A few days had passed since the letter's arrival, which hung posted on the board above Linda's desk. Linda found herself sitting alone in her bedroom-for a change-staring up into its writing. His eyes scanned the letter, imaging his hands gripping the pencil and his eyes focused on the paper. His smooth voice would read and reread the letter over again. She wished he had phoned instead, instead of simply writing. However, she knew they wouldn't let him call her from prison. That was something she could not hope for.
"Linda?" A voice called her from her bedroom door. "Linda, could you come help me prepare lunch?"
"Why?" Her mother hand never needed help before.
"Because your grandmother is having a visitor and I would like to have something proper. Now, come on. You can't sit there brooding all day long. You can set up the platters if you want. Now!"
She heard muffled footsteps move away from her door, and Linda turned back to the letter. This would be the only other reminder she would ever have of him. The letter and the bracelet that lay wrapped around her wrist. She looked at it, touching over the stones and remembering his eyes. She missed him. She missed him dreadfully. She knew dreaming of seeing him again was a hopeless. She should move on.
She did not want to.
Walking into the living room, Gran sat in her rocking chair knitting; Moyra playing with dolls in front of the television while Mummy bustled around in the kitchen. Linda moved into it, seeing several platters of meats, cheeses and crackers as well as the smell of a baking cake. Mummy always outdid herself for guests. Linda found the habit a little annoying. Running a hand through her hair, she stopped in the doorway.
"Fix the platter. Put the cheese on the cracker first, then roll the meat and put the toothpick," Mummy directed.
"Yes, Mummy," Linda said and went to work.
The entire time she thought of Alex, going through the motions without thinking about it. Cracker, cheese, meet, toothpick. Cracker, cheese, meat, toothpick. Alex, letters, stones, missing. Alex, letters, stones, missing. She thought these words as she worked. She did not cry, but her lips faded into a frown.
"You're out of meat…Here," Mummy tossed her another package, but at the same moment the bell rang. "Nevermind, go answer the door."
Linda left the half-finished platter and went to the front door. Opening it, she found a muscular bespectacled man and another sitting in a wheelchair. The man in the wheelchair had pure white hair, but he had a ring of baldness on the top. With a kind smile, he spoke:
"Ah, you must be Linda. I'm Frank Alexander, a friend of your grandmothers'," He extended a hand to shake.
Linda shook his hand, "Nice to meet you too, sir. Gran's right in here."
She stepped aside to let the man in, his servant giving her a wide smile. "I'm Julian," She shook his hand as well. "Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Van Patten."
She smiled a little, "Please, call me Linda."
There was no blush, but a small smile. The two men went into the living room and Gran greeted Mr. Alexander with a hug. "So good to see you again, Frank."
"And you, Sylvia."
Linda left the two elders alone and went back into the kitchen to Mummy. Julian stood there with her, chit-chatting together. She said nothing as she came in, going back to working on her platter. The mood of talking to new people was something she did not have. She preferred to simply stay silent.
"So, what exactly is it you do for Frank?" Mummy asked him.
"A bodyguard for Frank," He answered. "After the incident with those hooligans breaking into his home and assaulting him and his wife, he felt he needed more protection. That is where I came in. He gives me decent pay; he's a good man. I do not have much to complain about."
"I was completely shocked when I found out from my mother what had happened. It's absolutely terrible; then Marissa dying on top of that. I feel so sorry for the poor man."
"So do I. He loved Marissa dearly; losing her nearly drove him mad. The doctor said it had been due to illness, but Frank thinks it's what happened to her that night that did it. I can't say I disagree. People can suffer from trauma at that kind of level."
"But to actually die from it is insane. Don't tell me that he is still living in the same place?"
"Yes, he is. I keep suggesting he move, but his heart is too attached to the cottage…I suppose it is alright, seeing as London is so far."
The package of crackers that had been in Linda's hand slipped out and onto the floor. A cottage in the outskirts…a woman dying from the effects of a rape…Mr. Alexander now in a chair and in need of a bodyguard…It could not be. There was not possible way that this was the same man Alex and the droogs had attacked that night…Linda supposed her face had gone completely white and into a stunned expression because Mummy called out to her in a concerned voice.
"Linda…Linda, sweetheart, are you alright?" She said, touching Linda's cheeks.
"I'm fine, Mummy," Linda finally said after a pause. "I think I need to lie down for a bit…"
"Yes of course, darling. I will take the platter."
Slowly, Linda walked into the living room and glanced at Mr. Alexander. He was immersed in conversation with Gran and Moyra that they had not seen her pass by. Now, she had not actually have been in the house when it happened. This could always just be a coincidence…right? Stepping into her room and closing the door, Linda went down onto her bed. She shut her eyes, regretting it seconds later.
The screams…the cries of pain and pleas for mercy echoed in her head. Alex's chorus of 'Singing in the Rain' mixed with malicious laughter. Linda clapped her hands over her ears as if she had returned to the seat in the Durango outside the little cottage that read: 'Home'. They would not really know that she had been there that night; they would not know that she had been outside hearing the assault happen and doing nothing. Her breaths became slow and shallow. She thought she would faint. Why was she so affected? Why should it matter?
Because Linda cared. Alex would not have shown any remorse for the man whom he had attacked. He would have acted his usual cool self; appearing kind and sociable. Her eyes fluttered open to see the blue stone bracelet in front of her. She thought of Alex in that moment. She imagined him telling her she was acting silly; his smooth voice being reassuring; telling her to act normal like he did. Linda idly touched the stones with her fingers. Her eyes went towards the letter on the board. The more she envisioned Alex, the more her worries seemed to slip away.
Eventually, her eyes shut, letting her drift into a deep sleep.
When she awoke a few hours later, she could still hear voices outside. She guessed Mr. Alexander and Julian were still in the house. Wonderful. Now, explanations are going to be needed. She climbed out of her bed towards her mirror. She fixed her hair, make-up and clothes before walking back into the living room. Everyone sat there: Gran in her rocking chair; Mummy in the chair beside Daddy who sat in his usual armchair; Moyra on the floor while Julia sat on the loveseat.
"Ah Linda," Gran grinned, "You're finally awake. How are you feeling, darling?"
"Fine. Better now," She answered.
"There's dinner in the oven for you, Linda," Mummy told her.
"Thank you, Mummy, but I'm not hungry right now." If she ate, she feared being sick.
Mummy and Daddy looked concerned, but it was Moyra who spoke: "Are you sick, Linda?"
"No, I'm fine."
"You don't look it."
"I'm fine, Moyra. Honestly."
"Come sit with us," Julian was the one to speak to her. The only available seat was beside him after all.
Timidly, Linda sat beside him, feeling his eyes on her. His stare was not unlike the ones she got occasionally. They showed an interest beyond simple curiosity. She felt uneasy. Running a hand through her hair, she ignored his gaze.
"So, Linda," Mr. Alexander spoke to her directly, "Your grandmother tells me you are an excellent musician."
"I would not say I am excellent," Linda said. "I am good, but never excellent."
"Oh Linda," Gran said with a pat on her knee, "You're being too modest. You sit here all day long playing. There is no way you cannot be excellent the way you have been practicing" Linda didn't practice because she wanted to be good. "Why don't you play something for Frank? I'm sure he would love to hear it."
When Linda looked at them all, Mummy and Daddy gave encouraging smiles…Moyra only played with her dolls. With all eyes on her, Linda moved to the piano and sat on the bench. Hands hovered over the smooth, white keys she played the piece in front of her. Immediately, Linda went into a different place. In her mind, there was nobody else there except a boy in Daddy's armchair. He would have a black cane over his lap with black-booted feet on the coffee table. His blue eyes would close as she played, her music bringing about whatever thoughts that came to his mind. She thought of how beautiful he would look sitting there. The dim light of the lamp would shine over his profile; the golden strands in his hair would shine somewhat, and his skin would be flawless. The notes brought back memories of them together without the droogs and alone. The piece brought back one particular memory. The one she loved the most.
Despite having filthy water, the marina always looked nice during the day time. The benches that lined the side walls going along it would give one a view of the water meeting sky in the horizon. She supposed the place had been made since the sun set over this direction. The sight really was amazing: The salty sea air rushing through your hair and filling your lungs; the sound of seagulls cawing above. There were no boats here, but once in a while one would pass.
Linda normally came here when she wanted to escape the craziness in her life, which was a lot lately. Blue-greens stared out into the ocean, taking in the picture of it all. There was something so relaxing about sitting on a bench in the quietness with only your thoughts swimming through your mind. Linda never could explain it properly herself. She drew her legs up to her chest and rested her head on her knees. Eyes closed, she hadn't noticed the figure walk up to her until the voice spoke:
"Hi, hi, hi Linnie-Lin."
There dressed in his usual white outfit and bowler hat stood Alex. The smirk she had grown to love was across his face; blue eyes staring down into hers. Linda smiled when he sat beside her, kissed her cheek, and brought her legs over his lap. His hand stayed on her thigh while the other played with the strap of her heel.
"And what's got my little pet so razdraz?" He asked, brushing hair from her face.
"Nothing. Just thinking is all…"
"And what is that?"
He was silent for a moment. Alex never became silent this way, unless he was contemplating something dastardly in his mind. Then, his voice came much softer than normal. He spoke plainly.
"Am I one of those things?" He gave me a sideways glance.
"Perhaps…" She did not want to admit he was…sometimes the only thing. "Why do you care?"
"Because…Because I think of you…All the time…"
Linda was a bit taken aback at this. Alex Delarge…The most evil boy she had ever met…telling her he thought about her all the time. Alex Delarge…showing some fault in his usually confident voice…talking in a normal language he rarely spoke…It kind of scared her a bit.
"Wha-…You do? When? When you're home alone?" She smirked with a giggle.
"Not just then..." He paused. "When I'm out with the boys and you're not next to me…I hate to admit it but…you're the reason I have so much damn flaws now…"
"What do you mean?" She scooted closer, her thighs on his lap now instead.
"I used to have my head on straight. I used to be able to do things with you and not care if I hurt you or not. Now…I can't…I care…And I hate it…"
"You hate that I make you feel like a normal human being with feelings?" She tried to hold back her slight laugh.
"Yes…It's you that makes me think of being straight and narrow…getting a job…getting married and having a family...growing old with you and…being with you forever…"
"Alex…Are you saying you love me?"
He stayed silent. She smiled. "I love you too, Alex."
Alex never looked at her. His face was emotionless as he stared out into the water. Her lips planted a kiss on his jaw line then on his cheek; with a turn of his head, his lips. Linda then stared at him, his profile perfect in the sun.
Once her fingers stopped, she opened her eyes. The smile that had played across her face had faded when she realized where she was. Her head turned back to the rest of the room.
"That was absolutely wonderful, sweetums," Daddy said while they clapped.
"I knew all those practices would pay off," Mummy commented.
"I said she was excellent," Gran told Mr. Alexander. "She'd be perfect for your article."
"Indeed," He agreed.
"Article?" Linda questioned, swinging her legs over the chair.
"Yes," Mr. Alexander answered. "I'm writing an article for the newspaper about young musicians. I believe there are still some good children in the world who do not lash out in random violence. They are poised, generous and modest. I would like to write about you, Linda. You are the perfect example of proper youth. Instead of taking your aggressions out on others in the streets, you stay in and focus on your incredible talent. I admire that in a young person," He wheeled himself over to her, "What do you say?"
Linda was at a loss for what she would say. Being so suddenly asked to be the subject of an article written by the man Alex had so viciously attacked months ago made her momentarily speechless. She turned to her parents as though they would answer for her, but they only nodded their encouragement. Her eyes turned back into Mr. Alexander's kind, wrinkled face. There had been no indication that Linda had even been there that night. She hadn't stepped even one foot into the house. She was not even sure if this is the owner of that cottage. She sighed a little before finally speaking:
"That sounds wonderful, Mr. Alexander. I've never had my name in the papers before."
"Fantastic," He clasped his hands together, "Absolutely fantastic! Now, perhaps we could schedule a meeting?"
Mummy, Daddy and Gran all began talking to Mr. Alexander, asking him specifics and when she should come for the interview. Linda-on the other hand-felt butterflies filling her stomach while she sat there on the piano bench; she excused herself from the room to walk back into her own. Running a hand through those long, silky strands, she thought of Alex straight away. She imagined him standing against the wall, glaring at Julian once or twice, but focusing his attention on her. She recalled that wonderful moment by the marina. She sat on her bed and replayed it all in her head. The memory had been so comforting; she continued to think.
Mr. Alexander and Julian left after dessert. Their interview was scheduled for next weekend when Linda would be home. This did not fully concern Linda. What concerned her most was what would happen if Mr. Alexander were ever to find out that she had been there that night. There would be no actual proof. If she had been spotted, the man must have had super vision because the place had been awfully dark. Besides, he had been inside during the attack. He had not come crawling out of the front door or anything. Linda felt a bit safer now.
Once the dishes were clean, the leftovers put away and Moyra in bed, Linda walked back into her bedroom. However, she did not sleep. She thought. Thinking seemed to be all she did these days. Hopefully, one day, she would get over this whole thing. Maybe she will manage to move on. By the looks of life now, that appeared to be an impossible feat.