UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
TANGLED IN RUE
He’ll never forgive you for this he’ll be so fucking mad he will never talk to you again never never NEVER he will say that this is IT he will say he’s HAD it—Jesus Christ—what the fuck are you DOING—
But she has to know.
She already folded her perriwinkle blue dress—her favorite, so he won't be able to mistake it for anybody else's—and put it in a neat pile with her shoes next to the ledge. She's tossed her headband into the water below, the one with the silk flower. It bobs up and down on the surface like a helpless water lily.
Now, all she has to do is wait.
She shivers, crouched down low behind the bushes, rubbing her bare arms. She tries to forget the chilly breeze, and imagines herself on the bottom of the river, pounded into the rocks by the waterfall, her hands clutched over her broken heart. Or better yet, floating down-river like a betrayed Ophelia, tangled in rue and willow. He's a writer, he'll understand.
The visions aren't real, but perhaps if she thinks them hard enough, they will transfer into his mind when he comes.
He will come. She made sure. The text message was desperate, but clear.
The breeze blows around her, prickling goose bumps on her bare skin. Frustration laced with anger rises inside. Damn him. If he would only have told her. If he could just have been more clear. If he could just love her, and confess to it, without playing games with her mind. Then she wouldn't have to play with his.
She rubs her skin harder, trying to bring life into her chilled limbs. And she waits.
* * * *
The details of how they met have almost been completely wiped out from her memory—wiped out by the doubt that followed, and still follows. It was one of those mundane things, she recalls: a spilled cup of coffee on a silk blouse, an apology and a paid-for dry-cleaning bill. And then, tumbling among wrinkled bed sheets—she’d never even picked up the blouse.
After that, it was all uncertainty. Never enough Friday nights together. Never enough phone calls. And when she got the calls, they weren’t long enough, not committed enough, and there wasn’t enough feeling in his voice. She accused; he lost patience; she cried and recanted. And on it went.
She knows she has passed a certain point now. She stares at her clothes, the forged, terrible, pathetic desperation that it is, and her cheeks blush with embarrassment.
I should stop this FUCK I can just call him and—
It’s too late: there’s a screech of wheels and his familiar truck skids to a stop by the edge of the cliff, just beneath her forged, watery grave.
She holds her breath.
* * * *
He walks to the pile of clothes. His back is turned, and she can’t see his face from where she’s hiding, but she imagines the way it usually looks when she has pissed him off—splotches of red blooming with indignation on his cheeks, yet a stare of indifference in his eyes: a combination that maddens her with its ambiguity.
She wrings her hands.
God he will never forgive me I really crossed the line this time he’s gonna leave me I’ll never see him again—
He is at the pile of clothes. For a few moments, he just stands there. His head moves from the dress, to the raging waters below, and then back to the dress. He bends down and picks up one of the shoes. He falls to his knees. She frowns at what comes next: a shaking of his shoulders, an odd bend in his neck. And then a noise floats up to her, piercing through the thunder of the waterfall.
A sob. A deep, wailing sob.
Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God—
She’s not cold anymore. She is warm with affirmation, warm and golden, despite the cold wind that gusts around her. The folded dress, the whirling water-lily head band, the terrible charade—this theater brought her the truth.
He mourns her. She is dead, she’s Ophelia, floating down-river, and he is weeping.
The triumph overwhelms her, but she already feels it slipping away.
I gotta keep this the truth I want this it’s how it should be like this he loves me it’s the only way—
She closes her eyes and shuffles forward. Her bare toes curl over the ledge. She glances down at him one last time—the man she loves, the man that loves her, and who will live with the image of her now as an injured, tragic creature, but loveable and immortal—and she doesn’t hesitate.
Breaking the the surface hurts, breathing water into her lungs hurts, being tossed against the rocks hurts, but she tries not to care.
Instead, she just folds her hands over her heart, and prays that is how they will stay until they find her.
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