Friends and Anger 9.

She slept longer than usual but finally emerged from the bedroom to help him prepare their evening meal. He was grilling lamb chops and the smell was delicious. She peeled the potatoes and put them in a saucepan of water to cook. At the same time she fetched out some sweet garden peas from the freezer and put them on to cook as well.

She saw he’d covered the grill with a sheet of tin foil because he was going to use some freshly sliced onion rings as a finishing touch garnish to the meal. The oil from the lamb chops would run across the foil and into the onion rings, adding a certain flavour. She’d noticed his cooking, though simple, used little touches like that which she’d never seen before. Another one of his little mysteries.

He noticed she was much quieter than usual as they worked elbow to elbow on the meal. They usually chatted away while they cooked together. In the ordinary way of things, it was a nice and easy social time for them both. It reminded him of standing beside his mother and her showing him how to cook. Since he was the only person in the house to take any interest in cooking, she taught him how to cook well.

Everyone knew he was the mild child and the one who had to be protected, especially by her, the lioness and her cub. Even in a kind and gentle home, he’d never survive otherwise. He was too weak. In their society, cooking was seen as an unmannish thing. Being the youngest child and a dreamer, there were already some justified worries about him.

She set the table, adding the mint sauce she knew he liked with lamb as well as a salt-cellar. He served their meal onto two warmed plates and they sat down at the dining table and began to eat. She was still a touch too quiet for his liking.

She started talking, looking down at her plate as she ate in her usual dainty fashion. It wasn’t talking in the sense of having a conversation but more like thinking aloud. A stream of consciousness. Manannon knew it was one of those occasions when you listen rather than speak.

He’d beaten me up before, she said, but this time was by far the worst. I thought he was going to kill me. She paused for a moment, her eyes still steadfastly on her plate before continuing. Manno, a good listener, wouldn’t fill in the silence with idle chatter because he had an intuition what she was going to say was important to her.

The usual pattern was he’d knock me around, I’d flee to a friend’s and he’d appear groveling and apologising a few days later. He could be quite charming when he needed to be. I’d forgive him and things would get back to normal for a few months until the same thing would happen again.

She looked up at Manannon for a moment. Then with a brittle smile, I know, the usual abused woman cycle. Imagine sophisticated me ending up in that sad cliché situation, but I did. She looked down at her plate again and picked at her food.

I was expecting him to appear at the hospital when you weren’t there, or here when you were out for the day, but he never did. I assumed it was because he was so scared of you. You know, you have a certain way of being a very scary person without saying a word when you want. She looked up at him, but he stayed silent eating his meal.

Here it comes, he thought with dread. He’d sworn if she would only pull through, he’d be truthful with her. No more lies or evasions.

I was actually awake when you were talking to those two policemen. I heard every word.

I’ve known you for nearly half my life, so I know when you’re being evasive. You don’t exactly lie, you deflect or just go on the conversational counter attack, and they’re so busy peddling backwards, they forget completely the direct question they originally asked you. It’s either that or you scare them so badly they essentially run away. That conversation you had with that man Pritchet followed along all of those lines.

Manannon stayed silent.

Are you really a sociopath?

He paused to think over the question and to phrase a reply. It was one of his mannerisms she knew and liked because whatever he came back with usually had meat on it.

Some new people you meet already have a view of you, either from hearsay or on a first impression. There’s nothing you can do about that tendency except confirm it or start a futile process of trying to show them they’re wrong, but that never quite works. First impressions, at a basic level, are the ones that always stick.

I could see Pritchet came to me with a pre-formed impression of what I was, I confirmed it for him and then used it to scare him off. We won’t be seeing him again.

How do you know?

Put yourself in his position. He’s on what’s almost certainly an off the books fishing expedition into a closed case everyone else has already decided is the suicide of a low-level scumbag drug pusher nobody gives a damn about. I maneuvered him into a situation where he was alone in a room with someone he’s absolutely convinced is a stone-cold professional killer whose connections are good enough to have read a copy of his police personnel file, and also has very exact knowledge of his personal and family life.

If that person also knows about the sexual favours he still collects after his days in the vice squad, then the odds are he probably knows about the bribe money he’s stashed away to supplement his pension. Behind the drugs squad AKA the Gold Coast and a long way behind, the vice squad pays modest but good regular money not to be too enthusiastic in your policing. A cop embittered at being passed over year after year is easily bribed, if only as payback, and Pritchet was no exception.

He’s dealing with a dangerous protected individual he’s got no chance of putting behind bars, and one who probably has enough dirt on him to get him thrown out of the force and into a cell himself. Get into all that grief or just walk on by and take the pension in two years? Which would you do?

You’re right, we won’t be seeing him again.

She paused before continuing.

So Vince is dead? she asked.

Yes.

I have to ask, did you kill him?

Yes.

After a pause, she said thank you, you saved me the trouble. Why didn’t you tell me he was dead?

Your desire to kill him yourself gave you the motivation to get well quicker so you could do the job on him. Your thirst for revenge did more for your recovery than any amount of physiotherapy could ever do.

Why did you do it?

Because he hurt you badly. For a while, I thought he’d killed you. He paused.

And I’ve always loved you.

The candid admission took her aback. She thought about it for a long moment. How long have you loved me?

Do you remember the fresher’s fair at our first week at university? Where all those bloody awful clubs and societies tried to get us to join?

Vaguely, it was a long long time ago.

I loved you right from the first time I saw you ambling from table to table at the fair. I followed you around it, noting which societies you joined so I could join them as well. I wanted to make sure we would meet.

You’ve loved me for nearly fifteen years and never told me that. What am I missing here?

He paused for a long moment to find the right words, something she could understand, but it was difficult.

Everyone I’ve ever become attached to ended up dead or badly injured. I have a dread it’s my personal curse dragging along after me wherever I go. It’s never missed. I feared that by telling you I loved you, I’d be visiting my curse on you.

Well, you’ve told me and I’m still alive and kicking and have no intention of dying just yet, especially with you around. You’ve always been an enigma to me. I sensed you were attracted to me but you always kept me at a certain distance, now I know why. I think. Since you’re finally being candid with me, let’s go all the way. May I satisfy my curiosity about some other things that I’ve always wondered about?

Ask.

Their forgotten meals on the table in front of them were by now becoming cold. He knew the next twenty minutes were going to be hard because he’d have to speak of things he’d never spoken of to any other human being before.

She thought carefully, lining up all the little mysteries about him she’d mused over during the years of their friendship before getting to the really big ones. She found one, a small one to start with, but one that had always niggled at her.

Your English is perfect and accentless. You speak and write that high academic English that got you a first and also speak street English fluently, but it’s somehow just a tad too bloody perfect. I’ve always had a vague feeling it isn’t your native language though. It isn’t, is it?

It isn’t, I was raised speaking Ukrainian.

From the look of gobsmacked astonishment on her face, he could see that was the last answer in the world she was ever expecting. It made him smile slightly. The answer to her little simple starter for ten question proved enormous. Her list of the bigger questions to ask him got thrown away in the confusion. She wasn’t sure how to proceed.

So you’re a Russian? she asked.

Manannion looked at her at a loss as to where to begin to explain how ill-informed that question was. Yes, the Ukraine was one of the republics of the old USSR but always against its will, he explained. So much so that Stalin engineered a famine by forcibly confiscating all the crops. Six million Ukrainians starved to death. It’s a rich and fertile land that still exports huge quantities of wheat; it and has the biggest land mass in Europe. It’s not a postage stamp country; over forty million people live there. The Russians hate us, and we hate them back.

I never knew any of that. Five million?

Men, women and children.

She was quiet for a long time, getting used to the massive context change of her Manno from being just another bezzie Brit mate she went to uni with for three years and had been friends with for fifteen, to being a Ukrainian. He watched her coming to terms with it. She realised she knew fuck all about the Ukraine, which meant in essence she really knew fuck all about her best friend Manannon whom she’d known for all of her adult life. She came out of it.

Can I go on? she asked.

Yes. He felt so passive and in a way so relieved to be able to honestly answer any question she asked of him. Unburdened after all those years.

What’s your real name?

You probably couldn’t pronounce it.

Try me.

Fedeyka Ony Ustyyanovych.

I like Fedeyka a lot better than calling you Manno. Can I call you that from now on?

Yes, okay, but only when we’re alone. He remembered with a pang, nobody has referred to me by my real name in over twenty years, and that last person was his mother on her last day on Earth. Too much old pain there.

She repeated his full name several times, as if savouring it, even getting the four syllables into his surname.

What made you leave the Ukraine and come here?

You know that expression, you can’t unring the bell? he asked.

Of course.

Well, the same applies to some stories. There’s no goodness in them. Once you’ve heard them, you can’t unhear them. It’s brutal and ugly with no saving graces – not a single one. Are you sure?

Yes, I’m sure.

He believed in bargains. He’d sworn to something on high he had not spoken to for years. If she could only survive and if and when she might make it back to him, there’d be no more lying when it came to her. You have to keep your bargains. This wasn’t an area he’d thought about for a long time, but perhaps whatever it was upstairs he’d lost faith in had delivered, so he had to as well, otherwise He might take her back. One final glance at her.

Okay, I’ll tell you.

©Pointman

Click here for all currently written chapters of Friends and Anger.

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Comments
6 Responses to “Friends and Anger 9.”
  1. Dolf (a.k.a. Anders Ericsson) says:

    Guess you lost track a little there:
    »Six million Ukrainians starved to death. …

    I never knew any of that. Five million?

    Men, women and children.»

    But that said, I enjoy the story.

    Like

  2. donaitkin says:

    Again, good stuff. I’m hooked. When’s the next episode?

    Cheers,

    Don

    Like

  3. Another Ian says:

    Pointman

    O/T but fyi

    “Facebook, Axios And NBC Paid This Guy To Whitewash Wikipedia Pages”

    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/wikipedia-paid-editing-pr-facebook-nbc-axios_n_5c63321be4b03de942967225

    Via Tip of the Spear

    Connolly?

    Like

    • Pointman says:

      Hi Ian. I don’t think it is, but the same type. These people editing Wiki furiously do it for money, not because they’re fanatics with a particular bee in their bonnet.

      Pointy

      Like

      • Another Ian says:

        Stepping somewhat delicately – question was more on the lines of “might he have had a nice little earner going”?

        Like

      • Pointman says:

        I couldn’t possibly comment, but ran the slide rule over him a number of years ago and to the best of my recollection, he was some sort of Igor-like teaching assistant in not a premier college. Academia doesn’t pay well, and as for assistants, they’re all on income support.

        And yet he’s posting pictures of his holidays in Japan …

        Pointy

        Like

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