Bowness

When you’ve murdered another human being and you decide against confessing, you bury it. You bury it so deep that you hit the earth’s core with your shovel. Then you fill that hole with whatever it is you can; dirt, rubble, debris, distraction, ignorance, denial, whatever it is that is going to help put the nightmare behind you and move on. Once it’s filled, you walk away, and you convince yourself it didn’t happen. You convince yourself with such vigour it will terrify and rattle your soul when the guilt, angst and shame perish a lot sooner than you could have possibly imagined. Yes, your victim will walk past you on the street, or sit across from you whilst eating breakfast, or cast their reflection in the mirror when brushing your teeth at night. They may even tuck you in every once in a while. But sooner rather than later you grow to accept their presence like your own shadow. You have to do this to move on. It is absolutely imperative. The following story is about just that – moving on.

The wrinkled hand sporting eighties leotard pink nails pulled down the stiff beer pump. Air wisped out of the nozzle, then a gurgle, followed by the ale. A milky white and golden rush swirled in unison like perfect score ice skaters. I watched the fermented beverage rise and settle simultaneously, inching its way to the brim of the pint glass. Threequarters full, the pump gave up. Gargled, coughed, then died. My first pint back in a pub after too long. Far too long. Nothing ever plays out how you imagined. ‘Alex, Dizzy’s gone. Change barrel for us will ya?’ Shouted the barmaid. ‘What?’ Came a voice from somewhere that I presumed was Alex. ‘Fuckin deaf ol get.’ She muttered, ‘I said,’ shouting again, ‘The Dizzy’s gone. Can you change the barrel?’ ‘Who’s gone?’ ‘Jesus wept. Bring on the third wave. THE DIZZY HAS GONE, CAN YOU CHANGE THE BARREL PLEASE?’ ‘Aye.’ ‘So, love,’ she said, turning her attention back to Bobby, ‘two Dizzy Blondes. Anything else?’ ‘I should probably order a couple of drinks too.’ Quipped Bobby, grinning. The barmaid stared, bemused. ‘Erm no, just the two pints. Thanks.’ He concluded sheepishly. ‘Eight-fifty please. I’ll bring ‘em out when barrel’s changed.’

We sat outside in the beer garden. I’d been reluctant to meet up, put off by the four-hour downpour earlier. A fine drizzle hovered in the air like a swarm of midges. Open parasols weighed down from the damp were erected through the middle of picnic tables. Wooden decking around the garden was marked black and dark green from moss and rot. Bobby sat, pulled his baccy pouch from his jacket, unravelled, popped a filter on the end of his lips and began rolling his first cigarette of many. ‘Don’t pull that face.’ He exclaimed, licking the edge of his paper, ‘You should be happy. The world’s back on track.’ I looked around. Only the desperate had ventured out. 2pm and already that look of loss glazed over their eyes. Twelve months they’d been waiting for this. Bobby dragged hard. The baked tobacco shrivelled and blackened as it receded. He exhaled. Smoke lingered then reluctantly lifted. I was repulsed by the smell but knew once I’d snecked a couple of ales I’d be asking for one. ‘How you been anyway?’ He asked,’ Been up to much?’ ‘Not a lot. Work. Hiking. Hiking and work. You?’ ‘Work. Losing my mind. Losing my mind and work. I’m so happy we’re back in a pub. It’s gonna be some summer.’ The barmaid came over carrying our drinks. ‘Here’s yer pints and yer dizzy blonde.’ She announced, winking at Bobby. Bobby looked up at her dyed dirty blonde curls, pulling a face and replied, ‘I shoulda got a Hobgoblin.’ ‘Cheeky sod.’ She said, pretending to give him a slap. The beer garden was dark. Ivy climbed the red brick walls and the high terrace buildings behind weren’t going to allow the sun to shine down, if it ever decided to show. ‘We havin’ a big one today then or what?’ Asked Bobby, excitedly. ‘Can’t. I’ve got a date later.’ ‘You better be fucking joking?’ ‘Fraid not man. Seven o’clock.’ ‘I can’t believe this.’ He announced, flustered, ‘We haven’t been out since…I can’t remember when, and you arrange to go on a date the first, the fucking first, day we arrange to meet for beers. Please tell me you’re winding me up. Please.’ ‘I’m not winding you up.’ I genuinely wasn’t. I’d arranged to meet with an Argentinian girl I’d matched on Tinder, after joining up a couple of days ago. ‘Unbelievable. This is criminal. Who is she?’ ‘Some Argentinian girl. I matched with her on Tinder.’ ‘Tinder? Who the fuck’s on Tinder these days?’ ‘This really hot Argentinian girl for one.’ ‘Who is she?’ ‘I don’t know an awful lot about her. Her Anglais ain’t so great, so texting’s been tricky. I do know she works in a hotel. Up near Ambleside somewhere.’ ‘How long she been over here?’ ‘Fuck knows.’ ‘It’s two twenty now.’ Bobby announced, lifting his sleeve and checking his watch. ‘We’ve got five hours of drinking before you have to be there.’ ‘I’m driving. I gotta take it steady. Plus, I’ve gotta get over to Bowness.’ ‘This is fucking unbelievable.’ ‘We got all summer, remember?’ I chimed up, raising my glass. He begrudgingly raised his back and clinked. I looked across the table opposite at the guy I’d murdered, raising a glass of his own. His orange jacket was ripped on the left shoulder with white insulation sprouting out. His temple had caved in on one side, revealing partially smashed skull and his expressionless eyes remained focused on me as blood slowly trickled down from an open wound on his forehead into them.

I made my excuses and left Bobby at around half five, who, as it turned out only wanted an inanimate object to talk at whilst his eyes slowly sunk. I spaced four pints over the course of three hours, bought a bag of chips and a buttered bun to soak up the alcohol and cautiously made my way to Bowness, taking the back roads to limit the chances of running into the police. Job’s a good ‘un.

I arrived early. Not sure why. The sun had come out just in time for the golden hour before going down slow behind Claife Heights like some washed up rock star staggering on stage, high, late, singing a classic or two as a final swansong to a sea of delirious and furious fans, and staggering off just as quickly. I was in a beer garden away from the main bustling ginnels packed with tourists hungry to fill their eyes with something other than the four walls of their home and repetitive faces. I’d opted for a glass of red. Something to take my time over, so I could string a sentence together without slurring. I’d contemplated reading a book whilst I waited; a Steinbeck number, that I threw in my car just in case. Despite the contents of a Steinbeck novel I always feel, underneath the desperation, a sense of freedom; wide open spaces, the sea air, fire in the bellies. Simplicity, I guess. In the end, I decided to leave the book in the car (I didn’t want to be that guy. Or did I?), picking up a paper on a neighbouring table instead. The dulling senses of steady drinking had made rising squawking from thousands of people packed into a small town, bearable. The thought of this being the new normal for the next six months, made me take a large gulp. I flicked through the paper, casting an uninterested eye through the majority. A story briefly caught my attention, of a family who had been paid over a million pounds by a zoo after their four-year-old daughter was mauled by an ape. So, there is a price for human life after all – a cool mill. What does that money get spent on?  An extension? A summerhouse?  A holiday to the Maldives? A donation to animals living a life in captivity for human curiosity and pleasure? Cristal? Do they toast the heavens when clinking glasses? Is there a shrine in the brand-new guest bedroom? Do they punish themselves when realising they’ve been unknowingly smiling at their bank balance? I read on.

Some time later, my date, Lucia, turned up – late. She was around 5’5, slim with a curvaceous cleavage that caught the eye in her low-cut white top and long black hair down to her shoulders that kicked into a curl at the ends. She had a pretty round face, but when she smiled her gum to teeth ratio was a little off balance. ‘Jacque?’ She asked walking up to me, a little timid. ‘Yes, hi. You must be Lucia?’ ‘Yes, Lucia.’ She replied smiling putting her hand to her chest. ‘Can I get you a drink?’ ‘Yes, yes.’ ‘What would you like? Wine? Beer? Gin and tonic?’ ‘Erm what you drink?’ ‘This is a Tempranillo. It’s not bad. The glass also comes with fancy lipstick prints around one side of the rim, which is cool.’ ‘Ok, ok you must go slow. I cannot erm know what you are saying?’ She replied in pidgin English. ‘Too fast.’ ‘Oh, sorry. Would you like drink?’ It was understandable why she was speaking pidgin English, but why I started doing it is anyone’s guess. ‘Yes, I just said. I’ll have…’ And pointed to my wine. I was going to make some awful joke about handing her my glass, but thankfully stopped myself at the last second. ‘I’ll go get you drink.’ I replied, sounding utterly retarded. As I walked to the bar the waitress approached telling me she’d come over and take my order. ‘What can I get you?’ She began. ‘Two more of these please, clean glasses if you’ve got them.’ I replied. ‘Oh, sorry about that.’ ‘Its fine. Luckily there’s no viruses going around at the moment, so dirty glasses aren’t a problem.’ ‘It’s not dirty, it’s been washed. Sometimes lipstick doesn’t wash off completely.’ She professed. I merely shrugged and looked at Lucia who didn’t have a fucking clue as to what was going on. This was going to be tough. The barmaid walked off. ‘So, how are you?’ I asked. ‘I am well, thank you. How are you?’ ‘Not so bad. How long have you been in England for?’ ‘I came six months ago. To work in hotel. But hotel is closed because Covid-19. So, I been not doing much work.’ She laughed. I laughed. She laughed a little harder. I followed suit. Then we both stopped abruptly as if the laughter had been staged. ‘Do you live at the hotel?’ ‘Yes. In a little wooden house.’ ‘Sounds like a fairy-tale.’ ‘It’s not.’ I laughed again. She didn’t. The waitress came over with the two glasses of wine. ‘Two wines. Clean glasses.’ ‘You know a place is good when they have to add that to the end of a sentence.’ I replied, smugly. The waitress looked at me as if she had a stinging comeback but refrained. ‘Eleven twenty please. Paying by card?’ ‘Yes. I am.’ I reached for my wallet, noticing Lucia didn’t even attempt to make a move for her purse. I didn’t want her paying, but still. I opened my wallet. Inside nestled between two tens was a newspaper clipping about the man I’d murdered. I’d taken to walking around with it like some sort of scrapbook. I paid. The waitress walked off. Lucia and I carried on our monotonous conversation. ‘What do you like to do Lucia?’ ‘To do?’ ‘Yeah, you know interests, hobbies, shit like that.’ ‘Oh hobbies?’ ‘Yes. Hobbies.’ I replied exhaling deeply, feeling tired from a day of drinking and the lack of spark. ‘Oh, well I like, walking, you know up…’ She walked her index and middle finger up an imaginary slope. ‘Ah yes, mountains.’ ‘Exactly.’ She smiled. I also like rugby.’ ‘Cool.’ I replied, racking my brain for some kind of rugby knowledge. Nothing came, so instead sipped my wine, smiling with my eyes. A silence followed. I began thinking of what I was going to say when she reciprocated the question, but instead the conversation began sailing on different coordinates. She scooched over, leaning in. A cheeky smile curled up on one side of her lips. She looked around, making sure no one was in earshot, and whispered, ‘I also like it in my pussy and my ass.’ She then pointed to her arse; a clarification I didn’t need. Considering I was all lined up ready to answer, “I like the first three “Kings of Leon” albums”, I was caught off guard. ‘Oh. You do huh?’ I replied, ‘That’s nice.’ She giggled, asking, ‘Do you?’ ‘I hate anything in my pussy.’ I joked. She frowned, not understanding. ‘And I haven’t had much experience with things going up my arse. I had an ex who was obsessed, but I couldn’t take to it.’ Her frowned deepened. I attempted to bring the conversation back round to cleaner hobbies. She played ball for a little while, but soon steered back into lasciviousness. Amazingly her English flowed perfectly when talking about sex. ‘Have you ever had a threesome?’ ‘I have. Have you?’ ‘Oh my yes. A few.’ I finished the wine off quicker than I’d intended – through apprehension. I wish my twenty-one-year-old self could have tagged himself into this conversation. I was out of my depth.

We finished our drinks and walked, linking arms through cooling streets. I told her facts about the area. She nodded, without understanding a jot . If I’d pointed out sexual artefacts, she’d have clung to my every word. We had another drink sat outside a tapas bar. The over-empowering smells of battered fish and sweet and sour chicken bullied their way through the evening air. At this point I wanted to go home. The alcohol had made me weary. ‘Did you drive here?’ I asked. ‘No, I got taxi.’ ‘Are you getting a taxi back to the hotel?’ ‘I guess.’ I didn’t want to give her a lift to the hotel. It was out of my way, but for some reason I couldn’t help myself and offered. ‘Yes, that would be fine.’ She replied. ‘I’m glad it’s fine.’ ‘Should we go?’ She asked. ‘Well, we can finish our drinks first.’ She picked up her glass and finished half a glass of wine in two huge gulps. ‘Jesus. What’s the rush? You having a terrible time or something?’ ‘Come on, quick.’ I contemplated finishing the wine but thought better of it. Instead Lucia grabbed it and finished it herself.’ ‘You’re insane.’ I exclaimed. She led me away before stopping and asking, ‘Where’s your car?’ ‘This way.’ I pointed in the opposite direction, ‘I’m parked round the Glebe.’ We walked at a quick pace. Polystyrene trays littered the town; a few even bobbed gently in the lake. We crossed over the road and stepped over the man I’d murdered; blood poured from his ear forming a puddle, leaving us with no choice but step in it. ‘Oops careful.’ I said wiping my feet. Lucia looked down puzzled at why I was wiping. Our bloody footprints soon faded the further we walked along the Glebe by the side of the lake. I parked near the graveyard. It was quiet. As soon as the doors were shut, Lucia lunged at me, grabbing my cock. She tried to straddle me, but my seat was too far forward. ‘Just a second. Let me pull this back.’ I called out, flummoxed. I pulled the seat back, annoyed I had it perfectly positioned and knew it would take forever to get right again. Lucia saddled me, biting my neck. ‘Easy tiger.’ I cried out. ‘Tiger? Tiger?’ She called out, bursting into laughter. She then began roaring and pretending to claw at my face. Conjuring ways of how to kill her quickly popped into my head but left instantly. The roaring continued a little longer, until she opened my flies and reached for my cock. I wasn’t close to being hard, I wanted all of this over instantly. I closed my eyes, thinking of sexy thoughts, but nothing came. I opened my eyes and saw the man I’d murdered peering through the window. ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ I called out. Lucia stopped, looked out the window, then the other windows, then back at me frowning. ‘I like it in my pussy and my ass.’ She whispered. I threw her off me, my cock was out the picture, so instead I unzipped her jeans and began fingering her wet pussy, worried about the damp patch that would soak into the seat. A few minutes later she came, hard. It was over. Thank god.

The drive back to the hotel lacked conversation. My feet were a little further from the peddles as I would have liked. “Use Somebody” by the “Kings of Leon” played over the radio. Lucia turned it up. I gripped the steering wheel in despair.

The road up to the hotel was dark. Trees arched over, casting spectral shadows. I dropped her off at her accommodation; she was right, it wasn’t like a fairy-tale. ‘Thank you Jacque. I had nice time.’ ‘You’re very welcome Lucia. So did I.’ I lied. ‘Would you like to call me?’ She asked making a phone sign with her hand and placing it to her mouth and ear. ‘Sure, of course.’ I lied. She leant over, kissed me passionately and grabbed my crotch once more. ‘No?’ She asked. ‘No, I’m all set. Thanks though.’ She got out, walked, turned, blew a kiss, smiled, turned once more and walked away. I placed my left hand on the passenger seat, applying pressure to judge the severity of the dampness. It wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined, leaving me a tad disappointed. I reversed and drove back down the dark, eerie drive and onto the main road. I sat in silence on the way home. I looked in the rear-view mirror noticing the man I’d murdered sat in the back, his face a sickly pale, one eye missing, staring at me intently with the other. ‘Well she was fucking crazy, wasn’t she?’ I asked. He didn’t reply. ‘Not gonna talk huh? Just sit there and stare?’ He didn’t answer, just stared the whole drive home.  

                           

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