I check my watch. She’s late. I was really hoping she wouldn’t be late.
Gaetan strides up beside me and flicks the butt of his cigarette into the dark. He blows smoke and watches me from the corner of his eye. “Relax. This will all be over soon.”
I chew on my lip and watch the crest of the hill. The cast iron park bench. The Victorian lamp post beside. A silhouette emerges from the shadows and Angelica stops under the bland electric light. Her coat is buttoned to her chin. Dark bangs cover her eyes. Her fiery red lips stand out like the ‘x’ on a treasure map.
My heartbeat hammers in my temples. “Okay. She’s here.”
“I see that.”
“Are you sure this is going to work?”
Gaetan frowns. “Of course. You need to trust me.”
“Right. Trust you.” My hand tightens around the handle of the cloth bag resting against my thigh. “Okay. Be right back.”
Gaetan steps away. “Remember to breathe.”
The click of my heels echo around me as I climb the path. Angelica is still as I approach, showing no recognition, until I stop next to her.
“Hello, Angelica. Thank you for meeting me.”
“It is confusing. Being told that we should not see each other. Then you ask me to meet you here, of all places.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just… I have something for you.” Her eyes follow as I hold the bag out. I swallow against the lump in my throat. “A gift. To say thank you.”
Her shoulders relax and she faces the darkness. One hand rises and pulls the top two buttons of her coat open. The lace fringe of her bra matches her lips. “You know how I prefer to be thanked, and how I show my gratitude in return.”
My intention to maintain eye contact fails. “I can’t. We can’t. You know that.” I stretch my arm. “Please.”
Angelica sighs and takes the bag. With the handles spread wide, she peers in, then for the first time to me. “What is this?”
“It’s, well, it’s a doll.”
She reaches in for the doll and lets the bag fall. When she squeezes the body, it crinkles. “It is made from?”
“Dried grass. I think.”
Angelica scowls. “Thomas, what have you—”
Her breath catches. What little colour her skin held evaporates. The whites of her eyes show, and she folds to the ground.
“Angelica?” I rush forward and take her free hand. The doll is clutched tight in the other. “Angelica, are you okay?” Her skin is cold, lips twisted in a permanent sneer.
I scramble away and run down the hill. Gaetan steps onto the path to join me. “So?”
“Gaetan, I think she’s dead. What did you do?”
“You asked me to take care of your situation. So, I did.”
I lace my hands over my head. “That… that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“Perhaps next time you should clarify your expectations.” He leans out and looks along the path. “Besides, she is not dead. Only, incapacitated.”
“Next time? Wait… she’s okay?”
Gaetan puts his hands in his pockets. “We can discuss details another time, since you now find them of interest.” He walks the path toward the hill. “In the meantime, it would be best if we collect your girlfriend and leave.”