When they first met, her mother knew that everything was wrong but the girl was in love, or thought she was in love. How do you tell your kid that she's dating a manipulator, a smarmy weasel who could bend you to his will? She knew he was a 'try-hard' when he turned up with the wine after her promotion. When he chatted inanely about nothing, in an effort to impress. When he displayed fine table manners and faux friendship. Mothers are intuitive like that. She knew he could talk under water when he came up with excuses for not being around. Sure, he worked in another city for lengthy periods of time. Project Managers do. They go where the work is, where the company sends them, but usually when they come back - it's on. Good sex, catch up time, undivided attention. But it's not happening. Not for her Rebecca. And she hates to see her daughter so low.
"It's me, Alice."
It's been ages since she'd seen her friend and her daughter's former lover. He'd been perfect for Bec but things hadn't worked out between them. Jerve, too idealistic, impoverished and romantic. Bec so pragmatic, practical and moneywise. She'd become tired of supporting him while he embarked on wild schemes and dreams, none of which came to fruition. They'd parted badly but mother and boy had remained friends. He'd been deployed shortly after the fall out. Life and war got in the way and he'd finally settled in France. He'd always said he'd end up somewhere other than the States. She's only seen him twice in the past three years. They keep in touch via Skype on birthday's and at Christmas. Send each other postcards when travelling, but nothing more. Still, they have history. They know each other well, very well and time doesn't kill that kind of friendship. Jerve knew things. He knew people. He'd help.
He's more surprised at being woken in the middle of the night than the fact that she's called from half-way across the world, "Is everything alright?"
No. Listen will you? Just shut up for a minute."
The insistence in her voice piques his interest as he pulls himself up against the pillows oblivious to the naked woman lying next to him. She should have left by now and he resents her presence.
"I want you to 'arrange' something for me."
He's all ears. It's been a while since the intrigue of espionage.
When he asked her to marry him, it seemed right despite her lingering doubts. She wasn't getting any younger and the biological clock was ticking. Now it seems he's barely home at all and she'd have been better off alone in the long run. Perhaps two weekends in four she sees him and rarely through the week. Building a bridge on the north coast has taken him away, left her deconstructed and trying to build bridges of her own.
Even when he's home, he's absent, exhausted, disinterested. The spark is fading but she holds on to the flickering flame. Her fantasies overtake reality as she imagines herself a maiden in distress, tied to the dragon's post waiting for her knight in shining armour to slay the ravenous, slavering beast and ravish her body. How she wants to be ravished. Only the knight she is imagining, isn't him. It's someone from her past. The phone rings and jerks her back into reality.
"Hi darling. Not coming home this weekend. Have to slip up to Ballina and review some drawings for Monday so I'll be in Wednesday night. Pick me up at the airport?"
Her heart sinks. She wants to cry, not out of sadness but frustration and anger. But he's heard enough over-the-phone tears and whines about his absence. Even their pillow talk these days is her complaining about the banality of her life and him telling her to stop, that everything's fine and it's just for the short term. She fears she's driving him away. She wants to drive him away. Such is the dichotomy of an unhappy relationship. She clears her throat and adopts a warmer tone.
"That's fine sweetheart. Miss you like a limb but I guess it has to be done. Love you!"
He doesn't register the shallowness in her voice. Say 'Love You' too often and it has no meaning.
The truth is, she doesn't miss him at all anymore. It's someone else preoccupying her thoughts, someone else she's yearning for and doesn't know how to reconnect.
She is everything Bec is not. Amazonian, bohemian, strong, awesome in the sack. Independent enough to thrive alone, dependent enough to be happy to see him when he arrives in town. She pulls him through the front door by the jacket sleeves and peels him naked while kissing him hard - that tongue makes him hard. She's forbidden, exciting, uninhibited. Wild hair draped across his chest and loins. Strong hands touch him, stronger legs wind around him. He forgives that she's a lousy housekeeper and cook. She is the Yin to Bec's Yang. Complete opposites, each having parts which make the whole. He has the best of both worlds. But he is getting careless with his exploits, comfortable in his skin. Photographs are taken and posted and he doesn't have a clue.
She's tiring of being the third wheel. Tiring of waiting. Tiring of his reluctance to finally leave the increasingly fragile Rebecca and begins demanding more of his time, his body, his money. Him.
"Leave her . . "
Still heady with the aftermath of sex, he's sleepy and not in the mood.
"I can't, it'll kill her."
"I'm sick of being the other woman. It' been 4 years on and off. It's time, leave her!"
He waves a hand over her perfect breasts and distracts her with a tweak of a nipple, she rolls into him and kisses him long, hard, deep "Leave her . ." she whispers with quiet insistence, in that tone he finds so enticing. She glides onto him, sex her weapon, slippery and seductive and he murmurs, "I will, I will."
Alice had asked a favour. He owes her, he owes her big time. She's stuck with him. She's helped him financially. She's been his support emotionally. She's the conscience on his shoulder and the stability he needs and when he reaches the depths, she's there for him in every sense of the word. He loves her. He's loyal to her, as is she to him. She is bound within his 'inner circle'. Rebecca he just loves. Unconditionally, without regret, with a passion. Always has. He's never married after her rejection. The women in his bed are transient. Vacuous receptacles for sex. They mean nothing. She's set the bar too high and no other woman comes close. The military is his mistress, intrigue his way of life. Subterfuge his talent. This is going to be easy. Cake. He makes the call.
The watcher becomes voyeur and lets them come before he makes his move. They've barely collapsed into each other when he hits. One bag, two exhausted heads. Amazing how easy it is when unexpected. He's nimble but heavy and straddles them both pushing her hard against her two-timing lover and slipping the bag over both. He's quiet and patient and holds the plastic snug while they sputter and flail. Large hands muffling their cries. Cheeks squashed together in a grotesque last suck of life and how they suck, the crinkle of plastic fading with each breath. Fuck fellatio, this is the auto-eroticism neither were prepared to try. It takes a long time to suffocate but not so long to subdue. Impatient, his fist hits her head, hard, several times. Then, he has all the time in the world and takes it - just to make sure. He is nothing if not meticulous.
The silent assassin drags the woman from the man and twinges a little at her contorted face, her body still warm and shapely. Shame to defile it but needs must. He takes his time and dresses the man before secreting him into the the company pick-up and covering him with a tarp.
First he deals with the house. The weatherboard cottage won't take long to ignite. He can't use fuel for fear of arson being detected but it's hot and dry this time of year and the Ballina home far enough from town to be well alight by the time anyone notices. He disables the fire alarms and closes the door on the fuming mass in the bedroom. The naked Amazon oblivious to her funeral pyre as the bed goes up in flames. He starts whistling "Beds are Burning" and chuckles to himself. Well pleased with a job well done. Twenty minutes and the den of iniquity will be little more than ash. She, little more than a face on a photograph, a memory.
Once again, Jerve answers the phone as sun rises elsewhere on the planet.
"Jerve il est fait. Je détruirai l'évidence"
"Good. Make sure they're not found together. And Jean?"
"Merci. Vous avez fait bien - Favour paid, in full."
Bec must never know. She mustn't learn of her husband's betrayal, the other woman, the double life. She must be allowed to mourn, believing she was loved, her heart unsullied, her reputation maintained. She must be free to 'move on'. Her happiness is everything. Jerve turns and pushes another vacuous object lying beside him.
"Sortez du lit et de rentrer à la maison. J'ai un avion à prendre."
She reluctantly gathers her belongings and slams the door. He doesn't notice, doesn't care, just reaches for the plane ticket on the night stand.
Bec holds back the tears. She's cried enough these past months and is all dried up. The news doesn't devastate as much as she might have thought. Perhaps any tears cried are of relief. He's been found in a narrow shaft beneath one of the bridge pylons. How the cover plate fell when he was the only one there is anyone's guess but there'll be no investigation. He was found on Monday morning by one of his team, dressed in his work gear, hi-vis vest and hard hat. Face bruised, but they said he'd fallen and then suffocated in the heat. He must have been out there on the weekend and nobody would have heard his cries for help. So typical of him. So thorough. So fucking anal.
"Darling I'm so sorry."
Alice has genuine concern in her voice. She hates to see her daughter widowed but knows it's for the best. She folds the love of her life in her arms and consoles her, not realising that consolation isn't necessary. Looking over Bec's shoulder into space, she imagines the familiar form that will once more grace her doorway, and smiles.
"It'll be alright sweetheart. Everything will be alright. I called Jerve, you could do with a friend, he's on his way."
Her daughter looks into her mother's eyes and wonders at the serendipity of mother's intuition and her own subdued desires. Yes, even an old flame could ignite the new.
She stays within the hold. It's warm and she's comforted. She begins to drift. Once again she's tied to the dragon's post although not in distress . . . this time its slayer is really on his way.
Published for the Tenth Daughter of Memory "Woman or Dragon: The Ride of Your Life