by Mark J. Reagan
“Let’s just be enemies.”
They were the four words that every man hates to hear from the woman he loves.
“Yeah, yeah, I guess we can be friends.” I am so damn lame. Friends? No. Screw that. I have enough—
Aleksandra leaned back, spread her arms over the backs of the chairs next to her and glowered at me, her brow furrowed beneath a straight edge of red hair.
“Enemies,” she repeated, her Russian accent giving the word a seductive quality that chilled me.
“Enemies? What? Why?”
“Because I hate you.”
She pursed her lips, licked them like she was about to devour one of the peppermint white chocolate mochas she enjoyed several times a day. It was a look of which I had dreamed of being the target.
Now, not so much.
“No,” she said with a curt shake of her head, “hate is not a strong enough word. Hate may be strong enough for an ass like you to use… Disdain? I disdain you? No, that’s not right either. Perhaps despise. I’ll think on this later.”
She snapped her fingers and her bodyguards aimed pistols at my forehead.
Maybe… “Can we just be friends?” I said.
She laughed at me, like a pig snorting mud, and I laughed, too. I always laughed when she made that sound. So did her bodyguards. She covered her mouth and tried to stop laughing, which made everyone laugh more. It only made her more attractive to me; a woman who can laugh at herself is one to be valued.
She waved her hand for everyone to stop laughing, to realize the severity of the situation.
“That’s enough now,” she said. “Look, Georgie—”
“Turner,” I said.
“Turner? You look like a Georgie to me.”
“You’ve known me for years!”
“Has it been that long?”
She looked to the bodyguard with a handlebar mustache on her right. The bodyguard shrugged.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “You know, I liked you until you kissed me. It was so sudden, it shocked me. And then all those messages and…” She reached out and touched my hands. “You understand.”
“You do,” she said and leaned back again. “The kiss wouldn’t have been so bad, but you came off afterward as so pathetic and miserable. You took initiative and then curled into a fetus. I don’t like that. My men must have spines like steel, not syrup. There’s a time to be supplicating and a time to not. And after kissing me? That’s not one of those times. You apologized for it.”
“That’s all you can say?”
“I’m not sure what to say with guns pointed at me.”
She sighed, a puff of breath disturbing the hair above her eyes. A friend once told me that all redheads were evil, and Aleksandra was not the exception. It made me want her more.
“Here,” she said, “let’s have some fun.” She held out a hand to the guard with the platinum blonde hair, asking for a pistol. “I’ll give you a head start. Thirty seconds, and I’ll chase you down myself.”
Was she serious? There’s no way she could run me down in a black cocktail dress and stiletto heels… but at the same time, we were in her walled-off compound. I was surrounded, but I still had my gun on me. Why did she let me keep my gun? She knew I had it. Did she want me to shoot back at her? Maybe she did—I didn’t want to think about it. She’s sick, that’s all there is to it. After killing for a woman for two years, a guy thinks he’s capable of judging her to be sane.
“Thirty seconds?” I said.
“Give or take. I might change my mind.”
I’m grinning. Shouldn’t I feel crushed by the whole situation?
“I always wanted a woman to chase me.”
I stood, knowing that I would shoot her if I had to, without hesitation. Even though I loved her. Or maybe I didn’t. I don’t know! Damn.
“When do we start?” I said.
She flipped over her wrist, looked at her watch.
I ran. But not far. I ducked behind a suit of armor in the hallway and hid. At fifteen seconds, she came running down the hall, barefoot. I kicked her legs as she ran by, tripping her, gun tumbling from her hand, a laugh from her throat. She started to stand, but I threw her up to her feet and pressed my gun to her temple. I whipped around, holding her in front of me. The bodyguards following her stopped. I ducked down to avoid having them blow my head off; Aleksandra was a full foot shorter than me.
“I’ll shoot her!” I said. The bodyguards didn’t fire, but didn’t flinch either. Good men.
“Now this is more like it!” she said. “Go on, shoot me.”
I tangoed backward down the hallway with her.
“Not until I’m out of here.”
“Even if you do, I’ll still find you.”
I made my way toward the garage, gaining a following of men with guns trained on us.
“Follow us and she’s dead,” I said, and she shrugged. I pushed us into a red corvette, made her drive, gun still against her head. And we drove out. A mile outside the gates, in the forest, she stopped the car.
“Keep driving,” I said.
“Go on,” she answered. “Shoot me.”
“Don’t be such a bitch. Shoot. Me. You said you would.”
“Um, no. You can get out.”
“You’re giving me permission to get out? If you want me to get out, tell me to get out. Either tell me to get out, or shoot me.”
I didn’t shoot.
“You know what? This whole damn situation is pancakes,” she said and reached between her thighs, up her dress, retrieved a snub-nosed revolver and spun it on one finger with the grace of a gunslinger toward my head and oh my god I shot her.
Hole in her forehead, hole in the window, both dripping blood.
“Oh shit shit shit I’m sorry!”
“There you go again,” she said and sat up right. Her finger circled the rim of the hole in her skull, and she smiled at the blood-coated tip. “Stop apologizing for every little thing and—”
I shot her again.
“—be a real man.”
A third time. A fourth.
“Go get ‘em!” she said.
The fifth, sixth and seventh shots pierced her, she laughed her pig snort, bullets in her brain, her neck, her chest, and I laughed right with her, laughter fused with crying. She laid against the door, brought her legs up over the stick and crossed them over my lap.
“Right here, tiger,” she said and traced an X over her heart. My hand was shaking so bad that I missed the eighth shot. “I’m waiting.”
Number nine went right through the X’s center.
She rubbed the bullet hole, tussled her hair.
I leaped out of the car, started to charge away, and I heard her feet on the road behind me. Aleksandra clamped down on my shoulders and spun me around and I unloaded the rest of the clip into her. She fell back and squirmed on the asphalt. Why wouldn’t she stop laughing? She should be dead! This—
I jumped into the car, threw it into gear, tires screeching, and I hit her, front end crumpling. I hit her again. Backed over her, my head hitting the roof. I collapsed, my forehead against the steering wheel, lungs pumping to try and calm down for one second, and she opened the passenger door and got in, stained with blood, with dirt, her dress torn, hair in desperate need of her stylist. I planted my eyes in my hands rather than look at her.
She patted me on the shoulder. A pity pat.
“Nice try,” she said. “How are you holding up?”
“You. Dead. You should be.”
“Nah, I’m all right. Here.” She handed me a bloody handkerchief from her cleavage, and I wiped my tears and blew my nose. “Not so bad, is it?”
“I admire your gusto when you get down to it. Georgie, you’re a really nice guy, but—”
“I… I thought you liked me, Turner, not Georg—”
“Look, I’m a big flirt. It’s my nature, I enjoy it. Did it come across as me leading you on?”
I nodded and blew my nose again.
“Then I apologize.”
“You don’t despise me?”
“I did, but this was good.”
“Do we have a chance?”
Pig snort. “No. I just got out of this three year relationship and…”
“You… you could’ve said something before I kissed you.”
She lifted my face from the steering wheel, forced me to look at her. The bullet holes were almost healed.
“I keep my business to myself. And I was conflicted. You’re cute, but I thought we were just having a good time.”
I wiped my eyes again. “At least you’re forward, I guess.”
“Sometimes,” she said and patted my cheek. “So yeah, why don’t we just be friends?”
I crossed my arms, turned away. “But I don’t wanna be friends.”
“I admit it,” she said, “a relationship with you would no doubt be interesting. You kill for me, but you can turn into a softy like this? It’s intriguing, but that’s not what I want for me right now. There’s someone out there for you, tiger. So after all this, think we can be friends? You can keep your job.”
“I can’t let you go. No one would really believe you, but I’d rather not have rumors spread around right now. And you’re useful.”
“I… I’ll try.”
“That’s all I’m asking,” she said. “Better than the alternative, right?”
It really was. Thinking about it, I don’t think I had ever been more relieved to just be friends with a woman. She couldn’t die… or something. Not a bad friend to have, really.
“Right,” I said.
She held out her pinky. “Pinky swear on it?”
“You won’t kill me?”
“Nah, not for this, Geor—Turner.”
I entwined my pinky with hers and shook.
“Great,” she said. “Now drive us back and clean up your mess.”
She yanked down on my earlobe and twisted.
“This is the time to be supplicating. Drive.”
I rubbed my ear and turned the car around.
MARK J. REAGAN is a bad cook, can sprint fifty feet before running out of breath, be blown over by strong gusts of wind and lives in Denver. Other than writing, he enjoys things like Salsa dancing, studying interpersonal communication and pretending to be more grandiloquent than he actually is.