46 - It's All in the Eyes
Rita was sitting on her old decrepit bench with its peeling varnish and crusty, rusted legs and weather beaten, like it had been stuck underwater for ever. She was sitting on her bench in her front garden where the evening sun was. That’s why it was there, to be in the evening sun - the heat warmed her bones and creaking joints. The girl was approaching. She was maybe thirty, long, pale yellow dress kind of floating about in the breeze and that wavy, fly-away type of blond hair. Wobbly looking six inch, blue patent leather stilettos click, clickety clacking on the pavement slabs as she kind of skipped along, swinging her matching bright blue shiny handbag and swaggering a bit with a confident walk, like she was on top of the world or something.
Then the girl was stopped near Rita, by Rita’s old rusty gate and Rita said, “hi there, I’m Rita. Saw you move in yesterday.”
“Why hi to you as well,” All full of exuberance, like a pumped up comedian. Patsey Red lips and smile-talking, that over-excited talking that enthusiastic people speak, that they speak quite quickly, “So nice to meet you. I’m Jenny. Yeah, moved in OK.”
“Didn’t see anyone else. Do you live alone?” Rita did have a bit of an inquisitive streak. Not like a proper busybody or curtain twitcher more like someone who just liked to know who was living next door.
“No, my partner, Annie, she’s joining me in a couple of days. Had to go to see her mother who’s ill. Made things a bit hard but no worries. Just bad timing. Unfortunate eh?”
Rita stuttered a bit, her seventy two years struggling with the two girl relationship thing, “Well yes…. I suppose it was, wasn’t it? I hope your…. partner’s mother’s all
right.” She noticed the bright red painted nails as fingers fiddled with the flamboyant, rainbow chunk hanging around Jenny’s neck.
“Yeah, I expect so.... Well, so nice to meet you but I’m sorry, can’t chit chat just now. Going out and having to get all dolled up and all that sort of stuff. You know how it is.”
Rita watched the whirlwind of yellow disappear next door. “Was that gin I smelt?” She thought, “she’s very…. colourful.” Then shook her head a bit. She did enjoy the sun.
Annie - at least Rita assumed it was Annie, a couple of days later, head down and shuffling in black trainers and a drab, colourless, bad fitting dress, stepped out of her gate into Rita, with a bump that was a bit glancing but enough to annoy. Annie looked over the fringe of her plain, lanky dark hair which she flicked back a bit, with a casual left hand, from a miserable smacked with a wet flannel face. She was no beauty. No makeup. Just frowns. “Hi I’m Rita.” Rita said, looking at Annie. Seeing strain in her face.
“Annie.” A huffed kind of apology was all she got as Annie shuffled off in the opposite direction.
Later that week Jenny was hanging out the washing. Bright red with some blue, bit of pink and flapping in the wind. Blond hair flying in the breeze clipped down a bit with a large, plastic, shocking pink slide. Snapped up as though ready to go dancing, although it was only nine thirty in the morning. She looked familiar. Rita was standing
on her back door step smoking her last cigarette ever for the one thousandth time holding a chipped, yellow painted cup full of thick brown tea.
“Hi there again,” was enthusiastically thrown at her over the leaning fence held up by an enormous pink, rambling rose. A very vivacious character, Jenny, and no mistake.
“Good morning.” Rita replied but rather reluctantly. She was quickly overwhelmed by gregarious people. She coughed a bit and ground out the ciggy next to the other nine hundred and ninety nine stubs. “Settling in OK?”
“Oh it’s great, it is. Love the house. Love the area. And so nice to talk to you. Sorry about the other day, I was in a rush. Meeting up with someone and a quick turnaround needed and all that.” Blond hair drifting over her face. She did look familiar. Something in the eyes.
And that started a longish chat. She talked about Annie in a bit of a disparaging way. Rita began to think they were a bit of an odd couple. Definitely incongruous.
Over the next few weeks they came and went. Sometimes she would see Annie who just drifted off. Nothing meaningful to say. Same sombre attitude, never changing. Jenny on the other hand would just not shut up. Rita got the whole works. Jenny worked. Advertising something or another. Annie didn’t. Just moped about apparently. Jenny, so full of life and exhausting. Just so exhausting.
Through the dividing wall Rita could sometimes hear snippets of conversation. Sometimes shouting and arguments. After a while she started to think, “all’s not well there,” but she just shrugged it off.
About five weeks later she was sitting in her front room on her favorite armchair, the one with the big yellow, comfy cushions. Slowly relaxing. The ticking clock on the mantelpiece said four thirty eight and the light was fading. Picked up her book and blue rimmed glasses. A boring romantic fiction stuffed with too many words, by an American author that made her wish she had made better choices in her life and she looked at the window and the unpainted repair. Her husband had done that, the violent bastard. She would look in his eyes and knew she was for a thumping. They never lied, his eyes. Beat her for saying nothing in particular and chucked a vase at her that flew out the window. Flowers and all. His whisky fueled temper had done for him though. Late one night, outside the Nags Head. And good riddance. Forty five years of terror. Ended. Then her contemplation was suddenly broken by an eruption next door.
A sudden crash, the sort that spreads glass and china all over and cracked up chairs and tables like in a bar fight. Shouted words, screaming really, that flat out yelling that puts tears in your eyes when you yelled like that, “fuck you, you fucking bitch,” Jenny’s higher pitched voice. “You can’t tell me who I see.” Then a massive smash. Then, “you fucking whore,” in Annie’s lower voice, “who’s this bastard you’re seeing? I’ll kill him. And you can't get round me with these.” Another crash this time with breaking windows. Rita, still looking out the window, saw a glass vase, full of roses, fly through the upstairs window to land on her lawn. She picked up the phone and dialed.
There was thumping on the stairs. The row continued into the rear kitchen. More shouting. More swearing. Smashing and crashing. The place was being trashed. Into
the front room. Furniture being dragged. Thrown about. A chair flew through the window.
The police arrived. One car. Policeman and woman.
Rita was outside, “there's a war going on in there,” she shouted, “someone’ll get hurt.”
The front door took a real beating as the policeman shouted, “police. Open up please.” Thumping hard.
Inside went suddenly quiet. An ambulance arrived with two paramedics.
The policeman bashed on the door again. Hard, with his fist, “open up. This is the police,” he frantically yelled. Trying his shoulder against the unmovable door.
Yelling and screeching Annie suddenly burst out the front door. Hair all over the place. Blood on her arms. Face bleeding. A big carving knife in her hand. The police were taken by surprise. She got past them and confronted a paramedic. Slashed him across the face. The policeman grabbed her but she stabbed him in the arm. She was wild, going wild, frantic. Just thrashing. Swiping at everything. Screaming. A proper maniac. The police woman grabbed her. The wounded officer slapped on cuffs.
Another ambulance and police car arrived. Annie was sedated and the scene cleared. Rita went back indoors. Devastated.
The next day was almost done when Rita’s rusty old front gate squealed in protest at being opened. One of those sudden breezes blew leaves around the small garden. Through the frosted glass of her front door she could see the silhouette of a
tall man, hand raised to lift the lightweight bronze knocker rattling rhythmically in the wind. Arm strangely suspended when she opened the door. Just left hanging. Detective Dave Simmons grabbed a well worn trilby from his head. Crispy brown leaves had followed him up the path and drifted inside, making her tut. Kicked up a bit by his brown suede, soft sole creepers.
“May I come in,” he said, showing identity.
Turning, Rita nodded and walked, well kind of stomped, down the dull hallway avoiding the creaking floorboard that Dave trod on as he followed the stale cigarette smell into the kitchen and a throwback from the fifties. She pointed to a red plastic covered, steel framed chair by a cabinet, one of those tall cabinets with a table flap that was hooked open and said, “tea?” then turned to grab an old kettle with a bent handle to place on a gas ring on a surprisingly clean cooker. She wiped her hands on the sides of her plain blue apron and stuck them in her pockets. Waiting.
The chip on the rim of his cup stared at him as she dropped in a sugar lump he did not want. He wondered if he could avoid drinking the thick brown swirling mass then lifted the cup and sipped and tasted bitterness. Now glad of the sugar.
“I need to take a statement about yesterday,“ he said, flipping open a battered old notebook that kind of matched his battered old detective look.
When Rita had finished she said, “the stabbed people, they OK? I saw Annie yesterday but not Jenny. Is she all right? She seemed so nice.”
“Yeah, they’re both OK but Jenny…… That house, it’s ruined inside. Blood smears everywhere. Everything’s all smashed up. I looked about but no one was there.
In the main bedroom there’s a big dressing table with lots of makeup and a blond wig. A very expensive wig with long blond hair. There was no sign of Jenny anyw…...”
“But she must have been there. I heard her. Shouting.”
Dave thought for a moment then said, “I spoke to the doctor this morning. The one who's been treating Annie. Turns out that she’s a long-term patient being treated for a serious split personality disorder. Apparently, Annie had started drinking and not taking her medication. Seems Annie is the dominant one and makes herself up to be Jenny with the blond wig. I don’t quite understand it but the doctor said If her Jenny identity had been seeing someone then Annie could become jealous. Anyway that’s how it was told to me.”
“Well, that explains a lot you know, I did think it strange I never saw them together and always thought there was something familiar about them. Could see it in the eyes. Appearances can be easily changed, you know, but it’s the eyes, that’s a completely different matter. The eyes never lie. No matter how hard you try it’s so very hard to completely change the eyes.”