Warning: Disturbing content and references to sex. No swearing though.
This was written in response to a prompt and then it kind of went... awry. I still sort of like it though.
The lake road that lead back from Waterford was potholed, poorly lit and utterly unpopulated. Tom hated it. It was, by far, the worst part of the delivery route he had been driving three times a week for the last six months. He had never dreamed of being a truck driver as a boy, and that sentiment had remained into adulthood. But moving hundreds of cans of beans, pilchards, spaghetti and creamed corn between the factory and the depot was the only job he’d managed to hold down since his mother had left him in the house all alone, so he didn’t say anything. Not to anyone. Not ever.
What he did like about driving the truck was that it was quiet. No one expected him to laugh at the jokes he didn’t understand, or contribute to the conversations that went over his head. There was no one to give him puzzled stares, ask him what was wrong with him or call him ‘spaz’ when he did something wrong. There was just him, the truck and the road. And as creepy as the lake road was, the quiet and the loneliness was something he could live with. In fact, it was something he fully expected to live with- until he met her.
He had just turned onto the lake road and a familiar feeling of anxiety had started freezing the hairs on the back of his neck. When he first started driving the route, he had been hyper-aware of every tree, ditch and road-kill carcass that made up his view through the windshield. In time though, everything had started to blend together as he raced for the intersection that would lead him back to the main road. It was only because of the high contrast between her pale skin and the darkly rotten heap of Autumn leaves that she lay on that he even saw her.
He drove a few meters more, his eyes locked on the rear view mirror, before he decided to pull over the truck and see if she was ok. She was lying there on the side of the road like she might have been hurt, and Tom didn’t want to leave a hurt lady on the side of the road. He took a deep breath, jumped from the driver’s seat of the truck onto the slimy leaves and approached her with trepidation. From his previous experience with women, he almost expected her to cringe, look away or jump up and run from him as he grew closer, but she waited for him, watching. “Are you okay?” he asked. She stared up at him, silent. He looked her over, embarrassed by her nudity, and saw that she had indeed been hurt. A number of thin, red lacerations criss-crossed her unnaturally white skin, like twine across a frozen turkey. Tom mentally congratulated himself for stopping. His mother would have told him he was ‘a real gentleman’ for coming to the lady’s aid. “Do you need help?” he asked her. Again, he was met with silence. He tentatively touched her shoulder, expecting her to flinch. She didn’t. Her blue-white skin was cold to the touch, colder even than the brisk breeze that nipped at his exposed ears and nose. She felt frozen. “Do you want to come with me?” Tom watched her for a response and, although she still said nothing, he was sure he noticed a demure lowering of her eyelids. It was enough for him to take it as a 'yes'.
If he was completely honest with himself, he was grateful for the company on the Waterford road. She didn’t say anything for the duration of the trip, but just having her there, huddled in a blanket and staring blankly out the passenger window, made him feel a little better. The winter sunlight died quickly, and they did the last stretch of the route home in almost total darkness. Tom stole frequent glances at his companion, hoping that she might say something about her home or her family, but her lips remained sealed. Tom didn’t blame her, he didn’t like talking to strangers either. His mother used to force him to speak to her, and to their visitors, and to the doctors. But ever since she died, he didn’t have to speak to anyone he didn’t want to, so why should the girl in his truck be any different.
He had meant to take her to the hospital first, he really had. But as they entered his darkened home town, highlighted only by the occasional neon sign, he knew from experience that the cold floors, bright fluorescents and stony faces of the doctors might all be a little too much for her to take right now, especially after whatever she had been through. He decided he would take her home first, to the house he had shared with his mother. He would run her a hot bath, serve her a home-cooked meal and let her sleep in a soft bed tonight. They could try the hospital in the morning. He drove on. She said nothing.
At home, she barely ate. In fact, she didn’t eat at all. Tom was initially worried, but he guessed he would have also lost his appetite if he’d had to live through whatever she’d just survived. She still wouldn’t talk about it, even as she leaned against the sink while he tested her bath water. He felt improper seeing her naked again, even after they way they’d met, so he turned his head away as he slid the blanket- now just as cold as she was- off her slim shoulders and lifted her into the bath. He sat with her for a little while, to make sure that she was okay, but decided after a few minutes to give her some privacy.
He didn’t move far from the door, not because he was wanted to listen to her clean herself, but because he was worried about her falling asleep in the warm water and drowning. It was a good thing he returned to her when he did, as her face had slipped beneath the surface of the bubbles he had added to her bath. “You must be tired.” Tom said to her. He lifted her out, wrapped her in a towel and carefully carried her to his mother’s bed, where he dressed her in one of the dead woman’s night gowns and tucked her under the covers. It wasn’t easy. She was a small woman, but heavy in her lethargy. Tom was happy to feel that the bath had indeed taken most of the chill off her skin and he hoped that this would be the first step of her recovery. Perhaps after a night’s rest, he thought, she might be a little more willing to talk. He went to his own bed to lie down, but wasn’t able to sleep after the days events.
Tom cooked a hearty breakfast the next morning. Pancakes, sausages and eggs filled the kitchen with a thick, fatty ambience. He was sure the smell alone would be enough to rouse her from her sleep and bring her bleary-eyed down the stairs. It wasn’t.
He took her breakfast up to her room, where she lay in the exact same position as he’d left her. Her eyes were open, but they looked glassy, watery and sore. He tried to close them, but her eyelids snapped back open. She wasn’t speaking, but she obviously still wanted to see what was happening around her. “I brought you breakfast.” Tom said. He looked at her slim, pale hand lying motionless on the bedspread. Unable to stop himself, he reached out and touched her fingers. Her skin felt icy-cold again. But she did not pull her hand away. Tom wrapped his warm fingers around her frozen ones and looked at her. It was the longest contact he’d ever had with anyone other than his mother. “Can I kiss you?” he asked, possessed with an uncommon audacity. As usual, she said nothing, and only looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. He leaned forward and she did not pull away as he gently pressed his lips to hers. She was so cold. Tom swept a hand across her forehead and, without asking, crawled into bed next to her. He had only meant to warm her up, but lying there, in the bed with her, his hot skin pressed against this exquisite ice angel, he started to feel something more than the initial kindness that had originally compelled him to help her. Something more urgent. Something his mother would have never approved of. “But she’s dead,” he whispered to his ice angel, kissing her again.
They made love then. It was Tom’s first time and from the way she lay, poised like a stiff arrow while he did it to her, he guessed it might have been hers as well. Afterwards, they lay there for a long time. It seemed that the girl was slowly losing her frozen pallor and Tom felt happy that he had had some small part in that. It was his day off and he wanted to do something nice for her, for his ice angel. His girlfriend. The word gave him a secret thrill. He couldn’t wait to introduce her to everyone he knew. Which, aside from the doctors, really only included Mr. Henry, the green grocer and Mrs. Withers from next door.
At about noon, he thought he would go down to the green grocer and get them both an ice-cream stick. She still hadn’t eaten her breakfast and Tom had heard that things like ice-cream, jelly and custard were good for sick people- which she surely was. “I’ll be back soon.” He’d said, pressing a kiss to her forehead as he buckled up his pants.
Mr. Henry smiled when he saw Tom. “You’re looking well, young man. Glad to see you’re taking care of yourself.” Tom smiled back at the comment.
“Actually, I’m taking care of more than just myself, Mr. Henry.”
“I’ve got a girlfriend. She’s staying with me. I’m looking after her.” Tom couldn’t help but beam at the confession. He was sure the guilt from their recent love-making would show on his face, but Mr. Henry seemed happy for him.
“That’s great son, must be nice to have some company after… after everything.”
Tom frowned at the memory. “Yeah.”
Mr. Henry glanced up at the static ridden TV that hung from a bracket in the corner of his store. There was something on the news about a man who had been arrested for murder. The picture was terrible, but Tom could see the man was about his age, maybe a little older. He was being guided into a police van by two solemn looking officers.
"Good.” Said Mr. Henry, practically spitting on the floor.
"Who’s that?” Tom asked, not really caring, but knowing that it was polite to ask about the things that other people clearly cared about.
“He’s the bastard that killed four girls between here and Langley. Raped them and cut them up and then just threw them away like they were garbage. They’re still looking for the body of one of the girls. Can you imagine the kind of bastard who would do that?” Mr. Henry looked overcome with rage at that moment and it frightened Tom a little. Tom shook his head and Mr. Henry’s face softened. "Well, Tom, you just look after your own little lady- there are a lot of sickos out there.” Tom nodded, paid for his ice-creams and walked back home.Along the way he started thinking about the girl lying there, so cold in his mother’s bed.
Perhaps today she would tell him her name.