Revenant by Dorothy Davies

EXTRACT FOR
Revenant

(Dorothy Davies)


Revenant

Never Too Late To Die

 

Olivia Arieti

 

Those were rainy days and Norman detested the rain; that sullen wetness got on his nerves just like his wife’s continuous visits.

“You’re stone dead, Alyssa, what do you want from me?” he shouted on seeing the spectre plummet into his room.

“Watching you rot would be great, I didn’t like your dirty trick at all.”

“Get out of here,” he pleaded, exhausted.

The tragedy had occurred years ago on a bleak evening exactly like that one. She insisted on spending the weekend at their holiday home by the lake. No cottage cosier than theirs with the garden full of flower beds, willow trees with exceptionally long drooping branches and a private dock where their motor boat waited for them. He loved going there but not when he had to hand in a manuscript to an unforgiving editor and needed to remain in his studio and write till his eyes were red and fingers hurt. Alyssa always had it her way; her insistence was so unnerving that he ended up giving in.

Theirs had been love at first sight, probably too much at first sight for after the second month of marriage, they found out they were totally incompatible. Alyssa was impulsive, whimsical and hated whatever her husband did. Writing was a waste of time, not profitable and most of all it estranged him from her world where shopping sprees, dinner parties and all sort of leisure were predominant. She was a gorgeous lady with enticing eyes and affable manners and flirting was her favourite pastime, despite being married.

Norman never doubted she had cheated on him, but he didn’t care much… His work absorbed him completely. It needed tranquillity and even a good dose of solitude. Marrying a woman like Alyssa had been a big mistake.

Luckily, the time spent stabbing the keyboard wasn’t as unprofitable as it seemed. One best seller followed the other, two films were made out of them and fame and, most of all, lots of money rolled in. That was when he purchased the cottage.

Never had he seen his wife so pleased; she turned as caring and dedicated as to be disgusting.

“Sorry you needed my money to make you love me, baby, I don’t like it that way, I really don’t.”

“Why so fussy? We all know that riches make life easier. Besides, who said I don’t care for you? I absolutely love you, darling,” and she kissed him passionately as though to assure him of her feelings.

“No,” Norman pushed her away. “It won’t work for me,” and went out just in time to miss one of her lovers’ call.

Whatever, he didn’t love his wife anymore and that’s probably why he fell for Raven, a pretty starlet who had a role in one of the films based on his novels. She played a young runaway who gets in trouble and ends up with her body horribly mutilated.

The girl was cheerful, sweet, dressed like a hippie, did lots jogging and had long hair held up by a silver hairpin.

“It belonged to my granny,” she said once and invited him to take it off.

Beautiful ebony curls fell upon her shoulders and he couldn’t avoid stroking them. Then his fingers touched her lips… he was dying to kiss her.

“I can’t forgive you for what you’ve done to me,” she giggled one evening while they had a drink together.

“If I had known you before, I’d have changed the end,” he smiled, his eyes fixed on hers.

“I guess that’s enough to pardon you and invite you to my place.”

The night was theirs and also the ones that followed until the shooting of the film was over.

It had been a long time since he felt so relaxed and had more fun than pressure while working. He wondered if Raven considered the fluctuant affair serious. Probably not, for she was very young and never talked about settling down.

Her image kept flashing before him during his journey home and also afterwards; the girl had bewitched him.   

Norman did his best to resist her and it took him a while to get back to his usual life. His editors gave him a hand as his late success made them greedy of his talent and they commissioned other books; he had to work incessantly while Alyssa was relishing the huge amount of money available.

Neither ever talked about divorce; for sure, she would never give him up.

He recalled when a few months before the tragedy, while going through the pages of the book that made him so famous, a scribbled note caught his attention. ‘Come back to me, I love you.’

It was Raven’s handwriting. Why didn’t she tell him before? Had she given him the time to find out about his true feelings and be free from any ties?

Many were the questions, doubts and, most of all, regrets. He should have divorced long ago. Everything around him appeared unfamiliar, distant; Alyssa seemed even more superficial and insensitive and shamefully naughty. A sudden, intense hate for her seized him and, for the first time, he wished she were dead.

The thought was horrid, terrifying, but he couldn’t help it.

Had he really killed his wife after all?

If free, he would have searched for Raven, perhaps, in some youth hostel, flea market or on a solitary beach; she was waiting for him and he had to find her.

“Well, darling, doesn’t this rain remind you anything?” Alyssa’s ghost asked showing up once again.

“Go away; you’re out of my life now.”

“Thanks to you, love,” she sneered and vanished.

Norman leaned forward to put his head in his hands. How could he go on like that?

After her apparitions, memories crammed his mind and a severe headache always followed. Everything happened so suddenly, accidentally, that damned night… He should have never consented to her request. 

“We’ll have the time to talk things over, to ponder if it’s worth going on together, darling…” his wife said while packing.

Her words surprised him. For the first time she said something sensible… Norman didn’t trust her, though.

 

Once at the cottage, she showed him a revolver.

“Just brought it along in case some weirdo shows up, with all that we hear in the news, we’ve got to be cautious.”

The place was isolated, but he didn’t like the idea of Alyssa having a gun. Could she wish him dead too? She spent lots of nights out these days; surely with one of her toy boys who made her have fun and sex at her own expenses. Had they conjectured something together?

The evening was spent dining on the terrace and sipping martinis and champagne. Now and then there was a tight smile, an inquisitive glance deep into one another’s soul as if ever they had a soul… The alcohol wasn’t enough to soothe their restlessness.

The weather didn’t help much as dark clouds were billowing above and the lake’s delicate breeze was turning into chilly gusts.

From the moment Norman found the note, he hadn’t get Raven out of his mind. He even made her the protagonist of his latest novel just to feel her closer. He would have done anything to have her.

They were about to retire when Alyssa smiled alluringly and moved next to him, “It would be fun spending the night on the lake and so romantic…”

The tone was exaggeratedly mellifluous.

So she did have a plan… Once out there, she would kill him and gain possession of his money, free to squander it as she liked.

“The weather isn’t good and I’m quite tired,” he replied, visibly tense.

“Come on now, what can be more exciting than sailing through a storm?”

She got hold of a bottle of champagne, headed towards the dock and jumped on the boat, followed by her husband, eager to find out what she really had in mind.

The ripples weren’t exactly waves yet and a few stars shone above; the weather looked as moody as his wife and he wished he were miles away, in Raven’s arms…

Once on board, Alyssa began drinking heavily and when they were far from the shore, she muttered, “I know you’ve fallen out of love with me, but I still care for you, sweetie, couldn’t imagine my life without you.”

Her words upset him. She was lying.

“Do you say that to your lovers too?”

“How foolish, I simply have some fun once in a while.”

Outrageous! Was she diverting herself by provoking him before firing? He definitely detested her.

It began raining heavily, strong gusts shook the vessel and the waves unbalanced it. Alyssa, already unsteady through many drinks, was thrust into the water. Immediately, she started shouting and gasping. Norman seemed paralysed; he kept staring at the lifebuoy while his wife was imploring him to launch it…

‘Hurry, Norman, what’s keeping you? She’s drowning,’ a voice inside cried, but he didn’t move… A sly smile only showed on his face. His wish was coming true…

The night grew very dark, the stars had vanished and Alyssa had disappeared into the murky depths.

When he recovered, he was lucid enough to throw the buoy into the water… just to avoid unpleasant suspicions.

Despite the researches, the body was never found and Norman was not charged with murder, but never would he have imagined that his only witness would become his ghastly prosecutor. 

 

The first apparition occurred a few nights afterwards; Alyssa’s body was swollen, like a grotesque carnival inflatable; the lips, blue and enormous, revolting.

“Why did you do this to me?” the spectre cried, “I’ll find out and get even with you.”