Tags: United States
, Literature & Fiction
, Mystery; Thriller & Suspense
, Contemporary Fiction
, Contemporary Women
, Women's Fiction
, Literary Fiction
, Thrillers & Suspense
Whatever that meant. I wished I hadn’t told her. She pushed the pile of coriander against the knife blade and continued chopping.
The smell of paraffin still hangs in the air. One of the balconies below mine must be open to the flat and I can hear their music. Four on the floor. Patterns ripple across the muddy sky. I wonder if he is out there somewhere, celebrating. Rage lights through me and then, in a sea change, all my fury turns to Rachel.
I picture her leaning against the balcony with the skyline behind her. Her black jumper falls off her shoulder, showing the yellow strap of her bra. She starts to smile, her cheekbones lifting, eyes shining. If Keith watched her from the ridge, she probably encouraged him. She probably liked the attention.
The wind flattens my shirt to my chest. I cross my arms and start to go through our old fights. After the sodden misery of the past nine days, it is a joy to be spiteful, like I am swigging battery acid.
I build my case against her, based on every time she was thoughtless or nasty, like the time she called me lazy. “I’m just as ambitious as you are,” I said.
“For what?” she asked. “Toward what?”
She laughed, and I said, “Well, what about you? Do you think anyone will remember you when you’re dead? You’re a nurse, no one thinks about you twice after they leave hospital.”
“They do, and I don’t care,” said Rachel, with the air of a tennis player who serves a beautiful shot and throws her racket down in the same gesture.
The temper on her. She is the only woman I know to have been hit by a male bouncer. On another night, I watched her pick up two bottles of beer, hold them over the bar, and drop them on the bartender’s feet.
At a party a few years ago on the island in Hackney Wick, I turned to her and said, “This is the best party I’ve ever been to.” I resumed dancing and wondering if this was what Burning Man was like, and Rachel punched a man in the head and had us kicked out.
Alice said we needed to make her run laps before she could go out. We were at the dog park in Willesden and she pointed and said, “That’s what the bitch needs.” We knew the source of her fury, but it didn’t always make us sympathetic.
The thought of the party on the island in Hackney Wick fills me with bitterness. I wrench open my closet and throw my bag inside. Her flannel dressing gown is on the floor. I carry the gown to the sofa and hold it on my lap. I run the fabric through my fingers. It still holds her smell, and I sink back, exhausted.
• • •
I can’t wait here during the inquiry. If it was a random attack, the police will never find him. Unless he confesses. Unless a woman in the countryside outside Oxford calls and says, I doubt it’s anything, but my husband came home late, and I noticed there was blood on his jacket and in his car. Do you think you should come have a look?
• • •
I clean my flat for the potential subletter. I lock the door and take a bus to Earl’s Court to drop my key in Martha’s postbox. The lights in her house are out, which is good. I don’t want her to see me and try to convince me to stay. By eleven I am at Paddington again, waiting for the train that will take meback.
O NCE I FOLLOWED a woman home from the tube. She got on at Monument, which in itself caught my attention. I wanted to know what she had been doing there, for some reason. She spent the trip reading, and only looked up once, at Cannon Street. When she stood at Victoria, I followed her off the train instead of staying until my stop. She left the station and walked toward the river and Pimlico. It was late May, the kind of warm spring evening when you delay going indoors. She stepped onto the road to get around the crowd of people standing outside a pub, holding sparkling glasses of lager and smoking, then turned on a small road of terraced yellow-brick houses with white piping on the roofs.
I never told