|She had left him the hotel name on the answering machine and after speaking to the concierge he knew exactly where to go, but like a condemned man pleading with his executioner, he walked every corridor counting down the numbers in a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable. He began to falter once he reached the final corridor, the animal in him wanted to run, run out of the hotel, out of town, to keep running till he left the whole of civilisation behind him. But the man in him wanted to stay and see this through. So he just stood there as instinct and evolution waged war inside his head. On the outside he was completely still, his face a stoic tribute to Zen but inside he was battleground for Pride versus self preservation. He inhaled slowly in an attempt to regain composure and resolve his indecision. In that breath came victory for man for it had carried the subtlest undertones of Her. There was no other smell like it in the world and he would’ve been able to pick her out in a crowd of thousands because of it. The primal instinct to run was still there but now it was to run to Her. He walked forward and breathed deeply again. The animal in him had suddenly switched sides and he now felt a longing in his heart and his loins. It was such a warm smell that contrasted against the coldness of the tiled floor and glimmering walls. It didn’t belong here in this sterile environment; it belonged in his home, in his bed. He remembered the first time he had smelt her, it reminded him of warm crème brulee and fresh Turkish delight. It wasn’t a perfume or a lotion, it was just her and from the first night they had spent together he had never wanted anyone else. He felt himself start to harden as he closed his eyes and recalled the feel of her body against his. He breathed her in again, that smell was addictive. It was invading his body from the inside out and when they were together she invaded him from the outside in. It suddenly occurred to him why the word invaded seemed so appropriate; she did invade him and as it were, conquered him, he surrendered himself fully to her power and now he couldn’t escape her.
She sat on the bed facing the hotel door. It was unmade as per usual. She could never see the point in making the covers all nice and neat when she would just mess them up again. Her stomach clenched in anticipation, it felt like it was trying to regurgitate the butterflies that had been in there previously. Admittedly they had felt more like birds of prey, but somehow that didn’t sound as nice as butterflies. She was staring at the door frame, noticing the most obscure detail to keep her mind off the situation. Like the dust that was caught in the fine spider’s web. She wondered if spiders ever dusted or if they simply vacated the dirty web and built another one? Her mind came racing back to the present with the realisation he was standing on the other side of the door. She hadn’t consciously heard anything that gave him away, but he was there, she was sure of it. Her heart doubled its standard rate and felt like it was jumping around in her chest causing complete havoc inside her ribcage. She took a ragged breath and tried to swallow. Her mouth had dried up and she guessed that even if she had enough saliva to swallow, it wouldn’t make it passed her heart that now felt like it was trying to escape via her throat. She vaguely wondered if she were to die right there and then, how the autopsy would read. “Patient found with heart in throat and a menagerie of flying animals in digestive system” Fortunately for her and some potentially confused coroner, she didn’t die but she did realise it would be a whole lot easier if she just spontaneously combusted. Admittedly she wouldn’t see another sunrise but she also wouldn’t have to face the conversation that was coming. It was like a car accident, she really didn’t want to see it but there was that grotesque attraction that humans have for carnage. She realised at that point how important breathing was when it came down to staying alive, and that she had been unconsciously holding her breath for sometime. She exhaled and gulped in a fresh load oxygen and her lungs settled back into some semblance of rhythm. Her evil voice reminded her how easy it would be if she wasn’t alive, to just hold her breath forever. Logic finished the argument – you can’t die with will alone, your body won’t allow it. You stop breathing, you pass out, and your diaphragm goes into auto pilot and voila! Your alive. But If I pass out I won’t have to do this. Before she could seriously contemplate this concept, the door opened.
Her whole body relaxed, despite the fact that today she was as high strung as a tight rope, he just had that effect on people. He carried an aura of peace, heck he could probably have the israeli’s and Palestinians making plans for the weekend together after one visit. Spending time with him was like meditation with your eyes opened, he wasn’t all airy fairy new age, he was just the most grounded, whole person she knew. He was like a glass of wine in the bath on a Friday night. You light your candles, sit in the bath, sip your wine and suddenly realise how insignificant and trivial all your troubles are. It’s hard to be mad in the bath. Being with him was like that.
When she was six, she had a goldfish that had the same effect on her. She would sit there for ages, just watching him swimming around his bowl and nothing else mattered. She had named the fish To-To, for no other reason than the fact she was six and she wanted to. She had nick named the man in front of her To-To not long after they had met. She had found herself entranced watching him one night at a party and when she realised what she had been doing, half an hour had passed. She had felt like that little girl again, lost in a world with just her and her fish and when he had wandered over she had called him To-To, and had ever since. No one else knew why she called him that, though friends had tried to find out. She loved the fact that it was their little secret to keep, precious and safe from the world. Unfortunately she had loved the finned To-to so much that she had over fed him and he exploded. The man that stood in front of her didn’t like her cooking so he was safe from succumbing to the same sticky fate.
He shut the door but still didn’t look her in the eye and she didn’t blame him one little bit. She knew this was her fault but she had hoped he would make it easier than this. She could see he had been crying, normally a man who cried over a woman was an object of her scorn, but the sight of him just broke her heart. His hair fell forward as he hung his head lower but she could see the look on his face. It was a look of pure anguish; it was the look a mother wore when she learnt her son had been killed by a drunk driver.
She wasn’t quite sure when this whole disaster had started, realistically about 3 years ago when they first got together. Their relationship had been a rollercoaster ride from the start but whether they were at war or peace, it was always fuelled with passion. There was certainly no middle ground, no boring mediocrity. She had the temper of a wounded lioness and he had just adored her for it. He always loved the way she put everything she had into what ever she did, even being angry. She knew how to press his buttons and sometimes she couldn’t help but do it. She hated herself afterwards but when the anger filled her up, made her vision tunnel, nothing would satisfy her but the misery of others. Normally she wasn’t so vindictive and it scared her that a part of her, a part she tried to keep buried, was capable of such malice.
But why she was here in this motel room? Well that started last week, they had been at a party in honour of a friend of his from work. Much to her disgust, he had unceremoniously dumped her at the bar and then spent the entirety of the night huddled around a computer discussing the latest program design. Needless to say she got slightly pissed off and since it was an open bar she also got just plain old pissed. When he finally emerged and said he was ready to go, she was seeing red and double. The whole taxi ride home she had sat fuming, firmly looking out the window while he chatted away about the office gossip. Vile thoughts rolled through her head as she let the anger simmer inside her. He’s just a fucking ape in a suit! No a fucking twat in a suit, apes are smarter. Once the front door was shut, the demons that had been feeding off the alcohol and resentment broke free. All the nasty, spiteful things she had been thinking throughout the night came spewing forth. Just in case he didn’t get how angry she was she threw the vase he had given her at his computer. She hadn’t meant to hit it, the fucking thing cost more than her car for Christ’s sake. She just wanted to get his attention and remind him who was in charge. The split second the vase left her fingers, she knew the trajectory was wrong. She suddenly thought of the things that can’t be recovered – the word spoken, the moment missed and the vase thrown. She had caused a lot more damage that she had intended, but to admit she was wrong and apologise to him? Not in a million fucking years. So she sneered at him and growled “You’re fucked without your precious little computer now Geek-boy.” She suddenly felt the same despair as when the vase hit the monitor as she realised her words didn’t have him cowering. There was something wrong, normally by now he would have broken down and he would be apologising. Why wasn’t he relenting?
With his next words he had both surprised her and hurt her; a move any tactician knew would disable your opponent. “I’m starting to wonder if I want to be with you any more.” That had stopped her in her tracks, and it took a second for the words to sink in. He was bluffing, surely he was bluffing?
She saw the look of satisfaction pass across his face and was horrified by the gratification he had got from hurting her. She realised at that point, the tables had turned and the evil lurking in her soul had somehow permeated into the man she had always thought of as part angel.
That was what had made them perfect together she held the darkness and he, the light. But now the darkness was filling the room. “I think you should leave” the words hit in the middle of her chest and she felt like she had been winded. So much for word’s will never hurt me.
How dare he tell me to leave my own house. Her anger boiled to the surface again and replaced the shock. She was glad in a way, being angry gave her a purpose, shock just left her stunned like a deer in the headlights and made her vulnerable. She grabbed her coat and keys and sent him a scathing look, hoping that he would relent but knowing he wouldn’t. He just stood there staring back at her. She would never back down and beg so she marched out the door and slammed it as hard as she could. It didn’t make her feel any better, just angry at herself for not being able to shatter the wood into smithereens. She stormed out of the front gate, struggling to hold onto the anger how dare he, that righteous bastard! she kept saying it over and over in her head like a mantra. If she could stay mad she could stay in control, the sorrow that was brewing inside of her would… well she didn’t know what it would do. But she was afraid of breaking down, of losing control. Anger was the only emotion she knew so she fought with everything she had to stay mad.
The briskness of the night and the loneliness of the midnight streets calmed her down some. As she walked on, the power in her anger ebbed away and she was able to collect her drunken thoughts. Right he just asked me to leave, he didn’t really mean it. But he’s never said anything like that before. I just pushed him too hard, this time, I’ll know not to go so far next time. No he didn’t mean it, of course he didn’t. I’ll just let him sweat on it for a few days and he’ll be begging for me to come home. She thought of going to his sisters but dismissed that idea as quickly as it entered her head. Trying to explain to that fat, frigid, happily married housewife why she was turning up at two am on a Sunday morning was the last thing she needed. She headed off to a local hotel instead; a respite would be exactly what she needed. It wasn’t as nice as she would’ve liked but it was the closest one with twenty four hour check in and it was conveniently close to a coffee shop and a second hand bookstore. Everything she would need for a ‘getaway’.
The next morning she woke, not because he was up and wanted to do things but because her body had finished sleeping, it was a very nice change. He was always up at a ridiculous hour ready to go hike the nearest mountain or take a ride to the next town. The concept of lying in bed, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday papers was wasting your life according to him and she had begrudgingly accompanied him every weekend. Now she could do exactly what the fuck she wanted and at that thought, a small smile crossed her lips. When this mess was sorted out she was going to start doing a little bit more her way.
After venturing out for a much needed coffee, she made some phone calls. First to her boss to see if she could have the next week off, of course that wasn’t a problem. She worked hard for the company and rarely took annual leave. She was ahead in her work and her boss had joked that it would give her colleagues a chance to catch up. The next number was a little harder to dial… home. After two rings she nearly hung up but she figured he wouldn’t be there anyway, the local grand final was on and although his team hadn’t made it past preliminaries he would be there to support his mates. When it clicked to the answering machine, relief washed through her, tinged with sadness. The message was one of those stupid mushy ones they had done together when he had first moved in. The message she left now though was a stark contrast to the captured romance she had just heard. It was brisk, sharp and to the point. “I am at the Belleview, when your ready to talk you know how to find me.” She hung up and felt her hand tremble as she put the receiver back. She hadn’t thought to grab her phone before she left last night and so had resigned herself to paying two dollars a minute on the hotel phone. But she needed both clothes and her phone, and now she knew he was out. She didn’t want to go back to their haven with everything still so raw but she needed supplies if she was going to last out this siege.
The next few days dragged by, she drank too much coffee and half heartedly read the trashy fantasy books she loved so dearly but never had time to read at home. Not to mention the fact the he considered them a waste of time, why didn’t she read something that would expand her mind, not turn it into mush. He preferred to read science journals and other work related literature, on the odd occasion he read something for pleasure it was usually poetry. But not Eliot or Poe, for they were too depressing. She had always felt The Hollow Men captured life perfectly and was by far her favourite poem.
He had finally called her late on Tuesday night, his voice had sounded as empty as her heart felt. There had been no small talk, he had simply said “we need to talk, I’ll come to see you after work tomorrow” she had wanted to cry, to beg forgiveness, hang up the phone and rush around home now. But she didn’t, she had just simply replied with an ‘okay’ in a voice barely above a whisper. He had then hung up, no ‘I love you’s’ or “I miss you’s” just the infuriating beep beep beep. She couldn’t sleep that night and as she lay there tossing and turning, she wished she had the insight to get a bottle of wine. The nervous energy tingled through her body and she scrunched her fingers and toes in an attempt to expel it. It must have eventually worked because she awoke at six am to see the beginnings of the sunrise coming in through the window. She rolled over and tried to go back to sleep but her mind became more alert with each passing second and she knew that sleep was well and truly out of her grasp now. She showered, dressed and applied her makeup with care. She didn’t usually wear it, not even to work but she knew she had to do something to kill time and absorb her attention. She even dried her hair properly and attempted to style it. It ended up looking like sexy bed hair and she was both surprised and pleased with the result. That had succeeded in killing a whole two hours, it was just after eight and she figured she had at least another ten hours to go before he came to see her. She headed out for breakfast and decided to buy a new book and kill time lost in fairy land. It had been mildly successful but her mind always wandered back to him, wondering what he was doing and whether they would get through this fight. She had headed back to her hotel room about four and had been half watching afternoon TV, half dozing on the bed until the news had come on and her subconscious roused her with something important. It wasn’t anything on the news that caught her attention it was just the fact that the News was on. He normally came through their door just after it started and they would sit and watch it together and talk about their respective days during the ad breaks. She didn’t know if he was going home first or coming straight here but her mind went into panic mode. She quickly tidied up the room throwing her clothes that had been on the floor into her bag and shoved it under the bed. She didn’t even think to make the bed, that just wasn’t something she did, but she did hang up the wet towel that had been left from that morning. He always hated how she left damp towels on the bed, on his side of the bed. He couldn’t see why she just couldn’t hang them up, or shut the god damn cupboard doors either. She wasn’t lazy it just never occurred to her to do it when she would only have to go back and open them later. Once the room was slightly less dishevelled, she sat on the unmade bed and waited. Waited for the man that made her world spin. The man that drove her crazy.
And now he stood in front of her with his head down and tears streaming down his face. It broke her heart to know that it was her that had caused him this pain and yet that small evil part relished in it. It was satisfied because it knew it was it’s handiwork that had created such anguish, it might have only been a small demon but god damn it was good at what it did. The rest of her was torn apart seeing the man she loved in such pain. For the first time in aeons she let the light over ride the dark and rose to embrace him, to comfort him and hold him until his tears subsided. He didn’t move, just stood there sobbing in his woollen overcoat while she wrapt her arms around him and started to weep into his chest. “I’m sorry” she choked “Michael I'm so so so sorry. I promise I can change, I’ll get help, I am sorry.” She felt his chest heave as he took a deep breath and he started to gain control of his emotions. He looked down at her, into her eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul and it felt like he was reaching into the depths of hers now to see if she was telling the truth. She prayed that he couldn’t see that evil shadow across her soul going sucker, we got you this time, I’m going to fuck your shit up! She screamed inside her head for it to shut the fuck up, once they got through this she was going to go to a shrink and get this fucking evil out of her once and for all. For the first time in her life she wanted the goodness to win, to be vulnerable and not in control. And most of all she never wanted to hurt another person like she had hurt him. She begged the universe to let him see only the goodness in her at that moment and she would deal with the evil little fucker later. The universe didn’t listen this time, maybe it was sick of answering her stupid prayers when she didn’t mean it. Maybe karma was coming back to bite her in the arse. Maybe the universe just didn’t care. For whatever reason, he did see the little demon still in her, and she saw the realisation in his eyes. She knew then it was over, they were over. A pain like no other seeped through her heart, she had lost the only man who would ever lover her. Suddenly then there was another pain, a physical pain in her back spreading into her abdomen. She felt warm and cold at the same time and very very weak. He started to weep again “I’m sorry my angel but I have failed, it is still there and getting stronger. I love you, I thought I could save you but I can’t.” She looked down at the floor and the growing puddle of sticky red syrup, where was it coming from? Her legs started to give way, but he held her tight to him and shushed her like a mother comforting a distraught child. Her breathing shallowed and her head rolled back. She looked at the face of the man who made her world spin and then her world stopped spinning.