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Partners in Crime
He was gone. A feeling of heavy emptiness consumed my body, leaving me breathless. The phone slipped from my hands, its crash breaking the eerie silence in my apartment. My Apartment. Not Our Apartment. It was just My Apartment now. Nothing was ours anymore. Our plans, our schedule, our life, our future, didn’t exist. Now the lonely pronoun “my” preceded everything I previously valued as “ours”.
He was gone. I couldn’t accept it. How could this be happening? This kind of tragedy only happens to bad people, right? Ever since I was little, everything just fell into place. My life was perfect. How could everything suddenly disappear?
He was gone. A mere three hours before, he sat in this chair. As he leisurely drank his coffee and perused the newspaper like he did every morning, a crease gradually threaded across his forehead and his pursed lips twisted into an amused grin. His familiar rosy cheeks, dramatic sighs and subtle mint aroma radiated life. “Siamese Twins Accepted into Top College” he announced, reading the front page headline. “Can you imagine being literally stuck with someone for the rest of your life?” He casually tossed the newspaper on the table and skewed his chair towards the kitchen area where I was telling the personal chef my orders for breakfast. “That’s sort of like you and me” I joked. “You’re stuck with me baby as long as I got this beauty on.” I winked and dramatically thrust my hand with my wedding ring in his direction. He pretended to laugh sarcastically and returned to reading the newspaper. I left out a crucial similarity between us and Siamese twins. When one half disappears, the other half withers away and dies.
He was gone. The emptiness intensified. A sudden wave of nausea hit me in the side, knocking the wind out of me. I couldn’t help but think of my husband and what the hospital had told me. He was hit in the side. Another car had run a stop sign and plowed into the driver’s side of his car. His car had flipped over crushing him underneath, k... Another wave of nausea knocked me to the floor. Clutching my stomach, I stumbled into the bathroom and positioned myself over the toilet. All my emotion spilled out of me. I collapsed there, draped on the ground, staring at the remains of my breakfast. And then I burst. Tears ran down my face, streaking my cheeks with black eyeliner. My whole body shook uncontrollably.
He was gone. I was alone.
1 year later…
The alarm clock buzzed to life, signaling another long day. Liam’s death launched my life to full speed; an awful, back breaking, impossible speed. After the mourning phase, when people’s sympathy began to wear off, my life changed…big time. I was used to a luxurious lifestyle – the world of maids, classy restaurants and designer clothing. To say what I went through was an adjustment would be an understatement. Without warning, Life shattered the enclosed glass world I had lived in for the past 25 years, dropping me into the freezing water below.
As if everything wasn’t bad enough, I had to kiss my gorgeous apartment goodbye. It turns out the document that I had signed because Liam promised it was crucial to our marriage was a prenuptial agreement that wrote me out of his will. So much for “I’ll be there for you forever baby”.
“Eric! Wake up you lazy jerk!” I heard Barbara’s booming voice through my wall. To ease the pain of leaving my beautiful world behind, Life presented me with two new welcoming, respectful, pleasurable neighbors – Barbara and Eric. The day I moved in, they came over for a special visit and treated me with their graceful presence. But their idea of an enjoyable apartment setting conflicted drastically with mine. My cramped bedroom and undersized living room with some meager kitchen appliances in the corner conveniently backed up against their apartment and despite the wall that separated our two lives, I seemed to experience their lifestyle as if it was my own. When they blasted their favorite rock bands and sang along, I had the pleasure of listening to the beautiful sound from the front row. The smell of sweat, month-old sandwiches and dirty clothes that thickened the air in their room permeated my walls, allowing me to enjoy the sweet aroma as well. After hearing their loud, cheerful arguments at six in the morning, I felt as if I was a part of their relationship. Life was good.
Something hit the other side of the wall behind my bed. “You’re a pathetic excuse for a husband!” Most likely, Barbara threw a chair at Eric again. I forced myself to get out of bed and start my morning routine. Take a three minute shower (can’t waste any of the money I don’t have on hot water) throw on some clothes (the few designer pieces I managed to salvage), grab breakfast on the go (no more personal chef) run out the door and walk (couldn’t afford a cab) to my job. My horrific, low wage job as a receptionist at a salon…how embarrassing. But I didn’t have many other jobs opportunities. Liam and I had been together since my sophomore year in college. When he graduated the following year, I dropped out. His career as the vice president of his father’s company covered us financially so why put off marriage another year? How was I supposed to know a car accident would destroy everything? Anyways, when I began looking for employment eight months ago, I realized I didn’t have much of a resume. Marrying the richest, smartest, hottest guy on campus didn’t get me very far job-wise.
Life wasn’t on a silver platter any more. I was on my hands and knees, hunting for leftovers.
When I walked out of my apartment building, a wall of cold air smacked me in the face. I sharply sucked in my breath and shoved my hands deeper into my pockets. Overnight, the city had undergone a striking transformation. Snow blanketed the thin pieces of grass sprinkled along the sidewalk and clung to the trees planted neatly in front of weathered buildings. The distinct smell of car exhaust and baked goods mixed with the fresh aroma of snow. People briskly walked by me with puffs of steamy breath hovering on their lips. It was the first snowfall of many more to come in New York City. A frosty gust of wind suddenly swept the streets, biting at my cheeks and nose. I hate winter.
Liam died on the first snowy day of last year. The police officer told me that was what made the car accident so bad – that was what transformed another driver’s simple mistake into a lethal disaster. I’ll never forget the pain I felt in the beginning; the unbearable anguish that ate away at me from inside, forming a throbbing cavity in my chest. The emptiness, the painful reminder of everything I had lost, was always there. But gradually, hatred filled the aching hole. Someone had thrust his filthy hands into my life and snatched my husband, my world and my happiness. I hated him for it and I was going to make him pay. Literally. I was going to sue that man for every penny he had.
Now thoroughly conscious of the anger I had tried so hard to suppress during the months following Liam’s death, I walked briskly down the sidewalk, my lips pressed in a tight frown. Roughly a hundred meters up the street, a mob of pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk blocked the sidewalk. I let out an aggravated sigh and defiantly crossed my arms. I don’t even need to use the flipping cross walk. Can’t these people just move? This isn’t what I need at eight in the morning. After waiting a full five seconds, I had had enough. I shoved through the crowd and finally reached the other side. As I continued to walk, I looked back over my shoulder at the throng of frustrated people and smiled smugly at my success. Ah, it’s so –
A solid mass slammed full force into my chest throwing me backwards. I felt a hot liquid trickling down my shirt and a firm grip catch my arm, breaking my fall. I steadied myself, and glanced up at the obstruction, already fuming with indignation.
“Watch where you’re going, jerk!” A lanky, awkwardly built man was eying me with a stunned look. He had a bony nose that didn’t seem to fit quite right on his face and his pursed lips were placed awkwardly above his pointy chin. Unlike the guys I typically respected – the handsome, muscular, financially stable jocks – this guy looked as if I could snap him in two with my fingers. But then I reached his eyes: two piercing, disturbingly deep, blue daggers that seemed to stare straight through me. The intensity of his eye color temporarily disabled me and for a moment, I forgot where I was. Time froze and I was swimming in an ocean of blue. But my chest began to feel raw. I could feel his gaze boring into me like razors, peeling away the layers of my skin like tissue paper. I could feel him revealing and assessing my soul. I could feel…and it was too much. Ripping my eyes from his iron gaze, I shook my head in an attempt to regain my senses. Once I had successfully reentered the bustling world of the New York City streets, I noticed that his abnormally large hand was still firmly holding onto my upper arm. I shook myself free of his grasp. I didn’t want such a disgusting creature touching me any longer.
“What the heck were you doing walking down the street like that! You could have killed me! You-you” I groped my brain for another accusatory statement, “you should be arrested for such arrogant behavior!”
“Just calm down miss – ” For a moment, I almost thought I detected amusement in his obnoxious attempt to pacify me but I didn’t dare go so far as to believe he would be so rude.
“Miss!? How dare you address me like that! Don’t you act all politely and innocently like you did nothing wrong!”
“Really I’m sorry.”
“That’s right, jerk, you will be sorry once my lawyer is done with you.” I retorted with an air of dry amusement.
“Please, at least let me clean you up.”
I opened my mouth, preparing to release the string of profanities bubbling behind my pursed lips in reaction to his suggestion that I need to be “cleaned up” but then I noticed the stain on my cashmere sweater. Dark brown coffee was rapidly seeping through the delicate fabric. My anger quickly escalated to pure hatred. My cashmere sweater! My last cashmere sweater to be exact – I sold all of my other ones to buy my apartment and pay my bills. Noticing people on the street staring at our exchange, I collected myself and looked back into his gaze. His piercing blue eyes sent a shiver down my spine.
“That’s the least you can do” I retorted, stammering partly from anger and partly from his unnerving eyes. I hated those eyes.
“I work at the café down the street. I can get you paper towels or something”. I froze. This man is a loser. I should be laughing at his bold assumption that I would ever even think about accepting help from him. But after silently considering my situation, I realized that going with him would probably be a wise decision. Instead of regarding such a choice as accepting “lower class” help, I thought of it as strategically using him to better my circumstances. In fact, going with him would actually elevate my social position; my former friends of the social elite would appreciate my tactful ability to detect such valuable opportunities. Anyways, what would our costumers think if the receptionist had a huge coffee stain on her sweater? It’s just not professional. I knew Judy, my boss, would yell at me for being late the second time this week but I was already late and fashionably late is much better than late with a coffee stain. I smiled smugly to myself and followed the infuriating blue-eyed man down the sidewalk.