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Warm Pearls

Demelza Craven

There is nothing quite as sublime as a string of warm pearls against a cold neck. The juxtaposition is beautiful. Perfect, even. The urge for life is all consuming, so to hold it, to clutch it wrapped between your fingers, and cut it off pearl by pearl is a feeling you will never know. No steady flutter of pulse. Just silent, quiet, still. And it really is still. Still like you would never have known. In that moment, I am transcendent. I am god. And in the same way I created this woman, I am now choosing to destroy her.

I suppose it’s narcissism really. I just like to feel like I’m the best. And this is something I am really good at. It’s human nature to kill. I mean we kill everything: animals, our environment… trust. Why not each other? But you shouldn’t feel sorry for her. Oh no. If truth be told the world is better off without her. You see she was the worst kind of person, she was an obsolete person. It’s ok, because I have given her dull life purpose. She did nothing. Nothing extraordinary at all. But in death I martyred her. To die for distinction is surely a worthy cause. There are few things as interesting as a murder. I gave her purpose. So you mustn’t chastise me. It was a favour really. But think nothing of it, I ask nothing for it. It would be wrong to be rewarded for what was never a task, believe me when I say I enjoyed it immensely.

If I sound at all bitter it’s because, truth be told, she disappointed me. You see there was a time when I thought her interesting, completely and absorbingly interesting. I began to notice her. She was hard not to notice. And that’s important. Being different is important. She was in a bookshop. Not the shiny, kindle-clad, coffee-offering variety, but one of those dusty, musty, obliquely romantic ones. The first thing I noticed were her nails, trailing a finger along the broken spines and faded titles, her nails were bitten down to raw stumps, an anxious type I instantly thought. Interesting. She looked like she belonged in a book too. Dressed as though a textiles factory had sponsored her: tweed, silk, fur and felt. There was a timelessness, an English rosy eccentricity. Interesting I thought. Interesting, interesting, interesting.

I soon learnt her ways, knew that she’d busy herself in the bookshop between three o’clock and four o’clock on a Wednesday. I’d be there. There to notice that string of pearls, made ironic when worn upon the throat of one so young. I’d see the sunlight streaming through the window to ignite her flaxen hair to gold. I knew the way she’d bite her lip when she read a word she didn’t know, raise her eyes to the heavens for a second, commit it to memory, and then half smile as she went back to her page. It was the book shop that began her decline. The book shop was grossly misleading.

I romanticised her. Let me be the first to admit it. I learnt one of life’s lessons in the very hardest way. You should never try to make somebody what they are not, even if you want it more than anything else in the world. Yes, I romanticised her to the very highest degree. Even the dullest formalities of life were somehow beguiling when she entered their context. If truth be told, I wanted her to be more, so I simply pretended that she was. If she caught a bus, suddenly she was a bird of paradise thrust wrongly into a cage of common foul, unfit for her company. When I discovered her boyfriend, he was, to me, a star-crossed lover, ill-fated in pledging himself to her. When she walked into grey-bricked apartments, it was because she was a penniless creative to whom the material meant nothing. I became her shadow, always there to watch her, and yet she was oblivious. But the more I watched, the more I saw. And soon it became clear that more was not what I wanted to see. You must understand that I was waiting. Waiting for the remarkable person that she was to be unveiled. But as she fondled her pearls from the taxi window I saw it. That was when I realised that she was just like everyone else.

There are not so many people who know that the word ‘decadence’ is derived from the Latin term ‘cadere’, which means to fall. It does not describe a plummet to earth but rather a steady, gentle fall from grace, a form of self-sacrifice to that which the word means today. I suppose it was her decadence that led to her fall. I suppose that, in a way, she sacrificed herself. You see, if truth be told, she was self-indulgent. If she saw a wishing well she simply had to toss in a coin. If she passed an autumn leaf she had to crunch it beneath her brogue. If she came upon a feather she had to run her fingers through its strands. You see she was selfish in her pleasure seeking. She wanted to experience life that little bit more vividly than the rest of us. But that was how I found her flaw.

On the outside she dressed more extravagantly, she took pleasure in the little things that most of humanity, in its oafishness, is too crude to consider, but in actuality she was horribly ordinary. She felt pain, felt pleasure, worried, smiled… she was like everyone else. She was as dull as everybody else. Can you imagine the betrayal? How I longed to make it not so. I couldn’t quite live with knowing how mundane she was. I thought I’d found intrigue. I thought I’d found a person with a secret.

And that was when I remembered that there is, quite possibly, a reason for why a string of pearls exceeding 45 inches is known as a rope. Here, I found foreshadowing in her choice of jewels. She had willingly strung herself into the rope from which she might one day hang. She was wearing her own noose, warming it at her pulsing throat. If ever there was a chance to change a thing, to prove myself right, to make her exalted, then this was it. If I killed her, she would be immortalised as the unusual, as opposed to marriage, children, knitting, knitting, knitting, death. I didn’t want that for her. I cared about this woman and now I could help her.

So you see what little choice I had. How I was acting out of kindness and compassion when I killed her. Why her neck was cold but the pearls warm. Why I cut off her pulse bead by bead and smiled as silence became her. But if truth be told I was most focused on the juxtaposition. The juxtaposition really was extraordinary.

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