Why don't we all play a game?
We'll each write a few sentences and build up a story together, let's say each person may write a paragraph at the most and a sentence at the least.
If so, take the baton and continue -
Mary was sat on the swing in Hyde Park. The air was replete with the scent of sugar from the nearby bakery and it was oddly chilly for summer but it was refreshing; she needed refreshing now. She looked down to her hands which were still curled around the wedding invitation she had received that morning. The invitation she was too scared to break the seal of.
Mary knew what was in the envelope. She couldn't open it when it arrived at her mother's house twenty one years ago. Now that her mother was gone, everything was sent to Mary. It was time.
Methodically, she ran her finger under the stale glue that held the worn paper closed and slid out the yellowed paper.
"Oh, my God! No!" she whimpered. "How could I have been so wrong?"
Mary had to slap her cheeks harder than she really wanted to. She had been taking a nap; all these emotions were becoming more than she could handle. The letter in her dream, her mother's death... Why was that all coming up right now?
The wedding invitation she held in her hands had done this to her. Instead of opening it, something she so dreaded, she had found refuge in dreams. Dreams about her mother, about envelopes containing letters about practical matters.
"Get a grip!" she said somewhat louder than intended. Hopefully, no one had noticed her peculiar behavior. What about that man in the grey coat over there? He looked at her strange, so that she was tempted to open the envelope with the invitation, anyway. To appear normal. To appear occupied. To appear... sane...
And yet she knew, even if she neatly undid the ribbon on the envelope and read the contents that she wouln't appear sane. Sane wasn't a word she could assign to herself anymore and while it hurt her to think of it, she was afraid she couldn't do much about it now.
She'd been alone for so long that she didn't think herself capable of being a woman anymore, a woman her age who still believed in everything life had to offer her.
Did life have anything to offer her, she wondered, just as the wind picked up and tore the letter from her hands.
It was a letter from another world, another time. A world where men and women lived behind velvet curtains. Where voices of laughter could be heard – those of children and their mothers. It was an invitation to re-join life. The person who had sent it to her, an old classmate, had been so ordinary back then. Mary had been the star of the show, the one who held so much promise.
Louise, her friend – well, they hadn't even been close.... Louise always seemed to have all the time in the world, whereas Mary was busy forging ahead. Somewhere along the path, she must have missed something important that other people understood. That Louise – now about to be happily married to a handsome gentleman – had always grasped.
What was it? Mary had to wonder, even as she stood up from the bench, her inner voice nearly drowned out by the sudden bursts of wind that had ripped the envelope from her hands. An envelope that she had dreaded to open, an unwanted letter, now seemed like the only remaining lifeline she had.
She ran to catch it as it glided on the back of the wind in the most inconveniently erratic path. She never had been good at running; at school it seemed like the one thing she could be easily outdone in and certainly didn't appreciate the sore reminder when she was already so full of childhood thoughts.
It dipped a little lower; to her height actually and she reached out a hand to snatch it back when another hand caught it. With an annoying ease, she noted.
But since she had been running till then, she couldn't immediately stop herself from colliding with his solid frame, causing the two of them to tumble to the grassy ground.
For a moment, she had no idea why, Mary stilled, as if somehow the man wouldn't notice there was a woman lying on top of him or maybe if she didn't say anything then . . .
A light chuckle shook his body. And hers.
"I believe you. . . lost something, Miss."
What an understatement! She had lost so much... Her clumsy way of letting the letter slip out of her hands was merely the tip of an iceberg, the proof of a long slide. Decay had made it such a struggle for her to read a simple wedding invitation, let alone accept it.
His chuckle reverberating through her tormented soul, she forced a half smile and reached out for the envelope. Strangely, he pulled it farther away from her.
As they stood, David's long gray coat lifted into the wind like a cape on the back of some fictional superhero. Fitting of the moment it was; for though the invitation had been her torment for so long, she could not bear to part with it.
"May I have it please?" she said, nearly sounding ungrateful.
"I don't know," said David with a grin, "perhaps I should hang on to it until we get out of this wind."
He gestured toward the coffee shop across the way, coat again rising in the wind. "Care to join me?"
To which she gave a rather unexpected reply non-verbally. Punching David in the face just under his right cheek bone. She spins and kicks his legs out from under him, the invitation went flying into the air...and landed in her left hand like a snowflake gently. Grasping it hard, she swings her other leg and kicks David with her heel hard in the forehead. His head bangs against the concrete and is knocked out cold.
"...Ummm, care to join me?" She chuckles and walks herself to the coffee shop alone. David groans but is not yet conscious on the ground. " Oh well, See ya inside."
Sat inside the coffee house and with a perfect view of his still body on the grass. She really didn't like arrogant men who played games; life wasn't a game and if it was, men would not be the only winners. As she had only just demonstrated by knocking his solid six foot person out cold.
She had a sip of her bitter black coffee and looked out with an expression that seemed nothing short of satisfaction. It slipped away once she saw the man rise and turn around. Sure enough, he recognised her and wasted no time in striding over in her direction; his face so stern and determined that she almost felt guilty for her assault. Almost.
Brandishing a few pink smudges on his stiff face he had undoubtedly unaware of, he sat down in the free chair opposite her.
"Clearly, the term 'miss' cannot be assigned to you." he said finally.
This comment brings forth a chuckle, causing her to slurp from her coffee cup. Her smile is more like a reptile than feminine as she says, " Very few terms should be assigned to anyone. But hit or Miss, I am a lady. So I give the orders. Make no Mistake about it."
She waves for the table server to bring her gentleman friend a cup and utensils. Then winks, "So now we can talk about more pressing matters."
David rubs his head. Wondering what she could be meaning.
"Umm, pressing matters?"
Mary's voice came out clear and direct, but it was not the voice she was used to hearing. Even as she spoke, she thought, what is going on with me? I never act like this. And who was that woman who dropped-kicked this..um..fella?
Aloud, she said, "Got any plans for next Saturday? I need a date for a wedding." She reached into her handbag for a lipstick. She knew it would be red. She also knew she never wore lipstick.
He froze. That was definitely not what he was expecting from the . . . energetic woman he had just met. "Are you mad, woman?"
"No." she replied calmly.
"No?! You've just attacked me in the middle of a public park and left me there." he drawled.
"Did you wish for someone to nurse you back to health?"
David was less than pleased with the sarcastic tone her voice took just then. She was the oddest woman he'd ever met and yet he wasn't sure that was even a bad thing. Recently becoming single though, he'd been paying too much attention to any woman he met. Not serious attention of course; he was not looking to lose his newly-found freedom just yet.
Especially not to an ordinary woman he just happened to glance upon. Or who knocked him unconscious.
"You wouldn't be fitting as a nurse."
As the sun begins to rise over the mountains, James reaches for his sunglasses above the visor. Having traveled this same road for nearly 10 years, he knows he'll soon be blinded without them.
Work has been slow lately which is good news for James. Pouring over piles of paperwork and photos of gruesome crime scenes has weighed heavily on him over the years. As a young, wet behind the ears agent he was rather unaffected by the job; driven by his desire to move through the ranks. But over the years, it's become harder to separate work and home. Perhaps it was the raising of his daughter that broke the barrier between the two. Envisioning the possibility of being called to a scene and finding her to be the victim has haunted his nightmares more than once.
He hits the lot at 7:30 a.m. on the button as usual and heads into the office. As he enters the door, there is a small group of his colleagues gathered near the entrance. By the looks of their faces and tone of the conversation, he knows work will not likely be slow today.
Trevor, the head of the investigation, raised a curious brow in response. "Not going to beat yourself up about it, are you, James?"
James quelled his initial annoyance. It wouldn't do to sound petty or jealous of David. "Course not."
"Good, because your research would aid him in the investigation very much. Just because you're not on the field doesn't mean you can't be useful."
James nodded mutely.
Swallowing his pride, James sat with the others in the conference room to be filled in on the details. As they explained that David was surveilling Mary and that the contact was incidental; thoughts of being in the field filled his head. On the one hand, James missed those days while on the other, he was glad not to have to see first hand the mayhem of the world.
"...and now he is to accompany her this Saturday. We need to send someone in. James? Are you up for it?"
Since the death of her mother, Mary had not been able to enjoy a wedding. Not that of a friend. Not that of a relative. Not that of her sister. The memories of how the last wedding had unraveled still tormented her to this day. "My sister," she thought. "...how could she bring herself to walk the aisle after what'd happened."
If it were not for the fact that Mary loved her sister so, there is no way she would be forcing herself to attend. Her sister and her had gone through so much together. As hard as it was to relive the memories spurred by entering a church; it would be as hard for Mary to live with not being there for her sister.
Spraying her hair into perfect position and re-evaluating how many years she'd erased from her face with hours of care, Mary reminded herself, there are more important things to worry about now.
Mary headed to the door, regained her composure, and readied herself for the man she'd beaten half to death. The man she now longed to see again.
What on Earth had possessed him to say yes to her? That had been his initial reaction once she'd left him sat in the coffee shop by himself, still with a half full cup of hot liquid that barely passed as tea. What did he expect though, Tea wasn't as good in America as in England. Still, he had drank up and soon left, glancing back at the two empty seats they had only minutes ago been conversing in.
And where after momentarily forgetting why he had even there, he had accepted to go to a wedding with her. With the intriguing Mary Hollander. He couldn't very well have refused anyway; where else would he have met her again if he had? And how else would he learn more of her; her routine, her history, her luscious bo. . . he shook his head, dispelling the ridiculous thoughts flooding his mind.
David was not going to repeat the same mistake again.
And then the door opened to reveal Miss Hollander. . .
Mary was Mary. She had simple tastes and she liked to be comfortable. She had put on a simple beige chiffon shirtwaist with flutter sleeves and a pair of low heels.
She took a deep breath. Then she opened the door and once again, the words that escaped her lips were not her own.
"Hello, David." She leaned on the doorjamb and jutted her hip out, eyeing him, making him feel decidedly uncomfortable.
"Are you about ready?"
She hesitated then said, "Come on in. Give me a minute." She saunterd back upstairs and returned wearing a slinky black dress with a high slit on one side. She'd combed out her hair and left it loose. She'd slipped into a pair of gold Donna Karan high heeled sandals that she somehow knew were hidden in the back of her closet. And she was wearing lipstick. Red lipstick.
She grabbed her cigarettes...cigarettes?
"Wow, you look incredible," was all David could muster.
"Looks can be deceiving." It was a statement, not a humble rejection of flattery. "Shall we go?"
The car ride to the venue was silent bar the sound of the almost intrusive music playing on the radio. A country song that she really wished she could turn off but didn't. If she did, he would have expected her to fill the silence with words, with conversation. And her mind was absolutely blank as a wiped clean chalkboard.
She stole a brief glance at him; the slightly illuminated silhouette of his chiselled face.
Christ, he was attractive. She didn't know why she was surprised of it every time she saw him, though actually this was only the second time she'd seen him. This year.
"Is there something on my face?" he asked.
"I'm sorry?" she said, even though she heard exactly what he had said.
"You were looking at me. Is there something on my face?"
"Then. . ?" he continued.
She tried to keep any hint of emotion out of her voice."You look nice."
She thought she saw him smile. Almost smile.
"We're here." he said.
James had been taken aback by the invitation to return to the field. Sure, he was just to remain behind the scenes and help inform David of what he knew of Mary but nonetheless, he could've hardly said no.
Upon his arrival, David was more than generous to James. Offering to help with his luggage, having arranged for him to have his own transportation; it was as if David admired James, nearly like that of a lost puppy. He was obviously unaware of James spite of him though that was quickly diminishing. James had no real reason to dislike David. It was not his fault he was given James spot in the field.
James spent the afternoon, prior to the wedding, telling David of Mary's past. How James had been involved in a case some years ago involving the murder of Mary's mother. The case was exhausting and ultimately led to the arrest of Mary's father who later killed himself in prison. Mary had been much younger then. A quiet girl with an innocent apperance. Innocent enough that she'd not drawn too much attention during the case except that of concern to who'd raise her now.
"David, you're aware of why you'd been assigned to surveil Mary, right?"
"Not really, no."
"Over the years, there have been a lot of questions regarding the murder of her mother. It's seems that Mary's family had been involved in more than just living the American dream. We believe there is a reason she kicked your ass with such ease."
He explained the secrecy of the assignment and how there were concerns about moles in the organization. David had already had his suspicions but now they were confirmed.
"So go tonight. Have a good time and woo her but whatever you do...keep your eyes open and watch your back. Mary may not be the only one you need to look out for."
David was thinking about the conversation he'd had with James earlier.
"You mean there might have been someone else involved? Does the department suspect Mary of having something to do with her mother's murder?"
David hadn't really expected an answer. He had really just been thinking out loud.
"We've got people in place at the reception," James had told him, as though he hadn't heard David's questions, "and if you put together what we know and what you've told us, we don't think she's working alone."
"Working? Working what? Look, you need to tell me what the hell is going on. And I mean all of it."
"NTK, buddy, NTK."
He got out of the car and walked around to the passenger's side to open the door for Mary. Had her eyes looked to the left and right before getting out of the car or had he just imagined it?
Mary forced herself to remain calm but it was hard with him standing so close to her. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been out with a man, not that this could be considered as out but it was the closest for her. She'd been indoors for almost a whole year, only really leaving for work and errands . . . nothing close to a personal life.
She felt a warmth on her shoulder and suddenly startled, she jumped forwards almost with a shriek.
"I was just. . . your dress strap fell." David said, his face nothing but bemused.
"Oh, I'm sorry." she replied breathlessly.
Why was she acting so ridiculously?
She had to keep the aim in mind. . .
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