Authors: K. Alex Walker
“That night, I played Russian roulette with a six-shooter
,” he went on. “I filled the chamber with a single bullet, spun it, and put the gun to my head. Then, I pulled the trigger and five times, five damn times, Larke, the gun clicked.”
He paused as he remembered sitting at the edge of the
queen-sized mattress with the last bullet in the chamber, bent over with his left hand hanging down to the floor.
“I couldn’t bring my
self to pull it the last time. I thought about my mother and what she would say if she knew what I was doing, then about the time Curtis took down an enemy that had crept up on me from behind. The bullet missed him by less than an inch. They wouldn’t have sacrificed as much as they did if they’d thought my life wasn’t worth saving. It was selfish of me to throw it away.”
Larke couldn’t find anything to say. He’d just told her that he’d tried to kill himself and the thought that he wouldn’t have been
lying next to her terrified her, but not only because he wouldn’t have been there to save her from the wooden shanty the day before.
“And somehow, through all of that, you still managed to be you,” she replied.
“What do you mean?”
She reached for his hand and laced their fingers together. “Your father was an abusive bastard, you witnessed your mother’s murder, and one of your best friends died in combat, so you repay the world by becoming one of the most highly-ranked soldiers in the military. I’ve known trust fund babies who threatened to take down entire buildings because their parents didn’t buy them a Benz on their sixteenth birthday
. But, here you are, and for you to have gone through the things that you went through and still make the decision to spend your career serving and protecting others, it’s one of the most admirable things that I’ve ever come across.”
The warmth that enveloped his body
, although unexpected, was readily welcomed.
“How do you do
that?” He found himself asking.
“Find the good in me even with everything that I just told you, and then tell me that you think that of me, to my face, without a flinch.”
“Do you want me to stop?”
“No. I don’t.” He used his thumb to stroke her palm.
“I come from a very affectionate family,” she added. “We hug all the time. For everything. The affection, it just comes natural
ly when we care about someone.”
The warmth traveled down to settle in the space right
above his lower abdomen, and her gaze fell to the finger that was making circles in her palm. Gently pulling his hand away, he ran his finger along her jaw and she looked at him with the same light brown intensity that had been his downfall at the resort.
“Thanks for listening,” he said,
moving to trace the outline of her lips.
gingerly on the door interrupted them, and Eva appeared in the dimly lit entryway. When she saw that they were both awake, she clapped her hands in delight.
“The two of you have to get
ready to head out,” she said, tugging Larke out of the bed. Then, she looked at Desmond and pointed in the direction of the other side of the house.
“Sweetheart, I have some things set out for you in the other bathroom. Plus
, Ivor said that he wanted to talk to you. Can you meet him down there for me, please?”
Without waiting for a response, she disappeared
through the door with Larke once again in tow.
eased out of the bed and found Ivor sitting in a rocking chair in the master bedroom, the reading glasses back on his nose and his bible in his lap. When he spotted Desmond, he smiled, put the bible away, and held out his hand for Desmond to help him out of the chair. He then made his way over to the bedroom dresser, dug around in the back, and pulled out a small velvet box. Sitting along the edge of the bed, he touched the space next to him.
“When I was a young man, I was very skilled,” he
explained. “I used to be able to make anything. This house, I built it from the ground up with my own two hands. But this damn arthritis,” he flexed his fingers, “getting old isn’t easy, I’m telling you.”
He handed the box to Desmond.
“Before you open that, answer a question for me.”
“What did the two of you do to that Jarvis boy?”
“What are you talking about?”
“On the hill
. I thought at first Delgano was just up there looking around on police business, but since I don’t trust that man as far as I can throw him, I made sure I had my gun ready. Then, when I got closer to the clearing, from where I was standing I could see the two of you behind the water.”
Still in shock, Desmond decided to tread lightly. “But you said Jarvis.
What does Delgano have to do with Jarvis?”
“Edward Koran Jarvis,” Ivor emphatically replied. “You might not know this in the states, but whenever you see Delgano
after somebody, ninety-nine percent of the time, it has to do with Edward. The two of them grew up in the same shantytown in not one of the best parts of Jamaica and boy, they had a hard life. Edward’s mother used to sell her body all over the island until she just up and left one day, and Delgano’s mother died and left him when he was about three weeks old. Edward ended up moving to the States when he was eighteen, and Delgano stayed here and joined the police. One afternoon some years back now, a Rolls Royce went driving through the same shantytown where they grew up. When the window rolled down, it was Edward inside. What he told everyone was that business was doing good stateside, but you can’t fool us old West Indians. With my own two eyes I saw Delgano beat a man to within an inch of his life over some drugs nonsense.”
Desmond’s hands went to his knees. “And you couldn’t do anything about it because Gano is a high ranking officer.”
Ivor nodded. “Edward doesn’t hide his crime here like he does in the states. If you hear him tell it, he runs Jamaica.”
He squinted at Desmond. “You and La
rke, the two of you in drugs?”
Desmond defensively put his hands
up in front of him. “No, sir.”
“I didn’t think so. You
said Larke is a what, lawyer?”
“And on the news, I heard that Edward finally got jail time? Is she responsible?”
Slowly, Desmond nodded again realizing that the entire time they were at the house, Ivor had known why they were really hiding from Gano but had successfully hid it from them.
“Tell me again how long the two of you been married?” He asked.
Caught off guard, Desmond paused before respond
ing. “Two years.”
“Where’d the two of you meet?”
Ivor chuckled softly. “The first time I ever set my eyes on Eva, she was wearing an orange and yellow dress. Her hair was pulled back and she had on no jewelry or makeup, but still managed to take place of my sunshine that day. I was doing some masonry work at the house next door and she was sitting on the front s
teps of a school friend’s house. It was a white, block house and the slipper on her right foot was half off. I remember because she kept flipping it against her heel with her toes.”
He wagged his finger at Desmond. “When it comes to the love of your life, whenever somebody asks you where the two of you met, you tell the whole story because it gives you an excuse to remember.”
Desmond smiled. “How long have you known we weren’t married?”
Don’t worry about that,” Ivor answered, pointing to the box. “Open it.”
Desmond flipped it open and revealed two intricately carved wooden rings. Both were sculpted out of rich redwood and had been sanded and finished to a smooth perfection. The larger one was a plain band with a clear piece filled with shimmering crystalline powder wrapped around the
middle, while the other was distinctly feminine with a sparkling emerald situated on top.
“When Eva and I were first together, I didn’t have much of anything to my name,” Ivor explained. “But let me tell you, I had skill. It took me six weeks to carve up those rings and do the finishing. Inside the bigger one there, a Japanese friend of mine gave me some crushed pearl to take as medicine. I told him he was crazy and put it in the band.”
He laughed to himself as Desmond continued to examine the ring.
“The emerald in that one I got from my grandmother. The same night I told her that was going to ask Eva to marry me, she slipped her own ring right off of her finger without a question and told me to give the stone to Eva.”
He nudged Desmond in the side.
“I want you to have them.”
Confused, Desmond’s brows wrinkled. “If we’re not married, why would you want us to have them?”
A reminiscent smile tugged at Ivor’s cheeks. “First of all, my wife told me to give them to you. Second, I like the two of you together. You watch over that woman like you would kill the sun if it burned her skin, and with her, when you’re in front of her, she sees nobody else. The two of you are still
young so you don’t know what is happening like I know.”
Desmond fingered the grooves
in the rings. “Does Eva know?”
Ivor chuckled. “I would not be surprised if she did. That woman somehow figured out that even though I pick up that bible every night, I have yet to pass Genesis.”
Desmond shook his head and smiled at the old man’s wit.
“And before you tell me that you can’t take them, I insist. And you can’t say no when an old man insists.”
Desmond slipped the rings back into the box and the box into his pocket. “Well, I guess that’s settled then.”
After a shower, Desmond met Larke, Eva, and Ivor waiting for him in the kitchen. They ate breakfast while Ivor regaled them with stories of the early days of him and Eva’s marriage, her correcting him on the details along the way. There was a bit of sadness in Ivor’s heart as he thought about Larke and Desmond leaving. It had been such a long time since he and Eva had any guests and when they finally did, it happened to be with a pair that he’d grown fond of in such a short time. He wished with every fiber of his being that they got home safely.
After breakfast, Eva gave them a
brown paper bag filled with food, but as Desmond and Larke headed for the back door, Ivor stopped them and handed Desmond his keys.
“Keep going down the road and you will come to a place where the road divides into two. Go right and you will get where you need to be.”
Desmond and Larke exchanged confused looks. “You’re not coming?” Larke asked.
“No, we’re goin
g to stay here,” Eva answered.
“Delgano will be back,” Ivor decisively added. “And wh
en he comes back, I will handle him.”
Larke’s eyes widened in shock. “No, you can’t. That man has absolutely no scruples.”
Eva rubbed her hand soothingly before pulling her into her arms and kissing her on the cheek. She then went over the Desmond and did the same.
urged. “The sun is almost up.”
Larke tried to protest again but Eva s
ilenced her and ushered the two out of the door and into the waiting truck.
“How will you get yo
ur truck back?” Desmond asked.
Ivor gently pushed the door shut. “Let
me worry about that. Go now.”
As he started the ignition, they could see a line of cars coming around the hill in the distance. Ivor
turned and looked at the line, then sent Desmond a nod, confirming that it was Gano returning with his troops.
With a final wave, Desmond drove off and Larke watched the couple in the mirror until they were no longer in sight. Closing her eyes, she silently thanked them for everything for that they’d done
, and prayed for their safety as Gano and his gang pulled fully into the driveway.
The road was unforgiving. Violent winding twists and turns sent them both slamming into the side of the truck and bouncing so hard that they flew out of their seats. The diverging roads that Ivor had mentioned were even more treacherous, pouncing upon them so suddenly that Larke thought the pickup would overturn as Desmond abruptly rounded the corner of the right-handed path.
Neither of them spoke during the entire ride as they thought about Eva and Ivor nobly remaining behind to make sure that they’d made it to safety. Desmond tou
ched his pocket a few times to make sure that the box was still there as it would serve as a memento of Ivor and what a real man was actually like. Ivor had taught him much more than they both probably even realized, and it gave Desmond insight into a world that before had been foreign to him: a world where happy marriages existed and people could actually enjoy spending their lives together. Where compromise was real and agreements could be met. Where one person did not have absolute power over the other and households could carry on without fear, and a world where it was possible to fall in love and remain in love, even through disagreements and struggles. None of those things had been remote possibilities before meeting Ivor and Eva. He’d always assumed that happy marriages were façades and that people were truly hiding misery behind their plastic smiles. At least, that was the way regarded it until he saw the way Ivor held Eva in his arms the night that they danced.