Her painted lips (Electric Orchid – the searing pink of a flamingo wing) curve into a brief smile, ‘These guys are sisters, not twins,’ she says. Picking up a fat-nibbed pencil, the colour of strong coffee, she leans in and begins to draw over my eyebrows with a look of concentration so fierce I am wax under its flame.
Her breath tickles like feathers, tastes like peppermint, extinguishes me. I crumple the image of her brushing her teeth, tucking loose tendrils of long dark hair behind her ear as she leans over the sink, and throw it over the wall I built the day I met her. Smiling over the top of her computer screen on our shared desk.
I can see the fine dusting of powder like a frost across her skin. Her own eyebrows are knitted together in concentration, and the blushed tip of her tongue pokes out as she sweeps bristles, soft as whispers, across my cheekbones. She checks the colour with me – a pale pearlescent powder or a darker bronze block. She thinks the lighter shade will suit me best. She is so excited. I nod blindly, not caring at all. I’m too busy imagining a traffic jam, dirty dishes soaking in cooling murky water, a train delayed with no update on when the replacement will arrive. I cross my legs tightly and pray that the throb will subside soon.
‘Where’s he taking you then?’ She breaks the soupy silence.
‘Just,’ I clear the lump from my throat. ‘Just for dinner, I think.’
She’s here in my house for the first time. Her skin grazing my sofa. She set me up with her friend David, thinks we’d be a good fit. His name tastes like burnt toast.
She untwists a lid with a click, pulls out a wand. It sounds like an octopus sucker coming unstuck. She dots the goop onto my eyelids, then gently pats it – me – with cool fingertips. I cough to cover the gasp that bubbles up.
She blows loose powder from the brush, the big one that looks like candyfloss. She places her hand on my arm, attempts to smooth the fine hairs that now stand to attention.
‘Cold is good, he might put his arm around you,’ she says with a twinkle.
I imagine David’s arm draped over me, a shackle. I stretch my back, roll the imagined weight off my shoulders.
‘Is that what you do? Pretend to be cold?’
‘I don’t need to,’ she winks ink-dipped lashes at me.
No, of course she doesn’t. The air cools, crisp like an autumn leaf.
‘You’re so beautiful,’ she says, the dried leaf crumbles, disintegrates in the heat from the flush that takes hold of my body.
You too, stays trapped in the gloss she’s applied. My lips a sticky vice, holding tight to the things I wish that I could say.
She leans in closer again. I shut my eyes, overwhelmed by her shadow dancing across my lids.
‘I’ve given you wingtips.’ She says, like it’s the most important thing.
I don’t know what that means. I want to tell her she can give me anything, but the words stay in my mouth, solid as cold wax, coating my tongue and throat.
Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her flash has appeared in Free Flash Fiction, Perhappened, Bandit, Reflex fiction, Briefly Zine and Ellipsis, among others. Balancing too many projects is her natural state. Tweets at @poor_and_clean
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