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Ruby
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Ken Orford

Romantic Fiction

15




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 didn’t 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 airport.

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 she wouldn’t have been waiting for him when he’d returned. She 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, that would be too much – before their honeymoon flight to St Lucia the 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 stark contrast to the house she had left twenty minutes earlier.  This 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 morning.

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 avoided eye contact and said something equally non committal back, and he was duly dismissed. A few moments later she caught someone’s eye in the 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 forgotten.  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 still 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 other 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.





Based on the song "Ruby, don't take your love to town" performed by Kenny Rogers. Lyrics by Mel Tillis.


© Ken Orford, 2007



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