Chapter One - read a sample
- read a sample
Eve felt miserable.
It distressed her terribly to offend him, but she had to do it. If not today, then some other day. No matter how much she loathed losing Ted she could no longer play with him. She grew to respect this man … and perhaps more. She had some idea what was going on inside Ted, but couldn’t deal with it anymore. She grasped the hurt in him, though not sure how deep it was.
For the feeling of guilt gradually seized her, Eve would rather run away as fast as she could, far away, but some civil decency made her still.
They sat in his car at the front of her home, her parents’ place. The silence between them began to grow unbearable. She had nothing left to say. With a heavy sigh she took his hand, squeezed it and opened the door. They both got out and he handed over her travelling bag from the boot. Hesitant, she walked towards the gate. Once more she turned back, smiling at him apologetically. Then the heavy wooden gate of the old block of flats shut behind her with a quiet click.
Ted gazed at it for minutes, hoping for some miracle to happen. But this was the end; he knew … the end of everything. Inside a sinister emptiness squeezed him. Life itself seemed empty somehow. He loved Eve, though he never really knew why … just loved her. Thus far he did not feel the pain of unrelieved lovemaking and the sorrow of futility as he had many times before, but the killer inner tautness fumbled its way through him.
It was three o’clock in the morning. The streets of Kirribilli were deserted. He sat back and turned on the engine. His beloved, new Land Rover moved off with slow elegance. Staring ahead, on the windscreen streetlights passed by like a night scene in a boring movie. Ted even had the insane illusion that he could simply stand up and leave this featureless film; a miscarried presentation of his own life.
Ted knew the city well. He was born here. The short drive to the bridge was almost instinctive. Only a few cars spent the night in the car park at North Sydney. A young couple were kissing ravenously in a sedan.
Ted turned away, detesting them, detesting himself.
Sitting in the car for a while, he looked up at the huge iron span, a black silhouette arching over the harbour.
He got out. He left the key in the ignition and the door unlocked. Let’s make the thief’s day, he thought with a twisted sneer. At least someone can make use of his guilt. Rest in peace 1955-1987, the epitaph popped into his mind and like sobbing, a repressed laughter escaped his lips.
As he walked up the stairs, the numb pain became stronger step by step. It drew up from his loins along his spine, spread through his bones and ribs. It was pulsating even in his skull. He had always had it when failed, but tonight it was more agonising than ever. It hurt even breathing.
Moving towards the middle of the span, he did not meet a single soul. The footpath was comfortingly dark compared to the lights of the roadway. Then he stopped at a shadowy point he found suitable.
It was not the first time he had looked at the troubled water far below. He used to imagine how easy it would be just to climb over the safety rail and jump. In his imagination the fall was slow into the depths, as if he would fall into eternal freedom.
The pain urged him on.
He knew this deranging, physical irritation like on old friend … or rather enemy. He knew, too, the force of it, but he always loathed emotions that could ravish people’s self-control. Ted’s temper always prevailed. Self-destruction?… Who cares?…
Powerless, miserable creature… he thought and again silently accepted Eve’s right to get rid of him. Why should she sacrifice even part of her life?
Big boys don’t cry, he grinned cynically, they kill themselves…
The morning breeze rippled some white crests on the dark surface of the sea far below. The deepness appeared alluring; inviting. Ted’s face pulled into a grimace of weird pleasure.
“This one better turn out right,” he said, mocking himself with dark sarcasm.
Freakish happiness swarmed in him. Slowly his grip became stronger on the metal bar, preparing himself to swing over.
As though his fate would crack a practical joke, a police car stopped behind him, at the kerb, noiselessly. He stood still, facing the river, his knuckles whitening from the squeeze on the rail, when two cops appeared on either side.“Good morning…”
The unexpected voice startled Ted.
“… nice clear night, isn’t it?” said one cheerfully greeting him. “We’re just lonely in the middle of the night and the middle of the bridge, aren’t we?”
Ted’s mind protested against the intrusion. He glimpsed from one officer to the other, visibly troubled.
“How can we help you?” asked the second one.
Help him! How funny! There was someone who wanted to help him. Give me a boost perhaps…
“Thanks,” he stammered out, “I’m fine…” He tried hard not to show his inner turmoil, “I’m alright…”
“Many folks used to commit suicide from here, regardless of the safety system,” the second one added, “especially around this time of the morning.”
Ted was unable to conceal his astonishment. They couldn’t see through him … so easily … they just couldn’t…
“I can swim well,” he replied, forcing a dry smile, hoping they wouldn’t know what a weak excuse it was.
“It doesn’t really matter,” went on the first one. “If someone jumps from this high, he’ll hit the surface with such power that his stomach or back, whatever hits first, will blow apart instantly. They used to be ugly corpses … well, if the fish didn’t eat them up before the water-rats fish them out…”
Ted knew better. Once, not too long ago, in another similar mood, he modelled out all the details on the newly acquired computer in his office. He ran the physical data of such a tumble. He knew accurately how many seconds his fall would take, the exact speed and power with which he could hit the surface. No human body could bear such a hit…
…and what a fast death it could be! The brain wouldn’t even have time to register pain … and then … no trace left behind that he ever existed. But for now his plans fell to the ground… The thought of the old expression pulled his mouth into a melancholic grin.
His mind was pressed to get a stronger grip of reality and – rather for the record – he noted with pretended indignity: “What made you think that I wanted to kill myself?”
“…just told you in any case.” The officer seemed to be content.
“Do you have a car around?” asked the second copper.
“Yes, I have,” Ted obscurely mouthed, “… I think.”
“Alright,” he searched Ted’s face, “how much did you drink?”
“I didn’t drink anything in the last three hours.” With a returning mind from far away Ted gradually began to realise he hesitated too long. These two spoiled his will … his last will.
“Okay,” instructed the second policeman, “close your eyes and walk five steps in line.”
The simple action ruffled up Ted’s nerves.
“Looks like no drugs, no alcohol…” confirmed the policeman.
“And what if I had?” Ted challenged with swirling anger.
“We’d take you to the station for a couple of hours,” the officer said quietly, looking straight in his eyes, “but you can drive. We’ll see you to your car.”
Ted didn’t comprehend the procedure, but it left no place for argument. Also, he was close to rage. He had to submit to his ironic fate. For the first time in his life Ted travelled in the back of a police car, where criminals usually sat, and the door could only be opened from the outside. His face turned into a wry sneer.
During the short trip not one word was spoken. They stopped right behind his four-wheel-drive, without asking him. No one had touched it seemingly. It was standing there just as he left it.
“So, this is your car,” the first officer stated rather than asked.
Suspiciously Ted nodded.
“I thought so.” The policeman took a bunch of keys from the glove box. Ted recognised his own keys with resentment as the tragi-comical situation began to dawn on him.
“We locked it,” said the policeman, then got out to open the door for Ted. “Next time don’t forget to take the keys with you…”
In this split second everything cleared up. Ted felt like a gigantic fool. He could sink into the earth for shame right down to hell, betraying himself with a bunch of stupid keys. He repressed a disgraceful, pain-concealing laugh at his own recklessness as he stepped out from the car clumsily.
“I suppose I should thank you,” he grinned. “So, thank you.”
“Have nice day!”
“Oh thanks, I’m just having one…” he answered with hardly masked sarcasm, walking towards the four-wheel-drive. The nicest day of my life, he added silently.
Ted sank into the driver’s seat, despondent. Waited for a few minutes, but the police car did not move from beside him. Turning on the ignition, he drove away with a provocative slowness, often looking back in the mirror. The cops followed him till home.
It was almost five o’clock in the morning.
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