Our Flash Fiction challenge this week at Terrible Minds was to use one of ten paint colours Chuck found as the title of our story, bonus credit if we make the colour the star of the story somehow. Cap was 1000 words, but I couldn’t do that, sorry. I hope you enjoy.
Nine times out of ten, I had no idea what the hell she was doing.
Usually, this didn’t bother me, because she would simply explain her actions as, “I just love too much, I guess!” and would leave it as that.
It was cute the first time she left that bright fuchsia lip print on the plastic lid of the coffee cup. The recipient, an elderly woman having a lonely day, was flattered by the gesture, and by the words, “I care” written beneath the lipstick in white pencil.
Working alongside her, I had grown used to her antics. And since we only owned a café, and weren’t exactly performing brain surgery, I let most of it go.
Then she did it again, to a man’s cup. He was maybe thirty years old, a couple of years older than us. He was good looking, took her kiss to mean she was interested in him. Meanwhile, she and I had celebrated our first wedding anniversary the night before.
She didn’t leave this guy a message. So, because he misread her compassion for whatever she believed his situation to be, he began to come in, day after day. At first it was just in the mornings. Then he visited in the afternoons, too. Soon he was coming in five times a day for that kiss-print on the lid of his large-one milk-one sweetener coffee. He never asked her out. She never gave him a reason for the kisses. I didn’t intervene, but I kept a watchful eye on her. And him. Because he had this suspicious look in his eye every time he caught me watching him.
“When are you going to stop with those kisses?” I demanded of her when I’d had enough.
She shrugged. “He needs them.”
I hugged her from behind after making sure no patrons were watching, and said, “But I need your kisses. All of them. I don’t want you to waste them.”
She kissed me on the cheek, those bright fuchsia lips leaving a stain on my skin. “You have me. You don’t need the kisses like he does. You have me, and a great life. He has nothing. Right now, these kisses are the only thing keeping him alive.”
“Suicidal?” I whispered.
She shook her head. “Not really sure. Maybe. I don’t want to take the chance.”
I left it at that, because I knew she would never forgive herself if she felt a death could be the result of her lack of concern.
But soon, she started to kiss everything. I mean everything. The coffee pot. The coffee maker. The five dollar bills that passed through her hands. The towel she used to clean up. It became a sick obsession of hers. When I questioned her on it, she claimed she didn’t remember doing it. I had to show her the bright pink lip marks on the objects that I had mentioned before she believed me.
“I guess I just love too much,” she said.
“What’s that mean?” I demanded. “You love the dish rag? You love the door handle? You kiss things around the apartment, too. My electric razor had a kiss mark on it this morning.”
She smirked. “Maybe I just love your clean-shaven face. Your razor is responsible for that smooth skin I love to kiss so much. I must love it for that.”
Her parents didn’t understand the severity of the problem. They thought it a bit odd, but she was twenty-seven years old, co-owned her own business with her husband, and had her own mind. What were they going to do? Drag her to a shrink?
I was beginning to think that talking to a shrink might actually serve her best. But I always hesitated. She was my wife, after all. I couldn’t imagine the look on her face if I told her she needed to speak to a professional because she had lots of love in her heart.
In the meantime, she continued to kiss cups, but none more than those that belonged to her frequent visitor. I found out his name was Jeremy. He was a writer, living alone on a barebones income gleaned from hustling music covers on the streets. He was without a real job, and without a true finished piece of writing to claim as his own. He was one of those ‘aspiring’ writers. The ones that wanted to be, but hadn’t written much since high school besides maybe a grocery list and a few lines under ‘Chapter 1’. His dog, his best friend, had died six months ago. He said that the absence of the sound footsteps on the linoleum, the sound of his dog’s tail smacking the floor in excitement beside him as he wrote on a used laptop only emphasized the complete emptiness and solitude he felt on a regular basis.
That was the first time that instead of kissing Jeremy’s coffee cup, my wife kissed his cheek.
The same day, I had to run out and get some stock. When I returned, it was to find the café doors locked. The open sign had been flipped to Closed. I unlocked the door and entered. At once, the scene was clear to me. There had been a break-in. Chairs were flipped, tables pushed aside. Confectionery items from the counter had been spilled onto the floor. The mirror behind the counter had shattered in one spot, and in another, a spider web effect crawled across the glass. All that was missing was the spider. The predator.
Where the hell was my wife?
The front door had been locked, so perhaps she had left to go to the police station. But why would she go there? The police should have come here at the report of a robbery.
And unless the intruder had gone out the back door, he was still somewhere in this building.
I reached over the counter and grabbed an empty coffee pot, catching a glimpse of the cash register. It was still closed. If it wasn’t money they’d been after, what had it been?
I called my wife’s name a few times. No response. Chills crept under my skin towards my heart, where, for some reason, I knew they were soon to converge as one ice cold shock, like how I always imagined the right hand of the grim reaper to feel.
I stepped over the mess, holding my weapon high, and around the counter. When I saw them, the coffee pot slipped out of my grip and shattered where it landed.
Lying on the floor were two bodies.
The first was Jeremy’s, the man that my wife had kissed that day on the cheek, as she had me so many times in the past. In his hand was a cell phone. I could see on the screen that 9-1-1 had been entered, but never dialed. He seemed to have succumbed to a knife in the throat just as he had grabbed the phone away from, I can only assume, my wife, the victim of the two.
Her body lay beside Jeremy’s, as stark naked as her friend’s was fully clothed, and it had been mutilated by stab marks. I could see more blood than skin. The blade of the knife that had ultimately killed her was still wedged in her heart.
As I looked closely at the corpse of the love of my life, I realized something. Her skin, bloodied and not, was covered in fuchsia kiss marks. While her killer had left her face intact, on each cheek, on her forehead, and on her chin, more stains lingered.
She could not have kissed herself in such places. My attention returned to Jeremy. His lips bore no lipstick, and the odds that he had had a chance to wash it off before he died would probably have been low. It must have been the killer, then, who, for all I knew, could be standing behind me, watching me assess this irreparable damage.
As I turned, I caught myself in the mirror.
Smeared across my mouth, as it might be when self-applied by a child without using their reflection for guidance, was my wife’s fuchsia lipstick.
The sight below my lips was worse. My clothes were drenched in blood.
Suspecting the impossible now, I hurried around the counter to find the grocery bags that I had brought inside. I needed that receipt as evidence that I hadn’t been here at the time of their murders.
But there were no bags.
I hurried to the front door and pushed, expecting that perhaps I left them out on the sidewalk as I was unlocking the door.
But the door was not unlocked.
I moved the closed sign out of my view of what should have been our black SUV sitting out front.
I realized that I hadn’t actually gone anywhere. At least, not in the way that I remembered—or imagined—it.
I glanced back at the counter now, behind which my wife lay lifeless, and caught the coffee cup sitting in the pick-up area. I stepped back towards it and took the lukewarm object in my hands. The full cup was labeled with “1M/1Sw” in my own writing. Presumably this was Jeremy’s order.
Next I saw the note written on the lid.
Above it sat one fuchsia kiss, not perfect like my wife’s had been, but made by my own smeared lips.
© Lindsay Mawson 2012