Rosemary Collins was a girl with short black hair who had moved with her family from the very heart of New York City. She smoked clove cigarettes and listened to bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode. But perhaps the most striking thing Kim remembered about their first encounter were her eyes; shimmering pools of liquid obsidian that reflected nothing.
Some of it was adolescent arousal; he was eighteen and she was from a far away and cosmopolitan place, making her strangely exotic. Some of it was the fact he was simply curious, remembering that old saying of eyes being the windows to the soul. He wanted to know kind of soul resided behind eyes that did not reflect.
How he got her to go out on there first date was something of a miracle. She really didn’t come across as the type of girl one could take for a starlight picnic in the desert. The rustic seemed to be repellant to her. There were others at the high school, marrying themselves off and naming future children long before graduation, of whom she looked at as though they were lower. She’d gotten the same look and dismissing attitude when going to the reservations, though whether it was just dismissed in and of itself or not noticed was open for debate.
“Please tell me you’re not like that,” she said to Kim that fateful night under the stars. "Wanting to get married the second you graduate.”
“Not really. I’d like to get married,” he confessed. “Just not yet. I have to get to Africa first.”
“Africa? Really?” Rosemary seemed rather intrigued, and inched herself closer to him. “Is that because of your friend from Kenya?”
“Mofuko? Partially. I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. I guess maybe there’s something for me there.” Kim gingerly reached over to put his arm around her shoulders. “I’ll get there someday.”
“I’d love to go with you,” she whispered, the cinnamon from her cloves made her breath intoxicating.
“If you do, I’ll marry you,” Kim whispered back, and they shared their first kiss.
Although he’d never believed in fate, in that moment, he caught himself not only wondering, but hoping. Years later, in the center of Mofuko’s native village, Kim kept his promise and married her. Mofuko’s grandfather officiated the ceremony, if terms like officiate and ceremony could have even applied. Even so, they were so happy. So in love. It seemed almost like a fairy story.
“That was your first mistake, Sparrow,” Kim hissed into ink shadows of the ruin, taking a pull of whiskey, and doing his best to approximate Tiben’s accent. “You married your high school sweetheart. Idiot!”
It was hard to tell when the first cracks in their fairy story love affair began to appear. Being in far-flung locals where Kim would do his fieldwork bored Rosemary. She craved the excitement of cities. More to the point, big cities north of the equator, north of the African side of the Mediterranean. To get amongst throbbing masses of humanity thrilled her in the same way great expanses of nowhere excited him. The opposites that once attracted them began to repel.
Then he found the opium. It was only in later times he would question as to whether she was completely honest when he confronted her about it. They talked and yelled and cried. In the end, Rosemary promised she would stop. Kim promised, since she had gone with him to Africa, he would stand by her.
Ansouka was cleaning the house Kim and Rosemary shared before the building of Tangled Tree Manor, when she came upon the stash of opium. She had never fully liked or trusted Rosemary, but was polite because she was Kim’s wife. Therefore, it was Kim who saw the evidence first.
“Maybe it’s old stuff,” he muttered, not fully believing his own words.
“Kim Sparrow,” Ansouka said. “We both know better than that.”
He wasn’t going to go for the metaphoric strike two. Instead, he threw the drugs away. When he saw Rosemary once more, he wasted no time confronting her on it. Their ensuing fight echoed throughout Crossroads Station.
It was at some point, in a fit of rage, she grabbed the chef’s knife, and lashed out. Although she missed, the blade did knick the left side of his chest. Never in his life had Kim been so angry. When she tried to come at him again, he reacted.
In the years since, no matter how hard he tried to forget, no matter how much whiskey he drank or didn’t, he could vividly remember the sound of impact, the sensation of the back of his fist against Rosemary’s jaw, the sight of three of her teeth flying from her mouth in a spurt of blood. As she crumpled to floor, all he could do was stand there, shaking in a combination of fear, anger, and disgust at his own actions. The reality of what he had just done seemed so…unreal.
She looked up at him. He wanted to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. Something about her changed in those moments. The expression on Rosemary’s face, the look in her non-reflective eyes, was one of a feral animal just before it attacked.
“You bastard!” She hissed. “I’m going to fucking kill you!”
Kim could never clearly remembered what happened next. Even as Rosemary started to get up, Mofuko and Snobi suddenly appeared, pulling the couple away from one another before anything else could happen. Kim would later find out that Tiben all but tranquilized Rosemary and Dilip and Louis got her away from Crossroads Station that very night, never to return.
He asked and begged for whiskey while Mofuko checked the cut on his chest. He wanted to get drunk and forget. He wanted to quell the monstrous rage that had caused him to strike his wife.
Although the circle of friends all knew better, Rosemary would try to tell anyone who’d listen that Kim hit her so hard she had to have her jaw wired. What was most hurtful about this was when she said that to his grandparents. Kim’s grandfather, a man who seemed to be hewn from the very Arizona landscape where he lived, who was perceived as every Western film hero rolled into one, was furious. He almost disowned his grandson. It was Mofuko who explained what happened and changed Kim’s grandfather’s mind.
“What would you have had him do? Should he have stood still and let her stab him to death?”
Kim thought of all these things as he drank whiskey in the dark. Guilt and fear pelted his psyche like harsh rain. Over the last seven years he had dealt with the loss and betrayal, but he still feared that anger. It was why he refused to even look at a woman in that way, fearing if Rosemary had brought him to the point he could lash out, so could someone else. Despite what his friends said or thought, he did not want to take the risk.
“They’ll never get it,” he muttered to the silent shadows.
There was still a little less than half a bottle left when he finally returned to camp. Mofuko was sitting by the fire, as he always did, the dancing flames making him look as though he was carved out of onyx. As always, no further words passed between them, just the bottle. They sat up for another few hours before retiring for the night. It would be an early morning for them, getting up, having breakfast and breaking camp before returning to Crossroads Station. Kim found himself somewhat excited at the thought. He found he wanted to go home.