One Reply to “6.11.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. Quiet as mouse-steps, or shadows creeping, and far off. That was what she was like. Always away from things and keeping to herself. Was that way for years and might be that way still, except that one day she stepped out pretty and Arjen noticed.

    At first he didn’t know her. He just saw the pretty and he drew breath and held air in the puff-ball of his cheeks and then blew it out slow so as his lips were like kissing-lips. And he looked over his shoulder in case he was the only one who saw and it was a thing imagined. Then he looked again and it was real and something in him shifted.

    Arjen, and he’d been round the block a few times and there were girls who kept a space in their beds for him in case he came round again. He could talk the birds down from the trees, they said, or stars down from the sky. Money out of the grasping hands of old men so he was never short. And Arjen had angels looking out for him. At least until he saw Karin when she stepped out pretty.

    ‘That’s never Karin,’ he said. ‘Not ‘less she’s been in bed with the Devil.’

    Suddenly Karin turned heads in the street, and boys were hot in their dreams, and old men thought about first kisses and they touched their lips in memory of times when they were young. And Karin creeping, mouse-soft and shadow, creeping same as always, away and away, ‘cept now she was noticed. And Arjen noticed.

    When the story is told in the beginning, she is just a mark on his score card, bedding all the girls in the neighbourhood and giving bastards to some, and then seeing one he had missed in Karin. But that’s not how it was. This time for Arjen it was different. Karin kept him at arm’s length at first and maybe that was the secret, and she gave no ear to his sweet nothings and she turned and hurried on her way.

    Arjen felt something he’d never felt before, and he thought it was only the taste of failure in his mouth and he thought he had only to try harder and succeed and the taste would be gone. He bought her small gifts of ribbons, and roses and rings. And he wrote her letters that were poems of wanting and waiting. And he said her name over and over like a prayer. Arjen in love, but it could not be.

    Then one day he took her hand. He was walking beside her on the street and it was dark, and he was saying how pretty she was, and he just reached out and took her hand. Or maybe it was Karin that took his. Stories are only the cousins of truth. And they went back to her place, Karin and Arjen, and they went inside.

    It is only conjecture what happened next, whether they kissed or touched or danced in her bed and danced till the sun was up. Arjen was seen sneaking away like a thief early the next morning, his shoulders hunched and his eyes like tunnels. He was quietly and unaccountably dead within the week and women and children cried into their pillows for just the one night.

    And Karin, still pretty, but her hair now like the tangled nest of some untidy bird, and her dresses all crumpled and torn, and words in her mouth when before there were none so her lips were never still. And she danced out from the shadows and laughed or cried by turns. And Karin slept in the beds of old men some nights and made easy money from them; and young men, too, if they were up on their luck. And the women were not bitter against her, but stroked her hair and kissed her cheek and said soft the name Arjen to her like it was a balm. And maybe it was.

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