Patchet Alvero was a good looking man. Five foot seven, with a head thick with curls and marble grey eyes. His skin was milky brown despite the sun that he worked under most days of the month. He was an oil man, working on the offshore rigs dotting the coast of Trinidad. He had met Kelly when they were both fifteen and she was going to school in Fyzabad. He was popular and athletic and loud whilst Kelly spent her time with her head buried behind a book. Maybe that is why he noticed her. Whilst most of the girls in their year swooned whenever he was around, Kelly never took much notice of him. But he did and he could not bring himself to talk to her. Then one day, six years after she had left Fyzabad as suddenly as she had entered it, he saw her walking down Frederick Street. Her body was fuller, her hips and breasts rounder with womanhood but her face had not changed. That smooth dark chocolate skin and narrow brown eyes still made his stomach clench. She was beautiful and there was no way he was not going to talk to her this time. It had taken a few months before she confessed that she too had liked him during their high school days but she had thought him inaccessible and not interested in the ‘quiet darkie’ with all the beautiful girls who surrounded them. He had shook his head at that, amazed and sad at all the time they had wasted. He was not a religious man but he knew that seeing her again that day was a clear sign that she had to be his woman.
Now five years later Patchet was still trying to figure out how to make Kelly completely his because even after all this time she still kept a part of herself closed off to him. Even at their happiest moments he felt that wall she had constructed between them. It was invisible to anyone observing them but for him who had studied her every nuance for all these years he knew it was there. He couldn’t blame her. Her mother was the queen of bad relationships and in turn Kelly knew nothing about trust and love and forever. Whilst Patchet had grown up in the same house all his life with parents who had been married since they were nineteen. He believed in family and in love. He wanted to marry her and fill her with his children but she resisted. She said she had more to do before marriage and children. She liked that they had separate homes and thought their relationship was fine the way it was.
She was afraid. And they both knew it.
Coming back home today he sensed a different kind of fear. This one lingered on her skin like bad perfume and seeped through even as she smiled and hugged him and nonchalantly told him about the events of the last few days. He felt her tiredness and the emotions she was trying to kept hidden. Despite the troubled relationship she had with Annette her disappearance scared her. She loved her Mother regardless of their past. He knew from experience that saying all of these things would just push her into silence so he kissed her instead and gently led her towards her bedroom. She didn’t protest just kissed him deeper and ran her hands over his face and head while he unbuttoned her dress. Sex was the only time she let the wall down so he always made sure it was a long sweet release. Afterwards he watched her sleep and felt all the torrents of emotions she stirred up in him. He loved her yes but things could not stay the way they were.
When the phone rang they were both asleep. Kelly woke up first and was disorientated for a second until she saw Patchet’s face next to hers. She had been dreaming of the beach again and Candice laughing. The phone’s shrill ring made her focus on it finally. She reached for it.
“Hello” it came out as more of a croak as she hadn’t found her voice yet.
There was sobbing on the other end and she sat up.
At the word the sob turned into a long guttural wail. Kelly felt like she had suddenly gone deaf. He ears just closed up as that feeling in her stomach got worse.
The phone was dropped then a male voice came on.
“Kelly. Kelly girl yuh deh?” It was Uncle Joe. Her voice would not work
“Kelly the police come. Dey…….” She knew now that it was Granny wailing. That she was the one now moaning in the background.
“Hold her Sandra. Hold her.” Uncle Joe said to the neighbor.
She knew what he was going to tell her.
“They find Annette Kelly girl. She…”his voice broke then and the wailing filled her head.
Patchet would tell her later how she had dropped the phone and stumbled out of the bed, falling on one of her knees then pulling herself up then stumbled out of the bedroom. He called out to her then picked up the phone and heard the wailing and crying at the other end. He had shouted to Uncle Joe until he got the old man to tell him that the police had come to say that they had found Annette and Ricardo dead in his car in the forest in Sande Grande. They had both been stabbed and had been there for about a week. Patchet hung up and ran out to find her and found her clutching her stomach in the toilet, her wails echoing Granny’s over the phone.
Tony was driving to Diego Martin despite his better judgement. He had seen the evening’s news and when he heard the name of the people they are found dead he knew immediately who they were. He had tried her phone but it just continued to ring so after twenty minutes of pacing his front room he had snatched his car keys from the counter and was now driving towards the little apartment on Calcutta Road. He knew Patchet would be there but he had to see her and satisfy himself that she was OK. Even though he knew she would probably never be again.
The words of the newscaster marched around his head. “Stabbed multiple times… Badly decomposed.” His blood chilled as he thought about what could have led to such a brutal death . Then the puzzle of who had brought Candice to Kelly. Could that man have been the killer? Did it happen in their home? He felt nausea imagining it so couldn’t imagine what Kelly was going through.
This pull they had. That’s what she had called it. It was dragging him to her.
He was a fool he knew. In love with a woman he had no claim to and who had told him that she could never be with him. It had been more than a year since they sat down and openly talked about how they felt and she had told him the story of Patchet Alvero and how he had been so good to her and that she could not hurt him. Despite the fact that Tony was the one she knew she ….. She would not say it and left the word hanging in the air. He was a fool because if she had said at the moment that they should get the next plane to Florida and never come back again he would have not given it a second thought and left. Left his business, his house, his family, everything. He had never had any type of deep feelings for a woman. He was satisfied with making money and travelling and commitment free couplings. So getting tongue-tied around this woman, one who went against all his usual attractions, was unnerving. How often does anyone feel that unquestioning love for another person? She said that Patchet loved her so and he understood her devotion then. Her refusal to betray him. Patchet was a good man but Tony hated him for that. It was as simple as that.
As he parked he looked up at her apartment and saw all the lights on. He swallowed his apprehension and walked up the stairs. He had never met him before but he knew the man when he saw him on one of the gallery chairs. They looked at each other.
“I am Anthony Brewster.” It was all he could think to say. The man was more handsome and well built than he had imagined.
“Oh yes, yes, Kelly boss right?” he reached out his hand and Tony took it.
“I guess you hear the news.”
“Yes. I wasn’t sure if she was alone. I wanted to make sure she ok.”
Patchet sighed heavily. “I just…” but Kelly was standing in the doorway before he could finish. Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot and she looked like a rag doll, broken and listless. She looked at Tony and he stared back at her. It was silent but Patchet didn’t realize how much they were saying to each other without words.
“Sugar drink some tea nah. Let me make yuh some.” She nodded slightly making the movement look painful. Patchet kissed her forehead and headed inside then turned back,
“Brewster you want ah drink?”
“No I good.”
“Yes.” With that Patchet headed for the kitchen.
Tony reached out for her hand and it turned into in a hug. She melted into him and started crying right away.
“I’m so sorry Kels. So, so sorry.” He whispered to her but she didn’t reply just cried into his chest. She had been feeling nothing but weak and empty for the last few hours but when she heard Tony’s voice wafting in from the gallery she got up immediately. She needed him to make it better. Being here she felt safe and the image of Annette dead and rotting finally left her brain.
“I’m sorry I came but I had to make sure you was ok.”
She nodded and tried to stop the flow of tears.
“I don’t know what to do.” She stuttered out.
He held her face in his hands and looked at her.
“You eh have to do nothing now. Just go to sleep. You look like you need to rest.”
“Take me home with you.” He had not expected her to say that. And the sad little voice in which she said it literally made his chest hurt.
“Baby I can’t do that. Patchet is here and he will look after you.”
“I want to be with you.” She knew she was asking the impossible but it was what her heart wanted. Her mother was dead and she felt the realization like a deep dark dread hanging over and suffocating her. Tony would make it go away temporarily.
He didn’t get to answer her plead as Patchet came back with a mug of what smelt like orange peel tea.
“Brewster man why you still standing? Take a seat man.”
If their embrace made him uncomfortable his face didn’t show it. Tony didn’t take his eyes away from hers.
“It’s cool. I going to go now. I will come back tomorrow.” She looked like she was going to start crying at any second but he knew that it was the pain and shock that was making her want to go with him. She would regret it soon.
“Kelly I will see you tomorrow ok?” she walked back into the house without a word.
Patchet apologized, “She taking it real bad as you can imagine. I think I’m going to take her down by her Grandmother tomorrow then to stay by me for a few days. She need to somewhere else for a bit. That’s fine about work right?” Patchet looked at the tall, slender man in his jeans and t-shirt. He looked at serious as Kelly had described him. Looked like all of them other Trinidad boys who had gone away and studied and come back with their big degrees. Never done a day of hard work in his life.
“She can take as much time as she needs. This thing isn’t easy.”
“Trust me. I barely believe it myself.” He reached out and shook the man’s hand. Both looked at each other momentarily then let go. Tony had the urge to go into the house, pick her up and leave but he didn’t. Tonight was just like every other time he had walked away.
She let Patchet lead her for three days. From Diego Martin to Moruga to Fyzabad, she had simply sat in the car and said very little. Even when she saw Granny and Candice and Uncle Joe she did not say much. She watched them crying and wrapped Candice in her bosom and listened to them say that police were looking for the man that had dropped Candice to her. They said that the body would not be released for a while and that they had brought Annette’s things for Granny to identify. Kelly lay in the bed at Patchet’s house and pictured Annette pleading for her life then the knife sliding in and out of her skin..
She could not sleep.
Patchet tried to make her eat and talk but she did neither until the fourth day.
“I’m going back home.” She told him
“You want me to take you back to Diego Martin?”
“No I will take a taxi.”
“Kelly you cah be by yourself.”
“Why?” She had already packed the few things she brought. Patchet felt helpless. She would not let him help her in anyway and he was feeling like the enemy.
“Sugar you mad wit me?”
She didn’t think she could feel any sadder but his words made her sink even deeper into it. Hurting Patchet was not what she wanted to do. He did not deserve to feel that way. She touched his arm.
“No. I just want to be alone. Please. I will call yuh tomorrow. By then we should know when the funeral is.”
He was reluctant. She felt it but he walked her out to the road to flag down a car nonetheless.
When she passed Chaguanas she called Tony. She had been ignoring his messages and texts and for that she felt terrible. Would this guilt never end, she thought.
He picked up on the first ring.
“Where are you?”
“In a car heading back to Diego.”
“I will pick you up in front of RBTT.”
She knew he would come and get her which is why she had called him.
He almost didn’t recognize the woman who sat next to him. She had lost weight and seemed to look older and very tired. He had never seen any thing like it. Is this what grief did to people? He had not lost anyone close to him so did not understand the sting of lost and definitely could not imagine losing some one to murder. He took her hand and kissed the back of it. It was the first time his lips had ever touched her skin. She looked at him then knowing this fact and smiled. He finally saw the Kelly he knew and smiled back.
It was probably a twenty minute drive to his house but in that time she fell into a deep sleep. He had to call her name several time before she responded.
“I haven’t slept in a while.” She told him
“I realize. Come inside and you can go back to sleep.”
His house was a red and white condominium in Westmoorings. The air conditioning hit her as soon as he opened the door and the urge to sleep was intoxicating. It was a well furnished, neat house. It looked like a room in a store. Everything matched and in place. It was the type of house she used to dream about when she was younger.
“You have a thing for house decorating?” he looked at her to see she was teasing.
“My mother. If it was up to me it would be a few chairs and some plates.”
He was leading her by hand to one of the bedrooms and a king size bed that was just calling her name. She took off her shoes and got until the covers. Not for one minute had she felt uncomfortable in this house. His words came out quickly in an attempt to get them out before she went back to sleep.
“I’m going to go back to B&A now. So rest and I will get you something to eat when I come back.”She reached out and touched his arm then her eyes drooped shut. Tony smiled even though he knew that the occasion was not a happy one. But she was here, lying in his bed, looking like she had always been there. It made him want to sing and he was not a singing man