I've had so much fun purging the house of tinsel, I've even tidied my desk. And guess what I've found? This little story shivering, unloved, under the dust. In my zeal for new year clear-outs, I've given it a shake, and pasted it here. So to everyone who stumbles across 'Tales'this week, I hope you enjoy it!
It was Kerry-Anne’s first car. She chose it in ‘Moon-dust Mauve’, which made the salesman laugh, but Kerry-Anne just smiled. It was the colour she’d picked for her bridesmaid’s dresses, the tablecloths and favours.
Tony was waiting when she got home to Burscough. They’d been dating for four years, and engaged for three. Hands sunk into pockets, he slouched around the car.
“Very nice,” he pecked a kiss on his beloved’s powdered cheek. “Look! I got you a pressie.”
It was a packet of car stickers, sparkly pink. There were flowers, and stars, and the words ‘powered by fairy dust’. Kerry-Anne squealed.
“Tony, thank you,” she flung her arms around his neck. “They’re so cute. I’ll get Daddy to put them on. Daddy! Daddy!” She ran into the house waving the bag. “Look what Tony’s got me.”
“Let’s see,” her little brother snatched the stickers. “Powered by fairy dust’? That is so pathetic.”
“Give it back,” Kerry-Anne shrieked. “Give it back you creep.” She swiped at her brother, but he dodged. “Mum! Mum, Brad’s being horrible. Mum!”
“Knock it off Bradley,” their mother appeared from the kitchen, a cigarette lounging between her manicured fingers. “Hiyah love,” she said to Kerry-Anne. “Let’s see the car then.”
“Tell him to give me my present back.”
“Bradley! Will you pack it in? Give that back to our Kerry-Anne before I knock your block off.”
Bradley tossed the packet onto the floor.
“You little pig!” Kerry-Anne looked to her mother to scold the boy, but he was already bounding upstairs to his room.
Kerry-Anne beamed when Daddy showed Tony how to apply the stickers, when Mum wanted a lift, and when her work colleagues clucked approval. But Bradley pretended to vomit every time anyone mentioned the car. And when he thought no one was looking, he picked at the stickers with his grubby nails.
There was a wedding fair at the Skelmersdale hotel where the reception was booked. Kerry-Anne was straightening her hair when the telephone rang. It was her best friend and chief bridesmaid, Carla-Jayne.
“Kerry-Anne? It’s me. I can’t come. I’m not well.”
“You sound awful,” said Kerry-Anne, squirting hairspray. “Don’t worry. Mum’ll come with me. Ring you later.”
But her mother was busy with the church coffee morning. Kerry-Anne pouted, but she wouldn’t change her plans.
“Mum,” Kerry-Anne wailed. “What if I see a nicer dress?”
Her mother paused, torn. But she thought about how many wedding fairs they’d attended since Tony had proposed.
“Why don’t you give this one a miss?”
But Kerry-Anne was determined, so she went by herself in moon-dust mauve, powered by fairy dust.
It was dark by the time she set off home, the sky lit with stars and a gleaming full moon. Her breath turned to curling, swirling steam as her heels clipped across the car park. She opened the car door and sank in, her belly rumbling and her head full of weddings. She rang her mother to say she was on her way, then turned the key and set off.
The roads through Skelmersdale were busy, but Kerry-Anne barely noticed. Her mind was reeling from the orgy of wedding paraphernalia. She took Daddy’s shortcut down a dark, narrow lane.
Music, yes. What time did Tony say he’d be round? Put the radio on. What is Mum making for tea? No, not that channel.
She looked down.
There was a thump. She jerked up and screamed as a thing, a scarecrow thing lurched at the windscreen. She stamped the brake. The car juddered to a halt. The thing rolled off the bonnet.
She kept still, waiting. Nothing happened. She peered through the window, but it was dark. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, and stepped out.
Her foot landed on something squashy. She yelped. There, in the light from the car, was the thing. It wasn’t a scarecrow. It was a body. She’d hit somebody with her car.
Her blood iced, memory playing in her head like a film. She’d been looking down. She’d been fiddling with the radio. She hadn’t been looking where she was going. And she’d hit someone. She’d hit someone with the moon-dust mauve car, powered by fairy-dust.
“Hello?” Her voice squeaked. “Are you alright?” She bent down and gave the body a shake. It was a man in jogging gear. He didn’t respond.
She shook a bit harder, trying to remember first aid courses. But none had covered what to do on a dark night when you’ve run somebody over.
“Hello? Are you alright?”
He didn’t answer. Kerry-Anne’s hand trembled as her fingers fumbled for a pulse. They pressed and felt, but there was nothing. There was no sign of life.
Her heart thumped. Her body sweated. The thought flickered that she ought to try to revive the man, but it went out, smothered by certainty. He was dead, and she had killed him. She was a murderer.
Everyone would be horrified, appalled. She’d be sent to prison, wedding cancelled, career over, her promising future ruined. Why had she bought a car? If she hadn’t, this wouldn’t have happened. She looked down at the man. If he hadn’t been out jogging, this wouldn’t have happened either. It was his fault too.
His fault. The thought lodged. It germinated. It sent little roots spreading through her mind. It was the man’s fault. He shouldn’t have been here. It was his fault. Why should he ruin her life?
She didn’t waste another second. She got back into the car. She shut the door, and drove off. She drove away as though nothing had happened. It was the man’s fault. He shouldn’t have been there. She didn’t look back.
The full moon glared down. In its light, something sparkled. It was a car sticker, worked loose by Bradley, stuck to the jogger’s body. The next driver to pass saw it. He saw the body, and rang the police. The sticker continued to sparkle. Such is the power of fairy dust.