LOVERS AND GLASSES
By Susan Harmon Apgar
Webster defines fear as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by expectation or awareness of danger. I'd have to agree.
One blistering hot morning in July, hearing the anticipated ring of my doorbell, I knew fear. I could smell it. A cold metallic taste filled my mouth and chilled my blood. It was fear. Believe me, I was a novice of sorts in this, but I knew I had much to fear of who was on the other side of my door.
Squelching down a bout of nausea, I got up and opened the door.
My voice wouldn't work, so I made a stab at looking demure and nodded.
A large man reached around to the rear pocket of his jeans and pulled out what looked to be his wallet. It wasn't.
Instead, a flashing gold police badge glared belligerently at me.
"Detective Mike Sarruda, Miss Daniels." Stripping off his sun glasses, he added with a grin, "Can we talk for a minute?"
A scream was lodged in the center of my throat, trying to force its way out. The detective's grin put me in mind of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, and like Alice with the cat, I knew I had better pay this guy some respect. I smiled, a wide dopey grin. Stepping aside to let him in, I croaked, "What's happened?"
I already knew, and was terrified Sarruda did too.
Walking past the couch and into my kitchen, Detective Sarruda smoothed down his bushy mustache and carefully laid his sun glasses on my kitchen counter. "You'll have to excuse me," he stalled, pulling out a crumpled handkerchief from his rear pocket to mop the sweat from his face, "It's hotter than hell out there."
I stood rooted to the floor with my back plastered to the door, welcoming the rush of cold air blasting from the air conditioner.
I glanced over at the detective and found his cold blue eyes fixed to mine in an accusing stare.
"Steve Jarkins is dead. A friend found him yesterday in his bed, shot to death with a .38 caliber revolver."
He knew. The room spun wildly. Desperately, I struggled to force air into my lungs while my legs crumbled to the floor. "My God, no...no." Weeping bitterly, I moaned, "He was my fiance. He can't be dead."
"Look, Miss Daniels I know this is difficult, but I have to clear up some things. This friend who found him also claims to have been his girlfriend, Jill Winthrop."
My swollen eyes widened on hearing that edifying piece of information. The detective pressed on.
"Did you know your fiance was seeing Miss Winthrop?"
Wiping my tears with the hem of my shirt, I stared at my drawn knees. "Jill was Steve's old girlfriend. You must have misunderstood her."
"I didn't," the detective cut in.
Steve and I always went out to dinner on Friday, but on this particular Friday, we were both too tired and opted to stay in. Tucked cozily in Steve's bed with a container of decadent ice cream wedged between us, I sighed, silently marveling at how wonderful life was. Steve yawned and asked, "Guess who I saw in Lou's Guns and Ammo?"
Licking the back of the spoon, I glanced up and shrugged.
Lou's Guns and Ammo was a sore subject with me. Steve insisted on buying me a gun for protection. I loathed the idea of owning a hand gun.
"Okay," I laughed, "Elvis?"
"Be serious," he said, taking the spoon and digging into the ice-cream. "Jill. She's moved back."
Jill was the love of Steve's life until she ran off to Chicago and got married. That was two years ago, but there were times, like now, when I wasn't convinced he was over her.
Opening my mouth to comment, Steve shoved the spoon in.
"She's getting a divorce."
I pushed his offending hand away. "What's that have to do with us?" Afraid it had everything to do with us, I sat up and drew my legs up, hugging them to my chest.
"Nothing, babe. Jealous?"
"Should I be?"
Turning away, he sat up and slid his long legs off the side of the bed. "No."
Staring at his broad bare back, I knew that my entire future had been altered within the last few minutes. His pending betrayal was clear when he turned around and his eyes darted away from me. Stretching across the bed, Steve jerked open the nightstand drawer and pulled out a .38 caliber revolver. "Here," he murmured, "be careful."
Our demise was eminent.
My best friend Dehlia forewarned me about dating a man on the rebound. She shook her head in disbelief when she saw I was the twin of my predecessor. She was furious when she found me crying one night at my apartment.
"Jesus," Dehlia swore. "How long has Steve been crying off?"
Dehlia's green eyes took on the look of a spitting cat while I rehashed my rising hysteria over Steve's apparent rejection of me. Handing me a glass of wine, Dehlia plopped down on the couch and said, "I guess I don't have to tell you how I feel about all this." Jabbing a slender finger at me, Dehlia continued, "He was on the rebound and to his utter luck, he found you, Jill's double. God, I could have predicted all this."
"Thanks, Dehlia. I feel better now." Wanting to absolve my faithless fiance's honor, I forced a smile. "It's nothing. I'm sure I'm just being insecure." Staring into the amber liquid, I whispered, "He loves me. I know he does."
The detective and I were in my kitchen, where he was doing his best to bully me. "Ms. Winthrop said you threatened Jarkins. Did you?"
"Of course not."
"Lisa," came a steely voice, "you may not realize it, but you are in serious trouble. I'm not playing."
The detective's eyes offered no sympathy, no compassion; only a promise of impending damnation. My stomach heaved. I was a suspect. I was going to jail.
"It wasn't a threa,t" I hedged.
"No. Actually, it was an emotional outburst."
He didn't see. How could he know the searing humiliation or the blinding pain that possessed me while I witnessed Steve's betrayal? I was losing my will to hold it together. Steve, Jill, the detective--it was too much.
Detective Sarruda absent-mindedly smoothed down his mustache and cooly accessed me with piercing eyes. His silence was choking me. He wanted to hear the whole sordid story.
Steve and Jill were lovers, but I couldn't admit that to myself. The warning signs abounded, but I was a master at rationalizing his lies. I couldn't bare the glaring truth. He didn't want me.
It was raining the night I went to Steve's house. Armed with a bottle of wine and Victoria Secret lingerie, I was determined to extinguish the very thought of Jill from Steve's memory.
They didn't even have the decency to close the bedroom door. Rushing down the hall to Steve's bedroom I heard the gasping and moaning and suddenly, couldn't move. A powerful shock ripped through my center, leaving me bereft and shaking. Lifting my eyes to the gaping door way, I saw them; Steve and Jill passionately entwined.
I gasped for air. Cold, undiluted rage seeped through my soul until it's icy fingers manipulated my numb mind.
I couldn't bare to watch them, but I couldn't tear my eyes away. Slowly, Steve opened his heavy lidded eyes and froze in mid-thrust.
Leaping from the bed, he struggled to yank up his jeans. The musky scent of sex permeated the air and my senses. "My God," I heard myself moan. "My God."
It was horrible.
Steve ran shaky fingers through his mussed hair and reached for me.
"Don't!" Jerking my head toward Jill, I hissed, "How could you?" Wiping my tears with the back of my hand, I headed for the stairs and yelled, "I'll kill you for this." I meant it.
"Lisa! Come back here and talk to me!"
"I hate you," I screeched, bolting out the door.
Detective Sarruda was writing in some little black book. He alternated between glaring at me, shaking his head, and taking notes. I felt I would go mad. Running to the bathroom, I got sick, taking comfort in the coolness of the tile floor.
"You better call a lawyer, Lisa." Detective Sarruda was still drilling me about the gun.
"Look," I pleaded, "I went to his house to patch things up, not to kill him."
Folding his arms across his chest, Detective Sarruda sighed. "Lisa, the revolver was yours. It was covered with your prints. You had motive and no alibi. I've gotta tell you, it doesn't look good."
I knew I should have said something, but all I could do was stare at my hands. I was thinking about all that blood, the strong metallic smell that had penetrated my lungs and wouldn't leave.
"I told you," I whined, "I put the gun in the nightstand...that's why it had my prints. Please, believe me."
Detective Sarruda halted his predatory pacing and stood directly over me. "I'm sorry, Lisa, but..."
The phone rang, thickening the tension that was already choking me.
"Damn," Sarruda hissed. "Go on, answer it."
I stumbled to the phone, the call was for the detective. Handing the receiver over, I tried desperately to hear what Sarruda was saying.
"I have to get back to the station."
Thank God, I thought. Time, I needed more time. Sarruda read my look and smiled. "We're not done."
Snatching his notebook from the table, Sarruda slid it into his back pocket and let himself out the door. He was gone.
My hands trembled as I frantically dug out the blood stained paper bag. The shirt inside was ruined, stained and stiff with Steve's blood. I had to get rid of it. The smell was suffocating me. Scanning my apartment for a hiding place, my eyes suddenly lit on a pair of sun glasses on the counter.
Swinging my head toward the door I saw him and panic seized me. I was thrust into that awful dream where your arms and legs are weighted down, paralyzing any attempt to move.
Detective Sarruda leaned into the door jam and reached up to smooth his mustache. Gluing his knowing eyes to me, he shook, his head. "Well", he said, "I guess we're going on a road trip." Jerking his head toward the counter he added, "Would you mind getting my glasses on your way out?"
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