Deception: A Love of Lies

By T. J. Blake

Thriller

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362
12 mins

 

Chapter 1

The skies are grey. Damp, decomposing leaves cover the ground, making my path slippery in places. The wind is cold and sharp against my face. My breath plumes before me then dissipates into the thin air as I walk through it. I look down to Ella. Her head is down, moist nose sniffing the ground and I wonder how many different scents there must be for her to seek. Ella’s ears dangle, flopping gently against her face. She has the typical spaniel face; her straight white nose has a smattering of brown splodges which descend from between her hazel eyes.
“Heel girl, heel. Sit.”
Ella turns and sits down in front of me, eager for my next instruction. Her eyes glisten as she waits for my command.
I pull a dog treat from my pocket. “Good girl. Wait.” I kneel down and unclip the lead from her collar. “Wait. Wait. Go on then.” I fling out my arm as I give the command and Ella runs into the distance but returns like a boomerang.

I always enjoy my early morning walks with Ella. I like studying our location to see what people have done in the woodland and surrounding landscape. I can identify the age and gender of a person based on a change from the day before. For example, there are areas of the leaf-strewn ground that have been disturbed to reveal the sludgy, underlying mud. This was done by children, they have been using the mud as glue to build their bases and as ink to write on trees around the woods, marking their territory. I scratch it off.
There are scuff marks on every tree in one cluster, the scuffs are from the children’s dirty shoes. As they climbed up the trees they left their mark. They would have been here during the late afternoon, after they finished school, because glimmering slug trails are visible on the trees’ bark and slugs prefer the dark, damp night time. One tree however does not have the shiny lines because they have been rubbed off. An empty beer bottle sits at the foot of the tree, covered in piss. A man came here in the early hours; depressed and lonely, he comes here most nights. He is most likely around the age of fifty and he’s local. He got pissed whilst walking to no particular destination, ended up here, laid down by this tree.

Only a few dog walkers come through here, a dozen or so, possibly a couple more. There’s always one that leaves its dog’s shit on the ground for someone to step in. On this occasion someone had it follow them home via their shoe. Most likely the drunk man who’s a size ten foot, judging by the print left in the relatively big shit on the ground.
I know these woods better than anyone. These woods are mine. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t visit.

As we walk along the higher grounds of the woodlands, I notice more details. Dry fox scat, must be a day old. I wouldn’t have missed that yesterday so it must have been excreted just after I passed. I see balls of ginger fur rolling in the breeze. It’s not from a fox it’s from a pet cat; the fur is too fluffy and light to be a wild animal’s.
I move to the edge of the higher grounds and look over the naked lower woodlands. I scan the meandering dirt paths. The leaves on a few of the paths have been disturbed by the footfall of walkers, but not all. The trees are thinner down there; some of their leaves still have life in them. The dead leaves have blown from the higher grounds but some have been carried by the children to be used in their bases.
Through the stark and leafless trees, I see her; she’s walking her Springer, ‘Bussy’. She has a slight bounce to her stride as she lets Bussy gallop around the lower woodlands.
She has that horse rider look; tight fitted riding trousers and boots, a black woollen jumper and a white shirt.
Her brown hair is woven into a plait and dangles over her right shoulder.

I see her most mornings. I remember the first day I saw her; an instant attraction. I think she’s beautiful. She has such pensive blue eyes; they remind me of a blue sky right before the sun descends. From different angles, I catch the glint from her eyes, similar to the sparkle of a star in the night. Her skin is pale but in this cold she has rosy red cheeks that match her deep red lipstick.
Every time I see her, I want to talk to her. I want to get to know her, and I want to be her friend.
As I walk along the woods watching her from the corner of my eye, I once again pass her without saying a word. I wish I could pluck up the courage to speak to her but I simply can’t. She’s the first woman that’s caught my attention since Cindy.

I will not speak to her today. I will one day, but I will do something different to engage her attention. She usually completes the lower woodland walk in six minutes and forty-two seconds; she misses the deeper woodlands and goes home, I believe. I want to find out more about her so I will bypass the lower woodland and exit from the upper woods in two minutes, where she will have to walk up the slope to enter the upper woodlands and then exit onto the road. I will be far enough up the road that she will not see me, but I will see her.
“Ella, here.” My dog bounces back to me. “You need to be on the lead for this, little girl.”
I turn and retrace the path we have just walked. I reach the middle of the upper woods and then exit onto the road. I wait a couple of seconds and then I see the woman also exit the woods. A natural smile settles itself upon my lips; she must be special to make me smile so unexpectedly.
I walk down the road at the same speed as her. I never do this. The last time I walked down this road was when I followed a girl home when I was a kid.
I had forgotten about the detached three bedroom homes on the left, opposite the woods. This road always seemed like a wall, a divider protecting me from the world full of cruel and heartless people. The woods were where I felt most comfortable as a kid and even now, their reassurance remains with me.
As she reaches the crossroads at the bottom of the road, she hesitates, looks both ways and then jogs across and into the garden of a house. I stop walking and concentrate on which house is hers. There are two detached houses. There’s a fair amount of land for the two homes. A line of bushes separates their front gardens and it’s probably the same around the back.
She walks Bussy in my woodlands, so behind the houses must be private land, a farm possibly?
I can’t stare too long but I am intrigued already. I will come back.

I walk up the road and turn left into Lavingsham Close. Ella begins to tug harder towards the bungalow, recognising the familiar scent.
As Ella and I enter, I let her off the lead. “Go on then, get a drink.”
Ella sprints off through the sitting room and into the kitchen. The sounds of her claws against the wooden flooring, followed by the sound of her slurping, always makes me laugh.
I go into my sitting room and walk over to the wall filled with pictures of Cindy. I close my eyes and contemplate my mental image of the woman from the walk. I open my eyes and look to Cindy; they are so alike. They both have those mesmerising eyes that is easy to get lost in. The dark brown hair that weaves across their heads and down onto their shoulders, and they have the dark red lips and pale complexion, with rosy red cheeks in the cold.
I stroke the face of the woman from the woods and turn away. Realising what I had just done, I turn back to the wall and notice that it was Cindy whose cheek I was stroking.

Chapter 2

I slept the entire day and the bungalow is in darkness when I wake. Ella is asleep in her bed in the living room and now is the time to see the woman. I put on my coat, gloves and hat. I pick up my camera and binoculars and then stroke Ella’s stomach.
“Come on little girl we’re going for a late night walk.”
Before going down to her house, I look at my digital clock, 01:33.
I leave the close and walk alongside the woodland. We trudge down the road listening to the noises from the woods. To me they’re comforting and to Ella it’s a potential play friend, but to a normal person it would be frightening; they would believe it to be somebody watching them.
I know that no one will be watching me; I know that the noise is mostly from deer and foxes.

I reach the crossroads and study the darkened homes surrounding me. Out of all the homes there is just one light piercing through the night - hers. I pull my binoculars from my jacket pocket and place the safety strap over my head. I peer through them at her window and adjust them until I have clear focus. Stepping into the middle of the road, I can see more into her living room. I look at the back of the armchair centred in her room, I can see the back of her head. In front of her chair is a pouf and on that I can see part of her leg, she’s either relaxing or sleeping.
We cross over the road and stand at the end of her drive.
“Sit. Good girl, stay.”
I walk up the drive of her house and stand before the front door. There’s a peephole in the door. I look through it but see nothing but darkness.
Slowly moving across the drive, I kneel in front of the window and look in. There she is, lying on her chair. Her head faces the TV with a fire blazing to one side.
I can only see the back of the chair and her head, until I notice a free-standing mirror in the corner of the room. As I alter my position, I use the reflection of it to see her front, she’s asleep in purple pyjamas.
Her chest moves softly as she breathes.
Something that instantly stands out to me is her skin tone. Outside she has a pale complexion, but inside it appears even paler.
With her ankle on show, I imagine myself in the room with her. Standing over her. As I kneel down slowly, towards her, I smell her sweet perfume. I gently rub her foot and rest my fingers on her ankle. I lean over her body, and using the back of my hand, I caress her cheek.

I readjust my feet to see more of the room but her head turns towards me. I drop down to the ground and shuffle to the right of the window.
Did she see?

I wait a minute and ten seconds, then I take out my camera and rest it on the window; tilting the screen down towards me, I can look into the room. She’s disappeared.
I return to my kneeling position and look into the room. She couldn’t have seen, maybe she’s getting a drink. I move to the side of the house and go through into the back garden. I see the glow from her kitchen window on the grass and bushes. I move slowly to look into the kitchen. As I prepare to look in, her shadow moves across the light on the grass. I stretch a little to look through the window. It is only small, but it’s big enough to take a picture without being seen. I lift up my camera and focus on her face as she looks down to her mug, stirring sugar into her tea. My camera clicks repeatedly and she looks up at the window; I pull the camera away and shuffle to the side of the house. I watch the glow on the grass, her shadow disappears and the light turns off.
I look back through the photos; I am proud to have captured a photo with her staring straight at the camera. A lovely shot of her, revealing the freckles scattered across her cheeks and nose. A lovely feature she shares with Cindy; I forgot about those freckles until now.

I move back to the front of the house to see the sitting room light still on. I kneel in front of the house and pull out the camera again. She stands in the sitting room and I snap more photos, this time of her beautiful pale body. She has a better body than Cindy had; she’s skinnier but she has more curves, all in the places you’d expect. As I readjust my footing, my camera lens knocks against the glass. I hold my breath and all of a sudden Bussy lunges against the window. The dog stands on an armchair, glaring at me. Its teeth are bared and flecks of spit spray into the air and hit the window. The woman turns to the window and grabs her dressing gown to cover up. I duck down and run to the end of the driveway.
“Come on, Ella.”
I cross the road and duck behind a parked car as I stare at the house.
I see the front door open; the dog gallops out and sniffs the path in front of the house, it is particularly interested in the spot where Ella waited. I see the woman follow Bussy closely. She wears her pink dressing gown now. She spends only a few seconds looking around until she calls out, “Come on Bussy.”
Her voice sounds sweet, high pitched and timid. She nods to Bussy and shivers as the dog leads her back into the house. I take a number of photos of her as she walks back to the house. She disappears inside and I go home.

I sit in my armchair and look at the photos I took. I memorise her face and her body. I memorise her sitting room and kitchen. I imagine myself with her in the photos too. Tomorrow I will make a wall for her.

Chapter 3

For weeks I planned my walks around her. Ella and I neglected the woodlands. I was noticing less about the woods and noticing more about her. I noted that for weeks she followed a ritual of what clothes to wear for each day, she had a cycle. She wears four different pairs of riding trousers to take Bussy for her walks, two are navy blue and the other two are black, but for Sunday she wears jeans. For five days of the week she wears her black or blue jumpers with her mostly white shirts and the occasional light blue, teal or pink shirt underneath. She has many different walking boots. Most of the time she wears her riding boots, but on the odd occasion, when it isn’t freezing or raining, she wears black running trainers and she runs with Bussy. She runs at least once a week.
Recently though, something has changed with her, she seems to have more of a stride, more makeup on and more skin-tight clothing. She likes to wear her jeans more than ever now. She finishes her walks in the woodlands much quicker and spends more time in the open field at the end of the paths in the lower woodlands.

Another cold morning and Ella and I have left earlier than usual for our morning walk. This time, we take a different path. As we walk through the higher grounds, we enter the lower woodlands and then move into the deeper woodlands.
We haven’t been this deep for some time but it’s still as lonely as ever. These parts of the woods have always seemed so dead. When I was a kid, my foster parents warned me not to come this deep into the woods. I don’t have a clue why. If anything, it’s the safest part of the woods.
The one thing I noticed about these woods is that the pine trees are always bare. The trees are always brown and dead, except for the holly bushes.

I keep Ella on her lead as we wander up and down the woods. Staring through the trees, I can see the lower woods. I see a couple of dog walkers following the dirt paths. The first is an elderly woman walking her Jack Russell, and the second is a man with his German Shepherd.
We’ve been walking for over an hour and I notice the lack of singing from the birds and feel as if I’ve entered a graveyard. The only sound in these woods is the occasional snapping of twigs and drone of the wind. The ground is mostly undisturbed, but something which stands out to me is a path where someone has walked, dragging their feet, shuffling along.
My immediate thought is that it’s the children playing, but children won’t play in these intimidating woods; even if they did come here, they would be running. It is someone careless, probably the drunk. I have often wondered where he comes from and now I know. I follow the path which leads me to a cluster of holly bushes. The holly bushes sit in an oval formation, with a small parting in the centre. An obvious giveaway that it is the drunken man is the empty beer bottle that lies on the ground next to the parting. I turn around and head back towards the lower woodlands to keep an eye out for her.
I check my watch, she’ll come by in around three and a half minutes. I look to the upper woodlands, and see her and Bussy running, but they ran yesterday.
She has her hair tied up, she has her riding gear on but she’s running; she only ever runs when she has her trainers on.
I watch her jog the length of the upper woodlands and past me, allowing me to exit the deeper woods and follow behind her on the path. Ella picks up the scent of Bussy and becomes excited, she tugs on the lead and I yank her back.

We come to the opening of the woods and walk across the wet grass. The sky is cloudless and the sun is out. Although the temperature has dropped, the sun has melted the overnight frost that had given the grass a multi-coloured sparkle, similar to the appearance of diamonds. I notice patches of mud dotted around the field and then I see Bussy running around with the big German Shepherd. I stop walking and drag Ella back. I look across the field to see the woman. She twiddles her hair between her fingertips whilst she speaks to a man. I take a deep breath and continue walking. As we reach the halfway point to the exit, Bussy comes charging over and begins to sniff Ella. The German Shepherd bundles into Ella and sniffs her behind.
“Jake stop it. Where are your manners?” the man shouts across the field.
He nods to me, but I do not return his greeting.
Ella wants to be allowed off her lead but I continue to walk, dragging her behind me.
I watch the woman talking to him. She leans from side to side; she tilts her head and twiddles her hair. She faces him and does not look away once. I look her up and down countless times. Her riding trousers are new, brand new. Usually she has flecks of mud on them, but not today, the fabric is darker than her other pairs. I notice her arse, the back of her trousers are not worn like on her other pairs. I let out a cough, neither of them pay attention. I force out another and in the corner of my eye I see him look at me but she does not turn toward me.
I speed up my pace and leave the field. I don’t know what hurts more, the fact that she’s talking to someone else or the fact she didn’t even look at me.

Walking in the centre of the road, I imagine her with him. They exchange numbers, he goes back to hers and they talk a little more. They get on, he makes her laugh and well, she likes a man that can make her laugh. They organise a date for tonight. After the date he walks her to her door and they share a kiss. He suggests they should meet the next day, to take their dogs for a walk, how about the next morning? ‘Yeah sure,’ she’ll reply. They continue that cycle for a bit and then they fall in fucking love.
A droning noise approaches me from behind. I imagine myself with her, I’m him and she looks at me. It’s me she’s facing and her eyes look into mine. As I imagine looking into her eyes, I’m shaken from my vision by three blasts of noise. I slowly turn around to see a car trying to get past me. I turn away and step onto the grass verge, the car accelerates by.

I get home and let Ella off her lead. She walks over to the towel I have set on the floor for her and she rubs her belly on the floor, snuffling happily.
I go to the wall and look at the photos of her I put up. I can’t give up. I want to go and see her tonight, but I can’t bring myself to see them together again.
I go into the kitchen and reach for the wall cupboards. I hold the cupboard handle for a minute without opening it. I notice individual flecks of dust. “It’s been a long time,” I think to myself. I pull open the door and grab the bottle of whiskey. I take the bottle into the living room and push an armchair from across the room to the wall. I set myself down and sip from the bottle...

Deception: A Love of Lies, available now on Amazon!


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