By Vito Delsante
She wasn’t afraid.
It wasn’t their first date and while she was as nervous as she always was when they met, she wasn’t scared.
She just didn’t want to get caught.
She arrived at their favorite meeting place early, a small bar called Hemingway’s on Forbes Avenue, and she slid into their favorite booth. She didn’t dress conservatively on purpose, choosing a low-cut blouse over the business attire she was more comfortable wearing. The blouse clung to her curves, accentuating her tiny hips and her enhanced bust. The skirt was tight and gave the semblance of a shape where one didn’t exist naturally. No doctor in the world could help her there, to her dismay. She looked like a Barbie doll, which didn’t really bother her since she enjoyed being his plaything. She had her reasons for dressing so provocatively and they weren’t entirely for his benefit. For one, it was too damn hot out and the air conditioner never worked in the bar. The heat contributed to the deaths of twelve people in the city, two in Squirrel Hill, her neighborhood, and the summer wasn’t over yet. The other reason was self preservation. The more that people looked at her outfit and her impressive chest, the less they were looking at her face. She did her best to keep eye contact professionally, but when she was with him, she did all she could to avoid recognition.
“Ok,” she admitted to herself, “I am scared. Scared of being caught.” She looked at her watch. It was the time they agreed to meet. The waitress poured her a glass of water with a dissenting look on her face, disapproving of her wardrobe choice. She turned her face away. Her eyes met her reflection and, immediately, she felt shame. Her shame started to drift away, however, when she heard the door open.
He walked in, duffel bag in hand. Late as usual, but not by much. He had excuses at the ready. Traffic, work, his mother. Her face told him he wouldn’t need one. He found her immediately upon entering, sitting on his side of the booth. It was as if he entered a tunnel and she was the light at the end of it. He beelined toward her, caught in the magnetic pull of her very existence. Whenever they met, he never kissed her or showed her any form of affection other than to touch her shoulder. When he did, he lightly caressed it, so subtly the human eye would miss it. As she rose to switch seats, he squeezed the exposed skin in his fingers and she sighed. He knew that later, should they not consummate their evening, he could smell her perfume on his hand and be instantly transported to this very moment. If the night ended here, he would be ok with it.
He sat down and apologized. She accepted, with a smile. “You sound just like my husband,” she said with a laugh. He ordered. They ate. He paid. They finished the bottle. She gave him “that look.” He knew instantly. They left. There was no reason to stay a minute longer. As they made their way to the curb, it was impossible to hail a cab, as neither one of them could keep their hands away from the other. Under the influence of the grape, their inhibitions were gone, and they didn’t care to hide their feelings any longer. Eventually, though, a cab would arrive and would take them to a hotel Downtown.
Somewhere, an office phone was ringing, but he wasn’t there to answer. It went to voicemail, the voice of a concerned woman on the other end.
They didn’t fumble with their clothes like inexperienced lovers, but instead, removed each other’s outfits with the precision of a skilled surgeon; quickly, but with care. As if with a scalpel. Her undergarments surrendered to him, submitting to his will. She was helpless before him, but once she stood naked before him, he was the weak one.
In an office across town, another phone rang steadily. Twelve rings and yet she didn’t answer.
Her breasts were in his hands, his eager tongue encircled the rosy tips. She arched her back and bent her knee. She was smaller than he was used to, petite, and his arm encircled her entire back. Her legs opened and she rubbed herself against his thigh. Such was the need inside of her, that she was close to bringing herself to ecstasy. She was ready. He entered her quickly, not wanting to waste a second. They had done this before. There was no need for romance or seduction when unbridled lust was clearly present.
At the very moment of his climax, his cell phone rang with the futile hope that he would answer. He didn’t, much to the dismay of the desperate voice at the other end.
They left the hotel an hour later. Maybe they’d come back. Maybe they wouldn’t. They had the room for the night, but they both had places they needed to be. When they got to the lobby, he said, “Let’s go for a walk.”
“Why?” she asked. “You know I have to go.”
He smiled. “I know but…can we just make it last a little longer?” He played with the buttons on his shirt and said, “The river’s kind of nice this time of night.” He was being cute, she thought, like a schoolboy. It was a side of him she hadn’t seen before and she loved it.
They walked along the river, to the tip of the Triangle where the three rivers met, happy, giggling. They weren’t thinking about the room or their responsibilities. They didn’t say much, at all. Walking, looking at each other, they had said all they needed to say in the room.
Lost in each others eyes, they never saw the third member of their party.
She saw him first, there, under the lamps that lined the path ahead. She could see the look on his eyes and it terrified her. His hand disappeared and she knew. She knew.
She wasn’t afraid.
The house phone rang. There was a woman on the phone.
“Hello,” the timid voice said. “Is Vonnie there?”
“Who’s this?” she asked, breathless.
“Vonnie, it’s Olympia Shepherd, Greg’s–”
“Oh!” she interrupted as soon as she recognized the name. “Hi, Pia. How can I help you?”
“Greg hasn’t come home from work yet and I’m getting a little worried. Have you heard from him at all?”
“No, he was still at the office when I left,” she answered. Vonnie twirled the chord in her hand, nervously. “Maybe he stepped out for a late dinner?”
“I thought that,” Olympia said, “and called his cellphone, but–”
“He probably left it on his desk. You know how forgetful he is.” Vonnie and Olympia both politely laughed. “Or maybe he’s driving and can’t answer.”
“Right, right.” Olympia looked up and said, “I didn’t think of that.”
“I’m sure he’s on his way. If I hear anything, I’ll make sure he knows to call you, ok?” They simultaneously hung up. Greg entered, her packed suitcase in hand, his duffel bag over his shoulder. “Who was that?”
“Your wife,” Vonnie said. “We need to leave now.”
Vonnie’s husband lay in the park, bleeding to death. He had suspected all along, and tonight, down by the river, he would stand up to them. He was willing to fight to keep his wife.
Greg was willing to kill.
Illustrations by Dave Stokes