You kill the engine at the bottom of Carla’s street and turn off your headlights just like she asked. The clock on the dashboard reads 23:58; not long now. You circled the block three times before coming this far, have been a nervous wreck all day. The quiet is fucking unbearable, but you can’t put the radio on because she wants you to wait in complete silence. 23:58 blinks into 23:59 and you can’t stop your fingers drumming restlessly on the steering wheel. Then the clock tells you it is 00:00, and she isn’t here. She said she would be here at midnight. What’s kept her? Has something gone wrong?
It is 00:05 when you finally see Carla approaching. Her face is unreadable as she nears the car, and she doesn’t speak as she gets in on the passenger side. Her trembling hands struggle to fasten the seatbelt, so you strap her in like you would a child, then turn the key in the ignition without saying a word. It’s 00:09 and you’ve driven at least a mile when she finally says;
“This feels too easy.”
“I know what you mean,” you reply, keeping your eyes on the road.
“Not sure that you do, hon.”
She fiddles with the heating vent and rubs her bare legs. That’s when you notice the tiny dress she’s wearing, and tell her there’s a jacket on the back seat. She kicks off her heels, curls up on the passenger seat and pulls the denim over her like a blanket. For all her lipstick and nail polish, right now she could be a little girl.
You soon leave the town behind, turning your headlights to full beam as you hit the pitch black country roads. She begins to doze, and you begin to understand that, as anxious as may have been ahead of tonight, she has been living in hell. Your flat is in a village nearly half an hour away; safe enough for tonight, but tomorrow you’ll have to take her further. You have never met Victor Crane, but you’ve heard enough from Carla to know that you never want to.
A deer appears in the middle of the road, and you barely have time to slam the brakes on. The car stops a couple of feet away, abruptly enough to wake Carla from her doze in the passenger seat. You watch her watching the doe, as it dashes out of the car’s beams, keeping her gaze on the spot where it had been even after it has vanished into the darkness of the surrounding trees. Your hand finds hers, and she grips it as if holding on for dear life.
You pass no cars on the entire journey, and reach the village at exactly 00:45. Carla gets out of the car and walks barefoot to your front door, high heels dangling from the one hand as she uses the other to keep the oversized denim jacket from sliding down her shoulders.
You close the door, shutting out the cold night. How many other times have you brought her here? It’s become your sanctuary, the one place that her husband doesn’t know about. She lingers in the hallway, and you can tell she is thinking the same thing. That this may be the last time you both get to enjoy this secret place.
“We did it,” you say, kissing her neck. “We did it.”
She begins to laugh, as if finally letting herself believe that their night journey has really happened. You can’t help yourself from laughing too; it is impossible to picture yourself waiting in your car less than an hour ago. You pick her up, carry her into the bedroom and throw her on the bed. She squeals in delight, pulling the denim jacket from around her shoulders and throwing it at you.
You lean over her and yank her dress so hard it rips. Her eyes widen at the sound, and a playful grin transforms her face. You tug even harder on the dress and the seams at the back come completely apart. She tears at the fabric, desperate to be free of it, until she is entirely naked and under you. You haul your shirt over your shoulders while she unzips your jeans. Now that the two of you finally have all the time in the world, neither of you can wait. Your lovemaking is rushed, almost panicked, the fear of being found out still hanging over both of you even as the adrenaline of what you have just done courses through your veins.
“Where will we go?” She asks, afterwards.
“I don’t know yet. Maybe we could hop on a ferry and have a little holiday.”
“I’m serious,” she says, sitting up. “Once Victor knows I’m gone, he’ll stop at nothing until he finds me. You don’t know what he’s capable of. He…”
“Nothing. It’s just that, for years, he had this power over me. And I could never fight it. Not until I met you. And even though I’m free now, I can’t shake this feeling.”
Carla hesitates, as if deciding whether or not to tell you the truth.
“That wherever I go, he’ll know where I am.”
“Then we’ll go far away. We’ll change our names and learn Spanish. I’ll grow a beard and you can shave your head. We’ll be unrecognisable.”
Carla smiles, although it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. You decide that it’s okay; you have the rest of your life to make her smile properly. You switch off the bedside lamp, and then you do what you’ve wanted to do for months. You lay your head on her stomach and close your eyes, knowing that she will still be there come morning.
Extract from a work in progress.