Posted on October 16, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair10.16.2014 Journal Prompt Photo by Juergen Teller October 16, 2014: This is how he found her. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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I was home from college and it felt weird. It felt like I didn’t really belong any more. Mam threw a party and she invited all the neighbours. Men I hardly knew kept shaking my hand, their faces soft with grinning and flushed pink with drink, and they said how I was a credit to my parents; and the wives of those men leaned in close enough I could smell their perfume and they kept kissing my cheek and then laughing and wiping their lipstick kisses off again with the press of their thumbs.
There was music playing in the house, louder than I ever heard before and everybody was dancing and drinking too much, and mam was all teared up and proud and introducing me to people I knew and people I didn’t. She’d had a cake made at Mindy’s bakery and ‘Welcome Home Stevie’ piped in blue icing across the top.
I helped myself to a beer or two and sneaked out back where it was a little quieter and I could breathe. That’s where I found her. She was leaning up against the house smoking a cigarette and blowing smoke rings up at the moon.
‘You old enough you should be doing that?’ I said.
‘Who the fuck are you, my mam?’
We stood side by side, looking up at the night sky and wishing we could see stars – leastways that’s what I was wishing. I offered her a drink of my beer and she took it without a word. I wanted to apologise about the cigarette remark, but I couldn’t find the words. She wiped the top of the bottle and handed it back to me.
‘Do you even remember me?’ she said at last.
I told her that of course I did. It was a lie.
‘Lizzy,’ she said.
I knew her then. She was Lizzy from next door. She was maybe three or four years younger than me and suddenly she was pretty. I’d lived in the same street as her for nearly nine years, right next door, and only just now was I noticing that she was pretty. She was wearing a dress that was too big for her and she had to keep hoisting it up at the front. It was an old-fashioned dance dress that splayed out from her waist and had petticoat layers.
‘What’s it feel like?’ she said.
‘Being home again and everybody making a fuss.’
I told her about it feeling weird and feeling like I was no one anybody really knew. She laughed and she said she knew me. I laughed right back at her and she began telling me all about myself, all the things I’d been and done in the years of growing up. She even knew about my night with Kitty Michaels when her parents were out and we’d stripped down to our underwear and climbed into bed together and kissed for four hours and nothing more than kissing.
‘How’d you know about that?’
Then she took my beer and she finished it in one. She tossed the bottle into the flowerbed and took my hand and we squeezed through a gap in the hedge and crossed into her garden.
‘Give me a minute,’ she said. ‘Then come upstairs.’
In her bedroom she had music playing, soft and slow. She said she thought we should dance. She said she’d always want to dance with me – always. And the way she said ‘always’, well, I couldn’t refuse. She stepped out of her shoes and out of her dress and like that she was suddenly a child again. She pulled me to her, put my hand on her waist, and we danced.
I was trying to calculate her age when she lifted my free hand and put it to her breast outside her bra. We were still moving even though the music had stopped.
‘You can kiss me if you like,’ she said.
I told her that I didn’t think that would be a good idea. She shrugged and pulled away. She sat down on the bed and lit up another cigarette. I didn’t know if I should go or if I should sit on the bed with her. In the end I thanked her for the dance and I said again that she shouldn’t be smoking, not at her age and not at any age.
‘Fuck you,’ she said.
I left then.
She said I’d saved her life and doing that made me responsible for her. It was a law of the universe or some such shit, she said. And at the time I thought she was maybe right. I thought I’d heard that someplace before. On a tv programme maybe, the one where this shoeless guy went around fixing people’s problems with his words of wisdom, and kicking the holy shit out of all the bad guys when they turned up, which was like twenty minutes into every episode and then again near the end.
I told her I didn’t exactly save her life none. I said it was the doctors done that. They’d pumped her stomach and cleaned her insides out. They was the ones made her good again and got her breathing and standing on her feet; it wasn’t really nothing to do with me.
She said how I was the one that called ‘em and so that meant I was the one that saved her. She said her life was a mess before and now it wasn’t. She said I’d changed things and she liked that I was now looking out for her.
I didn’t know what to say to that.
Her name’s Shelley and she’s maybe in her early twenties. Without the make-up she’s pretty, I reckon. When they released her from the hospital, she had only the one dress, a Cinderella party frock thing, all silk and ribbons and show. I had to go buy her some shoes, size 7, and some underwear. Then I had to put the shoes on her feet, like I was the prince in a fairy tale or summat.
She had no place to go. That’s what she said. So I took her back to my apartment. There ain’t no room to swing a dead cat in there, but I didn’t see that I had a choice. It was then that Shelley said the thing ’bout me being responsible for her now and how it was written in some ancient philosophy – maybe Chinese or shit.
‘I belong to you now,’ she said.
It felt kinda weird when she said it. I laughed and I asked her if that meant she was my own personal slave and that she’d just up and do whatever shit I told her to do. She came up to me real close and she stood on the points of her toes, like she was a dancer, and she kissed me slow and soft, her arms wrapped ’bout my neck and her body pressed to mine, and that was all the answer she gave. And that was weirder still.
Later, days later, maybe weeks, I looked up the thing ’bout being responsible for the person you save in this world and it’s all just bullshit. I was right ’bout hearing it on that tv programme though. Everybody heard it there first and then it just became a law, only it’s total bullshit. I told Shelley and she laughed and she said fuck she’d known all along. But by then Shelley was right at home in my apartment and she’d done the place up nice, and you know, I did feel sorta responsible for her and I don’t mind admitting that was a little scarey.