Anniversary

He touched his purple tie as his eyes danced over his reflection. The colour of his thick, black hair was broken in its evenness by the white streaks around his temples. His eyes were fern green in colour, drawing immediate focus to that part of his face, instead of his full lips or the scar that ran through them. He had been told that he resembled a mafia boss in his expensive suits, with his piercing stare and the overall darkness that drifted around him like a heavy perfume.

He checked his cufflinks, which had his initials on them, when a soft knock collected his attention. The sound was so faint he was close to thinking it was just his imagination, but he realised that perhaps the person at the door lived as a shadow, and therefore also knocked as one.

He walked over to the door in three long strides and opened it. Before him stood a young woman, in her twenties, with short, bleached blonde hair and a shiny stud in her nose. Her eyes were surrounded by eyeliner and black eye shadow while her soft lips were stained by blood red lipstick. The autumn wind blew past her and she shivered. No coat on, just her mini skirt and a see-through shirt that showed her black bra.

“Please, come in,” his voice modulated.

“Thanks.” She breezed past him in her stiletto heels, leaving a trail of her sweet and cheap perfume.

He closed the door behind her and sauntered over to the table, where he had placed his scotch.

“Well, this is not what I expected,” the girl said. She had glanced around the room in one sweeping motion, practically twirling. “Fancy man like you in a cheap motel like this.”

“I could say the same about you. Young girls should be at university, not hanging out with older men in motels.”

Laughter broke free from the girl’s mouth like it had been trying to escape for a while. It sounded fruity, just like her voice. “University, that’s a good one.” She walked over to the end of the double bed and glanced at a white plastic bag. “Costume or props? Or both?” Her eyebrow—shaven off and then drawn on—rose across her forehead.

“Clean underwear, clothes and perfume.” He turned the cold glass in his hands as he approached her with slow steps. “I want you to take a shower and come back with those clothes on.”

She blinked, then a smile spread out across the lower part of her face. “Sure thing, honey.”

“It’s Graham,” he said.

“Marci.” She grabbed the bag and winked before disappearing into the small bathroom. Not long after that the sound of crashing water against the shower curtain and her body travelled through the stale air of the motel room.

Graham sat down at the end of the bed, sipping on his scotch while he pretended the sound of the shower was the soothing sound of rain.

After the shower was turned off, it took Marci seven minutes to open the bathroom door and step back inside. “Are you sure this is the right outfit?” she asked.

Graham directed his gaze to the black dress that ended right below her knees and reached up to her collar bone. “Most definitely.”

She inched closer to the bed. “It kinda feels like I’m going to a funeral. And it’s not very…revealing.” She made a circular motion around her chest.

“I know. Please, sit down.” Graham gestured next to him.

She placed herself close to him, barely an inch between them. She crossed her long, thin legs and leaned in to him, taking in his musky scent and letting her eyes dart across his face like she was following a pin ball in a pin ball machine.

“You smell much nicer now,” Graham said as he closed his eyes and inhaled the vanilla scent that clung to her skin like wet tissue paper.

“I even sprayed it on my hair. It makes the scent hang around you much longer.” She leaned in even closer and rested her hand on his thigh.

He removed it and placed his drink in her hand. “Take a sip,” he said.

She put the glass to her lips and tilted back her head, letting the cold liquid cascade into her mouth until the ice cubes were the only thing left. They clung together as if they were afraid of losing each other. She handed back the glass as an unseen thread pulled her lips into a grin.

“That’s not how you’re supposed to drink that.” A hint of amusement in his voice as he put the glass on the floor beside him.

“Well, feel free to teach me.” She slid her arm across his back, wrapping her hand around his shoulder and pulling him close as her lips crashed into his warm cheek. She repeatedly kissed the soft skin, working her way to his ear. It seemed like her lips were attached to his skin with an elastic band, not able to pull away for long.

“Listen,” he said.

She continued.

He turned to her, placed his hand on her chin and pushed her back. His thumb brushed over her lips and she nibbled on it in return.

“You’re quite eager. Is that because you’re new to this?”

She stopped, her eyes narrowing. “What makes you say that?”

“I know you are. I requested the new one.” A shadow of obscurity passed in his eyes. “But I need you to listen. All I want to do is talk about honest things, eventually falling asleep next to each other. Understand?”

She nodded. “Sure, I’ll do anything you want.  But are you sure? I’m very good at—”

“I’m sure.”

She shrugged, her lips pursed into a pout. “So, what do you wanna to talk about?”

“If you could be anything in the whole world, what would you want to be?”

“Dead.”

Graham narrowed his eyes as he searched hers. If there were answers in there, he couldn’t find them. Her eyes portrayed the emptiness of a desert. There was still a warmth, though. A certain kindness that hadn’t died yet.

“And if—” he started.

“What about you?”

“How do you mean?”

“Aren’t you supposed to answer the question too, or isn’t that how it works?”

Lines appeared around Graham’s eyes as the corners of his mouth moved upwards. “Do you want me to?”

Her eyes darted from left to right, then rested on him. “Yes, I do.”

“Then I will.”  He inhaled. “I’d want to be dead too.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Since when?”

“Since when what?”

“Since when did you want to die?” She leaned in closer like she was afraid to miss a single syllable.

“Since exactly six years ago. How about you?”

“Since I was fifteen. I win.”

His expression softened. “Is this a competition?”

She shrugged. “Why not?” A smile broke free and she matched it with a giggle. “Next question.”
“What if you could make one wish, but you couldn’t make it for yourself. What would your wish be?”

She bit her bottom lip and stared at the grey carpet. “I think…I think I’d wish that my mother would have been a nice person. And you?”

“I’d wish that my wife never met me.”

A frown formed between Marci’s drawn on eyebrows. She lifted up her hand and placed it on his, using her thumb to stroke his knuckles. As the silence settled between them like specks of dust, she pulled back her hand. “Okay, next question.”

“What is your biggest secret?”

Her lips parted. She cleared her throat and shifted on the bed. Words formed in her mind and were pushed into her mouth. They hung off her lips like water drops, on the verge of falling into freedom. Instead of letting them fall, she ran her smooth tongue over her lips, retracting the words into her warm mouth. She cleared her throat again. “What about you?”

“I can’t say if you don’t say.”

She laughed melodiously. “Well-played.”

Her laugh tugged on the seams of his reposed manner and his lips curved into a smile.

“So why am I really here? Are you just going to play games with me?”

“Not games, just passing time.”

“Why? Why with me?”

“Because I was told it was you.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Your left eye is of a lighter colour than your right,” he said, leaning in closer to observe the slight difference that went unnoticed before then.

“You’re not answering my question.”

“That’s right.” He ran his hand over his tie, smoothing it.

“You’re a man of secrets. I like that.” She grinned. “But I should warn you, I’m really good at uncovering secrets.”

“I’m sure you are.” He stood up slowly, as if unsure he should be moving in the first place. His legs transported him to the end of the room where he poured her a glass of water with ice cubes.

“It would be better if it was vodka,” she said as she took the drink from his warm hands.

He sat back down next to her. “Normally I’m not like this.”

“Like what?” she asked as she drank half the glass. She touched the corner of her lips then looked at him from under her long eye-lashes.

“Considerate.”

She laughed that fruity laugh. “You mean you never bring women a glass of water?”

“No, I mean I never had to work on this day.”

It wasn’t until then that she noticed the ring he was twirling between his fingers.

“Have you been married long?”

“Well, I don’t think I am anymore. They say until death does you part.”

Her smile faded from her pale face. “I’m sorry.” She frowned and touched her forehead.

He didn’t say anything but took her glass and put it to her lips. He titled the glass and watched the rest of the water pour into her mouth. Some of it streamed down her chin.

She swallowed the last of it, then coughed and wiped her chin.

“It will make it easier.”

“What?” she asked, her voice softer. She leaned forward, resting her head on her hands. “I don’t feel so—”

“It’s okay,” Graham said in his most soothing voice. He put the glass on the ground and in one smooth gesture, he picked her up in his arms. He hummed a tune and laid her out on the bed. Her legs together, her arms at her side and her hair brushed out of her face.

She tried to speak, but he put a finger on her soft lips.

“It will be over soon.”

Her eyes were overcome with pure panic. He didn’t even notice the blue anymore, just the emotion that was rushing through her soul.

“I have an unusual job, though similar to what you do in the sense that it’s a necessary evil. I don’t know what you did, maybe you didn’t do anything, but I don’t care to know either way. I just get paid.” He stroked her cheek. “I just always use a gun, this time I prefer something more gentle. Like I said, it’s a special day.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry,” he said, but the words drifted into oblivion as she’d already slipped away into another world. And all he could do was hope that it indeed was what she wanted. To be in a world far lighter than this one. One that would treat her much better.

He fell asleep beside her, his wedding ring back on his finger since a long time.

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