The Darkie’s Bed
By Paul Hawkins and Adam Smith.
Chapter One – Memories… from the Past
There was a man striding towards her, his muscular form silhouetted against the sea by a torrent of flame. The mysterious but alluring specter reached her and outstretched a hand. She took it, expecting a warm, tender touch. It burned like ice.
Maybeline woke with a start. That’s all her days ever seemed to do these days: start. After Fabion, Marco and then Ugly Pedro had left her, she found herself waking up to no thing, no one, nothing.
Perhaps today is different, she thought meekly. She shuffled unceremoniously out of bed and her dull blue eyes fell upon last night’s conquest. Maybe he is different.
Maybeline he is the one, she said lightly, enjoying herself.
She yawned and wiped her eyes, which were red from under-indulgence in sleep and over-indulgence in cheap wine, then looked down upon the man.
She recalled his name was El Ralph. She had met him in a Latin club and bought him back to her English country home. Over jet-black coffee, he had talked of days in the hot Mediterranean sun back in his homeland, and she had responded, confusingly and smashed, with talk of global warming one day making the South of England as hot as Uruguay.
She was not sure how long she had been staring at the bronzed man when he awoke, lying in the bed that she called, with a mix of affection and racism, the Darkie’s bed.
He opened one eye, catching her in mid-daydream. His eye burned with the glory of the Olympic flame, but also with the tragedy of the Reichstag fire of 1933, which led to a decree that nullified many of the key civil liberties of German citizens. Perhaps she was thinking about metaphors too much, but he opened his other eye soon after, and she realised this unsynchronised blinking was quite an ugly feature for a mammal.
‘Good morning,’ said El Ralph through a half-blink. His other eye was cold like a crisp winter morning.
‘Morning,’ she said, lost in the variegated temperature of his eyes.
‘Whats for breakfast then?’ he asked, finishing his winky-blink.
Before she answered, she stared back at him for a brief second and admired the sumptuous way the sheets wrapped around his man-form. She flung her thick chestnut hair over her willowy shoulders.
‘It is egg, it is.’
He acknowledged with a soft, almost elegant nod, but a tenth of him felt uncomfortable with her sentence.
It had been a year since Fabion had left her and not even the several twisted, drunken months spent with Ugly Pedro made it seem like it was not only yesterday she was looking into his deep, dark eyes and playing idly with his thick, black locks of hair. She remembered the fun they used to have in the summertime, gallivanting joyously with her peacocks on the lawn, playing croquet, and indulging in her favourite pastime of verbally abusing the maids and butlers who were often as resentful as they were poor.
Fabion had been so much fun until that day, that day that everything changed. Since that day, everything was different, in the sense that it was no longer the same. She remembered it like it was yesterday, even though it was long ago. This was not a testament to the power of her memory, but to the significance that the event had on her life.
She had returned from London on a sunny afternoon, parked her horse-drawn carriage, and ran into the house with only the slightest chirpy swipe at the butler, an old, defeated and extremely Cockney man called Raymond.
‘Fabion! Fabion!’ she had shouted, excitedly, for she wanted to tell him all about the zoo she had visited.
She flew up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom. She stopped shy of the heavy oak door and caught her breath.
Then she heard something that she had never expected to hear from a man: a woman’s voice. She pressed her ear against the door and with every pleasured moan she heard, it felt like she had been stabbed with a shard of frozen acid. In the pancreas.
Maybeline could hear that El Ralph was awake now, and it was not long before he entered her kitchen, clumsily scratching his intimacy, and blinking out-of-sync as he yawned.
‘this looks nice,’ he said, seemingly forgetting all rules of grammar and punctuation, as he gazed down upon a plural amount of eggs.
‘I learned to make them over a year ago, I was taught by my…’ She trailed off into a soft mumble, indicative, at least, that there was something about her emotional back-story that remained unexplored. She had meant to say ‘Fabion’ indeed, but the name had stuck in the back of her throat, like a toffee on a toadstool. She caught herself staring at a picture of her and Fabion together, and quickly returned her gaze to El Ralph. He was looking at her now with a softness that emanated from both eyes with a symmetry that she had not yet seen from the man.
She was caught off guard by his piercing statement.
‘Whatever could you possibly mean?’ she said.
‘Is that him,’ he persisted.
Maybeline tried to distract him with a small bit of egg on a fork. He did not look amused, and she realised her staple method of confusing Ugly Pedro would not work on her new ethnic conquest. She considered a bit more egg, but decided instead to counter-attack with a question of her own.
‘If you liquidised a duck, would it be more or less than a pint?’
It had worked. His expression was a mix of confusion and terror.
She could see his mind slowly working back to his earlier question, however, and was determined not to let him resume his inquisition.
‘Should we take the boat out on the lake? I hear it is to be a glorious afternoon.’
Maybeline had not been unaware of El Ralph’s fear of water and boats and afternoons, especially those that were special in the way she was suggesting. His face creased into a V as his mouth dropped and his eyebrows reached the sparkling chandeliers above the Edwardian dining room. She noticed this, of course, and decided to capitalise on it.
‘You’re not scared, are you?’
‘Of course not,’ he replied with the fury of a warm bull in a shop of chilled porcelain.
She stopped suddenly as the oak doors flew wide open and Raymond the Butler scuttled in, his crab-like form struggling against the shined teak flooring.
‘MILADY, MILADY! Sorry tah see yah got company but yah must hurry! There’s been a break-in at tah stables.’
‘Well, well, what on earth has happened? Speak, man!’
There was a pause. It was a moment when not a lot happened. It was a brief gap in time that only added to the suspense of an already tense situation. Raymond caught his old breath.
‘It’s Bella, milady, she’s brown bread! She’s been buttered! She’s buttered bread, DEAD!’