Short Fiction ~ Robert Kibble
Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 16
FFS I'm with her 24/7 365, and now, on our birthday, she comes out with all the neediness. I need you, she says as she swoons. So I can't spend the day chilling, recovering, recharging. She needs me as she struggles with the terror that hours spent idle might unravel everything she’s achieved. I've been seeing the cracks. Her career hasn't taken a direct-enough path to the megastardom she feels ought to have followed from her undoubted stardom.
She's got adoring fans a-plenty, but it's never enough. Some fans don't appreciate her latest album enough, or newer fans haven't dived into her back catalogue. Some fans complained when she was so drained from five shows in a week (and a case of Cristal and a truckload of coke in between) that she collapsed after the first song. They demanded their money back. She'd technically performed, so she went off on one. Ungrateful little shitweasels, she called them. I stopped her tweeting, asked how she'd have felt. Eventually we announced a special concert: for the best fans, so understanding. God, she's a mess.
But she has to be. It's the part she plays. It’s how she differs from me. Somewhere underneath that self-abusive glamour there's the young woman who sang her heart out when her first boyfriend dumped her for that stupid tarted-up bitch with the impractical pink nails and eyelashes so long she admitted she couldn't cry for fear they'd fall off. That young woman who threw her emotions into those raw early songs, so painful, so true. They tore at my heartstrings and made me love her. Made me stick with her all this time, even as she changed.
She set a course to self-destruction, and she isolated me. She's taking me down with her. I had dreams – not grand dreams of stadiums chanting my name, but of a boyfriend who would love me for me, not for what I'd done or who I knew. Of a little house with a garden, a little summerhouse where I could write songs. For myself.
She won't let me go. I tried to quit, but she laid that trip on me. You're my foundation, she said. I need you. You need me. She swooned, and did the thing about not living without me. It's gone on too long. She can't get out – she's too deep, but me...? I could survive, but I can't leave her. I'm weak, and she knows it. If I leave she'll find me, grind me down. Eventually I'll be back, watching the horror show.
It has to end. Before it takes me down with it.
I can't leave her.
She has to leave me.
She has to die.
Tonight is as good a night as any.
I know how it happens. She's delusional about her drinking, thinking the coke keeps her alert, and she's a sucker for a midnight drive. It's stormy tonight, and she's always loved the roar of the ocean. The paparazzi caught her once, driving drunk.
I covered for her, of course. As she slurred through excuses, I found the words needed to limit the damage, making the story part of her act, part of her troubled soul, a reflection of those visceral songs of the damaged young woman. If only she was able to transition to a calmer maturity, but they won't let her. I won't let her.
She will die, and be immortal. She will not mature, she will not adapt, she will not be found. A car by the beach, empty bottles, coke everywhere, shoes left behind, and such seas that no body’s expected. She will be gone, I will be free. Her vast estates will go to charities, the ones she tearfully supported after her first publicised-and-photographed stint at the Priory.
As for me, I'll take the untraceable petty cash. I'll be gone, invisible. Never to be heard of again.
I'll have enough for that little cottage. Enough to lie low.
I'll write songs, and maybe some poems. Ones to reflect who I am now, who I can become, not who she wants me to be. Not about my first boyfriend, or the tarted-up bitch with the impractical pink nails. Not any more. I’ve grown. I’ve outgrown her. I need to be me. I can’t do that while I’m also being her.
Maybe once I give her up, erase her from me, tell my alter-ego that’s all she ever was – an act – maybe then I can finally heal.
Robert Kibble lives west of London with a wife, a teenage son, and a cornucopia of half-finished writing projects. A few have been published over the years, which – it has to be admitted – is very pleasing. If only a less creative day job wouldn’t keep getting in the way, he’s sure it would be more. You can find him on @r_kibble on Twitter or at www.philosophicalleopard.com where you’ll find more short stories, links to his novels, and musings on why zeppelins don’t ply the skies.