She clicked the
heavy front door shut as quietly as
she could. To close it any louder would have made her leaving more
emphatic, more hurtful somehow. Once on the front step she
move. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the physical barrier
between them. But the real barrier was something much, much more
substantial. Having let the cool evening air wash away some, but only
some of the guilt she felt, Ruby got into her car and headed for the
Her limited, but increasing experience had shown her that the airport
hotels were best suited to her purpose. The clientele rarely stayed
more than one night, two at most – perfect for the transient
relationship she sought and needed. As she drove the radio played You
Always Hurt the One You Love.
Ruby groaned. Why is it that whenever you have an emotional crisis
every bloody tune on the radio seems to be directed at you?
But the truth was she did love him. If she hadn’t loved him
wouldn’t have been waiting for him when he’d
would have quietly disappeared from his life back then. Was it really a
year ago? She tried to force the thoughts and the bitter memories out
of her mind as the airport Sheraton got nearer. As she changed gear,
she felt and heard her wedding ring rattle against the gear knob. Her
mind pictured the happiest day of her life and the wonderful evening
they had spent in the airport hotel – no, not the Sheraton,
would be too much – before their honeymoon flight to St Lucia
next day. But even as she pictured his face smiling at her from the
pillow, the image was replaced by him looking at her from a different
pillow. The smiling, loving eyes were replaced by the pleading, dulled
eyes of a broken man.
She parked and made her way to the lobby, and the bar. As she
approached she could hear the pianist playing some innocuous wallpaper
music. The bar sounded noisy, vibrant and full of life – a
contrast to the house she had left twenty minutes earlier.
was a different world. To her it was almost a fantasy world, set apart
from the reality of her daily life with its responsibilities. Like all
good fantasies, it provided her with the escape she needed mentally
– but it also provided her with something else.
Her four inch Gucci heels clicked on the polished floor and she caught
more than a few men (and some women too) giving her the once over. She
was dressed to attract, but not dressed like a tart. As she sat at the
bar and ordered a drink, she allowed her black skirt to show enough
thigh to give off the signals. Signals that were reinforced by the
cream jacket with nothing underneath except a lacy bra. Thigh and
cleavage – two undisputed male magnets. Her third weapon was
quite simply a smile to die for. The man at home had always said he
noticed the smile first, then her legs and then her boobs. Now he only
noticed her leaving home every Saturday night, and returning on Sunday
Her drink arrived. She picked it up in her now ring-less left hand and
looked in the mirror behind the bar for likely candidates. She glimpsed
herself, short jet black hair with a lopsided fringe covering one of
her huge, dark, enticing eyes. Her lips were red, glossy and inviting.
The first candidate came up and stood next to her as he ordered a
drink. He broke the ice with some inane comment or other. But
she’d already made up her mind – not him. She
contact and said something equally non committal back, and he was duly
dismissed. A few moments later she caught someone’s eye in
mirror. She smiled, as much with her eyes as her mouth, and her prey
was doomed. He came over and the inevitable small talk was followed by
the equally inevitable drink that was left unfinished as they headed
for his bedroom.
Shortly after eight her car drew out of the car park. She had slipped
out without waking the man whose name she had already
The itch had been scratched for a while, and now it was time to be the
loving, caring wife for another week. She let herself in as quietly as
she had let herself out the previous evening. He’d probably
be asleep. He usually drank more than he should when she got dressed up
and went out on Saturday nights. As she put the keys down on the table
she saw the two photographs side by side. In the first, the two of them
with their families on their wedding day. She wasn’t in the
photograph. It was of his other family. A dozen men in desert fatigues
posing in front of a Warrior Reconnaissance Vehicle in Southern Iraq.
She walked past the wheelchair into the living room, and was surprised
to see him there. He was awake and had obviously not been to bed. His
eyes were dark and incredibly sad looking. A far cry from the shining,
happy eyes in the picture on the hall table. He looked at her with
tears rolling through the stubble on his cheeks.
The neighbours reported two shots – only a few seconds apart.
When the police broke in, they found the SIG 226 service revolver and
the two bodies.
on the song "Ruby, don't take your
love to town" performed by Kenny Rogers. Lyrics by Mel Tillis.
Ken Orford, 2007