The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
Cymbaline on the CCTV
Lana stood by her best friend, Karolina, holding her hand and made her decision. When the funeral service was over she would start. She took her turn looking down at her god-daughter and made a promise to her. So beautiful and so perfect. How a twenty one year old girl would look if you asked a child to imagine a princess. She held back her own tears, stronger now with the promise growing inside of her.
The wake was well attended and quiet. Karolina waited until the house was empty and there was just the two of them until she finally fell apart in Lana’s arms. They held each other and gently rocked with the tears and when they finally broke apart it was night. Outside bats flew by the trees, such a peculiar and beautiful sight to see amongst the town houses and the shops. Just one more beautiful thing her god daughter would never see.
She learnt how to use the internet. That led her to the café facing the large bleak building. She had read up on the men who worked there, knew their patterns of work. She began to drink in the café, first in the early morning when the night shift finished, then at dusk when the day shift filtered in. she watched them all and finally tracked the man she wanted.
He was in his twenties and quiet. He didn’t join in with the others and read the paper. He was polite with the waitress and left before anyone else. He was liked because he didn’t offend anyone else. After a few days she began to leave just after him, follow him on the bus, and walk back as far as his house. After a few more days, she knew his work patterns and a few other things that were helpful; a coffee shop he spent some afternoons in, the bar he sometimes drank in with his friend. Within the week she was ready.
The day before she was ready to act out her promise, she visited Karolina. By now she was losing weight, becoming thin around the jaw and cheeks. She was beautiful, almost god forgive her, more beautiful now. But that wouldn’t last. Soon she would slide away, until she was gaunt and an old woman before her time. Her friend who was so full of life, so…vibrant. A memory flashed into her head; the two of them teenagers at a festival, sitting by the side of the stage, watching topless dancers and bikers and glasses being pitched high into the air. The two of them watching all of it, being a part of it, laughing and drunk and high and feeling invincible. Holding each others hands and Lana buzzing with the knowledge that she had a friend who would look after her heart like a fragile, pretty thing.
They spent the afternoon together, awkwardly filling the silences that drifted on for too long. They sat amongst the pretty furniture, the perfect house and it all seemed obscene now and a joke. To possess so much and have so little. Traces of ex-husbands like weak fingerprints hanging over them. Lana left as it grew dark, not feeling any of the wine drunk, not bracing herself against the weather though it rained. She went to bed early and played the plan over in her head until she fell asleep and found it even then, lodged inside of each of her dreams.
She stepped off the bus, and followed the man back to his house. She walked to the cash point, sat in the library. She killed time until he left the house and made his way to the coffee shop. She waited, saw him order and then sit down, then made her way in. she didn’t wait but instead sat herself down opposite him, clearing her throat and willing herself to talk before she lost her nerve.
“Hello. You don’t know me. I just want to say something, for you to hear me out, okay?” She heard the voice, part hers, part a stranger, then continued.
“My god daughter died last month. She had an aneurysm in the back of a taxi in the city square.” The man went to say something, ‘sorry’, but she lifted her hand, desperate to push on now.
“There are cameras, CCTV cameras that film that spot. I know it’s for the fights at the weekends and such, but…what I need is to get the tape of her walking down the road that day, waiting for her taxi. I need it for her mother, just to see her one last time.” She felt her throat tighten. She coughed and looked back up. The man was still watching, waiting.
“If she could just see her, see how beautiful she still was, how happy…I don’t know. I just think it might give her something, you know? I don’t know, maybe it’ll do nothing, make her worse. But I just want to do something for my friend, that’s all. Something to help her in the middle of all …this.” She stopped, putting her finger to her eye, catching the tear. She was angry at herself, wanting not to cry but she couldn’t help it now, thinking about how everything was upside down and tight and wrong.
“Look, I have some money. This is a piece of paper with the time and dates written on it. A photo, too.” She pushed it over to his side of the table, saw his fingers hover above it. “If you meet me on Friday, if you’ve had the time to do this. Then I’ll hand over the money and you’ll never see me again. That’s my offer, my deal, whatever it is you want to call it.” she looked up. She felt another tear slip out of her eye, but she didn’t try to catch it now.
“Miss, my job, I don’t know…” She stood up and moved away from the table.
“You either will or you won’t. I’ll understand either way.” She said and walked away before he said anymore.
Lana knocked on the door and waited. When Karolina opened the door, she couldn’t decided if she had just fallen asleep or just woken up. She took her by the hand and led her in, before she could speak. Instead of protesting, her friend let herself be led. Something she never would have allowed before all of this. She sat her down in the chair, pulled the other one next to her, so they were side by side. Then she walked over to the television, the video player and pushed in the cassette. It was a beautiful day and though she hated to draw the curtains, she did, until they were in perfect darkness. She pressed play, listened to the cassette whirl into action and then went and sat back next to her friend.
They sat in the dark until the screen lit up, blurry at first, before levelling out. The picture was black and white, with the time and date codes flickering constantly in the corner. She heard Karolina read them out loud, shuffle in her seat. She began to say something when it happened. Her daughter appeared at the top end of the screen. Her friend gasped, put her hand to her mouth and Lana fought the urge to do the same, but instead she just sat, not moving, as it began.
Cymbaline was holding a small shopping bag in one hand, a book in the other. The footage played out in real time and they watched her smile at the baby climbing over her mothers shoulder in front of her. She made a face and the baby giggled. A young man walked past and looked over to her and they exchanged a half glance that left Cymabline smiling for a good few seconds after and they both knew, even in black and white, she was blushing. She admired the flowers the old man was holding behind her in the queue and the two talked briefly. Lana marvelled at her then, so alive with possibilities, so alert to everything around her. Every gesture so simple, every one so perfect.
She reached the end of the queue and climbed into the taxi. She spoke to the driver and the driver laughed. The car pulled out and for a brief perfect second, Cymbaline looked back, caught just so in the lens of the camera. Looking straight back to her mother and to Lana, looking so calm and so beautiful. The car pulled away and the footage fizzled away into snow.
There was a long moment where there was just the darkness of the room and the blur of the snow on the screen. Then Lana watched as her friend reached forward, replayed the tape and played it again. The footage rolled back into life and in the darkness Lana felt the hand she had been waiting for slip into hers. She looked away from the screen for a second and saw her friend. She was crying, the tears falling openly, but there was something else too. She smiled. A smile that fitted the tears and her daughters black and white reflection and the horrible things that happened in the world to wrong people and also the small perfect moment that’s slip inside each day too. Lana sat, squeezing the palm inside hers and when her friend spoke it was with her real voice, her friend returned. And the three of them sat in the darkness together, as things ended and then began again.
© chris castle Jan 2010
chriscastle76 at hotmail.com
"Youre last day today?" she said. She looked
down to her sandwich, looked back up.
"Yeah. Bit part dies then its back to the stars I guess."