Writer in Residence · 04/24/2012

Her Dark Eyes

A hitchhiker jumps up to her left, like a flame; a red scarf hangs around his neck. She slows down the car and then stops. He stands still for a second and watches. He can just see the whites of her eyes in the mirror. They catch the lights from her dashboard and they glow. He thinks of the moon and its surface. She hits her fist on the steering wheel and the horn of the car sounds. His heartbeat bursts like a firework in his chest and it burns. He walks quickly towards her.

She drives fast along the curving carriageway. The black tarmac is wet and it’s late and she’s tired. He presses his hands tightly together and the knuckles pale to a beige. She asks where he is going and then says nothing. He watches from the window as the car follows the road, fenced between two rows of cat’s eyes. Half an hour passes and they see nobody.

Her perfume smells like talcum powder. It’s too old and doesn’t suit her. The scent is familiar; he remembers it from when he was a child. He was at his grandmother’s house, in his grandmother’s bathroom. The pastel pink container was on a shelf above the sink.

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He is five and stands on a stool so he can reach to clean his teeth. The top of the sideboard isn’t too far away. He climbs up and stands with his bare feet in the white wash basin. He stretches on his toes and with the tips of his fingers picks up the shiny tube of talc. He pulls open the lid and curls his palm around the cold cap. The smell is soapy and like flowers. He doesn’t notice how his feet slip on the cold enamel or how he bangs his head on the tiles and then the tap. It’s the smell he notices first. The powder fills the air like rain made of chalk. It’s in his nose. He coughs and chokes. His grandmother hears the thud. She stops washing up and dries her hands. The bathroom door is open. Talcum powder settles across the floor and it covers his clothes. He looks at her underneath dusty eyelashes. The gold cap is warmer in his hand now.

Her open palm stings as she places it back into the pocket of her skirt. This isn’t the first time he’s caused a mess. This isn’t the first time he’s been disobedient. Even his mother doesn’t want him anymore. He can still feel the heat from his grandmother’s palm on his face. His lip is swollen and split.

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The car is warm but he still smells of the cold; like something earthy and faded. He must have been outside for a long time, walking along the road before a car passed to pick him up. He’s very quiet. She wonders where he’s from.

He can see the shape of her leg through her trousers as she drives, the muscle of her thigh hardens when she changes gear. He can just make out the hint of her chest through her clothes. The heater is turned up high. He begins to feel hot.

There is the sound of an engine and a flash of car light crashes across the windscreen. It floods the interior for a second and blinds them, then fades away along the road. In the dark she looks whiter now, like someone who’s been outside for a long time and can’t get warm. He would’ve asked for her hand, but he’d done that before, only to be told no, and that he would always be alone.

She can feel his hand on her thigh. The black and blue silhouettes of trees press in across the road, crushing. She looks up from the tarmac and painted white lines. Her dark eyes hold his gaze.

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Hannah is a short story writer from Leicester, working for a small and perfectly formed charity in the city centre. She has a story in Hearing Voices Magazine and a pamphlet collection of short fiction called Without Makeup and Other Stories available at www.crystalclearcreators.org.uk.

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posted by Will Buckingham