Affairs of State – A Short Story

Affairs of State By Anita Oswald

“Here you are”, the waitress; a short relatively attractive blonde, definitely a dye job, given the inch of brown at her roots says as she places a pint style glass and white porcelain plate on the table in front of me. I say “thank you” and smile up at her noticing the glint in her pale blue eyes cast from the afternoon sun coming in the huge windows behind me. The tip of her tongue sweeps over her thin gloss covered lips before she gives a perky little smile. With a quick turn on her heels she walks away. I can’t help but watch the swing in her hips while she strides back to the counter. Her short quick steps do nothing to flatter the movement of her small rounded ass, until she is out of view; a display rack of cookbooks is now in the way, pity.

Shaking my head softly and inwardly laughing I switch the cross of my legs under the table, my foot slowly bouncing at a measured pace… up…. down… up… down. My black paten leather stiletto catches the lights from above and shines like a brand new car. With a soft sigh I look down at the croissant in front of me, a lock of my curly raven hair falls forward; using my right pointer finger and thumb too pick it apart, I place a small piece on my tongue. It practically melts on contact. A soft moan of delight escapes my lips at the decadently smooth buttery taste. With my other hand I lift the glass up to rest against my lips and sip the most wonderful drink in the world, classic coke. I’m addicted to this beverage; the icy cool goodness slides down my throat, a perfect chaser to the croissant.

Over the next few moments I meticulously pick at my croissant and sip from my coke, while watching the various people interact at tables around me in the café portion of the bookstore. Light 80’s music flows from the speakers hidden in the ceiling tiles, a cell phone rings just behind me, slightly to the left before being answered by a man speaking Spanish.

Some students a few tables away are studying, one of them a petit brunette who flirts with a somewhat thin and nerdy looking boy. He smiles to himself catching her glance out of the corner of his eye, the red head across from him laughs loudly startling the “love birds” who laugh nervously as they fain knowledge of the “funny” she has made. An elderly couple each quietly reading a magazine sits across from them, a man sits with his lap top in the corner pecking away furiously at the keys, his eyes never straying from the notes to his left. Right next to me there is a man and a woman, judging from the rings on their fingers and the conversation about milk and lunch meat, they must be married in their early 30’s, they are happy, I can tell because of the look in his eyes when he gazes upon her and the coy, shy smile she gives him looking down at her coffee when he returns her smile.

Two tables in front of me is a mother and her daughter, the mother is eating a breakfast sandwich and drinking a hot beverage while reading her paranormal romance book that she just bought. Every few minutes she gazes over the top of the book to check on her daughter, who must be about nine years old, eating a blueberry muffin and drinking orange juice out of a bottle, reading a popular children’s book. The adoring smile on the mothers face is enough to give most people a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Sometimes I wish I were one of those people. You know the kind of person who dreams of having a child of their own one day, another life to nourish and watch bloom, someone to look up to you and laugh at silly things with, a son or daughter to be proud of. I would be the soccer mom type, or maybe the dance mom, not that it matters anyways, that life wasn’t meant for me.

Thinking back on my life, I have to admit that I used to be one of those people. I used to have a mother and a father who loved me. From what I can remember we used to be a happy family, until my father left us, left me. I was only 6 when my mother and I went home one day and my father was gone. He never came back. Over the years she always tried to tell me that he loved me and there was a very good reason he left, one that she couldn’t explain to me of course. Eventually it just became easier to say he was dead, easier to believe he was dead. My mother hated that I would tell people he was dead, she hated that I couldn’t and wouldn’t forgive him for leaving. There were many a times I used to laugh bitterly and tell her she was delusional, I would scream that he left because he didn’t love us enough, love me enough. I blamed her for a while saying she wasn’t a good enough wife and despite all of that she would try to hug me. Try to make me feel better. Try to sooth my anger and hurt and I would push her away and run off, she would cry and I would pretend it didn’t bother me.

 

Twelve years earlier…

 “Is there anything else I can do for you Miss. Tiernan?” The priest asked. I shook my head slowly my arms crossed over my middle, standing there staring at the mahogany casket adorned with hundreds of pure white roses, the hem of my black satin and chiffon dress brushing across my knees in the light September breeze, a lock of hair escapes from the loose bun it’s been in all morning and caresses my neck and bare shoulders ever so softly. Sending a chill down my spine. A soft whisper escapes my lips, “no…..” swallowing back my tears I can’t pull my gaze away from her. Away from what will be her final resting place “Thank you father.”

He reaches over and places a gentle hand on my forearm, “If there is anything at all I can do for you, please, let me know. “

I shift my gaze to his hand noticing the wrinkles and age spots before slowly looking up at him, up into a prematurely wrinkled face from years of carrying the burdens of others. His dull grey eyes showing pity and sadness for my position, his lips set in a grim smile meant to be comforting and sympathetic. Pulling a small smile of my own out of nowhere, I say, “Thank you Father O’Reily, I will.” He squeezes my arm softly while I look back on the vision before me; his hand lingers for a moment longer before he releases a soft sigh then turns and walks away slowly stopping once a few feet away to look over his shoulder. Hanging his head in respect he turns back and continues his slow walk away. The layers of his robes flow behind him like silk in water.

There are 4-dozen empty chairs behind me covered by a black tent, surrounded by flower arrangements ranging in color, colors that were her favorites. People who loved a spirited, wise, caring, funny woman occupied each of those chairs. My mother. A woman who sacrificed everything for her family, a family that only consisted of a daughter that didn’t care enough. While I stand there in my Jimmy’s going over the list of reasons why I suck as a person, why I sucked as a daughter, the sky grows grey above and the winds pick up. Goose bumps cover my arms and a rain drop falls on my cheek mixing with the tears that I didn’t notice where there. Soft sobs jerk from my chest. Falling to my knees as the rain pours down my arms fall to my sides with my head bowed the grass and dirt bite into my bare knees. It seems like an eternity before the grounds keeper clears his throat, he was there the whole time, watching and waiting, giving me my time…….

 

Shaking myself out of my own head as that stupid tingly feeling crawls up my nose signaling the onset of my emotions, more specifically tears for a woman who left this world far earlier than was her time. Pushing back the years of regret that haunt and follow my every move I clear my throat and focus on the reason for my being here today, information. Information that is currently walking towards me with every female eye in the place trained on him and his fluid predators gait. Airs of lethal “don’t fuck with me” rolling off him in waves followed by a chaser of “come hither my pretty”.

“If only all of my dates looked this good”. Those gravely deep notes shimmy their way through my body with a slow seduction almost as lethal as the stride with which he walked. I sit there happily letting my gaze skim over every inch of the 6 foot 6 man standing in front of me. His shaggy blonde hair shimmers like gold in the light and those bright blue eyes you could swim to the ends of the earth in all encased in skin kissed by the sun its self.  His amazing megawatt smile along with the rest of his features look as if they were chiseled by the gods themselves, rock hard muscles cover every inch of his frame. Oh the things I would do with this man in bed. The things I have done with this man in bed.

Shaking myself out of my own head and giving him a soft flirty smile of my own I say “and how many times have you used that line in the last 12 hours?” Once again he flashes that dazzling smile and I forget why exactly it is that I detest the man standing in front of me, why I would sooner kill Lucien Blake than look at him for another second. Forcing myself to run down my mental list of reasons; Lucien Blake; cheater, Liar, con artist and all around complete bastard. Oh and he tried to kill you. Just to name a few. Unfortunately for me, this particular bastard has some information I need for a job that I’m currently working on.

Without waiting for an invitation Lucien slowly slides himself into the chair right next to mine, not across from me. oh no… no … right next to me, I roll my eyes and sip from my glass once more while he leans into the table and angles himself towards me. With both elbows resting on the laminate surface, Lucien reaches out to my free hand wrapping his long callused fingers around mine while with the other he reaches up to caress my cheek. Placing my glass back on the table I look sideways into his gaze and In the most intimidating voice I can muster with a smile on my face I say “Lucien” still looking at him from under my mascara laden eye lashes, “if you would like to keep all of your limbs and fingers in tact” Pause…for dramatic effect “I would remove them from my person…” Lucien let’s loose a throaty chuckle and reluctantly removes his hands to sit back casually in the chair, crossing one leg over the other. Looking so hot. There was once a time when I enjoyed Lucien’s hands all over me, sadly he had to ruin it by trying to kill me with those same hands.

“You know, you’re the only woman who has ever detested my presence so much.”

“I wonder why that is? Hmmm, maybe because you lied to me, cheated on me and tried to kill me?”

He chuckles softly before saying “if I knew you would take it so personally I would have tried harder on the latter part of that statement”

This man is seriously lucky that looks don’t really kill, though the thought has crossed my mind, several times. kill Lucien. “Well isn’t it a shame for you that your one and only chance was an epic failure.”

“Oh I wouldn’t say it was a failure, exactly.” And there he goes giving me that smoldering look that makes your panties instantly burst into flames.

“Do you have what I asked for?” He smiles again and licks his lips in the most methodical of ways, I could kill him right now and if I didn’t know any better I would think he could read my thoughts. Who am I kidding; he can see it all over my face.

“Of course I do love.” that word, love… is like sandpaper being pressed and pulled over my nerves especially coming from him. I doubt if Lucien Blake has ever loved anyone a day in his life. Taking a deep steadying breath I steel my nerves and smile brightly “perfect” waiting…. Waiting….. He is obviously testing my patience. Lucien of all people knows that I am not the most patient of people he also knows that I could kill him in a hundred different ways and make it look like an accident each and every time.

Oh for the love of all that is holy! Gritting my teeth together yet still smiling I say, “Well? Where is it?” Lucien’s eyes bore into mine as I sit and wait each breath measured to keep from pulling the Sig Saur out of my purse and shooting him square between those sexy blue eyes. Unfortunately I have to remind myself, again, that we are in public. Next time I require his special brand of assistance I’ll need to choose a more appropriate location. Of course this is all just a game to Lucien and unfortunately for me, I suck at hacking into other peoples computer systems. Perhaps I need to hire one of those teen computer geeks; surely it would be a lot less stressful than dealing with my past indiscretions.

Lucien Blake gets his rocks off by thinking that he turns me on, thinking that I find his stalling sexy. He does turn me on and I definitely do find him sexy but that’s beside the point. The man drives me mental!! Thankfully he has enough sense of self-preservation to know when enough of his flirting is enough. A defeated yet still cocky smile spreads across his lips while he shifts his body slightly and pulls a manila envelope folded in half length wise from his back pocket. Placing it on the table between us he starts to say, “there you are my lo-…”

“Thank you…” I say quickly and maybe a little rudely, but can you blame me?

After I cut him off and snatch the envelope off the table, the legs of my chair scrape across the brown stucco tiled floor but before I can stand completely Lucien wraps his hand around my wrist pulling me to a halt. That’s when I notice the serious expression that has come across his face.

“You know… you are the best and worst mistake I have ever made in my life.”

“Gee thanks. I could say the same.” I let the bitterness and resentment I feel for this man bleed into every one of those seven words.

“Ana please, I never meant to hurt you the way that I did. It was a job, you of all people should understand that.”

He’s right, I do understand that but it still doesn’t make it right. “Your right, I do understand that a job is a job but maybe if you would have told me about it, things would have ended differently.”

After noticing my glance at his hand, he again reluctantly releases his hold and stands in front of me “It will only ever be you Caro.” Caro.. The Italian term for “darling.” It was Lucien’s pet name for me, adding salt to the already irritated wound.

I hate this man, with the intensity of a thousand burning flames from hell; I hate this man standing in front of me. Turning away from him I don’t dare stop to spare even a second look at the man who was once my everything. Quickly I make my way past the young lovers, past several tall bookshelves holding works of American History and assorted writing journals. Quickly I push my way through the two heavy wooden and glass-pained doors out into the warm dry air of the late May afternoon.

As I walk I count the soft rhythmic clicks from my heels against the pavement for a much needed distraction from the thoughts that are still streaking across my mind; thoughts that star a one Mr. Lucien Blake, some X-rated but most; bittersweet memories of what we once had.

Stepping up to the door of my Zagato my body shimmies slightly as a soft chill creeps up my spine, I hear the soft click and pop of my door opening but my attention is focused on the envelope in my hand when a horn sounds in the distance startling me. Abruptly I jerk around to see a blue mini van narrowly miss hitting a red sedan that just ran a red light. That was a close call.

Slipping into the warm interior of my car, the soft leather brushing against the back of my thighs. I find myself glancing back to the bookstore searching and hoping that maybe Lucien will come after me. Maybe try to make me see what we could have if only we tried once more. No such luck. It’s for the best anyhow, any time spent with Lucien now would be hollow and meaningless not just to him but for myself as well.

With a soft sigh for the pathetic state of my love life I press the start button on the dash and while the V12 engine roars to life I contemplate what I would have done if he did come after me and end up with a big fat…. Nothing. I don’t have time for a boyfriend never mind that my job isn’t exactly a 9-5 gig of the legit kind. I didn’t become the best contract assassin in the game by entertaining thoughts of a happy little family. That’s actually one of the reason I got recruited into this line of work. Having spent most of my childhood hating my life and resenting my mother for everything I thought she did wrong where my fathers leaving was concerned and the rest of it hating my father for leaving. When I was twelve I decided that I would never have a family of my own; I was done crying over my father and erected a brick wall with a barbed wire shell around my heart. Being emotionless at twelve was certainly pay dirt for my psychologist.

Those defenses were pretty solid until Lucien entered my life and exited with a boom seven months later. It was then that I vowed to myself that no one would ever hurt me like that again. Ever.

Glancing down at the manila envelope that is flattened under my coach bag on the passengers seat I tap my fingertips on my leather wrapped steering wheel, talking out loud to myself, I say, “Let’s hope he came through.”

 

96 Hours Later

An article in “The Daily Chronicle” national newspaper reads:

42-year-old Republican Senator David Bell from Mississippi was found dead in his private residence early Thursday morning by his wife of 12 years, Charlotte Bell. Mrs. Bell found her deceased husbands body lying at the bottom of the main staircase in their families home. Authorities are calling Senator Bell’s death accidental and are not going to pursue any investigation into foul play. Reports have surfaced of at least two prior visits within the last three days by Senator Bell to his personal physician for dizzy spells. Sources speculate that Senator Bell must have suffered from one of these dizzy spells causing him to fall. Senator Bell, who favorably chaired the Foreign Relations Committee in support of radical Islamic nations; also supported the Iranian Nuclear Deal, will be replaced in the interim by Democratic Junior Senator Miles Roberts.

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