12 August 2010
I first saw her when I went to the drive-in. The place had girls on roller skates and satin red shorts. Her hair was long, black, and straight. She had blue barrettes pinned above her ears, of which were festooned with an array of hoops and dangling crosses.
Her legs were perfect, except for a bruise on one knee. I accepted the ice-cream float she brought me, told her to keep the change and watched her backside as she glided away. On the radio "Just Like Heaven" filtered through the haze of cigarette smoke and the tinny music the drive-in played over the dented and rusted speakers above.
The next day I went back and ordered another float. She came out again, her icy blue eyes blinking in surprise when she obviously recognized me. She had a cut on her right cheekbone. A little thing, but I took it in observation and sipped on my drink thoughtfully when she glided away on those old-fashioned roller skates to serve another customer.
On the third day, I asked her for her name. She smiled. Her name tag said "Mindy" but I knew the deal with these places. I drew on my cigarette and gave her the best set of puppy dog eyes I could. My eyes drifted to her left upper arm. Three bruises, each the shadow of a large finger marred her perfection. She was almost milky white. The bruises attempted to sneak up under the hem of her sleeve. Her lip was pierced on the side. She toyed with the silver ring before answering.
"Petra," she said finally, like the answer to some great enigma and was gone, her long black ponytail streaming out behind her. Her wind was bubble gum and patchouli. I started the car, and parked in back. My float melted as I watched for hours. Customers came and went, and every so often I could see Petra. She was a diamond in a sea of river stones. I sipped on the root beer and vanilla ice cream mess and thought of her scent.
The lights went out promptly at 11. The girls were picked up by husbands or boyfriends, or departed in a tiny, affordable battered cars. Petra stood alone at the end of the curb, before sitting down to open her little purse for a smoke. Something made her look in my direction; a blue Chevelle out by the Dumpster, blue smoke wavering in the wind. She rose to her feet and walked towards me.
Photo credit: msquanna from morguefile.com
"I should call the cops," she said, standing just out of reach at my window, not looking at me.
"You should leave him," I said before flicking one of more than a dozen butts into the night breeze. We both watched the amber arc die in a hiss on the damp pavement.
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"You told me your name," I said, moving to take off my seatbelt.
"Don't--" she said, looking around us. "He'll be here soon."
"Good. Let him come." I got out of the car and towered over her diminutive figure. "Petra." I liked saying her name. I liked that the word meant her, in her soft white skin and icy blue eyes. I loved that she existed and stood her with me even though I scared her.
Rebel country music swelled in the distance, along with the unmistakable sound of a Flowmaster exhaust set. She blinked hard, one tear escaping inky lashes.
I went to the trunk, opened it, and loaded my rifle as a brown 4x4 Silverado pulled into the lot.