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The Secrets I Keep

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The heart wants what the heart wants. Yes, but the mind is smarter. The heart will pound and bleat and ache, the body dwells and trembles, but the mind is strong and has the final word. I know he thinks I am ruled by my feelings; I know he believes there is no method to my madness. He doesn’t know how unfair this is; he doesn’t know we almost never were.

When we met I was halfway through a crisis – not a personal, mind. No, this was city-wide. There was unrest on the streets; the body count was rocketing. Every so often, new blood appears in a mummy-ironed suit and, with arrogance only the young can lay claim to, will try to burst into an alpha position. These bright young things don’t know how here at the bottom, and even all the way up there at the top, we are no different to lions and rodents. And so the body count rises, and people like me – well, we’re busy. Nobody wants dilettantes, and journeymen just leave too much of a trail. The masters are in demand. It sounds boastful, but that’s what we are called.

I suppose not me, not anymore, but for a few years there, I was one of them. You know you watch documentaries about prides of big cats and there is always that one female, lurking, silent, licking her paws? She’s the one who deals in death; the boys, they’re just playing a game of whose cock is biggest.

You weren’t there – you couldn’t completely understand my name.

Add the human element of money and we sink to lowers depths, more animal than animals. You think it’s all glamour and morbid fascination? I’m not a psychopath; it is hard to keep your stomach from churning, but it is incredible the excuses we’ll make. The mind is elastic, it stretches like a rubber band. You think of something long enough and it’ll become normal – death, control, nothing is taboo. But you stretch it too much too quickly and it snaps. You don’t want it to snap.

I’m missing my mark, must be my aim going slack, but this is the story: the evening I met him I had just finished a job. He was too drunk to smell it, or his senses too dim to fathom what he was smelling. The evening he slept on my floor, before that, I’d been preying, following. You do your homework if you’re a master. Bloodlust is real; you live that way long enough and the idea will send your heart erratic, arrhythmic, your pupils dilate, there’s vasodilation – it feels like it feels when you’re in love.

The morning after the first time he slept in my bed, there were three bodies in the river. (The Tigress skulks back to her den to lick her paws).

“Make me a sandwich, Vivienne.” The Tigress’s eyes become more dim. “That’s your job.”

You think I didn’t see this one coming?

Once upon a time there was a woman with long dark hair and high black heels. She sat in the mouth of a window overlooking the street and saw the world through her crosshairs. Once upon a time a man right there on the zebra crossing, he went right down without even a yelp, and his head sprayed red ribbons, his head, tralala.

I went home and we had our first kiss.

Sooner or later he would have smelt it. He wouldn’t have caught me. I’m not bad, I’m just written that way; what I am is clever. The lengths I go to, the detail in my art? I knew about the Great Detective; he was the parentheses containing all my work, he was always present; he was always the one I needed to elude.

You want to be a master, kid? Make yourself disappear.

What can I say? I faltered, I fell in love like he did. He had rules in place; so did I. What, you think because I’ve got a womb I give in easy? No, fuck that. After he threw me in the bathtub, back then at the beginning, I picked up a man at a bar, I seduced him in a hotel room. I had my reasons. We’re blind, sometimes. Sometimes we just don’t see. You don’t get over somebody by getting under somebody else. The next night the Great Detective put his head on my shoulder. He fell in love too. It wasn’t just me, do you understand?

I could have had money and I could have had fear. Nothing smells quite like fear. But I wouldn’t have made it much longer. I could have had it all; he was in love – people in love will make any excuse. But I would have been dead by 30. Or I’d have needed to run. Yeah, maybe he’d have run, who knows?

For a few days, I locked myself inside and planned a way to put an end to it. It felt too good, and nothing that good comes without a price. I would have broken his heart, he would have grown bitter. It’s a story as old as stories. Of course I considered this, of course I thought about it. It’s my last illusion to let him believe the blossoming was seamless. But why reveal the trick behind the illusion? It’s never as wonderful as you’d hoped it would be. If he can have little glimmers of magic, let him have them. Let him believe I am impulsive as he believes me to be.

When the heart breaks, it never fits together properly again. I won’t be the one to chip his.

I’m clever enough to know something has to give. I’m human enough to question why it had to be me. Transitional pains are like growing pains – you try to get to sleep but everything hurts. It hurts until it doesn’t, because nothing good comes without a price.