by Claire Dix

When he runs out of things to say and all heads turn from him, then for a moment he is alone and he looks to her. She sits in a square of yellow light and her arms move subtly and her body fitfully, all at once like a child. And if she will catch his eye she will hold like that and tilt her head unnoticeably and smile. But he will stop and become conscious of himself again, critical, regretful.

She lifted the bottle to her lips, easily and let the gold and frothy remains fall back her throat. When she looked back again Steve was gone.

- You know that kid...what's his name...he lives on Shore Road...Casey...Casey Fickery?

Mariah jumped at the sound of Laura's voice beside her. She grabbed Mariah's arm, her fingers pressed deeply into the skin. Without a thought she leaned over and bit into Laura's hand.

- What the fuck...are you twisted or something?

Mariah's eyes were huge and blue and fixed intensely on Laura. Wishing she didn't have to speak at all she answered slowly.

- So what's this about Casey.

- His brother...

Laura leaned nearer as if about to whisper. Before she spoke her eyes looked past Mariah and her voice became loud enough for all to just about hear.

- They think he's been murdered.

Her were no longer on Mariah but fixed on the kids that sat around them and beside them on the hard, warm ground and plastic chairs.

- In this place?

Mariah's hand slid inside her pocket and squeezed the bag of grass. Steve could get you anything you wanted.

- Tolla Fickery.

Gary shouted over, pale and wispy tall in the strong sun.

- What that?

Laura pretended not to hear.

- Tolla Fickery, Casey's little brother...and he's just missing Laura.

Gary walked over slowly, barely lifting his feet off the ground, his hand stuffed deeply into the pockets of loose pants that hid his wiry legs. When he got to Mariah's side he winked and touched her face. Her every muscle tightened. As the bottle was raised to her lips she bit deep inside her mouth to stop the thoughts of breaking clear glass across his hand. She scrambled for something to say.

- You know him?

His hand left her skin as she spoke and her foot swung back and forth loosely from the ankle. It drew stars and triangles and crosses in the air, loosely and rhythmically, faster and faster.

Gary's eyes wandered over her, oblivious to hers. She felt the coldness of the glass pass up her palm as he lifted the beer from her hand and raised it to his mouth. It swayed there before his lips while he shouted over to the rest of the heads. They leaned over the arms of plastic chairs and each others' shoulders. Smokes and cigarettes crackled in their mouths and when they snapped them from their fingers they came apart and fierce orange sparks fell like rain.

This is the evening and the evening light. These are the kids that hang around and speak and laugh about soft, easy things like tourists running from the warm rain, clinging to each idea and each new body as if it were the last. Gary was one night and now it was the next but his hands still touched her face and her fingers as though he didn't understand.

He called her name as she got up. He spoke in her ear and smiled as his fingers brushed past her pockets.

- So you got sorted.

- Ya, I spoke to Steve earlier.

- Nice one.

When they stood this close she could hear the metal in his tongue click against his teeth. Once Gary had tried talking Steve into it, mainly so that he could do the piercing. His main argument was that it made a deadly built in spatula for all the shit that gets stuck to the roof of your mouth.

- Ya, listen I'm going to head. D'ya need a lift anywhere?

- Ya, cheers Mariah.

His arm had barely wound round her waist when she skipped out of his reach and leapt over a low wall into the carpark. He turned and nodded as she swung the door open, got in and rolled the window down. They drove off and she leaned over the door and called back to the crush of bodies that tore and pulled apart in the rain.

As they sped along the empty roads he licked the skins and broke the weed and rolled it between yellow fingers. She was silent as she took it from the hand that hovered absently in her direction. The smoke was hot as it crept back her throat.

The sun was low. Lights ran past furiously in thin white lines beside them.

- Pull over at the Esso would ya?

Gripping the wheel tight with her fingers and biting her lip she forced her eyes to stay with the road. Thought and half thoughts waded through the heaviness in her head.

A silver car overtook them. As it got to her side she turned her head and the man at the wheel looked right in her eyes `til she blinked and a tail of red light was all that was left.

Gary jerked forwards, rolled the window down and flicked the butt out into the wind.

- Hey is that Ian Larkin in front of us?

- Laura's Ian?

- Ya

- Couldn't tell ya. I've never met him.

- Really.

- Na, sure Laura doesn't talk about him much.

The car was gone and Gary sat back into his seat.

- What's he like?

- Ah, he's a bit of a freak actually.

- Nice.

Mariah nodded and a smile crept up one side of her face.

- How do you know him?

Her eyes wandered languidly between each slow, heavy blink. Her voice was real and clear and she listened to it. Gary's played on somewhere outside this. She felt herself drift away from it stealthily, little by little.

-...met him one night me and Steve went camping..out on the piss and ah...after this Dutch bird all night...she was having none of it like...followed her back to the campsite...shouting Dutch or fucking clingon at us..

He laughed and ran his teeth down his tongue forcing the metal out through his lips.

- Fuck Mariah we've just bombed it past the Esso.

- There's a Spar on the left here somewhere.

Her mouth barely opened as she whispered the words. Gary glanced at her for a second. One arm hung out of the open window and the other held the wheel with white skin, so tight it ripped and tore apart in her mind. the Dutch birds are in their tent..trying to pretend we don't exist..

They turned off the road. Their heads loped forward as she braked.

-...fucking chaos...Steve started yelling at them...

The rain was light and warm on her skin as they stepped from the car. Gary turned and paced and spoke on.

-...So Ian kept pulling at the poles...'til finally he just ran at it...

She could no longer hear the words, just his voice, familiar and distinctly him and smoothly and without warning it began to speak to her of all that was wading through her mind.

She watched him walk towards the shop lights that pained her eyes but his voice, just this voice carried on until it was all that she heard.

The rain fell, lightly on her closed eyelids and it was warm running down her skin and between her lips and on her neck. Steve walked towards her again in the yellow light of her mind and in his hand he held the weed and like a magic potion and him the spell, it made her think of him, only him, again and again. She took it from him. Thinking back to when she drove along the darkened roads when the sun was low and it had crawled all over her and crept inside her, the smoke creeping hot and slowly to her chest.

And now it curved her mouth into a smile and it was so easy just to leave, just drive away. The rain fell more and more. It came in through the open window as crystal drops that clung to her hair as the lights and broken branched of trees that scratched the night sky reeled by, furiously.

And when Gary stepped outside, alone, it ran down his neck and fell from his lips that swore and screamed after her as he turned and paced through the bleached white pools of warm rain.

She passed everything and saw nothing until a shower of tiny pebbles flew at the windscreen. They hit it hard and flew faster than the tails of street lights and they sounded angry or thrown by something furiously, snapping like bones would and sharper than teeth. She stopped the car and the stones fell and were silent.

When she walked over them they cut into her soles and the darkest of reds ran from her skin down their smooth sides. As she neared the waves they ran to her and they were thick and dark and oily. She walked on into their coldness and thick darkness `til it surrounded her and lapped at her sides. The moon was full above her and the she whispered to it and the milky way lay strewn like white powder across the sky.

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