“Did you shoot Christy?” the voice from other end of phone said.
“Sorry,” I replied.
“What the hell! Joe, it’s your last chance. 45,000$, just smash her head.”
“Ronald, she just slipped from my fingers. I’ve stuck an eye on the entrance of ‘Eleven pub’, she’ll be out around 10; this night is her last night,” I assured.
“You know she’s leaving for Amsterdam tomorrow, take her off before she takes off.”
“I know,” I hung the phone.
Sun slept, the clouds wept and the winds yanked my unbuttoned overcoat pleasing me to step back from the yet-to-commit crime. On the dampest wall of pub, under a light pole, I leaned my hooded cloak grabbing a cigarette with my wicked lips.
Two more hours – my throbbing heart under my coat’s pocket replied to the loaded gun, which is snuggled in my Denim trouser’s pocket.
In the loneliest space where the only witness is the million sparkling eyes in the sky, it’s slightly drizzling.
I darted my hand to my Denim’s pocket, as I heard some shoes tramping towards. I froze wrapping my icy fingers tight around the gun.
I straightened my spinal cord and my eagerly grey eyes fixed to the stranger’s arrival. As I was squeezing the gun’s handle, my heart paused to the panting voice…
“Holaa!” rang a feminine tone.
I stared at the sight among the drizzles with all of me, still my gun unreleased.
In the glares of the light pole, her eyes glared much brighter. Damp hair stuck to her cheeks and neck; in a dripping long green frock, she stood holding a little pouch in her right hand.
“I’m Vanessa,” she threw her hand at me with a smile.
Hiding my surprise and suspiciousness, I faked a smirk with the fuming cigarette still on my lips. I gave a nod as a reply.
“You are?” she asked raising her chin.
“JOE” I said.
“A favor please,” she said.
”?” I asked with my eyebrows.
“I assume that you can spend this night for me. Will you take me to the hilltop and let me lie under the stars.”
“What? Sorry,” I retorted and pushed the gun deeper into my pocket.
“Pleaseeeeee…Pleaseeeeee…Pleaseeeeee…” she sang.
“But, who are you?”
“I told, I’m Vanessa, okay? age – sixteen, I’m from somewhere, now please.”
“Somewhere? What the…” I stopped.
“Nah! I’ll pay you,” she stretched her pouch-hand.
I couldn’t make out my dangling mind, but it’s the first time in my life that an extraordinary looking girl pleasing in her sugar tone to take her somewhere. I don’t know, I couldn’t stop myself from agreeing.
Tossing off my cigarette… “It’s okay,” I rejected the pouch and checked my wristwatch which showed “8:22”
The pub will shut at 10, the hill is just a km away; I can pull some time in between, I calculated. “She’s damn hot. Take chance,” my evil head suggested.
No thought anymore, “Yes!” I agreed.
“Thank you,” she grinned, her teeth emitted inner joy. She walked following my gestures to my car in the pub’s parking lot.
I actually left wrong clues in my car to deviate the cops after I kill my target and escape leaving my car in the parking lot. But Vanessa’s charm and the arousing opportunity forced me to change my plan a bit.
We drove to the hill as she was explaining why she loves monsoon.
The rain took a break. The hill is taller than I’ve imagined.
As soon as our car reached, she burst out of it, rushed to the edge of the hill and on its moist sand she started bouncing like a rabbit. I checked my watch that showed 8:35, “Maybe half an hour,” I said to myself.
I moved out and stood beside her as the breeze was hitting hard on my face. But she was as if there are only two things that existed, she and the starry sky. She ran in all the directions possible, to every edge imprinting her shoe prints on the damp boundary of the hill. She was uncontrollable and her eyes were hooked up.
For some reason, when she was out of order I realized I was scared, really. What if she slips her leg? Maybe it happened to me for the first time that I’m afraid of death. I’ve killed seven so far and now I’m worried, not because of me but a girl whom I met twenty minutes ago.
I quickly reached for her hand and pulled towards. She stopped and stared in my criminal eyes with heavy breaths. She propelled her wet body on me and curled her arms around my waist laying her head on my pounding heart.
“THANK YOU SOO… MUCH JOE,” she squeezed her eyes and hugged tighter.
I stood speechless and spellbound. I lost my head that moment. No idea what was happening, but my tobacco lips smiled. I thought I would take a chance with her, but now in her arms, I even hesitated to hug her back. The hug lasted for an infinity of 20 seconds and she seemed as if it’s not yet over and it will not be over that soon. An unknown shiver ran down my spine and my chest got heavier than ever.
Seven minutes passed and I started sweating and lost the rhythm of my lungs. My throat dried and belly started being weird.
With my trembling fingers, I pushed her off from me as I couldn’t take it anymore.
“What happened Joe?” I asked myself. But I had no answer, all I understood is that it is really dangerous. The girl, hug or whatever.
Exhaled aloud and yelled “What are you doing?” at the innocently gazing girl.
“I’m Happy, don’t you think the stars are really excited?” she shouted laughingly.
“You are crazy stuff,” I said in a disgusting tone and started walking towards my car.
She pretended as if she didn’t hear my words. She collapsed and crouched on the wet place, with her head raised above giving no shit to me.
I walked few yards, checked time—8:56 it was. And I felt bad for some strange reason. The reason isn’t that I’m wasting my time instead of preparing myself to kill Christy. The reason isn’t that I’m supposed to close the deal with Ronald. The reason isn’t that I’m risking $45,000.
I was simply regretting “Why am I being so rude to a girl?” I was rude before, rude to girls, kids, grey heads and everyone but never did I felt my rudeness actually as rudeness. “Strange consequences,” I wondered at myself.
Realizing I still have some time, I joined her sitting beside her, imitating her position.
“Ya! Stars are so excited. But why?” I asked, pretending that I’m no more tempered.
She laughed aloud and pulled my cheek. “Because I’m gonna be one of them,” she said with very wide eyes.
I smirked saying “You are a superstar”.
She laughed again but this time she didn’t pull my cheek.
“What do you do?” she asked, looking straight into my eyes.
“Trade,” I replied randomly.
“Ohh… that’s boring. So, tell me your love stories”, she asked.
“Nope,” I said.
“What? No stories?”
“Nope. No love.”
“Umm… you are handsome, you should be having at least 57 girlfriends already,” she said.
I laughed “No, to be frank, I think love is shit.”
“What? Come again. You never tasted it”, she said angrily.
“So, you tasted?” I asked.
“Yeah, with my imaginary tongue,” she replied.
“MAD,” I laughed hard. “Don’t you have a REAL boyfriend?” I asked.
“Nope, life wasn’t that lenient to me, to have some good friends and to fall in love,” she said and half smiled.
Maybe she had some problems of her own I understood. It was 9:12. And I was in a dilemma; I wanted to stay with her longer but my mission? I felt weak to convince myself.
“So, whom are you killing?” she asked casually.
I couldn’t believe what I’ve just heard. My Adam’s apple went down the throat in fear. “What?” I pretended.
“Bloodstains in the car, bullets under the seat and the gun in your jeans that I felt when I hugged you,” she explained.
“Actually…” and she interrupted, “Its okay baby. After all, death is inevitable. Some die today, some tomorrow, no issues.”
I sat like a dumb duffer staring at the little water pool near my right shoe. Strong urge to jump off from that hill hit me suddenly. I don’t know why.
“I do it for money,” I confessed rudely.
“Ha-ha…money? I have collected some. Take my pouch and leave this stuff,” she said.
“Impossible!” I sighed within.
But I felt bad, really bad. I was quietly looking up at the stars concealing my unknown pain within.
She flipped her face, “What happened Joe? I’m sorry.”
I was silent. She pulled me by my shoulder and hugged me. Sweeping my hair she kissed on the forehead. I felt like I was holding some floodgates preventing my inner sea of emotions to effuse. I stretched my arms as wide as possible and hugged all of her with all of me. Tears flowing heavily from my cheeks fell on her shoulder. She was patting my back saying “It’s okay.” She said that for a million times in a minute. I couldn’t help but stay that way all my life.
“I’m tasting it,” I whispered.
“What?” she asked.
“Love,” I replied.
With a jerk, she pushed me back and coughed. As I was still in a trance, she coughed again and again, looking away from me.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She laughed aloud “Yeah!”
Lie down and watch the stars… she said leaning her back slowly to the wet ground.
“Ha…” I obeyed.
They were like a million diamonds scattered on the dark velvet blanket. I’ve never seen or actually felt the beauty of the night sky before. Everything was beautifully perfect but I couldn’t concentrate.
9:33 it is.
I felt great unease. But then, she started
“Joe, I always had a wish to get to this hill and sleep with a guy watching stars. But I never got a chance-a chance to be myself. I’m an orphan and that limits almost 50% of my dreams.”
Those words pierced my heart. I didn’t say a word.
She continued telling irrelevant stories; most of them were like bedtime stories. I pretended to listen.
As I was lost in my crime calculations…”Joe,” “Joe,” she called.
I got up to check if she was alright. Her eyelids were shutting and she coughed again, with more pressure.
“Vanessa?” “What happened?” I shouted.
“The otherrr 50%…” she said.
“What Vanessa?” my heartbeat raced.
“. . .is limited b…” she whispered with her eyes closed.
Something was wrong, really. But she was telling “I’m okay,” as I panicked like never before.
She tried lifting herself, but her giddiness was vividly visible. “You’re not okay,” I said and carried her to the car and my watch ‘beeped’ 9:45 –the alert tone which I set for my crime.
“I’m being a fool,” my mind cried.
Placing her in the front seat, I steered. “You are my REAL boyfriend,” she whispered, “Because you are helping me on my last day”.
“Shut up!” I shouted at her face. And she obeyed till we drove down the hill. The breeze was heavy, we reached a junction, a two-way road and I stepped on the brake.
“Fine?” I asked her, looking at my wrist ‘9:55’.
“Umm…” she closed her eyes meditatively.
My limbs wobbled forcing me to make a decision soon. The hospital is three minutes, but on the other side of the pub’s road. My heart pulled me to take her there.
“Efff! forty-five thousand dollars, are you crazy? You can take her any time,” my arrogant mind suggested.
Listening to it, “Just hold yourself for five minutes…” I said, not looking at her face.
We reached the pub’s gate by 9:57.
“Shit!” I screamed, pulling the gun off as I saw Christy getting into her Benz, few yards away. I stepped out of my car, smashing its door.
Tearing my pocket’s stitches, I yanked my bogged gun and targeted the cross wires. By then, Christy got into her smoking car.
“Yeaaaah!” holding my nerve, grabbing all of my strength, I triggered.
Like a lightning bolt, the bullet accelerated and struck the car’s edge.
“Damnnnnnn…Effing close it was”, I missed.
Realizing that she is being attacked, Christy’s Benz raced spewing smoke.
I rushed to my car. Turning the keys, I hit the clutch with my heavy foot and yelled “five more minutes…”
She didn’t reply. Her head slightly tilted and her right hand resting on the gearbox.
“Vanessa?” looking at her, I halted my car.
She was still, her body backed to the seat belt.
“VANESSA??” I said again tossing my hand and wobbled her shoulder. I could hear only breaths in the car, which were my lonely traumatic breaths.
It was late, not by a minute but a lifetime.
Immediately, I steered to the hospital but it went in vain.
Doctors reported later that it was cardiac arrest and she was being treated in the hospital from which she escaped that night. “She’s a sick child from the beginning, she asked me to take her out many times, as she had little dreams,” the nurse sighed, “but her condition was severe, always,” she added.
The next day, I was the only one who attended her funeral. I was holding the pouch which she left in my car. It had currency of 12 Cents and a handwritten note:
Whoever you are…Thank you so much. Before I become a star, one among those million in the night sky, I wished to lay with a guy watching it. Hug and kiss him. Hope you help me.
I know I don’t live forever, but to someone, I wanted to give love that will last forever.
I knelt down at the coffin in which she was resting forever in her still-wet green frock. With my sunken eyes, I wept. Her hair spread and her pretty face shined in the darkness of my soul.
As my hands shivered. . .
In the old rectangle coffin that is waiting for its burial, beside her, I placed my gun.
From Author’s Desk:
Love, though as light as a flower petal, can pull a tree by its roots. If love doesn’t transform a person, then it isn’t love.
This is my first story, years back when I was wondering if I can ever write something. Gladly the story is published in an International Journal said IJELLS, giving me hope and light. You can check it out here.
(If you find any errors in the story, please send a feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to get better.)