The Blind Mice
Annie 田沛雨 190110120
Camilla stood alone in the corner. The tiny station enclosed itself around her, enveloping her into the pale darkness of its long, low-ceiling platform. A chilly draught crept down the train tracks and stole itself into the creases and folds of her overcoat. She frowned, flipped up her collar, and turned her back to the tracks. Outside the windows, the silhouette of a new moon stood out clear against the skyline, where a reddish glow was slowly streaking out across the muted surface of a smooth bay.
But there was something moving out there… Camilla squinted to peer through the glass. It was the figure of a tall, lean man, stepping slowly but steadily towards the bay. The shore was unpaved; piles and patches of pebbles slipped beneath his feet. He staggered a little.
Camilla sensed a twinge of unease, but… oh, she didn’t want to have anything to do with---- well, anything. She fumbled in her pocket for her mobile phone, clicked into her mailbox, and sighed. The arduous pleadings to her employer, asking for leave, were drowned in all the incoming texts from her elder sister Mabelle. Mother was still in hospital and needed attending to. Little nephew George was restless at her bedside, until Mabelle put him to sleep by force. Mabelle was tired out. Mother was calling for Mabelle. Mother was calling for Camilla. Mother was still calling for Camilla.
Of course. Camilla muttered wearily as she typed, “At the train station. See you in an hour.”
John seemed to appear out of nowhere. As she looked up from the screen, his face loomed out of the emptiness in front of her, a playful smile on his lips.
“Well, Camilla,” he said quietly, “You have been avoiding contact.”
Camilla jumped. Her face flushed at the voice. John was forced to marry the daughter of his wealthy father’s business partner before encountering Camilla during a holiday in her home village. Ever since then he had taken a fancy towards her, which comes with financial support for her family and, grudgingly, Camilla had to admit that she needed the money bad. She catered to his needs, half forcing, half hypnotizing herself, “He’s also in a bad marriage and wanted only affection, that was all……” Yet she had indeed been avoiding his calls ever since she found out about his wife’s pregnancy. Instinctively, Camilla pitied the woman---- as well as herself, for reasons she would rather carry into the grave.
“I have been avoiding contact,” she answered in a placid tone, “because my mother is in hospital and I had to look after her.”
She turned her face towards the glass, away from him. The violet atmosphere was beginning to fade into light lilac. Amongst the red radiance in the far east, a streak of gold blossomed, and Camilla could make out distinctly the figure of the stranger. He was standing on the low breakwater, some way out into the sea, his back facing the pebbled shore.
John watched her closely. His eyes followed hers down the breakwater and fixed onto the man.
“Do you know him?” he asked in deliberate airiness.
“Just someone considering drowning himself, by the look of it.” She replied.
“How did you figure that out?”
“This place is not named ‘Keeper’s Bay’ for nothing.” The bay near Camilla’s village made a name for itself because of its high suicide rate.
John nodded. “The least of our worries, then.” He leaned back and looked into Camilla’s eyes.
“You know full well your excuse is far from the truth,” said he.
“And you know no less than I do,” said she.
They fell into silence.
“Does this mean you don’t want, what d’you call it, ‘support de financier’ from me anymore?” he asked.
“I think I’ll be able to support my own family, thanks.”
“So, does this also mean,” he said slowly, “that you don’t want to continue with our, er, special intimacy anymore?”
Camilla opened her mouth to say yes, but was choked by that syllable. She knew she should say it; she knew it full well that it was the only reasonable thing to do. A cord somewhere inside her began to twang a persistent tune. Your affair is neither righteous nor moral… your affair has hurt the pregnant woman… Your affair would be punished, would be brought upon yourself, sooner or later…… But she shook her head, somewhat recklessly, brushing away that whisper of judgement. She could no longer overlook that single truth. She had grown affectionate towards the man, the only escape from her gloomy life; the time she spent with him had turned out to be of such emphasis that her heart ached for those moments, in the metropolis, on the beach, or simply in the train compartments. She felt ashamed of herself---- she had become his mistress for the sake of money and, oh, she almost wished it had stayed that way! That way, as she decided to end the twisted affair, she wouldn’t be gagged by this stifling affection.
But come on, she said to herself. John is already married. John is married for business reasons. John is starting a family. He has been avoiding commitment, and this---- this must be part of his plan. Come on. The cord twanged faster and faster. He doesn’t love you. You are just a play toy. You’ll be thrown away when he’s finished with his fancy---- in fact you already are. You have to end it, end it for your dignity. End it, end it, end it, I say!...
In a blur of frenzy Camilla said, “Yes.” Her voice was close to a choke.
John did not look away. “Very well. One condition, Camilla. Say you don’t love me. Say it, word by word, to my face.”
Camilla forced herself to stare back. The dawn was about to break; his expression was unfathomable against the eastward brightness. Camilla’s mouth was dry.
“You couldn’t.” came John’s voice, slowly but surely. “You have no way for retreat, yet still you would not betray your heart. This is exactly what I see in you, Camilla, a blind mouse, unassuming but determined, destructive even, guided by nothing but its purest desire. And this---- this is why I am here at this hour. I have come to tell you that my retreat was also casted away, by my own hands.”
“What do you mean?” Camilla uttered the words with difficulty.
“I mean, I’ve been putting extra dosages into my wife’s daily drugs. If all goes well, she should be losing the baby any time now. Yes----” he added, seeing Camilla’s stunned expression, “It’s pretty well planned out. The doctor will assume she took the wrong dose as she had always taken drugs on her own accord. Don’t you understand, I’m divorcing her---- I’m using this as a reason to convince Father, my dear old dad who desperately wants a grandchild as an heir to his business… and of course also to convince her lawyer. Surely, the real reason would then be kept safe, which is you.”
“John…” Camilla began, but John held up a hand to silence her.
“We’ll be divorced before Christmas, and then I’ll convince my family to come here for vacation again---- I’ll pretend to date you from scratch ---- you’ll pretend not to know me---- I’ll bring you to Father and we’ll have his blessing! Isn’t it simply splendid, Camilla, my dear Camilla?” His voice trembled with excitement; he grabbed Camilla’s shoulders, looking straight into her eyes. Close up, she could see the ecstasy in his dilated, greyish-brown pupils. Then suddenly his lips were on hers, and she pressed them back earnestly, entwining his whole body with her own. The first ray of sunlight fell on the windowpane, illuminating his ear, his shoulder, the very tips of his hair. He would be her own now, she thought dazedly, there’ll be no more moral gaps between them, no more struggles, nothing---- naught but pure love, pure joy, pure happiness and warmth, brightness extending into their future……
There was absolute silence on the platform. Beams of sunshine were gradually filling up every corner of the enclosed emptiness.
A sharp splash burst out some distance away. Camilla jerked her head with a start. The breakwater, where the stranger had been sitting moments ago, was marked by slowly recurring ripples, empty except for his pair of shoes.
A sudden realization dawned on her. She pushed John away with all her might.
“What’s wrong?” he said rather reproachfully.
“I’ve just remembered---- the man jumped.”
“So? I’d say it’s in our favor that the only possible witness is a dead man.”
“No. you don’t understand how it works---- his shoes are left behind. He’ll be reported missing. The police station is just outside this train station, there will be an investigation, they’ll bring out the videos of the security camera, and we’ll be listed as suspects unless we tell them who we are, what we were doing, did we see the man at all… It’s all routine procedure; they told me about it in the village, and the report would be posted on the notice board for days! They know me, John, and your family name is too easy to trace… and there’s a good chance that your---- our---- faults, blunders, whatever---- would be used against us----”
“Calm down, darling, you’re far too excited.” Said John, his face softening into half a smile, “you’re overthinking these things.”
“Trust me, I have neighbors who had been through this… the police had to rule out murder.” She stuttered in earnest.
“What if we lie then? What if we tell the bobs I’m your new mate, and I’m accompanying you to visit your mother?”
“You know I’m not much of a liar.”
“Now then, now then.” John’s tone was that for comforting a child, “Tell you what, I’ll pick up those shoes with my gloves on and leave them miles away from the scene, somewhere with no camera at all… that way, at least, they won’t check the videos here.”
His words seemed to calm her. She nodded.
A low whistle sounded. The train puffed and clacked into sight. John ushered her on and disappeared through the gateway. Camilla could see him walking with a brisk pace towards the pair of shoes, now lying quietly over the water.
The compartment door slid shut as he descended from the breakwater, clutching the shoes in his gloved hand. Suddenly he burst into a sprint, his limbs working furiously, slipping and sliding on the pebbled shore. Camilla lunged and pressed her face against the window. As the train picked up speed, she saw a fully dressed policeman, who had clearly just witnessed John’s excursion, running to chase him at top speed. He shouted something into the intercom, and a distant siren issued out of the police station.
Camilla slowly turned her face away from the glass. She held her hand to her eyes, as though dazzled by the daylight pouring into the carriage. Presently the train rounded a corner; the bay was out of sight. As they rushed onto wild moors, the autumn sky draped above, perfectly clear, brilliantly bright. It was another day of glorious sun.