OK GO IIMaria stretched her hands and legs wide, feeling the rough cotton on her body. She had slept through the afternoon warmth and had woken just as twilight fell. The muzzy blue strip of sky between the curtains was slashed with the black of branches of the tree outside. She leaned up on her elbows and swigged from a bottle of water, then swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stroked the cellulite on her thighs thoughtfully. With her elbows on her knees, and her head in her hands, she wondered how much longer she could go on doing this.
She turned the radio on, it was playing a station of 80s pop which she turned right up while she stood in shower to rinse away the sleep. She lathered up the soap, its scent made her think of the baths of her childhood - innocence and hope. She heard and ignored the banging on her ceiling from the irritating bastard upstairs.As she looked at the little gold flag insignia on the soap, it made her laugh at a memory of her younger self. Back then, this represented luxury. She had kept the little gold foil insignias stuck to the pieces of soap and saved them, tucked in a scrappy musical ballerina jewellery box that had been her prize possession. She kept them there, dreaming of running away, as symbols of a better life, a down payment - metaphorical bait to somehow attract freedom.
She washed her hair and stepped out of the shower and began to do her makeup. She pressed and pulled her eyelids up, as she tweezed one hair at a time from her brows, working quickly to control the pain. As she brought her hands to her face to rub in moisturiser, her mind fled to him for one moment, and this was enough to throw her off, to disturb her calm. Her elbow knocked the perfume bottle into the sink, and the vial exploded. Partly by reflex, and also fascinated by the tiny storm of glass that blew up she reached her hand forward into the glittering fragments. Too late to save the perfume, her hands closed on an infinite number of tiny cuts, and as she undid her palm, the blood seeped forth from hundreds of vermillion nicks that looked like bright little smiles.
Maria dressed in jeans and a black low cut top that showed the white sunless streak between her breasts. She pulled on her old army boots with painted patterns on. Checkerboards and anarchy symbols, stylised snakes and grinning skulls weaved around her ankles. These old boots with their painted talismans gave her some strength, linked her to a time before, when she hadn't been softened by age or comfortable choices, a time when she needed to be able to run and was strong enough to.
She picked up her bag. Into it, she threw a bottle of brandy, a lighter, her camera and a small sharp knife. She pulled on a cheap plastic anorak with a hole in the elbow, lowered her black mirrored shades over her eyes, and descended the stairs to the street.
As she walked along, she drank slugs from the bottle, and remembered the night when her friend Mark had given her the knife; how he had showed her how to use it.
"I won't give it to you unless you promise me now that when it comes to it, you'll use it" he'd said. She had laughed at the time, giggled as he'd wrestled with her, earnestly being a prospective attacker, teaching her how to defend herself. Showing her on his own body where he was most vulnerable.
"Stick it right in, then up, UP, under the rib cage." She recalled his face, his seriousness, his eyebrows lowered in concentration.
As she left his flat that night, when she went to hug him goodbye he had squeezed the knife into her hand.
"Remember, M, up. In, and UP!"
She touched her stinging hand to the canvas case containing the knife and moved it to her inside jacket pocket, and ran. She boarded the departing bus, and sat down out of breath, and reading the signs in the condensation on the top deck windows, she headed into town.