Nina and The Fool / 4 / The roses had wilted


They sat in the back in a booth and Nina ordered a burger, poutine and a coke. She said to him that it was the only way if he couldn’t divorce Christina. It was better this way, a new beginning. She had it all planned out and the details made his head hurt. They would have to kill Christina while she was at home making sure the kids were at school.

Suffocating her would be the best way, with a pillow. Richard mentioned that she took a midday nap, and Nina thought that would be a perfect time and then they would turn on the gas and let the house explode. They would assume she fell asleep, asphyxiated by the gas, and then of course the terrible explosion. It would be quick and painless and very humane. Then they would be together and would make love. She thought if they did it on Valentine's Day it would make it really special and so romantic. She kept talking, very calmly and rationally telling Richard that it was the best thing to do, and at some point he realized it was after six and he’d forgotten about the kids, and Christina was going to kill him. He left quickly and paid the bill and Nina wanted some spending money to buy new clothes, so he gave her $100. It wasn’t enough so she walked him over to an ATM and he withdrew another $100 for her and another $100 for himself. She kissed his cheek and he left.

He went to Elizabeth and Ludwig’s school, and sure enough they were the only two kids left. He apologized profusely, picked up a bucket of fried chicken, and told them not to say anything to their mother. He had to give Elizabeth $60 dollars, and told Ludwig he could have whatever model kit he wanted tomorrow.

He couldn’t concentrate at work. His secretary transferred six calls from Nina, and he let each ring through. He explained to Lisa that it was client he was trying to avoid, but he knew she knew he was having an affair. Throughout the day he looked up the numbers of temp agencies, but in the end decided not to fire her. Instead he sent her to get flowers. Two-dozen red roses, and something for herself.

Valentine's Day.

The morning was like any other. Richard got dressed in his nicest double breasted suit, and when he went downstairs to the kitchen, Christina was making pancakes for everyone. The flame from the stove disturbed him greatly. Richard gave her a dozen roses with a kiss and she was ecstatic. Elizabeth went on and on about how many Valentine cards she was going to give and how she wondered how many she would get, considering that she was so “hot.” She told Ludwig, who wondered if he would get any, that of course he would. His teacher would give him one! Ludwig said, “Yuck,” and they all laughed together. They felt like a real family for once. Christina drove the kids to school and Richard went to work by Metro. He didn’t alter one aspect of his routine, and worked straight till 1 p.m., when he told Lisa he was going home for lunch and would be back late. He arrived at his home forty-five minutes later, and when he quietly let himself in, he found Nina already waiting for inside. He almost hyperventilated. “What have you done to Christina?” he whispered. “Nothing yet. She’s asleep.” Nina wore long white gloves. Richard walked up stairs and sure enough, he could see his wife’s chest rise and fall with her breathing. He left the room and went downstairs into the kitchen where Nina stood by the element, hand ready to turn on the gas. “Ready?” she said. “I don’t think I can do this.” She chastised him. “Of course you can! Don’t ruin this for us Richard.”

Richard teared up and Nina yelled at him some more, and it was during this exchange that Christina walked in wondering what was going on. Richard, already crying, confessed everything to Nina’s horror, and then they both watched as Christina seemed like she was going to scream, clutched her chest, clenched her teeth, and died of a heart attack right there in the middle of the kitchen. Richard called 911 and the ambulance and fire trucks came. She was pronounced dead. Richard was in shock. Nina told the medical examiner that she came over when Richard phoned her after dialing 911 and that Mrs. Appleby was already dead when she arrived. She was there to take care of the kids, she was their babysitter, and just to help out Richard out in this terrible tragedy. She picked up Beth and Ludwig from school for Richard. The kids were understandably upset when she told them.

Nina, Beth and Richard put Ludwig to bed. He didn’t quite understand it and Nina suggested that they give him some alcohol in his milk to sleep. Beth wanted Nina to stay overnight, and she thought it was a wonderful idea, although for the first time Richard had reservations about it. He had forgotten to give Nina her roses, and Nina thought they were just perfect and lovely (she did pick them out). That night Nina made love to Richard and he tried not to cry the entire time. Afterwards, she slept in the spare bedroom so she wouldn’t raise suspicion. It was the most romantic day of her entire life.

Nina didn’t attend the funeral, but she did supply the flowers (white lilies). She helped Richard prepare for the wake, and explained to the many guests that came through the house that she was the children’s au pair. The roses had wilted by the end of the week.


Nina and The Fool / 5 / A little boy screaming in terror


Spring came quickly. Nina was a regular at the Appleby household. She helped out with chores and she would drive Beth to ballet when Richard had to work late (Nina was done with ballet and told Elizabeth how it was only for little girls who liked horses). Whenever she could, she had sex with Richard. By now they had covered every room of the house, and she had tried out many of her fantasies. Richard was a predictable but experienced lover, and could be ferocious in the sack. She bought toys and oils and books to help break out of “routine.”

Richard’s perfect home was finally finished in April, but the buyer backed out and so, with Nina’s support, he took the money from the insurance (and the nest egg that Christina had) and bought the house he had designed. He had never been happier. He put his and Christina’s home on the market, sold it to the first buyers (for $15,000 under asking) and by the end of May they were ready to move into his dream house. There was so much work to do packing the house and preparing to move. Nina spent most of this time at home, studying for exams and watching reality television.

Two days before the move, Nina informed Richard that her grandmother, Nana, would have to stay with them, because of her illness (oldness), and she didn’t feel right moving into a new place without her grandmother.

And so, Richard, Ludwig, Beth, Nina and Nana moved into his masterpiece, all on the same day.

It was an odd house, made completely of concrete with long aluminum panels, that had with small bunker-style windows in the front. It was three stories and had a jagged triangular form that jutted at extreme angles, and had the impression of being a long multifaceted knife that stretched out between two houses.

Inside the house was equally horrid. It was sterile, haphazardly modernist, and darkly lit, with little to no natural light except in the back of the house which was an angled glass wall. The ceiling were low in the rooms, 7 1/2 feet derived from Le Corbusier’s use of the golden section [(square root of five) - 1) : 2 = .618034 : 1 (= 1 : 1.618034)]. Nina asked about the lack of windows, and Richard replied that he “wasn’t fond of natural light.” She didn’t think he was too fond of artificial light either. During the move the movers, trained professionals in the fine art of moving furniture into odd places, continually hurt themselves and swore repeatedly. They bashed furniture against the walls and many pieces had to be discarded as they wouldn’t fit through any of the doors or windows, or couldn’t be disassembled.

The floors were made of concrete. So were the stairs, but the walls were drywall, which at times sloped inwardly as if they were poked from the outside by a pyramid. The hallways seemed long and thin and Nina looked down one and it seemed to disappear into darkness. The house had five bedrooms, a galley kitchen, three washrooms, a basement and an office for Richard. Nana, a heavyset diminutive woman, hated her new surroundings immediately, and hated Richard, and if Richard could have understood Russian/Ukranian/Bulgarian/Polish (whatever language Nana only spoke), he would have gotten an earful. He thought she was charming.

Nana thought the place reminded her of a concentration camp, and she feared it would be the place she would die in. She told both Richard and Nina this, as well as anyone who would care to listen to her.

Nina’s dog, a Dalmatian named Domino, hated it too. He howled, and urinated in the living room. Nina though, instantly grew to love her new home. It had a swimming pool, or would have a swimming pool once the square pit in the back was full of water and the backyard was landscaped.

The children both had their own rooms, and each was equal in size, exactly square seven foot by seven foot by seven foot. They fought for the one with the window that didn’t look directly out into the brick side of the house next door. Beth won.

Nina and Richard had the large master-bedroom (14’ x 7’ x 7 1/2’),” with a built-in walk-in closet, and en-suite bathroom, with Jacuzzi tub. Nina adored it. She immediately unpacked all of her toiletries. She told Richard that she would have to throw everything she owned away and buy new clothes and make-up, perfume, moisturizers, face masks, hairdryer, straightener, etc., because this was a new beginning. It was symbolic. Richard agreed.

That night, they all sat around the TV (which wasn’t set up yet) and ate take-out Chinese food. Except Nana. Nana, wouldn’t eat Chinese food. Through Nina, she made Richard find a large pot and a good cutting knife, and Nana began boiling a cabbage, for soup. The house from that point on would always smell of cabbage, which Elizabeth found “so gross.”

That night after helping Ludwig, Elizabeth and Nana set up their rooms, Richard went up to his own bedroom. He found Nina had drawn a bath. She was covered with soap bubbles and surrounded by lit candles. He never felt more in love with anyone in his entire life. She beckoned him to come in, dressed or not, and he did, overflowing the tub with water.

As Richard lay awake in bed, Nina sprawled out dead asleep beside him (with the dog at the end of the bed), thinking he was the luckiest man ever to live (and he said so aloud), he could hear Nana from next door. She chattered on and on, and her tone: angry, frightened, sometimes with sobs, made him uneasy. He put his ear against the wall. He couldn’t understand a word she said, until she said, “You sonovabitch Richard. You sonovabitch. You sonovabitch. You sonovabitch.” He curled up to Nina, who pushed him away. He slept poorly.

The next morning he would find that the water from the bath had leaked down to Ludwig’s room.

The first few days were uncomfortable, and there were bodies and boxes everywhere, always in the same place in the house, although within a short time the family revolved mainly around the new HDTV in the living room, watching anything in high definition.

It was during their last week of school that something all together regretful happened to Ludwig. It was after dinner one night. Richard was working on blueprints in his office. Nina and Elizabeth watched and mocked reality TV talents (a favourite past-time). Nana was put to bed early. Ludwig played in his bedroom like he always did, working on his little models and dioramas. This time though he was bent on destroying all that he had ever made. After crushing much of his work, he decided that it was best if his B-52 Stratofortress crashed and burned. He found matches easily enough as Richard smoked increasingly these days all the while saying he had quit. Ludwig stuffed the plane full of paper. It took him four tries before he could light a match. He dropped it into the plane with his little hands.

It caught fire immediately.

Elizabeth smelled smoke first. Nina argued with her, but then agreed. Richard smelled nothing and was oblivious until the fire alarm went off. He yelled down at Elizabeth for burning something in the oven, but she yelled back at him that she wasn’t cooking anything, and then, the worst sound anyone could ever hear was heard. A little boy screaming in terror.


Nina and The Fool / 6 / He was going to marry her


They all ran into Ludwig’s room. The room was on fire and so was Ludwig. Richard immediately smothered him in blankets.

Ludwig was rushed to the hospital. They all cried.

Over thirty percent of his little body was burned.

Richard and Elizabeth blamed themselves. Nina blamed them as well, but mostly she blamed Elizabeth. It was her job to look after Ludwig.

The social worker who investigated the incident chalked it up to an unfortunate, and avoidable accident. But, given that Richard had just lost his wife, she thought there should be no action, since it was surely punishment enough for a single father to have a child injured as such. She didn’t even ask about Richard and Nina’s relationship, who she thought was an “au pair from Belgrade.”

Richard and Elizabeth visited poor Ludwig every day in the hospital. Nina refused to come, as she couldn’t bear to see the pain on little Ludwig’s face, for he was wrapped head to toe in bandages and looked like a little mummy. Elizabeth blamed this on Nina, and Nina, in turn blamed this on Elizabeth.

It was during this time that Elizabeth's attitude changed toward both Nina and her father. She swore at him and would lock herself in her room and listen to loud preteen pop, and then one night she had a colossal blowout and screamed and yelled that it was Richard’s fault for sleeping with this “little whore” (exact words) and killing her mother. Richard told her she was grounded for the rest of her life, and then Elizabeth said even worse things to him. Horrible, horrible things, he didn’t think children even knew and it upset him terribly.

When Ludwig’s doctor recommended that he be moved to a private burn clinic outside of Québec City, Nina thought that this would be a great opportunity to send Elizabeth to a boarding school in Québec City as well. After some thought, Richard sent in an application for Elizabeth to attend. She was accepted. It was fortunate, because a summer semester was starting and he could send her there for the first week of June for early learning. It would only cost him $17,000, per year, plus an additional $6,000 for the summer, but Richard and Nina thought that it was worth the money to get Elizabeth a good education.

At the end of the month he drove Elizabeth to Québec City. He lied to Elizabeth and said he was taking her to visit Ludwig, who was moved out the week before. It wasn’t a complete lie, but after they visited Ludwig at the clinic, he took Elizabeth to her new school instead of a hotel, like he promised. She cried and cried and cried, and he cried too, but he said that this was for the best, and besides it was only for a few years and he would visit whenever he could and she would make lots of new friends and speak French all the time, and he would see her during the holidays. She said she didn’t want to come back if Nina was there. He said, of course she would be there, he was going to marry her.


Nina and The Fool / 7 / He paid for her head shots


Then Elizabeth said something very upsetting to him.

She said Nina was only fifteen.

Impossible! He told her, no, in fact Nina was twenty-five, or at least twenty-one or twenty-two! “No dad” she said, “she isn’t.” Elizabeth said that she and Nina were watching America’s Next Top Model, and Nina bragged that she could easily become a supermodel one day, and it was most likely going to happen very soon because she was “the perfect age” to be discovered, and because she had the “perfect skin and body and small breasts” to become one and “all the men knew it.” Elizabeth recounted this to Richard and said she thought Nina was twenty-two, and then Nina scoffed back at her and said, “That’s what your dad thinks too! I’m only fifteen. Only.” Then Nina said that fifteen years of age was “the most perfect age to become a model,” or something like that. And Nina was only a hundred and ten pounds or whatever and of course she was going to grow taller, but her breasts would always remain the same size, so she said she read in Glamour.

Richard called Elizabeth a horrible little liar and said that it would be a good lesson for her to be in this school far away from home in a city without any friends that spoke English, because she had to “grow up someday.” He then left Elizabeth behind, and watched her bawl her head off but he didn’t have any sympathy for her at all because of what she had said to him. He stayed overnight at the hotel, had a good meal, and then he visited Ludwig in the morning, cried and prayed beside him, and then left for Montréal. Sometime during the trip home he thought, what if what Elizabeth said was actually true? It was a long drive home, but with little incident.

When he arrived home, two young men were spread out on the couch, with Nina between them, watching soccer in high definition. Both were tall, lean, with abnormally pale skin, and wore matching military buzz-cuts. One had slight acne. They had body odor, and wore Adidas track pants. They had rings and gold chains and both had tattoos. The other had a big scar down the side of his face. Nina shot up and ran toward Richard, gave him a big hug wearing short shorts and a tank top, and then introduced the two men as her cousin Serge (twice removed) and Alex his friend (Nina told Richard not to even try to pronounce their real names). Nina had given them Beth and Ludwig’s rooms, and she said they were only here for a short time. She explained that they had just been in the military for the last couple years, and now were doing “private security” and had an “import, export” business on the side, but right now they were just “chilling,” as they were traveling to California. They made a vague gesture of saying hello to Richard. One of them (Alex) said something about the house being really “interesting” and Serge and Nina laughed. In the next sentence he said how he hated the furniture as it was very uncomfortable and in this horrible heat, he was sticking to all the leather, plus, the central air was broken. Nina said that this was true, and that Richard should buy fans. Neither spoke English well and Serge called him “Dick” instead of Richard. Nina seemed to find that amusing. Serge then shouted at the television prompting a large outburst when a goal was missed. Nina did a slight dance, she seemed excessively hyper, animated and talked fast and said Nana had cooked some cabbage soup and cabbage rolls, and then she stepped over the couch, and sat between them. Serge put his arm around her, and it was only a short time before his hand was brushing her thigh. Nina playfully slapped it away. Nina seemed to laugh and cavort with them. For the first time Richard noticed that there were piles of fashion magazines scattered everywhere around his modernist house. He said something about the furniture being Mies Van der Rohe. Alex said, it was uncomfortable, whatever it was. Richard then went upstairs to his office. He passed Nana sitting on the bed staring at the wall. In his office, he too stared at the wall. Apparently a goal had been scored down below.

Nina woke him up at his desk around eleven. She was dressed to the nines in a red one-piece dress, zipper in front, with matching shoes that wrapped around her ankles. She held a white clutch purse. She was more garish than model. Her hair was tightly pulled back into a topknot and she had on too much make-up. She then announced that she and the boys were going to a club. She told Richard he should come and dance with her. She asked several times, before Richard said that he was just going to go to bed. He had to work in the morning. Nina then said, “That’s okay, you’d probably be too old to get in,” and then said something that she only asked him to be polite, and she knew this was going to be a problem. He said, she was too young to drink. She then swore at him. He grabbed her arm. She pulled away, and he kept repeating, “Nina, Nina. I love you. I love you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”  She said, “You always do this!” then pushed him away and stormed out.

Richard was awoken around 4 am. It was pouring and the roof was leaking and a steady drip of water was hitting the floor in the bedroom. He shot up, ran around in circles looking for something to put under the leak. He opened all the drawers looking for something. He opened Nina’s underwear drawer, and in it he saw Nina’s passport. He stopped. He tried picking it up, but couldn’t, then closed the drawer. He settled on emptying a glass jar than Nina kept cotton balls in.

At a quarter to six in the morning, Nina came in. It had stopped raining. Her hair was wet, and she looked like a drowned rat, her make-up running. She found pots and every sort of container spread out around the house, water in each of them. Richard was asleep, curled up on a Barcelona Chair. Nana was cleaning the kitchen, and when she heard Nina, she came out and began yelling and gesticulating at her, all in whatever language Nana spoke. Nina yelled back at her. Richard was now awake. Nana then began yelling at Richard, and Nina and Nana had a heated argument, then Nina ran upstairs. Nana gave Richard the evil eye and cursed at him in Hungarian, or possibly even German, and went back into the kitchen.

On the Nelson Bench, he noticed Nina’s purse. Richard heard Nana still yammering on off in the other room. This time he opened her purse. He started taking out her cards and found exactly what he was looking for. Her ID. It was Québec license. She only looked thirteen in the picture, but her age was twenty-two. He knew Elizabeth was a little liar!

Upstairs Nina was undressing. All of her glass jars for holding make-up supplies were now filled with water. She was so mad. When she saw Richard she dismissed him with a violent gesture. Shethen stopped, and in the middle of the room, she began to cry. Richard closed in on her and put his arms around her. She cried into his chest and said something about her “stupid” cousin leaving her downtown while he and the other “stupid douchebag” went off with “stupid ugly old sluts.” She said she was mad at Richard for wrecking her make-up containers and he said he would have to buy her all new stuff, all new clothes, whatever she wanted, as long as she never left him again, besides it was all the “contractor’s fault.” She said that she was going to quit her job at the flower shop and she needed to get head shots and an agent so she could “contribute.” He said he thought that was a good idea, considering how beautiful she was, and besides the flower shop was not a career. She said she was getting fat. “Nonsense!” he said. You’re absolutely perfect.” Nina said, “She had always thought so, too,” and that she was destined to be the “Next Top Model.” He agreed, and said, even though she was only twenty-two, she could easily become one. She was quiet, then she kissed him. He mentioned that she tasted of vodka coolers.

Richard called in sick all week. He bought Nina a whole new wardrobe and all the make-up and glass jars she wanted. He paid for her head-shots so Nina could get an agent for modeling.


Nina and The Fool / 8 / A "sonovabitch"


At Nina’s first audition, she ran into Chad doing modeling as well. Nina was rejected because she couldn’t walk properly in heels (and they thought she was a little heavy in the midsection).

Richard started to fill the pool and by Friday it was ready. Nina lounged around the pool all day tanning in her bikini, reading magazines and eating ice-cream. Richard said she should practice walking in heals, and Nina thought that was a great idea, but said she would maybe try walking around the pool later. Richard wouldn’t get near the pool once it was filled. He liked the way the pool looked, but he couldn’t swim. Serge and Alex returned after a week absence. They were friendly to Richard, but really, they just wanted to watch a soccer game in HD. When they found out Richard had filled the pool, they came out and visited with Nina. Nina got Alex to rub lotion on her body.

Richard watched from inside the house. He pretended to read the newspaper. Serge stripped down to his underwear and climbed in the pool. The water was cold and he made a big deal about it. Nina laughed at him. The pool wasn’t heated yet, and Nina told him she wasn’t going to go until it was warm enough, as any “sensible person would.” Once Serge was in the pool, Alex decided that he should go in. He stripped as well, and dived in. He said it was no big deal. Nina enjoyed watching Serge and Alex swim around in the pool. They wrestled each other and splash around and it amused her. They both had good bodies. Nina called them homosexuals, commenting on their tight boxer briefs and the way they touched each other. They chased her around the pool and threw her in. She screamed and they took turns dunking her head under water until she flailed about and told them to “eff off.” She pushed Serge and he laughed at her. He smacked her stomach where a noticeable “bump” was. “You eating too much ice cream, make you fat.” Nina climbed out of the pool in lousy mood. She stomped passed Richard, a towel around her and said that he should have protected her. He said he didn’t like being near water. “Figures,” she said. She headed upstairs.

Serge and Alex dried off, and Richard went back to his book. Alex started to talk in Russian to Serge. Serge looked at Alex stunned, and then rapidly spoke back to him. They walked towards Richard.

“You Dick! Yes, you,” said Serge.

“Richard,” pointed out Richard.

“Alex said you got Nina pregnant? Dick. Is this truth? You get her pregnant, Dick, did you?”

“Now, hold on just a minute you barbarian! How dare you suggest that I somehow...” started Richard before Serge cut him off buy pressing a finger into his chest.

“You know what you did, didn’t you? You nasty? You nasty, nasty. Alex said he make many a girl have baby, and Nina look like she have baby to him. Right Alex?” Alex said right as he cornered Richard. Serge spoke very close to him.

“She’s just a girl, Dick.” Serge shook his head. “If she have baby, somebody going to notice her baby. Somebody going to say, where Nina get her baby from? Somebody going to say, hey, Dick gave her a baby.”

“I didn’t get her pregnant,” blubbered Richard “And if I did, if I did, it would be none of your damn business! I’m going to marry Nina! She’s going to be my wife!”

“You going to marry Nina?” said Serge disgusted. He slapped Richard across the face.

Richard teared up. “I love her...” Alex held Richard and Serge punched him hard in the stomach, dropping him to the floor. “You so nasty!” He spat on Richard.

Nina stood in the hall, arms crossed. She didn’t say anything. Richard stood up. “Get out of my house,” he said to them. The boys dried off, grabbed their things and left. Serge said something pointed to Nina in Czech, or Bulgarian, Richard could never understand any of it. Then they left. Nina took a pregnancy test that afternoon. It was positive. Richard didn’t know what to say to her and she locked herself in her room and cried. Nana came out of her room and called him a “sonovabitch.”