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by Zigeroon 

Posted: 20 September 2005
Word Count: 2623

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The impact of the body and the front of the car, to those who witnessed the accident, sounded like a dull thud. A sack of potatoes dropped from a first floor window. To Marlene Johnson it was a blessed relief. She’d never liked her husband Ron ever since the night before they were married. The humiliation of that night burnt deep into her heart, scarring her. She couldn’t forgive but she could get even.

As she stood at the side of the road she recalled her wedding day. ‘Come on Marlene. You’ll be late,’ her mother’s voice through the door of the downstairs loo.
‘I’m not coming,’ said Marlene, not out loud, inside her head, where it was safe and all the decisions had been taken.

Marlene smiled. Her mother had never liked Ron from the first time she had met him. ‘There’s something about him. Something not right.’ But he was eligible, ran his own small business, and Marlene wasn’t getting any younger. Reluctant to leave the nest, not like her two sisters, married, two children each.
‘Your father and I want some peace, some privacy. Why don’t you find a small place of your own? We could help you with the deposit.’ And then Ron appeared. Not out of the blue, out of the background; a face on the edge of Marlene’s crowd of friends.

He had not always been there. Most of the others were friends from school and college, a close-knit group that she had formed around her, a carapace protecting her from the realities of life. They provided a vicarious distillation of marriage and divorce, travel and the excitement of life in the city, so many experiences that Marlene had been unable, unwilling to taste herself.

She could have. She was pretty, highly intelligent, outgoing, within the confines of her chosen group and well paid being a partner in a firm of Chartered Accountants.

It was at the office, during a meeting to discuss his firm’s accounts that Ron had materialised out of the background. Magically bought to life during the incantation of the mantra of Profit and Loss.

He was thin, wiry, he ran marathons; something I’ll never do, she had said drawing attention to her plump figure. His white teeth had flashed beneath his drooping Mexican moustache, an affectation she had initially been intrigued by. His blue eyes had held her gaze as he pushed his longish hair away from his face. The pale skin of her face had reddened under his attentive gaze. She took to playing with her straight black hair, attempting to curl it around her index finger, a vestige of childhood insecurities. She had realised what she was doing and immediately stopped.

At the next meeting, to sign off the accounts, she had agreed to have dinner with him. He drank too much and insisted on driving her home. Outside the front door of her parent’s house, during a beery, slobbery kiss goodnight, he had tried to put his hand up her skirt.

She wouldn’t answer his calls for three weeks. Flowers were delivered daily at home and at the office. He managed to enlist the help of Marlene’s mother who was deflecting the innumerable phone calls, insisting that Marlene wasn’t in, she was in the shower, she was asleep, an early night. Still he phoned. It wasn’t until Marlene’s mum actually set her eyes on him that she took against Ron and no amount of extolling his virtues could change her mind.

She had been right of course. Marlene stood up and adjusted her white silk A-line dress smoothing the creases that sitting for an hour on the seat of the WC had caused. She studied herself in the mirror over the sink. She was thinner now. The pills Ron insisted she take…’You don’t want to look fat in the photographs do you?’…had worked but she felt hungry all the time Then she felt sick when she ate anything.

The reflection of her green eyes bored into her brain; the woman in the mirror saw everything. She understood. She had been there, witnessed what he had done last night. The reflected face, stern, impassive, was dry eyed. She had cried enough. Marlene knew what her reflection was thinking. But what could she do? Her mother, for Marlene’s sake, only for her sake, not for Ron, or that man, usually that man, had organised everything, paid for everything. She had insisted that if Marlene was going to be stupid enough to go ahead with the marriage then she would do all she could to make Marlene’s big day happy. She deserved one happy day. The implication of a bleak future dripping with sympathy held no understanding, not true understanding of what Ron was like; what she had seen. ‘There are none as blind as those who don’t want to see.’ Her father had said that. He was mild mannered, never wanting to interfere. Oh dad, why didn’t I listen?

Marlene sought to blame her parents for allowing her to press on, ignoring their advice, ignoring the advice of her friends who had drifted into the background as Ron’s presence filled her life. In the mirror, her reflection would not allow self-pity. Would not allow her to shift the blame; it rested with her she knew that. And last night she had discovered all the evidence to prove that they were right and still she ignored them and carried on as if the fairy tale was true.

Her memory filtered the truth, rose tinted glass through which she viewed the past. When the heat of lust had cooled, love still lingered. Roses, champagne, candlelight, romantic music, her favourite food, she had said yes. Why had she said yes? Their love still burned fiercely then. And now, on their wedding day it had burnt to a cinder. She needn’t go on. Everybody was waiting.

Don’t believe him. You can’t trust him. Open your eyes Marlene. You don’t know him. Six months is not enough. Wait. Give it a bit more time. They went on and on and on. She hadn’t listened. Until…no, even now facing the reflection, the one person who knew her so well, she couldn’t admit that they had been right all along. She was pregnant, she was thirty-six and without Ron…she was alone. That was why she decided to walk up the aisle. She didn’t want to be alone. How stupid was that, now, looking back?

Standing on the side of the road watching people gathering around Ron, her feeling sorry for the woman driver, she couldn’t think for the life of her why she had been scared of being alone. She had virtually bought up their beautiful daughter Christina alone. Six months old now. She had been alone since that long, long night before her wedding day; alone, even though Ron lived with them, in the same house, shared her bed. An icy shimmer slid up her spine in recollection of finding out the truth..

In his single-minded pursuit to satisfy his cravings he seemed to be unaware that anybody was following him. And yet, every time she thought about it she wondered if he had known. Seen her walking quickly, then slowly, matching his progress along the deserted pavements. She tried to be as unobtrusive as possible but it had been difficult that late at night.

There was a fine drizzle, the smell rising off the pavement in the residual heat of the day was metallic, catching in the back of her throat. Her breath came in panicky gulps as she almost trotted to keep up with him when he quickened his pace. She was frightened. Unsure of what she might find out. Another woman? A man? They had all said he held a secret. Had they known what his secret was? Embarrassed, had they turned away hoping that she would never find out?

Tonight she had set out to disprove the spiteful theories once and for all. Tomorrow she and Ron would be married. Now, in the dark of the streets backing onto the docks she wasn’t so sure. There had to be something. He had told her he was going straight home to his flat. Get an early night, got a big day tomorrow, big night tomorrow night. He laughed, rubbing her roughly between the legs. It had been two weeks since they had last had sex. She had suggested a month’s abstinence. He had insisted that was too long. ‘Don’t want me going elsewhere do you?’ he had leered.

He had apologised. Said it was a joke. Something everybody might say. The hard set of his compressed lips, the cold dead look in his eyes. It had made her shiver. She tried to deny the premonition. Mumbo jumbo. Woolly headed feelings were for dreamers. Math. Balance. The steady build-up of receipts and costs produced the clear picture. Intuition had no place in Marlene’s world until he had said that. It wasn’t what he said it was the emotionless way he had said it, as though he believed it, totally.

The sound of an ambulance making its slow progress through the angry queue of traffic broke into her thoughts. Blood was running out of Ron’s ears. His face was pale. Deathly pale. She smiled, a quick stretching of her lips that barely registered as an indicator of her inner happiness.

She stood, unable to move, unwilling to identify herself as the deceased’s spouse. She was his spouse. She had married him. God rest my soul for that. And his. Perhaps God would rest his soul but he would spend eternity with the devil.

In the past, the night before she walked up the aisle, fifty yards ahead of her, Ron had stopped. He disappeared from view. She crouched behind a parked lorry hoping that if the driver was inside the cab he was already asleep. The engine didn’t smell warm. She couldn’t see which house Ron had entered.

She left the protection of the lorry and made her way cautiously down the pavement. As she came abreast of where Ron had disappeared she noticed the opening to an alleyway. She moved back. If he was watching she hoped he hadn’t seen her. Her heart was pumping so hard the thrumming beat hurt her eardrums.

Further down the street two women, dressed in short skirts with bright coloured jackets and high-heeled boots stepped out of a rectangle of light onto the pavement. It was a pub. Marlene hadn’t noticed the sign over the door outside which the two women stood, giggling drunkenly. They kissed each other goodbye. One walked away, the other, a tall blonde, walked up the street in the direction of the entrance to the alleyway.

Marlene was concentrating so hard, waiting to see what would happen that she stopped breathing. She found herself gasping for air. The intake of breath sounded like a steam engine releasing excess pressure. The woman from the pub didn’t seem to notice. Teetering along on her heels she looked too drunk to care. The woman looked over her shoulder. Perhaps she had heard something? Was it a rustling movement in the night, a footfall; her intuition tuning into messages in the dark. Was she anticipating, picking up on the fearful images that Marlene’s imagination created in the loneliness of waiting for something to happen. Perhaps nothing would.

As the woman walked past the entrance to the alley Ron appeared briefly, his face covered in a balaclava helmet with big ragged eyeholes and a slit for his mouth. It was definitely Ron. He held a hand over the woman’s face and pulled her into the darkness of the alley.

Marlene was stunned. She couldn’t move. She reached for her mobile phone. There was no signal. She opened her mouth. No sound came out.

Marlene crossed the road, her focus on the alley, her thoughts whirling in a miasma of confusion. Walking on tip-toe, not really believing what she had seen. It had to be Ron. How many other people would be down the alley? Of course it was Ron, the man was wearing the clothes he had left her to go home. She didn’t want it to be him. How could he? How could he?

To the side of the fathomless black opening to the alley she put her back against the wall. Her face against the roughness of the brickwork she sneaked a look into the alley.

They were only a few feet from the entrance. The woman stood, her back against the wall, her panties halfway down her legs. Marlene confirmed it was Ron. She recognised the grunts and groans as he pumped madly between the woman’s legs. The woman’s mouth was exposed. Why didn’t she scream? Ron’s hands were bunched in her long hair as his body vibrated, jack hammered, in a frenzied rush towards orgasm. His eyes were staring straight at Marlene but she could tell he couldn’t see her. He was lost in a form of pleasure she knew she would never be able to give him. She turned and ran.

When her mobile registered a signal she had called the police and told them what she had seen but not who.

Safely back home she didn’t tell anyone in the house. She slept fitfully. When she almost drifted off to sleep the image of Ron and the woman jolted her back to wakefulness. She felt sick.

The police turned up on the doorstep at seven thirty to take her statement. Her mother almost collapsed. The police said that no rapes had been reported from that area.

After they had gone Marlene refused to tell her mother what she had been doing down by the docks so late at night.

Finally satisfied with how her dress hung on her chemically thinned body, her make up checked and complete, she opened the cloakroom door.
‘Something old, something new?’ Whispered her dad as he gave her a cuddle, careful not to crease her dress.
She nodded, shaking, struggling to control her nerves.
‘Cold?’ he said.
She shook her head.
‘Good luck love,’ he said and taking her arm led her through the front doorway to the polished black limousine.

And she had said ‘I do,’ and ‘I will,’ and agreed it would be until death parted them. And it had.

There had been other nights, other women. He had come home, his back covered in red scratches, reeking of cheap perfume. Straight upstairs to the shower and then he slipped between the sheets as if nothing had happened. Reaching out to her, forcing himself between her legs.

It took a while for Marlene to understand he wasn’t raping the women, that they were just playing a game for him. It was in his accounts. ‘Staff Entertainment.’ He had never been able to explain that entry to her. It had started with a married secretary who did it for extra money and when she left, well what could he do, he had got a taste for it. No one got hurt. It shouldn’t bother her. ‘I always come back to you, don’t I?’ It did bother her.

At the scene of Ron’s death a policeman came and gently took her arm attempting to lead her away.
‘He’s my husband,’ she said.
‘I’m sorry love,’ he said, concerned, placing his hand on her arm. ‘Any idea how it happened?’
‘We were just starting to walk across the road, he stumbled, he was falling, I tried to catch him…’ she said, then completed the sentence, in her mind, where all the decisions had been made, ‘and I pushed him’.
‘I’m very sorry.’
I’m not, she thought, ignoring Ron’s shattered body.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 18:50 on 22 September 2005  Report this post
this is truly powerful. Very strong writing, Andrew. 'Not out of the blue, out of the background; a face on the edge of Marlene's crowd of friends'- strong sentence with good balance, and creates the exact right tone. I loved 'carapace'.
It isn't clear though, until later, who is in the loo in para. two.
I bulked at 'The reflection of her green eyes bored into her brain', I have a problem with any kind of anthropomorphising, - but that's me. But I think it let's what came before it down. She was mesmerised by her own eyes, I guess. Hard to get the exact right words for a character having an internal dialogue with a self that is also a stranger.
This is a fine and powerful piece of writing, I wasn't sure why you needed it to be just a game though with the women and the man. Rapists are often family men, aren't they?

Elbowsnitch at 20:44 on 22 September 2005  Report this post
I agree with Becca, a very strong piece of writing. Also think he should really be a rapist - the story seems to be leading up to a horrific secret and to say he's just role-playing lets the reader down.

I found the structure a bit confusing, the to-ing and fro-ing timewise - felt this could be simplified, with fewer flashbacks - telling the story more in the present, as it unfolds, would make it even more hard-hitting and powerful.


old friend at 07:14 on 24 September 2005  Report this post

A good story. For me it could have read a little more smoothly for I had to stop here and there to 'see' where I was.

I couldn't quite accept the character of Marlene for she seemed to be very stupid and very sensible at the same time.

May I suggest that you consider re-naming Marlene, what with DelBoy and Boycie.

Nevertheless this was well-written and enjoyable story with some excellent and imaginative phrases.


chris2 at 16:56 on 24 September 2005  Report this post
Andrew - 'Release' is an imaginative piece which reads well. I thought the discovery of what Ron was up to was a great idea, and I don't agree with Elbowsnitch about the role-playing vs actual rapits issue. If he had been seen to be a rapist, that would have probably have finished the story there and then!

I found it a bit difficult to accept that she simply went ahead with the wedding in the way that she did. I'm not suggesting that you change the story - rather that you should explain what was going on in her head that persuaded her to ignore what she had seen and to continue regardless.

I also think that having her wandering around the back streets following him on the night before the wedding, given that she was living with her parents, seemed slightly unlikely. Wouldn't they have all been fussing round with last-minute preparations? Not sure about this one!

I'm also not sure about the name Marlene. It has so many comedy-show connotations of the dumb blonde.

Most of the author's background comments are made from the point of view of Marlene and, although she is obviously reasonably intelligent, I thought that 'a carapace' and 'a vicarious distillation' were a bit too literary for an accountant's way of thinking. Just a thought.

I am assuming this is the beginning of a novel rather than a short story and look forward to seeing how it develops.


Zigeroon at 21:57 on 25 September 2005  Report this post
Becca, Francis, Len and Chris

Been away for a few days so just catching up. Thanks for all your comments and your time. I'll review the various critiques, some contradictory, that's good, and edit accordingly. Once it's cooked for a few weeks it's off to a competition. (It's a short story Chris, sorry!)Will keep you posted.

Thanks again


Jumbo at 09:34 on 28 September 2005  Report this post


I enjoyed this - the slow discovery by Marlene of what she had got herself into, and her inability to extricate herself from the flow of events. I guessed (?) that she went trough with the wedding because she was pregnant. Is that right?

A couple of small points.

A sack of potatoes... This looks like a separate thought - I imagined a real sack of potatoes falling from a window, I think it needs to be connected more strongly to the preceeding sentence - a colon perhaps?

Reluctant to leave the nest, not like her two sisters, married, two children each... had to read this twice, I think it would be better as a complete sentence.

I didn't have a problem with the flashbacks, but I think you might need to clarify them at times. You start one sentence 'Tonight she had set out ... but in my mind she was standing at the side of the road at the accident.

Hope this makes sense.

Great story - nice twist at the end.

All the best


Zigeroon at 21:25 on 28 September 2005  Report this post


Good to see you back. Thanks for the comments, I'll look at the points you have raised and integrate into next edit.

Just putting finishing touches to AZ and The Spider so will probably upload a bit of that soon.

Thanks and all the best.


Joel at 01:51 on 04 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Andrew,

Sorry, I´ve been a bit slow reading this. I thought it was a powerful story and an interesting read. Vengeance is always one of the strongest motivators for any character and Marlene has a lot of reasons to seek it. She is a well developed if slightly sad character, who has seemingly fallen into an incredibly unhappy marriage.

I wasn’t so convinced by Ron, he seemed to me to be a bit of a caricature, with no redeeming features. I understand that for the story to work the reader needs to feel sorry for Marlene and dislike Ron, but I found him so dislikeable that I started thinking Marlene was so stupid to marry him she got what she deserved. Does that make sense?

The other thing that jarred with me a little was the transitions between the past and present tenses. I thought they were too subtle and quite regularly I found myself having to reread to get my head around what period of Marlenes life was being talked about.

Here for example: “In his single-minded pursuit to satisfy his cravings he seemed to be unaware that anybody was following him.”

I’m not sure this is sentence is plausible. “Marlene knew what her reflection was thinking.” Can a reflection think?

As ever this is just my opinion, but I hope it makes some sense. Good luck with this.



Dreamer at 12:36 on 07 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Andrew,

I'm just off to work and have only read the fist paragraph. Normally I would not say anything until I had finished but I just had to tell you that you have an awesome hook there. I will definitely be coming back to this.


Zigeroon at 15:25 on 11 October 2005  Report this post

Thanks for your comments. I have reworked the jump in tenses prior to submitting to a competition so I hope that has helped in that way.

Thinking reflections? Maybe not, just trying to compound her view of herself. I'll check that one out just in case I don't win the competition; Ha! Ha!, ready for submission to another long suffering comp secretary.

Thanks for your time, it is much appreciated.


Zigeroon at 15:27 on 11 October 2005  Report this post


Glad you liked the opening para, look forward to your comments if you get back to it.


Dreamer at 18:09 on 12 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Andrew,

Sorry for the delay but my son had come home from University for the first time and I was banned from the computer while he was here.

Throughout the piece you keep us guessing then feed us tid-bits of information throughout. This is very effective. One thing I felt did not work, ‘She had virtually bought up their beautiful daughter Christina alone. Six months old now.’ I would change this to ‘she had cared for’. At this point of the story we are unclear as to how long they have even been married. When you say raised their daughter, to me it implies a longer time than since months. In my mind I pictured a teenager then find out it is six months.

I think you change time frames here, ‘Tonight she had set out to disprove the spiteful theories once and for all.’ Should it be ‘That night’? Earlier you say ‘She had been alone since that long, long night before her wedding day; alone, even though Ron lived with them, in the same house, shared her bed.’ This implies it is after the wedding then you switch to ‘today’ and it is the night before the wedding.

Loved this line, ‘And she had said ‘I do,’ and ‘I will,’ and agreed it would be until death parted them. And it had’.

Just read the other comments. I think you explain why she married him She was petrified of being alone.

Great story. Loved the way you slowly fed us information.


choille at 06:59 on 13 October 2005  Report this post
I enjoyed this and didn't have a problem with the flash backs. I felt the droopy mustache was a bit Yorkshire 'Jack the Ripper', however it didn't seem unbelievable, it made me think of a serial killer.

...had worked but she felt hungry all the time[, t] Then she felt sick when she ate anything.

Best of luck with it.

Zigeroon at 15:52 on 13 October 2005  Report this post


Thanks for your comments, I have reworked some of the story which may, or may not clarify some of the points made. I'll go back and review.

Thanks for your time.

Hope you can get near the computer again now!


Zigeroon at 15:54 on 13 October 2005  Report this post


Thanks for the comments. I never made the connection with Jack the Ripper but you have a point!

Thanks for comma correction too.



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