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Movies with Keith

    Each morning she walked out for the newspaper.
   By Wednesday believed that the report would never appear. That evening, during their chess game, Keith phoned. She took the call in the lounge, watching, amused, as her parents pretended not to listen.
   "Hi, Keith."
   "Jilly, you sound cheery."
   "No news is good news."
   "Are your parents listening?"
   "Of course - I've got no secrets from them." Her mother glanced at her father. He picked up the newspaper.
   "You're a cool one."
   "You suggested a movie. Is that still on?"
   "What? Yes, of course. What do you want to see?"
   "I don't know what's on. You decide. I think we'll finish dinner about seven." Her mother looked up and nodded, "Call for me then. Okay?"
   "Jilly, you're a different person."
   "Jillian. Seven on Saturday, here?"
   "Yes, okay."
   "See you then. 'Bye, Keith." and she hung up.
   Later that evening, over chess, when it was her move in a drawn-out end-game, Jillian appealed to her father. "I'd like to stop now, and pick this up tomorrow. We'll be hours, and I've still got some study to complete tonight."
   "Sure. You've improved, Jilly. Jillian. Always my Jilly, but you're a woman, now. Jillian."
   "Thank you. And one with an eye at toppling you in chess. I'm throwing down the gauntlet."
   "Feisty, feisty."
   "Well, I've been working at it."
   On Saturday, the paper as usual had no bad news for her. Jillian worked in her room until mid-afternoon. She was over her squeamishness, and, able to concentrate on the details now, was learning much more quickly. She was less worried now about the end-of-year exams.
   Over afternoon tea she told her parents of the improvement.
   Her mother smiled happily. "I said you needed more time off. That party made such a difference. Admit it."
   "Yes, a huge difference." I wish I could tell them how huge.
   "And you are going out with Keith again. You seem to be favouring him over Chris now."
   "Yes, but I owe him for not leaving me to cope with the storm on my own. I'd better go up and get ready."
   Upstairs, as she showered and changed, she wondered what Keith would have chosen for them to see. She thought he was the type to go for violent confrontation films, all exploding cars, truck wrecks, burning buildings and snake-filled jungles, complete with the muscled hero toting an hundred-pound cannon that would shoot for hours without needing an ammunition supply. She had seen advertisements for them on the television and couldn't understand how any adult would waste even a minute or two on them, let alone an hour or so. But they were hugely popular. I suppose I could sit through one, to be gracious. After all, I left him with the choice. But I would put my foot down about a second one. Unless, against all the odds, I found I liked it. I seem to be changing. I don't know what into, though, and that's a worry.
   She chose a plain, fitted dress with a flared skirt, a cardigan, plain beige tights, and court shoes. She pulled her hair back into a thick pony-tail, and went down to dinner.
   The meal was very quiet. I think it has all been said. They know, as well as I do, that something has altered my life, and that I'm not about to tell them any more than they know already. They know that they aren't being shut out of my life. I'm making sure I spend more time with them now, rather than less. But the veil of secrecy seems to be coming completely between us instead of just covering those very few moments on the Parkway. It's odd. I was much more secretive about my feelings, even a week ago. What are they sensing? How can I deal with it?
   "Yes, Dear?"
   "How do I look?"
   "Fine. Perfect. Perhaps you are a little older than you look. Maybe it's the makeup?"
   "I'm not wearing any. I never do."
   "I know. That's what I mean. And you are a woman, going on a date with a man. Perhaps the dress is just a little young?"
   "I'm going out with Keith. I think he's changed. I hope he has. But just to be on the safe side I thought I'd not encourage him too much until I am sure that's what I want to happen."
   Her father spoke up. "That makes sense. Wise decision."
   "Yes, Dad. But Mum's right too. I should start thinking about those things."
   Her mother's eyes found hers. "Perhaps just a touch of lipstick?"
   "Yes, that's what I thought, too. Thanks Mum. Thanks, Dad."
   "Don't worry about the things, Dear. You go up and finish getting ready."
   "Oh, it's my thoughts that need to be got ready. I've got a tight little knot inside that I could really do with out."
   "That can also be a good thing, Jilly. I can still feel like that about your father." She looked across at her husband and smiled. He winked back.
   Jillian felt herself bridle. I really wish they wouldn't do that. They should have more dignity. At their age. And they are parents, after all. What sort of example does it set? But on the other hand, perhaps better to err like that than always be bickering. That isn't at all pleasant. Thank goodness they never bicker much.
   Up in her room, she had just finished putting on just a hint of lipstick when she heard the doorbell. "I'll get it," she called, as she picked up her coat and purse and ran downstairs. "Goodnight, you two. Don't wait up. I'll be fine." She put a smile on her face and opened the front door. "Chris!" her face fell. She watched his smile fade. "I'm so sorry." She put her hand on his arm. "I am pleased to see you, really. But I hadn't expected you. It startled me."
   "I know. You thought it would be Keith. I thought that I'd create some competition for him. Come over and wish you a pleasant evening. That sort of thing. Generous and big-hearted, that's me."
   "Oh, you clown. Get off home, quickly, before Keith turns up and we have a scene. I'd hate that. You know it. Please." She took his arm and started to walk him down to the gate.
   "Okay then. You're the boss. I hope enjoy yourself, I really do. But please do be careful. People don't change that much, not that quickly. He has no cause to be nice to any of us. I'm suspicious of his motives. It may be you that he's going out with, but I was one of those behind his undoing. He might, for instance, be using you to get back at me. Or he might want to do you harm to get revenge on your father. Please take care. Call me if you need help. I'm bloody jealous but I wouldn't stand by and do nothing, if you needed me."
   "Yes, Mister Policeman." she opened the gate and went out onto the footpath.
   Christopher followed her and they stood together. "Oh, Jillian, I am so pleased to hear you get some humour into your voice."
   "Yes, I think I'm getting over the stress of that dreadful Parkway storm. Now, mate, you head off for home. I really don't want to be caught between you and Keith in a confrontation." She gave him a push in the direction of his house.
   He spoke over his shoulder, as he started to walk away. "I'm going, I'm going. Call me if you need to."
   "Yes. Thank you Chris. Good night."
   She heard an engine, and looked round to see an old Honda Civic turn the corner. Keith was behind the wheel. As it came towards her she went to the curb. When it stopped she opened the door and slid into the passenger seat before Keith could get out and race around to help her.
   "I was going to do that for you." He sounded petulant.
   "You are taking me out. That's nice. Let me do this little bit?" She smiled. I hope I've got it right. I need to look friendly but not patronising, warm but not hot, amiable but not inviting.
   He started to drive. "That's okay. It doesn't matter." But it sounded as though it did. "Was that Chris Wilson I saw leaving?"
   Yes, I thought that would stoke you. You can't stand him, nor that we like each other. You want to know what he was up to. What he was saying. If I was promising to tell him about this evening. How am I going to deal with you, Keith? What do you really want? Perhaps this date is a mistake. But I need to talk to someone about the accident, before I burst. You are my only option, so I'm stuck with you for now. I do hope you really have changed. I couldn't stand it, otherwise. "Yes, that was Chris. He was just passing on his way from the late bus when you turned up. If you had been a few minutes earlier you could have given him a lift from the bus stop." I'm starting to lie much more fluently, she thought, watching him stiffen at what she had said. Aha! Jealousy? Or something more?
    "Now, tell me. What have you chosen for us to see."
   "Oh, a lovely, classical, period costume piece."
   It was, too. Sumptuous costumes, grand residences, rolling landscapes, delightful music and great actors.
   However, sitting in the dark, Jillian thought the plot painfully weak - why would any woman fall deeply and physically in love with a totally unknown man simply because he was handy when she needed someone to rescue her from a fate 'worse than death'? And why would Keith choose this movie? Oh, no! I'm supposed to get the message and give him my fair white body? Surely not. He wouldn't be so crass. Oh, yes, he might - this is Keith. I must never forget that.
   He was being quite proper, not taking any advantage of the situation. If this is some lesson that he has learnt, he is carrying it off quite well, she thought. But if I scratch the surface, is it still the same Keith underneath? She thought she would test him, reached across for his hand, and gave it a squeeze. He squeezed back, and leaned across to whisper, "Oh, Jillian, I have waited so long for you to recognise what I have for you."
   That will do it every time, she thought. I have you dead to rights, Keith my lad. You think you are going to get into my knickers on the strength of your rescuing the fainting maiden, and sixpen'th of dark. Well, it's true I was the fainting maiden, but this is real life, not a movie. How am I going to handle you? Shit! I could have done without this, on top of everything else. And now I can't get my hand back without giving the game away. Bugger!
   When the film ended he kept hold of her hand as they walked out into the night. "Must you get straight back home?"
   No, but now you've shown me the plot you've designed, don't think for a moment that I'm about to give you your beloved seduction scene.
   "Yes, please. They are expecting me. Since last weekend they have been very anxious when I'm out at all late. I wouldn't want them phoning the police. Not just now, especially. It's been lovely, but I'm very tired. This week has been a terrible strain."
   "We have to stick together. Through thick and thin."
   "I know. You're right. I'm so glad you were with me that night. I don't know what I would have done otherwise. But someone could still find out." She could not continue in uncertainty of his motives. She had to confirm her suspicion. That he was going to use the accident to blackmail her, extort her sexual favours.
   Or he might want something else from her, but not money, she thought. He would know she had insufficient to be worth the effort, and besides, he wouldn't want to leave any trail. He would have learnt that lesson very well by now. Proving the statutory rape of an adult would be much harder that tracing the movement of money. He would go for the lower risk option. He hadn't changed, just got a bit smoother.
   In the car, she turned to him, and asked, as he drove, "Keith, may I ask you a question?"
   "Of course. Anything."
   "Would you like to go to bed with me? Have sex?"
   "Oh, yes." His voice had deepened. This was getting him interested.
   "But if I didn't want it? Just did it to please you?"
   "If you felt that way it would be coming from love, so it would be fine, wouldn't it?"
   "But if I wanted to please you just to make sure you kept my secret?"
   "If you wanted to please me, that would be all that mattered."
   "And you would keep my secret, then, wouldn't you? If we kept on having sex together?"
   "Of course, Jillian. I keep my bargains."
   "But if I didn't want to have sex with you?"
   "Jillian, don't toy with me. But of course, if you didn't care for me, why would you expect me to care for you?"
   "Oh, Keith, it's good to be with someone who looks after his loved ones so well." Was that done with enough sincerity, she wondered. She wondered, too, why he was going to all this trouble, if, as he had said, he had his moments, and few complaints. Few and far between, she suspected. Otherwise why stoop to this? Did he really think I might have a happy surprise with him? Yes, that's possible. But not in the way he thought, not if I can find his weak spots and work out how to use them against him. A week might be enough time to get the ball rolling.
   "I really do care for you, Jillian."
   "I know, Keith, and I want you to be proud of how I play my part, too. You will be so pleased with me. Will you take me out next Saturday, too? I want us to spend more time together. I usually study every evening, and weekends, but I want to spend some time with you from now on, on Saturday and Sunday, at least, to start with, then see how we go.
   "Oh, Jillian, you took the words right out of my mouth. We'll do this again next week?"
   They were nearing her home. I'd better bring this to a quick close, she thought. "Yes, and you can pick me up from home at the same time. And I'll arrange it so I can stay out later. Have you got a flat, or are you sharing?"
   "Oh, Jillian. I've got a flat. With a lovely view. You'll like it."
   "Thank you for bringing me home. I'm sorry we didn't have more time. Next week. Now, before I get out and they see me, give me a kiss." That will be an easy way to convince him.
   Easy, she had thought. Then she discovered, just too late, that she was wrong. As he came at her, his mouth opened as if he was about to be sick, then he brought it down over hers like a Hoover attachment, his tongue forcing her mouth open in preparation for applying the vacuum and sucking her inside-out.
   After he had checked her teeth for food particles, and let her come up for air, she asked him, "Who taught you to kiss like that?" Whoever the little fool was, she did all the rest of us a huge disservice. From the smile on his daft face he thinks I'm paying him a compliment. Idiot!
   Before he could grab her again, she opened the door, slipped out, said "Happy dreams," as she closed it and walked up the path, turning to give him a wave as she went into the house.
   "Phew," she said. Then went upstairs and cleaned her teeth more thoroughly than usual. Much more thoroughly.
   She fell asleep quickly, still thinking of ways to circumvent Keith's obvious plans for her. Then she had the brains-on-rock dream again, and this time it turned into herself, lying splattered across the roadside, getting no help, trapped behind her own sightless eyes, looking through their rain-washed apertures up into the dark, unable to see anything, into Keith's grinning face staring down and shouting soundlessly at her in the blackness. She woke up, sweating and panting. Of course you can't see anything if you're dead, in the dark, she told herself. But her heart thumped hard in her chest, and it was some time before the gruesome image left her and she was able to get back to sleep.

Copyright © 2003 Peter Leon Collins
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