Back to The Beginning: Every Beauty is a Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Back to Part Three: I've Bought a Watch to Time Your Beauty

Part Four of the Tragic Beauty Anthology

It was lucky for us that Miles was not the kind of person to take orders from anyone. He had a rebellious nature, so no matter what hard feelings he held for us after we left him tied up and gagged, he was going to let us go free. It wasn't as if he had the heart or mindset required to kill us anyway. He knew the old woman was a bit crackers, even as he respected her supposed genius nature and her project to stop aging at some mystical fifty year barrier.

"Go quickly and quietly, boys.
I'll drag a couple bags of wet leaves across the floor if she demands to see bodies.
Now, get the hell out of here."

As we made our way back towards the college I began to wonder once again about the course my academic career was taking. I thought about my father and what he had gone through in order to afford my tuition. He had taken a second, part time job in a restaurant. The restaurant had a circus theme, so he wore heavy clown make-up while busing tables. Once, his big red clown nose fell in a man's mashed potatoes. The man took this as an insult and shoved a refillable ink pen cartridge into my father's ear, causing him permanent 80% hearing loss in that ear. That was nothing compared to the greater damage he suffered. The waitresses and cooks told him that what people did not know would not hurt them. Food fell on the floor, they picked it up with a chuckle and put it back on a plate and served it. One of the assistant managers took pleasure in urinating in people's custard. All this drove my father into a hermit-like lifestyle and he would never again eat food he did not prepare himself. Then he got a job working in the back room of a butcher shop...

We made it back to the campus grounds in record time. There were a number of security people and local police gathered around the theater, so we went over and stood amongst the wide-eyed onlookers so we would not look suspicious. Then we moved along slowly, heading back to the dorms to make serious decisions about what to do with the next few hours, the next few days, and the rest of our lives.

Thoughts of the future took a sharp right turn as we passed the library and saw Jayne standing outside with an armload of books staring at us. We were not sure if she recognized us from that afternoon at Kettles Johnson's room or if she was just staring for no good reason. This was an opportunity, and even at an early age we could see that. She had a lot of books and we could volunteer to carry them. If she snapped at us, we could pretend we were ignorant and socially inept losers.

"What do you two know about this?"

We knew she was talking about the stabbing of the actor formerly known as Puck, but still we responded with a confused, simultaneous "Huh?" She drew back a deep breath, sighed loudly, and grabbed my right elbow. Her grip was very strong and tight, and I could do nothing but let her drag me across the concrete walkway and dump me on the ground. Don immediately went down on his knees and pleaded with her not to hunt him down and kill him while he was sleeping.

"Look, you wimps, I want to know what is going on.
You are going to tell me.

We were in the belly of the beast now. There was no doubt about that. Scrapping around with Miles and Kettles Johnson had been but the breath of the beast. Now we were orbiting Jayne herself and she was recruiting us into her camp. We figured she thought we knew more than we really did. In reality, we had no idea what we knew and were hoping she would explain it all to us.

Don broke first and he broke easily. She glared at him in a most menacing fashion, causing him to immediately admit that we had been in her room and that we had seen the nude photographs. She didn't seem concerned about that. She wanted to know if we touched the coloring books or if, perhaps, we had dared to color in them. We both shook our heads and told her we had only been in the room for a few minutes and did not own any crayons or marking pens. She was satisfied with that answer, but wanted more. At her insistence we joined her for a cup of coffee in the school's infamous Late Nite Cafe, which was usually a haven for punk rockers and people coming off bad acid experiences.

"What did Kettles tell you about our relationship?"

Her question was one we were not prepared to answer. He told us that he was in love with Jayne, but there was little more than that. Had they had some sort of involvement outside of him staring at her through windows in a creepy fashion? That seemed to be all there was to it, but how could we tell her that. We both stared at her and shrugged, muttering simple, unconnected words like "not much" and "I dunno."

"Did he tell you about the deal I made for my room?"

Caring was something we were trying to involve ourselves in here. It was not something that was coming to us easily. It made sense that there was some kind of deal involved in her getting her own room. After all, bad decisions by a construction contractor had reduced the number of dormitories on campus and forced three and four students to share a single room. Kettles was the resident manager, so he might have been able to pull some strings on that front. In our own fantastically perverted minds, we had always just assumed she was sleeping with one or more of the deans. We answered her questions with a resounding "no."

"Look, these games aren't funny.
At all.
I have to get my degree and I have to get a respectable job.
I can't stand to be away from my son any longer.
Do you know what it is like to have the courts take your son away because they think your life is immoral?"

We couldn't say that we understood that kind of emotion. We were still working on things like how many beers we could drink in a night and how many times in a row we could bounce a quarter into a glass. This was too much like one of those "real life" problems we read about in books or saw in made for television movies. The conversation was going sour fast, but then we starting putting some thought into the whole "immoral life" thing she had spoken about. This sounded juicy and perhaps we could turn the conversation in that direction now.

"I've been able to get by for a long time on looks alone.
I don't want that anymore.
There are more important things I never thought about before.
My poor little boy without his mommy.
He's so special and he needs attention.
His father is a cold fuck who ripped him away from me by dredging up my past.
That isn't the kind of role model my boy needs."

I had a moment of clarity, or maybe it was the high wearing off. I don't know why, but I leaned in towards Jayne and put my arm around her. She started to cry, just slightly, not enough to draw crowds, and then stiffened and sat up straight. She grabbed a napkin to wipe her face and then told the waitress to give her a double tall espresso.

"That will keep you up all night!"

Don still didn't quite get it, and I forgave him. He was still thinking two dimensionally and not realizing that we were having a close encounter with real life. Then Jayne wanted to leave, even before her espresso arrived, so I stood up and helped her to her feet. I was feeling good about myself and about my ability to handle the situation, even though my only previous encounters with women had involved accidently brushing my hand against their smooth, tanned, naked knees in ice cream parlors.

As we stepped outside it started to rain.

Thus ends Part Four of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
On to Part Five: Do you cry out because the beauty is cruel?

"For your sake, I will" he says, which of course will cause her to ponder the phrasing and the delivery of his future promised words. Not, "Because you asked", which would have been an entirely different connotation, but instead "for your sake". She who has always been fascinated by the words behind the words, and she who has developed a certain knack for pulling back the shrouded veil to fathom an alternative motive or meaning, and that same she who can look into a speaker's eyes and recognize when what is being said is a cover for what might be meant will wonder at this small collection of words. She can not help it, it has become second nature.

Her skin is flushed, her eyes are glazed. She misjudges the width of the hallway again, slamming her shoulder into the thermostat. “Shit” she shouts out to no one in particular. “Ellen, get your lazy ass out here now!” she yells even louder. Ellen is wary, but she dares not disobey. Her door cracks open. “Yes, Mom?” “What the fuck are these shoes doing on the floor? Are you trying to kill me?” Ellen doesn’t point out that her mother is drunk and has forgotten that she kicked them off there herself not two hours before. She knows better. She just apologizes and quickly gathers her mother’s pumps, running and ducking out of her mother’s reach before putting them in the closet. Too late, she realizes she has turned her back. She discovers her faux pas as she turns into the pot colliding with her forehead. “Don’t ever pull that shit again! Think about someone else for once in your sorry life” She doesn’t make a sound as she puts the pot away in the cupboard, she turns her head so the tears that might bring further consequences are not seen. She sidesteps into her room, closing the door behind her, silently turning the lock. Her mother bangs on the door, “Quit sniveling before I give you something to cry about. I punish you for your own sake, grow up already”. And Ellen remains quiet and small, tucked safely in her closet hugging her pillow close.

For your sake...for your own good, that is the meaning she pulls forth first. And so with that meaning, she will read his written words and consider which message might be for her own good. Is he trying to warn her? If this is so, then what about? Is there an underlying danger? Where should she keep her guard up? Should she even let it down? Is it safe this time? And she will dig and she will probe and she will search for possible hidden meanings, because that is what she has learned to do, because that is what she has needed to do to get to a truth of things. This has served her well in the past.

I love you, he says as he enfolds her in his arms. You should know that by now. Let’s start again, he says as he pulls her into their home. I never meant to hurt you. You know that. You are the most important person in the world to me, he says as he has said one hundred times before. She lets him draw her upstairs, she lets her guard back down because thank God it was all a misunderstanding and they are good again. She believes him when he says they were meant to be together forever. She can’t imagine a life without him now. She lets his words wash over her like a salve, and she lets him make love to her as he used to do before things went awry. It is just the two of them again and everything is going to be all right. She believes this, because he has said it is so and he is her husband, so it must be so. And just before she reaches her bliss, at that exact point when all guards are down and she is the most open to him, he stands up, wipes off his mouth looking at her with his eyes gone cold and says, “I need to take a shower and wipe off this stench”. He says, “Think about that when you don’t decide to make the right choice. I hope for your sake, the next time you will.” Then he walks away, leaving her shocked and trembling, curled tight in a ball of shame.

She doesn’t see anything that sets off her inner alarm bells, but she could be missing something. She has before. She struggles with the phrase, “for your sake”. She turns it over, looks at it sideways, back to front, and upside down. How much of her reading is due to fear instead of objectivity? She wishes she could have seen his eyes as he wrote these words. She is very good at reading the flicker of the eyelids and the almost imperceptible movement of the pupils. She doesn’t have that added information. She just has words on a page. She rereads the passages.

He takes out his gun collection, handling the pieces one by one, almost caressing each in turn. “I can make this all go away” he says “you know I can” Her face is carefully masked. No thank you, she says nonchalantly though inside her heartbeat has increased by 50%. “You don’t understand”, he says,” I have the power. He shows her the bullet cartridges. He doesn’t deserve you. For your sake, let me make it go away.” He leaves one gun out, putting the rest away. He opens the cartridge, and inserts a bullet, closes and locks it, then sets the cold black metal down in the space between them “No, really, I appreciate the offer, but that isn’t the answer” She quickly tries to come up with a way to extricate herself from this man who had called her friend. She gets up ready to feign a forgotten appointment. It’s the best she can come up with, off guard. “Are you sure?” he says, “I’ll do whatever you want. I do for you, you do for me. That’s how it works” She is momentarily puzzled. He pulls a diamond studded dog collar out of his pocket. His eyes are hungry. “Do we have an understanding?” Dawning registers on her face, triumph on his.

She puts down the letter. She has been alone for ten years now. She has seen hidden meaning in every new possibility. “For your sake” in this case might really mean “out of regard for you, because you asked.” Does it really mean this, or does she want it to? These years she has kept herself safe. She wonders how many chances she may have given up on due mostly to the fear of what might occur and how many open doors she may have slammed shut for self- preservation. She tosses the notion aside. She did what she needed to do. That was then, this is now. There is no ulterior motive that she can see in these penned words. She sees no hidden agenda in the ink. She decides there has to come a point when she can trust her own judgment. She walks to the phone, takes the receiver off the cradle. “When you're ready, please, call me” he asked. For her sake, she will.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.