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.
"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?"
"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."
"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?
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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