Ann Reynolds drove carefully, obeying the rules of the road, at least as well as she could. The white wine had been bought by Harold, a lonely man from the office, whose eyes had roosted on her half-exposed abundance like the talons of a falcon clinging to a leather-wrapped forearm.She had needed the alcohol for what she was about to do was against the laws of man. As for the laws of the Almighty, Ann had convinced herself He had literally meant the part about an eye for an eye. Patrick Muldoon had talked her into having an abortion. At first she had resisted, but in the end, as she always had, she did what the bastard wanted her to do.
Patrick deserved to die and, in a few hours, she would put him down in his fancy shower with the curved glass block and dual shower heads. She would watch his blood spoil the water, mixing pink as it circled the drain.
As time passed, Ann found herself driving in the neighborhood where she had grown up. God, it was so run down. She pulled to the curb across from the movie house of her youth. The place where she had learned about good and evil, fear and fun, laughter and lust. The place where she had first been kissed, first fondled, and where she had first touched a boy, there.
The Bijou had been her sanctuary where she had often escaped fear and confusion. The movie house where they played a double feature, a newsreel and a cartoon. And she had watched them over and over until she could not stay another minute without angering her parents.
The Bijou was now abandoned and boarded up, its glorious name no longer gracing the marquee.
She got out without knowing why and walked around the ticket booth cluttered with newspapers, and smelling of urine. All but one of the glass-covered cases, which had announced the wonders of so many coming attractions, had been broken. The one which had somehow endured seasons and vandals fondly held a faded, torn poster from the movieTootsie. She had loved that picture. Dustin Hoffman had been fabulous.
Ann stepped to the ticket booth and flush with memories, said, “One please.” She got no response, of course, but she had asked, so it was okay to go in. The door was unlocked. She eased inside, stopping at the damaged snack bar for a phantom box of popcorn and a large soft drink. Then through the sagging, dusty curtains, down the aisle and into the row she favored, to the very seat in which she had sat so many times. The arm rest was now broken. The seat cut. But she was there then, not now.
She closed her eyes and bathed in the memories. She heard music. There could be no music, but that didn’t matter. While sitting in this very seat, she had been romanced by many hunks of the silver screen, imagined savings lives, and felt the stirrings of love. She could easily accept music in such a magical place.
After a while she saw flickers on the screen and heard the voice of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, then Jessica Walter spoke some of her lines from Play Misty for Me, Lana Turner from The Postman Always Rings Twice, Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction, and then Stanwyck again, this time from The Strange Loves of Martha Ives. All women who had borne hatred for a man and let it fester.
Then she heard another voice. Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder, fighting for her life, struggling to survive the killer hired by her evil husband. And right then, Ann knew Grace had it right. A man can devastate you, but he can’t rot you on the inside. Not unless you let him.
Ann would always curse Patrick Muldoon, but escaping his meanness would be her revenge. And she would be kinder to Harold from the office. She could cure his loneliness, and he was not shallow and self-absorbed like Patrick Muldoon.
Ann Reynolds walked out of the now decrepit Bijou, taking with her one more lesson from the movie era that had defined right and wrong for an American generation. Violence was cowardice, not strength. Courage was turning from despair and walking toward the light.
Grace Kelly as the wronged wife had been a survivor, and Ann Reynolds would also be a survivor. By, David Bishop, author of mysteries and thrillers.