How Could I Have
Copyright © 1 March 2000 Mint Kang
I’d seen Lindier in pretty bad states before, and today, that was, tonight, wasn't much different from the last few times. Tears were running openly down her face as I walked towards her, and she was making no effort to wipe them away. The collar lapels of her expensive maroon silk blouse were stained wetly.
"Uh, Miss Lindier?" I said, cautiously going up to her. "Is something wrong?"
That was a stupid question to ask, it was one am outside the Big Credit office building and one of the day shift clerks was standing on the front steps sobbing, of course something had to be wrong. But it was a springboard for conversation. "It’s all my fault," she wept. "I should have listened to him!"
Boyfriend trouble again. I suppressed a groan. Lindier’s boyfriend troubles were legendary in the Big Credit. Even night shift security guards like me knew about them! Her boyfriend was incredibly unfaithful while she remained steadfastly devoted to him, not that the creep deserved a nice woman like her. As a result she was in a state of constant depression that, in the words of the Monthly Psyche, ‘derived from the sense of neglect and guilt which inevitably develops from such one-sided relationships’. The general consensus was that she’d have a mental breakdown before the end of the year.
"What happened?" I said carefully, and she started crying even harder. It looked like breakdown time had finally come. In between sobs, I heard something like " - home - else - embracing - explain - " and then it degenerated into complete incoherency.
"I think you’d better come in and sit down, Miss Lindier," I said, and took her shoulder. Ye stars above, she was freezing! I hastily removed my jacket and put it around her before she could catch a chill, then hurried her up the steps and into the dimly-lit lobby, where I got her seated on a visitors’ couch before heading for the coffee machine. It was still on, even at this time - half the night shift’d resign if they didn't get their coffee.
While I was waiting for the machine to produce something more drinkable than hot water - what it usually dispensed on first request - Lindier started talking again, more coherently this time. I pieced the words together, cut out the sobs and gulps and managed to make some sense of it.
Apparently, Lindier had gone home after her shift was over, and walked in the door to see her bum of a boyfriend embracing another woman right in the middle of the living room. There had been a fine screaming fight in which Lindier threw her boyfriend over without a pause for him to explain, and then she came back to the Big Credit and did something unspecified but momentous.
"I didn’t even let him explain!" she finally wailed.
"Calm down and drink this, Miss Lindier," I said, putting the cup into her hands. "You'll feel better," I added, and devoutly hoped the coffee machine wouldn't make a liar of me. Fortunately, I’d only half-filled it - the way her hands were shaking, she’d have spilled a full cup all over herself, and her legs weren't protected by much more than a white miniskirt which’d probably stain horrendously. Nice legs, too.
"Oh, why did I ever do it?" Lindier wept. "It was so stupid! And he wasn't doing anything, not really - "
"Frankly, Miss Lindier," I said, "your boyfriend deserved it."
"He was only practising for the next shoot!" she wailed. "Why didn't I stop to think?"
Oh. Lindier's boyfriend was a model, I remembered. And he would simply have been practising poses with his colleague. Of course, after all this time of his unfaithfulness, Lindier would have had enough, misunderstood and snapped completely. "You should have thrown him over a long time ago," I remarked. "No offence, Miss Lindier, but from what I've heard he’s a complete heel."
"It’s not that," she wept. "It’s - so much worse - "
"Why don’t you tell me about it," I suggested.
"In - my own office - how could I have done such a thing?"
"What did you do, Miss Lindier?" At least, what could she have done to put her in such a state?
She didn't answer, but put the coffee cup down, got up and went to the elevator. I followed her, mystified. Lindier’s office was on the fifteenth floor, and that was where we ended up. The door was unlocked and half-open - of course it would be, she was here - and nothing in it appeared to have been touched when I cautiously looked in.
"How could I have done such a thing?" she started sobbing again as I tentatively stepped in. "He didn't deserve this! And - and - oh, how could I?"
"Uh, Miss Lindier - " I started. Nothing looked in the least out of place.
She pointed to the window, which was open. Perplexed, I went and looked out. At first - nothing. Then I looked down.
There was a body on the sidewalk, just under a streetlight. It wore a white miniskirt and a maroon blouse, and it looked the way bodies that have fallen from a very great height look - in any case, I was fortunate to be high up enough not to be able to see the details.
I spun round.
Lindier was gone. But my jacket was puddled on the floor where she had been standing.
"How could I have?" a whisper clung to the air. And then everything was silent again.