The Little White Bible

I had to wait until four for mom to finally arrive. She came in her small blue car that sparkled against the bright sun. She drove in, honked the horn and came out, shouting hello. Her voice to me sounded like grinding up my back skin. But you can’t be so impolite to actually tell that to your mother, so I reserved all my inner feelings for some other target and waved from the window.

Why did she have to honk that horn? Like it wasn’t obvious I was entertaining?

“I went through the shops today! Found something wonderful for you!” she chatted away and flew right past me straight to the kitchen. “Just look at it! What a hemline! You should try this on, I promise you’ll look good in theatre!”

What theatre?

I came around the corner and looked at a short V-neck gown. It was gathered up under the breast with black lace that also ran around the neckline. The lace was the only decoration on this dark green dress.

I was blown away, I really liked it. This was new to me, because usually our tastes didn’t match up.

“I bought the shoes, too. Otherwise you’d go bare feet and paint the shoes on ya!” she ruffled through her bags.

Sounded about right.

She brought out two flats with massive amount of cord running through the limited leather edge.

“How am I supposed to wear those?”

Her face clouded up and she shoved them back in the bag. “You’ll learn! It’s in your instincts!”

Right! As a woman, I’m supposed to have instincts on everything, included on the latest fashion of ridiculous shoes.

“Mom, what theatre are you talking about?”

“What, you don’t have a date yet?”

She sincerely sounded appalled. I frowned hard and then blushed just as hard. I might be interested in a man, but I was still twenty eight! I didn’t need my mother to play the fairy god mother on me!

“Mom!” was all I managed in one breath.

“He fancies you, I could see it in his eyes!”

“S-s-so?”

“Oh, god! Are you frigid? Don’t you know how to play yourself on a man?”

I don’t think there was any place left on my body that wasn’t competing with beetroot. It made me sick just to think I was so obvious. I must have been obvious to Saul-Erik, too.

“You know, in your age I could play out to any man I wanted!”

Not if the man was on a mission and you tried to avoid destroying it by flipping him in relationship that might end up in a scandal. For greater good… How often had I already heard it in my life? This had to be karma fooling around.

“If you’re too afraid, I can ask him myself!”

“What? No!”

“Then get your ass moving, girl! No good man stays single for long!”

“No, thank you, I can handle my love life myself!”

“You’re still moping about August?”

“No, I’m not.” This was not her business. None whatsoever.

“Yes, you are! And the best cure for that is to pick yourself up, dust your bum off and get back in the saddle!”

I slid myself on the chair. My throat dried up, like every time I tried to tell her it wasn’t August, who ended our engagement. I fell in love to another. But try explaining that, if as far everybody else are concerned, you just lost the best man on the planet.

“Saul-Erik is not a horse!” I huffed silently.

“He could be! I bet he’d love some gentling.”

Oh hell! I banged my head against the table.

“There, there! No need for an ugly bump!” She jumped up and started settling the new dress and the accessories on the chair next to me. “When you get time, put them away, please?”

“Alright.”

That settled, she started the tour in my house. Commenting every little detail she could find. I knew this day would come and gave the cleaning a whole new meaning. I had prepared for this inspection meticulously and removed all the dust from the rooms I had opened. The ones I hadn’t had time for, stood in dead silence behind locked doors. I simply wouldn’t have the key. Lie, but necessary for my sanity.

When we reached back down, I saw my front door open and a tall man standing on my open door and knocking on doorframe.

He was slim, hiding his tall figure in a raincoat and vest. His fingers seemed especially long and angled, when he neatly wrapped them into a fist and hid them in his pocket. His grey mixed dark brows were arched over brown eyes and he smiled. Those eyes, they never seemed to stop on something for long, constantly searching for something. Another spy?

“Yes?” I asked protectively.

“Hi, I’m new around here and thought I’d say hi!”

I looked at the open door behind him.

“Oh, the door was open!” he  quickly defended himself.

I didn’t recall leaving it open… The tall frame – I thought I knew him from somewhere.

“I’m Janay Davodov, I just moved in to St.Pierre street and they told me you’re new here and so am I…”

I felt my world grow smaller. So that’s what he looked like, when he wasn’t breaking in.

I stepped off the stairs and watched him closer while he chanted on about just walking by. He looked quite charming with his shoulder length grey mixed Mediterranean hairstyle and perfectly groomed face. Only his eyes glint, hinting we both knew what trick he pulled here yesterday.

“Yes, well.” I didn’t know, where exactly to begin, but mom did it for me. But there again, she didn’t know.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Davodov, I’m Mrs Sharon Helder, this is my daughter, Miss Evelyn Helder.” She quickly chatted away, pressing on me being single, and left me the part of forcing a smile. “I’m just visiting,” she explained further, “Evelyn’s the one, who lives here. She has done wonders for the house, thought I do hope she’ll change that door out soon! Such an old wooden door with one lock – not the best choice for urban neighborhood!”

Any other information you would like to give out freely for a burglar? I asked him in my head and pumped in her to make her stop. Though I didn’t understand why he was so public about where he lived?

“Alright then,” he backed out politely, when he read from my stern face the one message I was desperately trying to give forward, “I better go then. I just wanted to say hi and wish you good luck here.”

He bowed lightly and I returned the favor. “Good day to you, too.”

We watched him walk swiftly over the grass and close the gate after him.

“Nice men come in both doors and windows!” mom jokes and clapped her hands over her own joke.

If only she knew how spot on she was with that.

“Now!” she got back in business of telling me what I should change on the house. “Your kitchen! Didn’t I tell you to get rid of it?”

The picture! How in hell did Martha manage that picture? I should have asked her when she was here!

After two hours horror of my mother’s visit, I could finally lay down on the sofa and relax. It was already seven in the evening and though I felt hungry, I didn’t feel like doing anything any more that involved pushing my bump up from the soft fabric. I had earned my heaven.

The phone ringing from the kitchen, however, cut my dreamy state short and for a moment I listened the soft tune of waltz getting louder and louder. I hoped it would stop, but after it got to the end, it sat there only a second in silence and then regained its singing abilities.

“Why?” I cried. I should have switched it off right after I got back from the tour.

Because it didn’t stop even after third round, I got up and went to pick it up. Of course it finished the point , when I reached after it and I smiled in hope it would not start again. But it did. I grabbed it, ready to yell “WHAT?” in the microphone, but saw then it was mom.

“Mom? You forgot something?”

I couldn’t yell at mom. No matter what happened, I never could yell at her through the phone.

“It would be polite to say hello first!” she bristled.

“Sorry, mom.”

“Yes, in the matter of fact, I did forget something.”

Which is? I waited through dramatic pause.

My white Bible, have you seen it? I’m sure I had it with me, when I came. From you I went straight to Church and I couldn’t find it anymore. I forgot my handbag open. It could have fallen on the sofa.”

I was pretty sure it had not.

“I’ll look for it.” I promised and after listening few more minutes of her ranting wished her good night and put the phone away.

I was furious. I admit leaving the door open was stupid, but there was only one thing that was different between things going missing and them staying on their place. And that someone just made face to face introduction.

I started by calling to Saul-Erik. At first I got no answer, but after a minute it got through.

“Hello!” game singing voice from the other side that did not belong to Saul-Erik.

What was his phone doing in mortuary?

“Malek? Where’s Saul?”

“Picking Rasmus up from work. Why? Is something wrong?”

“Do you know where Janay Davodov lives?”

“On St.Pierre’s.”

“Where exactly?”

“On the second floor in the flat house. Why?”

“Which one?”

“There only is one. Evelyn, what are you up to?”

“I just…” I didn’t know how much I should tell him. “I just need to speak with him, that’s all.” I ended the call.

That information would make sense if I knew which direction that St. Pierre even was.

The phone rang and I read the caller’s ID. It said Saul-Erik.

I picked it up and set it next to the ear.

“Second street on the right goes straight up to St.Pierre.” said Malek calmly. Something clung in his background.

“You’re gonna tell Saul I called, aren’t you?” I didn’t ask. I stated the fact.

“It’s his phone. Yes.”

It was oddly warming that they knew where I was.

“Thanks.” And I ended the call.

This time I made sure I locked the door before heading off. I found the street exactly as Malek described and saw the four storage high building shining against the evening sun standing high over the rest of the residential buildings. It was painted dusty blue, probably with whatever paint was available in 1960s. Its concrete walls desperately screamed for newer paint job and the doorframes demanded attention of their own with some street artist’ gentle hand painted white scribbles. The door was made out of steel nailed on the wood underneath and stank of cat’s urine.

I tried the big metal door on the ground floor and it opened with ease. I expected it to be locked.

I went straight in and saw simple concrete stairs heading up in the darkness. The green handle hardly held my weight. I read the numbers, trying to decide, if 10 and 12 I saw before me meant I was already on the second floor or should I be going higher. Two doors on either side with no other access in the house or any other doors for other flats.

I checked the next floor, just in case, and saw numbers 24 and 26. Again, two doors and no other to lead anywhere else.

I tried the one on the left first. It had small mud carpet with extra yellow cat hair ruffling out. I knocked hard and listened, ear against the plastic imitation of wood. Someone came to the door shuffling their feet and I knew before they opened the door that this wasn’t him.

An old lady appeared on the door with purple bath robe covering her dress.

“I’m sorry, I must of got the numbers wrong, I thought Janay lived here?”

“Next door!” she spit out and the door landed shut. “Living here a week and all shitty blonds come searching for the dickhead!”

It was usually the younger kind that had such foul mouth, I retorted, still standing there like a fool, nailed on the spot by her ugly rant. I was closer to light brown, I said to myself, ashy brown. Not blond.

This door had small white square bell and I pressed it so hard my finger turned red. I didn’t get any answer this time, but I tried the handle then and discovered the door was open. I walked in and saw him sitting in the middle of a dark living room, reading newspaper against the last of the sunlight.

“You have something that belongs to me!” I demanded and stretched my hand out.

When mom called me earlier, saying her family heirloom had been stolen, it didn’t take me long to figure out, which direction the compass would turn. I didn’t like, when someone touched my things. Even less when someone ransacked my mom’s purse while she was visiting.

He looked dumbfounded at first, but then sly grin ran over his grubby face and he put the newspaper down.

“Do I?”

“Yes, the small white bible with blue cross on it? Give it here!” I shouted at the him while he raked his vest pocket for a tobacco. Why did his vest have so fine material when the rest of his fashion didn’t match up?

He didn’t respond for a while, but kept blandly rolling his smoke as if his gangling fingers helped keep cigarette round. Despite his throws, it kept its flat shape and travelled between his lips. He lit it immediately and then raised his questioning look on me.

“If you ask nicely?”

“With the blue cross!” I reminded him.

He thought a second and smiled. “Alright.”

He walked in the back room and returned with the requested book. If one could call it a request.

“Why did you take it?” I asked curiously. He might be a thief, but his actions were not very dimidiating. “Why steal a bible? You can’t sell it, the cross on it is made out of glass…”

“I wanted to know more about my new neighbor girl! Is that so wrong?” he commended. “Bible, miss, is a very important book, by the way. But in this case, I liked the attractive decoration of it, it’s true personal value. The man, who made it, carried much love for the receiver.”

My father. Back then he might even loved mom.

“It wasn’t enough to just drop by for five o’clock tea or something?”

“Don’t you know it’s dangerous to go asking thieves give back stuff they stole, miss?” he asked instead.

I knew, but I didn’t think of it, when I discovered that figurehead turned out to be a thief with exemplary manners.

“Why did you do it?” he asked.

“Because it has value one can’t measure in money.” I answered with his own words. He studied me for a long moment, before saying he didn’t believe me. I rolled my eyes like a teenager. “I give it back to mom and say it fell out in the living room. Then she can’t call my new home nest of thieves.”

His smile vanished.

“I only take what I like.” He explained immediately. “I borrow, if that’s a better word for you. Mostly I forget to return what I…borrow. And usually I don’t look good on break-ins. But hop away now, bunny, I shall think over this invitation for tea then.”

He stayed obnoxiously polite and one might think of him as someone with good side, but I left the reeducating monsters to princesses in fairy tale books. If monster told you to get loss, then you didn’t think twice and left the place as fast as your feet took you.

Saul-Erik, unfortunately, was not that happy about my little trick. He made no secret of it, when I got back.

Malek was waiting for me on my porch. He was dead serious and said he won’t be leaving before I made a small visit to their place. So I admitted the defeat and followed him back on the street and in from the next gate, still clinging on to the Bible.

His rage filled the room. I stood seven feet from him and I still felt his breath on my skin.

“You asked Janay your Bible back? Are you deliberately going around searching for trouble?”

“Hey, no need to overdo it now, Saul…” Rasmus tried to cool his temper, but was pushed away from his way and backed out, hands up.

“Janay – he eats your kind for breakfast! You don’t just walk in and make demands!”

“Got it!”

“Doesn’t look like you did!” He pulled back a bit and turned around, gulping for air.

“He stole my Bible! How else do you deal with thieves if you don’t have police? You face up to them! If they know they are caught, they won’t be able to steal for long, bec…” I watched as their faces grew long before they changed odd looks.

“Janay is not a thief.” Malek said slowly.

“What?” I whispered, head immediately filled with all the possibilities he might be if not a thief. Not one of them made me feel better and soon I was searching for a seat.

“He is an assassin!” Saul-Erik repeated. “I hired the man to kill the Huntsman.”

“You hired a man to kill…him?”

I looked from one face to another, trying to get my wits together. He like said, he hired him. To kill someone. That was no small thing in my book.

I had to get away from here. Now!

The chair fell over, when I jumped up and ran from the living room. Quick jump over the bush and I could hide behind my front door and grab hold of the candle stick.

As I sat there like that, still panting, white Bible in one hand and candle stick in another.

Memories flashed before my eyes like crazy. I stared at the table in the end of the corridor until it blurred out of my view. I was dead scared.

It felt as if I had just faced my future assassin. They were serious about having him dead and if they’d find out that I was his daughter, I was pretty sure I’d face the same faith. They wouldn’t make an example of me, put things in papers. They would actually get me killed.

I heard mellow knocking above my head.

It startled me. I hadn’t heard anyone approach the door.  Someone tried the handle and with a thud the door ran into my back.

“Evelyn?” Saul’s voice asked calmly. “It would be easier to come in if you moved away from the door.”

I didn’t want him to come in, but I gathered it wouldn’t leave a good impression if I had him press me off the way with the door. He was strong enough to do it.

I swallowed hard and rose up. I clutched harder to the candle holder and held it out like a battle ax, pressing the Bible tightly on my chest. He waited until I was few steps away and gently pushed the door open.

His eyes fell on the candle stick and he let out disgruntled growl. “It will break if you toss it to me. Plus, you’ll be losing your weapon and I might use it against you.”

“I don’t think you would. It’s not for you.” I said and let the heavy candle holder down. I never could hold it up for long so I let it slide on my side before taking it back on its place on the small table next to the front door.

I already knew the rules for wannabe fighter – never toss your tool of trade against your opponent. It was one of the first things Mykola told me, when he taught me to use it.

“Then what?” he asked.

I went to the living room and he followed. “I…”

I should tell him, who I was.

“You’re overreacting.” I said, voice trembling. “Janay can be quite understand, if given the chance.”

“I’m not overreacting! I’m serious, Evelyn!”

“About what?” I set the Bible on the living room table and turned to the window. He was standing just feet behind me, but I didn’t dare to look him in the eyes.

“You can’t go around on your own without…”

“I called you! Malek knew exactly where I was.”

He snorted and I turned around to see, what it was about. “Oh, I know! He made sure he stood six feet from me with hooks turned my way, when he said you called!”

I was appalled. “What?”

I hoped he was joking, but the surprised face I encountered didn’t bare any such signs.

“You are trouble!” he changed his tone. “Keeping you alive is trouble!” He paused. “Everything with you is trouble! The hell did you come here for?”

“To find my father, I told you.” I said, but my mouth dried up and breathing over sandpapery tongue scratched.

“You’re not telling me everything.” He accused.

“We all have our secrets.” I responded with cliché. He wasn’t about to get them out of me.

“You want exchanging of the secrets or something?”

“No.” I shook my head.

“And then you’ll leave?” He asked with a raspy voice.

“Yes.” Why did it hurt to say that? “You are quite closed community, it would be better for you and them if I leave.”

“You don’t even know them, but already judge what is best for them? Or me?” he asked, menace growling back in his tone.

“You know very well, what I meant!”

“You know NOTHING of what’s good for them!” He yelled, pointing at me. “Nothing! And good for me.” He finished and went, banging the door after himself.

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Filed under Dead Child's Portrate, short story

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