This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thunder In The Hills

I saw her while she was still quite a long way up the hill. She stood near the big rock there a few moments, as she always did, shading her eyes with a hand as she looked down on the valley. The sun was already well up, though the day was cloudy; today she was later than she usually was.

Although I knew she couldn’t see me, I pushed myself back further into the hollow of earth I’d dug between the trees. Today I’d watch her from here. Tomorrow, if I returned, I’d use another place. I’d been watching her a week, and each day I’d used a different hide.

As though knowing I was there, she peered down the slope towards me, her eyes roving over the foliage. Through the lenses of my binoculars, her face jumped clearly into view: the high cheekbones and grey eyes beneath the straw-coloured hair, the mole near the corner of her mouth, which I’d dreamt last night I was kissing, and woke in a sweat. Even a smudge of dirt on the shoulder of her white blouse was visible.

Far away, thunder rumbled in the hills.

She was still hesitating up on the rock, and I wondered if something, some kind of sixth sense, had warned her that I was watching. Normally she would walk right down the trail, and past me down to the lake, where she would take off her shoes and sit for a while with her feet in the water. Then she would walk past me and up the hill again, till she went over the crest and was lost to view.

Not today.

Still looking down at me, she ran her fingers through her hair. Her hands were large for her size, the fingers strong. I could almost feel her waiting for something. Lying very still, watching her, I hardly dared to breathe.

Did she sense me, I wondered. Was she afraid to come down? Or was it perhaps something elseshe was waiting for? Was today to be it, after  all these days of waiting?

Though she was still too far off for me to hear anything, I could see the expression on her face change suddenly, from watchfulness into a kind of wild joy. From the pocket of her slacks, she took out a tiny cell-phone, so small that I could hardly see it in her large hand, and pressed it to her ear. She turned away slightly from me, so that I couldn’t see her mouth clearly as she spoke, but when she put the phone back in her pocket and walked down the hill towards me, she was smiling happily and she moved with the grace and agility of the dancer I knew she was.

She had reached the bottom of the slope, where the old windfall had weathered the years, and instead of vaulting easily over it as she always did, she propped one sneakered foot on it and waited, resting her elbow on her knee. From so close, I didn’t need my binoculars to see what she looked like. A true beauty, she wasn’t pretty in any conventional sense, her face too bony, her eyes too far apart, her chin too pointed. Her beauty was in the radiance of her eyes, in the way her head turned on her neck, in the way her hands made shapes in the air, in the curve of her back as she bent to unlace her shoes before dipping her feet in the water. For the first time, I saw her for so close for such a long time. The little droplet of sweat trickling down the line of her jaw, the tiny white stone at her ear, the chipped red polish on the fingernails of the hand with which she wiped the sweat away, I drank it all in. I ached to go to her, but I knew I couldn’t. There are things that cannot be.

I heard the footsteps before I saw him. They came from behind me and to my left, heavy steps, uncaring of what they trod. A clumsy man’s steps. She turned, smiling, and held out her arms to him.

As they embraced I stared at him, committing him to memory. The heavy, thick body, the plump face, I had seen them before, though only in photographs in the papers. I knew what his eyes would be like, if he hadn’t been wearing those sunglasses: weary, bloodshot eyes, the eyes of a tired dissolute. I looked at him and I hated him with all of me; hated him even as I knew that it was wrong to hate him, that hating him would only come in the way of what I had to do.

I knew who he was, of course, just as I knew how important he was in the worlds of politics and business; I knew that he had sneaked away from his bodyguards and his agents and the media, to be a little while with the woman, this woman, whom he loved.

I knew how he must feel, in these moments of freedom; and, yet, I could not help hating him.

I watched them sit on the windfall, backs to me, their arms around each other, hugging. I could hear them talking, a low murmur. I could easily have listened in if I’d wanted, but it felt to me as an intrusion. Yes, I hated him, and I had become besotted with her; but in these moments I wanted to let him have her to himself.

These moments that would be his last on earth.

I’d waited for a week, knowing the time would come, that this was the one moment I would be sure of finding him, alone and vulnerable. I’d waited for a week, watching her, and I’d fallen for her, like I’d never fallen for a woman in my life before. But I was a professional, and there was a job to be done.

Slowly, making sure to make no noise, I picked up the rifle. The back of his head was framed perfectly in the crosshairs.

“Sorry,” I murmured, my lips moving without making a noise, apologising to her, for what she had and now would never be. “I’m so sorry.”

I waited until he bent his head to kiss her before I squeezed the trigger.

To my ears, the report was like thunder in the hills.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2010

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