She had such sad grey eyes, deep and unfathomable. I could lie there in her small bed, just lost in those eyes as though deep on some journey far away from any land I had known before.
‘Where are you from?’ I asked her once.
Ailene was silent for a while. ‘Far away,’ she said simply and then closed her eyes, ending my journey deep into their secrets. She rolled over away from me.
I thought about asking how far away, but I knew would not get a straightforward answer. Ailene was not a straightforward woman.
I had secrets too, I had a past. I knew better than to ask too many questions, especially those questions I knew I would not want to answer in turn. So, we danced around each other and each other’s mysteries, only ever drawing close as we lay in her bed together.
Of course, I never took her to my bed, not having one. My past too lay far away, not as far as my travels into the secrets of those grey eyes; I knew that, but still a place of distances.
This was a strange land, all the women rode in closed cars, or if they were out on foot, they wrapped silken scarves around their heads to conceal their faces. All you could ever see were dark eyes, peering out from behind bright multi-coloured scarves that hid the face.
None of them ever had grey eyes, though. So, when I saw Ailene, everything changed.
‘You are a stranger here,’ she said, at our first meeting. I was sitting alone at a street café table, watching this strange world going about its business. I was surprised, I was strange to this land but I knew by custom women did not talk to men, not women on their own talk to men on their own. I could sense the curious eyes at the nearby tables, the hostility.
I glanced around warily.
‘It is all right, they think I’m a prostitute.’
‘Are you?’ I said.
She shook her head and I looked at her, I fell into those sad grey eyes for the first time, already sensing it would not be the last. ‘No.’ She paused as though she was going to say something more, but did not.
‘Neither am I,’ I said. ‘Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings.’
‘But you are for hire, though.’ It was not a question.
‘Aren’t we all, in one way or another?’
‘Profound,’ she said. ‘But I’m not hiring you to be a philosopher.’
‘There’s no money in it. I know, I’ve tried.’
‘Yes, well.’ She looked around, at the bustling market, busy in the spice-rich air. ‘People making a living don’t have much time to ponder the eternal questions, I find.’
‘What do you think about?’ I could see her clothes were rich, well-made. She looked as though she did not have to worry where her next credits would come from.
She shrugged. ‘Just lately, I’ve been thinking about life and death a lot.’
‘That’s why I’m here, talking to you.’
I opened my hands wide on the table in front of me.
‘I need you to kill someone.’
I did not reply.
She reached out and took one of my hands in hers as those sad grey eyes stared into mine. ‘I want you to kill my husband for me.’