The prompt from Search Engine Stories this week is throw away the key.
This is a story of love gone wrong….
‘It should be visible,’ Rima thought. ‘The pain in your heart when the one you love leaves’.
The air was still in the kitchen, as if the whole house had been vacuum-sealed.
Rima had been expecting it all along. Dan was a wild card, her friends always said so, up to all sorts of shenanigans.
He’d been caught, dealing in clubs, on the street. He was on probation but Rima knew he was still up to no good. The late night phone calls, the disappearing acts, the unexplained cuts and bruises.
The night life was a rough life. ‘It’s the only life I know,’ said Dan as if he fancied himself as some kind of gangster; but Rima knew the truth – he was afraid of trying anything else in case he failed at it. And he couldn’t disappoint the crowd he ran with.
‘I can’t live like this any more,’ she said one morning as Dan coughed his way through breakfast, hungover and grumpy, his skin mottled after standing on street corners all night. Dan ignored her, trudging into bed. He would sleep all day if she let him.
Rima sat, staring out the window, chewing for an hour on a piece of toast, idly flicking at crumbs on the tablecloth.
At three the police came. Rima got in a panic, sure they’d come for Dan.
‘It’s your brother,’ they said. ‘He’s been shot. He’s dead.’
Rima screamed – ‘Nooooo’ just like they did in the films. The world was in slow motion. Her blood was sinking, falling right out of her body. She thought her heart would stop. Her brother was all she had. He was only 19.
Dan came out of the bedroom. Rima held out her arms, needing him. He sidestepped her, moving to the sports bag he had left by the door. Rima began to wail: ‘You care more about what’s in that bag than you do about me.’
The policemen looked uncomfortable, backing as subtly as they could towards the door. ‘We’ll be in touch,’ they said.
‘What’s in that bag?’ she asked.
‘Nothing.’ Dan kicked it behind the couch. ‘I’m sorry about your brother.’ He held her, tight. For a moment she almost believed him but the bag kept coming in and out of her line of vision.
After a while Dan went back to bed, indicating she should come with him.
‘I just need a glass of water first,’ she said.
Rima waited once more. Her mouth tasted sour. Her throat was heavy as if she had swallowed sand. She heard Dan snore and opened the sports bag, dropping on it like a hawk spotting a mouse from two hundred feet up.
There was a gun inside. Rima was sorry to say she knew a thing or two about guns – it made her wonder what kind of life she was leading to be able to admit such a thing – and it had been recently fired.
There was one other thing in the bag. It had a bullet hole in it. Some blood spotted the edges. The bandanna her brother always wore.
Rima packed all of Dan’s things. She could have been dreaming but for the sharp knot in her stomach. A bottle broken at the edges, lodged in her guts.
Dan stumbled out of the bedroom. He saw his bags and he knew. The gun was on the table.
‘If I didn’t love you so , you would already be dead for what you did, taking my brother from me. Go now. Far from here. Far from me. Don’t ever return.’
Dan said nothing. Skulking, the worst kind of coward, dragging his feet. He looked back at her, a pleading light in his eyes, a useless kind of penitent – but it was too late. Rima had already locked up her heart, encased in lead and thorns, and thrown away the key.
She sat by the window until the room was gray, until the night birds called out, their cries ringing clear across the silent city. A moth clung to the window sill, defying the push of the wind. She felt like she was made of rags, or cornmeal dry from lack of water; crumbling, shapeless, blown into pieces by sorrow.