13.5 | Silent but Deadly
Beth and I had been together for ten months. I felt I was ready to propose and start planning a future with her. She was my best friend, which was what I was looking for in a partner. We never ran out of things to talk about. I really had loved her. I thought she was my forever girl. At the time, I couldn’t picture a life without her.
Blythe’s Christmas vacation from school had just begun, and I had recruited her a week earlier to spend the day present-shopping with me. She agreed enthusiastically having not bought gifts for anyone yet. She expressed a lot of excitement but hid it well in front of Beth.
We agreed to noon on a Saturday, a day with one of the heaviest snowfalls of the season. Blythe was staying at their mom’s for the weekend because Beth didn’t work. I gave the excuse I was out of town for business but would see her in the evening once I was back. I had plans to buy her an engagement ring today and make her my fiancée at midnight on New Years. I told Blythe my plan and she approved.
As soon as I parked, the front door opened. Blythe hugged her mom in the threshold and waved goodbye as she ran down the front steps, using the other hand to hold down her red toque. Her mom waved at me and I returned it as she stepped back inside the house. Blythe was all smiles as she got into my car.
“Hi,” she greeted happily, face rosy from the biting wind. “it’s freakin’ cold outside!”
“Hi, Blythe,” I laughed, starting to drive. “How are you today?”
“I am excited,” she said. “How are you? Are you ready to find a ring for Beth? Where are we going?”
“I am nervous,” I admitted. “We’re going to the same place where we bought your ring. I know Beth has been mentioning how she wants some new clothes since it’s been a while since she got some. I have no clue what stores she likes, though.”
“Oh, leave that up to me. She’s been mentioning clothes as well. I know what stores she likes. We got this in the bag, don’t worry.”
“I’m glad you’re on my team,” I laughed, feeling at ease. “Do you know what kind of ring Beth would like?”
“Hmm,” she hummed thoughtfully for a moment. “I’m not sure, but I think we’ll know when we see it.”
“I think you’re right.”
Arriving at the jewelry store, Blythe looked around with an expression of the upmost wonder. The bright lights reflected off the gems and metal, glinting in all corners. She tried to peer in every direction at once, it seemed. She took off her mittens, shoving them in her coat pockets, and I noticed how she began twirling the ring on her index finger.
“Wow,” she mumbled. “Where do we begin looking?”
I nodded my head to the section of the store I was looking for and she grabbed the crook of my arm, following me. The store was busy and we dodged in between bodies who had the same idea we did. We stopped in front of the glass counter that had engagement rings with large, glittering diamonds staring up at us.
“You can’t buy all of them?” she laughed.
“Beth only has so many fingers,” I joked back.
“I have a few to spare,” she reminded me playfully.
She removed her hand from the crook of my arm, lacing them behind her back as she hovered over the counter. A worker asked us if we needed help and I shook my head, smiling in amusement at the sight of Blythe observing rings with her mouth ajar.
“Do you have anything popping out at you?” she asked, glancing at me over her shoulder.
“Does Beth want something she can rub in her friends faces?”
Blythe laughed, standing up straight, shrugging her shoulders.
“I wouldn’t put it past her. Perhaps not so much in size rather than shape. Beth is a shape person, I think.”
“I would agree with you there,” I nodded. “If I get her something she doesn’t like, would she say no?”
“Not in front of an audience but in private she’d revoke her agreement,” Blythe laughed. “But don’t worry. Whatever you decide on will be perfect. Beth loves you a whole lot, I’m sure she’ll appreciate anything you get her.”
We stopped talking, parting ways to explore more of the section. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. I understood Beth’s dilemma in choosing a ring for Blythe; nothing automatically screamed her name at me. She probably would have settled for a ring from the dollar store, but she deserved more than that. I wanted to show her that I cared. That I really loved her.
All rings looked the same to me, even though each were distinct in their own way. I felt safer with Blythe here because I knew she’d navigate me in the right direction. We both knew different parts of Beth. In addition if I did manage to pick a ring Beth didn’t like, I could just blame Blythe.
“Hey, Terrance,” Blythe called. “I found three rings that are calling your name even louder than I am. Come check them out.”
I responded, coming to a stop beside her. She gave me a thoughtful, hopeful frown as she pointed out the three rings she had found. Studying the options she had laid out for me, I knew exactly which one I wanted to purchase for Beth.
It was perfect.
I purchased the ring, feeling confident with the final product. Blythe said I had made the right choice, which was all I needed to feel secure with my decision. Beth was the final seal of approval, but I was convinced she would like what I picked out for her. I had Blythe to thank for it, which I did profusely.
We stopped by all of Beth’s favorite clothing stores, both of us going crazy for her. I offered to purchase for Blythe but she reminded me she had a part time job, which Beth had already mentioned before, and could afford to buy Beth’s gifts. We agreed I could buy an early dinner before we left from the food court. There was a poutine place here that was her favorite.
We carried handfuls of shopping bags to a table. There were so many that Blythe agreed to stand guard of the table, telling me what her order was, because there was no way possible we could carry the bags and food at the same time.
“If someone gets too close to the table I’ll bark like a dog,” she winked before I left.
“Good. I didn’t bring you here just to sit and do nothing,” I teased, earning a big laugh from her.
I got the same order as Blythe. I got her a bottle of coke and a water for myself. I came up behind her and placed the poutine and coke in front of her, then took the seat beside her.
“Oh, you’re lucky. If I saw you coming I would have went ballistic.”
“Terrible guard dog. Never supposed to be off duty.”
“Hey, even the best guard dogs have blind spots.”
Blythe removed her toque, looking at me sheepishly as she revealed her matted curls, tucking what she could manage behind her ears. Her hair was noticeably longer, and the chains on her braces were different colors. She seemed to look less and less like Beth as the time passed. Their similarities were subtle but their differences were obvious.
“Are you excited to propose to Beth on New Years?” she asked me as she began eating.
“I am,” I nodded. “I am ready to take the next step with her. I can’t imagine a future without her.”
“Was it love at first sight?”
“I wouldn’t say it was love. I don’t believe in love at first sight,” I admitted. “But the moment I saw her I knew I couldn’t walk away from her without getting to know her. I think that’s when you love someone: when you know them in their entirety, and nothing about them deters you. I believe in infatuation at first sight, but not love. I loved Beth once I got close to her. She’s my best friend.”
“We might have some competition here, she’s my best friend too,” Blythe joked. “what was it about Beth that drew you in? I mean, I know she’s beautiful and she’s got a wicked personality, but so do a lot of girls but they never really get noticed.”
“I like blondes,” I shrugged, then nudged her shoulder. She rolled her eyes, shaking her head with a smile. “I like to believe sometimes things and events align to create a perfect moment, and I believe seeing Beth for the first time was a perfect moment. The right song was playing, the right light was shining, conversation flowed nicely after. It was like a match meeting kerosene. I knew I didn’t want to wait until my next haircut to see her again.”
“Isn’t it weird to think if she hadn’t been working that day you two may have never met? Or if you two did meet on a later day, neither of you would have considered pursuing one another?”
“It is a bit weird to think. But I’m glad it didn’t happen that way.”
“Me too,” she said. “You make her really happy. I’m really happy for you both.”
“Thank you, Blythe.”
“Beth tells me you have two younger brothers. Do they know you plan on proposing?”
“They do,” they did, and they didn’t like it. They warned me it was a bad idea to bring her and her family into our world but I was too foregone to listen. “they approve. They like Beth.”
“Are they going to be at mom’s for New Years?” Blythe and Beth’s mom was hosting New Years at her place.
“I don’t mean anything by this but Beth has warned me about your youngest brother, Spencer. She hasn’t shared much about him but she tells me he can be a bit...intense, and unreadable.”
“Beth put that generously,” I laughed. “Spencer is a year older than you but he doesn’t really fit in with anyone his age. He doesn’t really fit in with anyone. He’s a lone wolf.”
“Nothing wrong with being a lone wolf,” she commented. “is it by choice?”
“What is Lawrence like? Beth tells me he’s too rational, whatever that means,” she laughed.
“He’s smart, and quiet. He’s a people watcher. He doesn’t say much but he always knows the most of what’s going on in a room. You can usually tell how something is going by looking at his face, even if he’s not directly involved. He’s a completely candid person. If he can’t be honest, he doesn’t comment.”
“Beth tells me Spencer lives with you, in your basement suite,” she licked her lips. “I don’t mean to pry but where are your parents?”
“You have a right to know,” I reminded her. “He does live with me. Mom left when he was young but Lawrence and I were raised mostly by our father beforehand, anyway.. He wasn’t the best father to ever live, I moved out as soon as I turned eighteen. Spencer stayed until Lawrence moved out, then I took him in.”
“Was your father abusive?” She asked, taking a sip of coke as she glanced at me with uncertainty. She did not mince her words.
“By definition. He lived a hard life,” I said. “Did all the wrong things, made all the terrible decisions. It doesn’t excuse anything, but it happened. It is what it is.”
“Did he do any good for you guys?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “He gave Lawrence and I work, had been grooming us since we were young. I knew he felt pride when each of us left and followed in his footsteps.”
“What about Spencer?”
“I taught him what he knows, and still he has a lot to learn.”
“Beth tells me you guys do business.”
“That is correct.”
“She never mentioned what kind of business you guys do.”
My mind drew a blank. Beth didn’t even know what kind of business we did; if she did, she would run for the hills. I was always vague when you she would ask me. Oh, I own a few places here and there. I always had the feeling Beth didn’t want to jeopardize our relationship by asking too many questions, as if she didn’t have a right to inquiry. She didn’t understand I was just afraid to answer.
“Oh, I own a few places here and there,” I said.
Blythe asked the question Beth never did.
“What kind of places?” She was finished eating so she put her toque back on, narrowing her eyes at me as she did so.
“Restaurants mainly,” I blurted from the top of my head.
I could tell she wasn’t done asking questions but she simply nodded and accepted what I told her without being fully convinced. She had no reason to be skeptical, but something felt off to her. I noticed how she was rubbing her lips together, her stare distant. She knew Beth loved me, and she knew I loved Beth, and she didn’t want to disrupt anything by digging too deep. But there was a suspicion that arrived without having existed before.
“Okay, I see,” she said.
“Are you ready to go home?” I asked. She was about to nod before the lightbulb went off.
“I still have to buy for mom!”
We put the purchases for Beth in my car before returning to the mall to buy for their mom. We both made purchases for her, nearly as much as we did for Beth, before we were willing to call it a day. It was nearly five. Blythe was yawning by the time we left the mall for the second time. Whatever suspicion she had of me from earlier had dissipated until she hardly remembered.
We talked minimally on the ride back, mostly tired from the shopping trip. We had to make yet another stop for wrapping paper, but I ran in for Blythe as she manned the car. She thanked me when we were finally on our way to her home.
Her mom’s vehicle wasn’t in front of the house when I pulled up, so there was no use in being sneaky. I offered to help her carry in everything because she would have to make more than one trip if I didn’t. She accepted gratefully.
We dropped off everything in her room and I took notice of all the old band posters hung up on nearly every inch of her walls; The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Queen and Led Zeppelin amongst others. It was like stepping into a room from the 70′s. I could see what Beth meant when she referred to Blythe as an old soul, if judging by the music she seemed to like.
“Thank you for being my chauffeur for the day. I really appreciate it,” she said as she walked me to the door.
“Any time, really. Don’t hesitate to ask. We’re family,” I reminded her, to which she smirked. There was something about that smirk that made me uneasy.
I nodded and took my leave. When I sat behind the wheel I looked at the house one more time, finding Blythe staring at me through the window. I smiled and waved at her, which she returned.
But it was forced. She reminded me of Lawrence in that moment, and it was all I could think of as I drove back to my place to drop everything off before meeting Beth. Spending the day alone with Blythe had been revealing. She was no fool, and she was watching out for her sister. She would be watching me like a hawk from this day forward until I earned her trust back. Her and Lawrence bared a resemblance to each other that was equal parts fascinating and far from ideal.
They were both silent but deadly.