IRIS

I wrote this creative writing piece during the third year of my undergraduate degree in 2018 for a writing crime fiction module. I recently watched the series ‘You’ on Netflix which is based on a book with the same name. It reminded me of the little piece I had written, which has inspired me to share it on here. It’s far from perfect and was only edited for my course submission. Yet, I enjoyed experimenting with a voice like this and hope you will enjoy reading it.


IRIS

You take a sip of your drink. Bite your lips. Leave a mark of coral lipstick on your teeth. Your finger hovers over the bottom of your lip, and then tucks the light brown strands that have escaped your low and parted ponytail behind your ear. It has only been ten minutes but your eyes have repeatedly attempted to wander to the bar even though it’s hidden behind a parting wall. It’s the only seat you could’ve chosen where you can’t see me, but I can see you. You’re not alone tonight.

The first time you walked in here was on a sunny day, just a little after noon. We had just opened and I didn’t expect any customers yet. Our eyes met, but you quickly looked down and moved to the nearest seat you could find. You ended up in a red leather puff chair next to the window, in front of the bookcase. It became your chair every following Tuesday. And every time you came, the first thing you ordered was a cup of tea. Never mind that you had set foot in a cocktail bar.

I granted you that; simply served you what you asked for as a sign of good will. But you didn’t pay attention to me. You shifted in your seat and kept on looking out of the window instead. You gave me a smile when I brought you the tea but as soon as I left, the gears of your brain started spinning while closely keeping an eye on the crowd outside.

Then one day I put down a shot of alcohol next to your cup of tea. Your friendly smile didn’t immediately disappear, but your eyebrows started to frown and for the first time, you looked up at me.

‘I didn’t–’

‘It’s on me,’ I said as I looked straight into your chestnut brown eyes.

‘Oh, I don’t– I really don’t want–’

The red undertone of your eyes seemed to move like the calm waves of the sea and pulled me in closer.

‘I insist,’ I said. ‘It’s yours.’

Suddenly you turned your head away. I was so close to you then that I could smell your scent; a subtle fragrance of vanilla and Oakwood. I had to force myself to take a step back.

‘Alright,’ you said quietly. ‘I’ll have it.’ But as I watched you while I served the other customers the following hours, the liquid remained in its glass and all you continued to do was stare out of the window. You left the bar a little before five. I picked up the shot and sat down in the lukewarm seat that you had left, and then emptied the liquid in my mouth.

Attraction is like a broken light switch. It can be turned on and off quickly, but it’s never certain whether the light will stay. It happened to dad. He said he loved mum but he couldn’t help kissing another woman. Is that what you told the man that’s currently sitting opposite you too? You haven’t told him yet, have you? That’s why you’re here– together. To celebrate that you’re getting married soon. It’s why you suddenly stopped coming after fucking me for months.

The Tuesday after my attempt to give you a shot, I slid a book onto your table just before the bar opened its doors. When you came in, I didn’t walk up to your table to take an order. I waited until you opened the book. You looked over a few times; unsure if someone had seen you come in or not. Then eventually, you lifted the cover and I imagined that same puzzled look on your face from the week before. The pages of the book had been carved out and on the inside; I had left you a note. I waited a few more minutes and then finally went over.

‘Tea, I presume, miss?’

‘Do you know who left this here?’ you said.

‘Anyone could have,’ I nodded at the bookshelf behind you as you started biting your lip, ‘customers are free to read anything from those shelves.’

‘People can’t read this book.’

I moved my head back ever so slightly and raised my eyebrows to feign curiosity. You remained quiet.

‘So tea?’ I asked.

‘A Dash of the Doctor please.’

I couldn’t help it, the corner of my mouth turned into a smile. Just as I was about to walk away, you passed me the book with a look that said I couldn’t refuse. Behind the bar, I found your note. My note had been taken out.

‘Let’s see how much of an escape you can provide then,’ it said.

Your hair looks exactly like it did three weeks ago. I’m the one who suggested you put it up in a ponytail. If a woman listens to your command, that’s when you know you’ve got her, dad used to say. You have dressed up in the way you said you wanted to, but dad was wrong. You didn’t dress up for me. I don’t have you.

Months, that’s how long this went on for. First there were the notes; the book became our private messenger that no one knew about. Then finally, one afternoon, I got to touch a streak of your light brown hair and put it behind your ear. You started to smile more often – a genuine smile that was reserved for me. Many days, your cheeks now blushed a shade of baby red. Soon we started to meet in the bathroom for minutes at a time.

I knew of him, of course. I knew that you were escaping from a different life when you walked in here that first time. But you were supposed to like me. I made you like me. I made sure that you had to like me. It was necessary. Your attraction for me wouldn’t be like a light switch. You wouldn’t be allowed to simply turn it off. Then one week you suddenly stopped coming. I thought maybe next week you’d show but you didn’t. You never showed up again. And now suddenly here you are. Here you are with him.

Your shoulders have tensed and your eyes have stopped moving. The light brown strand that you tucked behind your ear has escaped and now hangs motionlessly in front of your right eye. I know you can sense me. You know that I’m coming.

‘A Death In The Afternoon and a Virgin Mary, please,’ he says when I’m ready to take your order.

The corner of my mouth curls into a smile. Almost immediately, I force my mouth back into a flat line but your eyes have caught that split second. Your pupils widen as if you’re surprised to see me. Did you forget I work here? I want to ask you, cynically.

‘Are you celebrating?’ I ask politely instead.

‘Yes, we’re getting married,’ he says as he closes the green-leather-bound menu. For a moment I feel cold on the inside, as I look him in the eye. Then I realise that this means he hasn’t noticed and I smile. He doesn’t know about us. He doesn’t know the Virgin Mary no longer suits you.

Back behind the bar, I take out two bottles from the top shelf and a third from the middle. Around me, it smells of alcohol but unless I move my nose to the tip of a bottle, it’s hard to tell which drink I smell. I have to open a new packet of tomato juice for your drink – unlike A Death In The Afternoon; the Virgin Mary does not contain alcohol. I have something special for you though. I’m not sure if you’ll notice it immediately, but it will ensure that you are mine. I pass the drinks to one of my colleagues and watch how he brings them over to your table. You take the first sip and I know it will only take just a few minutes. I want to come over to look you in the eye but I know it will be too risky. Then he starts shouting as I see your body slip down the sofa and onto the floor.

At once I turn around and move to the back of the inside of this building. The light in the staff area is up and suddenly I feel more exposed. I move quickly and take the gloves that are meant for washing the dishes and use them to open the kitchen window. I slip outside and land on the glistening tiles. It won’t take long before the police will get here. I put on my hood and walk away. I hope you enjoyed your drink.

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