They called us The Newlyweds.
I wore a white slip. My black hair in kinks and knots. My lips, ripe cherries. We always parked around back. We always left the car running. And I’d always go in first. He’d follow with the gun. We’d go in with an empty briefcase and we’d always leave with it full.
We checked in to separate rooms around noon. I had time to kill. I painted my nails and smoked one after the other until my room was cast in a dull fog. The smoke circled me, heavy. It was superstitious, but I never could leave until I’d had a sip of brandy and read his letter.
Tonight we ride. Hold on tight.
All my love, T.
I tucked it in my stockings and made for the car. And just like always, he was there waiting. We parked in back. I pulled out my pill box and dry swallowed a blue one, then took the bump he had for me, giggling. He laid some out on the space between my thumb and my index finger for himself and then kissed me hard afterwards. His right hand slid between my thighs, and his left crawled up the small of my back, pulling me into him. My skin raised, hot and aching. And my hands grew too anxious and pulled through his hair. My mouth searched for his neck and my breath left in short gasps. And as my self control seeped out of me, he laughed low and pushed me slowly away.
“We celebrate after. You know that.”
I nodded, quick and small, straightened my hem, fixed my lipstick. I laid my forehead against his, my face still too hot and the skin between my legs wet. I breathed calm and deep. Kissed him light on the cheek. I took another bump and climbed out of the car. Maybe I’d taken too much but my breath was coming out in dizzy bursts, and the air felt too heavy around me. I turned before I rounded the corner to the building front and blew him one last kiss. He lifted his chin and smirked in acknowledgment, and I did my best to let the angst slip away.
My heels clicked and echoed against the marble floor. I waited my turn in line. I stood, a picture of patience on the outside. Just under the surface my emotions fussed about in restless fits. And as I came up on the wooden and gilt desk, he walked through the door. And everything melted away. He came up behind me and slid the suitcase across the counter, a flash of the gun sticking out just underneath. And he looked just like a ghost. Haunting and pale, in all black. Sunken eyes, slicked back hair, all wrapped in leather. And me with bloodied lips and my white slip, sitting in stark contrast to my skin. The straps of my dress barely touching my hollowed collar bones. You’d think that we should have worn masks. But people don’t pay attention to faces when there’s a gun around. People don’t watch your face when there’s a monster inside of you.
The girl behind the counter was all wide eyes. My voice calm and drawling like honey, “Sugar, I’m going to need you to go in back and fill that up for me.”
I winked and held one finger up to my lips. She sat, trembling in shock. “T? Help me out, baby?” I tipped my head against his chest, and he kissed the top.
He leaned forward and laid his hand across her shaking fingers. “Hey, now. You just still yourself. We just wanna get out of here as quick as possible. You feel me?” His words slid over her like thunder rolling. She took a deep breath, grabbed the suitcase from his hand, and headed to the back. She wasn’t gone long. When she returned she held her breath and handed the bag over to me. I nodded, handed it to T, and made for the door. Adrenaline was pumping through me hard. Between my quickened pulse and the harsh sunlight outside, my eyes couldn’t focus. I turned behind me to check that he was on my tail, but kept walking. Our eyes met, and something wasn’t right. I expected a wink. They were open and terror struck. And everything slowed. I made to spin around and see what nightmare lay behind me at the same moment that he reached to pull me out of the way. And his hand missed mine. And as my eyes came to rest on the scene in front of me, my sternum caught fire. In front of me were flashing lights. In front of me was a gathering of cars and men in uniform. In front of me there were a dozen guns trained on my face and his. And I looked down at my slip as the front blossomed wet and sticky. My breath stuck in my throat and my chest burned like inferno. And as I fell, it was his gun I saw staring straight at my center. And his eyes were empty and wet. And his mouth hung open. Despair etched across every feature. And my lungs refused to fill. And my insides kept pouring. And his eyes wept. And my baby shot me down.