Win or Lose

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By Mila Nikolin
Image by Julian Growcott

Turning away from the dark alley and onto the empty road, Bridget looked up at the street lamps that dangled above her head and reflected her shadow onto the pavement. She turned away and ran, leaving her lying there in the dark. The woman’s corpse was damp and her glassy, lifeless eyes stared at the brick wall where it happened. Bridget ran far away from what she had seen and from what she could never tell a soul. She saw the arms that swung with raw anger and strength, and with a purpose. The screams of the dead woman rang in her ears. Running faster than she had ever run before, she tried to block out the noise. The familiar pump of adrenaline pounded through her veins and her feet slapped the wet pavement in soothing rhythmic harmony. In her prime, she could have run forever, but she slowed to a jogging pace and finally to a walk, and she walked the rest of the way home in fearful, dementing silence.

Bridget awoke the next morning with dark events cloudy in her mind. She groaned as she lifted her aching body from the creaking mattress and across the hall. In her reflection on the flecked mirror, she saw that her eyes drooped loosely on her face. Rubbing her eyes vigorously, Bridget tried to restore life to her grey complexion, but when she looked in the mirror again, she saw only a mere memory of what was her golden youth. In the night, the screams of the dead woman had remained in her ears, like the ringing of churches bells after they finished tolling. She shook her head, trying to throw the noise away, as well as the violent memories that had now returned in full colour. But they remained, and forced Bridget to reflect on what to do. She couldn’t reveal what had happened to anyone, not unless she could accept the repercussions. She reckoned she would keep this secret as her own. No one would suffer if she didn’t tell. Except the dead woman, she had suffered. Bridget lit a cigarette and let it dangle from her lips as she flicked on the television. The newscaster’s voice droned meaningless words into Bridget’s ears yet she remained still on the sofa, leaning into the faded cushions. Smoke filled her nose and eyes and she embraced every burning breath. She hardly noticed when she began sucking her fingers and she stubbed the burning butt in the empty glass of wine. The newscaster continued speaking, but suddenly the scene changed and Bridget saw the alleyway from the night before.

“Olympic athlete murdered. Alleyway behind Rightman’s gym. No witnesses.”

A number flashed at the bottom of the screen directing viewers to a crime
hotline. Bridget picked up the phone and hovered her finger over the first digit. For some minutes, she entertained the idea of calling the police, but her instinct overpowered her conscience and she replaced the phone back on the receiver. It was then that Bridget noticed the flashing light coming from the answering machine next to the phone. There was only one person who ever called Bridget these days and she was not the person Bridget wanted to hear.

“Bridget, darling! It’s Samantha calling! Listen, I got a call from Staying Hip and Fit and they are very interested in speaking with you about a piece. Trust me, I know you don’t like this, but try to make an effort this time. I said you’d touch base by Tuesday. This is a great opportunity, so call me!”
As much as it pained her, Bridget’s mind needed a distraction. Reluctantly, she picked up the phone the second time. This time, she dialed Samantha’s number and arranged to meet with the writers of Staying Hip and Fit on Thursday.

The next morning, Bridget walked through the gleaming glass doors of the head bureau of Toronto’s celebrated fitness magazine. On the white walls hung dozens of framed pictures of proud athletes holding shining bronze, silver, and gold medals. Her image hung among them and Bridget saw herself at the Olympics games, halfheartedly holding silver. At the end of the bureau, the magazine’s director stood up from her desk and walked over to shake Bridget’s hand. Bridget was startled by how slim the woman’s hand felt in her own and she quickly pulled away. At that moment, two other women carrying notepads entered the bureau and sat on either side of the director’s desk. Bridget sat in the chair in front of them, like an inmate awaiting interrogation.

“Bridget, it’s been how many years since your retirement?”
“Three”
“And how has retirement been suiting you?”
“Just fine, I try to keep fit, you know how it is.”
“I must say Bridget; you look wonderful since your Olympic debut.”
Bridget said nothing, but began chipping at the cuticles of her stubby fingernails.
“Any comment on the recent murder of Margareta Hanselhoff? From what I understand she was the gold medal winner of the women’s 50m the same year you won silver.”
“That’s right. Her death is a great loss to the athletic world. She had yet much to give.”
“Did you know her at all? Tell us more about your relationship.”
“We knew each other only briefly. She was a good person.”

Bridget thought of that night. At the advice of Samantha, she had gone back to the gym to start lifting again. But she quickly admitted her failure when she realized she could not even bench twice less than what she was able to before. In her moment of defeat, Samantha saw Margareta walk through the door. Everyone stopped momentarily what they were doing to give the Olympic champion a nod of respect and approval. Bridget had stared. Margareta stepped onto the treadmill across from her and chose the fastest setting. Bridget must have watched her for over an hour, thinking. She thought of how she had worked just as hard. How she had been just as good. But she had more to lose, and she had lost. Nothing had been the same after that. Now, here she sat on the weight bench, a mere ghost of her former self, soaking in her own suffering. That night, Bridget followed Margareta behind the alleyway, where Margareta had stopped to tie her shoe. Taking her chance, Bridget lifted the barbell over her shoulder and swung at Margareta’s head. Bridget missed the first time, and so Margareta screamed in fear and surprise. But the second time, Bridget did not miss.

“Excuse me, Bridget? You didn’t answer my question. What advice can you give to our readers about living their life to the fullest? Just as you have done yourself.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know where to start, you just have to –”
At that moment, there was a knock on the door and two police officers entered the bureau.

Bridget did not protest when they lifted her from her chair and handcuffed her hands behind her back. Nor did she say anything when they lead her out of the building and towards the flashing police car. People on the street stared at Bridget as the officer lowered her head and lead her into the back. Even when the officer closed the door behind her, spectators peered in through the barred windows. A silent murmur overtook the crowd and Bridget’s name was soon passed from ear to ear.

“Isn’t that Bridget Clark?”
“Hey, that’s Bridget Clark, remember her from the Olympics a few years back?”
“Bridget Clark… not the one who ran for the 50?”
“Oh yes, that was quite a shame. She was the number one pick that year to win gold. Too bad.”

The next month, Staying Hip and Fit released an exclusive edition of their magazine, which circulated all across the country. Their feature article titled “Bridget Clark: Killer Sprint to Killer Mind” was their most popular article of all times, even surpassing the article on Margareta Hanselhoff’s Olympic win.

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