The playgrounds are full of a different generation
Of parents, playing with their children, watching
Their children, talking with each other.
It’s enough to make the middle-aged parent in me
Envious, although I recall doing the same thing and
Longing to be somwehere else doing something else;
Watching teams rush around frozen ground, lying
On a bed reading, playing some irrelevant sport
For the sake of hot breath, steam, and moral victory.
But afterwards, the tired tiny body on my knees,
Face in my chest, fast asleep, that regular breath and
Warmth, the mutual safety, the bottomless love.
R, 19/11/2022 19:38
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 253
Valentine grins at her. ‘You thought I didn’t know about these tunnels?’ His hands are in his pockets, and he’s leaning against the wall in a smart dark suit. ‘Everyone knows about these tunnels. Everyone who’s someone, that is.’
‘I must be someone then,’ she says, doesn’t grin back at him.
‘And now I’ve got you here what shall I do with you?’
‘Tell me you’re the real one. That would be a start.’
‘I’m the real one alright.’ He doesn’t move. HIs black shoes reflect what little light there is in here.
He takes his hands out of his pockets, lifts them up to his face, cadaverous in the gloom, and pulls the fingers of his left hand across his cheek. Blood seeps from the marks he’s made. ‘See.’
‘That could just be engine oil. Just like the others.’
‘What proof do you need?’
Aggie shrugs. ‘I have no idea.’
‘Rip my own heart out and present it to you on a plate?’
‘That would be the best start possible,’ she says, no joviality in her voice. She wonders why she isn’t afraid.
‘I’m sorry I can’t give you that pleasure.’ He looks at the ground, at his shoes, for a very brief moment. ‘Does this mean you’ve taken my money under false pretences?’
‘Well, the money I gave you in exchange for your services.’
Aggie inclines her head. ‘I said I’d do what you asked. I told you you didn’t need to supervise me.’
‘And yet you wish for my death.’
‘I don’t have to like you to work for you.’
‘That’s also true,’ he says, finally peels himself away from the wall, holds out his right arm, pointing in the direction of the room where Aggie had her virtual conversation, one-sided conversation, with Cassie. ‘Shall we?’
‘Shall we what?’
‘Enter the lair of the white witch?’
‘Interesting choioce of words,’ Aggie says. ‘And you’re the dark wizard, are you?’
‘I’ll be whatever you want me to be.’
Aggie doesn’t move. It could be a trap. Perhaps he’s just guessing at what’s there, doesn’t really know what’s behind that force shield, thos intangible, transient rocks.
‘Now,’ he snaps.
Aggie shrugs. ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
‘You know exactly what I mean. Open it.’
‘There’s nothing there.’ She points at the camouflage. It shimmers at her. Perhaps only she can see it.
Valentine laughs, and a gun appears in his hand, aimed at her. ‘Don’t think I wouldn’t. A million is nothing but a little loss leader for someone like me.’
‘Fine,’ she says. Perhaps this is the time to gamble, to play what could be a last hand. She doesn’t have time to regret not going home first, to see Lily. She steps past him, puts her hands on the strange fabric.
The key. The words flash through the rock. She’d forgotten about that, swings her backpack off her shoulders, rummages in one of its small pockets with her left hand. There. Found it. Her hand is rock steady as she puts the key into the lock. The sudden bright flash doesn’t make her jump like it did last time. At least this she has remembered. But Valentine is in its way, and his shadow obliterates her.
Obstruction! Obstruction! Remove obstruction! A screaming voice.
Valentine doesn’t move. ‘How primitive,’ is all he can say before the voice screams out again.
Self-destruct in ten, nine, eight…
‘No,’ Valentine says. ‘She shouldn’t be that clever.’
And the blast obliterates them both.