Agnes & BB is a bi-weekly fiction series that I’m writing in conjunction with Amanda. We’ll be telling the same story from the perspective of two different characters. You can read BB’s story here and Agnes’ story via Amanda’s blog.
“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” I say quietly.
It’s late and everyone’s cleared out of the bar and it’s just me and him. I’ve made him a cup of tea and declined his multiple requests for whisky. I’ve put my hand over his hand and I can feel the heat of his skin underneath my fingers. He’s burning up. He shouldn’t have come.
Just a couple of hours ago Agnes was still here and I had told her. And she had asked me—Do you have a plan—and I had looked up, prepared to answer, and that’s when I saw him. My husband, walking through the door like for all the world, he’s healthy. Like he has some reason to be here. Some unignorable business at my bar.
“I wanted to see you,” he says. He takes a sip of tea and I can feel him burn his tongue just like if it was my tongue. I pull my hand away and start cleaning up, tossing empty bottles into the bin and piling dishes in the basin.
“Stupid thing,” I say quietly. “Stupid thing to do.”
“Look at me, BB, please. Stop what you’re doing.”
I turn back to him. He’s so pale, so thin, I can hardly see him. He disappears into the air around him; he blends in. He’s a ghost, he’s a wraith, he’s a spirit. He’s too small and tiny. He can’t eat much these days.
He pats the barstool next to him. “Come and sit with me, Darlin,’” he says.
“Don’t wanna sit with you,” I mumble.
“Sure you do, sure you do. Come on—I’ll put my hand on your leg.”
I can’t help it. This makes me smile. I put down the towel I’m holding and start to make my way around the bar when I see it. It can only be hers. I know it in a second. I’d know it anywhere: Agnes’ fur coat. I touch it with the tips of my fingers when I walk past.
I think it might be fake. I’ll bring it back in the morning.
It doesn’t take many people. I ask around and eventually I find someone who knows where Agnes lives. It’s a nice house, really. A decent house. I wouldn’t have pictured Agnes in a house like this but then again, I wouldn’t have really pictured Agnes in a house at all. She’s always in the bar or just outside the bar or just gone into the bathroom. I’ve never pictured her outside of me. It’s silly, I realize, but it’s like—it never really occurred to me that she exists anywhere else.
But I ask around. The woman who finally tells me works in a fish shop on the corner. She smells of salt and sea and rot but then again—this whole damned town smells like salt and sea and rot.
The shop worker recognizes the coat. She doesn’t know Agnes’ name but she buys fish from her husband. When she says his name—Henry—she wrinkles her nose in a look I won’t understand until later.
She walks me to the door of the shop and points out the house. It’s at the end of the street. I mutter my thanks, turn to smile, but she’s already disappeared inside.
I’m suddenly nervous.
Agnes’ fur coat is making my arms sweat. I don’t know how she wears this damn thing all the time; I’d suffocate. I have this sudden, almost-uncontrollable urge to chuck it out, to fling it away, to leave it in the street or throw it off a bridge into the ocean. But I don’t. I’m almost at her front door. I’m on the front walk. It’s a nice house, really. I’ve never pictured her in a house before. But here it is. There’s a knocker and everything. I’ve never pictured her as being the sort of person to have a house with a knocker. But here it is.
So I knock.
And when she answers, I know right away. There are the bruises, sure, but that’s not even where my eyes go first.
They go to her eyes.
And I just know.
And suddenly it makes so much sense.
Just so much, so much sense.
I can see exactly how it will happen.
“Agnes,” I say.
I thrust the coat at her. She takes it, confused, looking at it like she’s not even sure it’s hers.
“Agnes. I have a plan.”
She looks up at me slowly. And her eyes, her eyes usually so small and so closed and so shadowed, they brighten. She almost smiles. Her teeth are small and a little crooked.
“So do I, BB,” she says.
She steps back to let me into the house.
photograph taken with a Minolta X-700