IF YOU COULD KILL SOMEONE, HOW WOULD YOU DO IT?
‘If you could kill someone, how would you do it?’
‘Here we go,’ says Willow before sipping her vodka cranberry. Same colour as her hair. I was ten minutes early, bought it for her before she arrived. ‘Is that really what you want me to tell my housemates when I get home? That we talked about murdering people?’ The drink is still close to her mouth. She’s teasing a small piece of ice, shaking the glass so slightly she could be trembling. She’s not trembling. It’s Willow. ‘What will you tell them, then?’ I ask.
‘That I’m done dating men,’ she says.
‘This is a date?’
She raises her eyes. Seems hours ago she was hugging me. Didn’t expect that. ‘How’ve you been?’
‘Have you been here long?’
‘I got here ten minutes early.’
‘Why’d you get here ten minutes early?
‘So I could buy you a drink and settle into my surroundings.’
‘Same old vodka cranberry.’
‘I got here early so I could take some cocaine in the toilet.’
She wipes her left nostril with her thumb.
‘So, not that okay, then’ she says, looking at me like I’m a victim. ‘You don’t have to pretend with me. It’s not like we don’t know each other well.’
I take a drink. Mine’s a lager.
‘I’d use a high-velocity rifle,’ I say. ‘A Lee-Enfield .303, maybe, or a Mauser Kar98K. Something with history. A proven track record. But it depends on who I was killing. Knives are personal; explosives cinematic. Out of the question. Anyway,’ pausing for a moment to drink again, ‘you said you’re a florist now?’
‘I am a florist,’ she says, shrugging. ‘So much for the English degree.’
I laugh. That’s good. That means I don’t have to buy her flowers to say thanks for meeting me. Or it means I have to worry twice as much.
‘Japanese cherry blossom,’ she says.
‘Before you freak out,’ she says. ‘Sit there in silence for two-and-a-half minutes trying to work out if my favourite flower is the same as when we were going out. And no, you don’t ever have to buy some for me. I still care about you. I want to make sure you know that you can talk to me.’
‘Isn’t that a tree?’
‘They’re all the same to me,’ she says. ‘As long as they’re pink.’
‘Like your hair?’
‘No,’ she says. ‘My hair is cranberry.’
She crunches the ice.
There’s a pause.
‘Do you need another drink?’ I ask.
‘I think I do,’ she says, hand in purse. Denim skirt. Sensible heels for a quick getaway. Thirty inch dark wood reclaimed table with a red glass candle holder between us. Wax on the surface. Wax on her fingers. Wax, bored, wax, waiting. Possible hand across the table, it’ll be alright, you’ll get through this.
‘No, it’s fine,’ I tell her. ‘I know the bartender.’ Walking to the bar carefully, little drunk having necked a 25ml whisky in the ten minutes I nervously waited, careful not to trip, checking flies not undone and dick not hanging out, no shit on shoes and, wiping nose, no residue.
‘Why are you here,’ I say to the bartender, tall, bob, who is also my dead little sister.
‘I thought you missed me,’ she says, ‘for a moment. What with my new hair and, well, age. Look,’ she says, holding her chest, ‘I’ve got boobs.’
‘Do you think this is a good idea?’
‘It’s the same thing I’ve been doing every night,’ she says, ‘since you found my body in the downstairs bathroom. Remember that?’
I rub my head. ‘Pint of lager and a vodka cranberry,’ I tell her.
‘Fine,’ she says, ‘but it’s not going to be free.’
‘Who’s she?’ asks Willow.
‘The bartender?’ I ask, putting down the vodka cranberry. ‘She’s my dead twin sister,’ sitting down with the lager for me.
‘I thought you killed her when you were both babies?’ she says. Her straw lies in a cranberry puddle next to the candle holder. I wipe my right nostril. ‘What did you use, a high-velocity rifle?’
‘Very funny,’ I say, looking back at the bartender who’d turned back into a stranger. ‘Actually, it was an elbow.’
‘You haven’t changed,’ says Willow.
There’s a pause.
‘How is your mother, by the way? I can’t imagine what she’s–’
‘In shock, but she’ll be okay.’
‘I don’t think a parent can recover from a thing like that.’
‘And your uncle as well.’
‘Can we talk about something else?’
‘I’m sorry,’ she says, then doesn’t say anything for a few minutes.
‘If I was going to kill someone,’ she says, ‘you, for instance, I’d go on a date with you, to an overpriced bar which stinks of aftershave and ambition. I’d make you pay for all my drinks and an expensive meal, even if I wasn’t hungry. Then, when I’d decided it was over, I’d kiss you.’
‘Why would you kiss me if you’re done dating men?’
‘It’s not meant to be romantic. It’s business. Besides, I am dating someone.’
‘Three months. I’m seeing him later, actually.’
I nod. ‘How is it?’
‘Well, we’re older now, aren’t we?’
‘I always thought we might try it again one day.’
‘Shut up and listen,’ she says. ‘If I wanted to kill you I’d kiss you. And you’d kiss me too, of course. But you’d do so without realising that there was poison in my lipstick. That my lips were toxic. It’d be sweet. You’d die comfortably in your sleep, hours after we’d parted. But you wouldn’t, ever, be sleeping beside me again.’
‘We tried that already.’
‘Don’t remind me.’
‘Fuck me,’ I say, ‘that’s so personal. And besides, you’re wrong.’
‘You don’t know me anymore.’
‘And,’ she says, ‘that’s exactly how it should stay.’
Harry Gallon’s work features in numerous publications and has won (and almost won), several competitions. His debut novel, The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes (Dead Ink Books), was first runner up for Best Novella at the 2016 Saboteur Awards, and was longlisted for Not the Booker Prize 2016. His second, Every Fox is a Rabid Fox, was published in July. He lives in London.