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Dark Moon

by A Baptiste 5 months ago in Historical
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T.W.: Mild Violence, Blood, PTSD

Dark Moon
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

i.

A stripe of dull gold ripples across the fire - red wing of the biplane as it turns into a nosedive. I grit my chattering teeth as I plummet, the dark wine ocean becoming closer and closer. I jerk the lever back, rising upwards just before I hit the water. My pursuer isn't as good as I am, according to the scraping sound of bending metal. His partner looks between me and the wreckage, hovering, before deciding to cut his losses. In the mirror, I see him circling like a vulture until they become dots on the horizon.

The shipping box is warped and ruined, but the painted vase inside is just fine. I take my payment, cash only, and deposit it right before closing time.

ii.

"I don't know," The Mechanic says, throwing the oil-stained towel over his shoulder and thumbing his nose. "Maybe it's time to get a new one."

"So you ... can't fix it?"

"I mean, I can," He looks back to the plane again. "It'll just be super expensive. Especially the parts. They don't mass produce this engine anymore. I could make one ... or modify one?"

I shift MT weight. "If it's not to much trouble,"

"Either way. You'd be out of commission for a while."

"You're still flying that old thing?" His Wife puts a tray on the tool cabinet, sandwiches cut in neat triangles with crinkled chips and curry soda bottles. A fat droplet traces the snake of the line. She puts her hands on her hip, accessing the damage. "Maybe, it's better for you to retire, you know, instead of rebuilding it again and again."

"I know," I sigh.

"It's probably a safety hazard, flying around in a plane in shambles like that,"

I tilt my head in half agreement. "Do what you can. I'll pay full price."

He opens his mouth to argue, cut off by the sharp look I send him. "Then at least stay for dinner, yeah? She's making chowder,"

"The clammiest!" She sang.

He nodded and slung an arm around her, pressing a kiss to her cheek. "The best."

iii.

“And that one," She says, poking it with a fat little finger. "Is from the backyard. Mommy told me that all of this use to be ocean, and that's why we can still find shells in the backyard, even though the water's gone now!"

I give her a fascinated hum and a short nod when she looks up at me, adjusting her on my knee. Their Daughter had tackled me in the doorway, throwing her short arms around my knees and failing to drag me inside.

"Honey," Her Mother said from the doorway, outlined in the yellow light of the living room. She had a towel bunched in her fist, and a mouthwatering scent wafting over her head. "The food's ready, so I need you to help clear the table, please.”

"But she hasn't seen them all!" She slammed her hands on the table for balance and I caught her waist.

"You can show her the rest after we eat," Her eyes flick up to me, then back down. "She's staying the night."

I shoot her a look. It softens when the Child looks to me. "Yes, I am ... apparently. I can help you put them away for now, but after dinner, we can start with .... this one."

A shine flickers breaks into her wide eyes. "Okay!" She snatches them off the table, one by one, carefully dripping them into the clastic container. "Come on! We've got to go wash up!"

The dinner was quiet, but the silence was warm.

"You can't leave the table until you're finished!" The Child had scolded, and her parents laughed. I finished my whole plate for her. It was more than I had eaten in a while.

True to her word, she showed me more shells after dinner and groaned all the way up the stairs for her bath.

"She missed you, you know," Her Mother said.

I hum, eyes falling onto the windowsill. If you listened carefully, you can hear the distant waves, dark and constant in the night.

iv.

"Tell me a bedtime story!" She orders me, hair still dripping. I let her pull me up the stairs. Her room is full of plush sea animals and little bones and hanging nets of glass balls. The light from the lamp makes them glow dimly, blue and green smudges on the wall.

I think as she shuffles into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. "Once ... a long time ago, there were the birds and the bees.” I sit on the bed next to her. “They lived together in the forest, until one day the bees decided that the sky wasn't big enough for the both of them, so they attacked a bird's nest on the edge of Birdtown.

“Birds from all around learned how to fly, they didn't know how to fly before that, you know. They would fly up and up ... They crushed the bees, and burned all of their hives. But even after that, some birds ... they didn't know how to stop flying. So they flew on and on - "

Her breathing had slowed. I brushed her hair behind her ear.

“Never to land again.”

v.

It was past midnight.

A walk outside for a smoke had turned into a walk outside to the peer. My coat collar whipped against my cheeks.

I pressed on.

The only establishment still open this late was the the only bar in town, nestled into the corner of a hotel. It was the only hotel in town. In thin, looped letters, the words 'Dark Moon' flickered, it's soft punk haze faintly illuminating the street and alley below.

I stared at it for a long time.

I pressed my cigarette butt into space between two cobblestones and headed back.

vi.

My eyes flew open, my entire body board stiff. "Ah," I sniff. "Was I too loud?"

"No," She offered me a smile, and I suddenly remembered that time in High School when we had thrown sugar cubes into the tall hats of passing men. There was exhaustion at the edges now, layered in bags under her eyes. "You just seemed like you were having a bad dream,"

"I was," I say, sliding my elbow over my eyes.

"You have them often?"

"Yeah. You'd think with all the time that's passed,"

She’s quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be."

"That's just it," She said. "The only ones who don't have to be sorry are the dead.”

vii.

The next time I walked to the bar, it was midnight again. I pushed myself through the door and parked myself into the chair at the end of the bar. The bartender grins at me. "Hey! Your back! She's gonna be so -"

I shake my head.

"Oh," His face falls. "The usual, then?"

I give him a curt nod, take another drag of the cigarette.

"On second thought," He says, eyes over my head. "Maybe you should go."

I'm so stupid.

I turn around and there she is, in a dark silk gown with little white sequins holding to her curves like the night does the mountains to the east. Her earrings catch the spotlight, golden disks pale white for a second, like moons.

I can't breathe.

'Dark Moon, oh way up high up in the sky,'

There are wolf whistles form a table of young sailors a little ways from the bar. They clap and holler, tossing back mugs of beer and slamming them on the table.

I can't breathe. I don't move, I can't. Her voice becomes a hair-thinin string, and it wraps around my throat and I can't breathe. I part my lips, just a little, for what I don't know, I just -

"I'd like to take that boat on troubled waters,"

"- Yeah, I'd love to just, grab her by the hips and - "

" - I wonder if she's a screamer?"

"Stop." My voice isn't my own. It's tight and rigid, edges cutting into the air.

"Oh, yeah? What's it to you?" One of the Sailors slams his cup down.

I swallow. It doesn't help. "You shouldn't talk about her like that."

"What?" Another one casts me a glance over his shoulder. "I don't see a ring on her finger, so it doesn't matter."

"Your excuse is weak," I bite out. What am I doing? I know these kinds of guys. They'd shoot me on the spot. "And I'm sure your sex is, too,"

His face turns bright red. "You - " He swings at me.

I catch his arm and bend it back until it cracks. He cries out, breaking a bottle with his other hand and swiping it at me. I smear the blood on my cheek with the back of my hand, spitting. He kneels, cradling his fingers.

Real fights were always pretty quick. I can see that look in his eyes as he starts to stand -

"Now, now, you know the rules," Her voice is honey-like and sultry as she slips her hand from where my spine meets my neck over to my shoulder.

I flinch.

They lower their heads like toddlers. "No fighting in the bar,"

"That's right. But I'm in a good mood tonight, so I'll let you stay if you all promise to be good. Do you promise?"

"We promise,"

"Now, you," Her eyes are on me, the mesmerizing dark brown of chocolate diamonds. She brushes a thumb from the cut to the corner of my lip, a streak of dark red. "What are we going to do with you?"

We hold eyes for a long time.

I pull away, vanishing with a sharp gust of salty wind.

viii.

"I'm in love with her." I say to the cabinets.

"Great," The Wife says with a sort of snark I hadn't heard in years. She dabs alcohol on the gash on my arm.

The only sign of pain I show is the quirk of my lip.

"Now you know what everybody else does."

I give her a look, another quirk of my mouth destroying it.

"You are going to tell her, right," She asks, tying the final knot.

I roll my arm. Full motion, it just stings a little.

"Right?"

I look down at my lap.

"Don't you dare give me that," She snaps the first-aid kit's lid, waving a hand at me. "Brooding crap."

I look at the moonlight, trailing in white lines on the wood of the kitchen floor.

"Have you ever thought that ... maybe ... she loves you back?"

"No."

"Not even a little?

"No."

"Surely you have."

"No."

"Look, you're not broken or -"

"Don't," I say, a little too sharply. My voice wavers. "Don't."

"If you don't tell her, you'll never be able to live with yourself," She closes the cabinet. "... I realize now that maybe that's not a good argument for you, but,"

"Goodnight."

She huffs. "Goodnight."

I listen to her footsteps on the stares and the waves in the distance.

x.

"First you come into my bar, start a fight, leave without saying a word," She flicks her wrist, bangles jingling. "And now you sneak into my garden?"

I drop onto the ground and dust myself off. "I ... didn't think you'd be here."

"You didn't think I would be in my garden?"

I lowered my head, drawing my lips into a think line. Maybe a part of me hoped she wouldn't be here, so I wouldn't have had to say anything.

She scoffs, looking out onto the sleeping town. "Do you know how long I waited?"

I was silent.

"And then you just walked off? Again?" She scoffed. "It made me realize that you would always be walking off somewhere. That my only reward for years of waiting was that haunched back to me. "

I was silent.

"So? What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I love you." I said to the ground.

She tossed her head back, earrings winking at me. "Is that all?"

I stepped closer, cornering her against the balcony. My eyes drifted from her hands to her face. "I love you. I'm not good for you."

"I'm a grown woman. I can decide what's good for me and what's not."

"It's not about deciding - "

"It doesn't matter, either way. If I want it, it doesn't matter."

"You …” I swallow thickly. “Want me?"

"Wanted."

I look at her and she looks down at me. "Say it."

"Say what?"

"Say you don't love me anymore."

"What?" Her breathy whisper is as cold as the night breeze drifting off the waters.

"Say you don't love me or want me or whatever, and I'll get out of your garden and off of this island and I'll fly so far away, I'll be on the damn moon."

The silence was eroded by the waves.

"Say it," I mumbled, inches away from her face. "Say you don't want me."

Silence.

Lightly, I slanted my lips over hers for just a second before lowering myself and stepping back. She tugged at my wrist, and I turned to her lips, slamming onto mine. She tried to hold me closer, closer, tangling her fingers into my wind mussed hair. We break with the tide, heaving. A thin line of saliva trails from ruby red lips.

She pulls me into her room and onto her silk sheets, running her perfectly ladylike fingets though my hair.

I drift into the dark.

xi.

In the end, he can't fix the plane.

I pay him for his time and take the rest of the money back into the bank. The young teller is new, and eyes me curiously.

I don't think she's ever seen this much money in her life.

I peel a few hundred off the top before I slide it to her.

"You know a nice jewelry place around here?" I ask her.

"Umm... Johnsons'?” She says. Down the street. Take a left?"

I nod to her and walk out, inhaling the scent of salt and brine. The sky is a color is I had seen flying over lagoons, lifetimes away from here.

Historical

About the author

A Baptiste

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