The Love of My Life

Posted on: January 21, 2010
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The Love of My Life
By FR Jameson

 

 

In life she only came to me once, in death she visits every single night.

 

She touches me, holds me, kisses me – and I dread every second of it. My nights are spent a victim of her cold caresses and maudlin moans. By day I shudder in anticipation of the darkness to come, tremble at the thought of her touch, at the iciness of her beloved presence. Yet I always go to bed, tucking myself in at half past ten and lying there to wait – my eyes open, my nails dug fearful into my palms, my heart pounding in terror. I never miss a chance to rendezvous with her, even though it’s horrific at every moment.

 

Her name was Annabel and I loved her. I don’t want to say it was love at first sight, as how corny and mindlessly romantic is that? How can you love anyone from the first moment you glimpse them? You can find them attractive, be drawn to them – but absolute love? I don’t think so. You don’t know this person, have no idea what depths lie beneath that attractive façade. I would no more fall in love with a woman at first sight than I would fall in love with a slice of apple pie. I’d see it looks good, I’d want it – but I’d have no real idea how sweet or sour those apples were. However, the first time I saw Annabel I felt a gasp at the centre of my stomach.

 

This is true. On first laying eyes on her, there was an exhaling of breath where before I was unaware of any breath whatsoever. I had a sudden unsteadiness, a lurch which took me from left to right, and which – although imperceptible to those around me – was like the epicentre of an earthquake. It was a physical tremor inside me, a long gasp that seemed to go so far as to drain my toes of oxygen. I was swiftly aware there was now a hole which only she could fill.

 

Of course she was beautiful. You’d expect nothing less of me than a proclamation of her beauty, and I won’t let you down. She had soft blue eyes with the constant light of laughter. Her hair was honey coloured and trailed immaculate over her shoulders. It smelt forever fresh. There was scarcely a blemish in her smooth white skin, which was delightfully easy to blush. She blushed at everything, she couldn’t laugh at the most innocuous subject without a blush breaking prettily onto her cheeks. It’s even true that she’d blush and then blush because she had blushed. Her hand held in front of her full lips, becoming more and more embarrassed because she was more and more embarrassed.

 

I loved her face, I loved all of her. She had a long thin body with a pert arse like a peach and well rounded breasts, but – even if she hadn’t had her curves – there was something about her that was always so desirable. Even when she sat casual in an old shapeless t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts, she looked carelessly – but intensely – sexy. She was a miracle to me, and even though it wasn’t love at first sight, my soul did perform somersaults of celebration.

 

After that first meeting I stared at her from the corner of my eye, too scared to approach her. She was too much, too perfect. How could I ever relate to such a woman? But I could see she wasn’t aloof, wasn’t unwelcoming. I saw her smile, giggle, blush – and I knew that if I approached I’d receive nothing but pleasantness. But that first day I was too nervous, that second day I was too nervous. It was only on the third day – when I planned for us to accidentally meet in the kitchen – that real words were finally exchanged. It was incredible. She was smart, witty, listened to what I had to say. For that five minutes we were together she made me feel important. And when she said “ta-ra” and sauntered back to her desk, it was with such a sweet smile and such warm tones, that I had to casually rest my hand on a counter to keep myself from swooning.

 

We met at work, with me as the new boy. It was a publishing house, one of those small ventures which produce dull industry periodicals for equally dull professionals. We were writers – none of us with any qualifications or previous interest in the subject, but now picking up a pay-cheque for turning these dry facts and figures into scintillating prose. She’d been there three months, coming from much the same background as I. An English degree at a red-brick university, then a period of drifting as we tried to make use of our education, before spotting that job advert and a chance – in a vague way – of employing our talents usefully. To be honest the work offered little entertainment: the writing was dull, the subject duller, and it was the only the liveliness of the people and the thought of the money that offered any incentive of a morning. That wasn’t strictly true – there was the liveliness of the people, the thought of the money and then there was Annabel.

 

At the end of the first week I was intoxicated by her, after a month I was thinking and dreaming of little else – scaring myself with the depth of my obsession. At six months I’d determined I was absolutely in love with her. I should have made a pass, asked her out, lunged one night when we were both deliciously in our cups – but I didn’t. There was one large problem. In that three months Annabel had been in the company before I, she’d found herself a boyfriend. He was deputy editor of our set of magazines and his name was Carlos.

 

As much as I loved Annabel, I despised Carlos. It was he who actually introduced us, as the orientation and training of new people was part of his role. He came down to reception, greeted me in his over-friendly, heavy-handed way and then took me upstairs. I was shown to my desk and then paraded around, him presenting me with the patronizing air of a man who believes that just because he’s risen to a made-up level at a terrible publishing company, he was better than anyone else.

 

Our trip through the office was full of his in-jokes with other members of staff, which he only said so I’d look baffled at the reference and then he could explain while emphasising how goddamn funny he was to have come up with such a thing. After he introduced me to Annabel, he turned away and in a quiet voice – so she couldn’t hear – said: “And that – that – you’ll be pleased to know, my friend, is my girlfriend!” The look on his face was so revoltingly smug that if I’d have been a lesser man I’d probably have launched a spew of bile and vomit over him. I hated him. From that moment I despised him and the fact he was allowed to place his paws on her just made me shudder at the absolute wrongness of the universe.

 

He was a man who walked with a swagger, but there was no discernable reason for this swagger. There was no way he looked better than anyone else, performed better than anyone else, was smarter than anyone else. Clearly he’d decided he had something and that the rest of the world should acknowledge it, even though this something was so obscure Sherlock Holmes would have had trouble tracking it down.

 

To give you a description, he was average looking, balding, going to fat. A one-time athlete (a champion of sorts at school, he claimed) he had broad shoulders and a stomach which was racing out to join them. Despite his anecdotes of prowess he clearly wasn’t that fit. He panted after any reasonable walk, hailed the lift between two floors rather than risk his expanding girth on the stairs.

 

In the first week Annabel and I discovered we’d been born two weeks apart, a number of years after Carlos. As such we became ‘The Kids’, the butt of his jokes as he teased us about how much we didn’t know, or hadn’t experienced. Annabel bore it with good grace, as she did every instance of his boorishness. I took to suffering in close-mouthed, teeth-grinding-into-the-inside-of-my-cheeks silence. I was well read, cultured, had traveled the world and would frankly have put my knowledge against his at any point. But because my birth certificate was fresher than his, he determined to treat me as a know-nothing child to be educated by his erudite and learned ways.

 

The man knew nothing. I was astounded by how stupid he was. I’d give him prose to edit and then stare with amazement at how many grammatical errors came back, instances he’d inserted because his knowledge of grammar was so shaky it was trembling on the edge. I was shocked by how much he didn’t know, or didn’t understand, how much he’d blithely assumed in the face of no evidence. But the real sickener was how adoringly Annabel stared at him. She looked at him with as much awe and amazement as he looked at himself, as if she’d brought into every advert he’d given her. I hated him and found it difficult to talk to him or even be in the same room as him – but I made him my friend.

 

I wanted to be with her, spend time with her, get to know her, for her to get to know me – and since it would have seemed odd for the new boy to monopolise somebody else’s girlfriend, I had to make him my friend too. This wasn’t hard to do. It was a highly social work-place, all of us disappearing down the pub together two or three times a week. So it was easy to get talking to both of them. With him I chatted away about old cars, he was a big motor-head and I was the son of a mechanic. I didn’t have the devoted interest he did, but I knew more. Like all his knowledge it was superficial and full of holes – mine was richer, more rounded, more detailed. While with Annabel, well, we just chatted about everything.

 

We bonded, connected from our souls. We’d had similar upbringings, similar experiences – read the same books, seen the same films, been to the some of the same gigs. I made her laugh, always delighting in making her laugh, adored that shine in her eyes. She made me guffaw, a loud happiness that came from deep inside and filled me with adoration.

 

Even though I know it’s coming, despite the fact I’ve experienced it so many times now, the first feeling of Annabel’s cold fingers upon me brings a silent scream to my throat. Last night she wrapped her hand around my ankle. It was no soft, seductive, sexy touch – it was icy and hard. I could feel her palm and each one of her fingers, not the smooth skin I’d known in life but cracked, raw and rotten hands. It’s like she reaches from beyond and breaks my flesh. It seemed last night as if her hand curled – in a loving caress – around my bones. The thumb inching its way up my calf, her little finger stroking against my heel, the rest of her hand curving with great affection around the joint itself – as if with one squeeze from that claw she could crush the bones like cardboard gravestones. I can actually feel her under my skin, putrescent digits stroking me. There’s such a coldness to it but I can’t kick her away. Each time I’m too paralysed to kick her away.

 

Every night is the same. I lie there without making a sound, I even straighten myself out so she can be quicker. With my eyes closed – but with tears squeezing from beneath the lids – I concentrate on not whimpering when she makes the first of her lifeless moans.

 

As absurd as it might appear, I was in love with her. How could I do that, you’ll ask, how could I fall in love with a girl that way? It’s true I’d never been romantically involved with her, we’d never dated, never slept together – but I knew she was perfect for me and I was so perfect for her. No matter who was there of an evening, we’d always gravitate to each other. Despite chatting across email all day, we’d fall into further talk as if we hadn’t seen each other for decades.

 

She told me of her first kiss, her first sexual encounter, the eating disorder that haunted her teenage years. I told her some of my secrets – but I didn’t tell her how I felt. This wasn’t cowardice, this was good sense. I thought I could tell her without words, that my attention and attitudes were enough for her to figure it out without me needed to pledge my troth and embarrass us both. There were opportunities, I suppose. Cultural trips to museums, the theatre, arty cinema where it was just the two of us. They were the kind of excursions Carlos always turned down, he wasn’t interested in “that poncy crap.” He’d actually wish us a good time, send her away with a man whom she had so much in common and who dreamt always of her naked. But he was completely safe to do so, as of course I never made the slightest move.

 

The reason why? She was still totally besotted with him. What was the point of making a pass when it was so obviously going to get slapped away? She liked me, I was her confidant, she said she found me attractive – but I was always second to him. I thought I was putting myself in prime position, that the moment cracks started appearing in the shaky façade of their relationship I’d be able to swoop in and rescue her. However, I just got to watch her fall more and more in love with him.

 

No matter how moronically he behaved, or how stupid and ill-thought out his opinions, she just seemed to add it to her list of reasons why she adored him. He was beautiful: every hair in his receding hairline, every extra pound in his expanding girth, every idiotic mistake was just another reason why he was the man for her. I was the man for her of course, but she wouldn’t recognise that – even if I’d used the words – while she was so enamoured of him. He wasn’t worthy of her and one day she would notice that, and I just had to cling on and wait for when she did.

 

It took a lot to wait. There was many an uncomfortable hour spent listening to her speak of him, watching them kiss, having to go for drinks with him too. I still did that, even after I’d stopped working at the same company. I let him speak to me about work, cars, girls – all in the hope he might slip up and reveal some kind of affair his side. It never happened. God knows he wasn’t smart, but he was clearly just smart enough to realize that he was never going to get a better girl than her.

 

When they announced they were getting married I did manage a smile. They told me together, holding hands at a pub table. And I leant across and kissed her congratulations and shook his hand, then had them both beam at me and then beam at each other. Fantastic! They were getting married soon (he was probably trying to put his brand on her before she came to her senses) and even better than that – they wanted me to be an usher. I’d become such a good friend to them both over the last eighteen months that they couldn’t conceive of doing it without me. I smiled and thanked them and told them of course I’d do it. And that’s how I got to see her in a white dress, that’s how I got to sit at the top table of a reception and hear myself thanked effusively by both the bride’s father and the best man. I was one of the greatest friends they’d ever had, one of the greatest friends he’d ever had – and I tried not to grimace as I took the applause. I toasted them on their way and then, ignoring the bridesmaids, went home to weep.

 

I should have told her by now or given up, right? My chance had gone and any attentions I paid from this point would have been fundamentally incorrect, is that so? No. As far as I could see – and I was closer to it than you – that ring meant nothing. Their relationship wasn’t going to last forever, it wasn’t till death do us part and all that other church service nonsense. I knew these people and there was no way they were a guaranteed proposition for life, no matter what foolish decision she’d taken now.

 

Even in the run up to the wedding I could see it – the number of silly rows that broke out, the succession of festering resentments. It’s a stressful process getting married, and their relationship was not sturdy enough to resist that stress. They still said they loved each other and having hooked themselves in and told their families and invited their old friends, there was no way they could get out. They were both set towards it, the big day in the country house where they would pledge themselves to one another. But then I knew it would only be a temporarily pledge.

 

On the morning of the wedding I told myself I wouldn’t cry, that they’d be back, that she’d be back – and I just had to continue playing my sweet little waiting game. Of course, you can tell yourself to be strong, but the moment you see the woman of your dreams – radiant in white – holding her new husband’s hand, you have to feel a shiver of remorse.

 

She kisses me.

 

Her dead cold lips and rotting teeth adore me at night. She opens her mouth and it feels like she’s actually eating her way through my flesh. It seems that her mouth can slip through my skin, that her black incisors can gorge without spilling blood. After her fingers have grabbed me, she chooses some part of my body – last night it was the back of my thigh – and sinks her jaw in. There’s a squelching sound it makes and a moan she makes, somewhere between pleasure and agony. A noise that combines the excitement of intimacy with the terror of death. She works her way up me. Her jagged tongue licks its way and her hands claw themselves along my bones behind it. It’s as if her grave is right at the end of my bed – she’s burst from her coffin, her hands have pierced the topsoil and found only my body to pull herself out. She works her way up me, and I listen to her dead mouth against my skin, the scraping of her foul hands against my bones, the rattling of her corpse as it hoists itself out of the underworld once more.

 

It worked! My darling little waiting game worked.

 

She told me her woes one night. It was a couple of months after the honeymoon, I went over expecting supper with them both and found her alone. He’d decided to blow it out and go to the pub with his new workmates instead. She was shaky, pale, had been crying. I put my arm around her and she let me, leant herself in for some true appreciation and support.

 

“I don’t understand it,” she told me. “He doesn’t seem to be the person I thought he was. I mean I still love him – I do, I really do – but I don’t know, maybe somewhere along the line I made a mistake. I’m not saying I regret it, it’s just that maybe we went at it a little too fast. It’s strange when you get engaged, despite your best efforts it just gains its own momentum. You want to do things slowly, get things right, but – I don’t know what it is – maybe time just goes too fast for you to really have control.” Her arms were wrapped around me, mine clutched her waist tight. “We tried to do it slowly, to take our time – but it just seemed to whiz by. I wish we’d done it slower, I wish we’d relaxed, then maybe there wouldn’t be all the surprises the other end. I’m not saying I don’t love him, I’m not saying that at all. I still love him an incredible amount. When we’re together I just love the way he makes me feel. But I do think, even after two years of going out, that there’s a lot of him I don’t know, and I just wish I could have been better prepared for those surprises.” Her head leant further into my shoulder. “Do you understand what I’m saying? It takes a long time to really know someone, even if you do love them, and I just sometimes wish we’d got a little further down the ‘knowing each other’ road first – that’s all. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but…”

 

All this was said as we sat together on their voluminous couch. We each had a large glass of white wine, and after three swift top-ups, the emotions started to pour out. It had begun as a friendly hug, then my hands slipped lower and she let them. Somehow we ended up lying back on the couch, her virtually in my lap. I made up some lines about how she had to give it more time, how I was sure it’d all work out for her. However – on the subject of her marriage – my voice sounded passionless even to me. There was a sense right the way through the words that I didn’t mean them, that I’d never meant them, that they were just boring sounds in the air. Then there was our physicality – no mere friends sat like that, the position of our bodies belied the words. I was telling her – in a monotone – how great, wonderful, loveable her catch of a husband was, while the same time stroking my finger along her stomach and directing my tones at her slender white neck.

 

When we heard his key in the lock, we jumped with far more guilt than ever came from the platonic. She shot from my arms and spilt a couple of drops of wine on the carpet, but was more concerned with smoothing out the creases from her skirt – as if he’d be able to read anything from that. He smiled at both of us, a dumb inebriated grin. Staggering over he kissed her and gave her a proprietorial pat on the backside, then gave me an awkward hug round the shoulders. (He’d lately got into the habit of getting drunk and telling me I was one of his best mates, but then I suppose a character like his was never going to attract many friends.)

 

He had a glass of wine with us and as he pontificated in his braying voice I met Annabel’s glance below the words. We shared a secret look. A pleading from her that I wouldn’t say anything about this, that I wouldn’t interfere. I responded with a nod that said of course, but whenever she needed me I’d be there for her. And in that moment we were closer than we’d ever been. All those nights we’d sat and shared intimacies, those daytime trips where we’d laughed in each other’s company – none of that was anything compared to now. Before Carlos had always been a barrier between us – paper thin at times – but stopping us inching towards any further act of consummation. Now, he was being moved out. He wasn’t gone yet, but our fingertips were reaching and would soon touch.

 

Now, it’s as if I can’t breathe when she touches me. I know I do breathe, that I remain alive and awake through the whole thing, and that I greet the morning shaky and grey with foul tasting oxygen in my lungs. But as she moves up me, I lie straight and still and don’t make a sound and feel like I’m dead myself. When she reaches my groin she laughs, actually screams hilarity in a twisted cackle. It’s a sound unlike any I’ve ever heard – a triumphant cry ripped from a dead larynx, a laugh with all joy and happiness removed. I am not erect, of course I’m not – but she rasps with some kind of dark delight each time those dripping gums seize onto me.

 

I’m overcome by an horrendous chill. A cold which is not draft or breeze, but seems to clasp around and envelop us both. There is ice on her fingers, frost in her dead kiss. But I can feel another chill, one which seems to lie upon my skin like lacquer, that seems part of the epidermis, that is tightening around me – so all that I know and all I’m ever likely to know again is that cold. She grunts and giggles as she kisses, then buries her head into my stomach and her teeth start sucking at my organs. I think she is only kissing, that her tongue is merely in my navel, but I imagine her lapping away at my paralysed intestines.

 

After Carlos had departed she came to my place. The wine was cracked out again. She said she didn’t want a drink, didn’t think it was a good idea to give herself over to alcohol. I insisted, told her it would relax her, that it would taste good, it was just what the doctor ordered. She took the glass as if receiving a weight, her wrist buckling slightly at the pressure of it. But she held it and gave it a long stare, then drank it back far too quickly, as I knew she would.

 

We’d hugged when she arrived, but after that we went through this awkward pantomime of not touching. I made it clear I wanted to hold her, to make her feel better – but she wanted to just sit by herself and let me hear her problems. It took three and a half large glasses, and then I insisted, telling her it was breaking my heart to see her shake like that. She sat stiff in my arms for a moment, before curling into me. Her head rested on my shoulder and she wept.

 

Her words stuttered out. She told me her life was over, that she couldn’t see any way she could go on. I tried to build her up, telling her how special she was. I laid it out that she was wonderful, incredible, one of the greatest women I’d ever met. (I didn’t quite tell her she was the greatest woman I’d ever met – we were working our way up the compliments.) She thanked me and shivered in my arms. Quickly I reached for her lips and kissed her. There was surprise, she backed away and murmured that she couldn’t – but I persevered. I kept close, working my lips against her throat. She whispered dissent but finally leant into me and we held the kiss long and passionate.

 

There was more kissing and there were large slurps of drink between the kissing. At last I carried her to my bedroom. (The room which she now visits nightly.) She lay in my arms and allowed herself to be taken. Dreams came true as I placed her on the bed and slowly undressed her. She sighed and murmured with her eyes glazed over from wine. We made love quickly in the dark, her hands on my back, her eyes on me, a silent passion shared between us. And then I held her all night, and sometimes she was warm and sometimes she turned away and wept. But I told her it was all going to be fine now, that we had each other and everything would work out.

 

When she reaches my heart, she’s fascinated by it. She’s suddenly quiet and rests her teeth against my chest. I try to writhe my head away, as her dead, straw-like hair will brush my chin. Vomit rises up if I ever feel her hair. There is puke flooding my chest, and since I know I can’t actually raise myself to be sick, I have to twist my neck so I don’t touch it.

 

She loves my heart, but it seems to be the only part of me she can’t reach. Whereas she breaks the flesh effortlessly on the rest of my body, she can’t seem to get past the rib-cage. Her teeth rest on the skin at the dead centre of my chest and nibble as if burrowing down. I never see any bruises or bite marks the following morning, but it always feels like she’s eaten me there. As if her teeth and rotten tongue are chewing and churning away, like she intends to lick the meat from my ribs and get to the beating. Her arms close around me, keeping me still. Raising herself up, her clammy thighs pin my legs together, and hold me prisoner as she works towards my soul. I could cry out, wail, but all powers of sound are beyond me. My throat is dry, my larynx useless. All I can do is twist my neck away so I don’t touch her hair, and then listen to the dreadful sounds of her gorging on me.

 

I’d gotten impatient.

 

After waiting so long for her, after having been through so much, I just needed to hurry things along. The arguments were bad between them now – I received a lot of upset phone calls from her, I was taken out for a number of long evening’s drinks by him. I don’t know if their communications had reached a point that they were unaware they were using the same confidant, or if this was some strange way of getting me to mediate – but I know I got very good at subtly stirring those troubled waters. I did nothing overt, nothing which would come back and slap me in the face later, all I did was utter a few casual words to play on their fears.

 

She was particularly distraught. It’s upsetting when any marriage breaks up, but there were numerous opportunities for someone as nasty as Carlos to make things even worse. But as much as I hated to see her upset, I was happy as she cried to me down the phone, wept in my arms. I needed to help her though. These matters have a tendency to drag out, neither party sees that the best option is to just give it up as a bad deal. After all, what was to be gained by the constant yelling and fighting? But they just stayed together. They locked themselves in to the arguments, trapped themselves in a cycle where the unpleasantness just went round and round.

 

I’m afraid I interfered. In the absence of any quick resolution, I stepped in to sort out the mess and make things easier for her. You may wonder why I felt this sudden urge for pro-activity then. Why not at some earlier point – before the wedding – when I could have saved a lot of pain for the three of us? Why not? Well, before she was happy, and I couldn’t bear to do anything that would make her less happy. I loved her and could see she was marrying the wrong man – but to step in with my love then would have cast me as the villain of the piece. She’d never have listened to me in a considered manner, it wouldn’t matter that I was a trusted friend, I’d still have been the cuckoo in the nest there to ruin everything. Now, even if she didn’t know it, I was going to be her knight in shining armor.

 

It was amazingly easy to do. He’d recently brought himself an old battered Morgan, which he was renovating in those spare moments between work and arguing with his wife. I knew it well, knew the garage it was in well – he’d call me over to look at it, so he could show off, but also (and more importantly) so he could utilise my knowledge of mechanics. The garage wasn’t securely locked, and even if I’d been caught I could have just said I was taking another appreciative look at the car and everything would have been fine. I wasn’t caught though.

 

I arrived ten minutes early and snuck into the garage, once there I gave a few careful tweaks to the brakes. Then I skipped my way in to see her. I looked into her eyes – we were still chaste at this point remember – and told her it would soon be fine between her and her husband.

 

Do I feel bad about what I did? I’ve thought hard about this and have to say, in the light of subsequent events, yes I do – but for the deed itself, no I don’t. I’ve thought what it would be like to accidentally kill a stranger; how distraught I’d be, how lost in thoughts of that person’s loved ones, of the life they’d lived and how it had now vanished. If I killed someone I didn’t know, I would feel pain inside for eternity. If I killed a friend, a loved one, even an acquaintance – I’d probably hand myself over and be delighted with the full punishment. Yet I could kill Carlos without even suffering an extra crease in the forehead.

 

He was an horrendous human being whose death could only benefit the whole of mankind. I’d met his parents, blowsy and boastful and not worth the atoms they were using. His brother was a larger and even more obnoxious version of Carlos. Even his old friends – the ones before me – were witless, brainless turds. These were the kind of people who’d actually be proud to have an idiot like Carlos as a friend. The only person I cared about who was going to be bothered in anyway was Annabel, and I knew I’d be there to comfort her.

 

At noon on a bright Spring day, Carlos finished his morning’s argument with his wife and set out to let off steam in his favourite possession. He headed to the lanes not far from their house, winding and green with only a casual nod towards notions of speed limits. Eight hours later I received a call from his widow, they’d found his body wrapped around an oak tree. I went over straight away. A few nights later she let me seduce her, but then went away herself.

 

She straddles me. At the end she writhes about on top, making terrible grunting sounds which could either be whoops of pleasure or cries of pain. I try to keep my eyes closed, try not to look at her, but it seems that the image gets through my eyelids. Even though I squeeze them tight, I know I see something of her. Maybe it’s imagination, pictures drawn in my mind to accompany the terrible sounds. She gasps and screams and cackles and scrapes against me. And when I see her, I see the girl I used to know rotting away. Her body is pale, there are bruises and protruding veins, there is skin flaking to the sheets. Her hair – once soft and beautiful – is now brambled and falling from her skull. Even her face – that wonderful, immaculate face – is now hard and leathered, it’s pinched so tight her eyes and nose and mouth all seem to merge together. It’s horrific when she smiles – her decayed, elongated tongue sliding out from behind blackened teeth. It’s more than just dead, it’s as if she never had any relation to mankind, like she was always this disgusting specimen.

 

She brings herself to climax each night. There is one final terrible cry – as if a hand has grabbed into her soul – and then she is gone. She doesn’t kiss me again, doesn’t lie down next to me and hold me. Mercifully she vanishes.

 

My temperature rises slowly, I feel my skin returning to life. I dry swallow, then reach out and feel around my bed to try and ascertain if there’s anything there that shouldn’t be. When I’m satisfied I open my eyes and look around, there is never any remnant of her amorous corpse. I jump out of bed and look at my sheets, they are always dripping with sweat. Sometimes I wet myself in fear. I have a regular morning routine of dragging all the bedding down to the washing machine and putting a fresh set on for that night. When it began – with the idea that she wouldn’t be able to find me – I’d check into hotel rooms, and each time have to creep out before anyone noticed my terrified sheets. Now I just use my own bed, now I just stay by myself and never see anybody or do anything. I just wait – and dread – the nocturnal visits from the lover of my life.

 

Annabel’s funeral was a much busier affair than Carlos’s. She was always more popular, but the tragedy of them dying so close together really pulled at the collective heart and ensured it was the place to be. Here we had two young lovers, devoted to each other, so that when one dies in an accident the other can only survive a few more weeks on Earth before taking her life and joining him. It was tragic, so horribly tragic.

 

We made love that night, slept together, kissed in the morning, said goodbye tenderly – and I never saw her alive again.

 

When I rang it was her sister who answered. She told me that Annabel liked me a lot, but I’d confused her feelings and it was best if she had some space. I wrote her a letter. After awhile I wrote her several long letters in which I explained my mixture of friendship and attraction in a way that wasn’t strictly true, but which I knew would be acceptable for the intended audience. I never heard back. In desperation I rang and left messages, I was never called back. Terribly I even spent two nights crouching across the road from her house, but never saw anything. Then I spoke to her sister again, and she told me the news. I lost my voice and retired shaky to bed, tossing in fever for three days. When I awoke it was still true.

 

She’d loved him apparently, I only had the suicide note second-hand but that was her reason. She loved him more than she imagined, couldn’t take that they’d parted on a argument, couldn’t see any way forward in her life without him and so had ended it. Even now I can’t believe that was the case – that she really loved him, that she cared for him that much. By the end she’d surely recognised what I always knew, that he wasn’t worth one millionth of her. And she must have known that there was a good man who really did love her, but she chose to ignore that, to follow a path to self destruction.

 

If she’d just talked to me I could have stopped it, if she’d called me back I’d have taken care of her, if she’d read just one of my letters properly she’d have seen there was no reason to destroy herself.

 

It was sleeping pills, she apparently didn’t suffer – she left that for me.

 

The funeral was awful, hundreds of people thinking they were in a modern day tragic love story. A contemporary Romeo and Juliet, two souls who belonged together and couldn’t bear to be apart. But that was nonsense, utter nonsense.

 

I was her soul mate, not him.

 

He was a mistake, a nothing, someone she would have looked back and laughed about at a later date. If only she’d recognized that, if only she’d realized what was so obvious to me.

 

I tried to stop her suffering, attempted to make sure he went away without drawing out the pain for years. How could I have imagined that the cold shock of his death would be too much for her? That she’d be seized by a temporary insanity?

 

People offered their condolences. They thanked me for being such a good friend to them, for trying my best to look after them, commiserated over our loss of them. I didn’t know what I was going to do after the funeral, where I was going to go. I didn’t know if I could ever sleep again. As it turned out I did sleep that night, until she came and woke me.

 

She has never told me what she wants, never uttered a word. All I get is that horrendous version of love making.

 

I speculate, that’s how I occupy my daylight hours. (I no longer have a job and scrape by on my meagre savings). I think she wants me to kill myself, but I’m not sure I can really do that.

 

What would I find the other side? It wouldn’t be her surely, I wouldn’t be that lucky in death. After all the only thing that haunts her soul is suicide, mine also has a small murder. So I just get thinner and thinner, and colder and colder and ever more alone. I loved her, and once upon a time wanted her with me every single night.

 

Now I have that.

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One Response to “The Love of My Life”

  1. George Says:

    Great story
    Thanks
    George

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