A Perfect End
“Hi, I’m Alice,” she said as she offered her hand.
“Come in, I must say you are as beautiful in person as you are on screen.”
“Thank you,” she replied as she stepped through the door. She turned, awaiting permission to continue. “You have a lovely home.”
“Thanks. Please go through, can I take your coat?” She took her coat off and handed it to Russell. He was handsome in an intellectual way; clean shaven, glasses and a neatly ironed casual shirt. She followed him through to the lounge and took a seat on his couch. The smell of candles tickled her senses; the warm glow flickered across the walls.
“I don’t normally do this,” she replied. He looked at her and smiled. “You know? Go to men’s houses, I mean men I don’t know.”
“I think we know each other quite well.”
“Yes, but we’ve never met. I just wanted you to know I don’t go for casual hook ups. You’re different. That’s all. I just wanted you to know,” she said before nervously laughing.
“I know and I wouldn’t judge you anyway. I know what it’s like to be over forty and still single. It’s hard to meet the right person, especially when you work all over the place like I do. Anyway, would you like a drink?”
Alice stood, looked into his eyes and kissed him once lightly on the lips. “I would love a drink, a white wine if you have one.”
“I certainly do,” he said as he smiled and left the room. Alice sat back down, leaned back into the soft couch and lay her head on the back. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the red flickerings of the candle that shone through her lids showing a redness so deep it was almost sensual. The red danced and created an array of shades from orange to crimson. The warmth flushed from her chest to her chin, she scratched. The heat became a scorching pulsating heat.
Her heartbeat quickened and she struggled for breath before jolting upright and taking a succession of erratic breaths. Her heart pounded harder and a flash of pain jolted through her head. She grabbed the material on the arm of the couch and pulled it hard, stretching it as the spasms of breathlessness and pain seared through her.
“Oh my God. Are you alright?” Russell said as he slammed the glass of wine on the coffee table. She sat there, breathing deeply, fanning herself with a cushion.
“I’m so sorry,” she panted. “I’m so sorry, I suppose you think I’m some sort of nut job,” she began to weep as she stood and stumbled. “It’s probably best I went.” Alice staggered towards the door.
“Wait. I don’t think you’re a nut job at all. I took the liberty of googling you; I know what you’ve been through.” She turned, ran her fingers through her sweaty hair and walked back to him.
“Great, you know, everyone knows. The fact that everyone knows is exactly why I feel like this wherever I go. I thought tonight would be different but I suppose I was wrong,” she yelled as she turned.
He grabbed her arm and swung her back towards him. “I can’t help that I know and it wasn’t your fault. I really like you and I’ve really looked forward to our date this week. Do you know when you said yes and said you would come here tonight I got genuinely excited.” He paused. “You can’t let what happened define who you are. Why don’t you sit down and we can talk and get to know each other better?” She managed a tiny smile as he led her back to the couch. It would be silly to walk out, she may loose one of her biggest opportunities to find happiness, she thought.
One hour led to another; a second glass of wine, a few nuts and a cheeky kiss. She felt his warm hand reach around the back of her neck as he pulled her towards him. She snuggled into his chest as they watched the end of the film. The girl married the boy and everyone was happy. “Can I trust you?” She said as the credits rolled.
“Of course you can.”
“I still get upset all the time but I accept it. I lost my daughters to this monster for no reason,” she said as her voice tapered off into silence. The candles flickered, the television was now silent and her mind wandered back to that night.
She was in the garden; Lizzy and Janie were in bed. There were no screams and no warnings. It was a beautiful night, the sky was layered with oranges and dark blues as the sun went over the hill out the back. As with every night she went out to the garden to put the girls’ trikes in the shed. As usual she locked the shed, returned to the house and poured a coffee. Something had felt strange, although the girls went to bed at eight, they didn’t normally sleep, Lizzy would often yell for drinks way into the early hours. Janie would join in and they would never be satisfied until she had sat with them for at least two hours. She placed the coffee on the worktop and headed through the hallway. The front door was ajar. Heart pounding, she ran up the stairs and darted straight into the girls room and that’s where her memory had faded.
“It’s only natural to be upset about something so awful,” Russell said.
“It’s not all about what happened. I’m upset because I can’t remember things about that night. Repressed memories my counsellor said. I’m not scared of the things I remember, the things I can’t remember are the things that scare me the most,” she said as a tear slid down her cheek.
“Don’t you remember anything?”
“I remember a lot but the memories end when I enter the girls’ room. I know they were stabbed repeatedly, I know there was blood everywhere as I saw it after but I can’t remember entering the room and seeing them. The first thing I recall was breaking down outside on the pavement, neighbours coming out of their houses and comforting me then the police arriving,” she said as she began to cry. “I can’t bear not knowing. I may’ve missed something that may help to catch the monster that did this to my little girls. She lay her head on his chest as he stroked her hair, she wept as he listened.
That day, she was lying in the street when Mrs Ellis came over and held her as she pointed to the house and yelled ‘my girls,’ the same day as the two men ran up the stairs only to flee back down, one of them quickly calling out for someone to call the police whilst the other vomited on her door mat. All she could do was shake and mouth words that wouldn’t come out as coherent sounds. What happened before that? She couldn’t remember.
She stood. “Are you okay?” He said.
“Yes, no, I don’t know,” she replied as she wiped her eyes and nose on her hand. Her hand, she looked down at her hand and a crimson liquid spread across it. “Get it off me,” she yelled.
“What, I can’t see anything,” he said as he walked over to her and reached for her shoulder.
“It’s all over me. Don’t you see it?” The redness had spread down her arms. She closed her eyes and visualised the warm liquid spreading across her hands as she pulled the knife out of Lizzy. Blood on her apron, blood soaking into the carpet, blood on her hands. As she watched the life bleed out of her girls, it left them. The darkness had gone. She watched as the shadows emerged from their bodies and travelled through her flesh before leaving her feeling empty. Was this a repressed memory, one that reflected the guilt that consumed her or was she guilty?
“Here, why don’t you sit back down and I’ll get you a glass of water?” Russell said as he led her to the couch and left the room.
Water, there was water that night. The next trick her mind played was the memory of the outdoor tap. She had put the children’s trikes in the shed, removed her gardening gloves and washed her hands. The cold tap gushed over her hands and shoes washing away all the grime. A lightness filled her, the sky was beautiful. The earlier red glow was now an orange wash which was being pushed aside for a charcoal grey that was crowned by a full moon. The last specs of orange were nearly gone. Peace at last, the garden was quiet. She took off her apron and her garden clothes and placed them in a bag, they could go in the shed for now. Dressed in her underwear she darted to the shed and darted back, she wasn’t overlooked by anyone but who knew if there would be anyone lurking around. She bent down and drank out of the tap, she didn’t know if it was drinking water but it tasted okay. The cold water gushed over her face and cleaned the dirt away.
“Here, take a sip,” Russell said as he handed her a tumbler full of water. With trembling fingers she reached out and drank the cool liquid.
“Coffee, it’s not coffee but it is refreshing,” she replied.
“I can get you a coffee if you want one.”
“Coffee?” She mumbled. The coffee was good until she realised that things weren’t right. The front door; the silence as she took each step; the carpet soaking up their blood; the knife lay next to their little bodies; the warmth of the night light mobile as it turned casting animal shapes on the girls faces. Shiny, glistening blood. Silence and more silence.
She walked to her room, grabbed her bathrobe and ran down the stairs. The blood; so much blood; her girls. Who had hurt her girls? Had she hurt the girls? She had to get back home. If she had hurt the girls then her clothes would be in a bag in the shed. She couldn’t have done it, she wouldn’t have. These repressed memories weren’t really her memories, she had planted them. She was guilty for being in the garden and leaving the front door unlocked and now she was blaming herself for their murder.
She gripped the glass in her hand and a pain jolted through her fleshy palm. She looked down, more blood. The blood trickled from the open wound on her hand and onto Russell’s cream carpet. “I’m sorry Russell, I’ve dirtied your carpet,” she said as she turned and saw Russell lying on the floor, blood pumping from a deep cut to his neck. A spattering of crimson led from the glass coffee table to the pale beige sofa. His lifeless open eyes slowly lost their glint as he blew bloodied spit bubbles from the corner of his mouth. She looked down at the glass in her hand, the rest of it was smashed on the windowsill and she trembled. She had answered her own questions; there was no need to check the shed.
As she walked down the street it was close on midnight, Russell’s clothes were a bit big but it was lovely of him to lend her some after she had spilt water down hers. She heard the jeers of drunken partygoers and watched as young women dragged their catches back to their homes for a good time.
She smiled, Russell was lovely, exactly as she had imagined and she would definitely see him again if he asked her to. She had been silly going to someone’s house that she’d met on the internet but it had paid off. She’d been in no danger what so ever. He was a perfect gentleman. She smiled as she jangled the bag in her hand, she remembered her wet clothes being placed in the bag after she spilt the water but why were they jangling? She reached to the bottom of the bag and pricked her finger. Glass, why would she have a broken glass in her bag? And why did the palm of her hand sting? Maybe Russell was a bit strange, maybe a second date wasn’t on the cards. Had she closed his door as she’d left, she hoped so; burglaries were rife around the area. She smiled as she remembered snuggling into his chest as the credits rolled. A perfect end to a perfect evening.
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