I tell you. If you hang out with a bunch of writers long enough and your name is ‘Lily’… sure as shit everyone wants to call you the “lovely Lily Malone,” cos writers love that alliteration stuff. It’s why you get books called, Gone Girl; Dixie Divas; Billionaire Bachelors… give an author a common letter to play with and they give out the kind of ear-splitting squee that would split six sausages.
I’m not lovely. I’m not even nice. I have a mean streak, and it’s a mile long. A green mile.
I’m jealous of another Lily, because she has everything I want. She has Detective Mark Johnson’s complete, utter, undivided, attention.
But I’ve got ahead of myself. Let me explain.
You see, I’ve been watching Detective Mark Johnson for a while. Ever since he was the big kahuna policeman in the little West Australian town of Williams. You should have seen the girls fall over him there. Girls in the club. Girls on the street. But Detective Mark never had time for any of them. He was too busy saving his sister, Peta, from her psycho ex.
And there I was, masquerading behind the counter of the drive-thru at the Williams pub, making truly great recommendations about which wine went best with what. “You’re cooking steak tonight, sir? You need a big, gutsy red.”
Most men, if I look them square in the eye and mouth “big, gutsy red” … well, they melt like a Tim Tam in a two-year-old’s fist.
Not Detective Mark. He was all business. Oh don’t get me wrong, he was never rude. But he looked through me, I don’t think he ever properly saw me. He was a man on a mission, and that mission was never me.
Williams didn’t have enough to hold Detective Mark. Not once his sister found the man of her dreams and the psycho ex got his just desserts. Detective Mark headed for Perth HQ and got himself promoted. Got himself a shiny new blue and white car and a shirt with more stripes.
I didn’t stay after Detective Mark left. There’s only so many times you can tell someone: “white with seafood”, “red with meat”… “sparkling anytime”… “Lambrusco… never.” And something about Williams without Detective Mark smothered my words. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t breathe.
So I quit.
I found a flat near Cottesloe Beach where I can hear the surf and the seagulls. I walk on the beach here and get sand in my toes. I’m writing again. The words aren’t flowing; they come in splatters and dabs. But it’s progress. It’s more than I had.
I waitress nights at the Perth Convention Centre. Tonight there’s a big Awards ceremony, Apprentice Of The Year, but the Awards have been run and won already, speeches have been spoken. Me? I ducked outside for a smoke when the DJ struck up the Macarena. That song makes my head hurt, it’s too damn happy.
And that’s when I see him, talking into his phone. Detective Mark. He still has that same way of standing, like he’s already moving, legs slightly spread, right hip cocked, as if he’s about to hurdle a fence and catch the bad guy. It’s his Daniel Craig thing.
I suck in an extra chunk of oxygen with my smoke. It makes the cigarette flare orange, and he sees me. He screws up his eyes and steps closer to where I hog the shadows.
“Lily?” He takes the phone from his ear, “Lily Marlene?”
“Malone,” I sigh on the inside. “Lily Malone.”
He hits his forehead with the palm of his hand, which is the first time I notice the gun. “Lily Malone. Shit. I’m sorry. I remember the hat. How are you?”
I can’t help the way my stomach does its own Macarena at the knowledge he’s remembered me. Well, he’s remembered my hat.
Trust me, I rock my work uniform—short black skirt, buttoned-up white shirt, and I grabbed my trademark pink beanie before I snuck outside—but already, Mark has his phone to his ear and his other hand comes out to me, like he’s telling me to be quiet. Does he know he’s just waved his big ugly gun in my face.
The writer in me gasps at the same time as she takes a mental snapshot. What am I thinking? What is he thinking? Who’s the protagonist here? What do I smell? What can I hear. God, this plastered brick scrapes my shoulders…gonna snag my shirt.
That’s when I see the woman running through the shadows at the edge of the walkway around the Convention Centre.
I know her. How can I not know her? We share the same name. Lily Bennetti and her lawyer husband, Gino, hold the deed to every social page in every newspaper in this city.
A shiver sneaks down my spine. Gino Bennetti makes a better mafioso, than a mafioso. A better Squizzy, than Squizzy.
“Detective?” She’s out of breath, scared. Silver-blonde hair has broken out of what probably started the night as classic bun. Somewhere in her flight, she’s broken a heel because her knees aren’t working right, she’s running all stooped over, and yet when she reaches him, she manages to make his name sound like a purr. “Detective Johnson?”
Mark steadies her with a strong hand on her elbow. “Mrs Bennetti. It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
What does it say about me that as I watch his fingers curl about her arm, I wish she’d snap the other heel? She’s wearing shoes that cost more than I’ve made from selling my books in a year. I bet Lily Bennetti played Rapunzel in the school play. When she was born, Tinkerbell must have been right there sprinkling fairy dust on the crib.
Then someone opens a door on the balcony above us and there’s a splash of light. In it, I see her bruises. I see her tears. I see pain etched in a face so beautiful, it makes my throat hurt.
Detective Mark has forgotten me. Lily Bennetti doesn’t know I exist. They’re caught in a moment I don’t want to watch, and yet I can’t tear my eyes away. I’m such a sucker like that.
And that’s when I see the car beyond Mark’s broad shoulder. It’s long, and black and sleek, and it’s cruising silent as a shark.
“Um. Detective?” I mumble, pushing off the wall.
He tilts his head without looking at me, his eyes are locked on Lily’s milky skin.
I try again. “Detective. I know that car.”
My namesake turns, her knees give and she stumbles, just enough to make Detective Mark pull her close.
I’ve seen enough. If they want to mess with Squizzy, they’re on their own. The night air has calmed the ache in my head, and inside they’ve killed the Macarena. Someone’s playing Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run.
That’s enough of a message for me. I’m outta here.
p.s.: If you see this, Jenn J Mcleod: Lily Marlene is for you. 😉