeared from her New York Area home roughly two months before. He read about an unsolved murder and a husband. There was no doubt—it was Laura. He had fallen in love with this stranger and now, a lot of people were very anxious to find her.
He sat there not knowing what to think. Was this really her? Yes, it was. What was going on? He called her number, but she didn’t pick up.
He left his office and hurried over to her apartment. He let himself in and called her name. She was gone. There was a half-empty coffee mug and a half-eaten bagel on the counter sitting beside the morning paper. Her face looked up at him from page four.
Her closet was half empty. Her dresser drawers were ajar, empty. Then he saw the piece of notepaper taped to the mirror.
“My Love, what can I say?”
That was it—one line. After a little over seven weeks, fifty-one days, one line scribbled on a piece of paper.
“My Love, what can I say?”
She assumed he’d see the picture in the paper and put two and two together. He did, but it still left him with no answer below the line.
“My Love, what can I say?”
One line. No explanations, no pleas for forgiveness, and no “I’ll contact you when I can.”
He went home and sat by the phone, as anxious as an out-of-work actor. He sat there rehashing this thing. Sitting there, waiting for a call, for a knock at the door, for anything to help him unscramble his mind and heart. He tried to step outside himself and analyze it, see it through her eyes. It dumbfounded him. He thought they were a part of each other’s lives. Now he wanted to run. He wanted to hit something. He wanted to shake the world until it would tell him the truth.
Safety. It was going to take forever. It might never happen. Not if Dominic or the government caught up with her. It didn’t matter which. Either way she was dead, she thought. Neither one would hesitate to end her life. Then there was Davis. She had fallen in love with a man who was not her husband, or like her husband in any way.
She had run from her husband’s beatings and abuse. She had run from her family, and she had stolen from her family. She had abandoned everything to run to a strange city to be among strangers. She was guilty, in the eyes of generations of murderers, of committing unforgivable sins.
Being born into a family that for centuries had been part of a criminal cartel was like carrying a birthmark. No matter where you went, no matter how you disguised yourself, it was a part of you. It had become your bloodline. It was in your DNA. Sons followed their fathers, who, in turn, had followed theirs. It went from village to town, from town to city. It went from an Old to a New World.
While the women were cherished, they were rarely a part of the family business. It was a man’s world where women didn’t attain any real power outside the home.
Inside the home, however, they were often the decision makers. They controlled how and where the children were educated, how much influence the Church would have on the family, and how much Family business would be allowed into the home. All of this inside the schizophrenic satellite culture of the Family.
For all the unapologetic mayhem and carnage that the adults created in their world, it was crucial that their children be protected and raised inside the Church. That was left to the women. Although everybody in the Family wanted Divine forgiveness for the sins that were committed, they never stopped repeating them. They were taught to strive for Heaven, yet they invariably opted for Hell. It was the task of the women to make sure that the children got their grounding in the catechism of God before the men took over to teach them the catechism of the devil. The first was to ensure the survival of the soul; the second, the survival of the Family.
Laura, as Beverly, had grown up in this world of contradictions. As a female, she was close enough to see and smell the blood, but she was protected, not permitted to become stained by it. Or so was the belief.
It was thought, inside the Family, that only the boys had to be tough. The girls needed to be pretty, obedient, and to learn to become good cooks. The only thing that they shared equally with the boys was the knowledge that you never—under any circumstances—talked to anyone outside the Family about Family business, and you never stole from the Family.
But now, there was Davis Lovejoy. She cried to think of the confused pain he must be in, wondering where she was, and what was happening.
My love, what can I say?
It tore at her heart now, to think of how cold and cruel her terse note must have seemed.
At that moment, in the grip of the sheer panic of seeing her face in the newspaper, it was all she could think of to say. How could she explain to him something she couldn’t put into words? How could she explain to him about her life with Dominic? Would he grasp the story of her life growing up as the daughter of a man who murdered other men and then came to her room to make sure that she said her prayers before sleeping?
She knew that if she didn’t run, Davis would be in danger. She knew that her chances of survival were minimal at best, now that she was being hunted from both sides of the law. Crossfires are efficient and deadly.
The anguish of losing out on love again added to her emotional load. It was too much. Abandoning Davis like she had to do was straitjacketing her brain. She knew that she had to get out of San Francisco, but Davis was here.
If she couldn’t be with him, so be it, but she couldn’t leave yet. She at least had to try to make him understand. She had to make sure that he would be unharmed, even if it cost her whatever remained of her life. She had to see him to say goodbye face-to-face.
As she thought about her past, its impact upon her present and its threat to her future, she finally accepted one thing as true.
She would never be free of her past.