Kara and Angelo strolled along the alley, the rain-heavy branches of the trees dragged low over them, their hands linked together in peaceful togetherness.
They were arguing.
‘It’s not what you think.’ Kara was protesting.
Angelo responded angrily. ‘You have no idea what I’m thinking. You never have a clue.’
Kara was quiet. They continued to stroll along, both making a conscious effort to play the role of placid participant in this game of romance and intimacy, conscious too of the watchers. Expectations rode high on their performances today.
As they arrived at the centre point, the highlight of the walk, they paused, turning to each other and smiling. Their smiles were good, professional, but the eyes told the truth.
They kissed and then stayed firmly wrapped in a hug and embrace. Angelo took the opportunity to whisper in Kara’s ear, blowing away the auburn wisps of hair that framed her pixie ear. ‘I know you’re lying to me. I will find out why.’ He pulled away and looked for signs of recognition or acceptance on her pale face.
Instead he saw shock, unmitigated, unhidden, frank and honest shock and horror.
‘What? What is it?’ he wanted to shake an answer from her, his hands still on her shoulders as a reminder of their broken embrace.
She tried to speak but couldn’t seem to form the words necessary for meaning and instead she raised one otherwise limp arm and stroked her fingers across his head. He flinched slightly at the contact and at the feeling of dampness it invoked. And then he saw the blood on her hand and his confusion finally reigned over his anger.
Together, truly together again for now, they looked above them to locate the source of this blood which was so obviously not from Angelo’s head.
Kara took a couple of steps back and gasped in wonderment. Angelo stood his ground through fear rather than bravery, he was fixed to the spot, couldn’t have moved even if he had the mental capacity for it. Above them, tangled in the canopy of the wood, cushioned by the stern branches, a body lay, face down towards them, lank hair streaming towards them, blank eyes open and staring, or so it seemed, directly at them. It was from this body that a steady outpour of blood droplets came, dripping in a set pattern of timing and consistency, and had found a floor on Angelo’s forehead.
As they watched a bird flew from a nearby branch, disturbing the equilibrium of the system, and an arm from the corpse was knocked free. It swung for a few pendulous motions and then became still, the forefinger of the hand outstretched, pointing at them, accusing them, targeting them.
Angelo, still paralysed, acknowledged vaguely the knowledge of Kara running away down their chosen path, her breath coming in huge sobs. When he himself could move it was only downwards, to his knees, his face still turned towards the body, his head still acting as a poor receptacle for the body’s blood.
‘Forgive me,’ he said in a low, sincere voice, ‘I did not know.’ He bent his head in shame, tears dripping down his blotchy face into the leaf mould below.