by Elisha Habermann
I have always loved nights like this, the cool clear air and the sky, a dark expanse of nothingness as far as the eye can see. Well, in the city at any rate. This same sky, if viewed out west, would sparkle and shine with a million or more stars, but the neon brightness of the city hides them from my eyes. I have fond memories of those stars, of nights spent gazing dreamily up at them, tucked safe and secure against my grandmother’s side, but that’s not why I am here. Not tonight. No… tonight I am here for a different kind of gazing.
I am sitting on the cool metal bench of a bus stop. Waiting, but not for a bus.
Truth be told this bus stop is a long way from my usual route, but I have made this trip every day for the last few weeks, yearning, hopeful.
My hand slides into my pocket, and my fingers tenderly stroke the small white card hidden within.
She gave it to me three weeks ago today.
I shift a little on the seat and withdraw the card. It is slightly crumpled and worn, but the writing is still legible: Limerick Detective Agency.
I had been working behind the bar at the Jazz Club when she gave it to me, a small plain woman with thick lustrous brown hair, freckles, and deep green eyes, forest green with a red and gold ring around the pupil, deep, like two still pools of water, fathomless. The moment our eyes had met, my heart skipped a beat. She saw me. Not me, but into me, all of me, she saw me and she smiled.
She saw me and I want her.
A golden glow of light winks into existence, warm, inviting, interrupting my reverie. It’s her light, spilling out into the sombre darkness from the small second story flat situated above an old antique book store across the street. Her silhouette moves into the frame of a glass door, leading out onto an equally small but well-kept balcony, filled with an assortment of plants and chimes. My breath catches in my throat. I instinctively pull the hood of my dark red jacket forward, hiding my face in shadows. I don’t want her to recognize me, not yet.
A car drives by, briefly illuminating the street as it passes.
I sit, and I watch discreetly as she steps out onto that balcony, quietly closing the door behind her. A dog howls in the distance and she tucks her robe more securely about her, as if warding herself against a chill. I can see her more clearly now, her small heart shaped face, ghostly white in the night, rimmed with the golden glow of the interior light behind her. She glances my way and I stiffen slightly, my hand tightening around the small business card still held within. It crumbles. I feel her eyes as they linger on me, my skin ablaze with awareness, I am still, unmoving, like a deer in the headlights I am caught in a spell of her making, a willing victim, only to be released as she turns away, her gaze swinging up towards the sky, and the slow steady rise of the moon. I can almost hear the sigh that escapes her lips.
I feel the blood rush to my face and… lower. It takes me by surprise, the sudden surge of lust. Some part of me knows this is wrong, but I can’t find it in me to care, I leave the guilt and shame for the morning, it can rise with the bright inescapable light of day. For now, however, I wrap myself in shadow and sin, and I watch, while waiting for a bus that will never come.
Limerick stood in the doorway and looked out at the soft muted hues of the night.
She couldn’t sleep. It had been weeks since she had been able to sleep with any sort of ease. Not since that night in the rail yard. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ward off the unpleasant memory, but like so many other things in her life of late, her thoughts could not be controlled. She saw again the grizzled face of the old man as he leered at her with his strange yellowish eyes, stringy salvia hanging tremulously from the corner of his thin, misshapen lips.
“Stop it!” she whispered to herself, breathing deep to calm the rising panic.
She opened the door and stepped out into the cool night air, carefully closing it quietly behind her. A wolf, no, a dog howled in the distance, and she shivered, the hairs on her nape standing on end, as she wrapped her robe more firmly about herself. Stepping up to the concrete railing of the balcony, she forcefully turned her thoughts away from darker things and gazed down at the familiar street below.
She had always felt safe here, her home. She had grown up on these streets, investigating every nook and cranny as a child, getting into mischief, always on the lookout for mystery and adventure. But no more. She had always had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a childlike curiosity that had held her in good stead when she had received her PI license and started Limerick Detective Agency, but that thirst had been well and truly quenched. She knew too much, she didn’t want to know anymore.
The street below was quiet and still. A small movement opposite drew her eyes to a dark figure seated in the bus shelter opposite and she gasped in surprise. She had not noticed him. He sat quietly, his hood pulled forward hiding his face in shadows, presumably waiting for a bus she knew would not be coming; the last bus for the night had been and gone some thirty minutes prior. She silently berated herself for jumping at shadows. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had misread the timetable. She sighed and shifted her gaze to the silvery orb just now peeking out over a man-made horizon of concrete, brick and tile. The traitor moon. Night after night it rose, waxing and waning. It would wax full again in a few short weeks, and she was terrified. She knew too much. She glanced again to the man in the shadows, and shivered. Was it ‘him’ under that hood? She watched as the man massaged the inside of his thigh, as though it pained him. It couldn’t be, he didn’t look tall enough. She turned away, away from the moon, the man and the night, towards the warm, embracing but ultimately fragile safety of inside.
She would sleep with the light on tonight.