The look on his face said,” I hate you.” It pierced her heart much before the bullet hit her in the stomach. Psychedelic lights flashed before her eyes and she lost all sense of time and place. She felt something wet seeping through her clothes and realized that she was lying flat on the ground, her blood flowing all over road, while the Sun beat down incessantly . Her last thought before the light faded was, “Is love worth so much the pain?”
Shelley was never on Danny’s radar. He was, what is known in common parlance, a sharp shooter with an eye for the ladies. But he was a sharp shooter with a difference - he didn’t work for the mob, he worked for the government. Once in a while, when they had to take out a third world dictator (read opponent of UN sanctions), the government paid him rather well to take these guys out on local soil. Clean, painless and quick.
Danny was a rather vain and fastidious killer. He spent hours cleaning his arms, stocking up on ammunition and basically toying with his arms collection. When he went out on a kill, he wore pure Gucci gloves and a designer ski mask. He dogged his target for about 48 hours after being flown in by the secret service, into the potential victim’s country. Thereafter, he tracked his victim firstly at public places and then in his living quarters. He usually always took them out in their bedchambers. That way, there were hardly any witnesses and it was hours before the crime was discovered. He usually stood over the bedpost and pulled the trigger, watched his mark go limp down and left.
Back at home, when the blazing sun finally went down, he popped in at the local resto-bar for some straight-up Jack Daniels and women. Where the ladies were concerned, he was particular too- he liked them feisty and with no strings attached. This is why when he saw Shelly one evening in the bar, trying desperately to balance a tray of beers in one hand and look cool and sophisticated on the other, he knew that she was not his type. Must be still a virgin, was his summing up of the situation. Well, he was wrong on the account of the virginity part but yes, she wasn’t the one to change bedmates easily. She liked to be in long monogamous relationships. So, hey, Danny was not her type other.
But you know what- when life plays the roulette once in a while, you never know whose number is up.
While Danny was trying to convince Cindy, a well-endowed blonde, to have a night cap with him- a couple of football fans burst into the bar and started making trouble. The brawl turned ugly with bar stools flying and bottles being broken. And in the midst of all the pushing and shoving, Danny suddenly found himself on the wrong end of a beer bottle. Blood spurted from his nose and the bar floor was soaked in his blood. It turned rusty red and began to give off a pungent smell. Danny could not take his eyes of his blood. He had killed many, but he did not stick around to see the bodies disintegrate into blood and bones. He felt sick. Shelley managed to drag him out of the bar and into her car with Cindy following her and screaming bloody murder at the top of her voice.
The night at the emergency room was long and weary. Danny was cagey about the insurance details which predictably drove the hospital staff up the wall. Cindy was plain scared out of her mind and was shivering but refused any medical attention. Shelley finally called her cab and convinced her to go home. She then sat vigil in front of Danny’s cubicle as the nurses when to work stitching up his nose. She stayed there like a guardian angel looking over him. "Why am I doing this?” said a very small voice in her mind. But she pushed it away, not willing to analyze her instinctive behavior at all. Later, when Danny fell asleep, she called her boyfriend Leonard.
He was frantic. He hated the fact that she worked in the bar. But Shelley was studying for her bachelor’s in Business Management at the community college nearby and she needed the extra cash. Leonard was a gopher at an advertising firm, and it would be a while before he could support the two of them. But he worried about Shelley – she was too innocent for her own good and tended to take people at face value. And that could be dangerous. He loved her to distraction and was loathe to let her out of his sight.
Shelley’s number flashed on his mobile. Leonard grabbed the phone and said, "Where are you baby? I was very worried!" "There was a fight in the bar. A friend of mine was injured, so I brought him to the emergency room." “Are you ok?" "I am fine,” responded Shelley with much more confidence than she was feeling. “I will home soon, sweetheart, don’t worry.” Leonard put the phone down slowly. He had wanted to ask her, “What friend?” She had only worked there for a week!!
“God! Am I losing her?” Jealous, painful thoughts flooded his sub-conscious. He tried to block them and sleep – but that much-needed reprieve eluded him. After a long time, he heard the front door open and then listened to Shelley shuffle around in the apartment. She finally came to bed and strangely, instead of snuggling up to him, she slept hugging the edge of her side of the bed. Leonard wanted to reach out and hug her close to him- but something stopped him. He felt that if he did so and she rejected him, he would not be able to take it. He loved her too much- if he had his way, he would shield her from the world and closet her within him. But he knew that love demanded sacrifices and understanding. He did not want Shelley to give up any of her dreams for him. But now, were her dreams becoming his nightmare? Were they putting up walls between them? Sleep finally claimed his body and calmed his mind. But the doubts remained like silent killers niggling him.
“I want Danny to like me. The look he gave me across the room said, “You are Miss Goody two- shoes- not my type. But I want to be his type.” “But why- you love Leonard, don’t you? No... I am comfortable with him. I could spend the rest of my life with this gentle man. But I don’t feel passionately about him - I would not be ready to die for him……” This thought jerked her whole body and she sat up on the bed and looked at Leonard’s sleeping body fearfully. “Had he heard me? No, he hadn’t. But I heard it – is this the kind of relationship that I wanted to be in? But it has stability and caring – Danny is trouble. He will bring you only heartache. But I want to feel that pain – maybe it will make me feel alive,” thought Shelley, as her loyalty to Leonard and her forbidden passion for Danny wrestled in her mind.
There was no turning back for this couple – they had knowingly and unknowingly stepped on the roller-coaster of love – and someone’s heart was going to get broken.
Shelley could not wait to get to the hospital and see Danny next morning. She got up hurriedly- did not kiss Leonard good morning and headed right for the bathroom. She was glad that he was still sleeping. Somehow, she did not want to face Leonard. She did not want him to feel that anything was amiss. She needed time to sort her new- found passion for Danny first. Leonard was wake but pretended to sleep. He realized that she was avoiding him. He felt a cold nauseous feeling grip his stomach. He could feel that life as that he had known with Shelley was coming to an end.
By the time she got to the hospital, Danny had been discharged. Once home, Danny barely remembered the events of last night- he had a fuzzy image of the new girl at the bar looking over him with a lot of concern in her eyes- but he quickly dismissed this from his mind. Then suddenly, the doorbell rang. He opened it and found to his utter surprise, the new girl standing on his doorstep clutching a food bag in her hand. He had no idea what to say to her and frankly, really did not want to invite her in. "Hi!!” said Shelley brightly, “I thought you will need some nourishment, after last night.” “I really don’t need mothering,” was what Danny wanted to say but instead, opened the door wider and let her in. She bustled in looking around curiously and unconsciously picking up the cushions lying on the floor. “Where’s the kitchen?” she asked. “Oh God!! I do not need this right now,” thought Danny, while directing her to the kitchen cupboards.
He sat down wearily on the sofa in the living room. Shelley came back and, the smell of coffee wafted in with her. Danny suddenly felt hungry. He sipped on the coffee and devoured two muffins in silence. Shelley just sat and stared at him, quite mesmerized.
Danny finished his meal and looked up at her. He saw the look – it scared the shit out of him. He just stood up abruptly, running his hand through his hair and said harshly, “Look, don’t get any ideas in that silly head of yours. I can see from the looks you are giving me that you like me, want me. But you are really not my type- no offence! I just don’t believe in happily ever after. I like my life as is. I go and come as I please, I do what I want and I don’t answer to anybody.” Then he said more gently, sitting down next to her, “Thank you for saving my life...my nose!! You are a nice girl and will make someone a very good wife- it’s just not going to be me.”
Shelley felt that someone had branded her with a red hot iron. She had never felt so humiliated in her whole life. It was like high school all over again. There she was standing in front of the boy’s dressing room, waiting for the star quarterback, Remy to come out. He was the handsome playboy that all the girls wanted. He was always nice to Shelley. “He likes me,” she had thought, "I am not like the other fake high school drama queens.” But this illusion of hers got broken cruelly that day. Remy came out of the dressing room, ignored her and headed straight for Miss Perfect-10 Maria’s arms. “Let’s make a night of it, baby," He crooned to her in his sexy voice. Shelley thought he hadn’t seen her. She called out to him,” Good game, Remy.” “Thanks. Hey sis, take care. I will talk to you tomorrow. You understand don’t you?” He flashed his killer smile and walked away with Maria. "So that’s what he thinks of me as- his sister!' she thought as humiliation flooded her body. She had cried herself to sleep for months after this episode and had taken a really long time to recover from the rejection.
Now, sitting next to Danny and hearing him talk, made her feel that the time had come a full circle and put her back in the same scenario- just the main lead had changed. “Had he really? – or am I just a sucker for bad boys who think I am no good for them?”
She moved away from Danny and headed towards the door. But before she could reach it, the doorbell rang. She reached out and opened it. Cindy stood there in a short and clingy white dress which left nothing to the imagination. “Hey girl, how are you? I came to see if Danny needed any TLC, you know,” she winked and said. Danny was really relieved to see her. He had no patience with emotional drama. Also, he felt with Cindy on the scene, the new girl would realize that she was really not his type at all. “Geez, I don’t even know her name. Well, too late now,” he though, hugging Cindy.
Shelley ran down the stairs and then stopped suddenly. Leonard was standing across the road with a gun in his hand. Shelley was shell-shocked. She realized that he must have followed her and see her go to Danny’s apartment instead of college. She out her hands up and yelled, “I can explain...it’s not what you are thinking. It was a mistake!!”
“It was not a mistake – I can see it in your eyes. They have changed. Your eyes are looking for someone else. It’s not me, anymore,” he said clearly and coldly, before pulling the trigger. His eyes were filled with hate. Shelley saw something move towards her really fast. Moments later, she crumpled and fell to the floor. She felt the pain of a broken dream and the hurt of having broken Leonard’s heart. "I am no different from Danny-am I? Leonard will never know how sorry I am.”
The world seemed to stand still for a while. Leonard saw the woman he was crazy about lying motionless, bleeding onto the hot tar ground. He felt rage and hatred course within his blood. He also realized that he had no desire to live any more. His love was dead. He also needed to die. He turned the gun onto to himself. Danny and Cindy came running out of the apartment. Danny saw the situation and tried to run and stop Leonard from pulling the trigger. But it was too late… for all of them.
“What a waste,” thought Danny as he saw looked at the scene below him. “Emotions are the real killers and not the guns,” he thought as sadness at the waste of two lives swept over him. This was a strange emotion for an unrepentant sharp shooter to have. But he killed targets and today he saw two good human beings get killed. He barely knew one of them but she had saved his life. The other one was a stranger, but he could guess that he was bound to the new girl in some way. Danny sank to his knees and wept for the first time in his life …..
This is part of a collection of short romantic stories titled, Bitter-sweet Autumns - Passionate Tales of Love Reaped and Hearts Robbed. In India ,to download the pdf write to email@example.com.. On payment of Rs 100/- through cheque/DD the link will be mailed to you. To deposit directly into account call 9871447926 for account details. The book is available in the US, UK , Canada, Afghanistan and Israel on the Kindle Store and ibook