The International Writers Magazine: Life Moments in Dreamscapes
What waits back home
“Do they know where he is?” Marty asked. He looked around and saw Marie looking far off into the hills.
“Dad says they got him cornered by the fields out where they used to have the tomato fields.” She kept looking out into the far corners of the town; Marty followed to where she was looking and saw the sunset take on an odd hue, a sunset offset by smog. It was beautiful and ugly at the same time.
“What makes a man go crazy, do you think?” She asked. For a second she broke away to look at him and then she looked back to the dirty skyline. “To shoot people like that?”
“Maybe he’s just crazy. Or maybe he did it for love.” Marty thought about what he’d just said and thought it made sense. People were either crazy or jealous, when it came down to it, when things like this happened.
“It’s the other people I feel sorry for, the families. Not someone like that. I saw him around town; he was nasty and mean.” She spun round slowly and pulled a cigarette from his shirt pocket.
“Yeah,” he said, unable to think momentarily, her hand brushing against his heart. “It’s selfish and cruel alright.” He held out the lighter for her and then lit one for himself. They sat in silence for a while, smoking and listening to the noises of the town; not quite still but not quite a city roar, either.
They had been coming to the tree house on the outskirts of town since they were little kids. They played games in it for years and then they stopped. For years it went unnoticed, unkempt. Then the two of them became friends all over again and they gravitated back to this place, as if it could keep them safe somehow. Marty was in love with her and she cared a lot for him, protected him. It was an uneven tilt, but mostly, it was enough for him.
“I guess, years from now, he’ll be a bogey-man, won’t he? A story to tell around fires to scare kids.” She smiled at him and flicked the ash into their tinfoil tray. “And we’ll be the grown-ups who know the truth in the story, won’t we?”
“A long time from now, I guess,” he said, tipping the end from this own cigarette. The thought of getting old made him uneasy; at sixteen he already thought about what was left behind and the other things that were already out of reach.
“Not so long. Not really,” she said, pulling on hers again and sending a long plume of smoke into the air in-front of them. She had a way of speaking, a way that was both sad and beautiful that Marty knew he’d never discover, not in eighty years. It was a secret, like a perfect singing voice, or joke teller; it was just there.
Somewhere in the distance a crackle of noise rang out, and a crowd began to react. Up close, Marty guessed it was people screaming, but from up where they sat, it was nothing but a dull murmur, like sitting in the cheap seats at a stadium concert. He fumbled for his transistor radio and listened to the news reports. The stand-off continued, even as the rumours, new and old, ran thickly side by side with the real story. He switched the set off and heard a sudden snapping sound that made him jump.
“Relax,” she said, setting the bottle of booze between them. It was vodka, the good stuff, not the own brand type that sat in his family cupboard. She set the cap down and took a pull on it, then handed it over. He didn’t really like vodka, or booze itself much, but Marie had handed it to him, and so he drank. It was what love was, he thought in a simple way.
“To think I’d never even be up here with you if my dad weren’t a top copper and involved in all this mess!” She said suddenly, and laughed. But it was bitter, the way all things were when they concerned her father. Marty was the only one who knew what he did; her mother, the brother, all unaware. She had sworn him to secrecy and he had held himself to it; another part of love.
“The good things that grow out of the bad,” he said, surprising himself with the rhythm of the words, the fluidity of it. He smiled; the drink wasn’t so bad, he figured. She nodded but instead of answering, she rested against his shoulder. The town rolled over in a dull sounding cheer and he edged his fingers towards the radio, but she stopped him with her fingertips. Instead they sat quietly, watching the sun fall.
They took a few more sips and smoked another cigarette apiece. They spoke sometimes and other times they sat quietly; he wondered if this is what married people did, after the dancing and the parties fell away; just…were with each other. In his life there was only his mother, other couple’s, done or damaged, but he knew there must be one’s that worked, one’s that…functioned. He asked Marie, his mind emboldened by the drink, the stage of night where the stars were on the verge of settling.
“Someplace I guess,” she said. “But nowhere round here.” She pulled herself up and took another small sip. There was not much missing of the bottle, they were not going to drink the way the kids did, stumbling and being sick. Marie passed him the bottle and watched him drink from it. When he set it aside she reached for his hand and slipped her fingers through his.
“I’m leaving. At the end of the week, I’m getting on a train and leaving.” She said it quietly and nodded after she’d finished, as if confirming in her own mind what was to be done. He began to say something and then stopped himself, seeing the way her body was tensing itself, as if he was going to shout, or be angry. He hated to see her in that way around him; it broke a piece of his heart to see her vulnerable, as she must have been at home, under her father’s hands.
“Can I come with you?” he asked at last and was not surprised to see her shake head no. What she was going to do, it was not meant for other’s to share, he knew that just by looking in her eyes.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Again, she shook her head and she did not know if she was telling the truth or lying. It was another layer to protect herself, and to protect him too, he understood.
“But I’ll keep in contact with you, Marty, I promise you that,” she said finally, answering the one question he had really wanted to ask but not knowing how to frame it. And that, he somehow understood, would be enough. It would have to be.
They sat and watched as the stars filled the night. The moon was high up in the sky and sat before them, as if it was there for their entertainment. The silver took to Marie’s cheeks and made it almost into a mask. His jacket sat on her shoulders and her hand stayed in his, which was warmth enough.
“I can’t go back to it anymore, Marty,” she said quietly. He couldn’t remember how long it had been since they’d last spoken, or what the last thing said had been. “To what waits back home, I mean.” He squeezed her hand tighter and felt her nails dig lightly into his skin. He hoped they’d draw blood.
“You should think about getting back,” he forced himself to say, hating it, but then watched as her eyes softened.
“No, I don’t think so, Marty, not tonight. He’ll be away until the morning. He’ll be so busy he won’t even know I’m gone, not until it’s too late, at least.” He returned her smile and felt relief. There was still time left, some small pocket for them to share.
“Turn the radio on, Marty. Not to the news; put it on some music. The oldies; I like the oldies.”
And their hands broke loose, just for a second, as he played with the dial and finally found some music that played strong against the night; no news updates, no voices, just the songs.
They danced to the songs that played, sometimes he span her under his arm, making her laugh and sometimes she sank close into his chest, the stars a backdrop as they slowly moved their feet. They played and played and they kept moving slowly, almost tumbling against the slow weight of their bodies, almost breathing in time to the beat of each song. And the noise of the town and the chaos sat far away and all that interrupted them were the sounds of the floorboards creaking under their feet.
Eventually they lay back down on the boards, though neither of them was tired. There was no wooziness in them, no tiredness creeping in. Both their eyes were lit with something like fire. It was Marie who took his hand and led him onto her.
“Marie, we don’t have to-” he began to say, but her eyes quietened him down.
“Show me,” she whispered, “show me how it’s supposed to me, with love.” She reached up and put her palm against his cheek. Marty closed his eyes, knowing that until he died, that would be the one touch he would remember above all others. Then the two of them moved with the moon still bright and the radio still playing all the oldies.
When he woke, she was gone. He did not feel any hangover, or any cold. He pulled up into a sitting position and looked back over the rising morning. The radio still played dimly on, the power dying steadily. For a second his heart lurched and he knew he would never see her again. She had gone back and packed and was gone, probably already on a train. He knew it with a certainty that paralysed him for a second. Finally, he reached down and changed the station; the news said the chaos was over and the man had been caught. It was breaking news and meant her dad would still be down there, trying to tie up loose ends; she still had time.
Marty shook the cigarette packet open and smiled; there had been two left in there before they had made love and now there was only one. He stopped; made love. There was something in him, a joy at having shared it with Marie and a sadness also, a knowledge no other girl would be close to what they had shared. It was a gift that could never be rivalled; he knew that with a stone certainty. He shook the cigarette into his hand and lit it. Inside the carton was a small neatly folded piece of paper, quartered. He lifted it out and unfolded it, watching the small neat squares bloom into her hand writing:
‘Know that wherever you are, somebody loves you.’
Marty looked at it, stunned. Then he repeated it over and over, almost like a prayer. Eventually the cigarette was done and he jammed it into the foil. With his free hand he brought his palm up and ran it over his cheek, as lightly as she had done hours before. Then tears began to run down his cheeks as he looked out to the sunrise, folding the note back into quarters and slipping it into his shirt pocket, next to his heart, before finally changing the radio back to the other station; the one that played the oldies.
© Chris Castle May 2011
Amy and the Waitress
Hmm. Thinking about lilies and funerals at seven am. Not
a good sign. But then shed been whoo-hooed already so maybe
it was the day for it.