"Four Past Twelve"

“I come to you in vanity,” she said, her gaze soft as she slowly studied him, the lines around his mouth, the thin sheet of grey stubble that clung sharply to his face.

He didn’t care why she came, only that she did. Once a week, on a Tuesday, four minutes after twelve. The time it took her to walk from the station, around the building, up the narrow, winding path to the back. It was a small room, plain, a picture of a Parisian scene on the pale-yellow wall, an empty vase on the table.

He lit a cigarette and watched her as she steadily reached for her hair tie, letting the darkness roll and cascade across her slender neck. Her hand then went to the zipper at the side of her dress, ever so slowly. She moved in closer to him, allowing his hand to slide up her leg as the cigarette smoke caught in the light of the small window behind his chair, dancing and swirling around them, like the ghosts of reality dissipating into the air as the four walls became theirs. For twenty minutes. Nineteen.

“I need you to say it,” she whispered, her hand bracing his arm, holding him just out of reach. It was the game she played and this the magic key. A password into the place where she would forget herself. 

He leaned in close, his fingers searching as he pulled her towards him, his voice hoarse.

“I wake up thinking about you.”

They weren’t just words when they were formed by his lips. It was an ignition. It was sacrilege. It was divine. No other had found the switch before. Wandering as she had, searching for the on button to her soul. Who knew she would find it here, right where she shouldn’t? Fifteen. Fourteen.

She needed to be needed. She needed to be taken. She needed to know that someone of his standing, his talent, could strip down and stand in his shame before her. A weekly injection to her ego so she could show her face to the world. Ten. Nine.

He couldn’t risk what he had for her. Life had dealt him a hand that didn’t fit with her card, but he lived now for Tuesdays. A mundane day in the scheme of things. There was never anything special on a Tuesday, and so they kept it that way. She went and got her nails done, he nipped out to check on his mother. Five, four.

Twenty-five past twelve. Time enough for him to light another, time enough for her to smooth her hair back into place. She picked up the vase from the floor, placing it just so, a little left of the middle. It looked better there. She didn’t say anything as she quietly closed the door behind her. The silence lingered and spoke of next Tuesday, as he quietly sat back in his chair and finished his cigarette.

About the author

Claire Loader was born in New Zealand and spent several years in China before moving to County Galway, Ireland, where she now lives with her family.  With a passion for writing and photography, she blogs at www.allthefallingstones.com and is currently writing a memoir.  Her work has appeared in Dodging the Rain.

Claire Loader