You can interact with Alyce and not even realize it. It’s almost like walking through the morning mist, and you think nothing of it until you get home and discover that your clothes are damp. It’s only then that you realize the presence.
I did not know her before she was what she became, that misty veil of virtue that we all associate with her today. But you’ve all heard the rumors, how she killed a man in order to survive. Not exactly self-defense, as I understood it, but more akin to self-preservation. It was like a drowning man pulling his rescuer down with him; she had to cut him loose or share his fate.
Every now and then she would broach the subject, but only cryptically, and always in the vaguest of language.
“There was someone in my past,” she once confessed to me. Gazing at her with feigned concern, I asked if I should be jealous. She smiled that Mona Lisa smile which she had so perfectly perfected, as if she was hiding something so wonderfully mysterious.
“Why, not at all,” she reassured me. “He meant everything to me!”
She giggled, her fingertips daintily hiding her mouth, in a futile attempt to cover her missing, front tooth. She would be upset with me if she knew I was revealing this, but it was hardly a secret. Everyone knew, and no one cared about it except Alyce.
I did ask her about the missing tooth when we first met, and she told me she loosened it drinking a boilermaker. Eventually, the loose tooth just fell out.
“A boilermaker?” I questioned. “That’s a shot of Bourbon followed by a beer chaser? I don’t get it…”
She explained that the proper way to drink a boilermaker is to drop the shot glass directly into the beer mug, and then chug it down. One night, the jigger banged into her tooth and caused the damage. “It was a just freak accident,” she added. “It happens all the time!”
Naturally, I didn’t believe her. For one thing, she doesn’t drink. Besides, I’ve heard her tell different stories to different people. The thing that’s important to remember is that she is quite an inventive writer, so it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what’s real and what’s fiction when she speaks.
“I was meeting a friend for an early afternoon cup of coffee,” she told one inquisitive old hen, “when I walked head-on into a plate glass window! All the people were sitting around this lovely fountain enjoying their caffè lattes, the sparrows were scrounging about looking for fallen crumbs, there were flowers and trees everywhere… I saw my friend sitting at one of the tables, she waved, and I walked towards her. I had no idea that the garden was indoors. Pretty silly, if you ask me! Indoors should look like indoors, not an English tea garden! But I must admit, they really keep that glass spotless. Not a smudge or fingerprint to be found.”
The hen looked horrified. “Did you sue?” she inquired.
“Heavens, no,” Alyce answered haughtily, as if suing someone was beneath her. “But I did get a free, small cappuccino for all my trouble.”
“That’s it?” the hen asked.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Alyce lamented. “Do you think I should have held out for a large one?”
Alyce smiled impishly, fingertips to lips, and it was in that moment that the hen realized she had fallen victim to one of Alyce’s many fictions.
“Oh, you…” she scolded. “Now you owe me the true story!”
Alyce mulled it over, weighing the plus and minuses of revealing one of her mysteries to mother hen. I watched her smile dissipate, replaced by a look so fiercely serious that I barely even recognized the always smiling Alyce. She started to speak, but stopped herself before a single syllable escaped her mouth. I could see a tear welling in the corner of her right eye.
The hen patted Alyce’s hand, and assured her that it was alright to talk about it. “You shouldn’t keep this bottled-up inside,” I offered.
“My…” she sniffled, and then paused for a moment to collect herself. “My ex-boyfriend punched me,” she continued.
The hen and I were both horrified. I couldn’t imagine anyone ever hitting someone as sweet as Alyce.
“When did this happen?” I asked, in a hushed tone with true concern.
“About thirty-five seconds before I killed the bastard,” she answered, breaking into laughter.