Some memories are just nightmares upon waking.
|Her face turned purple, lips skinned back in a rictus full of white gums and perfect teeth. Blood vessels burst in the whites of her eyes, one by one, like cracks crawling across the surface of a mirror.
Dormond squeezed, his thumbs crossed over her larynx, the rest of his fingers buried in the gossamer fine hairs at the nape of her neck as he strangled her. Sandra. The bride. That faithful betrayer. The woman who said, “I love you,” to one man, and “I do,” to another.
He squeezed harder, throttling her as he wept. His tears fell, landing on her bloody, bulging eyes. But with each twist of his hands, his own throat closed and ached. He saw his face in the reflection of her dying eyes, and it was purple and swelling too. And then she was gone, and Dormond was standing before a great mirror. It was breaking, blood seeping through the cracks, and just before it shattered, he saw his hands, wrapped around his own throat.
Alec Dormond woke gasping for breath.
He flailed for the bedside lamp, found the small dial, and twisted until there was a crisp snap, and light filled the room. That was good. The panic clung to the dark, just as his sweat soaked pajamas stuck to his cold clammy skin. But in the light, the fear abate, shrank down to an anxious, guilty secret, and hid somewhere between his heart and his mind.
“It happened 35 years ago,” he whispered to himself in the empty bedroom as he slipped a cigarette from the pack on the nightstand. His hand only trembled mildly when he lit it. “And you’ve done good things to make up for it…”
Dormond Textile was a success. It had been mentioned in Forbes several times. It employed over two thousand people between 18 plants world wide, and had put him on the 15th floor of his Madison Avenue highrise, as well as built him homes in the Hamptons and Poconos. But there was the charity, too. Tax deductible, yes, but charity all the same.
“Good things,” he whispered again, nodding and smoking.
But the dreams still came back, and upon their heels, upon waking, the memory of what he did.
“I was young and stupid.” He could see her face, not like it was in the end, but beautiful and radiant. The way she looked when he watched her running down the church-steps through a shower of rice, confetti, and laughter. How she looked in her immaculate, white wedding gown with him beside her, while Dormond watched from the alley, like a stray dog. “And you were cruel.”
“What a thin, flimsy things your love was, Sandra. You met him when you were mine, and two weeks later you took his name and I was nothing to you.”
Dormond swept the covers away and climbed from the bed, the first murmurs of arthritis aching in his hips and knee as he padded across the soft carpet of his bedroom, headed for the the bathroom. Careful to flick the light on before crossing the threshold, he entered and flicked his cigarette into the toilet before relieving himself. When he was finished he went to the sink, laid his hands on the cold marble counter and stared at his reflection in the mirror. There were lines and creases around his eyes and mouth, and his hair was white, and much thinner at the temples, but otherwise, it was much the same as it was that night, 35 years ago.
“He was more handsome,” Dormond said with an air of conclusion. He recalled when Sandra came to him to confess her affair and intentions.
“I love you… but I’m not in love with you.” Her eyes were rimmed with tears but Dormond saw the resolve in them. And he saw her lover, waiting patiently outside the diner where they had agreed to meet. “Patrick asked me to marry him. I said yes, Alec. When something is just right, you know it. And I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life, or…” she looked away, for only the briefest instant, than back, with that same resolve. “Or happy. Please understand. I want you to feel this way someday.”
He listened, said very little, and thanked her when she offered to pay for the coffee. He even wished her good luck in her marriage.
Following them from the church had been unnecessary. It took little investigation for Dormond to learn the couple planned to honeymoon at a small cottage owned by the groom’s family. Once he knew the town, it was only a matter of driving around until he spotted the forest green Buick town car with “Just Married,” written in soap on the back window.
Dormond waited. The sun set, and he found the front door of the cottage unlocked. He walked through the living room, vaguely noting the place’s simple, rustic charm. The revolver felt sturdy and cool in his dry palm and his stride was easy. He made no considerable attempt discretion; if a floorboard creaked, no one noticed.
He found Patrick, alone in the bed. The man didn’t even notice when Dormond stepped into the doorway. There was a door in the corner of the room, a sliver of fluorescent light ran beneath it and the sound of running water flowed on the other side. A bathroom, he surmised. Dormond could see Patrick’s tuxedo, folded and neatly draped over the back of a chair, but it was the Sandra’s gown that caught and held his attention. It stood at the foot of the bed, fitted over one of those simple mannequins that approximate a woman’s torso. The dress was beautiful in its delicate simplicity. White. Not silk. Soft and graceful over luxurious and elegant. More than anything so far, its presence wounded and infuriated him.
“Look at it,” he growled, and when Patrick jolted in the bed, Dormond shot him in the face.
The shot crashed the stillness of the cottage, and on the wedding gown blood splatter bloomed like red, poison roses.
Sandra burst from the bathroom and screamed. Dormond expected that. He only brought a single bullet and never considered killing her. But it was the hopelessness and anguish in her wailing that reversed her intentions. She never even saw him. Only her lost love. She barely even struggled when he took her by the throat. He did the strangling but in the end, a single bullet was enough to kill them both.
Dormond looked at his face in the mirror, saw the 35 years written in creases, and wrinkles, and liver spots. Would it ever be long enough to forget?
“You’ve done good things,” he assured himself. “Over two thousand people employed around the world, and the charity...”
Turning of his bathroom light, he stepped back into the bedroom...
...and saw the gown standing at the foot of his bed.
Dormond’s heart seemed to stop beating and his skin was ice cold. Could he see, from the corner of his eye, the shape of a body bearing a gruesome head wound, sprawled across his bed? He could not take his eyes off the dress to find out. The blood spots were blooming on its immaculate white surface, those old familiar roses. At first he thought it was fitted onto one of those torso forms, standing on a post, but when he realized there was no post, it was only floating at the edge of his bed, he began to scream.
The veil billowed, as the arms rose, and the gown glided forward. When it was just before him his throat clamped shut, cutting of his scream. Black flecks swam in his eyes but Dormond didn’t struggle. He only lifted his hand to sweep back the veil. Behind it there was nothing but darkness. Silently it swallowed him.
However brief Alec Dormond’s screams, they woke his neighbor, Mrs. Rusinski. She called building security and they came with all the haste and care afforded to such prestigious people as the residents of their building.
When their knocking at his door yielded as little response as the courtesy call to his home phone, the building manager made the decision to phone the NYPD and enter the suite.
They found Alec Dormond, purple faced and hanging from the bathroom door. The building security knew at once it was a suicide, but it wasn’t until the police arrived that they realized he had fashioned his makeshift noose from an old blood stained wedding gown.