Something isn’t right about this. I was minding my own business, if you can call it that. Business has been slow lately. It’s like nobody has affairs anymore or murders their spouse, loses their dog or gets bribed and needs a discreet way of getting rid of the kidnapper.
It’s been two weeks since my last assignment, and that wasn’t much. A lonely wife asked me to follow her husband because he was apparently cheating on her. Turned out, he was working late. Really working. The assistant he was supposed to be banging was a married man that left the office on time. By the look of things, she was the dangerous one. She offered me a payment of sorts, but I told her I needed money. She paid, while accidentally revealing too much through her silky bathrobe.
So, I was sitting here in my office smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky. As you do. It was late and I should have been in bed but there is no set bedtime when nobody tells you to get up in the morning. The greatest problem I was facing was the bottom of the bottle. I had about a glass left, then it was empty. I knew I needed money, if only to buy more whisky.
The phone rang, and I picked it up a little too eagerly. A female voice on the other end asked if I was Frank Tuna, which I admitted to. They always ask who’s asking in the movies, but I figured it was another lady looking for her dog.
She asked to meet me at the docks. I have an office, I replied, but she said we needed to be discreet. I asked what she needed and she said time. She needed time. Pretty vague.
I wasn’t doing anything, so we agreed to meet fifteen minutes later outside a house by the docks. I put on my coat, grabbed my hat and embraced the foggy night.
It was chilly and she made me wait. I stood there, prepared to admit I’d been made a fool of. I’ll give her five minutes, I thought to myself as I lit a cigarette. The smoke seemed to make the fog even thicker. As I took the last drag and threw the but in the gutter, headlights lit up the mist. A car slowed down and stopped. I couldn’t see who was behind the wheel and I decided not to approach. Something felt off. The person could get out if they wanted.
The car just stood there, engine running. After a moment had passed, the driver’s window came down, far enough to point a gun at me if that’s what they were planning, not far enough for me to reach into the car if needed. It started moving, ever so slowly. I decided this was bad news and walked off. The car followed. I took a turn into a side street but they kept following. I didn’t like this at all. If they wanted to talk to me, they would have got out instead of intimidating me like this. I started running, but the car matched my pace.
As I came to an alley, I ran down to the docks below. The car made a roaring noise as the driver stepped on the accelerator. I ran onto a pier, but there was no way out of there except swimming, and as I’m not a strong swimmer and don’t love freezing water, I turned. I needed to get away from here. I suppose I could have hidden in a boat or something, but that would have made me stuck at a dead end if this person really wanted to find me. I decided to run for it. The fog would protect me.
As I came back onto the dock, the car approached. They’d found a way to drive down here. I stood there, like a deer in the headlights. My heart was beating, but I didn’t run. I tried to make out the driver, but the fog and headlights blinded me.
I decided not to run. If this was going to be the end, so be it. I felt the cold gun in my pocket and found the trigger. Held it in my hand, just in case. I would not go down without a fight.
The car door opened and someone got out. I was blinded, so couldn’t see who or what it was. I looked down at the cobblestones and saw slim ankles and high heels. It was a woman. As she approached, I saw her slender figure in a white dress. She was overdressed for the occasion and underdressed for the freezing night. As she cleared the headlights, I recognised her. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
‘Lauren?’ I said astonished and let go of the gun in my pocket. She just stood there, looking at me. ‘Lauren, is that you?’ I asked. I took a few steps forward to see her better. It was impossible, this couldn’t be her. ‘How long has it been? Twenty years? You haven’t changed at all.’ She said nothing, just stood there, no emotions on her face. She casually lit a cigarette and blew smoke into the air, looking up to see how it merged with the fog. Then she looked at me, piercing my soul with her gaze. ‘What is this?’ I asked. ‘How can you look exactly the same after twenty years? Are you a ghost? Are you dead?’
’No honey, I’m not dead.’ She blew smoke again and smiled. That voice caused an avalanche of memories, it broke my heart to hear it again.
‘I’ve always kicked myself for leaving you like that, but I didn’t want to wake you up.’ She just stood there, as if she couldn’t hear me. ‘It was nothing personal. It was just that one night. A bit of fun after a few drinks. Happens all the time. I never thought there was anything more to it.’
‘Happens all the time?’
Oh, I felt stupid. Bad choice of words. ‘Yeah. I mean… you go home with someone and it doesn’t mean anything.’ I felt I’d found myself in a hole and couldn’t stop digging. Words weren’t going to get me out of this, so I took a few steps forward. I was standing right in front of her, saw her every feature and it reminded me of that summer, so long ago. I raised my hand and touched her face. ’Such soft skin. You haven’t aged at all.’ I ran my fingers down her face, touched her lips like I used to, let my fingers touch her flawless neck and down to her dress. I gently touched her breast. I never realised I’d missed her so much. A life that could have been, flashed before my eyes. ‘You’re wearing the same dress.’
She looked into my eyes and I saw twenty years of lost opportunities. She smiled slightly as she took another drag. I moved my face closer to hers, put my hand on her head, felt the warmth through her hair, closed my eyes, waited for our lips to touch, waited for eternity.
But she pushed me gently away. I opened my eyes and saw her looking at me as she threw the cigarette on the ground and squashed it with her foot. She then ran her hands down her dress, straightening it. ‘It was my mother’s.’
She touched my face with her soft hand and turned. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t make a sound. As she stood by the car, she turned and smiled. ‘Bye dad,’ she said and got in. The engine roared and she disappeared around the corner.
This story is the third installment in the Moments series.