The girl passes beneath the light, and Mr. Talbot becomes excited. Three nights in a row now, without failure, she has come at 9:00 on the dot. Three sleepless nights spent staring and wondering over her tiny frame.
What is she doing out at this hour, on this patch of sidewalk? There is only a mailbox beside her beneath the streetlight. No houses nearby. No schools.
Mr. Talbot likes it that way.
But now there is this girl, standing and staring through this window. Mr. Talbot straightens in his window seat and stares right back. With the lights off behind him, he doubts she can see his silhouette. But he’s not entirely sure. The way she stares, unblinking beneath the streetlight, he feels naked.
Shifting in his window seat, his slacks bunch tightly over his knees, his crotch, crushing his flesh with their pull. Body bulging, he shifts again, but the relief is marginal. Too much man for too little clothes. He will need to buy more.
But oh, the girl has moved while he was fidgeting, and now she is on his side of the street. His sidewalk. How quickly she crossed over! He was only distracted for—
But now a knock at the door. A quick look back and she’s gone. Could it be?
He rises, stiffer than yesterday. Everything stiffer. He crosses to the door, so slowly it’s as if he isn’t moving. But with the lights off and everything, what else is he to do?
Where is the switch? His hand on the cool wall leaves a damp smear where it drags. He hasn’t the will to lift it, but it hardly matters. Any smear can be scrubbed off.
The doorknob is so cold he might not ever let go. What relief. If he doesn’t turn it, there will be no need to do anything else. Life will remain as it is.
But then it is turned and she is standing at the threshold.
“Hello” she says.
“Hello, little girl,” Mr. Talbot says in his old man voice. How deep it is, he thinks. She could tumble in and never come out, it’s so deep.
“May I come in?” asks the girl.
“I don’t think that would be wise,” says Mr. Talbot, alert as ever. He knows the consequences of such things.
“I promise you no one will mind.”
Mr. Talbot clears his throat. His neck skin wobbles. This cannot be true, he knows. But she is telling him not to worry all the same. Perhaps she really is alone—a ward of the state with no home to go back to.
“Well then we better get you in out of the cold,” he says, though it is quite warm out.
Her feet are so small, standing as they are on his doormat. Beside his loafers, her black dress shoes sparkle in the dim glow of the outside light like so many moths headed for a quick burn.
“Please, make yourself at home,” He says. His hand is stretched towards the dark living room beyond. She follows the shadow of his arm with her gaze. Is she picturing it rising above her head before crashing down against her temple? Does she realize it is the same girth as the thickest part of her thigh?
He lets it fall to his side.
She walks in without a word. She is so fine, like the hairs on a ghostly scalp. He wants to touch her. He thinks she would be as hard to grab hold of as a cracked shell in a puddle of yoke. One wrong move and it slips away.
She looks around, but there isn’t much to see. What can she be looking at?
Mr. Talbot clears his throat a second time and wishes he had a handkerchief as he follows after her.
“May I ask you your name?”
“My name is Sophie.”
“Sophie. How nice.”
“And you are Mr. Talbot, yes?”
“I…how do you know that?” asks Mr. Talbot. His steps falter. If she knows his name…who else might?
“How long have you lived here?”
“Uh—long time now. Longer than you’ve been alive.”
“Are you sure?” Now she’s folding herself up in the window seat, arranging her skirt around her legs. Mr. Talbot stares at her from halfway across the room. Her hair flips up at her shoulders in a distinctly 60’s way. Perhaps her mother was a hairdresser. Or grandmother.
“I should think so, missy.”
Damn. He’s feeling flustered. She’s unseated him with her questions. He shall have to be on his guard now.
Then again, perhaps he should simply ask her to go. He still can. Nothing has happened. No one can hold him at fault. A quick glass of water and he was only trying to help…
But she’s looking at him in such a way now that he can’t help but walk towards her. She pats the space beside her and he goes to sit down, but he trips on something in the dark and stumbles towards her tiny frame—Oh god he’s going to crush her!
But he doesn’t. Something grabs hold of him and lowers him down. Has he braced himself on something? Who knew there was still so much power left in this old back?
“Sorry I—the dark in here…”
“It’s quite alright, Mr. Talbot.”
“Oh, John, please.”
“If it pleases you.”
“You know…” Mr. Talbot begins, his eyebrow raised. “You speak very well for your age.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“How old are you, exactly?”
“Exactly? You mean to the day? Well I couldn’t possibly say,” says Sophie, resting her hand on Mr. Talbot’s forearm.
Her fingers send shocks through his sleeve as if he were a guinea pig in an old behavioural test. How might he react now, he wonders? How would the examiners record his results?
“I’ve seen you watching me.”
“From this very seat, I believe. Given the angle from outside.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mr. Talbot blusters from a flushed face. How lucky it’s dark in here.
“I don’t mind. I like watching you, too.”
“But it’s so dark in here.”
“It’s light enough.”
“Oh, well…maybe you should leave,” Mr. Talbot says, feeling peevish. He is just a bumbling fool in her eyes, he can see that now. And here he thought he was being so sneaky…
“But I don’t want to go. I want to stay here with you.”
“I—well that’s very nice but I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Nice girls like you shouldn’t say such things to old fools like me. We just might not be the nice types they seem to be at first.”
“No one is, Mr. Talbot.”
“Yes I know that. But some types are hiding worse things than others.”
“Do you want to touch my hair, Mr. Talbot?”
“I’ve seen you looking at it. When I touched it a moment ago, you licked your lips.”
“I did not.”
“But you did.”
“They must have been dry. At my age…”
“Would you like to touch it?”
“I–” Mr. Talbot’s hand jumps into the air on its own. His lips twitch to chasten it, but they can think of nothing suitable to say before his fingers are running through the strands. So they say nothing.
“You like that, don’t you?”
“Yes I do.”
“Would you like to touch me anywhere else?”
Her voice is so small, like the rest of her. Now other things are moving of their own accord, and Mr. Talbot cannot hide them from her gaze.
“I think you know that I would.”
“Then why don’t you?”
“My dear, such a thing is not as simple as it seems. There are other things…”
“There are always other factors to consider, Mr. Talbot.”
“There is always something in the way of our happiness, John. But we must reach out and take it anyways. We must never be afraid in this life.”
Now Mr. Talbot eyes her up and down.
“How…how is it that you speak so well?”
She smiles up at Mr. Talbot, and his heart gives a little skip. It might be arrhythmia, and it might be her sweet eyes, her supple lips as they puff and blow at the stale air in the room, the way her hand is taking his and bringing it to her flat chest.
“Would you like me to sit in your lap?” She asks, although she does not need to. It is clear that he would.
Here you are again, old boy, Mr. Talbot thinks to himself. Are you really going through with this all over again? It’s been so long since the last…you’ve almost made it.
But now she’s uncurling her legs and creeping towards him. Her dress is in her way, so she lifts it slightly over her waist so she can navigate his thighs.
And then she is on top of him, and Mr. Talbot’s breath is dusting her face with its stale warmth. There is still a chance to say no, but it is rapidly slimming to nothing at all.
Now she is kissing his neck. God help him, she is kissing his neck, and he cannot lift his hands to stop her. More smears to clean later.
But later—what will he be later? He’ll be a monster, and there is nothing worse to be.
He must stop her. He will stop her…
But she is biting him now, and he cannot push her off. He tells her she’s hurting him, but she only grunts back at him, like a boar. She grunts and keeps grunting as she bites and sucks at his neck. The folds of his draping skin are all in her mouth, he feels. He is being sucked down to the base of her throat. She has all of him inside her, and she is sucking him dry.
And the streetlight across the street is flickering like it’s about to go out. Is it almost dawn already? No it can’t be. But it will be eventually. And then what?
But suddenly he doesn’t care. All the old fears are gone. Indeed most things are gone now. There is only the slurping sounds, and the grunting like something out of Hell digging in the soil for his soul.
Well, take it, then, he thinks. I’ve had quite enough of it, thank you very much. A little sleep now would be nice.
By Brianna Ferguson
Brianna Ferguson is a fourth year combined Creative Writing and English major at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus in Kelowna, Canada. Her short fiction is to be published in the upcoming issues of “Class Magazine” and “Polychrome Ink Literary Magazine,” and the upcoming Toronto anthology “Another Place.”
Artwork by Laura Brown
Laura Suzy Brown is a visual artist/image maker working in Brighton and London.