Yay for Crazy Notes! Written for an English assignment; took about two hours. Unedited. If you catch a typo, it's your lucky day.
She had a heart in a jar on her desk.
I suppose that should have been a sign that something was not okay with this woman, but I was also naïve enough to believe that it was just a jar on her desk. When one knew this woman in particular, one knew that it was better not to ask.
She was quiet, not in the shy sense, but in the sense that she chose her words carefully, putting the most meaning into them. When she spoke, the voice was low, patient, and yet almost apathetic, as though she were trying to keep her distance from those she was speaking to. Her eyes looked tired almost all the time, giving one the sense that she had seen many things throughout her lifetime, many things she wished perhaps not to see.
Physically, she was tall, lank, with neat black hair trimmed short, cropping her face. Her skin was pale, hinting at Russian ancestry, with dark brown eyes that held an almost morbid sense to them. She had a face that was so serious at times, and yet could be softened greatly by the hint of a smile, her eyes lighting up briefly, for just a moment, and it was within that moment that you knew she was still human deep down.
She never smiled, really- it was more of a grin, honestly, more a little smirk that gave the impression that she knew how the universe truly worked, that she was inside the heads of men and found all of their thoughts and insights merely a joke. But she never truly smiled, never one of true happiness, for I think she had lost that ability long before she met me. Even if she hadn't, however, my relationship with her would have surely taken it from her.
I was twenty-seven when I met her, young, foolish, thinking the world was mine for the taking. She was a year younger than I, and yet eons more mature, understanding the world with a perspective that had far surpassed my own. We met in a restaurant, a rather pricey one that only a select few could afford, on the north side of town. I was a notorious playboy of sorts, using whomever I could get my hands on, motivated by my deep-seeded avarice and hunger for wealth.
She sat at her table, all alone, a glass of red wine in one hand, and a cigarette in the other, mindlessly twisting it into the ashtray, a bored expression on her face. She glanced up at me, once, just once, and we made eye contact for a fateful second, and it was then that my infatuation began with her. That night, I stood up my date (a stupid blonde girl who was the daughter of some CEO) and instead walked over to her, intending to introduce myself.
"Sit down," she said, before I could even open my mouth. Reluctantly, I did. She looked up at me, staring me straight in the eye, and I suddenly felt exposed, as if she were reading all of my thoughts and secrets. "What's your name?" she asked, and I heard the slight hint of her soft British accent.
"Callum," I said, not exactly confident. This woman had stripped me bare of the normal charm I possessed, taking away the only tactic I knew and the only talent I really owned.
A smirk grew on her face, a thin, twisted one, as if she found me ludicrous. "Callum," she said, twisting the cigarette one last time, slowly standing up and pulling on her coat. "That's a stupid name." She turned her back to me, gracefully walking away, handing the waiter a few hundred dollar bills as she left. And it was then that I knew this woman was to be my next project.
She was rich as hell, and yet no one knew what she did for a living. Some thought she had inherited the money, others thought she was a self-made millionaire. No one even really knew how much money she had; only that she was really generous with it. The woman seemed to have no concept of expense, of saving and scraping together what little money one had. The way she threw it around, it may as well have been water.
Each day, I hung around that very same restaurant, waiting to talk to her. Sometimes she didn't come for weeks at first, but after a while she came daily, staying longer, listening to whatever boring story I would tell, but rarely telling one of her own. And as her visits became more regular, I realized I had sunk my claws in, that she was mine and would soon be wrapped around my finger.
And then, one day, she didn't show up, and I stood there, dazed, wondering where I had gone wrong. The head waiter handed me an envelope, one with my name penned on it, that felt rather heavy, and I dreaded the contents inside. She had dumped me. It was ridiculous. I had never before felt like this; no one had ever behaved the way she did.
Reluctantly, I opened it, finding a long letter inside, but with very few words penned on it. Callum, it read, I hope you realize what you're getting in to. If you do, the key's yours. Of course I knew what I was getting in to- she was just another woman who would buy me expensive trinkets and provide for me. I was a trophy boy; what else was I to do?
Her apartment wasn't lavish in a gaudy sense; rather, it was colored in black, gray and white, a rather drab palette, but one that had been pulled together to create a sophisticated feel, a style I saw reflected in the way she dressed. And so I settled into life in this new environment, with my newest victim, and arguably my most enigmatic.
She was never much of a romantic, and I think the only real reason she took me in was that she was looking for someone to talk to, even though she rarely talked. Her life seemed rather lonely, rather empty, which was exactly how the apartment felt when she was gone. I tried to imagine what it must have been like spending the nights here, alone, but I didn't have to imagine for long. Alexis rarely stayed home- she was always off on business or out on the town, amusing herself with the foibles of society.
I may have been considered by the public to be her kept boy, but I certainly wasn't going to let myself be kept in this apartment. I began my never-ending search for a wealthy counterpart, but in secret this time, for I had a good thing going. Alexis was never home, and she never really made any demands of me; I was more of a pet than a companion. And so I carried on with women, with other men, with anyone I so desired.
I knew she was fully aware of my promiscuous habits, but she did nothing to stop them, and she never confronted me about them. I wasn't sure if she just didn't mind, or if she simply didn't know how to stop me, fearing that if she intervened, she would lose me. I don't know why she would be afraid of losing me, however; she could easily have her pick of whomever she wanted.
Nevertheless, I continued through each day, amusing myself with spending her money for my own personal gain, exploiting my status in the circle of the city's elite. Eventually, I grew bored with running about town, jaded by my own indulgence, and I began to search for something, someone, perhaps, that would satisfy me.
Alexis was never forgotten; her mysterious habits were still perpetually in the back of my mind. I enjoyed her company when she was home, but I grew to miss the human contact when she was gone, which prompted a long string of one-night stands with whoever I chose to bring home for that night.
One day, filled with a sense of ennui, I decided to go into her room. Despite having lived with her for over a year, I had never been inside it, even though the door was unlocked, and she had never said the room was off-limits. And so, I pushed open the oak door and slipped inside. The room was dark, almost sepulchral, the only light coming from the large window on the far wall. The air was still and almost ominous within the large room. I passed by her unmade king-size bed, moving past the large vanity, pausing just for a second to quickly examine my reflection, and headed to the desk, which was cluttered with papers.
All of her documents were written in different languages, a bit of German here, some Arabic there, Russian on the next. I wondered just exactly how many languages she spoke, and judging by the papers, it was quite a few. I pawed through some of the trinkets, little baubles she had collected on her travels, until I came to a large jar, placed on the edge of the desk. It was filled with a yellowish fluid, but the most interesting of its contents was also the centerpiece. Suspended in the middle of the jar was a heart, perfectly preserved in the yellow fluid, which I presumed was formaldehyde. I almost dropped the jar, my stomach sick, but I stopped myself just in time. Damaging the jar would inform her that I had been in here, a place where I was not supposed to be by some implicit rule.
Nervous and a bit sickened, I set the jar back on the desk and crept out of the room, but I couldn't shake the horrid feeling from myself for several days. Why on earth did that woman have a heart in a jar on her desk? What other secrets did she keep?
She came home again next week, and I fought the urge to ask her for about two days, until the desire for knowledge threatened to eat me alive. "Alexis," I asked, "what's in the jar on your desk?"
"The one with the formaldehyde."
"Oh." She scarcely looked up from her newspaper. I was beginning to fear that she had lost interest in me, and would soon turn me out. "It's a preserved cow's heart."
The woman was either insane or simply creepy beyond definition. Nothing Alexis did pointed to outright insanity, but that didn't mean she couldn't be some kind of a closet freak or something. She was secretive, but I had taken it as a product of her shy nature. Maybe there was more depth to her than I had previously imagined.
I let the subject fall, figuring that it was just something she had picked up on her travels, just another interesting little thing she had found somewhere. She was extremely eclectic; maybe this was just a branch of her many interests, one that I hadn't seen before. And so the jar was promptly forgotten, as I continued on with my life.
Months went by. I saw people on and off, especially one man, named Michael. He wasn't normally my type- loud, rude, brash, the kind of man who thought the world owed him something. He was rather abusive, I must admit, and I wasn't much for him, but he had money, and he was willing to spend it on me.
Alexis caught us in the foyer one day. I panicked, while Michael grew angry, both at me and at her. She remained calm, even when he loomed above her and threatened her, a perfectly serene look on her face, glazed over with mild amusement. Eventually Michael left, still cursing loudly, slamming the door behind him. Alexis wasn't even fazed.
"I don't like him," was all she said.
"Neither do I," I added, praying that this wasn't the end of my stay here. "I rather disliked him."
"Really?" she inquired, slightly bemused, and tilted her head a bit.
The next day I woke up rather late, and stumbled into the bathroom, only to find that my shower curtain was missing. The outer part-the cloth part- was still there, but the liner was gone. "Alexis," I asked, poking my head into the kitchen, "do you know what happened to the shower curtain?"
She was sitting at the table, a magazine to her left, and a cup of coffee in her right hand. Again, she didn't even bother to look up at me. "I threw it out," she said, taking a sip. "We'll get a new one later. You can use my shower if you need it."
It was strange, really, but I didn't think to question Alexis' habits. She provided for me, I was there when she wanted a conversation, and other than that, we steered clear of each other. And so I never asked why she had a small pair of hedge clippers on the island. It was just an Alexis thing.
Much to both my chagrin and my delight, however, I never heard from Michael again. Although, no one had heard from him since the night he had been at our apartment, but I figured he had just skipped town and was probably somewhere else by now. It was shortly after Michael's sudden departure that I met Amanda. She was the first girl I dated who wasn't rich, who wasn't a celebrity, who was just your average girl.
Amanda was a few years younger than I, and she worked as a computer programmer for a local firm. The money was good enough, but it was nothing compared to what Alexis made. And yet, I was enchanted with Amanda. She was funny, smart, a bit sarcastic, and yet whimsical and childish when she wanted to be.
I had fallen head over heels for Amanda, just the way I had made so many people fall in love with me. It was ironic, that I would lose at my own game, but it was also inevitable. I began to distance myself entirely from Alexis, leaving when she arrived home, going out of my way to stay clear of her, all in the hopes of leaving her. I know she suspected something was up, and she probably knew what was happening, but again, strangely, it didn't seem to bother her.
And then, one day, I came home from a date with Amanda to find Alexis sitting at the table, arms folded across her chest, the tired, worn-out look to her face. She stood up, grabbing her black coat off the back of the chair. I had always loved the way she dressed. Black coat, black shirt, black slacks- with a bright, blood red tie drawing everything together. "Kiddo," she began, "let's take a walk."
Night had fallen, and as we strolled down the sidewalk I wasn't the least bit suspicious. We took a detour through the park, heading up to the old cemetery, one of Alexis' favorite haunts. The old, wrought-iron gates were drawn closed, padlocked, but Alexis had a key; she had given a large amount of money over the years to this cemetery for its upkeep. She pushed the gates open a bit, and slid inside, like a shadow.
We walked over the hills and down the winding paths of the graveyard, neither of us spooked. Alexis had no fear of death for some strange reason. She wasn't afraid of ghost stories, or of fictional monsters or anything. I had never even seen her mildly scared by something meant to induce horror.
As we climbed one last hill, I noticed that the grave at the top was just a hole- freshly dug. "Looks like a funeral tomorrow," Alexis said. She was standing near the pile of dirt, examining the shovel.
I nodded, leaning over to peer into the grave. It was only six feet deep, but it seemed so much deeper, so much further.
"Do you love her?" Alexis asked. She twisted the shovel, the blade resting on the ground, in her hands.
I froze up momentarily. Here it came, the conversation I so dreaded having. With Alexis it would be especially hard, since she had been good to me, and I had been with her for a long time. "Yes, I do," I admitted.
"We're going to leave soon," I said. "Get out of-"
"You're all the same, all of you. Vain little brats who think that everyone loves them."
I tried to plead with her, just for a second. "Alexis, I'm-"
"Oh, you're what? You're sorry?" Her face looked much more menacing in the moonlight, which flickered as the clouds passed by. "You all say you're sorry."
My face fell; she was right. "Alexis," I began, "did you love me?"
"Me?" she said, rather innocently. "No, I never loved you. Which is why it makes this all the easier." She picked up the shovel, swinging it with surprising force and striking me in the face. I was dazed, confused, and blinded by pain, and as I started to fall forward she struck me again, in the side of the skull.
I was standing there, my back to the grave, and I could feel it calling. I could feel its hands grasping my wrists and beginning to drag me down. Alexis stared at me, perfectly calm, not even a grin on her face. There was no expression of worry, none of panic nor of regret.
"I never told you what I do for a living," she said, and it was then that I knew it was over. She struck me once more, in the throat, and I felt the hot blood spilling down my chest and my shirt, hot blood that was pulling me toward the earth.
I almost fell to my knees, but she stopped me, putting a hand on my chest and gently pushing me backwards into my crypt. The last thing I saw as I fell was her, standing there, shovel in hand, and the tie, the goddamn tie, red punctuating the black, like a black widow spider. And then I was lying in the grave, finding it cold and dark in my last few minutes, staring up at the sky, hearing thunder rumble in the distance and feeling a few drops on my face as it started to rain.
A wad of dirt landed next to me, and I focused on Alexis, who knew I was still alive. "Didn't know what he was getting into," she said. "Stupid boy. Didn't you even wonder about the heart? Or were you that naïve?"
In the last few seconds that I clung to life, I realized that Alexis was only half the villain in this story. The rest of that role had to go to myself. As I lay there, being buried by the spider woman, I finally put the pieces together. She was right- I hadn't known what I was getting myself into. Just like whomever had come before me, whomever's heart was in that jar.