No matter how difficult it is to accept, time always passes. It slips as smoothly and easily as cupped water from our hands, and the harder we try to hold on, the faster it seeps away. As many months passed, Sunset Valley was slowly falling back into time’s flow, and the murder was falling back into the past… Fear still had a place in the hearts of our citizens, but it was no longer the gripping, terrifying fear that made them toss and turn in their beds… Rather, it was the fear that twinged and pricked occasionally during the course of the day, but was slowly receding into the back of their memory and minds…
People had begun to move on… Some of them, perhaps moving on a little faster than necessary…. In particular, two young love birds who were looking well ahead of the troubled times, envisaging a future for themselves that, perhaps destiny never had in mind…
MUTTERING AND MARRIAGE
‘Nick, where are we going? Stop rushing, will you? These heels hurt!,’ exclaimed Nancy as Nick led her, blindfolded to their destination. Nancy felt her feet stumble over the old cobbles on the road and Nick’s strong arms around her, holding her steady, and then she him pressing her down, and she stopped walking. She heard the slow click of a door being opened quickly and then he moved them both forward again.
‘Ready, now?,’ he whispered to her quietly. ‘Open your eyes when I say so. Alright then? Open.’
Nancy gasped as the scene before her met her eyes. A beautiful table for two was laid out before them, with soft, gentle music playing in the background. The curtains of the massive window across the table were drawn wide open, allowing the moon to bathe everything in the room in a gently lulling light. Nick beamed at her as she turned to him, her mouth agape with amazement. ‘Happy anniversary, Nancy,’ he said, a smile playing on his lips.
Tears filled her eyes as her face broke into a smile to reflect his. ‘I thought you’d forgotten,’ she whispered. ‘I couldn’t even if I wanted to,’ he whispered back, as soft as her. ‘It’s the most important day of my life till date; I couldn’t forget it for the world.’
‘Where is this place? I don’t recognize it!,’ she exclaimed. ‘It’s a tiny house that the Goths owned but weren’t doing anything with, so I asked them to rent it out to me for a night. Do you like it?’ She smiled back at him. ‘I do. It’s perfect. Thank you.’
He caressed her cheek gently, and she closed her eyes, reveling in his touch. Suddenly, she felt him withdraw. Frowning, she opened her eyes, and gave a little shout when she saw him down on his knees before her.
‘Nancy, from the moment I saw you exactly one year ago, I felt something, the likes of which I’ve never felt before, and which I only feel when you’re with me. It’s something I just can’t describe; feelings of total abandon, joy, and confidence in my ability to do anything. Over time, the feeling’s just grown and whenever we’ve been away in this past year, I long for you, and the strength that you give me in a way that I can’t describe. Looking at the stars one night, alone, I caught myself smiling at all the good times we’ve spent together, all the laughs, the smiles, the hugs, the kisses…. And it was then I realized that I couldn’t handle being without you anymore.’
‘I know we’re young, and we’ve still got a few more months left till we finally graduate and stand on our own feet, but before I make the transition into what they call, ‘real life,’ I need you to be there beside me. I don’t know where I’m going, or what I plan to do. All I know is this: I love you, Nancy, and you mean the world and more to me. You’re the one thing that I’m so sure of right now, the ONE thing that I know I can’t not have in my life. Nancy Landgraab, will you marry me?’
Happy tears streaked down her face as she choked the words out. ‘Yes, Nick, yes. I feel the same way. I love you.’ With that, he slid the ring on her warm finger, and he rose to embrace her.
After they broke apart, albeit unwillingly, a look of dawning shock struck Nancy as she realized that she was now an engaged woman. Another wave of shock hit her when she realized that she didn’t regret it in the least bit. She thought of her parents, and she gulped as she imagined telling them that she was engaged to Nick. Her mother had stomached the fact that they were dating with great difficulty and persuasion. She was the sole heiress to their more than moderate amassed fortune, and Queenie was ever on the lookout for suitable boys of her age and status to get her married to. When she realized that the heir to Landgraab Industries’ biggest competitors in Sunset Valley, Altos & Co. was dating her daughter, she flew into a rage the likes of which Nancy had rarely seen her in before.
‘Nick…. My mom.’ His smile faltered a bit, but he hitched it back firmly in place. ‘I’ve thought of all of that, baby. For now, let’s keep this our secret, alright? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Nothing and no one can stand in the way of what we have, even if it’s our own family. We love each other, and that’s all that matters.’
Little did he know how wrong he was, little did either of them expect the twist of events that fate had in store for them.
Boyd and Susan sat facing each other across the living room, Susan looking flustered, Boyd’s face remained impassive. He sat in silence, because he was tired out after more than an hour of reasoning and arguing with his wife on the same issue that had resurfaced once again, after being forgotten for so many months.
The day after the Bachelors had met them found the Wainwrights waiting for them with their answer. However, the couple never turned up. The next day, Enriqueta called up to tell them that they would have to delay their meeting. ‘For how long?,’ exclaimed Boyd. ‘About seven months in total, Boyd,’ she replied serenely. You see, I’m pregnant. We’ll get in touch with you when things are.. clearer to us.’ With that, she ended the call, not waiting for a response from him. The Wainwrights realized that the couple needed time and space and so, never called back. Soon, work, time and other things took prime position in their minds and they forgot all about the Bachelors. Until yesterday.
‘I just don’t see the point anymore, Boyd,’ she muttered grumpily. They were obviously not very keen on our help the first time…’ ‘She was pregnant, Sue,’ he said impatiently. ‘Surely, you can’t blame her for that!’ ‘Well, she let it happen, didn’t she?,’ Sue grumbled. ‘Look, you’ve agreed once already, there’s no reason to back out now…’ ‘That was seven months ago!,’ she snapped. ‘Besides, you know the sensitivity of the project we’re working on right now, nothing can distract us, and taking leave would be an incredibly stupid course of action!’ ‘
This is something worth looking into. It isn’t an opportunity that comes knocking on a daily basis.’ ‘Can we honestly trust the junior scientists to continue on without us?,’ she replied quietly. ‘I think we’ve trained them well enough. Stop worrying, Sue, let’s do this.’ She sighed. ‘Fine, then, make the call.’ Boyd grinned at her victoriously before picking his phone up.
Chester opened his eyes slowly, allowing his body to experience the first rays of the Sun that glorious morning. His sleep had been uninterrupted and dreamless, owing to a result of absolute exertion the night before. He stretched, and then turned to look at the reason for the labours of the night before sleeping beside him. Bessie remained sleeping soundlessly, blissfully unaware of the world around her. She looked radiant and angelic as she always had, and as usual, Chester hated having to wake her. However, it was almost time for him to go back home, and so he gently shook her till she stirred.
‘Wake up, sleeping beauty,’ he chuckled deeply as she stretched like a cat and with a moan, tried to pull the covers back over her head. ‘He grabbed at them before she could however, and she opened her eyes to look at him. It’s time I head back home from this ‘business trip.‘ ‘Do we HAVE to go back?,’ she groaned. ‘Yes, babe, we do. Look at the time. They’ll be looking for us by now.’ ‘Not mine, she muttered now, her gaze slowly sharpening. ‘He’s probably still dead drunk from when I left him last night.’
Chester sighed in reply. Truth be told, he didn’t think Queenie cared a damn for where he was, either. Day by day, he wondered if what he was doing was wrong at all. These days, when he looked into his wife’s eyes, he saw the look of a stranger, not the woman he had married all those years ago for love. There was a demented glint in the liquid amber that suggested greed, greed for more power, for more wealth, for more of everything. It scared him.
‘Sometimes I don’t know why I go back, either. But then I remember Nancy and I know that there’s still something worth fighting for. I love her, Bess. That’s what counts. That’s what matters.’ Bessie’s expression softened, and then sharpened again. ‘Well, at least you have something to go back to. Buster doesn’t love me, I wonder if he ever has.’ She looked away, tears filling her eyes. He reached out to her, awkwardly patting her on the knees. ‘Hey, don’t say that. I’m sure he still does, in his own way.’
He paused for a second, shaking his head at the absurdity of the situation; him comforting his lover from an extramarital affair saying that her husband still loved her. She looked at him, lovely as ever, eyes filled with tears. ‘Then why doesn’t he show it? Why does he keep fighting with me, all day long, every minute, every second…’ ‘Because you both are struggling. It’s hard for him too, to be helpless the way he is. Just... give it time.’
‘Chester…. What about us? What comes after this? What’s going to happen? What if we’re found out, what if we-,’ he cut her short, silencing her with a finger to her lips. ‘Shh…,’ he said softly. ‘Don’t go down that path. Don’t think. Just do. Let it go, gorgeous. Breathe.’ She exhaled smoothly. ‘There, that’s better. Forget everything. Relax.’ She melted into his arms and he pushed her down into the bed, slowly undressing her again.
That night, Victor walked down City Hall’s steps two at a time, anxious to be home. It was late already, and for a person of his importance, being out alone was never a good thing. He froze on the steps, however, when he saw who awaited him down below.
‘Hello Mr. Goth,’ said Monica with a razor sharp smile. ‘Long time no see. How’s the family keeping?’ Victor stood, frozen in horror, trying to make his numb body move, but no part of him would respond. Finally, he managed to choke out the words,’ What do you want?’ She laughed at that, a high, piercing laugh, which made his hair stand on end. ‘Oh you’ll know soon enough, Vicky, all in good time. For now, before we proceed, I wanted to show you a couple of pretty pictures, along with a few notes and papers that I have with me. Here.’
Trembling, he reached out for the folder that she held in her gloved hands and opened it. Within were pictures… Pictures of… ‘That’s right, pictures of you. With a wide variety of people at secret meeting spots placed all over Sunset Valley,’ she said succinctly. ‘You’ll notice the times and dates, and the subsequent results of these meetings…. Sometimes in politics, sometimes in the courts of law…. A case won to the other side, a certain political deadlock miraculously resolved…Your influence is stretched very wide, Vicky. Very wide, indeed. I’ll say this much though: I’m impressed.’ He reacted on instinct, tearing up all the photos and papers that he held in his hands and then turning around and running for dear life.
The cocking of a gun a few paces behind him made him stop dead in his tracks. ‘Well, now you’re just proving stupider than you look!,’ she said gleefully. ‘I would’ve thought you were smarter than that. Did you HONESTLY think those were the only copies I had with me? And did you really feel I’d let you get away that easily? I’ve come here with a purpose, Vicky, but I swear, give me a reason, and I’ll shoot all these bullets through your head. Now, turn. Slowly, with your hands where I can see ‘em.’
He turned on the spot, his face coloured with nothing but terror. ‘I can have you destroyed,’ he stammered. ‘You’ll be in jail before the night is out, if I wanted you to be.’ She laughed again, the sound resounding through the silent town like a gunshot. ‘Really? Well, what stopped you? You’ve had a little more than seven months to do it. Well? Cat got your tongue? You see, Vicky, even if you tried, nothing would happen to me, ‘cos you’re not the only one with friends in high places. I would be alerted the moment you opened your mouth, and I’d be skipping town scot free the next.’
‘Now, I gave you long enough to see if you’d do anything, and when you didn’t, I realized you were afraid of me and rightly so. I’m here for a little while longer. I’ve still got work left to do in your town, and till then, you keep your mouth shut, and I’ll do the same. If not…’
She drew closer to him, jabbing him in the ribs with her gun. ‘You take a bullet to your brain. Understood?’ He nodded meekly in reply. ‘Now, let’s get things sorted out between us. You’ve been on ‘free reign’ mode for long enough. From this day, you take orders from no one but me. Am I clear?’ He nodded, not able to say or do anything else for fear. ‘Good. You can go now. Say “thank you”.’ ‘T-thank you,’ said the terrified Lord Mayor of Sunset Valley. ‘Wait!’ She sighed and turned around. ‘What now? A treat for good behavior?’ ‘What business do you have here that needs taking care of? When will you be gone?’
She smiled at that, her teeth glinting wickedly in the moonlight. ‘That’s for me to know and for you to find out, Vick. Till then, know that it’s nothing…..Now scram!’ After he turned and half-stumbled and half-ran, she muttered to herself. ‘Nothing… Nothing but bringing you down.’
Hey, everyone, I'm sorry this update took longer than usual. Writer's block hit me and I couldn't even write a nursery rhyme However, hoped you like this chapter brtaylor2000 and Kathwynn: I'm glad you guys are enjoying yourselves and the read your comments made my day, keep 'em coming and tell me how you think the writing and stuff is Thanks,
The Observant Lefty.