Fair Play

Her name used to be Holly Hallelujah. Her last year started with a fairy-tale romance, and ended with a noir ending. She often says that retribution is my last resort. I often find her singing summer songs for what should be. Always dissatisfied, seldom suspicious.

She idealizes the day we met. Exaggerates every single detail, as if every ray on sunshine, every drip of honey, was somehow connected to the key of mankind’s existence.

“It‘s not Sunday today, is it?” asks the woman who used to be Holly Hallelujah. Her lips seducing the answer from me.
“Far from. We‘re older now, but not old enough to forget,” I respond. Cryptic. She prefers it that way. She was always fascinated by my mystique. Whatever that means.

Everyone in here seems drunk enough not to notice if someone suddenly disappears. I pull her up from the sofa. She loses her balance, spilling the vodka she was sipping on. I whisper what sounds like an apology. “What’s lost is lost,” she says.
“I don‘t believe that. I found you, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but I wanted you to find me. Took you long enough. What, five years?”
“Six, actually.”
“It took you six years to find me?!”
“Six months. It took me five and a half to find the courage to come up to you.”
“And here we are. Again. Scene of the crime. Where to now, kind stranger?” I’m far from kind. Far from unkind, either.
“Where else?”
“Hmmm…there? Lead the way.”

We disappear into the night like an Ella Fitzgerald song.

We reach the station and she hums her favorite waltz. I look at her with a raised eyebrow. She smiles. Wickedly. She is to die for.

“You are just like me,” I say. “I knew it from the second we met. You have it in you. I never doubted that instinct for a second.”
“Yes, I am just like you. I did what I had to. But at what cost?”
“Cost? People like us, either we hide or we hunt. We have nothing to lose. Beth…”
“That’s not my name. I don’t go by that name anymore.”
“Since when?”
“Since you left.”
“We left each other. It was mutual. Wasn’t my idea, but…”
“…but you just let me go. After what happened…after the fuck up with…well, you know. Anyone in your position would do the same.”
“There’s no need to bring that up again. But that wasn’t our fault. We should’ve seen it coming, but it wasn’t our fault.”
“Oh, yes, it was.”

We swore years ago never to betray each other’s trust. And then we found ourselves in the crosshairs of a reverse cupid. There was an incident eight months ago. It pulled us apart. It crushed everything we built. Our home, our relationship, our trust. The trust that went both ways was the most crucial thing we had. We could betray each other, we could betray those near and dear to our hearts, we could betray the code we live by, but that trust, breaking that trust, betraying that trust we worked so God damned hard for, not that. Never that.

But we did. And she’s right. Our bloody hands are far from innocent. I’ve lied to myself since it happened. I’ve tried to convince myself that we were just victims of circumstance. That fate was crueler to us than ever with that incident. But I could dream. I paint myself as a pragmatist, but every once in a while, I slip back to old habits. Idealism. Romantic. An individual made of complete and utter idiocy. “I’m not going to lose you again,” I say. “What should I call you now? Whose life are you living in now?”
“Some woman I saw two weeks ago. Nadia. I’ve had my eye on her for a very long time. Since we were still…involved. She seemed nice. Had it all, but wasn’t appreciative of what she had.”
“So you took it?”
“So I took it all.”
“Ah. Good.”
“Why are we here?”
“Because here is the other scene of the crime.”
“I don’t like it here. Smells like fish.”
“Then why did you come with me?”
“My curiosity got the better of me. And now I’m starting to get bored.” This is bad. Things happen when she gets bored. Things break. Hearts get broken. Mirrors get shattered. Lives get ruined. My second job became doing whatever I can not to let it happen. No matter how tired I got, always making sure that I never lost her interest, it was worth it. I lost too much, in fact, from all my efforts. There was never any regret.
“Beth…Nadia…have you ever imagined what would have changed considerably had we gotten here sooner?”
“Then? Or now?”
“Then. Four minutes and twenty eight seconds. That’s all it took. Four minutes and twenty eight seconds sooner and maybe what was done could’ve been undone.”
“We were meant to fail. Four minutes and twenty eight seconds wouldn’t have mattered. A single second wouldn’t have mattered. We were set up. If it wasn’t that, it would’ve been something else.”
“…something else that we could’ve foreseen. Prevented. We had everything we needed. We knew what we needed to know.”
“We didn’t know what they didn’t want us to know. That’s why we failed.”
“And you’re alright with that? You’re alright with them fucking with us?”
“I’m not. But I know that there are things that you don’t just mess with. So whatever you have planned, and yes, I do know you’ve got something up your sleeve, don’t. Just don’t. It’s not worth it.”

The body was found on the tracks of decommissioned train station. Right below the platform we’re standing on. No one was supposed to find it for at least a few more weeks. But we did. We thought it was happenstance. It did seem easy. Too easy. Should’ve known. “And am I supposed to just live with that? I lost you because of that! We were pit against each other because of that, Beth.”
“Beth! I knew you as ‘Beth.’ I’m calling you ‘Beth.’”
“Have it your way. You didn’t lose me because of what happened. You lost me because you couldn’t protect me.”
“Protect you from what?”
“Myself. And now that failure cost you your life.”
“What are you-”

I didn’t even see the gun she pulled on me. One pull of the trigger. That’s all it took. “Beth…Nadia…Holly…” My mind is unraveling. I’m bleeding from the side. Bullet hit an artery. “…Beth.
“You should’ve come to me sooner. I already let you find me. I made it easy for you. Two days. Had you come two days sooner, this would’ve never happened. I just couldn’t pass up what they offered. ‘Nadia.’ A new life. A new start.”
“And all you had to do was pull the trigger.”
“To leave you where we found the kid. ‘Either we hide or we hunt.’ Goodbye, my love.”

As I lay bleeding on the tracks below her, seeing her up there reinforces what I’ve concluded long ago. She is just like me. I knew that from the start. Didn’t matter if I came to her two days sooner. This was meant to happen. This was destined to happen. Two individual contracts signed by three parties. Only one of us was meant walk out of here. She just beat me to the punch.

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