Chapter 12- Strange Night
Mike arrived at the motel, he looked at his watch ‘7.32’. That was good timing, even though he wasn’t really trying to impress Kay. Well maybe he was, despite his calm and often casual demeanor, which gives the impression that he couldn’t care less. He did care but was never able to express it. A young Michael would always be appealing to girls in college because he was mysterious and different to the other guys, wasn’t a desperado. Girls liked that about him, like a brooding Hollywood actor, a young Marlon Brando. Girls would come from across the bridge just to get a chance to see Mikey, this stud but that wasn’t real. Mikey was shy in college but that shyness came across as sexy to the girls, so it was great. However by the time he reached adult life those qualities of being quiet and inward became a real turn off for most women, a guy who can’t express himself doesn’t go far in relationships. Mike was a dreamer, wanting to step out of his own skin and be like someone else, he wanted to meet a beautiful lady one day who looks like an angel, has a heart of gold and a personality which is so warm and loving that it would melt the snow in wintertime Chicago. Come on Mikey, stop daydreaming.
‘Hi’, Kay was standing by the wagon, she was wearing a light orange dress, elegant but kinda casual. Her hair looked so wavy, and her make-up was light but made her features stand out. Close to that angel?
Mike smiled as Kay grinned, getting into the wagon. Mike looked at Kay’s long dress and then back at his own clothes hoping that he wasn’t looking too plain, ‘Wow, you look very nice’. Kay blushed slightly as Mike complimented her, ‘thank you and you look handsome too’. Mike felt abit surprised as many women are reluctant to compliment a guy. Mike drove steadily across the bridge, feeling abit nervous as well as excited, it had been a long time since he had taken a lady anywhere so this felt like a whole new experience. Kay looked relaxed and happy, she would occasionally brush her hair back with her hand then glance at Mike as she smiled.
Emily arrived and knocked on the door. Ethel opened it wearily and looked surprised at seeing Emily at her doorstep. ‘Hi Em’, Emily smiled ‘Hi, I was just passing by and thought I’d ask whether you wish to come to the hospital? I’m going there now’. Ethel looked at her watch, ‘Yes, it’s good you came by. Michael’s gone out so I would need a lift’. Ethel smiled at Emily, ‘we still got time, I was about to have something to eat, come inside’. Emily seemed reluctant as Ethel said that, ‘I’m … I’m okay, Mrs Martyn. I can always come back and pick you up’. Ethel went quiet sensing the apprehension in Emily’s voice, it brought back memories of another lifetime, something that happened so long ago. Time doesn’t always heal. ‘Emily, I know you don’t want to come in. I know why and don’t blame you. I am sorry’. Emily looked down, ‘don’t say that, please’.
‘No, I blamed you for his death, I don’t know why. I told you never to come here again and …’. Emily stepped closer to Ethel, ‘I will come in, Mrs Martyn’.
Mike arrived at the restaurant, a place he had visited twice before. He had brought a girl here who he had met some time ago, Leanne. Things never really worked out but it was probably the classiest place in the East and West side. Mike and Kay walked into the plush reception area, which was lit up nicely, almost like the moonlit night outside and there was a nice, quiet music playing in the background. A waiter approached them and informed them there will be a fifteen minute wait for a table. Mike sat in the reception area with Kay, she smiled at Mike alot but said very little. Mike had only met her three times including tonight but she came across as very confident but tonight she seemed as nervous as him. Mike wanted to make conversation but was struggling, he often felt this way around Emily.
‘So, you have never thought about settling down’? Kay asked Mike as he was busy looking at his shoes, ‘Well, maybe. Someday it will happen but not at the moment. How about you’?
‘I was married once, have a son too. It never worked out so since then I have been single. Married to my job’. Kay smiled at Michael, they exchanged glances. It felt like a blind date where the couple don’t know what to say to each other. Mike felt dumb, he was struggling to make conversation, his mind was being flooded by other things. He started to think about Reginald and Vincent, he sat there with a beautiful woman and was thinking about Reginald Cunningham, what the hell! The waiter came and broke the silence, directing them to their seats. Time was crawling forward despite Mike taking forever to decide what to have. Kay ordered in a flash but Mike was taking his time. He didn’t want to eat really, but he had to, so he ordered the same dish as the last time he was here. Mike was playing awkwardly with his cutlery as Kay watched him, smiling sympathetically, ‘How’s your sister’? Mike looked up, ‘she’s gonna have surgery in a couple of days. After that they will begin re-hab in another Centre, close to here’.
‘So you are just two brothers and one sister’?
‘No, one brother and one sister. My brother died’.
‘I know, but I mean you don’t have any other family’.
Mike shook his head, ‘Nah, no-one’.
‘Do you remember your brother’? Mike looked at Kay, not saying anything for a moment, ‘Not really, I was young when he died. Just got some hazy memories of him, I remember his funeral’. Kay thought about what Emily had told her about the funeral, she didn’t know whether she should ask Mike about it. After all this was meant to be a dinner, nothing more.
‘They never found him, so how was there a funeral’? Kay couldn’t help herself as Mike looked at her.
‘The local church felt it was the right thing to do. He was assumed dead so we had his belongings in the coffin and buried them’. Kay felt sad for Mike, he was troubled, he was in pain. She could see it and remembered what he had seen as a young boy that night in the barn.
Emily ate dinner with Ethel in their kitchen, she looked around at this place in which so many cherished memories still remain. It had been years, lifetimes ago when Emily would come here as a young girl. Gabe and her would be sitting in the kitchen as Ethel would be scolding them, ordering them to make sure they finish everything on their plate.
As they finished, Ethel began to put the plates in the sink as Emily took a cloth, ‘I’ll dry up’. Ethel smiled, ‘Oh Emily, you haven’t forgotten. I would always say to Gabe that look how lovely daughters are and he would just leave his dirty plates on the table’. Ethel laughed but her expression changed in an instant to one of grief, ‘I blamed you at the time but knew it wasn’t your fault. He was what he was, getting into trouble with the law and that’s what happens to people like that’. Emily said nothing as she began drying the plates, noticing that many of the plates were the same as before.
‘I don’t blame you Mrs Martyn, that night he got into a fight because of me and I can understand you would blame me. I blamed myself too for a long time’.
Emily came into the lounge and looked around, everything seemed the same, she even remembered the marks on the furniture. Those marks were still there but there were no new marks. ‘Nothing’s changed Mrs Martyn, everything looks the same’. The night had crept into the lounge as Emily looked at the shadows, she hadn’t been in this house since that night. After Gabriel’s arrest and the news that he had escaped, Emily had come to see Ethel to ask her what had happened. Ethel was distraught and told her that Gabriel was being hunted in the forest by the Rangers, some reports were that he had been killed. Gabriel had been arrested earlier that evening when he opened fire on three officers, wounding them after he fought with them outside the Shelter.
‘Mrs Martyn, he was trying to protect me that night. Vincent came and tried to take me home after he saw us together, we were kissing’.
Ethel looked at Emily, she didn’t know this before. ‘Vincent was mad and they got into a fight. Gabe came home and took his rifle, I tried to stop him but he was insane. I don’t know what happened because my father came and took me home. I heard later about the shootings and him escaping’. Emily sat as she put her head in her hands, her hair fell over her face as tears began to flow steadily. Ethel watched Emily, knowing that her wounds were bleeding but she had to share this with someone. Ethel felt her own tears too, ‘I didn’t know you liked Gabe like that because you were going out with Vincent. I believed then that your friendship with my son got him killed’. Emily looked up at Ethel, maybe deep down there was truth to that, even though Emily tried hard not to admit it to herself. A silence covered the room, darkness had engulfed both Emily and Ethel. They never even thought about turning on the light or perhaps they didn’t want to. It was better there be darkness, it was like a ‘wake’, an hour of mourning. Ethel looked around as though she was reading something hidden deep in the passage of the time upon them, like words being spoken to her from an invisible source who knew the pain of both Ethel and Emily. The source knew who that pain was for and why they still grieve. It shared the pain and wanted to say what they couldn’t as this was a night of revelation.
‘Emily, Emily, do you feel it’? Emily looked at Ethel then looked around as though she was trying to see something that Ethel had just seen, ‘It’s a strange night, isn’t it’? Emily felt something like Ethel did, or it was just her mind playing games with her. ‘Mrs Martyn, what do you mean’?
Ethel looked concerned or slightly spooked as she tried to feel what it was, trying to explain it to Emily, ‘I don’t know, just strange ……. a strange night’.
Mike and Kay had almost finished eating, as Kay talked about her father most of the time and Mike had listened to her. He admired her father as he sounded like a good man, and he could see many of those qualities in Kay too. ‘I hope I haven’t bored you with my family and all that’. Mike smiled, ‘no, it’s been great. I’ve enjoyed hearing about your father. Sounds like you are quite a homely person’.
‘I am, I miss home, like to visit whenever I can’.
Mike went quiet for a moment, ‘He would look at me, my father would after my brother died. It was a look of hatred like I should have been the one who was dead. He would stare at me as we ate supper, and I would find it hard to swallow my food, it would feel like I was gonna choke on it’. Kay looked at Michael, it was so sudden how he started talking about his own father.
‘Did he blame you for what happened to your brother’?
Mike looked up at Kay, not knowing how to answer that question or maybe he had never thought about that before. Mike’s attention suddenly seemed to be diverted to the other side of the room, there were a bunch of guys who were quite loud and they had women with them. Mike looked towards the bar where the men stood. ‘Michael, I think most people have difficult childhood memories, I know you have many. I hope it doesn’t change you’. Mike was listening but his eyes were fixed on the men standing on the other side of the room. Kay looked behind at the men, ‘Someone you know’? Mike nodded, ‘I think so’.
They were the same men who were in the van that night. The man in the middle was the same ‘Gringo’ motherfucker who had made the lewd comment about Amy. Mike watched them as Kay sensed that all was not well.
‘Shall we go, we’ll have desert back in your town’.
Mike looked at Kay, ‘Ok’. He called the waiter over and would keep glancing at the far side of the room. ‘Thank you for the dinner’. Mike put out his hand as Kay held it and stood up. They began to walk towards the door but Mike was looking at the men, until one of them stood up and went into the ‘Mens’ room. ‘Kay I will meet you outside, I’ll be back in a minute’. Before Kay could even answer, Mike walked towards the ‘men’s’ room taking big strides as he went.
‘Remember me, gringo’? Mike slammed the man’s face into the mirror on the wall, cracking the mirror as he slammed his face a second time. He kneed him in the side as the man went down heavily screaming in pain. Mike placed one knee on his chest as he punched him in the face, grabbing his greasy hair with his left hand and punching him hard a second and third time. His head hit the bathroom floor as blood seemed to splatter on Mike’s boots and the neat white tiles below. ‘Fucker, you come near me or anyone I know, you die…….. Motherfucker’. Mike let go of him, then looked around and brushed his clothes down. He walked out of the ‘Men’s’ room, glancing at the other men as he went past.