“Nice” Mary licked her lips with concentration. She bowed down over her right hand. “Careful now.” She whispered to herself.
The nail polish brush stroked evenly over the arch of her right middle finger. The creamy butter yellow of the coffee table clashed with the sparkling aquamarine of her nails.
The dull metronome on the kitchen wall ticked away a bit too loud. Shabby thing, she thought. The new photo wallpaper of King’s Cross Station, she put up herself, didn’t go well with the white and green porcelain clock. Mike brought it back from some garage sale. Yesterday she saw a golden rimmed station clock on the shopping channel. That would go just fine.
On the big TV screen, Emily Garner’s Jewelry Show flickered on mute. Pearl earrings and pendants waltzed into full shot. Mary leaned back and chuckled. Those earrings were pricier when she bought them last week. „Ha!” She felt lucky, hunting down the best bargains. That was her world. She could start as a pro-shopper. That’d be a great job, her dream job, in fact. Being the wife of a private eye was boring her out of her mind. Mike was nice, but never glamorous, or mysterious. Mediocre at best. The last time he wore a smoking was at their wedding.
The keys chimed as her husband rammed them into the lock of the entrance door.
„Home, hon!” Mike’s voice disturbed Mary in her admiration for the peridot pendant on the screen. She turned up the volume.
„Kaaay!” She said, eyes glued to the TV.
„Dinner?” Mike asked head poking into the living room, but Mary didn’t answer. After waiting several seconds he went investigating the kitchen instead. Nothing. The stove was cold, and there was nothing prepared in the fridge. The freezer was stuffed with frozen lasagna, and something that looked like mac’n cheese. “Dammit, Mary.” He closed the freezer and sighed. He had enough of these kind of welcomes. He felt like someone had put his head into a bucket full with ice, and his heart on the grill. „Hey, Mary? What’s for dinner?”
„What you order, Mike!” She hollered from the couch. He just stood there, head hung, arms perched on the kitchen counter. He tried to breathe in deeply. This wasn’t what he wanted to come home to. After all those hours in the car, on stakeouts, he longed for something home cooked. For something that could warm him, from the inside, like the thanksgiving dinners his grandma had made.
Mary was different. She ate like a bird, when she wasn’t on some weird diet. Everything to fit into her fancy clothes. She had absolutely no passion for cooking, music, or movies. Everything he loved. The only thing on her mind was money, jewels and fancy clothing. She worked hard for her ideal beauty, that he had to admit. But beauty was only skin deep.
Mike picked up the phone and dialed. „H’lo, yeah. I’d like to order a big pizza. Yeah, uh-huh. Top it with extra cheese, anchovies, olives, onions, salami and bacon.” Mike walked over to his wife, poked her on the shoulder, and pointed a finger to the phone. She shook her head. „Yeah. To 2352, Remington Avenue. Yeah, okay. You too.” Mike put the phone back. He thought of a shower, but decided to have a smoke instead.
Mary didn’t allow him to light a cig inside. It made the curtains yellow, she used to say. Somehow, it was convenient. He wanted out, so he could breathe again. He grabbed the lighter and threw a look at his wife, marveling at some stupid jewelry. Shopping channel. Again. He decided to take a closer look at their bank account. He’d be damned if he missed her addiction, or something. His shoulder leaned against the door, he slowly pushed down the handle.
In the living room, Mary snuggled into the couch cushions. That necklace with jade and gold was breathtaking. Only four hundred ninety nine! They were kidding. So cheap! The dark haired model wore it with a dark green satin robe, with a deep décolleté. She looked astounding. Mary scrambled to get the phone. She dialed.
The entrance door blew open. The sound made her jump, and the phone fell to the ground. „MARY!” Mike roared from the entrance. She stood. He was hunched over, carrying something big and heavy in his arms.
„What the… Stop that! Don’t carry the trash back in!” No! That was a human! It dawned on her the instant she closed her mouth. Dirty sneakers, black jeans, black hoodie, a hand flopped down and dangled lifeless from Mike’s grip. She couldn’t look away.
“Come on! Don’t just stand there!” Mary didn’t move, eyes bulging. “I found him outside, behind the trash cans.” He groaned, the man was heavy.
She scrambled to make room. “Is he… Is he?” She stuttered.
Mike laid him on the couch. “No.” Now she saw, it was a young man, limp and dirty and senseless. Blonde hair, bleeding from several cuts on brows, cheek, nose and mouth. His face was blueish purple on the left side.
„Oh god,” she gasped, hands covering her mouth. Mike turned around looking at her. She’d pass out, if she had time to get worked up.
“Water, towel, peroxide. Now.” She rushed into the bathroom. Mike’s hands seeked for a pulse. His face relaxed, „strong and steady.” He stroked over the man’s brows with his thumbs, then on the jawline. No crepitation, that was good. His hands checked shoulders, elbows, hands. Seemingly okay. Nothing broken, as far as he could see. He pulled the lower eyelids down. White. Eyes rolled back into his skull.
Mary came back with everything he asked for. “Most likely, it’s a nasty concussion. Don’t worry,” the pained expression on her face didn’t ease. He smiled at her. She was pale, her eyes glowed with the fire he used to love. There was a glint of the magic Mary meant, so perfect, so kind and caring. She was still alive in there, just hiding all these years, in the skin of this person he married. He was relieved that it still existed. For a moment, he imagined Mary’s beautiful face and her burning eyes above him, glowing in the darkness, rocking above him… Rocking him. His mouth went dry.
„Hon, I’ll go check outside,” she looked at him anxiously, „please clean him up a bit.” She was just nodding holding tight the bowl with the water. He needed to breathe.
Mary knelt down beside the man. „Why us?” she asked. The man on the couch looked peaceful, like a sleeping child. In fact he seemed to be in his early twenties, a lot younger than she thought. Her fingers wetted the cloth. The smell was overwhelming. Carefully she touched the face. She could tell, it was beautiful, even with dirt caked on his temples and the back of his head. His brows were long, lips arched like a Mongolian reflex bow. Under her hands, the skin became brighter and brighter. She set the bowl down and cupped his bruised cheek with her hand.
His eyes flew open. Green!
That moment broke into her, like a green bottle’d burst into million shards glistening in the sunlight. She gasped. The green focused on her, it begged her barely audible. “Please…” How gorgeous he was… She’d cut herself on that green. How sweet that pain would be! The green hid again behind his eyelids. A tear ran down the bruised cheek. She felt the young man sink back into the softness of unconsciousness. Mary stared in awe. She smiled a little embarrassed smile. She blushed and wondered how anyone could hurt such a lovely being.
She took his hand and squeezed it. “I’ll take good care of you now. Everything is going to be alright.” She whispered into his ear.