I had gone through my entire life knowing one thing.
Can you fix a chimney? Yes Sir. Are you a fisherman? Yes Sir. Do you know how to pick cotton? Yes Sir. One-pound-fifty is all I’ll pay, do we have a deal? Yes Sir. Would you kill my wife? Yes Sir.
Job after job, lie after lie, but all I could see when I closed my eyes, was her face. Would you kill my wife? Yes Sir.
Dead, cold hands like a wet fish, it was. Her eyes hadn’t closed, they were peeled open. I didn’t know what was worse. That I had killed her, or that not a single person suspected that I had. All looked to her husband, Hank, who had taken up the drink ever since. No one placed an ounce of blame on me. I couldn’t recall a time someone saw me, actually looked in my eyes and recognised me as another person. They only saw the battered hand that held the coin. Or allocated me a number in the fields. Or counted the fish to the dollar that was due. I couldn’t blame them. If you were to ask me what I looked like, I couldn’t know. For the longest time, I hadn’t glanced in a mirror or groomed appropriately like a man should. Like the others whom had gloves and hats and ladies in the crook of their arm and smiled and sung and drank.
I did drink though. I drank in all the bitterness of regret. And although I drank, I could not forget the silken glove that tried to push my arm away. The meek stature, or the soft plea, or the sorrowful blue eyes. Her gown fluttering as she collapsed to the floor. Or the red bruises upon her pale neck.
I didn’t cry at what I had done.
I looked over the pier as her body washed ashore. I looked at her like she was a stranger. Women and men alike cried out in horror. Two men had gotten down onto the sand and dragged her someplace. In that moment, I saw her face. She hadn’t even scratched me. She didn’t bite me. She just asked me to stop over. I was a shell, empty and hungry and there would be no joy to be had in this lifetime. I took my bucket of fish, ignoring the crowd and sat in front of Mr Kit’s stall. To sell twelve dead bodies.
People passed me, perhaps a girl with a strange butterfly and eyes like magic, but I wasn’t all here. At least, I wished I wasn’t.