Home > The Kind Worth Killing(2)

The Kind Worth Killing(2)
Peter Swanson

Even as she said it, I caught the subtle flick of her eyes as she looked for a ring on my left hand. “Yes, unfortunately,” I said. Then I held up my hand for her to see my empty ring finger. “And, no, I don’t remove my wedding ring in airport bars in case a woman like you sits down next to me. I’ve never had a ring. I can’t stand the feel of them.”

“Why unfortunate?” she asked.

“It’s a long story.”

“It’s a flight delay.”

“You really want to hear about my sordid life?”

“How can I say no to that?”

“If I’m going to tell you I’m going to need another one of these.” I held up my empty glass. “You?”

“No, thank you. Two is my limit.” She slid one of the olives off the toothpick with her teeth and bit down on it. I caught a brief glimpse of the pink tip of her tongue.

“I always say that two martinis are too many, and three is not enough.”

“That’s funny. Didn’t James Thurber also say that?”

“Never heard of him,” I said and smirked, although I felt a little sheepish trying to pass off a famous quote as my own. The bartender was suddenly in front of me and I ordered another drink. The skin around my mouth had taken on that pleasurable numb feeling one gets from gin, and I knew that I was in danger of being too drunk and saying too much, but it was airport rules, after all, and even though my fellow traveler lived only twenty miles from me, I had already forgotten her name, and knew there was very little chance of ever seeing her again in my lifetime. And it felt good to be talking and drinking with a stranger. Just speaking words out loud was causing some of my rage to dissipate.

So I told her the story. I told her how my wife and I had been married for three years, and that we lived in Boston. I told her about the week in September at the Kennewick Inn along the south coast of Maine, and how we’d fallen in love with the area, and bought some ridiculously overpriced shorefront property. I told her how my wife, because she had a master’s degree in something called Arts and Social Action, decided she was qualified to codesign the house with an architecture firm, and had been spending the majority of her recent time in Kennewick, working with a contractor named Brad Daggett.

“And she and Brad . . . ?” she asked after sliding the second olive into her mouth.

“Uh-huh.”

“Are you positive?”

So I gave her more details. I told her how Miranda had been growing bored with our life in Boston. For the first year of our marriage she had thrown herself into decorating our brownstone in the South End. After that, she had gotten a part-time job at a friend’s gallery in the SoWa district, but even then, I knew that things were getting stale. We had begun to run out of conversation midway through dinner, had started going to bed at different times. More importantly, we had lost the identities that had originally defined us in our relationship. In the beginning, I was the rich businessman who introduced her to expensive wine and charity galas, and she was the bohemian artist who booked trips to Thai beaches, and liked to hang out in dive bars. I knew that we were our own kind of strained cliché, but it worked for us. We clicked on every level. I even enjoyed the fact that even though I consider myself handsome, in a generic sort of way, no one was ever going to look at me while I was in her presence. She had long legs and large breasts, a heart-shaped face and full lips. Her hair was a dark brown that she always kept dyed black. It was deliberately styled to look tousled, as though she’d come straight from bed. Her skin was flawless and she didn’t need makeup, although she never left the house without applying black eyeliner. I had watched men fixate on her in bars and restaurants. Maybe I was projecting, but the looks they cast her way were hungry and primal. They made me glad I didn’t live in a time or place where men habitually carried weapons.

Our trip to Kennewick, Maine, had been spontaneous, a reaction to a complaint from Miranda that we hadn’t spent time alone in over a year. We went the third week of September. The first few days were cloudless and warm, but on Wednesday of that week a rainstorm swept down from Canada, trapping us in our suite. We only left to drink Allagash White and eat lobster in the inn’s basement tavern. After the storm passed the days turned cool and dry, the light grayer, the dusk longer. We bought sweaters and explored the mile-long cliff walk that began just north of the inn and wound its way between the swelling Atlantic and its rocky edge. The air, that had until recently been heavy with humidity and the smell of suntan lotion, was now crisp and briny. We both fell in love with Kennewick, so much so that when we found a piece of rosehip-choked land for sale on a high bluff at the end of the path, I called the number on the FOR SALE sign and made an immediate offer.

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