Throwing Up Over Buttercups

Sticky mozzarella dribbles down her chin. The cooked cheese is ripping apart, unravelling like thread, as it sags away from her face and nearly droops onto her chest. She sucks it back into her mouth with a loud slurping noise, wipes a residue from her chin and laughs. She has a laugh like a witch.

"If you WANT me to STAY I'll be AROUND today to be available for YOU to see. I'M about to GO and then you'll KNOW for me to STAY here I've GOT to be ME..."

Mia sings in tune and revels in it, but she can't do the funny voices that Sly excels at. Traffic, rapid and relentless, whines past the lay-by where Mia is parked, screened away from the road by gorse and brambles. In the warm car, Mia eats her lunch bought from the last service station. Mist overwhelms the windscreen. She is hidden in the mist.

"If you SEE me AGAIN I HOPE you have BEEN the kind of person that you REALLY are NOW."

Her arms sway and dance to the music like puppets under their own steam. The car rocks gently as she arm-and hip-dances in the red leather seat. A truck passes with its sign indecipherable. Documents, files -- work --is spread on the opposite seat, and on the back seat is a change of knickers, spare socks and make-up. She is all alone. The lay-by is silent.

"I'll be GOOD. I WISH I COULD get this MESSAGE over to you NOW."

Suzanna's baby was sweet with hundreds of tiny expressions and a beautiful frown; Mother's birthday next month -- a scarf? Need rat food for Pilgrim, sweet white Pilgrim. Who will look after him when they descend upon Tunisia next month?

In the far lane, someone swerves to avoid a car pulling out. Safe in the lay-by, Mia winces at the near crash, and curses bad drivers.

'No, no, no, we don't want that!' she yells at the radio, turning the dials, as Sly and the Family Stone finish and the music style changes. She wants sexy, deep rhythms, dancing music, music to remind her of Simon. The car is hot and sweaty. She lifts off a jumper, the mozzarella and avocado baguette clutched between her front teeth. Anyone watching would hope for more glimpses of her freckled skin.

'That's better.' "I'm a full grown man! I'm a rolling stone." Muddy Waters shouts, and the car rocks. She always likes to talk to herself; Mia is bendy and thin-faced. 'Like a weasel!' But she smiles a lot. Perfect teeth.

Mother in Bristol, father in Ipswich, boyfriend in Harrogate, work in Worcester. Mia travels the compass. M5, M4, M11. Road names are like entries in her address book. Today she is heading from Birmingham to Bristol; a plastic carton of take-away coffee steams up the small interior.

The baguette now ripped apart, chewed and demolished, she rests back into the seat. Bits of avocado litter her mouth. The car gets hotter, like a steam bath. Mia is dripping sweat. The heater floods the car with hot air although it is a warm spring day. Mia's freckled hands bear no rings. In the glove compartment is a small brown teddy bear called Sausage, who always goes with her: a present from Mum. Mia until now has never kept anything given to her by her father.

Yesterday, her own tears disgusted her; those of her father inflamed her. Yesterday, the world changed. Her father in brown corduroy, shaky hands and breath like stale beer, hardly able to move now, old man; love in his eyes. How can it be the same man who touched her oh so subtly when she had been a child and under his care? He'd said he'd been overcome, that he couldn't control himself.

She has until next week to consider forgiving him, before her father goes into hospital, for an operation. They say he could die. Mia is confused. She doesn't know whether she can forgive him, and then she figures that perhaps what he did wasn't so awful and was very much in the past.

Her father gave her a flower: a single lily: forgiveness or death?

She sleeps now, hazy, tired, and full of plans for Simon. Steam drips down the car windows, steam drips down Mia's chin and on to her neck, and under her eggshell-blue top. Her breasts are full. Maybe her period soon.

More cars scream pass her on journeys to elsewhere; she is vaguely aware of them even as she sleeps, dreaming of Hawaiian lagoons, rushing water and giving birth to cows under water. The cars are heading where she should be going. Families, birthdays, assignations, a selling drive, delivering, delivering. The roads are moving. People are moving. One opportunity to another.

Mia loves dreaming of hot water. She has this thing about tropical humidity. She takes baths hotter than anyone else; stands for hours under a blistering power-shower, loving the feeling of hotness on her arms and on her thighs. She loves being damp; but a hot damp, a sensual damp. A rainforest wetness.

Mia snores gently in her sleep and her dream changes. Her mouth is open, her hands folded under her armpits and her head lolling to the right, towards the window. Water, in tiny rivulets, slips down the window and drops in a predictable rhythm onto her shiny hazel-coloured hair. Some hairs, out of place, stick up like sentries.

Memory mixes with her dreams.

Simon dances in Latin rhythms, stretching out his legs out and laughing, flinging his arms up to the shiny lights and then back to her waist. They dance close like lovers in movies. He looks smooth in black shirt and black jeans, smooth and dishy. He has her held tight; a vice, like a father's tough hand as they cross the road.

People are staring; the club is pulsating. They are alone on the dance-floor and for Mia, this is an important moment in her life. She is in the heart of their eyes and minds, like an icon, or an exhibit at a zoo; she is with the man she lusts after, and all eyes focus on her body. Around her, they want her. She has small breasts but no matter, she has thin shapely legs, a small waist and graceful fingers, which take, as if they were porcelain, Simon's fingers in hers. Under lights, sweaty, eyes looking at her short skirt swirling; legs showing, fabric peeping. The music is too much; she thinks her feet will fall away into the crowd like discarded shoes. The agony of aching legs. Her smile is tough and concentrated. Others around them dance too. They are no longer alone on the dance floor, dancing poor tangos but now with flair and passion. Simon has eaten chilli, Mia can smell it. But he holds her tight. Backwards and forwards. Ah heavy now, intent and serious. The music flows through her and through him, like they are joined.

Outside, a vibrant blue car pulls into the lay-by and tucks in behind her. Mia, irritated by the close noise, moves her head, jostles her eyelashes, and turns her head away. One eyelash is stuck in the corner of eye and irritates her. The back of her neck is pale and vulnerable. Wispy hair like down, is flooded with steam from the window.

Mia feels like part of his thigh, his arms, attached by tendons to his back; they move along the dance-floor like professionals. Simon's eyes are grey and small. His bum is Gere-like and she loves to look at it at night as he undresses. Simon has a pimple just below his sideburns. A loveable imperfection.

A car door slams. Mia shifts inward to the seat.

The dream of Hawaiian cows birthing under water continues. The cows float into a lava-flow and sprout wings. They fly upwards, moving through the air like heavy birds. The music shifts into Stevie Wonder, "Don't you worry about a thing, mama," and Mia shifts again, briefly opens her eyes, and back to the lava-flow, only now she's walking down a lane near Ipswich and her feet are smaller and her father, walking beside her, is taller. Her father puts his fat hairy arm round her, accidentally touching her nascent breast, and she throws up over the buttercups.

"Because I'll be standing on the side when you check it out. Everybody needs a change..."

Mia's car door opens. For a second the shadow stands there, filling the gap but Mia, though still sleeping, smiles at the images in her mind, showing her perfect teeth and the cheese stuck between the right incisor and the smaller ones.

She turns away again. The shadow seems to be waiting for this. Without warning and with speed, Mia is hit firmly on the back of the neck and on her head. Two heavy blows, done in precision motion with a small metal crow bar. A noise like the tumbling crack of a tree and the door closes. Blood trickles down her neck. And the man walks away back to his small blue car and pulls out into the rushing traffic.

Mia later wakes, tasting cheese and blood in her mouth, and throws the lily out into the howling traffic.

About the author:

Jai Clare lives in Cornwall, UK. Her short fiction has appeared or will be shortly appearing in London Magazine (UK), The Barcelona Review; Zoetrope All-Story Extra; NightTrain,Winedark Sea (Australia); Absinthe Literary Review; Literary Potpourri; In Posse Review; The Paumanok Review; Buzzwords,(UK); Voyage Magazine, (UK), amongst others. She works on novels when her head isn't in other clouds...