A chapter from a creative writing piece: Inspired by ‘Salome’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Hunting Season

The hunt wasn’t even necessary anymore. One flutter of my lashes, and I would disarm them in an instant. Men would melt at the sight of me, stutters returning from their high school days, their faces flushed and bright. I relished the pursuit but now it wasn’t fair. Men were intimidated by me and could barely muster up a simple, “Can I buy you a drink love?”

I must admit the delight of a man feeling inferior to me is fascinating. Business men in their silly shirts and ties, I purr at the mere thought. Something I could easily sink my teeth into. I can’t explain the feeling, but when somebody can’t keep their hands off you it’s enthralling. My eyes were always so delicately made up, bold lines and a smoky exterior; I knew men liked this best. Do you know how simple boys are? A modest bosomy dress and they’re salivating down their chins.

I infect men and use it to manipulate, influencing them to think my way. Married men are meek; show them a bit of affection and their distant wife’s can’t hold a candle to me. I mark them with my kiss and let it fester, decaying their frail marriages in the long term. It truly isn’t my fault that men have no respect for women, I expose them and I deal with them appropriately. I have found the run up to Christmas to be more active, people feel they need to drink more and well, that makes my job a little easier. You’d assume winter would be slow, but the financial stresses usually force men out for a pint at the pub.

December 8th 2006

Dear diary,

In an ideal world, tonight would have been executed like any other. I don’t know where I went wrong, or how, but I did and the consequences are making me terribly ill. This awful image stains my mind; it’s there when I attempt to sleep. I can’t even blink without a reminder of my insanity. I can’t rest. My thoughts are screaming.

With a towel draped around me I perched in front of the dresser, glaring at the reflection. I looked different and I almost didn’t recognise myself without my bright red lips. I examined the lines burrowing into my forehead, the wrinkles by my eyes from laughing, maybe pain. I’m getting old, I sighed. I always looked so innocent when fresh faced, wet hair flat to my head. I was paler than usual, my complexion dull and grey. I longed for the warm weather; winter washes me out and gives me the terrible blues. Reluctantly; I opened the drawer and started to apply my makeup. I pondered at what sort of character I would create that night, what sort of men I could attract. I pulled my unruly hair into submission and tied it at the back, letting the front fall and frame my face. A simple black dress would sufficed, just the right amount to entice my next victim.

__________________________________________________________________________________

May 19th 1999

Dear diary,

I am extremely excited for tonight. He’s taking me out and I just know he’s going to ask me. He’s been suspicious all week, avoiding me and being shifty around his phone.  I bet he’s been preparing, I hope he’s booked our window seat. We spent hours talking by there, the day we met, he said the sun hit me just perfectly and I swear my whole face blushed. He makes everything better; I can’t wait to pick the colour scheme for the hall, maybe autumn colours because he always looks good in navy.

The talk of marriage has made my mother giddy. She’s been going through wedding magazines like she does with those large tins of chocolates. She really let herself go after Dad left and I’ve been meaning to tell her to watch her weight. – (soon to be Mrs Jones)

 

I entered the bar and my eyes were instantly drawn to a very tall, not traditionally handsome guy. He was flicking through his phone with his thumb and the glow of the screen illuminated his swarthy skin. He saw me and immediately glanced up, my eyes were intensely eager like a cat watching the preparation of a saucer of milk.  His eyes were a deep coffee hue like the velvety brown of a stag’s throat. I used this shared look as an entry and strode over confidently, him never once breaking this strange stare.

“Daryl Parker” he articulated.

“Violet Salome” I retorted with a beam.

“Do you come here often?” he rolled his eyes with this, chuckling to himself as he did.

“Not usually, no, but I should make a habit of doing so now.”  That was a lie; I circulated a number of bars and restaurants on the boulevard daily.

He propositioned the bartender and immediately spectacular liquor, blood red and rusty was placed in front of me. He signalled with a raise of his eyebrows for me to drink and his mouth held a smile as the glass touched my lips. The liquid, thick and crimson coated my upper lip and the fiery cinnamon flavour was sensational on my tongue. He talked about his work or something along the lines of, but I cannot remember as the vein in his neck pulsating with life distracted me greatly. I nodded when expected to and smiled according to the tone of the story but I was still completely fixated on his neck. My gaze broke finally when he asked me about my job.

“I work for my own company; it’s… soliciting.” That was of course another lie, but ‘Daryl’ didn’t need to know.

The night continued at the same pace with idle chat and flirty remarks passing between us with decadent liquors keeping us joyous; I was bored of the normality quite early on and invited him back to mine at the appropriate point.

 

 

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May 20th 1999

Dear diary,

He told me about this other woman, this whore who he is besotted with and I lost it.  Is she prettier than me? Does she know your favourite records and recite Edgar Allan Poe? Crying won’t bring you back and in all this misery I still find myself loving you. You won’t forget about me I’ll make sure.

What does she have that I don’t?

A bullet in her forehead.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The commute from the bar to my apartment building is fairly short and the drooping streetlamps illuminated our pathway faintly. I wasn’t aware it was raining until I gawked up and saw it like claws slashing through the glow of the street overhead. Daryl remained no more than a step behind me and kept a steady pace whilst trying not to trip over the damp cobbles of the alley. He was oddly curious; in one breath he seemed to have asked me about my siblings, dreams and how I like my tea. I felt interrogated as he fired copious bizarre questions at me, but though I dislike admitting it, I enjoyed the feeling of his sincere interest. It’s fine to have playful chats with men in bars about things that don’t matter but when somebody genuinely wants to know all the gory bits of you and the parts you don’t put on show; it’s uplifting.

He did a sort of half jog to ensure he was at the bulky brass door of my apartment building before me. He held the door open with a palm and his other hand followed me in at the lowermost of my back. He was effortlessly affectionate, which I could tell by the way he didn’t keep looking at me after every move for my response. The lobby was empty as usual and had sported 1950’s décor since I could remember. The man, young and illiterate, attending the desk had taken some interest in my activities recently; of course any person working all hours of the night would wonder why the men I arrive with never leave. He likes to think he has something on me but the dissatisfied expression he has as the cleaner tells him every morning in her mumbled foreign accent that “there is nothing”, no blood like he assumes, tells me I’m just fine.

I tap my polished nail on a letterbox hole honouring my apartment number. “13?” He questions innocently, his expression dubious and wary.

“Yeah, I have an extensive collection of black cats, ladders and broken mirrors in my room.” I joked, which seemed to put him at ease and even made him snigger to himself. At that point, Daryl spontaneously placed his hand into mine and ran forward, hauling me behind him. He marvelled at the golden buttons that take up almost half of the elevator width and observed as 13 shone under his touch. The clerk glared at me, disregarding the persistent ring of the telephone, until I was just a slit in the closing door. I was staring forward, so completely absorbed in my own thoughts that I didn’t even realise until after it had happened that Daryl had kissed my cheek gently. His face was apologetic as he raised his hands in truce; he appeared more alarmed than me. Shocked and a little dazed, I turned instantaneously and pounced on him, placing my lips shambolically on his. I was embarrassed by my eagerness, this was uncharacteristic of me and I must have mumbled the word ‘sorry’ an unmeasurable amount before we finally reached the top floor. I avoided his eyes and could feel this overwhelming sense of remorse as we approached number 13.

June 7th 2002

Dear diary,

The first time I did it, it was enchanting. I can only compare it to having that song lyric wedged in your mind for weeks and finally discovering the title after practically torturing yourself with the one line you know. Last night was my second, I’m still getting used to the needlework and the skin becomes unyielding after a few hours but this is all part of the learning process. The inadequate ones are just that, inadequate

Why was I so pathetic that night? My hand was trembling that much I could barely unlock the door. Eventually the key scraped into the lock, I pushed gingerly at the frame, revealing my suspiciously clean apartment for his eyes to inspect. Before I had the chance to change, slam the door and tell him to leave Daryl had already sauntered in and made himself comfortable on my floral Georgian telephone chair, positioned by the window. He nodded in appreciation at my interior, travelling his hands over the extravagant wood of the furniture. The silence was scaring me, and my remorseful thoughts were overpowering my motives as he sat there, flawlessly oblivious. It was the perfect time but something stopped me, an indescribable feeling that made my stomach fit. This time was unlike any times before, he wasn’t vulgar or ill-mannered and I couldn’t help but wonder whether he would be the one to fix me.

I shifted into the bathroom, leaving him to fuss with the disorderly pile of books he had created from his curious exploration of my apartment. I felt different as I gawked at my reflection but I certainly didn’t look different. I fumbled through the medicine cupboard, skimming the labelled bottles in hope of finding something to calm me down. I could hear the muffled manoeuvres of Daryl through the sparsely wallpapered walls. He was heavy footed; I just assumed this was him drunk, but, thinking back, he hadn’t actually drunk anything alcoholic. I really think I have turned a corner with this guy; he might be good for me. Quickly, I unscrewed the cap of a bottle and swallowed the contents with a slurp of water from under the tap. Fixated on Daryl’s movements, I hadn’t noticed the vast collection of brown tinted prescription bottles I had pushed into the sink or even the one I was clutching in my perspiring palm. Rohypnol. I had a neat little stash of these for guests concealed at the back behind various over the counter medicines; I had never actually taken one before but I was well aware of the effects.  I knew it was dangerous to leave him unattended and sleeping would be senseless.

“Are you alright in there?” I shouted to him, my voice adopting a shaky tone. The reply I received was a boisterous slam of my apartment door and a collection of fleeing thuds in the corridor. Hastening out into the living room, I saw my tattered diary sprawled awkwardly over the coffee table like a child’s discarded doll. Numerous pages had been mercilessly torn from the spine and left limp beside each other. I cradled it in my arms for a moment and glared down at the words he had read in interest, then fear. Sprinting down the hallway I caught a glimpse of him as the elevator light exhibited him before closing with an ironically cheerful ding. My only option was the stairs, which was a hefty task for any girl wearing six inch stilettoes. I could hear the elevator mechanisms cheering with the steady clap and roar of their gears colliding as I hurried vigilantly down. I could feel the drowsiness creeping up on me at this point and my head was feeling dense. Breathlessly, I collapsed into the lobby with perspiration spilling from my face.

Peering up from his desk, the clerk looked straight past me. He had a slight smirk clasped to his lips as he continued to pay no attention to me. I rolled over onto my back and brought the diary to my chest.  He flicked his newspaper to straighten the pages and shouted over to me with a laugh to accompany “Men go missing in Manchester”. Unwillingly, my eyes sealed from exhaustion and all I can recall is the emphasized turn of a newspaper page and the victorious elevator chime.

– Molly Johnston

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