"It was July 19, 1969, the day after Chappaquiddick, though it hadn't hit the papers yet, and the day before the moon. God, the moon," Alex leans forward and stabs out his cigarette in the ashtray as if to punctuate the sentence.
The office is dark from the paneling and half-drawn blinds, from the night hanging on outside, looking for any way in and showing between the slats. The only source of light is the small lamp on the lawyer's desk which he has titled so it's throwing most of its light uselessly on the wall. The end of his cigar glows dimly as he draws breath in. Smoke curls around them, the scent filling the room and giving a sense of protection, of comfort. The lawyer leans back in his heavy leather chair, lets his hands slide across the smooth surface and contemplates his old friend.
"A Saturday night," Alex continues, his hands shaking slightly as he goes to light another cigarette. "It was a party at Don Levy's. Some of the outfits they had," he shakes his head and his dark hair shows the grey as it flops back and forth. "Remember old Levy? Banker, had tons of money and liked showing it off. They invited me because I was the new thing. 'Look at that little surgeon, cuts people open every day and puts 'em back together. Damned if he doesn't do better than a normal surgeon too. How's a no account Greek get so good?'"
Alex shrugs expressively while the lawyer smiles around the cigar.
"Levy wasn't like that."
"No, he was a jew, which was worse to most of them. And my wife's a catholic. That's why she was there. All of us could be just slightly out of it together. At least, I think that's what Levy was thinking. Goddamn hypocrites showed up because it was the place to be to be seen, not that they'd want to see us in their neighborhoods during the day."
"And that was the first time you met her?"
Alex nods while leaning back in his chair. He taps off the ash before taking another deep draw.
"Spotted her across the room less than five minutes after getting there. God, there was no way not to! Those eyes, that smile, the way she moves. She wasn't wearing one of those stupid sacks either, she had a real dress on. You know what she looks like and she looks the same now as she did then. Exactly the same."
Alex shudders as if he can't feel the heat of the room but shakes it off quickly.
"She's well preserved, isn't that what they call it?" the lawyer says with a smirk.
"She hasn't had work," Alex counters. "Even with work you can tell, there's slight differences." He's about to get technical but stops himself. "No work, nothing, and she has exactly two grey hairs just like she did when I met her. Four kids and she never put on a pound. Fifteen years we been married, all the time she's been working but she never had a wrinkle. Never will have a goddamn wrinkle either. I know you don't believe me," he says with a glance across the desk. "No one believes me but you don't see her enough, you haven't seen the pictures, put them side by side."
He shudders again and this time it's longer. This time it's harder to shake off.
"She's a beautiful woman Alex," the lawyer says slowly.
His wife has noticed Mrs. Itylus' lack of wrinkles but he always assumed it was petty jealousy the made her harp on them and wonder constantly about the other woman's 'secret.'
"She was married before, wasn't she? She must have been young..."
He trails off because he's seen the surgeon's expression. Slowly the lawyer feels the apprehension beginning to creep on him too. Suddenly the air isn't as comforting as it is stifling and the smoke only blurs the edges of the dark shadows surrounding them.
"She was Mrs. Sidhe when they introduced her, barely thirty with a little boy and already a widow. They said her husband had been much older and had run some kind of company. 'Poor Mrs. Sidhe's running it herself' they said and shook their heads. They thought it so unfortunate she had to work! But Joyce's never had to run anything she didn't want to. That company had always been hers; she let her first husband be president because that's what was expected. You haven't seen they way the grovel to her when they come to give their reports."
The ash is getting long and precariously balanced and Alex finally notices. He gives the cigarette a distracted flick and it crumbles, mostly, into the ashtray.
"You know his death was mysterious? There were all sorts of whispers about that too, do you remember? When everyone started talking about the mafia and the Irish mob and hits and how not quite everything was aboveboard. And of course no blame could go on Mrs. Sidhe since he had been running it. Poor Mrs. Sidhe forced to take over and clean it up."
"I remember," the lawyer says slowly. It takes a while for the memories to surface; it was all so long ago and so well buried.
"Eventually she admitted that he had been killed for trying to double cross someone," Alex says and grinds his cigarette out until it falls apart in his hand. "Someone," he mutters as his shaking hands go to light another. "No the company's all rotten, but what company isn't? All the corporations are rotten and attacking each other, hers just thrives on it. It's the best at it. They're all rats and she's their piper."
"That's not grounds for divorce Alex," the lawyer says. "Having a wealthy wife who stays beautiful and is the CEO of a major investment bank. Unless you want to try to prove some kind of cruel treatment or adultery..."
"I'm not looking for grounds," the surgeon replies darkly as he slouches in his chair. "Grounds would kill me. Hell, she might still kill me for leaving her."
"Now Alex," the lawyer says in a brotherly fashion. It's obvious the strain has been too much lately. The marriage has been having difficulties for the past couple of years but lately increased demands from the hospital have obviously been affecting him. He's never seen Alex so fidgety or nervous. "Maybe you just need a vacation from all—"
"Joel, I found her marriage certificate, from her first marriage, only now I think it was her second. Louis was only born in '62; I always assumed they had only been married a few years before he was born but I went snooping and I finally found the certificate for Joyce O'Shea to George Sidhe, 1946. 1946, Joel. I married Mrs. Joyce Sidhe in '69. I had a look at her driver's license the other day; it said 1949 on it. The woman I married in '69 was not twenty but I don't know if she was thirty either. She couldn't have been. God, by her marriage license, she has to be at least 56. Does my wife look 56? Hell, does she even look 45?!"
"Alex," the lawyer says slowly, soothingly. Nothing the surgeon was saying made sense. He was throwing out random, crazy numbers and it all had to be some kind of mistake. "I think you're confused. There was probably some mix up. Maybe those—"
"There are wedding pictures," Alex says slowly. "In the same place she keeps the certificate. Wedding pictures from '46. He's even in uniform. It's her, in those clothes, standing there with him and by God, she looks exactly the same!"
The lawyer is about to say something else when his friend sits forward suddenly, angrily stuffing a hand into one of his pockets.
"You don't believe me! Well look!"
The picture he pulls out is small but clear, black and white but sepia tinted of a man and woman standing together. The man is in a uniform and grinning, the woman next to him in a knee-length dress and hat is obviously Mrs. Itylus. There's no mistaking the dark charm, the certain way she holds herself, or that smile.
"Maybe it's a goof, something they did for fun," the lawyer offers and in a voice that even sounds feeble to his own ears.
"Look how young he is there! They're almost the same age."
"You said you think now that this was her second marriage?"
Alex sits back in his chair, staring at the photograph. He makes no move to put it back in his pocket or even to touch it. Around them the office is silent, not even the sound of passing cars makes it into the lawyer's inner sanctum but now the peace is upset. The bookcases feel like they're looming and the shadows seem like they're shifting and suddenly the one light which had been cozy is now weak and losing its battle against the darkness. The night is getting in.
"Other marriages, other children," he says slowly before dropping his cigarette into the ashtray to join its fellows. "After I found that I went looking for more. I knew there had to be more. You know she's Irish. She jokes about it, she even can speak it and she can't always hide her accent. Have you noticed how much she tries to hide it nowadays? Well I thought, there has to be a record. There has to be something, something showing how she came into the country."
"You found her immigration record?"
"No," Alex says as he fiddles with his pack of cigarettes.
Theres only one left and he finally manages to shake it out with a sigh. As he lights it he looks up and across the desk at his old friend.
"No," he says around the first puff, sagging with his whole body. "There are no records for any Joyce O'Shea or Joyce Sidhe and I searched. Hell, I dug and dug. I was calling people in other cities to get them to look through the records even though she said she came through New York. So I kept looking through the house. Found another certificate."
"What did this one say?"
"Birth certificate for a girl named Aine, born 1915; death certificate for her too, died 1918. There was a picture of a little girl in a casket, so creepy. There was a picture of another soldier too, this one was in WWI outfit; it was all yellowed too, even kinda wrinkled. And there was a letter saying he died at the front, 1918. Had a nice big British seal on it and yellow as Hell."
"Well that's not—"
"There was another picture," Alex says around his cigarette as he digs through one pocket and then another. "Ah here."
He pulls it out and carefully places it on the table, beside the other one. It shows a tall man standing behind a chair where a woman sits with a baby on her lap. He wears a three-piece suit with his hair carefully oiled and combed. The woman's hair is piled on her head. The skirt is long, the blouse is oddly cut and the smile is exactly the same.
"You can't tell me that's her grandma," Alex says as he points at the Edwardian couple and their doomed baby. "You can't tell me that's her mother," he says with a nod at the picture of the Sidhes. "That's my wife. That's my wife looking the same as she does today seventy years ago."
The lawyer leans back in his chair as if he can escape out the back or sink in until this is all gone, all over and better. The surgeon leans forward hungrily, dark eyes piercing and perhaps a little unbalanced. Unbalanced, the lawyer thinks to himself. There has to be a reasonable explanation, Alex is just overlooking it, he's just been pushed too far lately. Stress affects everyone differently and some people just can't take it. Those dark eyes are still staring at him when he goes to knock the ash from the end of his cigar and the lawyer realizes that he still has to deal with this now.
"I never told anyone about all the strange things," Alex says slowly. "I kept it all to myself about the strange noises we sometimes get and she says don't worry about it, it's the dogs, or the servants. You know every full moon she puts flowers in the children's hair and has them dance around the house?"
"She has strange books in the library, she picked them up in other countries. She has strange buddhist signs on the walls. She can read Chinese, Joe; she has Chinese books and I don't think she got them in Chinatown. She reads, oh what is it the Indians have? Sanskrit? She has things I don't even know what they are in odd places. There's a shrunken human head in the library; she says she got in Brazil. When did she go to Brazil? When could you still bring back stuff like that? There's a mummy in the dinning room. You know, you love the sarcophagus, you always admire it. It's not empty, we don't tell people, but it's not. There's old European stuff too, she says they're alchemy books and she collects them because she thinks they're funny. I bet she does think they're funny. How many alchemists succeeded?"
"Alex, what are you saying, that your wife has found the fountain of youth or the secret to eternal life? There has to be a reasonable explanation."
"I'm saying that I don't know what's going on!"
Alex throws up his hand, the cigarette nearly flying from between his fingers. His exclamation is loud, too loud after the quiet talk, the pressing silence. The lawyer recoils from it all, puffs his cigar and tries to close himself off.
"I'm saying that I would have ignored it all," the surgeon sends a sweeping gesture over the picture, the desk, the world in general. "I did ignore it all for years because I loved her and I knew she loved me, and it wasn't bad. I didn't know things and it wasn't bad. But the people that work for her, there's something wrong with them too. The one that's always around, always whispering in her ear, Miti, you've seen her."
"Pretty thing," the lawyer manged.
"I swear there's something wrong with her eyes. She never let's me get too close but I swear her eyes, the pupils are the wrong shape, they're like slits. And you know, last month, that bomb that went off in Manhattan, they said it was gang violence on the news, but they gave the address. That was right in front of her building, that was the day she went into the city and one of her bodyguards, I didn't see him anymore after that but she never said anything. And the house gets broken into when I'm at work and always I ask her 'did you call the cops?' and she says no I took care of it. How does she take care of it? What happens to the crooks?"
Alex stabs out his last cigarette and leans forward, dropping his head into his hands as he plants his elbows on the arms of the chair. The lawyer wants to do something, wishes he could say something but what do you say to that? How do you believe any of it?
"She's my wife. I love her so much but I think she's bored with me and now I see it all, now I wonder what's going on. I'm afraid, Joel, afraid of my own wife!"
The door opens suddenly with a burst of colder air that rips through the smoke. The lawyer is fast, he sweeps the photographs from his desk and onto his lap while Alex slowly looks up. Mrs. Joyce Itylus walks into the room, moving with a grace that immediately attracts the eye. She is a beautiful woman and as always she is impeccably dressed. She looks concerned while her husband quickly drains of color.
"There you are Alex! I've been worried. You didn't call to say you'd be late."
Her husband murmurs some apology as he gets to his feet.
"I'm sorry, Joyce," the lawyer offers. "I called Alex over to burden him with some problems I've been having. Don't be too hard on him."
She smiles pleasantly as Alex ambles towards her.
"Oh don't worry. I was just worried he was going to be late for Mel's recital, it's in an hour. Have you had dinner?" she says to her husband.
"McDonald's," he admits, scratching his head and looking at her like a guilty child.
Mrs. Itylus rolls her eyes and takes his arm.
"You're a doctor, you should know better than to eat all that fried stuff. We have time for something decent. Sorry to steal him, Joel!"
"Oh no, I know Mel won't let him live it down if he's late. Have a good night."
"You too," the couple reply.
The door closes behind them, sealing off the room one more. The silence returns, as does the darkness, seeping in from between the slats in the blinds, bleeding out of the shadows. The lawyer looks down at the photos in his lap and shivers. Joyce holds the WWII pilot's arm in much the same way she had just held her husband's. He slips the photos into a drawer and locks it. He takes the file with the divorce papers and slips it into his briefcase. Then after a second of thought he takes a set of separation papers and adds them as well. He knows better than to send them to their house. He'll just have to wait until Alex comes to see him again, if he comes to see him again.
Alex's dialogue is intentionally choppy because his English deteriorates under stress. His wife is Hecate Itylus from Being Evil Isn't Evil, which means, yes, the poor guy doesn't know her real name. I don't think she quite worked in the parody and this is much closer to the tone and style that fits her. I hoped this little experiment worked.