My entry for the flash fiction challenge Inspiration from Inexplicable Photos:
She’d gotten as far she could before her legs decided it was time for a break.
Martina counted herself lucky as she sat in the middle of the airport, leaning against a post, not a meter from a packed bench. People hustled and bustled past her. She caught snippets of conversation. Something about a performance troupe? Anyway, she wasn’t in terrible shape. Her heels, not well suited for her flight but kick-ass in look, had gotten her from his front door to here without too much stumbling.
This was going to happen sooner or later, she thought as she lit up a cigarette (what were they going to do, arrest her? Nothing new there.) and studied those heels. Good shoes and top-shelf booze could only keep her ignorant to the truth for so long. If anybody were to ask, it wasn’t the women on the side or the gambling or the elbow-rubbing with bad people she minded; in fact, some of those things were what had attracted her to him in the first place. No, it was the neglect. Being taken for granted. Putting unrealistic expectations on her and then flying into a rage when she fell short.
Martina thought back to one of the first serious conversations they’d had, after a night on the town followed by lovemaking on the roof of her flat. “I’m not housewife material, you know. I don’t do well when all the responsibilities of home are foisted upon me. To me, Dragomir, a relationship’s a partnership. We do these things together, or not at all.”
She blew smoke. It didn’t seem unreasonable, even after two years. But the truth was that he didn’t think it unreasonable. The truth was far, far worse.
She glanced around, but couldn’t see any cameras other than airport’s little black security domes all over the place. She fought the urge to show them her finger. Most days she worried about who might see her, who might realize who she was. Not today, though. There was too much bourbon and nicotine in her bloodstream to facilitate giving a shit. If her father knew she was here, in this state, he’d probably be furious. That made her smile.
It was because he’d be even more enraged when she told him why. Her father had been tolerant of her relationship, cordial with Dragonmir during the one dinner they’d shared. Even then, she hadn’t put two and two together. But looking back, she could see through his mask. The bastard had been far more interested in endearing himself to her father than just enjoying the meal or assuring her father that she was being looked after.
She looked at her heels again. He was always dressing her up. Every week or so, another club or event would require his presence, and that meant she needed to be on his arm, smiling and looking gorgeous. He wanted to be seen with her, to make sure others saw her with him, to draw conclusions based on how close she was to him.
It wasn’t as if her father was that terribly important. He’d taken a banking career into politics relatively quickly, certainly, and the paparazzi often sought sordid details on how he, not quite 40, felt about his only daughter being seen out and about at all hours of the evening. She’d learned in her early teens to dodge their annoying cameras and incessant caterwauling, and Dragomir did not go so far as to push them in front of those cameras. But he still made sure important and dangerous men drew the conclusions he wanted. He still dressed her up and brought her along to deepen and thicken his clout.
He still used her.
Martina threw the cigarette away. Getting to her feet was not as smooth as she would have liked. She picked up her purse from where she’d left it, pinned between the small of her back and the pole. The cash in her purse would serve her quite well. Dragomir had never been terribly circumspect in hiding where he kept his safe, and the combination was his birthday. She walked towards the gates, musing to herself that he might be handsome and ambitious, but smart was not among his qualities.
There was commotion behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, and caught sight of him. Dragomir. His shirt was wrinkled and he had a black eye. Three men were behind him, all large and broad-shouldered, no long hair, beady eyes. The last time she’d seen men like that, they’d been in the company of some well-to-do man with all of the personality and attractiveness of an oil slick. She wondered what exactly their business was with Dragomir. But, again, giving a shit was beyond her capacity.
Some of the performers in the lounge area accosted Dragomir and his big friends. This suited her just fine. Martina didn’t know any of them, but she was glad they were who they were, just trying to earn some coin by being amusing or entertaining. It let her get a few more steps ahead. She pulled her ticket and passport from her purse as she approached the security checkpoint.
She glanced behind her again. At least one of the big guys was dipping a hand under his jacket. She picked up her pace to reach the checkpoint. There were only two people ahead of her, and both of them got their pockets empty before walking through the metal detector. Martina grinned. One advantage to wearing a dress with no pockets was never needing to check them for spare change.
She breezed right through, picking up her purse on the other side of the conveyor. She turned fully, seeing Dragomir standing there, a crestfallen and hopeless look on his face. His three friends stared blankly, two of them already grabbing him by the arms.
She smiled brightly and said good-bye with a single finger.
Next stop? Somewhere nobody will know me, or my father. Somewhere I can start over.