Lawrence University Creative Writing Club Spring Serial Story: Part 6
The lipstick won’t come off.
It’s everywhere– his neck, my neck, lips slid under a straight-as-sin starched collar, gummy purple betrayal reflected in his eyes before the EMT shuts them. I always thought purple was too bold a shade for Henry. Maybe that was the point. Hide in plain sight, blame it on one of Celia’s party games or too much wine. God, he was the sweetest wine in my cellar. But now the cup has run over and his lipstick stains my conscience until my hands are bloody with the goddamn stuff.
I’m gone by the time they load Henry Elliot onto the stretcher. My right leg stutters as Celia helps me into the Rolls-Royce backseat. Her thumb digs into my wrist, right above the cuff links she bought me last Christmas. Her first paycheck. Not a speck of Bellarose or Martin money in ‘em. She bragged all Christmas morning about how I should be a proud father. I said I already was.
I fold into the sun-eaten leather, and Celia flutters to the passenger seat. G. Martin is driving. He catches me staring in the rearview with those round, sullen eyes of his. Celia calls them “moody”, but I’ve yet to sense any emotion in ‘em. He looks at you and there’s nothing but event horizon, emptier than a black hole.
The Rolls-Royce drops me off at the cemetary. G. Martin drove fast and flawless, but I swear his gaze never left the rearview mirror.
I’m not sure how many days I spend in the graveyard. Whenever I think I’ve hit the edge, the mist shrouds me in vertigo. It turns the fireflies into luminescent eyes, wobbling in the din, watching me. Following me. My right foot throbs for the first time in a month. I think back to the ambulance— the same one carrying Henry to rest, the one that came for me.
“Anton Bellarose.” The cow-eyed man was giving that poor EMT the death glare, but his rasping voice echoed in my head. I could never get used to it. He scratched at my brain like scraped knees on a gravel driveway.
The cow-eyed man finished wiping my lips. His thumb, cloaked in a purple-stained handkerchief, drove into my cheek. Fraction of a second. Just enough to hurt.
“I told you not to get attached.”
I wanted to kick him, but my foot was annoyingly indisposed. He knew how much I hated talking politics with other people around. Besides, using telepathy in public was shoddy manners. But if this was how he wanted to play, I would bend to his rules.
I put as much venom into my “words” as thoughts would allow. “You told me Henry was crucial to the plan. You never specified that you— that he—”
“Come now, Anton. A man from out of town, no relatives, nobody to miss him? You should have put the pieces together.” His laugh grated at my soul. “Besides, we’re businessmen. We know when to make sacrifices.”
“Not this kind of sacrifice.”
The cow-eyed man leaned close to the stretcher. My eyelids squeezed tighter, and the EMT backed away in a tiny rush of air. My bodyguard’s breath stank of manure.
“Do you remember when we met, Mr. Bellarose? I promised that I would protect Celia. Cherish her, even. In return, you promised to listen to me. And mark my words, you will listen.” His thin, cold fingers clamped around my broken foot. “Either you finish Henry Elliot, or I will. So. Who will it be?”
Someone leans over Henry’s gravestone. Short and soft, like my Celia. She’s writing. Silently I beg her to turn around, to hold my hand tighter than she holds that pen and lead me out of the mist. Celia. My Celia. I should have come clean about the plan, should have protected her myself when I had the chance. Goddamnit, I should have listened to Henry.
The dawn pokes through the mist at uneven angles, diffracted by a tall form behind the grave. The beams halo his body like fireflies. Like eyes. They leer at Celia, and G. Martin’s empty cow eyes leer at me.
Get away from my daughter, I want to yell. Or perhaps, I never should have trusted you. Something strong. Something a father would say for his brave, brave girl whose grip never falters when she helps him into the car.
Instead I yell, “STOP! STOP! POLICE!”
Celia runs. I bumble into the mist after her, not knowing where. Does it matter? We are away from the cow-eyed man. I will go anywhere with her as long as it’s away.
The path grows steep, and my bad foot catches on the incline. My dress shoes send black loam spurting into the air. Up becomes sideways and then there are no sides, I’m falling, circling, circling, a black hole, a mirror with no edge and no reflection.
My right leg spikes in pain. Something pounds my torso, my arms. Bovine bodies slam me to the ground. I scream for Celia, but the noise disappears under a sea of mooing. Hooves crush my esophagus. My voice box collapses, my last cry echoing in circles on the edge of nowhere.
They stamp me into oblivion under a lipstick-purple sky.