backhand stories the creative writing blog

He’d never bothered to learn her name, knew it was supposed to be easier that way but, of course, it wasn’t. Not that it was meant to be a hard job anyway. Get in, wave the armor about, scare her into giving over what she didn’t really have; then out, down the street, in the pub necking back a pint or three by ten. But then he’d fallen upon her face; bright in the moonlight that splashed across the boards the squat wore in place of windows, where red and black graffiti fought in light and dark. He’d rapped hard on a board and shouted until she’d appeared behind what passed as a front door, trying to pull the heavy wood back, although it stuck, and stuck, and stuck. And each time it jarred, he’d made out a little more of her; her wide hazel eyes, her soft nose, her sad mouth.

As soon as he could get his arm in he’d pushed her, his hand hard on her shoulder, his fingers draping down her back. But the violence of his touch tore into him. She was less than half his size; too fragile, too real, and he’d felt the lightness of her bones through her thin polyester shirt. She had danced back, managing to stay on her feet, her brown hair escaping from its ponytail, her arms wheeling, but her eyes never left his. They never did.

He’d followed her in to the black corridor, kicking past old newspaper, cracking glass as he planted his feet. She’d walked backwards, her bare feet with their chipped red nail-varnish and tiny ring on her littlest right toe lost in the rubbish. He’d walked forwards. They’d both done this before. He’d started to speak, to bark and frighten, but she’d stared at him. She couldn’t have been more than seventeen, and it had crossed his mind that she didn’t understand who he was, until he’d realized that she understood only too well.

At the end of the corridor, through a greasy kitchen stripped of once-new cabinets, she’d stepped backwards through an open doorway. Her room was badly lit, dirty; rubbish and clothes and syringes and candles and food defiling the floor around a stained blue mattress. He’d removed the heavy gun from his belt, pointed it, but she did nothing. Just stared, caught his eyes and held them. He’d shouted some more but the stare had continued, broken only by wetness in the depths of her eyes. Then he knew, knew that he couldn’t do anymore to frighten this girl, that the world had already done its dirty business with her. And that was when she’d moved her hair, stepped forward, raised her hands, and shot him in the chest.