Foolish! That was me. Stupid, foolish Kamala. Randomly blurting out the first thing that comes to mind to someone like Aaliyah Greene. Who of course couldn’t keep her mouth shut if her lips had been sewn together. And it didn’t matter how many people she told; she might have only told her mirror on the wall about Alex and I; someone trapped in a lead-lined box would have heard.
My cheeks were flush as I marched away from the gathering. In hindsight, perhaps I should have stayed. Retrieved Jack’s coffee and let the people see my face turn red. After all, who would notice? Really, who would see or care? In hindsight, I should have worn another dress. On a windy day ready to squall, perhaps the flowing midi was not such a wise choice?
Up ‘til then, my wardrobe was wan and wool and not quite flattering, and I hadn’t worn anything so colourful. Earlier in the year it was too cold to do so. Thus the days were dreary and distressing, and I had gone through the shades of shade.
But that day I was happy. My dress was lovat and vermillion. Woad and mandala, with short sleeves and a vee. My shoes showed skin and toes, that sandaled-wear, and on my nails I wore a glossy pear. That day had started off so well…
Kamala chewed on her cucumber sandwich and said in between her bites, “Sorry, Katie, I was distracted. What were you saying?”
“The show, right? Who’d you say was in that?” Kamala swallowed.
Kate sighed, turning back to her phone to quickly list off the principal cast, “Starring: Delphine Devigne, Charlotte Fay, Geneviève Xu, Zoë Janvier, Roxane Nicole, Idris Aslan, with Shannon De Winter and Rita Severn.”
Whilst turned in the opposite direction from Kate, Kamala replied, “Oh yeah, Rita Severn. I like her. She won a BAFTA the other day, didn’t she?”
“Yeah… Well fuck. You’re miles away, aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry. I am. I’m totally focused on something else entirely.”
Kate tracked her line of sight and saw Alex talking to Jack on set.
“Oh Kam. Still day-dreaming about Jack are we?”
Kamala smiled, “Something like that.”
By coincidence Alex and Jack were in the same place. Rehearsing. Allowing Kamala to stare longingly without Kate inquiring. At that point, she considered both of them to be deities. She still thought Jack was mighty handsome, though the fetching Alex Kensington now took her centre stage. Whenever Kamala thought about her she tingled inside. Whenever she came to mind, Kamala had to make sure she wasn’t drooling.
Anyway,” Kate continued, “My point is, and you should listen up now…”
“Geneviève Xu, the very same Geneviève Xu married to Jack Lynch, wants to visit the set later this month, possibly later than that. At least, that was memo I got last night. And she’ll have her young baby with her.”
“Rochelle,” said Kamala, relating the name of the babe, “Her daughter’s name is Rochelle. And Jenny’s in The Coven, is she?”
“Yes, she was just cast. Are you ready for that? Because, and this is my point by the way, she’s going to be watching you like a fucking hawk when she drops by. That means you’ll need to keep your distance when it comes to Jack.”
“I can handle that,” said Kamala, eyes drifting back toward Alex.
“Uh huh. You can handle it? Why do I doubt that?”
“Hold up, Kam!”
Only Kate followed. And she caught up to me in heels. No small feat, that.
“Kam? What’s going on?”
“I um…” I slowed as I pushed down the hem that the wind kept blowing up, but I didn’t stop walking. Not until Kate spun me around so that we were facing one another. But even then, I looked away.
“What the fuck was that about?”
“Kam… what don’t I know?”
“I can’t say. I’ve already said too much as it is.”
“As your friend I have a right to know everything you know.”
I sighed. I wanted desperately to explain to Kate what was happening, and I wanted to tell her which number cloud I was on before then. “Not this time.”
For I was sworn to secrecy. More importantly though, I had to find a place I could speak to Alex in private. I knew she’d have some questions for me. I would have to apologise.
Kate looked shocked and dejected as I hurried away, brontide on my back. Toward the director’s trailer.
Why did I not just tell her? Why did I walk away?
I heard it begin to rain as I stepped inside. Everywhere I looked, reminded me of Alex. The film. The cameras. The storyboards. The woman’s cardigan. And her trace of petrichor; her sillage hanging in the air. Her April shower; drizzling down the window pane. When I took a breath— a light, easy breath— it brought back a memory of the morning after.
The smell of masala was in abundance. Tea that easily could have marinated a little longer, but just couldn’t wait to be drunk. They both heard the pitter-patter outside building to a crescendo, and even smelled it as it blended with what lingered of Alex’s sweetness. And yet, sunlight bled through the cracks of the closed blinds. The soft raxeiras scattered on the hardwood floor.
Kamala propped up against her counter. Wearing nothing but slippers. Alex joined her in leaning, draped duvet over her shoulders, cup in the heels of her hands.
Kamala smiled, and Alex smiled back. Though perhaps regretting her actions somewhat.
“Um… I’m starting to feel a little bit guilty.”
“What about?” Kamala queried.
“Frankly, everything. I… I’m guessing you were about to tell me you had never been with a woman before? And of course I feel somewhat guilty for seducing you in the first place.”
Kamala smiled, trailing her hand up Alex’s right thigh, “Well, I didn’t mind too much. It was rather wonderful actually. Not to mention… illuminating.”
“Down, girl.” Alex cleared her throat. “In any case, you may remember that I’m a married woman?”
“Yes, of course, of course,” sighed Kamala.
“—And I had an argument with someone who— and there was the fire!— and I saw you there, I just…”
“I know. It was a strange day.”
For a second it was quiet, save the rain which came down sideways now, blotting out the sun, crashing into the window and the splattering on the verandah. Like a drum.
“You can’t tell anyone.”
“Who would I tell?”
With strenuous words Alex insisted, “Not a soul, Kamala. Don’t tell a soul.”
“I’ve got it. I promise I won’t say anything. Now...” Kamala slid the blanket off of Alex, careful not to spill her chai, and pressed her lips against Alex’s. “How much time do you think we have before we have to go about our days?”
“None,” Alex replied before necking and kissing Kamala in return. “I have to head home. I need to shower, I need a change of clothes…”
In between kisses Kamala explained, “As fate would have it, I have some clothes that might just fit you.”
Alex giggled, “Mhm. You wouldn’t also happen to have a shower at your disposal, would you?”
“I do. Maybe we can try something in there?”
“Should I be worried about this nymphomania of yours?”
“Maybe a little.”
The girls made their way to the lavatory. The roar of the deluge, now an octave lower, drowned out the silence of the apartment and the fugue of their heated embrace. And they were unrapt by the surrounding chrysalism.
And then I broke my promise by telling Aaliyah. I told her I slept with the director. Not in so many words of course, and certainly not deliberately. But Ms. Greene figured it out all the same. One slip of the tongue, and my general ‘glow’ was all it took.
Soft lips? Who even says that? No one. Not aloud anyway. Alex and her ‘soft lips’ obviously must have have been on my mind when I repeated the phrase. Like a damn fool.
I removed my glasses and pulled back my hair to scratch my head. To rub my temple and better think. Confident I was alone, I asked myself “What am I gonna do?”
Out of anticipation I began to pace the room, and then I spoke to the air again, “God knows how many people know now. How many people Aaliyah told.”
Why would anyone believe her? I wondered. Nearly everything she says, every word onto which her fans and followers cling is gossip.
“No, it won't be so bad.” I tried to assure myself. “This will blow over.”
But what if it doesn’t? What if it’s not just that rumour that everyone believes and turns out to be true? What if Alex and I get in trouble?
Conjecture and speculation ran rampant in my mind. How I’d apologise; what words I’d use to soothe when Alex came looking for me jingled inside my head like a can of earworms. It was not the day I had envisioned. I never imagined I would be the subject of a scandal. That there would be lightning with this thunder, on a day that started out so sunny.
Sighing, I continued to pace.
I repeated myself, “What the hell am I gonna do?”
Briefly I peered through the venetians at the monsoon mizzling. Whatever few cast or crew were trapped in the rain ran for the cover of trailers or the set. But not the director’s trailer. Not yet.
As the tempest settled in I began to picture Alex emerging, drenched from the spate. At first she would be cross with me, of that I was sure. Although I didn’t know what that would look like. I had only spent a handful of moments with her prior to sleeping with her. Never outside of work before then. And I had never seen her angry or upset with anyone. Let alone Helena, though their shouting match was short-lived. Seething perhaps, but she always kept her cool.
So I fantasized about her. Dripping wet. Then she would scold me. And because she was soaked and smelling of a storm, she’d strip and let her clothing dry. And then— The door opened.
The metal hinges squeaked, and I bounced up like a spring. In a second my pulse quickened and my blood boiled and I was suddenly fluent in apology.
“Alex, I’m so sorry. I— When Aaliyah invited me to her place, she instantly knew something. I don’t even know how; she just… tricked me somehow. And even then... all I said was your name. She made the leap that we slept together! And now… now everybody knows about us, don’t they? Everyone knows we had sex?”
Exhaling loudly, I awaited Alex’s reply. Though strangely, there was none. No interruption or exclamation. No noise of any kind. Whoever was in the entryway was quiet and unmoving, with a short span of wall to obscure my view of them.
However I didn’t need to see them to know it wasn’t Alex. I could tell from their posture; by how still they stood it wasn’t Alex. Based on how they breathed in and out through their mouth, it wasn’t Alex. Not to mention that Alex would have said something by now. She wouldn’t have left me in suspense.
I waited for their perfume to reach me, but when it wasn’t overpowering, I realised it couldn’t be Aaliyah.
“Helena?” I asked. But she didn’t respond to her name. I couldn’t see my breath, nor did the season change to winter so I knew it wasn’t her.
Kate surely would have sworn. Katie would have already followed me inside if it was her. Thus it was at this point when I doubted it was a woman at all.
I gulped. And I considered who it could have been. Who else would stop by the director’s trailer? Mr. Hambledon? Or perhaps the second assistant director, Ben Vandroogenbroeck? Or maybe a writer?
Still there was no answer.
I reached down to the desk where I had placed my glasses and promptly shoved them onto my face. In the process, I moved closer to the door.
When I saw who was there I was aquiver. My eyes became stiff and shot. My skin went as pale as Procol Harum. Despite the door still being open and gaping wide, I heard the echo of my heart stop over the rail of the rain. For standing there wasn’t Mr. Hong, or Jack the demigod. And it certainly wasn’t the frightening Mr. Patterson. It was David Finnick. Alex’s husband.
“Stop for a minute?”
“Stop what?” Kamala mumbled.
“No no, seriously!” Alex tingled and sighed as she recovered from Kamala’s vibrations.
“Seriously. Just for a minute. Let’s talk.”
Feigning protest, Kamala whimpered and rolled off of Alex and onto her belly. She whipped back her hair. She crooked her elbows to prop her head up with her palms, eyeing her conqueror carnivorously.
Nearly laughing again, Alex continued, “I just realised that I don’t know a thing about you.”
“I’d say we know just as little about one another. We all have our private lives.”
“Yea, but all I know about you is who you work for. And that you have a crush on him.”
“I do not.”
“And I know that you’re a bad liar.”
Kamala blushed and groaned, covering her face with her hands. “Is it really so obvious?”
“I’m sure there are people out there who would tell you that it’s a base and primitive urge for women to desire someone like Jack. But the plain simple truth is that men and women alike have thought about Jack when they masterbate. I don’t think being blind would excuse you from finding him attractive.”
“A-ha! You’re funny.”
“You’ll find that I’m right too.”
“Yeah, I don’t know much more about you, than you know about me, actually. I know the movies you directed in and out of film school. I know you’re married. And… I know you’re close friends with Jack and Geneviève.”
“Are you saying you haven’t heard the rumours about me?”
“Well, I’m not deaf. Though a rumour is a rumour. Much of what you hear second-hand is distorted.”
“How wise you are. Let me guess. You’re a poet, or a philosopher.”
“No!” Kamala scoffed.
“A doctor?” Alex asked incredulously.
“No! You can’t be. You’re younger than I am.”
“Well, I nearly was. I’d skipped a few grades, and I had studied to be one.”
“Oh.” Alex snickered and Kamala inquired why. “I thought you were going to say that you’re older than you look.”
Alex cleared her throat, “So why aren’t you a doctor now? Why are you Jack’s assistant?”
Finding a few threads of her hair dangling down her face suddenly more interesting, Kamala began to fiddle with them, twirling them around her fingers. Crossing her eyes as she did. She replied succinctly, “It’s a long story.”
“As long as your hair?”
What hair was loose Alex grabbed like a brush. She stroked it and wove her hand through as though it were a waterfall. Doing so so many times, Kamala closed her eyes and hummed accordingly. Relaxed by the flourish of her lover’s fingers. Then she took a lock or two like she might pleat them and swept them over Kamala’s ear.
“And what’re these?”
“What are what?”
Down Kamala’s spine Alex traced her finger over a jagged scar. The ridge in her skin hooked down, crossing and intersecting numerous other scars. Some deeper than others. Some rougher. Some coarser. But they were old. No one would see them in the dark. Not unless one was looking as closely as Alex. She couldn’t count out all the stitches, but she guessed they numbered over a hundred in total. Alex likened the old scratches to a mauling. An animal attack. But an animal with no talons she had ever seen. Perhaps an animal with claws of steel.
“I could ask you the same thing,” deflected Kamala.
She subsequently rolled onto her back and poured her eyes over Alex; pointing out some of the bruises. Lightly, she caressed others on her body. Those along her sides and on the ribs below her breasts. They were more recent than Kamala’s wounds, but only seemed more noticeable after fucking. As if sweat and the two entwined had rubbed off her concealer. Her blemishes, hepatic to plum in hue and some even dull green, all differed in size as well.
“Because I didn’t make these marks.”
One of Alex’s bracelets wrapped fully around her wrist and Kamala could have sworn what her lover wore were a set of violet fingerprints.
Like Kamala, Alex pulled up the blanket and covered her own contusions. Meekly she replied, “What a pair we make. Thin skins—”
“Clumsy is what it is.”
“...Stairs,” Alex offered up as an excuse.
Kamala lied too. “A rosebush. Years ago.”
“What did you just say?” He didn’t have to shout; the man’s words were quite pointed and his tone carried weight. It was the same low, raspy voice that helped him achieve stardom. Now he put it to use, striking me with fear.
That wasn’t all of course. Two heads taller than myself, Mr. Finnick was a man of action. Built like a weapon. He did his own stunts, so his muscles were rippled. And when he stuck out his chest I had the suspicion he was asserting his dominance.
He even looked down at me like a great ape. Baring crooked teeth with his nostrils flared. A glare in his cool, fuscous eyes.
Slowly he walked inside. As the sky shattered and the door creaked closed behind him. And even though he’d come away from the exit his massive frame still blocked my way. I shuddered.
“Did you not hear me?”
“I…” my voice trailed off. I so badly wanted to break eye contact, but I couldn’t look away. Meanwhile, he continued to lumber forward, inches at a time.
“Who are you?”
Barely eking the words out I said “I— I’m Kamala. I work with your wife.” The last few syllables were just a squeak, my throat had closed so tight.
“Did I… hear you right?”
I nodded no. I felt a tear run down my cheek, but I convinced myself that I would be safe. That all David had were words.
“I think I did.”
“I think I did. I heard you say… everybody knows.”
“No, Mr. Finnick you-you-you heard me wrong. You— I said—”
“Don’t even dare tell me tell me what I did and didn’t hear. I know what I heard!” For a moment his voice pierced the air like cannonade and made me jolt slightly upward.
He chuckled, “It’s strange. I’d forgotten my passport and I missed my flight, so I went home—”
“Shut. Up. Just shut up.” David sighed. “I went home, when to my surprise I was unable to find my loving wife. Not a trace of her. I thought the worst had happened. I searched high and low for that woman from dusk to dawn and beyond that. All over town. I went back a number of times and she still hadn’t come home. It’s funny. I never thought to look for her at your house.
“Please, Mr. Finnick. Please... Let me explain—”
“Oh you don’t need to explain. You were quite clear.”
He trembled nearly as much as I did. His fists were clenched tight together he seemed so furious.
Two new streams of tears rolled from my eyes as I whispered. As I begged, “Please!”
“You. Fucking. Bitch.”
With each passing moment, the feeling of dread within the room multiplied. As he stared me down. All of a sudden I didn’t feel safe any more. I felt goosebumps rise all the way up my spine. My hands went cold and began to sweat. My heart was beating faster than ever and my blood rushed through my ears. But David was still an obstacle in my passage, who just got closer and closer.
Apart from the rain, there was a moment of silence.
“HELP!” I yelled, and finally he lunged for me.
However I dodged the attack by bolting to the right, going around behind the couch. My breaths were quick and panicked as I avoided him, sliding in my shoes, but David stomped after me all the same.
I ricocheted off a filing cabinet.
I leapt over the coffee table in front of the sofa, knocking a glass off its surface whereafter I heard it smash on the floor.
I slid out of one of my flip-flops. But I kept on stepping.
Two more strides. One more stride.
I shot out my hand for the handle. Four of my fingers wrapped around it. Then I felt a hand latch onto me. Curl around my wrist and wring.
Then David whipped me back and pulled me down and I skidded across the linoleum. I squealed in pain and fear as I braced my fall with my tailbone and the back of my skull. Just like that, there were stars in the middle of the day. I blinked rapidly as I tried to salvage my escape and get back on my feet. Though getting up never felt so slow. And my wrist felt… dislocated.
Yet I never regained my balance. David shoved me back down to the ground. I landed on my knees, and broke the skin, but pain was the least of my worries now.
Adrenaline pushed me on and I rose again. This time I could see clearly.
But once more I was pushed down. I slammed my head and shoulder into the wall, before collapsing in a pile. My glasses went flying.
He grabbed me and flung me face-down onto the coffee table. The legs broke as I was heaved into it. The sharp edge scratching up my thighs just before they gave out. And its hard wood surface proved to be no cushion when I landed on my chest. Hitting in particular my sternum and trachea.
I panted heavily; my breathing was more than laboured. My pulse was so quick I thought my little heart might give out. What was a defeated creature to do except search her mind as she recovered?
For a second time I screamed, “HELP ME!” Unfortunately my cry coincided with another peal of thunder, that I could have sworn rocked the trailer. Or maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was dizzy.
Mr. Finnick came after me again with his arms outstretched. Although, I wasn’t finished yet. I growled in rebellion and kicked my attacker. Making contact with his jaw. I can tell you, I had never been more pleased to draw blood.
He stumbled to his knees and I scrambled so that I was mostly on two feet. I was going for the glass. But he was more determined than ever. Quickly he surged forward and stabbed at me. Putting all of his force into his fist. I felt the ridges of his knuckles glance off a rib and continue into my gut. I heard his knuckles crack as he did. Nevertheless, he winded me. I moaned breathlessly. And then I fell.
Even though I couldn’t breath, I still grappled with the man. Thrusting my hands in his face, flailing and jabbing as fast and as hard as I possibly could. Alas, David had longer arms than I and he was able to fold both of his hands around my neck with ease. The rest of his body pressed against me so I couldn’t wriggle away. Every second that passed brought me closer to death. I choked. And I gagged. But I didn’t want to die.
I coughed and I spat. And when I decided my fists couldn’t properly hit him, I turned them into claws.
Apparently one of my nails was sharp enough and dug into the flesh beneath his eye. And he grunted in pain. He relinquished his grasp of my throat and I sucked in a lungful of sweet relief. That’s when David chose to switch tactics.
In retaliation he clamped on to the offending hand like he meant to take the lid off a jar and twisted it with all his might. My good hand, and a number of fingers along with it. I howled loudly in pain. So he had to silence me.
Like a cudgel he swung at me and hit me in the face. Once, twice, three times he pounded me in quick succession. It didn’t take long for my face to swell and numb. However, I still felt the blood and the tears stain my face. The broken nose. The cracks in my lips. The gash on my brow. The ache of what would soon become lumps or bruises.
He was about to wail on me again, but paused, perhaps catching himself. Showing the bare minimum of restraint. He didn’t want to kill me. Though for a second... I almost wished he would.
I gasped in between coughs. And I nearly choked on my own tears and saliva. I cried and attempted to roll onto my side, which David interpreted as an affront.
So he slugged me two more times. Though at this point… I was out of fight. I was too weak to strike back.
“You fucking cunt!” said David, just barely raising his voice.
Not that it would have mattered then if he yelled as loud as I had before. The rain had turned into hail.
I whispered, “I’m sorry.” And then I coughed some more.
Rapidly he shook his head from side to side, and from what little I could see through my one eye, he showed no sign of cooling off. He had an intense hatred for me. “Unbelievable. Fucked my wife. You must think I’m a joke.”
I nodded no but he didn’t care. I heard him breathing heavily and through his nose as he rambled on, “I hope you got your laughs… I hope it was worth it…”
At that moment he must have been filled with some overwhelming sense of envy. As he looked my body over— My battered and brutalised body— he reached into my dress and grabbed one of my breasts. He pinched and squeezed it roughly, contemplating another more heinous and unforgivable reprisal.
David snorted. And he licked his chops lustfully. And soon I felt him harden as he sat on top of me. His bulge pressing against my waist.
“No no,” I managed to say. “Please… please stop!”
Clamping a hand on my scalp he yanked me up and threw me over the arm of the sofa. The leather sank and wrinkled under my weight. The storm continued. And no one came to the trailer.
The man came up behind me, and I watched helplessly as he rolled up his sleeves, revealing a coat of thick black hair and what looked like a fresh red burn mark on his right forearm.
“You wanna know what I’m gonna do?” he asked. “Hmm? Are you even a little bit curious?
I couldn’t reply.
“Well, maybe you can guess. Now... I think you’ll find that I am a better lover than my wife is.”
Again I implored him not to go on. However what I had hoped would sound like words was nothing more than whimpering. Salty tears dripped into my bloody mouth and my face was squished into the seat of the sofa. And I kept blubbering as he ripped the hem of my dress. A dress that was wet and dirty. A dress that was stained with blood. A dress with tiny holes in the front, which I realised only then had come from the glass on the floor.
My dress was beautiful once. My dress was lovat and vermillion. But it was loose and it was short, only reaching the middle of my thigh. It showed off my cleavage. Perhaps a dress like mine is too provocative. And to think, the day had started out so well.
Ere he began, he leaned over my ear and said in a whisper more gravelly than before, “By the way, speak a word of this to anyone… and I’ll hurt Alex. Actually… I’ll kill her. Then… then I’ll kill you too.”
I nodded in agreement and then wept in silence. And I thought of Alex.
“Holy fuck!” panted Alex. “Bravo!”
Both women heaved loudly at this point. Kamala giggled, pleased with her performance.
Kamala slowly crawled up to the head of the bed from underneath the last of her sheets which had all been kicked off in the heat of their escapade. Subsequently, an exhausted Alex leaned over to greet the ingenue with a kiss. She grabbed the back of her neck and drew her in, enjoying the taste of her tongue and the feel of her lips. Finally she rested her forehead against Kamala’s.
“Hmm,” Kamala closed her eyes and smiled with delight. “Are you getting tired?”
The director replied with a grin of her own, “As a matter of fact, I am. We’ve been going at each other for hours. I could actually do with that cup of tea you mentioned earlier. Or maybe even something stronger.”
“What tea?” Kamala asked, “When?”
On the other hand, Kamala still had energy to burn as she kissed Alex’s neck. Lightly sucking, and even gnawing sometimes, she had become so adventurous. The young incensed panther purred passionately over Alex, having graduated from a meek and inexperienced little kitten in the space of a night.
With her nose in Kamala’s hair and Kamala’s fingers below the belt, Alex inhaled her lover and her perfume: sandalwood and patchouli. For a moment she thought she was in India. She tingled again, “Oooh, I’m going to have a hickey tomorrow, aren’t I?”
Kamala paused and surveyed her handiwork. The lovebites. Before resuming, she admitted, “Maybe more than one.”
Alex chuckled, “O, What have I done to you? You were so innocent before.”
“Mmm, what have you done to me?”