Domini Mortum

By Paul Holbrook

A supernatural murder mystery novel set in late Victorian London.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

When she was mine - a short story

You place the coffee in front of me and offer a cigarette.  I refuse the cig but accept the coffee, taking a small sip.  It has milk in it and no sugar, this would normally make me gag, but I have not eaten or drunk anything since this morning and I am thirsty.  I have been sat for over an hour in this room waiting for you to come and speak to me, thinking about the day about what brought me here.  It has been a long one and it is not over yet.

You are sat on the other side of the table, slowly tapping your finger.  You are staring at me, judging me, trying to pull me to pieces with your eyes.  I am happy for you to judge me though; maybe it will help you to understand who I am and why I did what I did.  The woman stood by the door has been in this room as long as I have and I wonder if she is thirsty too.  Nobody has offered her a drink.

My hands shake as I pick up the polystyrene cup.  Images and words run through my head; all the times and places that have brought me to this moment, all the things I said and all of the things that were never said to me.  Despite where I am, I would not change it, not the smallest thing, the tiniest fragment of a second, nothing of what happened to me in these last six beautiful months.

You carry on tapping the table with your finger watching for a reaction from me, trying to intimidate me, but it is you that is getting angry and impatient, not me.  I smile.  You have been patient enough; it is time to open up at last.

The first time I saw her I felt the connection.  She sat wedged into the corner of one of the booths at the King’s Head, surrounded by laughing people.  She was telling a convoluted story about her tube journey home that day, using her whole body to convey the tale, waving her arms in the air and giving hilarious accents to the voices of all the characters who were involved.

Everyone was enraptured by her.  Everyone hanging on her every expression, bursting into loud laughter and striking the table, their drinks shook with the impact, causing their contents to slop out onto the already soggy beer mats.  No one was immune to her charm, even people on other tables were listening in, and they couldn’t help but listen.  I couldn’t help but listen.

I stood at the bar holding a drink which I hadn’t touched for twenty minutes, I had forgotten it was there.  My eyes were fixed on the girl in the corner and the joy she brought to all of those around her.  She was happy, they were happy and I wanted to be a part it, a part of their happiness, her happiness.

As she told her tale she briefly looked over to the bar and for a moment she saw me.  Our eyes met, not just a glance though, she really looked at me, she saw that I was watching her and in that moment a connection was made.  I smiled at her and she continued; playing with her captive audience and bringing them to the crescendo of the story, the punch line.

To be honest, if you asked me now what she said I really couldn’t tell you.  At the time though, I hung on every word and thought it the funniest thing I had ever heard.  As the story ended, and the laughter of her friends reached its peak, I decided that I had to know who she was, I needed her in my life and even if she didn’t know it, she needed me too.

She was not classically beautiful, not in a kind of model type of way, her lips were slightly too thin and her jaw a little too square.  The glasses she wore hid her face too much for my liking.  To me though she was true beauty, the epitome of what the perfect woman should be; funny, warm and full of life, full of happiness.  The connection had been made and I felt love.  True love.

I mulled over in my mind what the best way to get to know her would be.  I was not the type to just go up and introduce myself; I have always been to shy, too unsure of myself when talking to people.  Any insecurity I had would have to be pushed aside though; I could not let this wonderful girl pass me by without trying to get to know her.  I would never forgive myself.  I did not come to Crouch End very often and visited pubs even less frequently, if anything that made me realise that it was fate that had brought us together, we were meant to be.  If it wasn’t going to be tonight then I would miss my chance forever.  I would always be left wondering if she was the one who got away.

Suddenly, the people at her table began to shuffle and move, gathering coats and grabbing handbags.  They were leaving; it was still early so they were moving on to another pub maybe.  I couldn’t follow them, that would seem too weird and destroy my chances altogether. 

As she moved out of the booth I decided that I could not leave it any longer and, placing my drink on the bar, started to walk over to the group, to her.  I had come within six feet of them when I realised that they were not really leaving, not the pub anyway.  They were making their way downstairs to the comedy club, all was not lost.  I returned to the bar and downed my drink, they were out of sight now and I hurriedly made my way down the stairs to the club in the cellar. 

The rest of the night was a dizzying blur, the best night of my life.  We laughed until the tears ran down our faces and our stomachs hurt.  I felt brave enough to introduce myself to her and her friends.  I sat with them and I got to know all of them, they were good people, safe people.  I had made friends.

It was Kerry.

Her name was Kerry, and as the evening passed, I found that, despite first impressions, she was not the confident girl that she liked to show to the world.  In brief moments I saw her with her guard down, I saw that she was vulnerable, she was tender and she was … beautiful.

At the end of the night she said goodbye to her friends and left the pub.  She was a little drunk and I offered to walk her home.  She seemed unsure at first but agreed.  As we walked along Crouch Hill we talked and talked telling each other about our lives.  In that short ten minute journey I told her more about myself than I had ever shared before.  When we reached her house I plucked up the courage to tell her how I felt.  I had to, she had to know.   I told her that I thought she was great and that in the few hours since I first saw her I had fallen for her.  In my mind, we were meant to have met, meant to be together.   From the expression on her face, I could tell that she didn’t believe it.  That she wasn’t used to being told these things.  But they were true, they were my truth, she was my truth.

She was silent and I left her to think about what I had told her.  I said I would call round tomorrow maybe, when we were both a bit more sober, when she had realised that maybe I wasn’t just a weirdo that she had met one night in a comedy club.

Over the next six months we saw each other every day.  The connection grew between us and the feelings that we had on that first night never dimmed, never lessened.  We couldn’t get enough of each other; I would skip out of work early to meet her when she finished college every day, just so we could travel home on the tube together.  Some unseen force had brought us together and now we would never be parted.  It was a true love like neither of us had known before.

She was mine and she had me.  It was everything I’d ever dreamt that a relationship would be.

But then, almost overnight, it changed.  She met someone else, Peter he was called, someone on the same college course as her.  He was young, he was good looking and he was kind.  He could give her everything that I couldn’t.  To me though, he was the devil; to me he was a thief, a brute, he had cheated her away from me.  He had tricked her.

Suddenly I was lost, everything that I thought I had was gone.  Everything snatched from me, stolen.  I sank into a deep depression, I struggled to cope with work anymore, and it was hard to even get out of bed in the morning.  Work were fine at first, encouraged me to see my doctor, they even offered to arrange some counselling for me.  Counselling wouldn’t bring her back to me though.  How could talking to some stranger help to bring back the love of my life?  When work found out that I hadn’t been to either my doctor or to the counselling sessions they lost patience and I lost my job, I had ‘...abused their good will for months and this was the final straw.’  Everything had gone wrong, it had all turned to shit and it was his fault. 

The devil.

I knew his type, I had met them before and I knew what they really thought of women.  He would use her and he would break her, he would control her, rip out her heart and treat her like dirt until she was finally broken. Then he would discard her, broken and scarred, unable to love again.  And do you know the worst thing about all of this?  She would let him.

I decided to confront her, to warn her about this man.  He had to be stopped before he destroyed her completely and before he had taken away any chance of me being with her again.

After a day of sitting in my flat and planning what I would say to her down to the smallest detail I went to her house earlier tonight and banged on the door. 

When it finally opened, it was by him.  The devil was stood in the doorway, smiling at me, he could see that he had broken me and he obviously found it funny.

“I want to speak to Kerry, I must see Kerry!” I said, my face unable to control the anger that I felt towards him.

He tried to close the door on me but I threw myself forwards and forced my way in and pushing him back into the hallway.  As he fell to the floor he cried out to Kerry, he told her to hide, to get away from me, but I would not be stopped.

I reached the top of the stairs just as her bedroom door, our bedroom door, slammed shut.  I tried to push my way in; to get to her and tell her that everything would be alright, that I was here now and that things could be like they were before.

“It’s me!”  I shouted, “It’s me, Kerry, I’ve come to save you.”

I could hear her screaming and crying from other side of the door, but still she would not let me in.  She was afraid of what he would do to her if she let me back into her life.

I hit the door with my fist, “I love you, Kerry … you know I do.  Just let me in and we can be together again, we can get away from here and start all over again!”

A hand grabbed my shoulder pulling me back and I turned to hit him - the devil.  My fist cracked against his cheekbone and he fell into the wall, striking the back of his head and sending him sprawling into a heap at the top of the stairs.  I jumped onto him hitting him in the face again and again.  Each strike I made for her, every muscle in my body concentrated on hurting him the way that he had hurt me.  He didn’t try to fight back, he knew that he could not win, how could he, I was right, I was a good person not evil like him.  He pretended to be unconscious, letting my fists tear holes in the skin, breaking the bones in his face, spraying his dirty blood on the walls of the stairway.  With each strike his face became softer, yielding, I could not stop.

For all the time that I fought for her, showing her how strongly I feel, I could hear her sobbing from behind her bedroom door.  They are tears of joy, her nightmare was now over, and she knew she would be free to be with me again.

A woman appeared at the bottom of the stairs, probably a neighbour, her mobile was in her hand and she was shouting down the phone, telling them to send the police as soon as possible. 

At last.  

The police would come and help me, they would understand.  They would know why I had to do it, why I had to save Kerry from the devil.

I stopped hitting him and smiled at the woman at the bottom of the stairs. 

“Thank you,” I said.  “I will wait here for them.”  I slumped to the floor next to the devil and looked at my knuckles; they were red with his evil.

The housemate shouted up the stairs, “Stay in your room, Kerry.  Barricade the door, the police are on their way!"  For some reason she shot me a fearful look and ran out of the front door to wait for the police.  Why was she afraid?  I had nothing against her.

Kerry never came out of her room.  She was probably too scared in case he woke before the police got there.

When they arrived I heard the housemate shouting to them outside. 

“Up there, up there, at the top of the stairs, I think he may be dead!”

Rough hands grabbed at me as the police dragged me down the stairs, I did not fight them.  I had done what I came to do.  The beast was gone and our lives could get back to normal.  As we reached the front door our bedroom door opened and Kerry came out; her face pink and flushed, wet with tears and for some reason her smile was hidden.  A policewoman put her arms around her to stop her from going near the devil’s body. 

“She just burst into our house and attacked Peter,” Kerry cried. “I don’t know who she is, but she thinks she knows me!”

This coffee has gone cold.

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