Author: Little Hawke PM
Another story of life. Cliché, but it continues to happen in our society. Killian was an accountant, whose marriage was on the rocks due to his secretive behavior about his past. But he was about to learn that letting go was part and parcel of life.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Hurt/Comfort - Words: 4,285 - Published: 02-09-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3099576
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Killian White, a young man in his early thirties, strolled with a sluggish pace and his head down while his eyes stared down to the stoned surface of the sidewalk, but his mind had wandered far ahead. He barely noticed the children playing football as he passed, the old woman wearing a red shawl feeding the pigeons from the bench she sat on and a young couple holding each other closely as they walked by. A sort of shield reflected off every bit of happiness around him, making him feel numb. His thumb continuously twirled the golden band that wrapped around his finger, subconsciously reminding himself that there was one that he tried to let in but his attempt would always fail. It felt like a leash that endeavoured to keep others at bay and it was a restraint he unconsciously had made throughout those years he had to endure.
He arrived at a six-storey, low-cost apartment at the end of the road and climbed the steps to his home on the fourth floor. Killian found his neighbour's mother, Mrs Tan praying by the door to a small temple they attached to the wall below the apartment number. Her hands were put together firmly with a fine red sticks burning. She prayed hard and muttered in Mandarin which Killian was unable to understand. He did not disturb her, entering his house after heaving a sigh. Mrs Tan insisted upon moving to the States with her son, Jerry. From what Killian heard, Jerry had declined his mother's proposition too many times that he finally agreed, reluctantly of course. The old woman travelled all the way from mainland China only to be horrified when she knew he stayed at the fourth floor. According to him, the number four was a sign of death if it were based on his ancestral beliefs. So every day, before sunrise and near sundown, his mother would pray at the door and the back window to keep bad luck from entering her son's home.
Killian hung his coat on the hook behind the door, moved towards the dining area and placed his old, black, leather briefcase on the wooden chair next to the one he sat on. His hand reached to the back pocket of his trousers to pull out his wallet. He flipped his wallet open, not to check the amount of cash he had left instead he took out a folded envelope. On it was written 'To my Killi' with a lipstick mark near the words. The one item he treasured most from the person he should have loved enough. An illusion of electricity running through the veins in his system made his hands trembled and struck a certain pain his chest that once felt empty.
"Honey, I didn't know you were home," a sweet lady's voice startled him.
Killian hastily folded the envelope in two before tucking it into the pocket of his shirt. Then only he turned to look at his wife, Vera with a weak smile formed across his face. Her body was wrapped in towel and so was her wet hair. The lady had beautiful flaxen hair with graceful curls, eyes that were as green as a meadow in countryside and skin so fair that there were times Killian thought they were glowing. She was a proper lady of his mother's choice.
"I, uh," he looked down to the open wallet, dragging it on the table surface then putting it back into his pocket as he stood from his chair. "What's for dinner?" he asked, hoping to divert her attention from the original topic.
"Well, I was hoping we eat out tonight," she replied meekly.
"Anything's good," Killian replied quickly before heading towards the kitchen.
Vera watched her husband with sad eyes then turned to return to the bedroom.
It was an Italian restaurant with lighted candles at the centre of the table with a small, short vase of fresh flowers, intended to develop a romantic atmosphere. Killian hardly noticed. He indulged his steak silently; oblivious to the fact Vera was trying to get his attention.
"So, how was work today?" she asked with a smile.
Killian cocked up his head, looking at her blankly as his mind processed her question. He nodded, "It's okay." He then resumed eating.
Vera leaned back and sighed disappointedly. "Killian, Doctor Parker said if we wanted to fix things between us we should avoid short replies," she reminded him with a soft voice to avoid offending him.
Killian paused for a beat, as if time had stopped, then began to chew before swallowing the food in his mouth. "Vera, I'm really tired today. What do you want me to say about my work? It's all numbers, names and a shit load of crap. My boss is not the nicest person in the world, but you already know that. It's the same routine every day. There's nothing new, besides people thinking lowly of me because of what I used to join the military. Is that what you want to hear about my day?"
His words threw at her like solid stones as they hit her, not knowing the pain it caused inside while her stomach twisted. Killian currently held a job as an accountant after he quit the military service. Thing was, some people who graduated from prestigious colleges had a one track mind, thinking people who joined the military were too stupid to enter intellectual colleges. But that was life.
"I just thought... I just want this marriage to work," Vera muttered. She toyed with the pasta in the plate with a stainless steel fork with one hand and the other, curled into a loose fist, supporting her cheekbone as her elbow was placed on the table.
Killian's silence was the main reason their marriage of two years was on the rocks. Ironically, it was also the reason they tied the knot in the first place. Killian's mother, Olive was determined to find someone he was able to open up to. Vera was polite, open-minded and realistic – a sort of quality Olive thought would be the perfect solution to her son's silent problem.
Guilt sprawled from within his soul, filling his chest till the weight was almost impossible to bear. "I know, and really I appreciate your effort. But I'm... really tired of work today." He took her hand in his gently, "I love you; you know that, don't you?"
Those words were like warmth that wrapped around her body that protected her from the cold of loneliness. She sensed the sincerity in his voice, but she also saw a secret he concealed in which his hazel eyes betrayed him. They were crying out for her, to let her know what he kept but his heart was shut out. However, a faint smile formed on her face to tell him not to worry him.
The moon glowed in the black night skies, watching Killian worked extra hours in the office with his desk stacked with files, paperwork and books. He rubbed his fingers against his droopy eyes. After the clock showed the time had passed ten, he decided to call it a day. The young man left the building and began his journey home, alone. The streets, illuminated by a single dim orange-yellow light from the black lamppost at every fifty metres, were mostly empty just like the road. Someone instantaneously grabbed Killian by the collar of his shirt, dragging him into the darkness of an alley, shoved him against the wall then held a knife to his neck.
"Wallet," the manly voice ordered huskily.
"Look, just-just c-calm down," Killian had raised his hands in the air as if he were arrested by the authority.
"Gimme yer goddamn wallet!" the man bellowed. But instead of letting Killian move, the thug searched him thoroughly, distracting his focus from the knife he held in his hand. Killian seized that thin opportunity, grabbing the thug's arm and turning it, breaking the solid bone. The sharp steel from his grip was released instantly. The thug yelped in shock of pain, but managed to snatch the wallet in Killian's pocket before fleeing as fast as his feet could carry him.
He looked back as he ran, only to find Killian gaining on him. "Give me my wallet back!" Killian yelled.
Killian leaped onto the man, ramming him down the rough-hard-surfaced sidewalk. He reached for the wallet, the thug turned, throwing Killian off his back and threw a hard punch with his mobile hand. He stood with great haste, but shakily as panic began to overwhelm him for no normal civilian had ever fought him back. Killian was far from Give-Up town as he swiped the man's ankle using his strong hand as he was still flat on the ground. The thug tumbled face-down, dropping the wallet unintentionally. He abandoned his mission and Killian's belonging and took off before his victim would strike again. Killian picked up his wallet, opening it and saw the envelope safe in its position.
"Asshole!" he growled, seeing the black silhouette of the thug getting smaller and smaller till it vanished from his sight. His hand wiped the blood that dripped from his nose as he tried to breathe properly. He slipped his wallet into the pocket inside his coat, as a precaution.
The door opened, Killian entered looking slightly dazed as he tried to recover from the blow he received moments earlier. Vera's jaw dropped when she saw him returned with bruises on his face and stained on the skin between his nose and lips. "Honey, what happened?" she rushed to help him, but Killian raised his arm before she could hold him, rejecting her offer for aid. He hid the shame that flushed into his face when his wife had to see him this way.
"I got mugged, but I'm okay now," he tried to laughed. He brisk walked to his bedroom, tossed his coat on the edge of the bed then headed for the bathroom. Vera warily strolled into the room; her steps were silent as she reached for his coat. "I ought to train more often," he said loudly, thinking Vera was still in the living room. "I'm getting rusty," a chuckle escaped his breath after he finish washing off all the blood from his face.
The wallet fell out from the pocket when Vera hung it on her arm to send it for washing, revealing an old letter. Her hand carefully lifted the light envelope and her heart thumped within her chest. She was sure her eyes were toying with her, it had been a long day anyway but after having her sight glued to the words and lipstick mark for a while, she was confident the man she loved was far from honest. There was no content, but the envelope was just enough to clarify things. Her ears informed her he was done cleansing his face when she heard him stepping out from the bathroom.
"Who is she?" she demanded with a trembling voice, her eyes began to fill with waters. There was no reply, so she turned to see the puzzlement painted on his face. Then she also saw he was no longer confused when he noticed the envelope she held in her hand.
"Is not what you think it is," he tried to explain.
"Not what I think?" she snapped. "It's exactly what I think!" throwing the envelope at his face, letting it fall to the floor. He made no reaction to her outburst, which left her dissatisfied and caused her to throwing the coat harshly at him, "When were you going to tell me?"
"Never," he finally found his voice to speak. His answer was like a sword that ran straight through her torso. Their marriage was nothing but a promise of deceitful words and black and white writings in a piece paper. She stormed to the living room, grabbing her handbag and was prepared to leave. Killian followed, but a part of him was holding him back, slowing his pace. "Vera, I'm not cheating on you," he exclaimed, stopping at the door of the room he was currently in as his eyes were focused on his wife who stood with her back at him.
"Take it to court, Killian," she sobbed. Her hand swiftly unlocked the door then she went angrily, leaving a slam behind her.
Killian picked the envelope from the floor, his eyes overflowing with sorrows as he read the written words again and again, unaware of the amount of time had passed as he continued to gaze at the envelope.
Vera arrived at the countryside, in front of a cottage at the centre of its colourful garden decorated with flowers of all kinds and a small pond with Guppies swimming lively within the moving waters. It was the only house at the centre of a wide field, far from the nearest civilization. It was the most idyllic place for a perfect getaway from all city hassles. This was the homely house of Olive White, her mother-in-law.
An elderly woman came out; dressed in a blue floral dressed with slight messy white apron. The wrinkles on her face became more prominent when she beamed in delight to see Vera. "Hello, dear," she greeted.
Vera exhaled in relieve, "Hey, mom." There was a pause. That was when Vera was certain Olive knew why she visited. "He told you?"
"Why don't you come in and have a cup of tea with me first?" Olive said softly, taking Vera's hand in hers, taking the young lady inside.
After taking a few sips and asking each other regarding their health, Vera explained to Olive about her strained marriage with Killian, how she always felt as if he was hiding something and of Killian's duplicity. "It was an envelope, addressed to him and marked with a lipstick from someone else's lips," she sobbed with a tissue in her curled fist. "And even then he still wanted to deny by saying he was not cheating on me."
Olive sat back against her armchair with her hands clasped together on her lap and eyes displaying great concern. She then straightened her back and placed her hand on Vera's. "Dear, I know Killian is anything but a liar," she said.
"Then how would you explain the words 'To my Killi' and the lipstick mark?" she sniffed.
Olive was unable to hide her astonishment hearing Vera's question. "Is that what the writer had written?"
"Yes, that's what I've been trying to explain. Only God knows what sort of moniker he gave her."
Olive got onto her feet, carefully making her way to one of the rooms. She returned with a medium-sized, old toolbox with its small padlock long broken. Vera observed curiously as Olive opened the lid, turning the box towards her daughter-in-law thus showing stacks of old envelopes arranged neatly within the spaces.
"He'll have no choice but to tell you everything now," Olive muttered. She once again rose from her seat, moving towards the window. One of her hand pressed down on the window frame as the other covered her eyes when she started to cry.
Killian froze for a beat when he returned home and found Vera sitting on the couch, as if she was expecting him, with the toolbox placed on the knee-high glass table in front of her. He closed the door then locked it whilst his mind began to tangle as his eyes were glued to the familiar toolbox – the one he had kept in his old home in the countryside, somewhere he supposedly thought he would never have to see again.
"Where did you get that?" he demanded, but his tone remained courteous.
However, Vera had a question of her own. "You never mentioned about the letter to your mother when you called her, did you?"
Killian sat across her, pulling the toolbox using both hands then opening it to inspect its content. All the letters he kept all these years, they were still there – it had been rearranged, like someone had been going through them before. He looked upon his wife's face – the one he missed for almost a week. His heart was beating with rage, stirred with a dose of grieve. "You...read...them?" he stuttered, struggling to hold back his tears.
"You're mother gave them to me for a reason, Killian," she responded. His chest tightened as he had lost the ability to form words in his mind. "Why didn't any of you mention about her?" she asked. Despite the obvious desperation in her voice, Killian still made no reply. "Killian, she was your sister."
Killian breathed in deeply to find temporary serenity. "What did my mother tell you?"
"Enough to understand how close she was to you," was her answer and Killian knew Olive did not tell Vera everything.
"My sister died at the age of fifteen," he paused to exhale, "eight years ago." He slid a random letter amongst the others and gazed pensively at the address written on the envelope. "Fiona Marianne White, I'll never forget that name," there was a faint chuckle and a tear was shed from his hazel eyes. "She called us Killi and Filli, characters from her childhood Tolkien book. I thought it sounded silly, but she insisted because we had the same initials as the characters. She didn't care that they were dwarves or the fact that both were male and blonde. She was nine."
Vera felt a wave of empathy flowing into her chest. Killian continued, "She was the light in a dark room. She was the sunshine when the days were grey. My sunshine." A tear trickled from his eyes, down to his nose and fell onto the envelope in his hands, smudging the blue ink. "She begged me to not join the military force after high school, saying she didn't want to be alone. I told her she had mom and Nathan (his stepfather), so she had no reason to feel alone." He held down the envelope and wiped the tears from his eyes that had turned red. "I don't know whether I was too tough to understand or she was just too fragile," he sobbed. "I wasn't around when mom and Nathan was going through hard times."
Seeing him in tears triggered Vera to start crying too, but she held herself together to avoid interrupting his story. Killian took the toolbox and placed at on his lap, putting back the envelope he held earlier. He gave himself sometime too find composure before continuing, "She told me. She wrote in letters, she heard them arguing. She even called me, crying, telling me how they argued about her. Her name would be brought up at almost every argument. When I called my mother, she then explained that Fiona had been behaving badly – it was worse with my absence. She also mentioned about Fiona fighting at school. It's like I don't know my sister anymore."
"Things weren't better when she was dating. She wrote to me of how this boy was 'the one'. He made her feel safe. She told me when they were together, she didn't feel alone. Mom called me, complaining that Fiona behaved like a stranger. She learned to talk back and even yell. Fiona never wrote about that to me. But my mother also didn't mention that things weren't better with Nathan. She never mentioned Nathan hitting Fiona and that she did not interfere, at all. Everyone was just giving me their side of the story."
"One day, I came home, finding by sister hanged under the fan using her blanket in her room with this," he pulled out the envelope Vera first saw, "on her study. With no letter inside." He must have struggled to remain calm that he finally burst into uncontrollable sobs. Vera moved to his side and pulled him into her arms while her cheek rest on the back of his head. "I tried performing resuscitation, but she just wasn't breathing. The medics said she had been dead for almost six hours. Six hours! I was boarding the plane six hours before!"
"Shh, shh. It wasn't your fault," Vera said. Her hand gently rubbed his back to give him comfort.
"She didn't say why. She didn't say why," he wept, pouring out his woe from his heart.
It was then told Fiona's boyfriend had left her – the usual reason when there were no more feelings. Killian understood that. They were both young and their relationship was only puppy love. They broke up a month before she died. Olive, devastated by the sudden death of her daughter decided to file for divorce. It pained her more to remember that she and Nathan were signing up Fiona for boarding school, hoping to resolve her rebelliousness.
Killian asked around town about Fiona, hoping to find the reason why she decided her life was not worth living. People said she was just like any other ordinary child. Teachers said she was simply a polite student who had her ups and downs. She had friends – no drugs were involved. He even found photos of her on a vacation with Olive and Nathan, looking as blithe as ever. She had an ordinary life. The argument and hitting was did not happen often. He never knew whether both Olive and Fiona were being melodramatic or they allowed the bad times to cloud blissful moments. No one in or outside the cottage knew the reason why Fiona committed suicide.
The sunlight woke Killian from his deep sleep. His head lifted from the pillow he rest on to find himself covered with a warm quilt. His eyes were swollen for a known fact he cried so hard the night before.
"Good morning," Vera greeted meekly. She stood at the end of the couch with two mugs filled with coffee and a smile on her complexion.
Killian slowly sat and stretched out his arms. "Morning," he responded with a smile.
She offered him one of the mug in which he accepted politely before she sat close to his side. "Can I ask you something about what we talked about yesterday?" she asked.
Killian took a small sip to prevent his tongue from getting burnt. "Yeah," he said with a quick glance.
"Did you ever wonder why she placed a lipstick mark on every letter she gave you?"
After another sip, he replied, "Mother used to do that when she wrote to our late father. He was a soldier too." He assumed Fiona did it for fun when she sent him her first letter then it became a habit after some time.
"According to your mother, it represents 'All my love'," she explained, placing her untouched drink next to his.
He laughed once, "I think I figured that out when I knew she copied our mother."
"And I think that was all she wanted to say to you before she was gone." His smile faded. He did not look at her while his hand placed the mug on the table. "Whatever her reason was, she wanted you to know that. And it was all you needed to know. Instead of writing 'To Killian' like she did on the other envelopes, she wrote 'To my Killi'. It's a good reason to think she wants you to remember her as the sunshine she used to be. As the nine-year-old who loved fantasies."Her words were like remedies that restored the light to his world. She filled the emptiness in his soul. "Killian, she didn't say why most probably because you may never be able to let go. She knew then that it's better not knowing sometimes."
He sniffled as his eyes became watery. "Do you know it's embarrassing for a man to cry in front of a lady?" he demanded with a laughed, wiping the tears with his sleeve.
Vera giggled, "I think it just shows that you're human."
Killian slipped his arms under hers and pulled her close to his chest. Vera wrapped her arms around his neck as she felt the back of her top slowly being drenched by his tears.
"You haven't filed for divorce yet, have you?" he asked suddenly.
Vera grinned, "No. Thankfully no."
Killian ventured up the hill as the evening approached with the toolbox in his hand. He smiled and greeted the joggers who passed by. He stood straight, gazing at the setting sun with on hand in the pocket of his jeans. When he felt ready enough, he emptied the toolbox, stacking all the letters then placed the envelope – the last he received from Fiona – topmost.
His hazel eyes were fixed on his prized possession, the only ones that helped him feel her presence. He crouched to the ground and pulled out a lighter from his pocket. A part of him reminded him that if he decided to take this action, there was no turning back. He clicked the lighter, and burned the edges of the letters. He watched the fire consuming the paper, eating up the written words and the drawings on the spaces. He inhaled the air deeply, feeling the grey life he once knew was at last over.
The moment he felt the pleasure of peace he lost in the past, Killian turned away then walked downhill. The remains of the burnt letters were blown by the breeze, into the air, over the suburban area towards the sunset that was glowing as the night set in.