Chapter 3: La Vie421 views
This post is the third and final chapter in a story contributed by Leliana. To read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, follow the links.
Out of college. Out of Grace’s apartment. Out of Toronto.
Into mediocre office job in some firm some place. Into tiny house with tiny backyard. Into Montreal.
She took up poetry to fill in the mountains of free time she had on her hands. Might sound a little cliché, but she could’ve written one hell of a poem out of her present situation as she lay dying in a flipped-over Jeep.
As you might recall, the balance had been tipped with Grace’s death. It somewhat equaled out one night at a co-worker’s dinner party. Valerie thought she saw someone familiar in the corner of her eye, someone she couldn’t quite place. She turned but only saw some tall French woman she’d never seen before although she felt she had.
Turned back to the dreary conversation she drearily took a part in.
There it is again, she thought as something caught her eye once again. She turned again but that unfamiliar young-ish woman was still there. So Valerie kept her gaze there for a few more seconds, concentrating hard on what she—
For a split second, one fucking second, Valerie had seen Grace. Right there in the face of that woman. Why? How? What? She thought, a little panicky. How in the world can Grace be—?
That was when the woman smiled. And at once Valerie knew.
Those same fatal laugh lines. The same murderous dimples.
At this point anyone in the bar would’ve agreed that Valerie’s face had turned a ghostly pale, the kind of pale that glowed white. Valerie could feel every vein violently pulse in her body with every violent heartbeat. It was only when the woman met her gaze that Valerie had to bolt out of the pub in fear of shitting herself.
Not literally of course. That would be disgusting.
As the soothing night air filled her lungs, Valerie realized that Grace’s face was fading from her memory. It was still faintly visible but she couldn’t perceive it all. She saw a shadow, devoid of all of Grace’s perfections and imperfections. At this point, photographs didn’t even help. They’d look like images of people you’ve never seen before. Alien. Copies. Worthless.
But those glimpses of her, those deadly murderous features you can never forget come out every now and then to haunt you. In a sunset. In an old man. In a dog even. They emerge to startle you and scare you and fuck you up.
But you keep holding onto them anyway.
That’s why Valerie’s heart stopped for a few seconds as she saw that woman get out of the door, lighting a smoke as she did so. She saw Valerie seated with her back resting against the wall. She just raised an eyebrow at her and pointed the cigarette box at her. Valerie nodded weakly. She wasn’t even capable of getting up at that point. The woman lit it for her and stood with her back to the wall.
Grace was gone now from her face, so Valerie managed to take a good look at her. Black shoulder-length hair. Black eyes. Impeccable hands. And extremely foreign-European-looking in that alluring way.
No words passed between them for most of that cigarette. When she was done, she flicked the butt of the cigarette onto the sidewalk, turned to face Valerie, offered a hand and said (in an extremely thick French accent), “Andrea.”
Valerie took the hand which in a sudden rush pulled her up. She could see a smile twitch on the corners of Andrea’s mouth at Valerie’s surprise. She dusted herself off and said, “Valerie. Pleasure.”
As they walked back to the door their hands brushed each other and Valerie (uncontrollably) darted her head in Andrea’s direction. She just raised an eyebrow and flashed yet another infamous Grace smile.
It took all of Valerie’s mental strength to prevent herself from tearing out those dimples with her bare hands.
And so, the days turned into weeks, which subsequently turned into months, then years. They lasted that long, more or less.
Settled in some apartment. Bought a cat. Called it Shmooples. Fight. Valerie storms out. Crashes at friend’s couch for a couple of weeks. Kiss and make up. They’re back.
Then came the highpoint where they wanted to have a baby. It almost felt like they needed to. So they settled for adoption and after a long year’s wait, they met a teenager.
All went extremely well during the pregnancy, and over the course of nine months their excitement and anticipation grew and bloated until it exploded one late May afternoon in the shape of an extremely curved-at-the-stomach 16-year-old with a couple of confused eyes.
By law the birth mother had 60 days to change her mind and retain custody of the child.
They lasted till day 57.
As Valerie heard Andrea’s sobbing while the social services took the baby—no, Lily; they had named her Lily—away, as Valerie felt the love they had come to have for her get wrenched from her chest with a hot coal iron, as she watched herself—almost from a distance—attempt to hold Andrea down as she shook in her arms, she felt how wet her face was and looked up for the source of the trickling water she felt on her cheeks.
But above her was only a clear cloudless blue afternoon sky that began to take a shade of purple-orange as the sun set.
It was then she realized she had been crying.
They both built up from that lop point in their lives, as if they were slowly ascending an extremely long staircase, the steps of which were coated with greasy oil, and camouflaged spikes.
But they must lead somewhere, right?
And so they did when one day, on Valerie’s ride back home, she received a phone call from her good friend Lucas. He told her he was willing to donate his sperm to the couple for an insemination. Valerie immediately called up Andrea and told her the good news.
Andrea’s joyful laughter filled the phone’s speakers and flowed from them into Valerie’s cerebellum, echoing pleasantly against the walls of her skull.
No, not pleasantly.
Valerie was laughing too, in tears. And Andrea’s laughter did not leave her head even after she hung up. It even continued echoing when she had to take a violent left swerve to the right to avoid ramming head first into a truck. The image of Andrea’s—or Grace’s—dimples that accompanied that never left her as the car toppled over and rolled a good 20 meters before stopping.
The echo, still giving that great resounding din in her skull, did not fade as her lungs filled with smoke and consciousness slipped away from her, like the liquid metal in the thermometer slips through your fingers.
It just stuck there. A reverberating pulsing echo that sent Valerie out—despite the coughing—smiling.
- Contributed by Leliana
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