woman standing on the center of the road


It was too cold to display her wares effectively; when a sweep of headlights approached, she had just a short moment on that corner, to look alluring and available before the beams raked over her and continued down the road, tyres crunching the hard rime frost. This was going to be a long hard winter, come early.

Blowing into her freezing hands, she decided to go home and accept that after only two punters, this evening was not going to get any better. First though, she would have a drink at Danny’s bar, just to warm her up. And who knows, there may just be someone there in need of a little late comfort, on this Godforsaken night.

In the small dilapidated house, a child was moaning in her sleep and panting hard as she made her escape from the monster that chased her. No matter how hard she ran, the scaly body and sharp teeth pursued her, until she was backed against the wall, ready to scream. She raised her eyes to face the evil, and saw instead, her grandfather’s drink crazed stare, glittering in anger behind his spectacles. His bloodshot eyes were huge, his dark gaze fastened on hers, seemingly only inches away. The scream died in her throat. Hot tears made her blind. She flinched ready for the blow….

“Tess, I’ll remind you – no soliciting in here…”

“Yeah, I know Danny, but a girl can come in from the cold for a drink can’t she ? It’s a tough night… besides, you ain’t got nobody here worth the trouble… I’ll have a whisky, thanks”.

She glanced around at the handful of people in the bar and perched herself on a barstool… She got on with Danny and didn’t want trouble. She would have the one, then go home. Rosie waited and when the blow didn’t come, she realised that she was alone in the bedroom. Her chest was tight and tears had wet her thin pale face. Trembling from the shock of her dream she carefully pulled back the warm duvet, edged out of bed and crept across the cold dark room to the door, which was slightly ajar. In the soft light of the standard lamp she could see her grandfather asleep in his chair. The television was on but muted, light shadows bouncing off his face in the dimness. His beady eyes were closed; spectacles sitting crookedly, and his breathing, heavy. The gnarled calloused hands, with bulging blue veins on the backs of them, were limp and heavy in repose. One across his enormous belly which strained the waistband of his dirty jeans, the other hanging halfway to the floor, from which the empty beer bottle had fallen. It lay on it’s side, a few drops spilled onto the tile patterned linoleum. Rosie shivered. She badly wanted the comfort of her mama…

Tessa was beginning to thaw, and having relaxed and gotten warm, she was starting to enjoy herself. Two of the men at a table, had come to the bar and engaged her and Danny in conversation whilst buying more drinks… the evening was looking up. They bought her one too and before she knew it, they were in rounds and the money she had made, was just as quickly spent. By closing, they were all bosom buddies, but as they drove away in a beat up old Dodge, they left Tessa on the freezing sidewalk, to face the long walk home, alone…

Rosie, knew she wasn’t allowed to get up in the night, but the bad dream had scared her sufficiently that she didn’t want to stay and lay in the dark. Grandpa didn’t allow the big light on, and the lamp on the table between her bed and her mama’s, needed a new bulb. Her mama’s bed was empty and had not been slept in. Rosie was all alone with her grandpa. Pulling a knitted blanket off the bed, Rosie draped it around her and tiptoed out quietly, to go wait for her mama…

The steam from her mouth clouded her vision and the glow of alcohol was dimming to a dull headache by the time Tessa drew nearer her home. The frost sparkled in pools of sodium lights and her breath was pulling at her chest with the cold air. She turned off the sidewalk towards the house, when at the top of the shallow stairs, she saw movement. An untidy bundle was in the old rocker on the porch, and it sniffled in the dark.

Coming closer she realised with a sudden rush of love mixed with the deepest guilt, that she was looking at her five year old daughter. The child was just there on the stoop in the dark, hugging herself against the cold, all cried out and nearly asleep with the onset of hypothermia. Scooping her up, fearful of the consequences, Tessa kicked the front door open and took her inside, startling her father awake in the process…

Author: Lucy

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