Watching her, he imagines tearing off her daisy dress, entering her quickly, screwing his large hands into her hips. He wants to hear her scream. She walks with her head down, sucking from a Coca-Cola bottle. She carries a small handbag and it bumps by her side. He wonders what she has inside it. Mints? Period pills? The bus she’s come off pulls away from the curb. She stops walking and sits on the plastic bench. He likes the way she curls her lips up, wetting them with her tongue. He wonders what her name is. She pulls a small book out of her bag and begins to read. He approaches carefully and sits next to her. When he asks her where she’s going, she says to a Michael Jackson concert. He grins and tells her he likes MJ as well. They drink coffee together in a roadside cafe. When she puts sugar in her coffee, he tells her she is sweet enough. Later he tells her he can give her a lift. She tucks her hair behind her ears and climbs into the car.

He drives to a motel. Strikes her across the face. Enters her three times. There are noisy birds outside. She keeps her eyes pressed shut. Outside the clouds stretch their bellies out, bursting with rain. When he’s finished, he takes a lighter and a cigarette, and moves out onto the veranda. He smokes against an ashy-blue backdrop. He can just make out her shadow inside. She lingers on the bed, clasping her hands together as though she’s praying. He turns away again and picks at the yellow stains on his fingertips. Wants to forget what he has done. The smoke from his cigarette billows out in front of him, moving like a dancer with long legs.  

Days later he drags a large suitcase into his car. Her teeth are fish belly white. Hair hangs down her back, coarse and tight, like rocks stuck at the bottom of the sea. She keeps her face expressionless. He moves towards her, his hands shaking slightly. He holds out the car keys and she takes them slowly, scraping the keychain over her nails. She has long nails. Plastic. Chipped, like broken china plates her Mum used to throw. She gets in the car. Starts the engine. He puts a hand on her knee; his hands are red and sweaty, like Christmas Ham left out in the sun too long.

‘Let’s go,’ he says. Curiously his voice trembles and she wonders idly why he is frightened. ‘Let’s go,’ he says again and his mouth widens into an ugly shape. She puts her foot down. They don’t get far. The engine stalls and the car stops. Wide open road. Purple wildflowers growing on the sides. She stares at them. Imagines picking them, tying them into her hair, weaving the petals into her plaits. ‘Let’s go,’ he says again, kicking aimlessly in his footwell. Planting her hands back on the steering wheel, she shivers. The light outside is fading and it will soon be dark. She doesn’t mind the dark. The way it stretches over everything. In the darkness she can hide from him. ‘We need to go,’ he says. She turns her head to look at him. His face is strained and it reminds her of cold custard. ‘We need to go,’ he says again. She nods but the car won’t start. ‘Oh fuck, for fucking shit’s sake,’ he suddenly screams, banging a hand down. She unbuckles her seatbelt. His eyes are red and swollen, like a bee bite him. She opens the door a crack. Dangles a leg out. Her legs are scratched; purple mulberry bruises. When she speaks her voice is soft, like a child’s, and she smiles wearily. She knows she has won. She gets out of the car. Walks up the road. She doesn’t look back. He bashes his hands on the steering wheel.