Read White Lady Online

Authors: Jessica Bell

Tags: #organized crime, #psychological thriller, #domestic chiller, #domestic thriller, #marriage thriller, #chick noir, #literary thriller

White Lady

BOOK: White Lady
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

WHITE LADY

JESSICA BELL

Vine Leaves Press

Melbourne, Vic, Australia | Athens, Attica, Greece

“White covers a multitude of sins.”

—Jonathan Milne

FLASH-FORWARD

The road is cold and rough against my left cheek—the white reflection of the moon ripples in the pool of blood between me and Dad.

I blink, wince at a sharp pain in my thigh. I touch it with my right hand. It’s wet, warm—a moist memory.

“Dad?” I whisper.

His eyelids flutter.

“Nash.” I whisper a little louder, hoping he’ll respond to his name instead. He remains still, silent, skeletal. I try to reach for him, but my left arm won’t move. I’m not sure if I can even feel it.

Behind me, slow movement shifts the air. Someone curses under their breath and kicks a rock. It tumbles, rolls to a halt in the distance.

Gentle footsteps approach from behind. Someone sniffs, groans, and clears their throat; another voice whimpers.

A switchblade flicks open. The sound hovers in the air …

Chapter 1

Mia: Beer Is Not a Protein Drink

I pull my pyjama pants down with my eyes closed.

If I open them, I’ll get dizzy and panic. Touching the crevices that have formed from the tight elastic around my waist is enough to make me wanna puke.

“Don’t look,” I say to myself.

But I do.

I breathe through clenched teeth and shut my eyes so tight it makes them sting and water. I’m just getting bigger and bigger.

“Oh my god oh my god oh my god.”

I grab my black tracksuit from my dresser drawer, the one with the writing on the arse that says
Lick Me
, and dress turned away from the mirror. I lower myself to the floor, lie on my stomach, and stare under my bed—the chocolate abyss. If I’m not careful it will suck me in. And once I’m in, I can’t get out until I’ve eaten everything.

The key is to not even buy the chocolate, right? But I haven’t got as far as that yet. But, you know, buying it isn’t really the problem. Buying it doesn’t mean I’ve gotta eat it. In fact, any time I like, I can chuck it away.

I can.

Really.

I reach under the bed and grab two family blocks of Cadbury’s Double Decker chocolate. I unwrap them. Savouring the slow crackle of the tinfoil and ruffle of paper that makes the chocolate aroma wafting towards my nose an even better experience.

These blocks may be my last.

I put them on the floor between my spread legs. I stare at them. Squint at them.

“You are evil,” I say to one block.

“You are eviler,” I say to the other.

The female rockers plastered all over my walls glare at me with sexy smiles. Their poses are so hot and skin so glossy, I can imagine the sensation of Vaseline all over me.

I could have been one of them. I could have been a rock star.

Fat luck now. Ha! Get it?

“Resist,” I say to myself. “Scribble down some lyrics to tame the beast.”

But I don’t.

I eat both blocks, staring at my hazy reflection in the glass cabinet door below the TV. For some reason I don’t look as fat in that as I do in my mirror.

I polish off the chocolate—but I’m still hungry. Some bacon and eggs for breakfast would keep me good until lunch. I hope Dad hasn’t thrown the bacon away after our “talk” last night.

“It’s time to consider a serious diet,” he said.

Am I ready for this?

My knees crack as I stand and turn to the mirror. I feel alright looking at myself when I’m dressed, when I’ve got my red lippy on and have a full stomach. I can pretend I’m pretty and sexy like my mum, that the boys at school still slip fuck-me notes into my locker, and that all the girls whisper in fear instead of making fun of me behind my back.

Thank God it’s my last year of attending that hellhole.

I wink sarcastically at my reflection, run the tip of my tongue along my top lip.

And scoff at myself.

You fat cow.

One year ago, my reflection would have winked back at a flab-free fifty-four-kilo alabaster sex-bomb. At almost thirty kilos heavier, I’d be lucky if a rolling pin tried to have it on with me.

Seriously.

Runaway mother equals runaway diet and exercise regime. Runaway mother also equals beer and football with Dad in front of the box. Most weekends. Huh. Who am I kidding?
Every
weekend. Is it bad for me to say I enjoy that time with Dad a whole lot more than I ever enjoyed “quality” time with Mum shopping for the next best protein drink?

“I hate you,” I say to myself in the mirror.

But I don’t. I
despise
myself.

No positive thinking, or veggie diet, is gonna make me think better of myself. Sorry, Dad, but you’re not the one with flabby armpits. Of course, you think it’s all psychological. It’s not. It’s physical. It’s so physical that the hunger hurts. My stomach aches, my heart aches, my brain aches. This pain is real. I feel it. They’re not just “stupid cravings that will subside with time.”

What does he know?

He’s never been fat.

I fill my schoolbag with the textbooks scattered all over my bed. I grab my open laptop by the screen, close it against my chest, and slide it into my schoolbag too. Maybe I’ll find some dirt about the dickhead who stole my mother away. Botched surgeries. Hospital horror stories. You know the shit I’m talking about.

They always make me feel pretty.

And I
need
to feel pretty.

Chapter 2

Nash: Yes. I smoke.

I reckon I change the channel every time Mia opens the fridge. It stops me wanting to glue the door to its frame. I can hear it in slow motion now: the extended pop of a suction pad to a smooth wet surface, sucking my daughter’s face towards its fatty contents. The fridge door closes as fast as it opens, preceded by Mia’s deep, raspy sigh.

I switch the channel one last time; lean over the coffee table; sip my double espresso; gather my packet of Drum, filters, papers to roll a few cigs. I sense Mia’s laser-like stare from behind the kitchen counter as I stick the first rollie behind my ear. She wants me to let her off the hook. But I won’t give in again. For the sake of her health, if anything. What kind of father would I be if I didn’t put my foot down?

“Just try it, mate. One week. You won’t feel so hungry.”

I listen to the steadiness of my breath, watch as my calloused and bitten fingertips pinch tobacco into a neat line across the paper as though a different brain were giving my hands the orders. I roll the tobacco between my thumbs and forefingers, lick the edge of the paper, seal it into a perfect silky cylinder.

Wind howls and rattles the front door. Rain pelts down. For five seconds. Mia and I look at the ceiling with our mouths open. But then it just stops. Typical Melbourne weather.

I hold the cigarette in the air. A peace offering.

Mia drags her heavy feet across the carpet. A sound I associate with the Rottweiler we had when my ex-wife, Celeste, was still around. Before she discovered she could have the life she’d always dreamed of if she hooked up with that dirtbag plastic surgeon from LA, instead of roughing it out with a high school Phys Ed teacher with a fragile ego. I reckon what Celeste failed to realize was that it wasn’t my fragile ego that screwed us up. We were doomed the day Celeste decided that my then-best mate, Ibrahim, was going to be the best man at our wedding.

Ibrahim.

All you need is to shake his hand and it’s like signing away your life.

I hope he never comes back.

Mia snatches the cigarette out of my fingers and sits next to me. The leather couch sinks with a sigh. I turn to her, head still hanging, tilted to the side. She lights the cigarette with a match from her black polo shirt pocket. With only one drag, half of it disappears. I scrutinize Mia’s puffy cheeks and the baby-like fat that’s starting to form a double chin. I still think she’s cute. But if she keeps going like this, I reckon I’ll start seeing ugly.

My throat tightens at the thought, and I squint at her. She’s so beautiful inside and out. Why did Celeste push that health crap on her so much when she didn’t even need it? She was fine. A normal healthy teenager who liked to eat chocolate now and again. She wasn’t overweight. She was slim without even trying. Why did Celeste have to screw that up? Now Mia despises the thought of getting healthy so much that she doesn’t understand the difference between trying to be healthy and obsessing over getting thin.

So what does she do? She eats.

She eats and eats and eats and eats. What
is
that? A “fuck you” to her mother? I reckon it is.

“Don’t look at me like that.” Mia blows smoke into my face and smirks.

“It’s for your own good, mate.” I lean forwards, run my tongue along my teeth, light my third rollie. I stare at the TV, elbows resting on my spread thighs, hands hanging between my knees.

Aussie Rules reruns.

If it weren’t for Celeste and Mia, it would be someone else watching
me
kick the footy on the box. I internally shake the selfish thought from my head and wink at Mia.

She rolls her eyes, says, “Um. Hello? You’re smoking?” and shoves me forwards. Ash falls onto the carpet. I spit on my finger and gently touch it. It sticks. I wipe it on the edge of my ashtray, the one Mia made me on her first day of high school. It looks like a pierced tongue, slightly cancerous.

Touché.

“I said, once you lose your first five kilos.” I grab my red cap off the table and place it on my head, pulling the brim a little low over my eyes.

“It’s too much. It’ll take forever.” Mia slouches.

“Then I’ll quit in forever.” I slap my hands on my knees and smile as though marking the conversation with a full stop.

Mia
tsks
and stands. Her knees crack, and her breath sounds thicker and heavier than usual. She walks to the kitchen, opens the fridge, flings her head backwards, and screams to the ceiling. “Fucking hell.” She kicks the door shut. Bottles of beer rattle, and she starts to cry.

I butt out my cigarette and walk to the kitchen. Mia leans the top of her head against the fridge. Her shoulders shaking silently. This can’t be easy for her. Can’t be easy at all. And I honestly don’t pretend to understand what it feels like. I’ve never had a weight problem. But I’ll do what I can to support her through this. Ride the waves. I have to grit my teeth and be the mother for a while. What other choice do I have?

I pull her into my embrace from behind and kiss the top of her head.

“It’s okay, mate.” I whisper. “One day at a time.”

But instead of responding the way I hope, with acceptance, with gratitude, Mia runs back to her bedroom in a fit of tears.

I give Mia half an hour to cool off before knocking on her bedroom door. I’m pleased she hasn’t taken the collage of female rock legends off her door yet: Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Suzie Quatro, lots I can’t even remember the names of. Throw a female musician’s name into a hat, and Mia probably wants to
be
her, no matter what generation they’re from.

I reckon there has to be something in this to motivate Mia, to occupy her mind while she’s on this diet. But no matter how many times I try to convince her to send her song lyrics to a magazine, she won’t listen. She has no faith in herself. And I’m starting to sound like a broken record.

“Crikey, Mia, We gotta go. We’ll be late.” I lean in and knock again, my right cheek brushing against Debbie Harry’s tit.

No answer.

I knock again.

Still no answer.

I open the door myself. She’s not in there. And the place is spotless. Cleaning to avoid eating, maybe?

“Mia?” I call down the hallway. “You in the can?”

“Yeah.” Her voice is muffled, annoyed.

“Hurry up. We gotta go.”

“Yeah.” This time followed by a cough.

I look at my feet, put my hands in my pockets. I hope she’s not smuggling junk food into her bag again. I caught her doing that yesterday. She watched with tears in her eyes as I disposed of the cakes one by one. Looking back on that, I reckon it probably wasn’t a good idea to rub her nose in it. But I wanted her to see how ridiculous it was. One cake? Fine. But
ten
?

BOOK: White Lady
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

A Romantic Way to Die by Bill Crider
The Household Spirit by Tod Wodicka
When We Touch by Brenda Novak
Candles Burning by Tabitha King
Fearless by O'Guinn, Chris
Fatal Harbor by Brendan DuBois
Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie
Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon
Reply Paid by H. F. Heard