Annabelle

In all years that they knew each other, not once was the subject of churning butter ever discussed. Not once. After he died she often thought about this. She would sit alone on their favourite bench in the park thinking about the things they used to enjoy the most. And she would drink cheap wine from the bottle while she thought. Thinking. Thinking and drinking. Alone in public, ruing conversations about the art of crafting fine butters that never happened.

A lot of things had never happened for them. No children. No vacations. Neither of them had ever even had a driver’s license. It didn’t stop them from driving recklessly through church parking lots and school zones though. It did however ensure that they were never in any danger of losing their licenses. Sometimes drunk logic trumps the perceived wisdom of sobriety. That was how they thought.

This day though, her thinking was not particularly aligned with any kind of wisdom. It was simply bobbing along aimlessly on a sea of lonely sorrow. He was the only one that could make sense of her thoughts. And he was gone. Gone forever. Without so much as a by-your-leave. Just laid down beside her that evening and never got up. She was left feeling slightly betrayed.

At this age she felt that there was no point in starting over. It had taken that long to find someone she could relate to enough to spend her life with, and the effort to do it again was too much. The very notion of there being another like him was doubtful. So loneliness was what she had. Not even the company of the few co-workers she got along with to look forward to after the whole potato incident. Apparently it was against company policy to lace staff dinners with LSD. He would have stopped her from pulling such a prank if he hadn’t abandoned her to these mirthless zombies.

There had been a generous severance package at least. That, and his insurance policy were more than enough for her to start something more in line with what her heart truly desired. Maybe a nice little farm in the country, making artisanal butter, crafted using traditional practices. With a few modern techniques of course, but mostly not. If it ain’t broke, as the saying goes. Everybody loves a nice bit of gourmet butter now and then. And those that don’t can burn in hell. Must be the wine talking, she thought.

She made her way through the trees to where she had left the car. It had been fitted to look just enough like a taxi-cab that people often hailed her in the street. She loved to see the looks on their faces as she slowed down, as if to stop, and then sped off when her fares-to-be got close enough. Once in a while she would pick up drunks after the bars closed down and give them rides home for free. She found it amusing. A passenger had tried to take advantage of her a few weeks ago, but a straight-razor across the cheek quickly altered his plans. How quickly he turned from predator to prey. Grovelling and crying for his life during the long drive into the hills. She took his shoes and left him out there. Sometimes she watched the video she had recorded of the incident; she recorded all of these adventures. His behaviour intrigued her greatly.

No fares today though. She tempted fate enough by driving with no license. And the drinking was a sure deal-breaker should she ever get into an accident. Might as well not unduly complicate things by fraudulently enticing strangers into the vehicle with her, only to become entangled in the ensuing legal horror-show that would surely follow a crash. No, this was to be a solo journey. She started the vehicle, checked the mirrors and rolled carefully onto the grey thoroughfare. The route was a familiar one, one she could probably driven with her eyes completely closed, instead of squinting like they were now. Left here, right four blocks down, then another left onto the ramp. Up onto the bridge and then four miles west to their little house near the sea.

It wasn’t a grand house, and it wasn’t plain, somewhere in between. But for many years it had been the site of a very content cohabitation between her and him. They didn’t want for much, and what they did want they would generally go out and steal. That was one of the things they had shared since the beginning. Once they had stolen a bulldozer from a farm outside the city. In what ended up being a very amusing journey, they drove it for miles in a straight line as far as they could, through fences, fields and a little forest before it rumbled right into the ocean. Then they walked home along the beach. It took the rest of the night. The next day was spent anxiously awaiting repercussions that never came. By some miracle nobody saw anything. They chalked it up as a free one and never repeated the experience.

After his funeral ceremony she had wandered around the ornate church that his mother had insisted upon and stole as many expensive-looking things as she could fit in her pockets and purse. When she returned home afterwards she hung a rather large crucifix over her absent partner’s chair and drank with the lord. He seemed to forgive her.

It still seemed like just last week that she had been introduced to loneliness, but in fact it had been months now. Introductions often lead to friendships, but she had never really let herself become more than acquaintances with people. She'd been a loner most of her life until she had met him. But never lonely. Not like this. The first painful weeks dulled into the following numb months and she wondered if she had the desire to hang on long enough to see what hollow sensations a year would bring.

Another solitary meal at the table. The table had been much too large for the two of them, but they liked it. It was a beautiful table and it had taken so much work to bring it into the house that they decided it would stay. They set two chairs at one end ot the table, to be close to each other, and ate, drank and played cards near the big window. Now she sat in his chair and ate. Food was one thing she still found worth putting effort into. The cooking ritual. The sounds, the smells, and the reward of eating what always turned out to be magnificent, brought some joy to her. She was grateful for that, and it kept her occupied and somewhat healthy.

Tonight it was simple fare though: French-style bread, Kalamata olives, a few pieces of some kind of Hungarian salami from the shop over by the pub, and a lot of butter. The best butter she had found in the thirty years since she had moved to the city. A couple from France had moved onto an acreage to the south and started a small gourmet shop. The butter was expensive but worth every penny. And it was made fresh weekly. The husband had promised he would show her the secret to making it his way if she wanted to come by on Saturdays. Very early. Before the shop opened.

She decided she would take him up on it this upcoming weekend. That was in three days. But for now she would finish this bottle of wine and fall asleep on the couch again. Put on a show, maybe Bond, for some company, and drink until unconsciousness locked out the pain for a few oblivious hours.

That Saturday she woke early, less hungover than usual, had some bread and butter and a glass of fresh orange juice, got in her car and started out towards the French couple’s delightful little place. The drive was not a long one and she felt a little apprehensive as she got closer. She had not spent any more time with anyone than the time it took to buy a coffee or groceries, or get her car filled, since that fateful LSD-tainted staff gathering. She slowed the car in preparation for entering the narrow lane leading to the shop, turned left without checking to see if anyone was coming around the opposite corner, there never was, and she entered the lane.

What was in front of her, not fifty feet away, couldn't have been more shocking. Her eyes opened in disbelief as her mouth struggled to find anything intelligible to offer, and her body refused to obey the signals sent from her overwhelmed brain. The car left the lane and slowly rolled to a halt in the small field beside the entrance to the acreage.

Another fan of the gourmet shop found her a few hours later, mumbling unintelligibly and rocking back and forth behind the wheel of her faux-taxi in the little field beside the lane.

Nobody ever got another sensible word out of her and she died not long after in a peaceful little getaway for those who’s faculties have abandoned them. She went quietly, in her sleep, with some stolen cutlery from the cantina under her pillow and a slight, sad smile on her lips.