Short Story: King of Spades

King of Spades

I never thought it would be like this, when I was planning this move, I never thought it would be like this. This is better than I could have ever imagined. I thought she’d completely flip out, I thought she’d be hysterical, crying and screaming, shaking and moaning, like in the movies when this kind of thing happens, but it’s nothing like that.

Movies are full of shit, written by people who get off on living vicariously through fictional characters. She’s standing facing me, a little way up the driveway, her left hand is covering her mouth and her eyes are wide and tears are spilling from their aquamarine depths and splashing silently on the bricks. I’ve never seen her so beautiful.

She’s different from how I remember her, her hair is longer, jet black and streaked with auburn it falls in soft tresses on her tiny shoulders that are heaving in a syncopated rhythm as she weeps.

Her face is more compelling than I remember it, and looking at it now makes me certain that God took the time to sculpt her himself; took an eon to carve the soft almond arcs of her febrile eyes, took a millennium to craft her delicate cheek bones, her aristocratic nose, her neat little chin and her lips – Jesus! They were his masterpiece.

I’ve never known a woman with such beautiful, full lips, lips that haunted me with every kiss and hypnotized me with every smile. I can’t see them now, but I can imagine how delicately their shapely bows are trembling. This isn’t the first time I’ve made her cry.

Her hand drifts from her face, the clouds drift from the moon, she tilts her head ever so slightly, and says, ‘Why did you do that? Why did you do that, Chris?’ Her tone is soft, her voice is almost a whisper, she isn’t angry, she is sad, disappointed.

I stare numbly at her and try to think of something to say, some way to explain my actions, but it’s been so long, I don’t know where to start, I can’t find the words to tell her how hard it’s been without her. My emotions are rising, my face is blushing and I can feel my vision blurring, I stammer, ‘B-baby, I –’

‘You’re scaring me,’ she says.

‘Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, it’s just me, you know me. I promised you I’d come back for you baby, and I did. Things have been bad, they’ve been really bad for me, but this is the start of a new life for us. We’re leaving this place, I’m taking you somewhere safe, away from here. Come with me.’

‘I can’t,’ she says, but I’m not sure she understands.

‘You don’t understand, you don’t understand how much I love you. I’ve never been able to put it into words, there are no words for how much I love you. I have something to show you, and when you see it, you’ll understand, you’ll know how much I love you.’

‘Chris, plea-’ And then in an explosion of light and sound I show her.

I show her and she sees. She sees what it meant to me all those years ago when we first fell for one another, when we first kissed, when she first told me that she loved me, when we first made love.

I show her how important the days we spent together were, how I cherished those languid afternoons spent basking with her in my arms in the sun, reading under trees, eating ice cream, cold, sweet kisses.

We are walking under jacaranda trees, we are holding hands, we are walking the streets of Paris, she is laughing at a story I’m telling her, her laugh is like little bells, it fills me, glows inside me.

I am waking up next to her in the morning, I am whole, she is getting up, getting dressed, I am making her cheesy toast for breakfast, we are brushing our teeth together, we are starting our day together, we are there for each other, she is there for me…

She is pulling me out of the car, she is crying, telling me that she loves me, I am waking up, she is crying, crying, thank God, thank God you’re alive, there is blood, there is blood everywhere, my hands are ribbons, they have to stitch me back up, I ask what about Ricky? I ask what about Ricky again and again, in the hospital she tells me… that night we hold each other like I’ve never held anyone and I cry until I can’t anymore, and she is there for me, she means the world to me, I want to die, but she’s keeping me alive, she’s the only goddamn thing in this world holding me together, I show her and she sees…

She is much calmer now, she isn’t scared anymore. I move towards her, how many times have I dreamed this moment? I cross the divide that separates us, step over his body. I let the gun fall and we embrace and it feels good, it feels like home. I breathe her scent in, let it fill me. Tiny atoms of her drift into my lungs and are absorbed into my blood, they course through my veins and flood my senses.

I bury my head in the gentle, sloping alcove of her neck and shoulder and crush her to me. ‘We need to go baby,’ I whisper through the soft curtain of her hair, ‘we need to leave this place and never come back. My car is parked around the block, we need to go, you can’t take anything with, you won’t need anything, you have me, you have everything.’

I hold her as we walk, it’s been so long since I’ve held anyone. We round the corner and I help her into the car and bundle her up in her favourite blanket, I brought it with me because I knew I could win her back, and I have.

I pull the car out into the street, gear up, let go the clutch and floor the accelerator. We drive to the city limits and beyond, we drive until the sun starts to streak the sky in pink and crimson hues.

I talk to her as I drive, I tell her how lonely it’s been without her, I tell her about how in the beginning, I would wake every morning into madness because my half-slumbering mind kept thinking I would roll over, and there she’d be beside me, warm and sleepy, peaceful, happy.

I tell her about how I started drinking, drugging, spending my nights with hollow, ugly woman, in hollow, ugly embraces, trying desperately not to feel. I tell her about how many times I wanted to phone her and beg her back and about how I never stopped following her life and her amazing successes and how I never stopped dreaming of her.

She’s getting sleepy now, but there are still so many things I want to tell her, I want to tell her about how a man has never loved a woman like I love her, I want to tell her about how she will never have to worry ever again, I want to tell her that her life will be perfect from now on, that I am better now, that I was sick for a long time, but that I am better now, but these things will have to wait, she’s tired now and she is silently nodding off to sleep beside me.

I brush a strand of fallen hair from her face and kiss her tenderly on the forehead and tell her that I love her, and though she’s sleeping now, I know if she’d heard me, she would have opened her eyes, those dazzling green eyes of hers and she would have smiled that magical smile that she kept for me and no one else in the world she would have told me that she loves me too.

The city melts away from us until there are no more buildings, just the road in front of us and the sun above. I find a lonely copse of eucalyptus trees by the side of the road and pull over. Their shade falls in dappled patches where sunlight penetrates the thick foliage above us and shines down in rays that are reflected in the dust the car has kicked up.

I get out of the car, light a smoke and take a piss behind one of the trees. I wonder if that petrol station I passed has any decent pies? Better get to work, I’m fucking starving. I open the boot of my car and take the spade out.


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