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Partners in Crime
“Hello?” Lexi’s spoke in a perfectly simulated polite tone (anyone who aspires to be part of the social elite must master this skill), abruptly ending the mechanical ring of her message machine.
“Hey Lexi.” The other line was absolutely silent. Even though we were miles apart, I could sense her holding her breath as she realized it was me, the social outcast.
When she spoke again, her voice had shed its theatrical courteousness. “What are you doing?” she hissed. “You’re supposed to wait until I call! The girls are here and you know what would happen if…” she trailed off, unable to admit out loud the unspeakable possibility that she could be ousted from her social position.
“Look, I’m sorry…but it’s really important.” I waited anxiously, unsure of what to expect.
Before she could respond, someone in the background interrupted. “Who is it?” they asked in the same polished tone that Lexi had used earlier.
“Hold on a second” Lexi whispered into the phone. Her tone was now without an edge of aggravation and noticeably softer. I let out a sigh of relief. “It’s my mother” she responded in a temporarily restored overly polite voice. “I’m sorry but I have to take this one.”
She returned to our conversation. “Ok, what is it?” she asked with a sigh.
“You remember Hunter?”
Her resigned voice suddenly transformed into relieved excitement “Oh yeah! Good idea! If the girls found out about our conversation I could always just bring up your charity project with him and maybe they will forgive my lapse in social judgment!”
I brushed aside her offensive misunderstanding. “No it’s not that…” I paused, not sure of how to continue. “He was the other driver…the one that accidently hit Liam.”
She drew a sharp breath. “Oh my god.” She was silent for a moment as she attempted to process what I had just said. “I-I can’t believe he would…that he would do that to you. H-How could he go for so long without mentioning that?” As she spoke, she began to pick up speed until her faltering voice had transformed into a raging rant. “That selfish jerk! I always knew he was no good. I could help you destroy him. Actually, I will help you destroy him! We could get even more money out of him in court when we tell the jury that he manipulated you like that! We could get him a life sentence! We’re going to make him…”
Her fury continued to spill from her lips, her words embedding in my skin like bullets. I tried to pull them out in vain – they tenaciously refused to move, smiling smugly at my desperate efforts. The truth mercilessly beat against my skull, trying to break free, until I felt dizzy. Suddenly I burst. “I’m in love with him!”
The moment the words escaped my lips, she was silent. “Did you just say you are in love with him?”
I stared blankly ahead of me. I couldn’t produce more than a whisper. “Yes”.
“You can’t. You just can’t.” She paused, unable to articulate the horror of what I had just admitted. “I can’t let do this.” Suddenly a stern tone came over her voice. “You aren’t going to see him anymore. I will make sure of it.”
Anger seeped the cracks in my collected facade. Who does she think she is telling me what I can and can’t do? “You know what? I am so tired of you thinking that you know best because you are still part of that group of stuck up snobs! I will see Hunter and I don’t care what you think about it!” I didn’t give her a chance to respond. Defiantly slamming the phone onto the ringer, I headed to bed.
The next morning, I woke up to someone knocking firmly on my apartment door. I glanced at the clock hanging on the wall across from my bed – 7:00 AM. It was Sunday; the one day I was able to sleep in. As I drowsily climbed out of bed, I reconsidered my last thought – I might be able to sleep in every day next week, thanks to my reckless stunt on the phone yesterday. Another knock. I stumbled over to the entrance of my apartment, a string of curses slipping through my lips in a hiss of hot steam. My eyes still clouded by sleep, I opened the door. This better be good.
I was staring directly into the emotionless eyes of a police officer. However, as he absorbed my appearance, his blank expression transformed into a disturbed gaze. That’s when I realized I was still wearing a huge t-shirt that fit me like a dress and bunny slippers that Hunter had given to me for Christmas as a joke. Trying to salvage what dignity I had left, I flashed a tentative smile and rearranged my stance to where I was partly hidden by the door. “What seems to be the problem sir?”
His head instantly jerked in my direction, my voice jarring him from his obvious internal mockery of my outfit. When he spoke, his austere gaze had locked onto my eyes. “I’m going to need to ask you a few questions ma’am.” I shot him a perplexed look. Perceiving my confusion, he breathed deeply and continued. “New information concerning your…” he averted his gaze, clearly uncomfortable “…your husband’s death last year has been discovered and some new suspicions have arisen. The police now believe that murder was a possibility and you…” he paused, hesitantly returning his eyes to mine “and you are a suspect.”
I slammed the door shut. The walls of the apartment were still vibrating from the impact when a large mass on the other side of the thin piece of wood in front of me fell to the floor with a thundering thud. Then it was quiet. Too quiet. I strained to hear something, anything, but I could only make out the quick rhythm of my shallow breathing accompanying the diminishing vibrations of the apartment walls. No breathing, no footsteps, no evidence of another person standing in the hallway in front of my apartment. I cautiously opened the door, the slow creak heightening the fear in the pit of my stomach. The police man was on the ground; his arms draped loosely over his torso, his eyes closed, his expression wiped blank, his legs sprawled lifelessly on the floor, and the imprint of the carving on my wooden door painted on his bright red forehead like an ugly warning sign. I ran.
By the time I had emerged from the apartment building doors, tears were streaming from my eyes. I knocked out a police officer. I didn’t slam the door with murderous intent and I had seen the subtle rise and fall of his chest but the police weren’t going to stop and ask questions when they arrested someone accused of assaulting a police officer and murdering her own husband. I pushed through the throng of pedestrians, ignoring the angry buzz of profanities. Lexi must have called the police. They know I am seeing Hunter. They know I am in love with him. They must think that Hunter and I plotted to kill Liam. But I couldn’t deny the plausibility of the charge against me. My husband died in a car accident. My rich husband. A year later, I am friends with the man responsible for the accident – no, even worse – I am in love with him. We could have known each other before Liam died. We could have had an affair. We could have performed the crime driven by the belief that Liam’s death would permit a public relationship between me and Hunter as well as dump half of Liam’s assets into our pockets. My lawyer might counter this argument by pointing to the fact that we never married and I didn’t inherit anything but the prosecutor would easily defeat this defense. Investigators would discover that at the time of Liam’s death, I hadn’t understood the terms of the prenuptial agreement and had expected to inherit a significant fraction of his assets. The prosecutor would then claim that we didn’t marry because our plan to obtain financial security had fallen through. The jury’s eyes would widen as they listened to him explain my monstrous scheme. All the evidence pointed to me. I will be convicted of murder and thrown behind bars. I will always be remembered as Taylor Anderson – woman who killed her husband and served a life sentence in the New York City Jail. The fear coursing through my veins compelled me to disregard the lactic acid burning in my legs and quicken my pace. When I entered Hunter’s apartment building lobby, I slowed to walk. I realized must have looked crazy with my cheeks streaked with black eye liner, my eyes puffed red from tears, my forehead covered in beads of sweat, my frilly nightgown clinging to my clammy skin and my fuzzy bunny slippers. The doorman’s and early-risers’ perplexed stares burned holes in my back. It was a relief to escape the piercing gazes and slip into an elevator.
When I reached the fifth floor, I burst from the elevator and blinded by tears, dashed towards the familiar apartment entrance. I knocked furiously on his front door, until dots of blood seeped through cracks in the creases on my knuckles. Finally, Hunter appeared in front of me.
I was paralyzed by his breathtaking beauty. I marveled at how significantly my perception of him had changed since our first meeting almost a year ago. His unnerving eyes were now beautiful, deep blue jewels. His pointy chin and wide lips were now absolutely adorable. His sense of humor and witty comments were now irresistibly charming. He was beyond perfect.
“What’s wrong?” Hunter asked with an edge of concern, wrenching me from my reflection. I shook my head to regain my senses. I need to do what I came here to do.
I stared gravely into his eyes, ever fiber in my body trying to avoid falling under the spell of his bottomless oceans of blue. “I love you.”
An expression of pure joy engulfed his worried appearance. “You don’t even know how long I have been waiting to hear you say that.” He took a stride forward, closing the space between us, and wrapped his arms around me.
“No. I can’t do this. This is wrong.” I felt foolish, saying those words, because despite my conviction that a relationship with Hunter was wrong, I couldn’t seem to bring myself to leave his warm embrace.
He nuzzled his head in my hair. “I love you and you love me…I don’t see any problem with that. Actually, life has never been so perfect” he mused, clearly distracted.
“No Hunter you have to listen to me!” Fighting my desire, I attempted to wriggle from his hold.
Noticing my struggle, he stepped back for a moment, still holding on to my arms. His brow furrowed and his eyes scanned my features trying to decipher my emotions.
I averted my eyes to escape his hypnotizing gaze. “The police are after me.”
“The police are after you? Isabella the bad girl…hmmm…I like it.” He grinned. I frowned. He didn’t understand.
Taking a deep breath, I spat out a complete narration of the last 24 hours in a rush of words. “After I talked to you at the shop, I called Lexi to say I thought I was in love with you but you were also the other driver in the car accident that killed Liam and then she said I couldn’t see you anymore and I got really mad at her and I said I could see you if I wanted to but then just twenty minutes ago a policeman showed up at my door and said he needed to ask me a few questions because I am a suspect of Liam’s murder which means that Lexi called the police so I freaked out and slammed the door and ended up hitting the guy in the face and knocking him out so I ran here but it probably won’t be long until they come after me.” He shot me a confused look. Still trying to catch my breath, I attempted to proceed in a collected manner. “Lexi and the police think that we conspired to kill Liam. Just look at all the evidence – as sick as it is, their accusation looks completely reasonable. We are going to be convicted of murder.” I started to cry again.
“Look at me Isabella. Everything is going to be okay. I promise.”
“My name isn’t Isabella. It’s Taylor. Taylor Anderson, the murderous wife of Liam Anderson!” Hunter was an indistinguishable blur behind my river of tears.
He put his arms around me burying my face in his shirt. His golden skin radiated summer heat. “To me, you will always be Isabella Wolfe, the girl who spilled my coffee on a sidewalk in New York City. We love each other. Not anyone, not anything can ever take that away from us.” He tightened his arms, pulling me closer. “We’re partners in crime” he whispered.
We knew our time together would end – we were both alleged murderers, he was already guaranteed years in prison for manslaughter. Even if we escaped a murder conviction and Hunter received a light sentence, our relationship would always be shrouded in controversy. People would watch in horror when we walked hand in hand down the sidewalk and the media would gush that our story exemplifies society’s degrading sense of morality.
I tossed my slippers into his apartment. We walked side by side out of his building and onto the sidewalk with our hands tightly intertwined. The city was waking up. Traffic had begun to build on the streets, creating a symphony of horns and screeching tires and a steady stream of pedestrians pored out of buildings on both sides of the road. I knew what we had to do but I wasn’t scared. It felt right – like instead of making a decision, I was simply taking the one available path in front of me. Neither of us spoke as we walked onto the Brooklyn Bridge. We stared out at the landscape, smiling contemplatively at the shimmering water. We weren’t disturbed by the silence. We weren’t disturbed by what we knew we were about to do. We both knew we would be together soon – free from the law, free from taboo, free from society.
The scene was a strange kind of beautiful. It embodied a clash of eerie peace and wild passion. The cloudy skies cast a shadow over the dreary city. Cars of innocuous shades of black and white raced by on the darkly painted bridge. The only color was the fiery passion of the man and woman embracing on the side of the road, their hands buried in each other’s hair and their lips crushed together. The man climbed onto the railing and offered his hand to the woman. She took it and once again, fell into his embrace. They stood there for a moment, congealed in fiery red passion. Without as much as a warning, the passion disappeared. The vibrant speck of color slipped off the side of the bridge in a tangle of bodies, leaving the lifeless, black and white wasteland behind.