I hate those awkward silences that burrow themselves into every breakup speech. They're not very long to begin with, those speeches - five, seven minutes tops - and you'd think every second would be filled with at least some pity or a primal scream of anguish and disgust. More often than not, though, it is just. Awkward. Silences.
Saying goodbye to Margie was not one of those times.
I met her in a small cafe outside of where she used to work as a nurse. Her big brown eyes and natural curiosity were magnetic, her skin supple and warm, her charms untold. She laughed nervously when I finally introduced myself, gave me her number but talked her way out of a first date. I wasn't too concerned; she was just cautious. Smart girl.
I only called her once or twice - come to think of it, I don't think I ever talked to her, just her machine. I hadn't given up on her, but I was in no hurry to find romance. Once I saw her flirting with another guy. Didn't bother me in the least. Margie was special; I just couldn't stay mad at her.
Then came the day I was waiting for. It was late July, 9 o'clock at night, and raining. Hard. Margie came crashing out the doors for her car. I was in the cafe, minding my own business, saw her blur past, so fast I didn't recognize her. I watched her fiddle with her keys, her jacket precariously held over head as she got drenched. Mild amusement took over me, then casual concern, and I threw down a few coins on the table and made my way for the door.
At first, she jumped when she saw me. I didn't mind; I'd be scared, too. Then a smile of recognition flickered across her face, and she resumed getting in her car. I held up my big umbrella above her, and she smiled again as she finally opened the door. "Thanks," she offered shyly. I just nodded and began walking off.
Her voice shot through the dark: "You headed somewhere?"
I turned around and waved her off. "Only a couple of blocks from here."
"Hop in," she said, reaching over and popping open the passenger door.
And so I did. It was a whirlwind from there, as blurry as that night itself. Candlelight dinners. Priceless baubles. Engrossing conversation. Midnight lovemaking. She stopped going to her nursing job; it just seemed right that I should take care of her instead. Her friends never really understood, but they couldn't see it. The look in her eyes of absolute adoration. And I in return worshipped her, my own goddess.
It was a beautiful two weeks.
And then Margie had to go and ruin it all. She stopped humoring me. Stopped paying attention to me. She was bored. Boring. I don't know what came over her. I don't expect every kept woman to be grateful - everybody's got to live their own life, mother always said - but Margie was different. She was special! And so I had to let her go.
"Margie," I began, recalling my carefully planned speech, "things have gone downhill with us. I don't know what it is, and I know it's only been two weeks, but I feel like we're already moving in different directions. I tried to figure it out on my own, tried to work this out. And I think it's you, really, that's the problem."
Margie sat in petulant silence.
"I know, you don't hear that much, but it's true. I think you led me on a bit, showed more interest than you really meant to. I can't quite place the moment you fooled me, but so it goes. But this is it, Margie. And next time, watch out for the other guys, huh? Some of them take these things seriously."
No awkward silences. Just turned around. Got in my car. And left.
The smaller detective ducked under the yellow crime tape, while the larger one lifted it up to step underneath. "What've we got?" said Little to Big.
"Female, Caucasian, early 20s. Possibly one Margaret Chambliss. Been missing for nearly two weeks. Last seen with some guy outside a cafe, but she dropped him off at his apartment complex - then vanished. Checked the guy out, but he was clean."
The two detectives stepped out into the misty morning woods. A crime scene unit was working around a shallow grave in a clearing. "You think this is her? Why don't you know? You got pictures of her, right?"
"Yeah, only she's been dead since day one. Two weeks of decomposing. We just sent her straight to the M.E. for dental and fingerprinting. Wanna know the weird thing?"
The two detectives stopped at the grave, staring down at the unearthed dirt, a small altar of sacrifice in the Georgia swamps.
"According to the criminologists, she was only out here in the woods 24 hours. Don't know where she was before that."
"Not sure you want to," Little added with a grim chuckle, and the two men stared down into the dark muck of death and mystery that lay at their feet.