June 30, 2012
She had a Russian name for the stage. The stage where she used to take off her clothes for men who pounded their beer on the table and threw dollar bills at her. She witnessed a terrible mob-related shootout at the club and ran for her life. They were on her trail right up until we found her. I found her.
I worked as a detective for the LAPD back then. An insubordinate ruffian, they used to call me. And to be honest, I liked it. I liked being the badass cop who always played it by the ear – until it cost me my job. I went from being Alistair Michaels to Ike James.
She entered the witness protection program as Kristin. I didn’t even know her name before, and I was assigned to be her husband. For as long as it would take. Forever. They told me they could afford to lose me over her and that I was replaceable. I never repented.
Mistakes are made to be learned from, never regretted. I didn’t regret being a police detective who couldn’t follow direct orders. I never regretted moving to a sleepy town near the ocean. With her. As her husband. And fuck me if I ever regretted falling in love with her, my Kristin.
Kristin and Ike James – we were the perfect couple and we decided to get married for real. A commitment ceremony, they were told – our neighbours – who had no idea of who we really were except for the lies we told them. Then, the night before our wedding, they found her. They found her and they butchered her right up, hung her like a carcass on the front porch.
It’s been two years and I haven’t slept since. Not the way people normally sleep anyway.
Last night, Rose and Dean set me up with this girl they knew. Her name was Katherine, and she was a beautiful, big-boobed blonde who talked just the right amount. I took her to for a drink to McFlynn’s and then dinner at Mrs. Patterson’s restaurant – it has the best steak and cherry pie our town has to offer. I walked her home. I even kissed her goodnight. But she and I both knew that nothing would ever happen between us.
The truth is I ran out of love. It didn’t happen that long ago, maybe just a few months back. But I just woke up, and realized that I had no love left to give. I just woke up every morning and walked to my bookshop (yeah, I finally opened it), and just lived on like nothing had changed. Maybe nothing did, at least on the outside.
“Good morning, Mrs. May. I just got a fine selection of romance novels you’d be interested in!” I’d smile and say.
“Oh, no Ike, that’s all old stuff now. I’m looking for that new vampire stuff them kids have been reading nowadays.”
“O-kay then. Follow me; I keep that stuff right at the back over there.”
The sunlight streaming in through the windows, the sounds and smells of the town seeping in whenever someone entered or left, the quiet minutes of the afternoon, that was my life now. I sat there; the warmth of the sun on my face, with the shadow of the window sign.
Mrs. Patterson’s daughter Jaime would stop by for lunch sometimes to discuss the café we were opening. She was taking the room upstairs and turning it into the kitchen. We were due to get the chairs and tables for the outside area and David was almost done printing out our menus. The pale yellow and blue posters were all around the town square, I returned their expectant looks with my vacant stare. Going about my day. Like clockwork.
And sometimes, when the night was warm, I’d let the wind in carrying Kristin’s whispers to my ears. Take me back in time. And I’d find myself sitting on a table in the dimly lit Opium Den.
The girls would swivel down the poles, pirouette and finish in a split. She sat among them, wearing nothing but sequins and feathers, holding a large umbrella. She sang along dramatically, lips a bloody red against her pale skin. She looked like a rosy peach, ready to be plucked and devoured by the eyes of every man in the house. She sang of a lost lover, opening and closing her legs, gyrating, spiralling through the crowd.
They did this thing where they made music with the empty glasses on every table. Talented girls.
She winked and blew a kiss, tossing her bright brown hair and prancing around, naked in the midst of thick smoke and velvet. She sat on their laps and laughed with them. Her hair sparkled with crystals, catching the stray beam of light as she wove through curtains and they all ended with a big finish on-stage.
That’s how every dream broke. And I always awoke with ragged breath. Sweat dribbling down my face, staining my t-shirt. Kristin always laughed at me when I slept in just my boxers. She made me wear a t-shirt and sweatpants. They usually came off. But there’s no one left now. Just me and my bookshop. It’s my only reason to wake up every morning. Otherwise I’d probably just sit at home.
And home, they say, is where the heart lies. Or something like that. Well, mine died and was buried here. I’m trapped in this little town forever.
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