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Quiet the Blood and the Tears
“Look,” George turned his wife’s face toward him. “Look at that!”
Anne turned to the sky, seeing hundreds of white birds clouding the sun from her eyes.
“It’s beautiful,” she sighed, looking back at George’s eyes. They were twinkling.
George’s eyes had been twinkling for Anne since the moment they had met. A victim of her own innocence, she had been furiously washing her face in the women’s bathroom, bidding the scarlet blood to leave her cheek and shoulder. George, the manager of that fancy restaurant – Anne had tried to block the name from her memory, but still it came: Au Poivre – had patiently waited outside the bathroom as long as he could stand (it had been forty three minutes exactly, he had always kidded her) until she had let out a scream and had burst from the bathroom. Fiery eyes had glared at George has he jumped in front of Anne, blocking her way. He let her pass. She tore to a small table in the corner, frantically searching for something, breaking a costly glass plate (George had forgiven her that expense), and finally sitting down and burying her face in her hands. As George walked closer, he could see the giant gash in her cheek that she had been trying to clean begin to bleed again, covering her fingers with the sticky substance. When he sat down across from her with concern written on his face, and across his heart, Anne had looked up right into his eyes and had immediately quieted. His eyes had twinkled then, just as they twinkled now.
Twenty years later, and George was still rescuing Anne from the sticky situations she got herself into. As a policewoman, Anne’s job was dangerous to begin with, but with her latest case, her job had become much more risky. Catching a gang of drug-dealing teenagers was a task Anne had undertaken before, but never a gang with so many members or affiliations. After busting their leader – a strange, older man who would only answer to the name He-Ya – Anne had started to run into his gang members everywhere. They had staked out her street corner and eyed her on her way to work. They had graffitted her house, splaying their symbol across her front lawn for the whole world to see. Her neighbors had actually called the police on her. George had begun to drive their kids to school so that they wouldn’t have to walk past the Heani gang members, who had once spit on their eldest child, sending her home in tears.
This vacation was George’s idea, a getaway from the gang members as well as a chance for a break. For both of them – they deserved it. Those were the words George had used to convince Anne to live in mid-case, the Heani gang flying all over town, and her not there to do anything about it. Anne had to admit that it was nice to walk from hotel to restaurant to city park without fingering the gun she carried on her at all times. Still, she worried. Her children were staying safely away with George’s mother, attending school without interruption or gang-induced worry. Her coworkers were taking in more of the Heani teens every day, reuniting them with He-Ya in jail. Of course, the teens could probably go to juvenile detention and get off quickly. They were young, misguided, and most likely could be straightened out with proper care and a home. He-Ya might possibly be spending his life in that jail.
There was nothing more she could do, George told her at least once a day, but enjoy the break and their time together. Anne felt safe here, in Paris, with George’s hand in hers and the welcoming city twinkling so much like George’s eyes. Still, she could not help but feel that something would go wrong.
It was later, in their dinner that night at the Spiced Pepperhouse, that her suspicions came true. George had gone to the bathroom awhile ago and had still not returned. Forty three minutes exactly, she remembered, then decided to wait longer. Their food arrived, and still George did not come back. Anne shivered, feeling the strangest sense of déjà vu from the night she and George had met. Slowly, she slid out of her chair and made her way to the men’s bathroom, being careful to discreetly touch the gun that barely outlined its shape in her shoe.
“George?” she called. Waited, then knocked. She knocked again, harder this time. The people at the bar looked at her, and Anne felt they could see right down to her sweating palms and .40 Cartridge. She cleared her throat, looking away. She knocked again, beginning to get nervous.
“George?” she murmured.
Suddenly, the door slammed open and before Anne could react, a bearded man grabbed onto her shirt and pulled her inside. She glimpsed George, unconscious, leaning awkwardly over a sink with blood gushing out of a cut in his neck. Her heart fluttered, distracted, as she was shoved into the handicapped stall where He-Ya was waiting for her.
She gasped in shock. He-Ya giggled, clasping the crude knife held in his hand. His crazed eyes crinkled as he smiled down on her, focusing on the scar below her right cheekbone. Abruptly, Anne understood.
“It was you!” she shrieked, horrified, pointing a shaking finger at him. “It was you that night when you – when you attacked me!”
He-Ya did not scream or yell or even grin, as Anne expected him to, but instead licked his dirty lips and started toward her with the crooked knife. Raging, Anne pulled her gun from her body and stood facing him, both hands on the trigger. He-Ya moved on. Anne could smell his breath. It smelled of steak. Just as it had smelled the last time she had been in a nice restaurant with him. She shuddered.
He-Ya walked right into Anne’s pointed gun, now perfectly placed on the left side of his chest.
“You didn’t want me then, and you don’t want me now,” he rasped. He held up his middle finger. Then, taking the forlorn knife, he cut it off. Anne watched, horrified. One by one he cut off all the fingers of his left hand, letting them drop quietly to the ground. He held up his shaking hand, blood gushing out of it, to the fluorescent light. He turned to Anne.
He slapped her face at the same instant that she released the trigger. His eyes bugged out.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, then fell to the ground, blacking out. Anne knew he would be dead before he woke up. She stood, reeling back with shock for a split second, and then the other guy – the bearded one who had shoved her in the stall – twisted the flimsy bathroom lock to get in. Taking in the scene of Anne with her gun raised, and He-Ya on the floor, he held up his hands and stumbled backwards.
Anne pointed her gun toward him, backing away to the door, then pushed it open with her back. The bartender took in the sight of her bloodied face and the gun and immediately rushed to the phone. Anne hoped that it was to call the police. The people who had looked at her rudely before now sat, with mouths dropped open, eyes widened at the gun.
It was forty three seconds exactly before the police arrived. Anne counted. As soon as they got control of the bearded man, Anne rushed over to George. Only now did she allow herself to cry.
“George, George!” she whispered. “George!”
George heard a sound, quite like his wife. He felt a wet mark on his heart and looked down to see his wife’s hair, mangling with his own blood. His wife’s face was crying on his shirt. Red tears? he wondered. He realized she was covered with blood, too. Just like when I met her, he remembered fondly, then tilted her face toward his. Her eyes were fiery, inquisitive.
Anne searched George’s face, looking for other marks of pain. Pain because of me, she thought, touching the gash on his neck and whimpering. But as soon as Anne looked into his eyes, she quieted. For George’s eyes, once again, were twinkling.