“I brought some beer and some red wine. I wasn’t sure what’d go with what you were making.”
“I made a chilli so – whatever you like I guess. Let’s have a beer first though eh. We can sit in the garden and watch the sun go down.” He was surprised by her mellow mood, she had been so very distressed earlier, and yet now she was calm. She smiled as she passed him a small bowl of crisps and a glass for his drink.
“There y’go you take those and I’ll bring a blanket. The grass is a bit wet.” He had never seen her so, ‘normal’, it made for a much more relaxed atmosphere, but he hoped the quirky, spiky character was still there behind the more usual façade. Of course it could be the effects of her marijuana and he had no doubt that she’d indulged in an attempt to calm her nerves. Briefly he considered whether or not she used anything else. He enjoyed being with her and even when she was picking at him and sniping he hated to think that she may fall victim to the modern scourge. He pushed the thoughts away, it was none of his business after all.
“You seem a bit better, Libby, a bit calmer.”
She shrugged and grinned at him, “Yeah, went a bit ‘off on one’ didn’t I. I was so shocked though, I never imagined I’d see her – here.”
“No, I realised that. Anyway, have you had any thoughts about what you’re going to do?”
She shook her head and fiddled with the beer bottle, picking at the label. “No, thing is, I knew this was all coming to an end. I wasn’t bothered, I’d done what I wanted.”
“What was that?”
“I’d seen the place – lived in it, sort of and, you know.” She raised her hand and pointed towards the lake and the river in the distance. “Something like that, in your past – you wonder about it. Now I don’t have to wonder anymore.”
“How do you mean?”
““I’ve seen where it happened; they went into that big pipe. They picked the bodies up in the river. My dad told me about it, trying to explain how horrible it was for her, why she was the way she was. Seeing it all I think it helps me to understand her, my mum, a bit better. It’s helped me to settle it in my mind a bit. I don’t really know how much she actually saw, she never could talk about it without going to pieces. She carries such a lot of guilt – it spilled over, I felt it. If she hadn’t been pregnant with me maybe it would all have worked out better for her.” She turned to watch the glow of red as it spread across the surface, so calm seen from where they sat and yet in fact disastrously deceptive
He would never tell her that he had seen her, beside the water, sobbing. The things he had since discovered about her made the guilt he already felt about his actions that day even sharper. “But, what will you do?”
“I’m just going to have to go aren’t I? Unless I want to get back into the mire with her, I know you probably think I’m horrible but I need to live my life. I deserve that, don’t I?”
She turned to him and met his eyes with her own level gaze. She was a strong, young woman and no-one could argue that she had a right to live as she wanted, but he didn’t want her to go. There it was, the truth.
“Have you any idea how she found you? Do you think the agency told her you were here?”
“No, that’s ridiculous, I mean for a start she didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. How could she possibly find an agency that I’d signed on with? I don’t use the same name, the name that she calls me. I learned from my dad that you only need to change things a bit to fog things up. She has always called me Elizabeth so Libby wouldn’t click with her and Carlton is my middle name. When you’re dealing with temping and casual agencies they don’t look into things too much, a couple of bills with your name on and it’s pretty much enough for them.”
“Oh I see. Trouble is now with the internet and everything you just don’t know where your details are.”
“I suppose really it doesn’t matter, the end result is that she has found me and the only thing I can do is go.”
She slid a hand into her pocket and took out the thin cigarette, “d’ya want some?”
“No, no thanks. I don’t like to do it often.”
“Right. You probably think I’m at it all the time.”
“None of my business really is it?”
She gave a short laugh, “No but I see your face. Anyway I don’t use it so much.” As she spoke she peered down at her hand and, with a grin she just pushed the joint back into her pocket. “There you go, see I’m not an addict.”
“No, I didn’t think you were – well, I didn’t think about it really that much.” As he lied he felt his face growing warm.
“You are funny Jed, You know sometimes you seem so – oh what’s the word – innocent.”
“You think I’m a wuss.”
“No, it’s nice. You’ve had an easier life than me haven’t you, it shows.”
He took a chance, “Have you used other stuff?”
“No, I haven’t. Never been tempted to be honest, not after I’ve watched my mum. Why.”
“Oh, it’s just that one time you said you could tell me about other stuff, stronger, more scary.”
“Yeah, I could. My mum, believe it or not is pretty clever. She has a degree in pharmacology, she had a job in a hospital and everything before all the drama. She used to still take an interest. She always said she was going back to work, but it was all a load of rot. She couldn’t hold down a job, not now.” She had the books though, and the magazines and she used to keep an eye on things on the internet.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Yeah, and she used stuff – some of it was with a prescription and some of it not. I learned a fair bit by keeping an eye on her medication. Anyway, come on let’s go and eat and talk about something else. You can tell me what you think they’re going to do with this place. I bet it’s going to be nice. It is pretty special isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is.” And they turned and climbed the few stairs back to her small home as the compact red car pulled tight against the long wall. A figure climbed out and reached for the old iron handle.
My mind is clear. Clearer than it has been in an age.
I know I am dehydrated and breathing is agony. I have no strength, I can barely stand to reach the bucket to pass water. I have not needed it for a long time now, and so in a way the dehydration is a blessing, though I know it will contribute to my demise. Every movement sends shards of agony through my body but my mind is clear while I am awake. When I sleep, and mostly I am in a stupor, I dream, I hallucinate that I am diving into deep pools, swimming in crystal water and then I see it so clearly. Estelle and Francis, and the horror of it all, and always the same outcome and nothing ever to be done, I can’t bear it.
So, here at the end I can think and remember and grieve, but I can do nothing because I simply don’t have the strength and anyway it’s all too late.
Why, why has she done this? For many years I have searched and searched for her, to ask her to forgive us, all of us for our narrow minded attitude and our snobbish behaviour.
All too late and nothing to do now but wait for the end.