Out The Window

She smiled at the sad man. He smoothed the front of his uniform and returned her smile with a pained frown when another, far fatter, D.O.G. officer motioned her forward. Bea liked to pretend it stood for Demented Octopus Guards, but Division Of Gender officers weren’t nearly as fun. No mingling, no touching, those were the laws, laws Ben pretended to uphold but abandoned for her.
She caught his gaze across the canteen, and pushed through the crowding of sterile, white jumpsuits with heads, aiming for the door ahead. Her heart fluttered like a caged bird as she eased open the door and slipped inside. A dark cupboard, little else, but it was a haven often known in the recent months, dirty as it was. She held her breath when the door clicked open, light pooling over her. A lanky effigy stood for a moment and then closed the world out behind him.
‘I could see you blushing from a mile away, Bea.’ She relaxed at the sound of his voice, filled with gravelly melancholy. ‘I know I’m attractive but maybe control yourself a little–’
She reached out in the dark and punched what she hoped was his arm. He grunted in muted pain. ‘I’ll try harder next time, Officer Bighead,’ she said.
‘Maybe try using that hand for something other than hitting me.’
He was sad again; she could hear the thickness in his throat. She drew her fingers under the starched fold of his shirt collar, and tucked her other hand in his back pocket. He pulled her to him with desperation and leant his forehead on hers.
‘When we first met—‘
‘We don’t have long, Ben.’
‘But do you remember?’
She sighed and exchanged a grip on his skinny backside for the slope of his tired shoulders, teasing the mournful intensity from his muscles. ‘You were crouching in here, your gun in your ear.’
‘And you said—‘
‘I didn’t say anything, I smacked it out of your hand and pulled you to your feet.’
‘That was the first time anyone had touched me for seven months.’
‘Look, maybe you get a narcissistic kick out of reliving your finest moments but it’s depressing.’ Her voice quavered embarrassingly. ‘Everything’s better now.’ He touched his dry lips to the top of her cheek, just shy of her eyelid.
‘Neither of us are better and you know it,’ he whispered. ‘We eat our own words every day and it kills me.’
She began to cry as he spoke. He knew and wiped the wetness from her hot face.
‘Anything. Tell me and I’ll do it,’ she said, and stared up at the shadowy hollows of his face. He didn’t answer and she worried that they’d both be missed soon.
‘There’s a train tonight, going somewhere, I don’t know where but the whole world can’t be like this. There has to be others who feel even through the division. I mean, New World my ass. If I want to do this…’ His breath was quick on her neck as he grasped the baggy fabric of her jumpsuit and pushed her against a set of shelves, his leg between hers. ‘Then I will. I promise that if you don’t leave with me then I’m going to do to you everything they lie to themselves about.’
‘If… If you believe that, then I’m all yours, Bennyboy.’ She felt him smile against her throat. ‘But right now we have to leave.’ He took her hand, pressed it to his chest for a long minute, and then let her go. They opened the door slowly, Ben first, and she hid behind. She thought she’d give him something to think about later on, and with an unassuming hand she reached out and grabbed his backside.
A redheaded woman gasped dramatically in offense, then screamed, and turned to scream in the direction of a D.O.G. who galloped in toward them without hesitation. Ben pulled on her hand and they ran for the stairs. The D.O.G., with eyes fixed on them, stumbled, only to be caught by another uniform as they swarmed. Bea’s hand was sweating in Ben’s as they climbed two steps at a time. They were already nearing the top floor when she heard heavy footsteps at her heels.
They turned a corner, hugging a wall painted with creamy skin tones, and panted in unison.
‘Isn’t it funny,’ she said. He didn’t look at her. ‘If I were a guy, we could share an apartment and they wouldn’t even blink.’ He only squeezed her hand in worry. He didn’t know this building like she did; he’d led them to a blocked off corridor, the only exit a long window in front. Men shouted for Ben and rattled the staircase with their tread. He looked at her pointedly. She shook her head. ‘No. You’re an idiot.’
‘There’s a ledge, we get to that and we can jump to the next building. It’s not far.’
She shook her head vehemently.
‘Do it, Bea, because God help me I’m not letting them take you away again.’
She paused, measured the way his eyebrows met in a sorrowful scowl, how straight his mouth was, and she touched his lips with her fingertips simply because she might never again. Even as her throat grew sore with suppressed emotion, she went to open the window, and put her foot on the sill. She was so focused on getting out to that ledge without falling, she didn’t notice that Ben hadn’t followed until she was safely precarious.
She stretched out her hand in invitation. He didn’t look at it, only at her.
‘This was your idea, come on!’ she cried. He reached over the sill, leaning out as if to take her help, but he held her gaze, and with a smile she so rarely saw, he kissed her hand. She was confused until he let go and slammed the window closed, trapping himself inside, locking her out. ‘No, Ben!’ She strained to see inside. Amidst a group of brawling D.O.Gs, a lofty man fought, drew back for another blow, and then found a gun to his ear. The window pane steamed with her protest, but she heard the shot and saw his blood.
She leant back on the ledge.
They forced the window open and shouted to her.
As Bea stood, they became quiet. She watched the white jumpsuits scurrying below. She should have let Ben do it himself all those months ago, she’d been selfish to inflict long-awaited touches, fearfully drawn breaths. They stuffed themselves through the window until none could move closer. They threatened her with the same gun.
‘If I were a man,’ she said quietly and a D.O.G. asked her to repeat herself. She grinned, eyes on the fall. ‘If I were a man, I would have done this a while ago.’

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‘C’mon, Spense. Said you were gonna do it.’ The drunk girl beckoned him as she moved to deeper waters, her challenge bare as her body. She threw her half-empty bottle of unlabelled alcohol into the water beside her, the splash breaking the reflection of bright stars into frightened ripples on the lake surface. ‘I’ll cry if you leave me alone in here,’ she teased. Spenser didn’t want to suffer seeing puffy red eyes mar Isabella’s perfect face, not yet. He pulled his clothes off without hesitation and walked in until he and the pale-skinned beauty were nose to nose and the cold froze his toes.

Cerulean moonlight peppered her cheeks, her naked shoulders, and the swell of her breast, like restless snow. He moved his hands up her arms, brushed a drowned twist of blonde hair from her exposed collarbone, and caressed her neck with his fingers. He watched her lips, imagining them screaming at him, that she couldn’t stand his possessive obsessions.

‘Stop looking at me like that.’ She drew her arms up to cover her chest. ‘What- What’s your problem, Spense?’

‘You always loved this lake,’ he said. ‘You thought it was cleansing for the soul to be so alone.’ A cloud devoured the moon and the remaining illumination was from the headlights of his truck, it did horrible things for her complexion. For a moment she wasn’t Isabella, she was a dead woman; eye sockets sunken and skin little other than raw meat stretched across bone.

‘You’re beautiful, Isabella.’

‘What? My name’s… I’m not…’ She blinked slowly and his fingers tightened on her swan’s throat, taunting in its elegance. Her eyes widened and she made happy splashes that encouraged him to smile.

‘You’re beautiful, like–’ She smacked his strong arm playfully, gurgling like a silly girl. The powdery darkness cleared overhead, revealing a sky that never lowered its fulgid gaze. ‘Like the stars! Isabella, like the stars.’ Here came the tears, her bloating face ruddy. ‘Stars don’t go out.’ Fingernails stabbed into his shoulders, a tendril of blood slithered down his forearm; a vivid slash of colour to distil the murk-steeped jetty.

Isabella had bled last time, he’d done the letting. She hadn’t stayed on that occasion, or the next, but it wasn’t perfect before. This time, comrade nocturnus cooed for the silence his compressing fingers brought about. Her body arched as her dyed eyes rolled, a silent display of majestic loveliness. That was all he’d ever asked. Had he ever asked more of her than simple fairness? Was a Water lily not loved for its plumage? Then why?

‘Why do you let me do it? Every single time.’ Each word was punctuated with a brisk shake, golden hair quivering as it always did. He quietened, and basked in the glow of the moment’s excellence, because she was gone. Isabella was gone, limp limbs a testament.

But the girl was no more a star than he was the moon. ‘Stars don’t die.’ He dug his thumbs deeper until her skin yielded dripping, traitor mortality.

Releasing the girl’s body, her grimacing cadaver bobbed, spread-eagle.

Disgusting.

‘You’re not Isabella.’ His voice was softer than the wind rustled grass that stood witness on the muddy banks. She’d liked his voice, his true beauty with dark mocha skin and hair black as a raven’s. He felt sick, how could he have thought the drugged runt, the young girl floating away, was his wife? He’d rather die than be seen with someone like that, die screeching and soiling himself as Isabella had.

No, she hadn’t. She was alive.

He would look further, past the bars and pubs and in the direction of the sunrise. It was too lonely out here, too many voices to be heard whispering sweet ‘wake up’s through the bushy foliage, bogging his mind down with the long nights. But, a swim was good for the heart, especially one ripe with unrest. A breast-stroke to shore was invigorating, though how he’d gotten there was a mystery.

Why was he naked?

Spenser tugged on his clothes over slippery wet skin, already thinking about going for a drive. He liked driving now, ever since… something. Amber tendrils of sun peeked and burned over the horizon’s hedging of trees, scalding his worry away. It was perfect, a perfect morning. He took a moment to watch the ball of fire, hands on his hips and the corner of his mouth up in a small smile, watching carefully as it rose from the dark. The orange soaked water was calmer now, save for ripples bouncing off a shining bare body.

He put a hand over his brow, shading his eyes as he squinted, trying to make out the other blobs in the water. A man on the opposite side, face up and eyes gauged; a pretty sight in all his glory. There was another! Spenser chuckled. A lady with an eternally optimistic grin and a yellow dress relaxed in his private lake. Another was little, quite little. Isabella didn’t mix with the dead, though; she wasn’t party to the stew that lapped at his boots.

He sniffed and turned to his truck, mumbling angrily as he turned the lights off. The battery was out of steam, his expedition would have to wait. Instead, he headed over to the log cabin at the lake edge. Pushing open the splintery door, he searched the small living room for the only thing that could take away the stench of death. He smiled just as wide as the yellow dress lady when he spotted her.Image

‘I’m here.’ He kissed her rotting, black cheek and her skin peeled at his touch, but it felt smooth and youthful to his lips. The corpse’s stink made his eyes water and his gorge rise.

‘Beautiful as ever, my Isabella.’

 

 

 

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