Monday, 2 September 2013

Breaking point

The warmth of the sun oozed over her, barely disturbed by the cool breeze that trickled through it. She reclined on a sunbed, wearing a bikini and reading a book. The occasional fly buzzed lazily past, the heat driving them into a somnolent state that the birds were swift to take advantage of. They seemed to glory in the swift dives and the bright sunlight.

The girl remained oblivious as she casually turned pages.

In the trees on a cliff overlooking the property the photographer lowered himself into place. He didn't know who she was - didn't really care - she'd reached the island clinging onto the arm of a sugar daddy who had booked this movie stars' holiday home under an assumed name. There was something going on, and that meant he could profit. He set the camera up, resting precariously on three branches, cursing the lengths the movie star had gone to in order to isolate this place.

Finally, he was set up and he focussed in on her. He smiled. Jackpot. She was lying on the patio, under the shade of an umbrella, but from his angle there was a perfectly clear view. She was skeletally thin, which would give the womens' mags something to criticise and - snapping a few pictures and zooming in further - there was some suspicious bruising on her thigh, which gave something for the rags to link to the movie star.

Far below, the girl was drawn from her book by the sound of an alarm. She sighed and folded the arm holding her book across her belly. The other arm reached up, resting on her forehead. The beeping continued. After a few moments, she reached over and disabled the alarm. She rolled her head to one side and stared down at the box beside the sunbed with a kind of loathing in her eyes.

Moving with sudden speed, she sat up, reached over and picked it up. With shaking hands, she assembled the contents. The assurance of her motions talked of regular practice. She lay the box aside, withdrew the syringe and lined it up on her thigh. There she hesitated.

High above the photographer was taking pictures so frantically he might be able to sell them as a video. He tensed as he saw the sugar daddy walking swiftly onto the patio, but kept snapping.

The girl looked up and saw him. She smiled a little and he walked over, pulled up a chair and sat beside her. "Would you like me to?" he nodded at the syringe as he spoke.

"No." she spoke flatly. "I wouldn't like anyone to."

"I'm here if you need me."

She nodded, staring off into the distance. For about a minute all was still on the patio, then she inhaled swiftly and injected herself. Job done, the man retrieved the box and she replaced the syringe in it. He leaned forward and stroked back her hair.

The photographer was ecstatic. This would be huge money for him! As the man returned indoors with the box, the girl reclaimed her book and everything returned to normal. The photographer checked his watch and spent a moment or two weighing the likelihood that he would miss anything if he left now. The pictures he had were already worth a fortune, and he wasn't exactly comfortable in his position.

He began to pack up all his gear. Within ten minutes he was done hauling himself out of his nest, and was sprinting towards his motorbike to return to the airport as quickly as possible.

The man returned to the patio with a basin full of random items. A book, pens, paper, a bottle of energy drink, a thermos, several towels, some biscuits and a tablet PC. The girl looked over at him and smiled even less than before. Her skin had paled while he was indoors, and there was a faint sheen of perspiration over her face. She took a towel and wiped herself dry.

"I wish you would let me hire a nurse." he spoke gently, with deep concern. She reached out and touched his hand.

"Please don't. If I had a nurse it would be so obvious and I just don't want anyone to know."

"People aren't going to judge you, my dear."

"No, they'll be nice to me instead! They'll ask me a million questions about how I'm feeling and if the chemo is working and they'll try and do things, and I'll never have any privacy. I just can't cope with convincing other people that it's OK, when it isn't, and I don't want them to know enough that they want to help. You just let me get on with it, most people wouldn't. I just can't bear the intrusion."

He poured a hot liquid from the thermos and handed it to her. "Here, drink this. I think it would be easier for you if you had someone else to take control of the unpleasant parts. You're too worn down to have to inject yourself. At least if it was another person's job you wouldn't have the mental battle."

She looked at him over the rim of the thermos lid. She was inhaling the steam and her eyes looked slightly moist. "Let me get on with it."

He nodded. "If that's what's you want."

"I think I want the basin."

He handed it over wordlessly and she retched into it for several minutes while he gently held her hair. Finally, shuddering, she stopped. He stroked her gently with a fresh towel and she shivered. After a short while, he handed her the thermos lid again and she took a cautious sip. He picked up the book he brought out with him and began to read out loud. She managed twenty minutes before another paroxysm overtook her.

After the second event she began swathing herself in towels, huddling for warmth and trying to stop the shivering. She switched to the cold energy drink, but the taste was vile to her tortured tongue and she only managed tiny sips.

He took the basin inside, and returned with a clean one a few moments later. In his absence she had begun nibbling on a biscuit. He didn't comment, merely picking up the book where he left off. After ten minutes more, she had begun to relax and was clearly on the verge of falling asleep when suddenly the tablet started beeping wildly as several people tried to contact her. Startled awake she reached out automatically and flicked to the messages. Her eyes widened and her face paled. With a shaking hand she tapped a link. Moments later tears were pouring down her face and he reached out and seized the tablet. Discarding it without a glance, he wrapped his arms around her and began stroking her hair, rocking her back and forth.

After a few minutes she had stopped sobbing, but now her eyes were tormented as they had never been before and she stared out into the trees. "I can't deal with this filth." She spoke clearly and firmly then stood up and walked inside.

He collected the tablet and glanced down at the webpage that had opened. The first picture he saw was suggestive of the two of them in a "romantic" embrace. Dismissing it, he scrolled up seeking for the real source of her distress and saw the headline and leading picture: "Where's your wife? While her husband says she is holidaying quietly, this Hollywood wife is doing drugs and his management team!"