Red curtains of hair fall away from her face as she looks up into his eyes. His heart aches at the hunted look in those blue eyes, the immense guilt.
Everyone described her in static colour. He could never understand why. Red hair. White skin. Blue eyes. Primary colours. Translucent shades. Hard beauty. Always beautiful, but always hard, as if beauty was an inanimate object; as if beauty wasn’t alive and dynamic.
There was nothing about her that was hard. Her hair wasn’t fire, it slipped softly through his fingers and tickled his face when they slept.
Her skin wasn’t lifeless porcelain; it was alive with colour and texture. Her arms and thighs were smooth, her palms were rough from a life of hard work, the backs of her legs were hard with muscle from her dancing days, her back was seared with cuts from her husband’s knives. What skin! He worshipped every inch of it.
Her eyes were the most expressive part of her. She could break his heart and mend it with a single look. When they made love, he couldn’t look anywhere but into those eyes. They would burn into his, telling him ageless secrets as the sensations swept them away.
Where other men only saw a face that was a trophy, he saw her childlike smile which blossomed slowly and wonderfully across her features whenever something delighted her. Where other men saw a body they would give anything to ravage, he saw a girl who loved to dance, who read voraciously, who liked cold milk in the mornings, who ached to have children one day, who never cared for jewelry, who would sing him their favourite song in bed, whose favourite item of clothing was one of his old shirts, who was happy to spend a day with him just curled up by the fire in his modest home, whose deep intelligence attracted him more than her body ever could.
The gun looks awkward and out of place in her shaking hand. She could never hurt anybody. Standing there with all her fear, she looks like a child, caught up in a life that she was never meant for.
He has so much to say, and no time at all. So he just looks into her scared eyes, hoping his feelings will translate.
He knows she’s wondering why he came, knowing what he knew. What could he say? There was no such thing as life without her. That was all.
She looks up and sees only his eyes. That incredible love, it’s all there. The gun in her hand doesn’t change anything. He knows she was put up to it. He doesn’t speak or move but she can see volumes in his eyes. Telling her, in the little time they have, that she was life itself to him.
When the gun goes off, she barely flinches.
She doesn’t know who fired. She doesn’t care. She hears the screams but they don’t make any sense. All she sees is him.
He sways as the bullet hits, but she sees no shock register on his face. It was always difficult to surprise him. Blood soaks into his dark suit, barely visible until it flows onto his white shirt where it then balloons and spreads. She looks but doesn’t see pain cloud his eyes. There is only love. For a moment she feels warm, as if embraced with the strength of it.
His eyes continue to speak to her until finally, as if he was falling in slow motion, he sinks to the floor. Tears flood her cheeks. She can’t check them, she doesn’t try.
His body is still. He lies as if sleeping, head resting onto one side, as it would when they would spend their mornings sleeping in, drawing warmth from each other. The scar is still there on his neck, after all these years. The scar from the fateful night when he intercepted a blade that was meant for her. She hadn’t seen him since. Until tonight.
She knows her husband is somewhere. Hidden in the shadows, while his goons exact his revenge. He had always been a coward. Powerful men usually are.
Anger hardens her resolve. Well there was one thing he hadn’t bargained for. One thing he didn’t realize he would lose on the same night. Her fist tightens against cold steel.
When the gun goes off again, all she sees is black.
As Jack’s brings the story to a close, he always enjoys the shocked ooh’s and aah’s he invariably receives. Gets ‘em every time. He embellishes the tale every now and then to add a little spice to his routine but generally, the facts remain the same.
Sometimes he feels a little guilty that he enjoys the story-telling part of it so much. But times are hard. Sure, it’s a sad story but if it brings in a little extra cash who’s he to pass up the opportunity, he asks himself. He glances around before taking a furtive swig of scotch while his waiters’ backs are turned. Won’t do to set a bad example.
He shifts his focus back to his customers who are now discussing the story amongst themselves, shocked, sympathetic, scandalized. Jack looks on knowingly. Everyone’s a sucker for a sad story.
But he’s not done yet. Almost. But not quite. He always waits a little before he adds this next part. Pours out a few drinks, leaving time for the story to sink in.
Then with a perfectly crafted air of nonchalance, he jerks his head towards a point on the wall behind him, where there’s an old newspaper cut-out that’s been framed and hung on a rusty nail. It’s small and doesn’t draw attention to itself so people only notice it when he points it out.
As they fumble for their glasses and lean forward to read the headline, Jack studies their faces, waiting.
The headline simply reads,
Lovers Ruby Garland and James Valentine die in Mob brawl.