The proposal

Den här är en short story som jag skrev till min icke svensktalande vän Nerys födelsedag ca 2012.

The Proposal

”I-I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea,” she mumbled.

“Of course it is. Don’t worry about it. I won’t tell on you.”

He was such a tease. She should’ve known that when she saw him. The thick, black hair next to the smooth, pale skin. Those dark eyes, which seemed to be able to read your every thought. His mouth would sometimes curve into an arrogant half-smile, showing some of his too perfect teeth. He was dressed in black, a dramatic colour that made him look like an angel of death. He probably was one, too. There was something in his eyes, which told her that he could kill her without hesitation. That thought made her shudder.

“Scared?” he whispered as he stroked her neck with a finger.

They were walking by a river, moving away from a small town that seemed to have been forgotten by the rest of the world. It was a dark December night. The snow was lying on the ground, crunching oh so lightly when they walked.

He’d come up to her in the pub. It was the only lively place in the small town. Each night the inhabitants of the village came to the pub to gossip over a pint. It had, understandably, been very noisy inside, and she’d been relieved when he’d asked her to follow him out for a walk.

But now, they stopped. His hand on her neck made her belly twist in excitement and fear.

“No, just a bit cold,” she lied, not wanting to show any fear. She was good at judging people, and she had an inkling this man was someone you needed to impress.

“Don’t lie, Cordelia, and don’t be scared.” He smiled his half-smile again, but now, it looked almost cruel. “Cordelia. A very beautiful name.”

“Yes, I suppose.”

You are very beautiful.”

She smiled shyly. It was the first compliment he’d given her this evening.

“You’re beautiful, too. But … you didn’t tell me your name.”

“What is a name, really? You can change a name …” he trailed off and smiled again as if he’d just told a joke.

“It would still be nice to call you something,” she said in a low voice.

He took her hand as they continued their walk by the river. “What does your mind tell you?”

”What do you mean?”

There was ice on the water. She was glad the wind wasn’t too brutal; she really needed a new winter cloak.

“You must already call me something in your mind,” he explained. “What do you call me in your head?”

She looked at the ground. Maybe it were the drinks that made her feel this way, but she really thought she couldn’t lie to this man.

“Hot lad.”

He chuckled. “I see. You think I’m hot, do you?”

“I don’t think there was a single woman in that room who didn’t think you were hot. Well, I don’t know about the waitress because she seemed to be gay, but—”

She was babbling. She knew she was babbling, but she couldn’t stop herself. Thankfully, he stopped her with his laugh.

They came to a halt again, and he made her face him. “But what do you think of my … proposal?”

One of his fingers came up to her face and stroked a lock of her hair out of her eyes.

“Well … I don’t know. I have a little sister I want to get home to. She’ll be scared if I’m not there in the morning.”

He arched an eyebrow. “Not worried about your parents?”

She shook her head. “My father is dead and my mother doesn’t care. That’s why I’m a bit worried about my sister. She’s just thirteen.”

He stroked her cheek again. His fingers were cold but gentle.

“You don’t seem to be so old either,” he commented softly.

“I’m eighteen; I’m old enough to take care of us. How old are you?”

“Does it matter?”

“I guess not.”

“I could help you … and your sister.”

“We manage.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do, but I don’t want you to feel like you’re letting your family down.”

She felt a surge of power. He was willing to do things for her if she would agree to help him. That put her in a higher position, which felt nice. She hadn’t had any power since she came home to help her family. The one thing she hated her parents most for was that they’d taken her power away from her. But if this man could help her …

This time, he put his hand on the small of her back, ushering her to continue their walk without another word. She could still see the bar where she’d met him, but the lights and sounds were becoming indistinguishable now. She looked up at the sky and saw the stars twinkle softly at her. It would be nice to do something again, without worrying about her sister. It had been a long time since anyone asked her …

“Do you have money?” she asked.

He looked amused. “Of course. Cash if you want.”

“I haven’t been paid much before. But I’ve always managed to please the procurer.” This time, she was the one who smiled like she’d told a joke. But he seemed to understand it because he smiled, too.

“So I’ve heard. I must be honest with you, Cordelia. One of my friends used your service some time back and he was very … pleased.”

“I’m very discreet,” she promised, “and I’ve become better with time.”

“I’m certain you have. If you please me now, I might use your service in the future again.”

“Just as long as no one finds out. The police doesn’t like people like me.”

He laughed. “No, they don’t. But that isn’t surprising. There isn’t much they do like.”

Cordelia looked shyly to ground again. She was tempted by his offer, but her sister had been very disappointed when she’d discovered what her “job” was. Cordelia had promised her not to do it again, not even if they had money problems. However, this fall her sister had been sickly and Cordelia was starting to get desperate.

He looked at her thoughtfully. “Will you do it?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Good girl.” He stroked her cheek one last time before he let go of her and gave her a photograph. “This is the target. If you have his head on my desk before tomorrow night, I’ll pay you extra.”

She looked at the picture. “He’ll be dead before the sun rises.”