India takes the cup. (Or: people disappear all the time, but seldom to such scenic locales.)

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(Again, written mostly with the screenplay in mind -- in particular the less hands-on option Charlie gives India for offing her mother -- but refreshed and informed by the actual film. I've got no idea if this takes place in the same universe as 'o rose', so that's anybody's guess.)

Imported from Archive of Our Own. Original work id: 722558.

India takes the cup and grinds up the pills with her own hands white-knuckled around the battered old spice mortar. There's a chip in the marble, and every time the pestle grates against it, stone on stone, it makes an awful narrow groan. The cup and plate lie gleaming on the rack while the ambulance comes.

India doesn't miss a note, she answers every question; playing the part written for the numb, stunned survivor is easy because it is true. She's the hunter, she survives.

Everyone knows what Evelyn is like -- was like. A hundred pairs of spiteful eyes, a hundred gossiping mouths, a hundred vicious old women who will attest that Evelyn was a wreck, a husk of her former self, a drunk and an addict and a tramp. That it was only a matter of time, that accidents happen, that even if it were not an accident, God forbid, salacious tongues will wag, it certainly couldn't screw up the girl any worse. A widow and a little weirdo.

They don't go to New York, in fact, a little farther than that. India sleeps in the passenger's seat and hopes Charlie will take the hint and crash the car. They take the green Jag and make new friends in Annapolis. Good old friends with a large friendly dog and a good-sized boat. India is personable and Charlie is kind. The couple have no children, having never gotten around to it in the course of collecting charming anchors and lithograph prints, and they are only too ready to believe that India's attending college there in the fall and that Charlie works out in DC.

At the end of their months Charlie's sunburn is peeling on the bridge of his nose and India is sick to death of sweaters and loose ponytails and plastic-bagged sandwiches and large friendly dogs. But the boat is small enough for two hands to manage (Charlie takes to it like this was the hobby he was bred for) and it's just right for their purposes.

They make friends in the Bahamas, like any two tourists. They fly false flags.

Charlie's sunburn has faded into a deep honeymoon tan. India paces in a man's white dress shirt, tucked into exceedingly brief khaki shorts. The shirttails peek out from where they've been tucked in against her long, tan thigh. She takes Charlie's sunglasses from his head and folds them shut.

"We need to keep moving."

What's that kind of animal that can't stop moving, or it dies?

All semblance of distance has been shucked off of her like a damp undergarment. She swims naked and lies awake while Charlie sleeps, biting her nails and making sure they don't run aground. On course, always, even when she's got no idea where they're really headed at the end of all of this. It's a long way from here to Paris, to Petra, to every place Charlie has ever lied about being -- will he like them once he's arrived, or is the wanting better than the having?

She worries about that sometimes with regard to herself. Charlie never really wanted a lover. It's a pleasant surprise the degree to which he is not Humbert Humbert, in want of a child wife. His intentions, though far from pure, are more ambiguous -- she still hates him, of course, hates him for his presumption, but there has never been a man in the world more empty, a stage direction, a ghost. He's in want of an identity, a better self, and if he's so convinced they're kindred spirits, that he's made for her and vice versa, he has a funny way of showing it. Really, he knows nothing about being his own man -- he walks and talks like a high-end catalog model but doesn't know when to get to bed if she shows no inclination of going there herself. They've had to negotiate their shifts of who mans the ship while the other sleeps fitfully around her own rhythms and not his. In an institution, someone else turns off the lights for you, isn't that so? (What was it like? Cold, dark? Or progressive and airy? They must have built the place up around him.) Richard used to do that, when India would stay up too late reading or writing. He'd appear almost soundlessly, padding in with slippered feet and hunter's tread, and switch the light off, and she'd curl up among the books of photographs to nod off sulkily, their plasticky slipcovers rustling in her ear. No good-nights, no pledges of familial love; they would barely acknowledge each other, in the course of their regular dance of roles, but that was its own kind of care. They were familiar to one another, like clockwork. Who will be familiar now?

She doesn't have the nerve quite yet to open that door again. Not out here on the water. About what it was that Richard had asked, had said -- would he kill her as well, if he knew how much she knew? How had it happened? Not well. Not well, but all burnt up now, like Father's things. The local police have been so incompetent it makes her seethe even as she owes her own liberty to it. So incompetent they were willing to think the best of a glaringly, blindingly guilty set of culprits, simply because one of them was a virgin girl, who wept behind her hair and drank nothing but water in the station.

Their one Thermos rests against a rail by her feet; her eyes fix on it rather than on the horizon, the queer curving shadows of the lantern on its curved shape. Charlie's body fits against hers like a comma, heartbeat regular and face disarmed, his damp tee shirt chilling and sticking to his chest. Her head rests on a duffel bag and the coil of rope underneath it digs into her temple. Their respective bank accounts lie fallow. The guns are safely stowed, unloaded. Charlie sleeps, India waits.