You Never Know
I have played things over and over in my head, trying to recall if there was anything in our first meeting, anything to show that she was different. But there wasn’t. Not that she was the same, not the same as any of the girls I had dated before; but nothing in her then to say she was different in the way that she was. Nothing in the first meeting or the second.
We met in a crowded bar and I think I was the one who talked first and she was the one who wasn’t interested to start with. I bought her a drink, but I don’t remember what she was drinking so I don’t think there was anything so odd in that. Later it was bourbon, just the one kind, but on that first night it might have been wine. She was there with friends; that’s what she said, though looking back she never introduced me to anyone. She seemed nice enough and pretty as fuck and I gave her my name and she gave me hers and we got to talking.
I walked her home that first night, a smaller and smaller distance between us as we walked.
She said it was not far and that she lived with her folks and she was sorry but she couldn’t invite me in. I said I understood. I wasn’t up for meeting her parents anyway and it wasn’t even a first date. It was a bungalow up Barstow Way where she lived, with flowers in all colours in the garden and a light on at the front and a brass plate on the door to tell you it was number twenty-three. I walked her to the gate and she kissed me and said I was sweet and we should meet again. I had her phone number in my pocket when I walked away and I walked away taller.
I saw her maybe six times after that and sometimes she stayed over at mine and that was just fine. Her name was Talulah; it was after a famous actress that her dad had liked. She’d never been able to live it down, she said, so now she didn’t try.
I didn’t know what that meant, and so I shrugged and said how I liked the name and it was different.
If I’m being honest, it was sometimes a little crazy with her. Mostly in a good way, I thought at the time. She’d bring stuff to eat, stuff she’d cook in my kitchen and serve up to me like she was my mam, chilli with chocolate and chicken cooked with bananas. And she always cleared up afterwards and that was something good. One day she brought a small packet of weed with her and lying in bed after, we smoked one joint and then another blowing blue and imperfect smoke rings up to the ceiling. She rolled the joints and seemed to know what she was doing. It was my first time, and I wasn’t sure about it. I felt a little dizzy and light-headed which I thought maybe was the point.
She drank bourbon straight from the bottle. Knob Creek Small Batch bourbon and no other. She brought the bottle with her. It tasted of maple syrup and a little burnt on the tongue and then, as it slipped down, something with raisins and cinnamon and liquorice. I’d never known a girl who drank bourbon from the bottle, but it didn’t worry me, not then.
Talulah, when she stayed over, always slept late. That was fine at the weekend, the two Saturdays in a row that she was there. I slept late then, too, and we had coffee together at the kitchen table and she said her ‘fucking head hurt like it’d been squeezed in a vice’. We had our coffee with the kitchen curtains closed against the hurtful sun and then we went back to bed and I had no complaints there.
But there was a Thursday and then a Wednesday that she came over and I had work the next day and so I left her sleeping, dead to the world, and I snuck out of the house like a thief and I closed the door soft behind me. When I got back at the end of my shift, she was gone and there was a note pinned to the bedroom door and she said how she’d helped herself to breakfast and she’d put the sheets and the pillowcases into the washing machine and she’d see me at the weekend. Then her name was drawn in letters like a child’s and underneath it three outsize kisses and a heart.
Truth is that I liked her. It was early of course, and I wasn’t looking much further than the weekend, but I liked her and she seemed to be good for me, except for the weed and the bourbon. I wasn’t thinking to take her to meet my mam, not yet, but I wasn’t thinking not to either. Then things took a sudden turn and she got a bit weird. There was a night where she turned up late and I think she’d started the proceedings without me and I was drinking bourbon to catch up with where she was. That was the night of our first fight, and I don’t really remember what it was about. She swore a lot, and I remember I told her to keep her voice down on account of the neighbours and she went to the door then, not a stitch on her, and she shouted to the street that the neighbours could all go take a flying fuck. We laughed about it afterwards.
Make-up sex is always the best and so when I woke the next morning I woke up smiling, and she’d already gone, and I wasn’t too fussed thinking it was good between us again. The smell of her was still on me and I was in no hurry to climb into the day or to wash her from me. I called in sick for work and just lay back thinking of her.
But it turns out we weren’t good and I don’t understand why. She came round one last time and we went at it again and all over nothing that I could figure. I got a bit fed up,
if I am being honest, and I swore some too that day. Anyway, she said it was over and broke all my plates and she screamed and said that she didn’t want to ever see me again, and I said fine. She slammed the door behind her and that was that.
Except it wasn’t and it isn’t. She left her bag behind, see. Her handbag. I thought she’d be back to get it and that maybe there’d be a chance we could make up again and it’d be better than it was. I sat at the kitchen table waiting for her knock at the door, her bag before me, and two shot glasses full to the lip with her favourite amber bourbon. She didn’t show.
I gave her a week and still she didn’t call. I even went back to the pub where we’d met and I retraced that first night walk to her home and to the bungalow up Barstow, number twenty-three. I walked past the house several times, hoping I’d be seen and I wouldn’t have to knock. Then I pushed open the gate and rapped on the door.
Turns out that two men live there. Been there for almost twenty years and they never heard of any Talulah, except wasn’t there an actress by that name and she was sometimes on the tv in black and white films. I asked them if they were sure, and I had Talulah’s bag, and I was just wanting to return it. They looked at me funny and said they were sorry and they shut the door against me.
I took the bag home and I thought then that it was okay for me to look inside, looking for some sort of address where I might find her and give her back what was hers. There was other stuff besides the bag, some clothes and a pair of high-heeled shoes and an ivory backed hairbrush. I tipped the contents of the bag onto the kitchen table and got the fright of my life. There, amongst the eye pencils and lipsticks and an open pack of tampons and a heart-shaped bottle of perfume and seven old shop till receipts and an open pack of Doina cigarettes and a matchbook for a club in the town that had closed down and the clear plastic bag of weed and a blank notepad and several pens that had been chewed at the end and paperclips and bus tickets and a roll of Selotape and a rabbit-foot key ring with only one key and a purse with no bank cards and nearly seven hundred dollars in cash, there amongst all of that was a gun. It fell with a heavy clatter onto the table.
‘Shit,’ I said and I backed away from it knocking a chair over and I didn’t dare touch it at first. Then when I did, I did so wearing gloves. It was a glock pistol and it was loaded, ten .45 rounds in the magazine. My hand was shaking just holding it.
I looked back over everything then, like my life flashing before my eyes, only it was my six days with Talulah and nothing else. Sure she’d been crazy at the end, what with the swearing at the neighbours and breaking the plates, and there’d been the bourbon and the weed, and Talulah kissing me at her front gate on that first night only it wasn’t her gate at all; but a gun in her handbag was something else.
I didn’t know what to do, whether to go to the police or not, or if she was in trouble, or someone to be afraid of and she’d be back to do me harm. So I hid the bag under the loose floorboards in the hall and I laid the carpet back so you wouldn’t’ know, and I changed the lock on the front door, changed it for a double cylinder dead bolt, and I went out less than before and kept looking over my shoulder when I did.
Still she hasn’t come back and it’s been over a year now, and I check the gun every day and I check the ten rounds in the magazine and I always wear the same gloves when I do. I smoked the weed one night when I was bored and that was just stupid, and stoned I kept getting up to look out of the window and I kept checking the bolt on the front door just in case and checking the phone to see if anyone had called.
I look for her in the street all of the time, look for her name in the phone book, the only name I have and that's Talulah – and it turns out her name is not so unusual after all. She said her name was Talulah, and she was named after an actress that her dad liked, and if any of that is true then that’s what I know and nothing more than that, except the bourbon and the weed and the gun.
About the Author
Lindsay Fisher leaks stories and the leaks grow bigger with each passing week and more and more of them spill out into weird or wonderful places. There ain't no rhyme or reason to what is written, at least none that Lindsay can discern. They're just stories.
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