Someone spilled a few drops of their drink on her shoulder. The cold beverage trickled down her back and she shuddered. Not out of cold really. It was just her way of containing the sudden urge to throw the tray she was holding at the bastard who had not even turned to excuse himself. To beat him with it to a pulp. But she didn’t. She shuddered and moved away, pasting a smile which hurt her face when someone stopped to take a drink from her tray. When no one was looking though, she assumed the face she had on since the beginning of the party. One of barely checked contempt and seething rage.
The war was over. Celebratory parties had been going on for days, ever since the first soldiers started returning back home. The parents, those who could afford it and who were lucky enough to be expecting their son back, held lavish parties in their mansions. Live bands, a lot of dancing and bottles which had been gathering dust for the past 5 years were popped open to the cheers of the guests. Parties, such as this one. The Partons were undoubtedly the richest family for miles around but the soldier in question was not their son. He was in fact the daughter’s fiancé, a war-decorated hero, as much their son as their own daughter, if not more so. Mr Parton thumped on his soon to be son-in-law’s back during the opening speech with tears in his eyes while the soldier’s own parents stood rather meekly on his other side. His fiancée, Miss Emma Parton was the quintessential babe, the type featured on posters and magazines and which soldiers lusted after when they were away. Tiny waist, wide hips, an almost bespoke bosom to fit the perfect hourglass, large blue eyes and carefully set curly hair. Her red lipstick only served to highlight the full pout, which always seemed stretched into an impossibly large smile. Her red dress flared so much when she twirled that night that you could fancy seeing what lay underneath. And there were definitely those who fancied seeing more than they should have. But all in good taste, all in good taste. This was a Parton party after all. They dictated what was distasteful and what wasn’t in these parts.
Lizzy surveyed Emma Parton with her own large, slightly protruding blue eyes. She chewed at the inside of her cheeks, more aggressively each time she heard her laugh or saw her fall in yet another man’s embrace. She stopped only when she tasted blood, the metallic tang bringing her out of a hateful reverie and she went on with her rounds. The truth was, Emma was all Lizzy always wanted to be but couldn’t. And she hated the world for it. She hated her parents who could not afford to school her. She hated them for not being better off, for not being popular, for not being better looking. And when she left home the first chance she got, to train and work as a typist for the war propaganda, she hated her colleagues who dressed better and spoke better. They may have tried to engage her in conversations but her contempt towards anything she saw as better and therefore threatening, shut her off completely. So they never tried again. How she found herself working here tonight she was not exactly sure. Since war propaganda was not exactly needed anymore, she had scrabbled to find work. She’d be damned before she went back to her parents, so she found herself scrubbing pots and pans and waiting on tables, always on the lookout for a better position which had not yet presented itself. When the manager at the little restaurant she worked at said he was taking care of food arrangements for the party, she did something she had never done before, on the spur of the moment. She spoke up and asked whether she could enlist to help. Surprised at hearing her speak for the first time, he had nodded absently. A chance to see what goes on behind Parton doors. Still tasting blood, Lizzy cursed herself for having volunteered. What had started off as awe at the mansion’s beautiful and spacious interiors soon turned to envious bitterness. Frivolous. Fake. Idiots with egos and pockets bigger than themselves. She muttered angrily to herself. She wished she could somehow ruin the night for everyone, make it seem like an accident. Of course, she didn’t. She simply brewed in her own malcontent, while everyone else simply ignored her. Part of the wallpaper. Just part of a pattern they do not see. She was sad and angry and suddenly wished she could go back to the dinghy 2 room apartment she called home. She placed the tray down. Everyone was drunk by now. The large hall was blanketed with smoke from the one too many cigarettes the guests enjoyed. Dance moves started getting erratic, hands started getting lighter as men fumbled with dresses in darker corners. Someone puked in a vase very close to Lizzy. Her lips turned down in disgust, she strode away, taking an untouched glass from the tray she was previously carrying and gulping it down to lessen the taste of blood. She had come to a darker part of the house and although she saw movement from the corner of her eye, nobody stopped her as she made her way further in and up a flight of stairs. A beautiful house. Large and intricate portraits lined the staircase. Very likely deceased Partons. The staircase opened into a hallway. The revelry still went on below but up here, the voices sounded strangely muted. Lizzy could hear her own breathing now, her soft steps on the carpeted floor. There was a faint light coming from one of the rooms. Lizzy knew she should not be there, knew she’d probably get fired the moment her manager got to know but she couldn’t care less. Her heart beat painfully and seemed to get stuck in her throat. The din below all but vanished. A strange sound was slowly replacing it. She stopped in her tracks. All she could hear was the thumping against her ribcage. Silence and then, there it was again. A strangled cry. A muffled voice. A rustle of clothes. Lizzy resumed her hurried pace. The sound was coming from the room with the light. Her eyes wide in her pale face, she strode on almost excitedly, giddily and turned to look directly into the room emanating the weak, yellowish glow.
Frank stood next to her on a little cliff just out of town. The handsome war-decorated hero seemed troubled somehow, though Lizzy could not think why. Frank was his name. Frank. It rolled off sweetly from her tongue now as she peered at him in the dark. They were overlooking the city from where they stood, as it shone in the setting night. She did not know why they were there but she did not ask. After a moment of silence, Frank started talking about that night at the party. “I had seen you, you know. Giving out drinks. You looked so shy and pretty.” Lizzy could not recall looking anything like that but she nodded. She liked him talking about her, even though he lied about it most of the time. “And then you walked in on us. Fancy that, I thought. Of all the people. You.” Lizzy peered at him from the corner of her eye. His mind seemed to be far away, just like his eyes which seemed to be seeing something else. Not the city down below with its pretty lights. Maybe he was at the party again, in that yellow room. She suddenly wished he would stop talking about that night. About what happened when she had found them.
The memory was as vivid as if it had happened just yesterday. How everything had seemed so still as she walked in. Like a pose was being struck, ready to be painted. She remembered Emma’s hair was all in disarray. Even her lipstick. Ha, funny how that was the first thing Lizzy had truly seen as she walked in. Emma’s hair and face were a mess. She could have laughed out loud. She might have. She didn’t really recall that. Blood seeped afresh from her wound in her mouth but she felt oddly calm. Like there was nothing strange or wrong with what she was witnessing. Their skin seemed to glow golden in the light. Emma, her dress ruffled, her arms hanging over the bed. Her eyes were wide and she was looking at her. Looking fixedly at her, through unblinking, dead eyes. Dead, like those Lizzy saw on fish at the fish market. Shiny. But dead. Nothing strange. Nothing wrong. Lizzy blinked. Turned to look at the only other person in the room. Of course, it was Frank. The fiancé, the spurned lover.
“She made me so jealous and I was drunk. You never make me feel jealous Lizzy.” He told her some days later, with a smile which turned Lizzy’s world upside down.
That night of the party they had stared at each other. Frank looked tidier than Emma but his face was flushed, his breathing slightly laboured. They just stared for a while.
“I remember that look on your face,” he said turning to face her now. A breeze had stirred up on the cliff. It was cold. “You know, you looked at me as if you saw nothing wrong. You almost looked as if you understood me.” He caressed her cheek. Lizzy looked up at him through love struck eyes, nodding fervently. Of course I understood you. I hated her too. With all my heart I did.
When they heard voices, revellers coming up from the party downstairs, Lizzy was in total control. She put a finger to her lips, motioning for him to put Emma in bed as if she were sleeping. Then, she started closing the door behind her, leaving a narrow gap of light. She went about it calmly, as if she had just instructed someone to fold the laundry. She faced the revellers, angrily telling them they had no right to be in this part of the house, taking her chances that they weren’t actually part of the Parton household. Luckily, (depending on how you see it), they weren’t and they retraced their steps and went back to the party. She saw Frank downstairs again later that night. He had straightened his shirt and looked completely at ease, slipping into conversations as if he had never missed a beat. Everyone was too drunk to care anyway. In that one night, Lizzy had more attention than she had ever experienced in her whole lifetime. For the first time, she felt like she actually had a presence, that someone was looking at her. At her. Not at something behind her. At her. She felt elated; darting looks his way, thinking of Emma’s body going cold upstairs, like it was any other piece of furniture in the house. Worse even. She looked horrible. Lizzy smiled to herself. If she thought the whole affair wrong in any way, evil even, she pushed that notion so far down that it suffocated underneath her newfound happiness, and was obliterated. She would allow nothing to get in her way of his attention now. Not a dead body. Not a dirty conscience. An oily, dark voice inside her even said she deserved it. Emma got what was coming to her. In Lizzy’s mind, the party could not be going any better than this. She even had the audacity of slipping a piece of crumbled paper with her address in his hands as she walked by. Their little secret emboldened her, made her brazen. She had never felt more confident in her entire life. It was just as they were clearing up and the last party-goers were slowly and dazedly making their way to their cars, that the discovery was made. Lizzy took her leave then, quietly slipping out of the kitchen door before anyone got sober enough to call the police.
Frank had visited her often afterwards, though he made sure never to be seen. “It’s too fresh you see. People will start thinking.” And Lizzy would nod, smiling. Nothing else mattered anymore. Just Frank. He sees me. Those previous couple of months had been the best in her life. She relished in his presence, even if all they ever really did was talk. He talked, she listened. Stories from the front, from the battles he fought. He was so very brave. They never really come in direct physical contact with each other on the occasions he visited. He just touched her cheek every now an then. Lizzy wished there’d be more but she told herself to be patient.
Today was special. They had actually been out of the house together, even if simply to drive to this forsaken spot. In the distance, the lights from the houses seemed to twinkle. She thought he was going to say something important. He had to. Such a serious look on his face. Something stirred at the pit of her stomach but she wasn’t sure what it was. When he let go of her face and walked further on, she followed him. Frank? What’s wrong? “You understand don’t you?” His voice sounded imploring, his profile in stark contrast against the light of the moon. He was so handsome. Emma never deserved him.
It’s funny how the last thing which flashed through her mind, was Frank’s calm face when she saw him in that yellow room, gazing at Emma’s lifeless body. His face was unmarked by shock or surprise or disbelief. He just looked, like anyone would look at a display in a shop. Maybe it was the war. It desensitised people. Maybe Emma was just another body he had never truly known. Just another victim. Just like Lizzy. Maybe the war addled with his mind a little, like so many others in those days. Or maybe Frank was just a monster. Lizzy would never know. She’d never know anything else, apart from how cold the wind gets when you’re hurtling to to the ground from so high up. So cold, it hurt.
I have been meaning to read this for ages! Wow! This is clearly novel material! I was hooked throughout.. Well done 🙂
Awwhh you’re too sweet! Thank you! xx