“No one will ever kill me, they wouldn’t dare”
~ Carmine Galante
Rumors on Maple Drive spread like an airborne disease, and the latest has certainly been no exception.
Jason Blade kept Chantelle Johnson tied up in his basement for two days, nine hours, and thirty-something minutes.
I repeat this to my best friend Shana. I repeat this to my mother. I repeat this to my sister. I hang up the phone and repeat this to my husband, Adam who dominates me by several inches.
“Nonsense,” he says.
I nod until a loose section of blonde fringe escapes its elastic prison and falls across my face.
“It’s true,” I say, then I quickly hesitate and shake my head. “I mean, it’s what Chantelle told Mark, who told Eleanor, who told Justine who told me at four-forty this afternoon.”
Adam presses his lips into a pale slash and makes an mmm sound.
“I knew Justine had been here,” he says. “I can still smell her perfume. Cinnamon with a hint of fat mouth and saggy breasts.”
I fold my arms across my chest as Adam slips out of bedroom with little notice from me as I stare down at the unmade bed. The candle that sits ontop of the night stand, burning down to its last breath. The massage oil that hasn’t been used since I bought it, almost a year ago, now host to a collection of dust.
The doorbell rings and I can hear Adam squeak across the laminated tiles.
“Come in,” he sings.
The door shuts, making a loud whooshing sound as it fights against the evening breeze. High heels clicking. A knock on my open bedroom door.
“Shana,” I squeal, arms outstretched.
Shana takes two large strides across my bedroom and swaddles me against her small chest. She smells like orange peels, her new obsession. Told me she sprinkles orange essence around her house, sprays it on her husband, sprays it on her cat, squeezes it into perfume bottles and sells it on the internet.
“I just spoke to you an hour ago. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming down?”
Shana and I might speak on the phone almost every day, but she lives in Louisiana, almost a forty minutes bus ride away, so it’s not often I get to see her thin spread of hot pink lipstick baring thousands of dollars worth of orthodontics only rich husbands can afford.
“Now is it just me,” Shana begins, “Or have you gotten shorter since the last time I saw you?”
Shana’s hands find her hips, all breathy and perfumey.
“Did you walk here all the way from the bus stop?” I ask, sweeping past her insult. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“Did you know that a bus ticket to come and see you is worth more than two hours of waitn’ tables?” She weaves her fingers through her hair, long and Pantene shiny. It runs down her back like an oil spill.
“Is that your way of guilting me for not coming down to visit you? And next time call me from the bus stop. I’ll come pick you up.”
“No,” Shana spits. “You’ll send Adam to come get me and I ain’t got nothing in common with that man.” She says this in a whisper as if it were a secret, but Adam knows he wants nothing to do with my friends, no matter how much they try to impress him.
I follow Shana into the kitchen. Adam has left the house, according to the empty space on the counter by the refrigerator, usually home to his wallet and keys. Adam comes and goes, but mostly goes. Goes to work, goes to the bar, goes wherever a new Vice President of a law firm likes to go.
I sigh and take a seat on the stool by the counter, press my cheek into my palm and watch Shana twirl around the kitchen, sherry glass in one hand, vodka in the other.
“I’ve got some exciting news to tell you, Emz,” she says, her electric blues watch the vodka rain down the edge of the glass until it’s almost overflowing.
“Go on, I’m waiting.”
Shana takes a seat on the stool beside me, folds one leg over the other and intertwined her mint green manicures over one knee. She’s wearing stilettos, navy blue. Heels so sharp I imagine she’s calved them out with a knife herself.
“I’m getting a divorce,” she says with excitement equivalent to a child on Christmas morning.
“Shut the front door. Why?”
Despite Shana’s expanding grin, I reach my hand across the counter and wrap it over her wrist, squeeze it tight.
“Did he cheat on you, again?”
“Ahah,” she shakes her head. “No, it’s much worse than that.”
Shana and I both got married on a rainy September day almost three years ago now. We’re both the same age, with her having only a few months leapt ahead of me. We’re twenty-four, but Shana still swears she’s only nineteen. Probably gets away with it too. I can’t say I’m not jealous when she has the skin of a newborn’s forearm.
“Did he hit you?” I ask.
“Nope. That son of a bitch has invited his mother to come and live with us. She says she can’t get by without a scooter, but there ain’t a damn thing wrong with them legs.”
Shana pauses to feed a cigarette to her mouth before shaking the shiny silver packet my way.
“No thanks,” I say.”
“I ain’t spending my youth babysit’n no lazy, neurotic sixty-two year old woman. Besides, Charles and I have been…”
Shana pauses, flicks the ash from her cigarette into the cheese and onion dip I had opened earlier today. Her almost permanent smile fades. “I think he might be cheatin’.”
Three hours pass by and I’m as drunk as a skunk on a Sunday morning. My head feels warm and disconnected, and Shana’s face is starting to merge with the microwave – I almost can’t tell them apart. I bet our high pitched, giggling cartoon voices can be heard from houses away.
I grip the vodka bottle in one hand and test my balance with tentative steps towards the living room window. Across the street, Justine’s porch lights flicker alive.
“Shana,” I say, but Shana is now spread across the kitchen counter and I don’t think she’ll be coming back anytime tonight, but in case she does wake up, I prepare a blanket and a few pillows, and stack them neatly onto sofa.
I watch my feet drag across the floor and out the front door and down my driveway, my boots kicking loose stones into the air. I close my eyes and let the moonlight play over my eyelids for awhile before the growl of an engine sobers me up for a moment. An old beat up truck parks on the side of the road and a man jumps out, leaving the stink of kerosene and black oil dripping onto the tarmac. The man walks up the driveway that yawns wide into number eleven Maple Drive. I think it’s Jason Blade. I’m sure of it. He’s about a head taller than what I would consider tall. His jaw bone is prominent and graceful and the full round shape of his neck shows me that he must be in some kind of shape.
Does he have another neighbor of mine tied up in his basement?
Morning is here and it brings birdsong. Freshly cut grass surrenders itself to the wind, and the sun is casting golden highlights through my open bedroom window. There’s someone knocking at my door. It’s so light and so gentle, as if someone is simply brushing their knuckles gently down the heavy white wood. It’s as if they know I have woken up with a head full of rocks this morning. I squint. Dry mouth and sticky with thick saliva. All I want is to devour a bottle of cold, cold apple juice. I must have shared at least half a bottle of vodka last night because my breath smells like stale alcohol, cherry lip gloss and Satan’s toe jam.
I will my legs to lift me out of bed and move me across my bedroom where I done on my robe and jam on my fluffy boots. I walk out into the hall, waves of nausea adding to the misery. I pass through the living room and see Shana sleeping on the sofa, gripping onto a white cotton blanket. Her mouth sits open like fresh tuna out of water, and there’s a nasty sound coming from it like a freight train on a mission to wake the dead.
I open the front door and squint into the invading sunlight and see a Jason Blade standing in front of me. I have never met the man in person before, but I’ve seen him out the front of his house, painting and what-not, and then there was last night, too – when I saw him walking up his driveway. He is a handsome man, but until the rumors, I had never given him much of a thought.
I take a moment to scan Jason from the duckbill cap shading his face down to his yellow stained Jordans. He’s no pretty boy like a Justin Bieber, or a Brad Pitt. Is that the guy from Fight Club, or am I thinking of somebody else?
He doesn’t exactly look dangerous, with his soft, round blue eyes and his red lips, but I’ve watched true crime shows on TV, and most of the suspects don’t look capable of committing a crime, so I guess Jason could be dangerous, or a pervert.
“Ella,” I say, but I meant to say hello. What the heck is an Ella?
I try again. “Hi.”
“Emma,” Jason says my name with a nod.
I scrunch up my face and try to remember a time I’d introduced myself to him, but I know I haven’t. Still I ask, “Have we met before?”
Jason cocks his head the side, shakes it a little from one side to the other. “Nah, I don’t think we have.”
“Then how do you know my name?”
He leans forward, face expressionless. “People talk around here.”
“Oh,” I say. “I don’t doubt that they do.”
Jason removes his hat and rests it by his thigh. I notice that he keeps his blond hair thrown back into a ponytail. I reckon if you took out the elastic band his hair would fall in one big wave around his neck, just above his shoulders, making his freckles pop up against his skin.
I realise I’ve been standing here studying him for more than I care to. He must think I’m some kind of half-wit.
“Sorry,” I say. “But me and my friend had a bit too much to drink last night,” I point to the snoring beast on the sofa behind me. “And right now my head ain’t anything more than two neurons bouncing against each other. Did you need something?”
Amused, one side of Jason’s mouth curls up into a smile.
“your robe is wide open. I can see your tits.”
I look down and see that my robe is in deed wide open and the shapes of my breasts are perfectly visible through my thin beige nylon. You can even see the freckle on my left one. All I need now is for someone to throw a glass of water over me and Jason has himself a free show.
“Oh my Goodness,” I say, closing my robe and pressing my hands firmly against my chest. I lower my head so that my hair curtains my face and hides my cheeks which have gone scarlett and crimson and all those funny words that describe the color red.
“I could very well die right now,” I cry.
I think Jason lets loose a laugh, but that could be a clearing of the throat.
“There was a big storm last night,” he begins. “I don’t know if you slept through it.”
“No, I know.”
Part of me wants Jason to shut up and go away so that I can crawl back under my blanket and sleep for a thousand moon risings. A bigger part of me wants to ask him where his accent comes from. I think it’s New Zealand. I watched a movie on TV the other day and it was based in New Zealand. I tried to copy their accent just for the laugh, and Adam told me I sounded like a retard.
A bigger part of me wants to ask Jason what he did with Chantelle Johnson. Why is she in hospital, and why haven’t I seen the police at his house. Did he threaten to hurt her if she told anybody? Was is sexual. Did she consent? Call me a bored housewife but my mind is itching to know.
“Lighting hit my house during the storm,” Jason continues. “Blew up everything electrical that was plugged in at the time.”
“Are you a psychopath?” I ask him.
Jason leans in a little. A thin smile spreads across his face for just the slightest moment. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me. Are you some kind of demented crazy person? I heard about what you did to poor Chantelle up the road. If you tried that with me, or my friend, we’d chop off your dick. You hear me? You’re not going to get away with it again.”
The words shoot out before I can stop them and I blush scarlet and crimson all over again. I’ve never said the word dick before. Not out loud.
I can tell by the look on his face that I’ve gone and done some offending. But it’s too late now. I’ve said what I’ve said and taking it back will be light trying to fit toothpaste back into its squeeze tube. Also, I’m not even sorry. I fold my arms across my chest in defiance.
“Lightning killed your electrical appliances,” I repeat back. “What’s that got to do with me?”
“I just came over to see if I can borrow your radio. Or maybe if you have a spare telly,” he says – his face is full of disappointment and shame and the baritone of his rumbling voice has weakened.
I can hear Adam approaching from behind. The room becomes alive with fruit and wood scents from his favourite Giorgio Armani.
Jason hunches over as if he’s bowing to a king but I think he’s just trying to get a better look at Adam.
“This is my husband, Adam,” I say, stumbling on the word husband like I’m ashamed to have a husband. Or maybe I’m ashamed to have an Adam.
“I’ll take it from here,” Adam promises.
I step aside and watch helplessly as Adam opens the screen door and Jason takes his first ever step into my home.
“I’ll go get that radio for you,” Adam tells him before disappearing behind a pillar and into the backyard.
Jason bends down, unties his shoes then kicks them off into random directions across my living room floor leaving a trail track of dirt along my clean white tiles. He finds a seat on the single armchair beside the sofa where Shana sleeps. Innocent, naive. Unaware that a predictor sleeps inches from her face.
“Can I get you anything?” I ask Jason. “Coffee, water, social etiquette for dummies?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Alrighty then,” I say resting my palms on my hips while I think of something else to say. I know I’m not supposed to like him, but manners are manners.
“Is that a New Zealand accent I hear? I’ve never been myself, but I’ve seen it on TV and it looks absolutely breathtaking.”
“Nah. From Kalgoorlie,” he tells me. His eyes dart across the room and rest at a portrait that’s perched above the TV. Me, Adam, a dog we once owned, all smiling behind a thin sheen of glass.
“Is that you?” He asks.
I nod. “Me, Adam, a dog we once owned named Buster. He ran away last year.”
Shana stirs around on the sofa, which draws Jason’s attention. He extends his arm and presses a hard finger into her shoulder.
“This belong to you?” He asks. “Is she your mate?”
“Well she’s hardly a homo,” I say. “She could sleep through a thousand tornados, a fog horn and apparently her own snoring,” I add for commentary.
I think I may have made Jason laugh, but again, it could just be a clearing of the throat.
“You guys sat in your man cave for hours. He must have mentioned something?” I police Adam.
After Adam had found our spare radio to lend to Jason, the two of them sat in the garage, drank ciders and listened to Queen and Bowie while I hung around the kitchen with my ear pressed against the wall, trying to listen in on them.
Shana now sits cross legged on the sofa. She’s watching a recorded version of Good Morning America over the rim of her coffee mug.
“He’s just your average guy,” Adam says, shrugging.
We’re standing in the kitchen trying to talk over the pot boiling on the stove top and the TV in the background. I’m cooking a boiled egg for Adam, his favourite Sunday afternoon lunch. I’d much rather throw eggs into a pan of bacon grease and mix up a bowl of pancake mix, but Adam has the appetite of a twelve year old girl, which means I can’t experiment with cooking more than a pack of noodles most nights.
“Jason has disrespect for the law,” Adam continues. “But he’s no murderer.”
“Rapist,” I correct him. “Don’t you ever listen? I told you he was a rapist, not a murderer.”
Adam stares down at me, face resolutely unimpressed.
“Don’t you have better things to do than stick your nose where it don’t belong?”
“You know I don’t,” I say.
“Well then perhaps you and that thing sitting on my sofa can take my car and go to the movies or something.”
Our local shopping mall has the architectural design other buildings can only dream of and as usual, it’s packed. Thousands of people walking all sorts of ways like confused water particles through a rip current.
Someone knocks Shana’s coffee out of her hand but she has no time to stop and grieve over it or she’ll get trampled to death.
“Too many people,” Shana says. “We need a new plague.”
I swat at Shana’s shoulder. “That’s nasty.”
We stand in one spot as I sweep the mall for something to do. A new clothing store I haven’t been to maybe, but all I can see is the sea of sad, hollow faces of city shoppers wearing dark coats that descend to their knees. I’m glad I’m wearing my sky-blue maxi dress. At least I stick out a little bit.
We proceed to squeeze through the crowd, becoming nothing more than a moving mass of rich and poor and deflated egos. I’ve always hated malls but Shana insisted we come here just like we did when we were kids and needed a place to hang out after school.
The crowd begins to thin out as we make our way to the back of the mall where only a lonely cafe sit like deserted islands in the middle of the isle. I’m about to ask Shana if she would like an iced coffee – we use to drink them like they were oxygen when we’re younger – but then someone familiar catches my eye.
“That’s my neighbour, Chantelle,” I say, excited.
Chantelle is standing on the other side of the automatic glass exit door, a cigarette screwed between her lips.
“Chantelle,” I shout, waving my arm around like a windmill as I step outside into the spring, Shana hesitantly following behind.
“Oh my Lord, is that Emma?” Chantelle drops her cigarette to the ground and fires up the biggest fake smile I’ve ever seen.
“I haven’t seen you in too long. Why don’t you come around no more?”
“I’ve been busy,” I tell her.
“You still working on your little art projects? I bet they’re worth a pretty round penny.”
Chantelle can poke a stick into forty, but she doesn’t quite look it yet. She’s not really pretty, but wears a size double D breasts and shows off so much skin that you can’t tell she’s not so attractive until you see her up close. I don’t exactly talk to Chantelle all that much but I’ll occasionally bring her a pie or something baked if the weather calls for it. Summer usually means walks down Maple Drive visiting my neighbors and bringing them experimental cakes and whatnot. Chantelle once introduced me to one of her many boyfriends as the daughter she never had, only because I had brought her a homemade apple and cinnamon pie.
I notice there’s a bruise on the right side of Chantelle’s neck, about the size of a Dutch pancake. I poke it gently with my finger like a child with boundary issues, and I ask her, “Who did that to you?” Knowing full well it was Jason Blade.
Chantelle’s arms shoots up and her hand slaps her neck, covering the bruise and at the same time she turns around, throws her head back and starts to laugh. I whip my head to the side of Shana’s face and shrug my shoulders.
“You have big purple welts all down your arm,” says Shana with an accusing tone in her voice. She’s squinting at Chantelle and pointing her finger like it’s a police torch.
“What happened down in that basement, Chantelle. Why haven’t you told the police?” I ask.
Chantelle shoots me an incredulous stare like it was supposed to be a secret.
“Have you been talking to Justine again?” She asks me.
“Yeah, I spoke to Justine. She said-”
Chantelle lets out an amused bark. “Don’t you worry about what Justine said, ok.” She digs her fingers into her jean pocket, pulls out a pack of cigarette and lights it up. Shana follows suit. Smoke seeps out of their nostrils like two stiletto loving lady dragons.
“But you were stating in the hospital?” I remind her.
“I’m going to tell you one thing, and one thing only. So you listen careful miss Emma Frost.”
I nod, lean forward.
“It was the most intense fucking two days, nine hours and forty-something minutes of my life.”
Cigarette ash sprinkles over the cement ground as Chantelle flicks the filter.
“I’m sort of having a party tonight,” Adam tells me. “Just me and a few of the men from work, maybe some of them will bring their wives.”
Adam is wearing a tailor made suit with a striped blue satin tie and his soft feathered black hair brushed away from his brow.
“You look like you’re about to host a tea party with Elton John before you Skype Donald Trump,” I say. “I could probably apply my makeup in those shiny, shiny black shoes. Who are you trying to impress?”
Adam looks like he wants to flip me the finger, but he manages to hold restraint.
“Nobody asked you for your opinion, now did they? And who even told you that you’ve been invited?”
“It’s my home, too,” I say. “You have no choice in the matter, and besides, I don’t even want any part of your little party. I figure I’ll have more fun digging for nuggets by the river at two in the morning.”
The hand gestures I’m making are as empty as my words. I won’t tell Adam this, but I love his parties. I get to miss out on cooking dinner for a night, drink wine and talk and talk, and talk to whoever will listen. We get to eat pizza and by the time everyone has left Adam is too drunk to have sex.
“I’ll sit by the mouth of a shallow stream, the current pulling at my sunkissed ankles. It might get freezing but it beats having to listen to your colleagues talk about their affairs, and how much their fancy new sport cars are worth.”
“I was thinking of inviting Jason from across the road,” Adam tells me, ignoring my insult. “I think he might liven the party up a little.”
Adam’s receptionist has the round, slumped shoulders of a keyboard warrior. She’s telling me that she’s worked for my husband for near four years. Knows him better than he knows himself.
I discreetly roll my eyes into my skull as I pretend to look down at my watch. I thank her for the Brandy and then I greet the next invitee in line. Allen Boyd, or Allen Bell – I can’t exactly remember, but I shake his hand anyway and my lips curve upwards into a bright cheerful smile.
“Allen, it’s lovely to see you again.”
Allen takes the back of my hand and gives it a southern gentleman style kiss for a little too long.
“You’re looking beautiful as usual. Have you done something with your hair?”
“Nope,” I shake my head, pony tail swinging behind me.
“Though come to think of it, I did give it a little trim the other day, but other than that-”
My words are cut off when Adam jogs over, hand stretched out in front of him. Adam and Allen shake hands then follow each other inside the house and I’m left to wait out in the mild cool for the other guests to arrive. I wait and I wait. I wait until a blue Holden pulls up to my driveway. A man, a woman and a teenage boy tumble out. The teenage boy is carrying a nicely wrapped gift in his arms. He presses it into my expecting hands without even moving a facial muscle, then his eyes drop back to his virtual reality cell phone trance, the place I assume he’s been living in the entire drive here. The man and the woman – mom and dad – shake my hand. The woman leans in and I’m pulled into a half hug, a gesture mandated by social etiquette and nothing more. She smells like she’s bathed in sunlight and her long, feather like hair trickles down my shoulder.
I think that’s about all the people I’m supposed to wait for, so I turn to the front door ready to walk inside and pour myself my first glass of wine for the night, when a whistle carries from across the road, beckoning me over like I’m a lost Labrador who has gone for a solo wander.
The voice follows through with an “Emma.”
I turn around and squint through the darkness. It’s just a Jason. I had forgotten he’d been invited. He’s walking down maple drive like he owns the place.
At first Jason walks towards me slowly, like he’s approaching a snarling wolf. I tense my muscles up and hold my hands together, and I’m about to tell him to go away – but then he takes two quick leaps forward and unexpectedly pulls me into his chest so fast that I don’t have time to react. I can smell alcohol seeping out through his pores. The man is already drunk.
I was not expecting his big strong arms to make me feel protected and now I can’t even remember why I’m afraid of him. It’s certainly the most genuine hug I’ve felt tonight.
“Why bless your little heart,” I say. “There’s nothing really scary about you, is there?”
“Y’ hungry?” Jason asks me, slurring his words. “You want to go get a bite to eat?
I shake my head and smile at him. “No thanks. I’ve already eaten and I’m as full as a tick,” I lie. “Besides, what kind of hostess would I be if I just up and left the party?”
I don’t wait for him to answer, I just take his hand and lead him through the house, drop him off at Adam’s feet.
“Your lively friend is here,” I say. “And he’s already drunk. Good luck.”
I walk into the kitchen where the teenage boy’s mother is standing all alone, sipping on some red wine and chewing on the skin around her thumbnail, being careful not to ruin the polish. Her husband has obviously left her to fend for herself, and I kind of feel bad for her. I feel like I should sort through topics of conversation until I find one that won’t take too long and I can easily excuse myself from – like the weather or politics or the Game of Thrones. Instead, I look out into the hallway and see Adam waving his hands around while Jason throws his head back and laughs. This laugh definitely doesn’t sound like a clearing of the throat, and more like a sprung leak of continuous chuckling, almost like he’s faking it. He appears to have the confidence of a wolf, just like every suit wearing snob here, except Jason’s wearing pale scrubs jeans and a black t-shirt with a band that probably went out of fashion before I was even born. He’s like a beat up old Chevy in a car yard full of Aston Martins.
I drink too much wine as I make my rounds from guest to guest. Allen is excited about the birth of his son in two weeks. John is leaving his wife for a twenty-two year old waitress, and Margaret – Adam’s receptionist – is in love with her landlord. Feeling a little ear rapped I settle in the kitchen for one last glass of wine before I retire or the night. The teenage boy is still hovering over that phone of his, so I pour him a tall glass of beer and tell him he should drink it before his mother finishes smoking her cigarette in the garage and comes back into the house. He happily obliges, of course.
When the last drop of wine is done, I close my eyes and let my tongue soak up the sweet flavor and then I feel two hands grip tightly around my hips. Warm breath down my neck and a gentle beer soaked whisper in my ear.
“I didn’t do anything to your neighbor that she didn’t ask for.”
Bedtime is at ten-thirty every weekday night.
The routine here is to lay on top of the sheets and stare up at the ceiling while Adam has his way with me.
Adam and I have never shared a moment of passion. Not even so much as a single desire. He was in his early thirties when we met, and I was pushing twenty-one. It wasn’t until a year into our marriage that I had realised that this was sort of an arranged marriage, with Adam being a good friend and colleague of my father. My mother fed me promises on the wonderful life of being a housewife, and if I married a successful, well paid man like Adam, there wouldn’t be a single thing I’d have to worry about. I do admire all those women who can make it on their own, like Chantelle Johnson and Justine, and the ladies in politics, but I can’t see making anything of myself. I’ve just never been told I could. I am an artist though, and a pretty good one if you ask me. I’ve sold twelve paining. Actually, make that thirteen painting. They all delivered to me a pretty penny and I was able to save up for my own cell phone and Adam couldn’t do a thing about it.
Adam climbs on top of me and it happens in a blur of motion, with me thinking of other things while he makes animal grunting sounds; his five O’clock shadow brushing against my face, causing my skin to rash. We never use protection because Adam wants him some kids. A little boy and a little girl. He hopes that they will both look like me but have smarts like him, though to tell you the truth, Adam is not that smart.
After three years of having sex, I haven’t had as much as a single missed time of the month, but we keep trying and trying. Adam talks about kids like we’ve already got them. He’s even set up a trust fund for private schooling.
After Adam is done and I’ve put my knickers back on, I turn my head to the left side of the pillow and look up at my husband.
“I think she liked it,” I say.
Adam sits up and puts on his reading glasses, turns on the yellow bedside lamp and stares at me from behind those wire rimmed frames. It takes him a moment to figure out what I’m talking about.
“Will you shut up about Jason and Chantelle. Their sex life is none of your Goddamn business. And if you bring Jason’s name up again, I’m going to kick that man all the way back to Sydney.”
“Kalgoorlie,” I correct him. “And I smell a little bit of jealousy going on.”
You feel like a drug. One touch from you and it’s instant intoxication. Whatever you want to do we will do it, and there’s not a damn thing I can do to stop you, is there?
There’s a fleeting moment where I realise I’m awake, but I’m also in the best damn lucid dream I’ve ever had, where I let Jason enter me from behind, my breasts pressed against the wall. I don’t know if he’s dangerous, which makes it all the more exciting.
When I sit up in bed my stomach feels like a ball of hot fire ready to irrupt. I can’t stop thinking about the man from Kalgoorlie who lives across the road. It might only be because I had a wicked dream about him, but I have a feeling I’m going to be thinking about him for the entire day. In fact, I even have a craving just to go and talk to him.
I don’t know what exactly happened down in that basement, with Chantelle, but I can’t help wonder what it would be like to have Jason’s full attention on me. I know there needs to be a barrier between fantasy and reality, and I don’t think I could ever cheat on my husband, but I have a powerful urge to know if it could happen. Make my dreams much more exciting if I knew he could want me.
I give Adam a kiss across the cheek and tell him to have a wonderful day at work. Then I push the vacuum around the house for awhile.
After lunch I walk into the bathroom and sit myself down in front of the mirror. My makeup routine is nothing more than a sweep of mascara and some powder across my nose, chin and forehead, followed by a bit of setting spray to stop the powder from bleeding into my already vulnerable pores.
I don’t want to look like I’m trying to impress, so I just slip on a sunflower dress, the one with threads sticking out and a coffee stain at the bottom that I could never remove. I think I’m showing just the right amount of cleavage – modest but desirable. I have about three hours left until Adam comes home from work, if he decides to come home right away that is. That’s three hours of preparing myself to cross the road and knock on Jason’s door. All I want to do is talk to him, and hope I’m good at flirting. I don’t know if I am, because I’ve never tried it before. Jason is my first ever crush.
And if he flirts back I can take it home with me and maybe have some fun with myself in the bath tub. I’m going to think about the basement, and instead of Chantelle, it will be me down there, and Jason won’t hurt me in my fantasy, because I’m too nice and too young and too important to him for something bad to happen (I can be as smug as I like in my own imagination).
As I walk across the road towards Jason’s house I think up a reason to why I might be knocking at his door, but I can’t think of any so I’ll have to do what I do best and improvise.
I rap my knuckles against his door, dark and brassy with greasy finger marks all around it. And now I wait. And I wait.
I think I can hear footsteps approaching and then it occurs to me that I don’t know what I’m doing. It feels like I was brought here under a false sense of lul. Like a magical spell had been placed on me.
The door opens and I subconsciously thrust out my chest and lick my bottom lips.
Jason looks down at me, stroking his fingers up and down his throat. He doesn’t say anything, just watches me. Every muscle in his face looks tense.
I find the hello I’ve been looking for and tuck my hair behind one ear.
“I just came over to apologize about the other day,” I begin.
“I was…well I was in such a bad mood with a migraine from hell and all.”
“Come in,” he says, before he disappears back into his home. I follow him into his living room; it is empty except a clean fireplace I don’t think has ever been used before. There’s a pair of nicked off sneakers in the corner of the room by the wall. No couch, no television, no nothing.
“Renovating?” I ask, as Jason walks in from the kitchen with two bottles of beer or cider, I can’t really tell. My finger accidentally brush against his as I take the bottle out of his hand.
Jason’s kitchen has a dining table, a fridge and all the other kitchen appliances you’d expect a kitchen to have. I wonder to myself why he doesn’t have any furniture in his living room then. As far I know he has been living on Maple drive for at least a year.
“Where’s all your furniture gone?” I ask.
Jason doesn’t say anything at first, but then he picks up his bottle of beer, takes a sip, burps and tells me I look good. Real random.
“There’s going to be a hurricane tonight,” he says.
“You think your house can stand it?” I ask him.
We’re sitting down at his table now and on our second bottle of beer. His knee is leaning against mine and it’s enough for me to feel heat rushing through my body, tingles and wetness between my legs. I clutch at my belly and start to feel uncomfortable guilt. What if he makes a move? If he does than we would probably kiss, and what would I look like to him then? Does he care that I have a husband? I don’t want him to think I’m a slut. Do I even care that I have a husband? Am I that stir crazy from never leaving my house much?
He’s still talking about the hurricane.
“It’s your house I’m more worried about,” he says. “You’d be safer here at mine. You and your bloke.”
I nod. “I’ll ask him.” But I won’t. There’s not a chance in hell I’m telling Adam that I was here.
Jason lifts his beer to his chin, his eyes watching me the entire time, as if he has something more to say.
“How does a crazy person walk through the forest?” I say, changing the subject.
Jason bends forward in his chair, chains his fingers together over his laps and stares up at me with those mysterious round eyes. I wish I knew what he was thinking.
“They take the psychopath,” I finish, biting my lips so I don’t laugh at my own joke – because I have a tendency to do that. “That’s my favourite joke ever, but I guess it sounds a lot better in my head,” I say.
Jason stands up and thanks me for lending him the radio and I think it’s a hint for me to leave.
“Are my jokes that bad?”
When Adam arrives home I tell him about the hurricane.
“We’ll be fine,” he tells me.
And he was right. Even though the lady on the news with too much blush, labelled the storm as a red warning – whatever that’s supposed to mean – the hurricane came and went while I watched out the window as trees bent and burger wrappers and other trash took flight. When I managed to focus my eyes on the clock on the wall, it read nine-twenty pm and I’m now wishing that we had spent the evening over at Jason’s, even if the hurricane wasn’t all that bad. Adam and Jason would talk about the football, and whatever it is a man likes to talk about. Ladies with big breasts and whatnot. I’d sit in the corner and pretend to read a magazine. I have a collection of Vogue that would not the socks off a newsstand – not that I can afford all those fancy clothes those pretty girls are wearing these days.
Anyway, the hurricane has become another part of the country’s problem now. Adam shows me a moving picture of the hurricane on his computer.
“How are they able to catch a picture of moving wind from so far up in the air. Aren’t they afraid they’d get blown away in their helicopter, or whatever it is they’re in?”
“It’s a picture from a satellite,” Adam tells me. He kisses the top of my head as his fingers lightly pinch the back of my neck and it feels nice, kind of like a neck rub. His breath smells like onions and all sorts of dead things. Would it hurt him to try some gum?
“You mean those machines that float around in space?” I ask him. “I once had a dream that one of them crashed down to earth and squished my mamma into a thousand pieces. Woke up crying and hugging my pillow.”
We’re having sex on the couch now. He lifts my dress up over my back and slides my knickers down to my knees and enters me from behind. He grunts and he grunts and I push my face into the couch pillow and wait for it to be over with. When he is done he tells me I look good in my dress, but after further observation he tells me it’s a little old and worn and I should take his card and do some shopping some time this week. I stand here and nod but my mind is off someplace else.
“Seriously,” he says. “Buy whatever you need.”
It’s not often I get to take Adam’s credit card away from his wallet and usually I’d do one of two things. Jump and down with excitement and say thank you, thank you thank you. Or I’ll try to convince him that I should be going out and making my own money. I have two perfectly good legs and there isn’t a I can’t do if I put my mind to it. It might be scary at first, but I’m sure I’ll adapt. The conversation would usually end with Adam bringing up children.
“I need you home so that you can bring up our son into a proper gentleman and our daughter a lady.” He would say.
My eyes focus on the window. The tree outside the window. The house across the road where Jason lives. It’s dark now, so I can’t see a whole lot, but from the shapes and shadows I think he’s sitting out on his porch, probably watching the stars. Probably with a beer in one hand. I wonder if he is thinking about me as I am thinking of him.
I stare down at the frail wooden steps descending into the dark and I carefully step down, my fingers sliding along the railing. Jason is three steps behind me and I realise now that there is no turning back. My animal urges are taking over.
The basement is dank and smells of cigarette and old spices, and there is no more than a bare bulb with its pull cord and an electrical panel board with soggy cigarette butts underneath it.
“There’s nothing down here,” I say. “What did you want to show me?”
Jason steps closer, I can feel his body through my dress. His breathing becomes deeper and deeper and now he’s pulling at my hair, yanking it back with force. His parted mouth hovers over my trembling lips. I curl my toes inside my shoes and let out the loudest moan.
I want this ache in my stomach to last forever, and I want him inside of me, deeper and deeper. His fingers navigate excruciating designs down my cleavage until all of the buttons on my dress are undone. My breasts are vulnerable. I am vulnerable.
I’d love nothing more than for this to be true.
Why do I want Jason so bad? I can’t even answer this myself. It might be because I’m bored with my life. Bored with Adam. Bored with the idea of children. I’m starting to suspect that I can’t even have any at this point, and if don’t give Adam what he wants, what good am to him? I decide to ask him this today.
It’s four O’clock and Adam is home from work early because there was a shooting three blocks from where he works.
“I wasn’t scared,” Adam convinces his mother over the phone.
My fingers dance around the refrigerator until I find something I like. Leftover Chinese food from two night ago. I peel back the plastic lid and give it a good sniff, then toss it in the microwave and nuke it for three minutes. I watch the container full of rice and prawns spin around and around, and around.
“No ma’, I could hear it but I couldn’t see it….. turn on the TV.”
My Chinese food is nice and hot. I take it over to the living room and slump myself down onto the sofa. “Hello Mrs Huggins,” I shout.
Adam ignores me and takes the phone further into the kitchen and now all I can hear is a mumble.
When Adam is finished talking to his mother he sits down on the sofa next to me and cradles his face in his hands.
“You alright?” I ask.
“It could have been me, Emma. Six dead and one of them could have been me.”
Adam was almost one thousand feet away from the shooting which happened inside of a corner store as part of a robbery gone wrong. Adam’s work is on the fourth floor of a grid patterned skyscraper and protected by high security persons. Still, I comfort him by patting his shoulders and telling him it’s going to be all right.
“You survived and you’re home now, and that’s all that matters.”
I think if I try to bring up that idea that children might never happen, isn’t a good time right now.
The next morning is a Tuesday. Tuesdays are the days I dedicate four hours to brushing strokes of oil paint across a canvas. I usually stick out my tongue, like people do on movies when they’re trying to concentrate, and I just paint, paint, paint until I have something I can recognise. By three-thirty I like to bake a pie. Adam won’t eat them, something to do with trans fats and muffin tops. If I eat more than a slice myself I won’t hear the end of it. But I love to bake so I do it anyway, then walk down Maple Drive and pick a random neighbor to enjoy my creation with.
Today it’s Jason. I know I shouldn’t. I know I should leave him alone, stop before anything happens. But I can’t.
A gust of wind send my hair to tangle across my face. The sun is shining, birds are chirping. Jason’s truck is outside his home.
He has the facial features of a sun soaked, leathery rat with narrowed eyes and a long, thin nose. He’s standing on the inside of Jason’s door waving a gun through the air.
“Who’s the Bisque doll. Does she belong to you?” He asks Jason without lifting his eyes away from me.
“She’s just a girl from across the street with a little crush on me.”
Jason walks towards the door, cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth. “Now’s not a good time, neighbor.” He tells me.
My limbs become weak, almost as if they’re no longer connected to my body. I’ve never seen a gun up close before, being that my family and Adam’s family are both anti-gun campaigners.
He presses the barrel of the gun against my forehead as his eyes sweep the street to see if anyone’s watching.
The pie falls from my hands, hot red cherries splatter across the welcome mat and on the shoes of the rat-faced gunman. I press my elbows into my hips, try to make myself as small as possible.
I blink, blink, blink, and keep blinking.
“Why would you point a gun at her face? You fucking moron.”
“She had gone and seen too much.”
“The girl didn’t see a damn thing. Jesus Christ. She was simply bringing her neighbor a pie. I’ve had it with you dumb fucking rednecks.”
There are three of them, besides Jason Blade – standing around the kitchen table, talking about me in third person like I’m not even here. The leathery rat-faced man is doing most of the talking while he paces back and forth, bits of spittle flying from his mouth.
“Let’s just shoot her and get it over with.”
He doesn’t look like a killer. Not a real one; more like a man desperate for his first drop of blood. A hunger to show other leathery rat-faced men that he’s tough and not to be messed with.
“Please don’t kill me,” I cry, but no one listens. I’m not even worthy of a single glance.
“Jason, what do you think?” Asks the man leaning against the counter. Thick salt and pepper hair; meaty body jammed into a pink shirt stretched across his stomach. He’s name is Craig. I know this because my husband, Adam knows this. Adam’s a lawyer – the big boss at the top – and he represented Craig when he’d been arrested for selling drugs, or swallowing drugs – it was a long time ago, but I recognise his face from the photos spread across Adam’s work desk in our garage.
Jason shifts in his chair and clears his throat.
“Do what is necessary.”
I glare at that bastard. “I hate you.” I know I should stop there, but I don’t. “I’ll never forgive you for this.”
Jason and the three other men react as if I’ve done nothing more than let out a sneeze.
“David, are you cool with this?” Asks Craig.
“Fine by me,” says the man who is standing behind me, smelling like fifty shades of BO. “But I think we should call Dragon before we do.”
The leathery rat-faced man slaps two hard hands onto the kitchen table. “We ain’t bringing him into this.”
“Call the Dragon. Please call the Dragon,” I plead, though I wish I could laugh, and if I wasn’t so bone scared, I probably would.
“Ok, fine. I’ll call the Goddamn Dragon.”
Craig scours his back pocket and pulls out a small, black cell phone, one that is ancient. One that was probably on the market ten years ago. He presses a few digits then hold the phone to his ear, all while looking at me with a stupid looking smirk spread across his face. His eyes slowly flow down to my cleavage and if I could slap him across the face, I absolutely would
“I got a young woman here tied up to a fucking kitchen chair…. Hang on, I’ll ask.”
“What’s your name, darling?”
“Emma. Emma Frost.”
“You heard that? You want us to go ahead and shoot her?”
There’s silence in the air for a long time as Craig nods and nods and nods. I’m surprised he hasn’t lost his remaining brain cells from all that nodding.
“He said not to lay a single finger on her and let her go home.”
“Bullshit,” the leathery rat-face man shouts.
“I say we shoot her. What he don’t know won’t hurt him.”
“Do what the man says. Let her go,” Jason says, standing to his feet. He walks behind me, nudging fifty shades of BO out of the way, then proceeds to loosen the rope around my wrists.
At the door Jason and I stand face to face like a stare off, only I’m not really staring at him, but the wall behind him.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” he tells me, unblinking, unmoving.
Fucking deranged psychopath.
A fist sized ball of fury and shame anchors in my belly, and I can’t decide if I need to shit it out, vomit it out or let it loose with my words – only I can’t think of words right now.