Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's 8 O'Clock on a Saturday

She is sitting perpendicular to a blue and white chequered couch. Lights dimmed to save electricity and a Japanese lamp emanating an orange glow.  Her back straight, her knees forward. Her hands are placed between her knees in a prayer like pose. She's staring at the yellowed walls and contemplating renovation, before her vision's blurred by tears.

The television's on. Some accented quasi-cook banging on about how emotional he is about food. All she thinks about is how emotional she is about 'him'.

He's far away. He's out of sight and she's out of his mind, but all she thinks about is him. The wannabe starlets that he's flirting with, wanting. All she wants is him. She envies the life he's living. Bright lights, beautiful women, charismatic men. Beautiful people, styled, made up, Photoshopped profile pics on Facebook. The ego and falsity of it all makes her feel ill. It's a tinsel-tinted life yet still, she wants it. She wants to be close to it, part of it. A little escapism from the boredom of the mundane 9-5 that rules her existence.

A dog scratches at the sliding door begging to be let in before lobbing on the bed.

"What a life!" she thinks.

To be supported, cared for, fed, vet checked and pampered.  Oh to be like such a beast, oblivious to the complexities of the human condition, the power-plays, the tit for tat 'love you one day, hate you the next' rhetoric that she receives from him.  The animal leaps heartily onto cushions designed for her and his heavenly heads, sex, closeness. The dog has no concept of such things and dishevels them into mountains of plump chaos.

 "I want to be a dog!" She articulates as the TV chef prepares pretentious food involving goat's cheese and rocket. Her stomach growls. She's just seen him devour a steak on Skype.

 "Fuck you," she thinks.  "If food really does lead to a man's heart, I'd have him in my bed."

Sadly she knows it takes more, much more - looks, youth. Yep it's all about the body and skin for him.

She's dwelling on his existence, rehashing fond memories, forgetting how cruel he can be with his emotional bullying. She wants to be the little black dress at his side when he's receiving accolades for his work. She wants to be the core of his universe while he struggles to make a living. Ease his frustrations, cater to his needs.

Her life is so dull by comparison. Living in office hell, pandering to people who don't  know her or care enough to ask. 'Print this, book that'. Words spat out by patronising patriarchs who care nothing for her or her situation. She's had it. The assumptions about who she is, what she represents. They know nothing. They don't know about the miscarriage, the premature loss of a husband, the murdered mother, the cancer ridden father. They have no idea about the longing for a man she can never have or the stupidity of her financial choices.  He knows her. He knows her inside out and upside down. He uses it against her, manipulating her emotions with his words and ignorance, yet she tolerates it. He knows everything about her.

She stares down at her hands. They are still pressed prayer-like between her knees.

"Bulky knees," she declares to a silent audience.  "Damn genes."

Tears momentarily stemmed, only by the gnawing hunger that makes her order Chinese food on a credit card way passed its limit.

"Is this it? Is this what it's all about?" The dog raises it's head momentarily, too lazy to move from it's den among the pillows.

Perhaps he will come for Christmas. Perhaps they'll still see each other in a few months time. But she's not banking on it. He's pushed too hard, to often and it's wearing her down. Still, she'll wear the Zaggora Flares, smooth unctions to preserve her ageing skin, hit the treadmill and smile when he Skypes as if everything is fine.

Tomorrow she'll start renovating. Her body, her house, her heart, her life.

"Really need to stop drinking," she thinks, as she skulls the last drop of a cheap Semillon.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

A New Line of Work

She's never felt this anxious, her heart's palpitating, vulnerability overbearing as she crushes a small cube of ice in her left hand. "Just focus on the cold, forget everything." Her mother had suggested deep breathing, the ice treatment, 21 minutes of exercise but her heart still palpitates. She wants to build a wall around her, a fortress, protective and impenetrable. There's no reason for the fear, it's like walking into a party, the last one on the list and everyone in the room staring, watching, judging. Her doe eyes broaden. She looks like a spaniel about to give birth, vulnerable and desperate. She's drowning, sinking into the abyss in a tiny vault. It's just an interview, it's just a change, it's just a walk in the park, twenty metres down the street that kaleidoscopes into a five mile slow motion drag.  Her imagination takes over as the ice melts in her palm, dripping cold pearls upon the bathroom floor. She imagines herself swathed in silk, this is going to be an Academy Award performance, she's dressed queen of St Germaine.

The panic attacks are new. She's been as stoic as a statue until now. Teetering down Walker street, the towering skyscrapers spin above her head, why is she so nervous, it's just an interview. Planets are not aligned, in their right order. The red planet is too profound, the ringed planet off kilter. She thinks about turning around and forgetting it all.

She isn't young, but she's no dinosaur. Attractive, shapely, enhanced a little by a breast uplift and good genes. No prowler or cougar, just a protective lioness of a mother, providing for her pride since he traded her up for a younger model. She puffs up her chest, straightens her back, steadies herself with military precision and even though her heart still feels like it's about to burst from her chest, she walks through the sliding doors with heroic confidence that betrays her inner fear.

She's the playgroup Mom, the perfect housewife, the quintessential mother, now about to become a lady of the  night, a call girl, an escort.

She slips through the lobby, smils sweetly at the Concierge and approaches the desk. Cognisant of the CCTV, she looks up and winks at whoever is in the control room. And so it begins.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Renaissance

Continued from Running Blind in a House of Mirrors

For the first time in a long time, Wolf is 'awake'. His eyes opened rudely to the perversion of his son and the sexual antics and humiliation of his daughter.  Six young men dead under suspicious circumstances and his children are implicated. It's a wake-up call from dream into nightmare one exacerbated as Carl's unattended phone begins to buzz on silent, shuddering across the coffee table. Wolf retrieves the phone and reads two messages. One from Virgin reminding Carl of his flight time to Brisbane, the other from Leisl giving an address.  


"Be happy for me. mtg my man at 36 Parkland Ave. So stoked!"

Wolf calls Grant, "I think you need to get to Brisbane. Something weird is going down."

***
Lou's lack of discretion when he first contacted Leisl was astounding. Only now when he checked his calls and messages did he realise how foolish he'd been. Sucked in by good looks and a tenuous past connection, he'd revealed too much, to soon. Played too hard. She was on her way. She wanted to meet. He felt stupid for egging her on, flirting outrageously, having phone sex so quickly after connecting with her before he realised her stupidity was a complete turn off, her obsession bordering on crazy. He'd clearly given her the wrong impression and had failed miserably to quell her affections despite being blatantly obvious in his own mind. May as well meet her. He'd be easy to find anyway, his contact details on his website, his landline emblazoned in bold print in the White Pages. Blind Freddie could knock on his door whether he'd given out his address or not. Might as well bite the bullet, respond to her message. At least then he can give her some home truths, tell her how it is. Reject her advances and send her packing.

***
Carl watched Leisl enter the departure gate before checking in. This liaison was going to be no more successful than the last. He swiped his card and queued for the flight following hers. His bag is passed through the security x-ray and he's frisked and swabbed on the other side.

"Sir? What's this?" A customs agent calls him back and points to the screen at what appears to be a pack of disposable hypodermic needles and a small vial.

"Oh. Sorry, I should have mentioned that. It's Kynoselen. Here, I have the prescription. Just a vitamin and sodium injectable to help with fat loss."

He flashes the prescription as the customs officer opens his bag and inspects  the vial.

Carl twitters nervously, "I'm a body builder, it's perfectly legal."

The customs officer is unmoved, "You can't take that as carry-on. You'll have to leave it behind or check it in."

Carl is astounded by his own carelessness but the decision to follow Leisl was sudden, and planning rushed, he'd even forgotten his mobile phone. He complies and walks back through the metal detector to check in his luggage. His heart races. Should they actually test the stuff, they'd know it was KCL they'd surely be suspicious about his reasons for having it. Domestic security is lax, his bag is checked in as hold luggage, and he saunters through the departure gate, heads for the first bar he sees and orders a double vodka and Red Bull. He needs to be hyped to do what has to be done.

***
"Hi. You're here already?"  Lou's voice is emotionless, cold, he's biting the bullet but wants to get this over with, and quickly.

"Hi Babe!" Just got off the plane. Can you pick me up or should I get a cab."

"Look Leisl, I'm not crazy about this but you've come a long way. My car won't start, can you get a cab?" The last thing he needs is to be locked in a vehicle, her hand on his thigh and nowhere to avoid her.

She touches up her lip gloss and smooths her hip-hugging pencil skirt. She fidgets with the scooped neckline of her top until it reveals just the right amount of shoulder, decolletage and cleavage, hails a cab. She's barely seated next to the turbaned driver when she receives a message from her father.

"Leisl, where's Carl? Disturbing news. Call me."

She won't. She doesn't. Nobody is going to spoil this moment. She ignores it.

She has no idea where her brother is anyway. Carl's been behaving weird for days but it's a phase, he's just jealous that she's found someone new. He'll come round.

She's on Lou's stoop and rings the bell, ready to throw eager arms around him and be warmly welcomed. It doesn't happen. He's dressed scruffily, a sloppy joe, dirty board shorts and thongs. His hair hasn't been brushed for days, his face is sporting more than a five-o'clock shadow and his breath reeks. He keeps his distance behind the open door.  Leisl's face can't hide the disappointment in his appearance.

"Lou?" She's not even sure he's the same man, he looks nothing like his clean cut Facebook images.

"Come in."  His voice is emotionless.

The flat is sparse. A computer stand, a small pine dining table with 2 chairs, a mini kitchenette, a stack of putrid dishes waiting to be washed, a bookshelf and a small two-seater couch covered in papers. He scoops them up and nods for her to take a seat. He remains standing and towers above her. Hazel eyes staring adoringly into his cold blue. It's beyond uncomfortable, he was supposed to be welcoming, at least give her a kiss and a hug but he's angry. He doesn't offer her anything other than sharp words.

"This has to stop! I only agreed to meet you to tell you that I'm not your 'babe', I never was. I made a mistake. I thought you were cute but that's it. You're not my girlfriend, you never will be."

"...but you said..." Leisl's words are cut short.

"You're a pain in the ass, you message me too often, call too often. You talk shit and understand nothing. I thought you'd get the hint over time but you're so obsessed, so persistent. I want you out of my face, off my phone, out of my house, gone from my life! You're not my type and never will be. You're a pest and a pariah! Am I being perfectly CLEAR?"

She leaps at him and slaps him hard across his cheek. He recoils momentarily, wiping the sting from his face before she lays into him in a vicious attack and begins screaming.

 "You said you liked me! You fucking came over the phone while you were talking to me! You said you wanted to touch my skin, you prick! You let me come all this way just to tell me to shove off?"

Lou takes the beating. He deserves it for leading her on, before realising she was unbalanced. She'll be done and off his back soon enough. He backs into a corner of the small kitchenette as she reaches for the knife block and covers his head with his hands. She has strength as well as a temper. Only he notices the shadow looming behind her, hypodermic needle grasped in an elevated fist. Before she can strike with the knife the Potassium Chloride already courses through her veins as she turns to face her assailant.

"Carl? What've you done?"

The pain is excruciating. Lou remains curled in a ball in the corner as Carl catches the falling girl in his arms, the knife dropping with vibrating clang at Lou's feet. He grabs it but remains motionless, gripped and stunned at what's unfolding before him. The girl begins to shudder.

"Jesus Carl, what was..." she convulses as the lethal dose shuts down her organs.

Carl cradles her and begins to cry. "I'm sorry Leis, I'm really sorry. If I can't have you. . ."

The shuddering continues.

"Man, you're crazy! You're both fucking off tap crazy!" Lou screams and comes to a stand, knife in hand, poised but uncertain what to do when the door bursts open. Grant and two police officers burst in.

"Christ! Call 000!" Grant grabs the mourning boy, bending his arms tight behind his back and cuffing him as the srynge and Leisl's trembling body fall to the floor. A puddle of urine leaches from between her lovely legs.  One officer taps his radio and hurriedly begins ordering an ambulance and backup. Another officer attempts CPR on the dying woman but the poison has done it's work as rapidly as Carl had read. She shakes for one last time and lies motionless, eyes wide. Lou Mariano's horrified face, the last thing she sees. Once again the knife drops to the floor along with Lou, now on his knees, his expression one of abject disbelief.

***
Lou emerges from the shower, shaven, hair combed through. Slides on a pair of casual trousers and tucks a crisp white shirt into them before tightening his belt.  He slips socked feet into a pair of comfortable loafers and straightens the now discarded towel over the towel rail.  Slings a Timbuktu Messenger bag over his shoulder and picks up the mobile phone on the dresser. He hesitates in front of his computer, takes a sip of black coffee. His index finger hovers above the 'unfriend' button on the page of a pretty girl he once knew. Her smiling face staring at him, creeping him out, but the office beckons. No more of this working at home, wasting time on people he doesn't know. If only he could forget the expression on her face, now indelibly etched on his mind. He clicks, and she's gone from his Facebook feed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Running Blind in A House of Mirrors

Continued from An Air of Evanescence

Grant thumbed through each file, stared endlessly at each corpse. Every one either holding or having a final note pinned to their bodies.  Three of the notes indistinguishable thanks to blood stains, the remaining notes, all with a simple apology. The coincidence was too much. The handwriting almost deliberately skewed yet suspiciously each mirrored the other, he was sure the victims hadn't written the notes themselves. His team had interviewed friends, family, neighbours and found nothing. No   malicious motives.

As he flipped through Josh Logan's file, he examined the coroner's photograph again and again, staring deeply at every corner. The image was of Josh's bedroom, a rough noose had been constructed out of bedsheets and hung empty and loose from the ceiling fan. The bed was tousled, dirty clothes piled at its foot. The wardrobe door open. A simple chest of drawers donned a baseball cap, an upturned photograph, car keys and a handful of pocket change. He stared deeper into the frame. How could he have been so blind? How could he have missed it, he must have gazed at it a million times - The photograph? Who was in the photograph?

The Logans had moved after Josh's death, the ghost in the room too much for his family to bare. Grant caught up with them in Sydney's fashionable North West; a new city, new state, new life. Caroline Logan was less than welcoming when he knocked on her door.

"Detective Grant? You're a long way from home?"

"Mrs Logan, I'm not convinced your son's death was a suicide."

The woman's face drops and she cups her cheeks in her hands, familiar tears welling in her eyes.

"We've been over this. It's a painful thing to remember. It was 2 years ago now. We're trying to remember Josh as he was, not how we last saw him. It was suicide. The Coroner said so. Everyone said so. I wish you'd just drop it and let us get on with our lives."

"Just one thing..." Grant is gently persistent and withdraws the coroner's photograph of Josh's room from a plain white envelope. "I'm sorry to do this but, what was in the photograph on the tall boy here?"

Caroline takes the picture with one hand and wipes her tears on her shirt with the other before focusing.

"Um. I think it might have been a girl. I never met her but he had a photo that she gave him a week or two before..."

"You don't happen to still have it do you?" Since Josh's death had been deemed a suicide, no evidence box was created, his belongings moved with the Logans. Grant could only hope that Caroline had held onto the items on the dresser for sentimental reasons.

"I'm not sure. I've got a few of his things packed away. Come in. I'll dig them out."

Caroline retrieved a large gift box and hesitantly lifted the lid. The sadness of her loss evident as she gently thumbed through her son's belongings. She removed the baseball cap, and retrieved a small, wrought iron frame. "Here...this is it."

Grant, takes a handkerchief from his pocket and grabs the delicate filigree frame so as to avoid leaving fingerprints. He removes the backing and examines the picture of an attractive girl, late teens/ early 20's, olive skin. He flips the photograph, it's inscribed in neat handwriting. "I love you. Leisl."

It's a stretch but it's a name. Grant looks long and hard at the other suicide files. Only 2 deaths take place indoors. One in a garage, the other Josh's. No photographs, no reference to anyone called Leisl. His deadline's looming and he's sure there's a connection. His team are put on double shifts, each assigned a victim. 

"Check out their rooms, their computers, Facebook/Myspace/Twitter friends, their pockets, wallets, anything that might render a similar photograph or a reference to Liesl. I'll go through the roll again and see what comes up."

Within days, there are references to Leisl Stensl on mobile phones, computer chat rooms, Facebook accounts. She'd been there all the time, they just hadn't been looking, hadn't made the connection.

***

Wolf's stupor was coming to an end. It had been years since Daniela left him. The kids had been wonderful. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of things while his misery distracted him. He'd been in a mechanical dream of waking, working, drinking and sleeping. He'd neglected his friends, his family. Time to take an interest in the world again and rise from the ashes. He was comforted by the fact that his children were so close, still at home, and such good support for each other. It was a little odd that Leisl had decided to holiday without her brother in tow. They usually did everything together. Carl had been particularly bad tempered lately and he wondered if there'd been a falling out between them.

Leisl too, had been secretive about her planned Queensland break when he'd quizzed her about it.

"Oh, I just have a friend in Brisbane who invited me up for a while. Thought I'd go grab some sunshine!"

"A friend? In Brisbane? Who?" Wolf's questions were unanswered.

"Dad, don't be so nosy. I'm a grown-up. Just a friend, I'll leave an address and I have my mobile with me if you need anything. Oh, Carl won't be here either, he's got some body-building thing in Sunshine so you'll have the place to yourself."

He'd miss her. She'd been a comfort to him many times. Her smile lit up the place. Wolf gazed around the aging kitchen and it's corners of peeling and discoloured paint.

"You know what? I think I might decorate while you're both away. Give the place a bit of a spruce up. Keep me busy and out of trouble."

She hugged him, "Good idea. I'll let you know when I'll be back. Just don't paint my room pink!"

***
It had been ages since he'd ventured into the kids' bedrooms. They were adults now and left to their own devices when it came to their personal sanctuaries. Both rooms were large, mirror images of each other with built in wardrobes, double beds and bedside tables. They'd inherited their tidiness from their mother he was sure, and it saddened him a little to think that she was out of their lives.  Leisl's room smelled sweet, the lingering fragrance of her permeated her linen. Three pairs of shoes were lined neatly at the foot of her bed, posters of metal bands adorned her walls. He never knew what she saw in that stuff, it just didn't seem like her at all. He gently removed and carefully rolled each poster and deposited them in her wardrobe along with the errant shoes then covered her furniture with a plastic dust sheet in preparation for painting.

Carl's room, less tidy and enriched by the smell of youth, had barbells in the corner and an assortment of weights neatly stacked against the wall. Body-building posters adorned his walls. A stack of magazines, languished in a lazy pile beside his bed. Wolf opened the wardrobe door and caught something pushed to the back of its top shelf, a small galvanized box. He pulled it forward with a view to relocating it to make room for the magazines. Curiosity got the better of  him and he set the box on the bed and lifted it's lid. The horror on his face reflected in the mirrored door of the wardrobe.

The box was full of photographs. All of  Leisl. Some, selfies with her and Carl, some with her alone neatly dressed and smiling, many of her clearly taken without her knowledge. Shaving her legs and body, showering, dressing, sunbathing topples, pleasuring herself. Shocking photographs of his beautiful little girl in filthy and compromising positions with men, six different men that he could count. His horror was punctuated only by a loud rap on the front door.

***
"Mr Stensl?" Grant knew who the man was, just seemed the right thing to say before introducing a rather difficult topic. "Could we have a word please?"

Wolf's heart sank, immediately thinking the badge-flashing detective had bad news.

"Leisl? She's alright isn't she?"

"Leisl? I hope so, it's her we'd like to speak with if possible."

Wolf explains her absence as Grant asks about a number of boys and splays their photographs across the dining table.

"Was your daughter seeing any of these boys?"

Their faces were newly familiar, each depicted on the filth found in Carl's galvanised box. Each taking advantage of his little girl. Wolf hadn't ever met any of her boyfriends, they never lasted long enough for introductions. In his mental absence, Leisl had confided in Carl about her love life, not her bereft father. He denies knowing any of them. Grant sweeps the photos aside and neatly lays out six A4 photographs from the varying suicide scenes. Wolf covers his mouth and coughs uncomfortably.

"These boys are all dead. We think that  Leisl knew them. Each had a photograph of her in their possession. We need to talk to her."

"I've never seen these kids before." Wolf is adamant in his response, twitchy in his mannerisms.

Grant however, has seen enough liars to recognise the signs. A hand covering a mouth, tiny frown lines, lack of eye contact. As he shakes Wolf's hand and thanks him for his cooperation, he knows there's reason to return with a search warrant. Within hours, the house is teaming with police, drawers being upturned, wardrobes raided.  The galvanised box and it's suspect photographs retrieved.

"Mr Stensl? Where's your son right now?"

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No 5

Continued in Renaissance











An Air of Evanescence

 Continued from In Surreal Time

"It doesn't make sense. . . it just doesn't . . ." A sobbing mother glances at the scrawled note left by her son - "I'm sorry? Sorry for what, he was a good kid, he never did anything wrong?"


The detective mounting his enquiries was unmoved. He'd seen suicide many times, nothing unusual about the overly pink and bloated body in the Holden Commodore, now quiet in the Steadman's garage. The house surrounded with Coroner's tape and nosy neighbours peering across the street at the commotion. The young man's body zipped, locked and loaded into the bland coroner's van.

"Mrs Steadman, we're sorry for you loss but this looks clear cut. There's no sign of interference, no fingerprints other than your son's and husband's on the car. The note unclear but in his hand."

Poor solace for a mother who has just lost her only son. Adam Steadman takes his distraught wife by the shoulders and steers her gently into the bedroom.

"C'mon love. Take this, it'll help you sleep. Nothing more to be done now. We'll plan the funeral later."

Malcolm wasn't the suicidal type. He was not only an adept student but a practised and up-and-coming Moto-cross star. Already sponsored by KTM he was a keen and aggressive competitor. If anything was going to kill him, it would be the risks he took. The jumps and acrobatics he performed, his love of speed and the adrenalin rush. Suicide just made no sense at all. Yet there it was, a life snuffed out, a soul released into the ether, gone.

***
The pin board at Eltham Local Area Command was smattered with half a dozen photographs of unfortunate lads who had met an early demise. All local boys, or within a 10km radius of each other. All roughly the same age, between 18 and 25.  All apparent suicides, all different. A hanging, a shotgun blast, carbon monoxide poisoning, a lethal fall, an oven gassing and an apoplectic reaction. but the frequency and quantity had alerted Detective Grant. Something just didn't add up. Something just wasn't right. So many, all within 2 years and such a close proximity to each other? All apparently well-adjusted lads with a verve for life and a sense of adventure. There had to be some common denominator. Drugs had been ruled out at each autopsy. None had been in therapy or shown signs of depression. None had talked about 'topping themselves'. It was a conundrum.

"You're wasting your time Grant. There are real crimes to solve out there.  Pull it down. I've got more pressing cases for you to attend to."

His commander had grown impatient with Grant's obsession and it was time to move on.

"One more avenue, Sir. Just let me investigate a little further, something doesn't add up."

Grant was a thorough investigator and his superior knew it. But he was a valued resource and wasting time on a bunch of young adult suicides wasn't a productive use of his time.

"Two weeks. Two! Then it comes down and into the archives."

"Thank you sir." Grant returns his gaze to the board in the noisy crime room. Fumbles through his filing cabinet and withdraws dossiers on each victim. What has he missed?

***
Leisl had often rarely pondered the fate of former lovers. Steadman of course she remembered. His tragic suicide had really hurt her - no, he'd really hurt her, but there had been others. She'd been persistent in pursuing them but once they'd had their way, parted ways, they just faded, vanished, disappeared. Their Facebook pages closed, their phone numbers remained unanswered. It was the weirdest thing. Then, people move she guessed. They were all at the age of gap years and pre-work travel. Then she'd been so persistent, perhaps they'd chosen to 'disappear'. She didn't think about it for too long before another beau appeared on the horizon. Her latest of course, was special. His timing was impeccable. She'd become tired of waiting. She knew her affection for Carl was momentary and couldn't be sustained. Much as she adored him, he was after all, her brother - forbidden fruit. That little affair too needed to fade and die.  But Lou? Oh my, he was something.

He was reluctant to let her know where he lived. Not to be dissuaded from her one true love, she conjured scenarios for his evasion. Perhaps he's embarrassed about his house? Perhaps he's immersed in some creative project. Perhaps he's cautious and wants to meet on neutral ground. Whatever his reasons, they were accepted. She had decided he was for her. His words had been gentle and encouraging until recently. He was right, always right, she wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, he was right to criticise her the way he did, helpful to correct her when she was wrong, concerned enough to help her address her flaws and improve her intellect. He was a creative and intellectual warrior, enforcing right and amending wrongs. He would be her teacher, mentor, lover, companion and the focal point of her world. Indeed, in her mind, he already was.

***
Carl would press his ear to his sister's door. Hear her speaking softly to his adversary, his nemesis. This 'Lou' from Queensland, the banana-bender and manipulator of women. This dangerous liaison was driving him crazy. Leisl was his, and his alone. She'd told him as much. She'd declared her love, shown her passion. No man would come between them. Not now, not ever. Leisl's voice began to escalate. She was arguing a point but he couldn't hear exactly what. Something about a film, she was defending her position and shouting down the phone before the silence kicked in. Then the sobs. He couldn't stand it any more.

"Leis? You OK." After his previous shellacking he wasn't game to enter unannounced.

"Piss off!" She' yelled at the closed door, "Just go away." More sobs followed her abuse.

"Did he hurt you? Did he say something hurtful? I'll beat the shit out of him if he did."

"No, no it's OK. He's right, he's always right. I'm stupid, I don't get shit. I'll be fine. Just . . ."

Carl couldn't wait for permission and barged in to find her face down, her head in her pillow, mascara staining the pink floral fabric. He positioned himself beside her and began to stroke her hair.

"He's not worth it honey. He's just another jerk."

She turned as he lay beside her, their faces almost touching.

"But I think I'm in love with him Carl. He's amazing, interesting, charming. I'm going to Brisbane. I'm going to see him, see if it can work out."

Carl contained the building rage and stroked her hair.

"That's not such a good idea. You'll be alone, he could do anything. I'll come with if you want. Just in case. I'll be in the background, you can call if you need me."

The closeness of his breath, the warmth of his body and the fragility of her emotional state surrendered to Carl's embrace. He kissed her warmly, deeply and she responded. His hand slid from her breasts to pubis and slipped easily between her legs. Slender fingers working to a crescendo. Her moans, almost involuntary, gave way to an explosion of pleasure. But it wasn't Carl she was imagining. He'd had his day, his moment in the sun. It was Lou's breath, Lou's hand bringing her to arousal. Lou's words that caressed her ears.

"So, I can come?"

Leisl, is resolute. This has to be done alone.

"No Carl. And no more of this. We're done. It's over. I don't love you that way any more. It's me and Lou from now on. I'm sorry, but that's the way it has to be!"

Another invisible barb pierces her brother's heart as he rises to leave. This time, he steels himself against the pain, hardens himself against the hurt, resolves that this Lou, would not steal the only love of his life. She is his, and always will be.

Monday, February 10, 2014

In Surreal Time

Continued from Children of Cronos

Since his girlfriend packed her bags, flicked him the bird and slammed the door, Lou Mariano has retreated somewhat from life on 'the outside'.  His computer has become his friend, his living room, his comfort zone.  He knew it was over, soon after it started. She'd been charming at first, good in the sack but boring as all get-up, self-absorbed and difficult to converse with. As a 'talker', conversation was right up there on his list of perfect female characteristics, along with natural breasts, slender build, good looks and height below 5' 10. These attributes made all the more attractive if she showed some athleticism in bed. Monique only ticked two of his 'boxes.' Good riddance to the bitch.

Now in his late 20's, Mariano had a bucket list of elements necessary to complete perfect woman. The longer he waited, the more unattainable she became, but he was determined not to 'settle'.  This last foray into romance had soured him even more, no models, no foreigners, no crazy bitches who wanted 'exclusivity' and constant attention - and above all, no dumb cows that couldn't hold a decent conversation or engage in argument. Mariano loved a good argument.

There was however, no doubt that he was feeling a little lonely. The bed felt colder without her, TV dinners replaced the home cooking that she'd provided. His pantry was stocked with ready-made meals ordered online. There was little reason for him to leave the house.

As a Graphic Designer of some talent, Lou worked from home and loved the ability to wear his pyjamas until 3pm. To enjoy an unstructured day and still earn a healthy income was right up his alley. He wouldn't even drive unless absolutely necessary. Clients and friends came to him, six pack in hand. No Mohamed could move this mountain. He'd endured the rat race of advertising agencies for 5 years prior to going freelance,  He hated the pretentiousness, the client interface, the pitch. Here, he could work creatively, avoid the business lunches and earn a lucrative income. Here, he could distract himself with social networking, blogging and home-spun workout routines between projects, or when his brain refused to get into gear.

It was one of these brain-addled days where nothing seemed to fall into place, and creativity eluded him, that he began cruising old school friends on Facebook.

"Jesus, she got fat!" He'd mutter to himself, "He's looking old? Christ his wife's ugly!"

Mariano was blessed with youthful good looks, perhaps the legacy of Mediterranean genes. His complexion was pure, swarthy and youthful, his body svelte and athletic. It hadn't always been that way. As a child he was scrawny and short-sighted. A little nerdy and outside the box. The only child of suffocating parents, he was coddled and smothered. Only after lasik surgery and leaving home did he come into his own and became more independent, self-reliant and more than a little vain. Yes, the next ex-Mrs Mariano would have to be something akin to a PhD with a Penthouse body.

***

He did a double-take when he 'found' Leisl Stensl.

"Wow! She's well maintained," he'd declared to the snoring dog at his feet as he clicked on her profile and selected "Photos".

"She's really in good shape. Pretty too. Used to have a massive crush on her but she was a bit young. Wore too much makeup as well, but she was gorgeous. She is gorgeous."

He enlarges each photograph of Leisl, the selfies, the portraits, the family events. Yep, she's slim, looks about 5'7 with dark glossy hair and a very shapely body. He ignores the many pictures of her embracing her younger brother and particularly hovers over the shot of her leaning forward, legs crossed, her hand on her chin, smiling seductively at the camera. Her fulsome breasts on display and tantalisingly shapely legs. He could imagine those wrapped around his neck!

"Great tits!" The dog remained unmoved by his master's enthusiasm. "Shit, I remember her. Used to look at her from a distance and think she was gorgeous. Doubt she'd even remember me."

"Friend Request Sent"  . . . without more than a lascivious thought, and even though Leisl lived in another state, he was curious and his imagination began to spin.

***
"Lou Mariano?" Leisl said his name out loud when the friend request showed up. She vaguely remembered the name but couldn't place the person. Although he was older, she'd dated boys in his year. Still, Facebook had become her distraction beyond Carl, she'd given up men for now and resigned herself to the relative safety of social networking. Facebook friends, can't reach you, can't hurt you, can't damage you, can't take advantage of you. If they don't work out, they're deleted with a click. End of story. It's the perfect meeting place, outside of reality. A surreal existence oblivious of timezones, an ethereal wonderland where anything is possible. All care and no responsibility. Besides, Mariano had over 1000 friends, if he turned out to be a jerk, he'd barely notice her disappearance.  Leisl accepted the invitation and typed a badly constructed message from her iPhone. A conversation of sorts began:
Leisl Stensl: "Hi do I now you?  Says on your psge that you went to Ivanho. Dnt rmemeber u :)"
Lou Mariano: "Hi Leisl. Yes, I was a mate of Joe Calvi when you were dating him. I used to have a crush on you. :P"
Leisl Stensl: "Srsly dont remember. Looking at your phtps now. Ur cute! don't have a PC, can I call?"
This was great! She wanted to talk, the hot chick from his past, not only still 'hot', but available and wants to talk.  Without thought of consequence, he sent her his mobile number. Within seconds his ringtone sounded.

Lou has a charm. An amazing, disabling charm. It's what attracts women to him immediately. His gift of the gab, his sense of humour, his ability to melt hearts with a quick embrace. He's particularly loquacious and amorous after a few glasses of red. And that first evening, he'd had more than a few. The pitch of his voice softened, he cooed into the phone. Told her he admired her in school, told her his life story, listened to hers. Her voice was sweet as she talked about music, her brother, her love of art. He flattered her appearance and the fact that she'd maintained her good looks. They spoke of past relationships. How hers had been disastrous and left her fragile. How his had been a waste of time, and left him resolved to seek out the perfect companion. It was a good call, a long call, and ended with her calling him 'babe' and him feeling aroused.

He'd masturbated in the shower after that, the vision of her inside his head.

***
"Who are you talking to?"

Carl walked unannounced into Leisl's bedroom. She raised her left index finger to her mouth

"Shhh...Sorry, Lou, gotta go. I'll call you later. Bye babe. Love you!"

"Love you?" Carl's disapproval obvious. "Who's 'babe'?" Who does she love other than him?

"Carl, seriously, you have to knock before you come in." She slides to a stand from her prone position on the bed.

"Who's Lou?"

She puts her arms around his neck. "Relax, just an old friend from school. He  just friended me on Facebook. He's nice. I like him. Kinda cute too, and single!"

An invisible barb penetrated his chest and Carl began to sulk immediately. "I thought you were passing on guys for a while. I thought we were enough for now?"

"Seriously. He's rad, he's cool. I like him. I deserve to be happy don't I? You're my true love! Just an impossible one."

Carl turned with an unexpected degree of impetuousness and slammed her bedroom door behind him yelling, "He'll be the same as the others, he'll fuck you and forget you!"

She ignored his temper and felt the emerging dampness between her legs. Yes, she remembered.

***
She called Lou every day. At first, he answered and chatted freely, but after a week, he realised there's not much between this girl's ears. She doesn't believe in 'science', she can't argue conclusively. Her life is full of shallow idiocy, she makes no sense, talks gibberish and is often drunk. He lost tolerance and patience, became ruder and ruder to her hoping she'd just go away. By the third week, too many missed calls,  multiple 'likes' on his Facebook page. Too many cryptic notes about 'choosing the right one' and 'make up your mind' left in comments. She made no sense, she was simply an irritation.

She just didn't get it. She called him 'babe' and convinced herself that he's the one. Even unmet, he's in her head, her thoughts. Their first conversation is constantly on replay  "I had a crush on you. . ." all other words fell on deaf ears. He was just kidding, being sarcastic, of course he loves her.  She chose to exclude all his negativity and warnings.

***

"Who's the looker commenting on your page?" Lou's friend asks.

"Damn. Some woman I friended. Used to know her at school, now she's just a vacuous nuisance. Drives me crazy. Look..."

Lou slides the windows on his Android, "13 missed calls, 5 messages and all before 7:30am! The girl doesn't get it. She's stupid. I can't abide stupid. And . . . tell you, there's something weird going on with her and her brother. She never shuts up about him."

"So? Just unfriend her." His friend's obvious solution lost on Lou. He might be a dick but he doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Doesn't want to anger the crazy bitch. She's already hung up on him, threatened to 'find him'. Best to keep this one on side.

"Nah, I'll ignore her. Give her enough rope, she'll hang herself soon enough!"

In an effort to quell the unwanted attention Lou began to set boundaries.

"Leisl, stop calling. I'm busy, leave a message and I'll get back to you."

For some reason, she was reluctant to leave messages. When she did, he would call.Their conversations short, sharp and disparaging. There were times he'd even bring her to tears but she'd return for more punishment.

"You're a lousy friend..." she'd sob before hanging up. Then, after a few days, she'd be back. Pissing on his page, calling his mobile. The last message sounded desperate and he caved.

"What's up?" Lou's voice pragmatic and to the point.

"Hey sweetie, I met your Dad today."

This is a new turn of events. His parents still lived in Melbourne, had for most of their lives. How the Hell did she meet his father?

"You what?" The sharp indignation in his voice goes over Leisl's head.

"Oh babe, it's not rocket science. It's called a phone book. I drove over and introduced myself. Told him about us and that I was going to visit you. I thought he might want me to take a few things up to Brissy for you. Such a cool guy,  we had coffee and a long talk about you. He's so happy you have a girlfriend."

"You did what? Happy I have a what? Leisl, you, are NOT my girlfriend!"

Lou began to break into a sweat as she ignored his rejection.

"I'm coming to Brisbane. I'm coming to see you." The excitement in her voice elevating to a squeal. "Isn't that awesome?"

He's beyond shocked. No matter how disparaging he is to this girl, she's relentless, focused, determined. How's he going to get out of this one?

"Leisl, I'm busy that week, I'm busy for the whole month actually."

"Oh silly, you don't even know what week. I didn't tell you when." She breaks into a girlish giggle, "Now, what's your address?"

By now, he's thinking she's crazy, angry, possibly dangerous - capable of hurting him or herself and no way on earth is she getting his address.  Still, better to keep her in the good books. A crazy crush can be a dangerous crush and he's had his share of vengeful women. He's seen those movies of jealous lovers and mad obsessions. No way she's getting the chance to put a knife between his shoulder blades.

"Er, I'm between houses at the moment, staying with friends. It's not a good time." Typically he doesn't lie but this one just blurted out.

He hangs up the call and strokes the stubble on his chin. "Shit. Shit! What now? Guess if she does lob, I can meet her for a coffee. Set her straight, tell her what's what. Eyeball her, make it clear that I'm not interested."  The dog lifts it's head and passes an 'I told you so' glance, "Shut it you mutt!" The dog reverts to it's sleeping position and sighs.

How the fuck did it escalate to this?  Just three weeks knowing this girl and she's all over him like a rash. Despite him calling her stupid, insane and begging her to stop referring to him as 'babe'. He recalls the horrible things he's said. Perhaps he took it too far.  All of a sudden, she doesn't look so good.

He can't masturbate in the shower any more because of the image of her inside his head.

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 5

Continued in An Air of Evanescence



 


 





Saturday, February 8, 2014

Children of Cronos

Continued from Psychosomatic Warfare

Leisl remained true to her word. She began to lavish more attention on her brother after a long time of neglect and focus on lovers who took her forgranted. Carl had never done so. He'd been there for her when she needed solace, never berated her for her absences or poor choices of bedfellows. He'd been the modicum of measure and tolerance even though it was often obvious that he didn't like the 'type' of men she was attracted to.

She wasn't why but she definitely had a 'type', a penchant for the 'bad boy'. Usually muso's - tattooed and self-obsessed, or skaters - agile and neglectful or the last, a motocross rider who spent more time with his KTM than with her. He's the one who broke the camel's back by calling her stupid and dumping her unceremoniously. Yet she would have tolerated all his faults if he'd just loved her. Stayed with her. Quelled her neediness and obsession. After Stu, she was going to take a break. Focus on the salon, her family, her looks. If love was to find her, it would have to come looking. She was done with clubs and pubs and short-term liaisons with creeps. She was 'over it', or so she thought.

Carl continued with his boxing and building the body beautiful. He was strong, not a tall man, but solid as a rock in both build and character. The two of them did everything together between his gym commitments and her full time work at the salon. They moved from the nightlife to the good life. Cycling in the Grampians, swimming at Carrum Downs, playing monopoly while Wolf drank himself into a stupor in front of the television, preparing meals, sharing the load of housework or just sitting end to end on the couch watching TV. Her with her feet tucked beneath his thighs. Physical contact for them was natural, easy. The few times they found themselves alone, she logged into Facebook and Twitter on her Android, a voyeur of the lives of others, a browser of You Tube and a lover of Grumpy Cat. Occasionally, she'd notice Carl's absence and quiz him upon his return.

"Where've you been?" she'd pry, peering momentarily from her phone screen.  I didn't even know you'd slipped out."

"Oh nowhere, just went for a walk. Clear the head, stretch the legs."

Trust is an odd thing

***
"You're so lucky to be close to your brother," one of her clients had muttered between the sink and cutting station. "My family is continually fighting with each other. Christmas is just Hell, wondering which one's going to chuck a tanty and spoil it for everyone. Haven't spoken to one of my brother's for six years due to some stupid altercation."

"Yeh, Carol, we're close. He's my best friend that little chap. Love his bones. I am lucky!"

Leisl was able to distract herself from more than affectionate thoughts of her younger sibling once the client was seated and her coiffure in progress.

"What's the go with your sister?" Mitch Ryan had once asked Carl, after a lengthy conversation about her good look, great body.

"What? 'the go'?" Carl retorted, realising that he talked about her more than was natural, and thought about her more than was healthy. "Nothin', she's good that's all. Nice girl, we're best mates I guess."

He turned quickly, distracting himself with the punching bag and trying not to let his thoughts stray.

***

The tickling incident, although unrepeated, was not forgotten. In fact it played hard on Carl's mind. At 18, he still hadn't had the courage to ask a girl out let alone the experience of carnal pleasures and when alone, he fantasised about his sister and her exploits, wondered about what she'd done, what she did, what she could do.

Carl rose, and made his way towards the bathroom as was his morning habit. He'd shower and relieve himself at the same time but found the bathroom occupied.

Leisl, one leg raised, her foot on the lip of the bath, was waxing her legs. Freshly showered, her hair lank around her shoulders, and wearing only her underwear. The door remained slightly ajar. Carl forgot his near-nakedness as he peered unnoticed through the thin slit in the door. Her legs had always been shapely but somehow seemed more womanly, sleek, tanned. She was blessed with an hourglass figure, slim, slight, voluptuous, made all the more attractive by a pink lace bra and g-string that left little to the imagination. He watched as she slid the warm wax from her ankle, slowly and steadily along her shin, terminating at her knee and applied a cotton strip. He winced as she pulled the strip back, tearing the wax with it, yet she barely flinched.  He admired her breasts as she leaned forward and repeated the action on a new patch of flawless skin. His guilt suspended by the desire to look. She removed her pants and widened her legs, applying more wax between them, more careful this time and using smaller strips of white cotton, she removed every vestige of pubic hair. She looked beautiful, clean, virginal, youthful,like a Greek Goddess in pink lace.  Her ritual complete, she retrieved g-string and looked up, catching a glimpse of him through the narrow opening of the door before standing straight and striking a naked pose.

"Like what you see Carl?" A cheeky smile beamed across her face.  She made little effort to hurry to get dressed and slid the g-string from knee to hip, straightening with her thumbs and pressing her palms down flat from abs to her lower belly.  She reached for the silk gown her mother used to wear and slowly covered up before fully opening the door.

"My! You did like what you saw." She began giggling softly at the bulge protruding from his blue striped cotton boxers before brushing past him, just nudging the tip of his erection with her thigh and retreating into her bedroom. This would be one of many flirtatious 'near misses' which did not make her uncomfortable, for that matter, did not faze Carl either, merely enhanced his curiosity about what lay between those hairless, velvet thighs.

***
It was a warm January afternoon. They'd driven to the Mornington Peninsular and found a sheltered cove, surrounded by the sandstone cliffs and unaffected by the warm northerly breeze. She lying on her front, knees bent and legs kicking the air, flicking the pages of a Who Weekly. He, lying on his back, holding the pages of "Iron Man" Magazine, able to glance sideways at her cleavage and perfect breasts.

"I'm not fond of muscles you know." She'd piped without prompt.

"Really? I thought chicks would dig 'em. That's not why I work out though."

"Then why? I mean,  you look good," She sat up and held clasped her hands around bended knees, "But there's a point where it's too much." 

Leisl, pointed to the picture on the Iron Man page of a man bulging with sinew and ripped muscle. 

"He looks like a bull, not a boy. I mean does it help pull women?"

"Not really." Carl's response is laconic as he keeps flicking the pages. "I've never been with any chicks. The gym's full of guys."

"Oh li'l Bro! You're 18, nearly 19...never been with a girl. That's insane!"

He's embarrassed about the fact but his focus has been on building himself, his body, his self esteem.

She slid a finger from the nape of his neck down to the well of his back, it sent tingles and made him involuntarily recoil. She propped herself beside him, facing him and on her knees and dropped lotion on each palm, smoothing it from his shoulders, over his pecs and down his abdomen to the line below his board shorts. She smoothed the lotion across his stomach with broad palm strokes from sternum to side. He shuffled as if a little uncomfortable but remained lying on his back.  She knew he was feeling it, she could see he was feeling it, even though he persisted in holding his magazine with outstretched arms, shading his face from the sun in an attempt to be oblivious to her touch. She drew an invisible line from hip bone to hip bone, again making him wince. It was a beautifully painful tickle. An erotic flinch.

"Hey! Cut it out!" He laughed but didn't resist.

She continued, spreading the cool suntan lotion from his thighs down to his ankles and rolling greasy hands across each leg. She removed her bikini top and tossed it onto her towel, obliterating the celebrity face on the front of her magazine and lay close to him, her hand decending to the chord on his shorts, deftly unthreading, caressing. Nimble fingers probing and sliding the swimwear down to his knees. This he couldn't bear and discarded his own magazine before pressing hard against her, feeling sweat on her skin, the press of her lips, the moistness of her body and sinking into oblivion. Her kiss remembered, her body discovered. She knew exactly what to do with hands, mouth and tongue. He reciprocated, clumsily at first, but then with natural caresses and tenderness. Any inhibitions or morality were forgotten as they embraced, interlocked and penetrated. They were untouchable, Olympians both, the children of Cronos immersed in mortal sin, but neither of them cared.

***
"It was just a one off OK?" Leisl's guilt feigned. It was arguably the best sex she'd had. The others being rushed, selfish, demanding and unsatisfying. Despite her prowess, none of her former lovers had even tried to satisfy her. Carl had achieved what none of them had. He'd asked nothing and she'd given everything. 

"I know what we did was wrong but you'd never done it. I needed it, we love each other . . . it seemed...."

Carl cut her off with a finger to her lips. "It's OK. I won't say anything other than 'thank you'. It was awesome"

Nothing was said. The event never referenced or discussed. But something between them changed that afternoon. Afterward, he craved. The more he did so, the more she held back.  Perhaps it was guilt, perhaps it was restraint but he wanted more and she gave him nothing. Perhaps it had something to do with that guy she talks to all the time on the phone. The one that makes her laugh and cry, and argue. Whoever he is, she spends time locked in her room reminiscing, cooing, sobbing but says nothing about his identity. 

"Who the Hell are you talking to?" He'd plead, "Just tell me his name."

"Oh. Nobody, just an old school friend." She'd turn him round and march him from her bedroom before closing the door, "Don't get jealous, he's in another State. Now go! It's a private conversation."

She never saw the expression on his face as he was ushered from her room. Anger, resentment, rejection, jealousy, bitterness. Just as he had found her, he now felt like he'd lost her. Worse still, to someone absent, someone known to her but not to him. Someone at the end of a cell phone. Someone who would use and abuse her like all the others. Someone that could no longer be tolerated.

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No 5

Continued in In Surreal Time