This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 1425 words.
Roxanne, Finn, Roland, and Anthony.
She pulled her car into the only gap, and watched as the boys ran down. They both got into the back, something they had always done, and Roxanne put the car into gear, spinning the steering- wheel to pull out. “Are you going out somewhere, mum? You look really nice, well dressy”. Finn had spotted her outfit immediately, and the effort she had gone to with her hair and make-up. “I’m going to take you two to that burger place you like, so no harm in trying to look nice, is there?” Finn beamed. “The Texan Ribs and Grill? Wow. I love that place. Can we go home and get changed first though? I don’t want to go in school uniform”. She had forgotten about that. “OK, but be quick, I will wait in the car”. Roland hadn’t said a word. he was enjoying the smell of her perfume, and watching her eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror.
In the bedroom, Finn wouldn’t stop talking as they changed into something smarter. “Did you notice? See how dressed up she is? She’s had her hair done too. I’m telling you, Roly, that’s all for your benefit, believe me. Don’t you think she looks gorgeous? She never bothers to look like that, unless she is going somewhere really special”. When Roland didn’t reply, he changed the subject. “I’m going to have those sticky pork ribs. You know, the ones where you have to wear a bib, and get a bowl of water to wash your hands in. What do you fancy eating?” Roland seemed to be deep in thought for a moment, as he slipped on his boat shoes. “Maybe the three-cheese burger. That one with cheddar, halloumi, and montery jack”. He declined to comment about Roxanne, still unable to believe it had anything to do with him at all.
“Order anything you want boys”. Roxanne was a little too loud, bordering on being gushing. She needed to calm herself down. Finn asked for the huge rack of ribs, and she nodded. “OK, what about you, Roland?” He stayed looking at the menu, not lifting his eyes. “The three cheese burger please, if that’s OK, Mrs Mellor”. He felt guilty asking for it, as it was more expensive than most of the others. Finn sat back in his chair, grinning and looking very confident. “Why doesn’t Roly call you Roxanne from now on, mum? We are getting a bit too old for Mrs this and Mrs that, don’t you think?” She looked over at Roland, who had finally put down the menu. “Would you like that, Roland? Mrs Mellor makes me feel a bit old. But it’s entirely up to you.” Roland smiled. “Yes, if that’s OK with you?” She smiled back, avoiding his gaze. “Roxanne it is then”.
It was a quiet day at the showroom. Even with a new model coming soon, interest was slack. Anthony checked his watch. Still almost two hours to go before they closed up. He hoped nothing happened at home which would make his wife have to telephone. There was no special event, but it had seemed like a good excuse not to have to go home until very late. If it stayed this quiet, at least he could lock up on time. He had plans to go somewhere, and the thought of that distracted him, and excited him too. All being well, he could avoid going home until close to midnight, as tonight’s excuse was one of the best. Even if he could only use it now and again. Finn’s friend Roland was coming over to stay, so that would keep Roxanne occupied. She wouldn’t bother about him being out late, he could be sure of that. Well at least he hoped so.
“You don’t want any dessert?” Roxanne leaned across the table, and placed a hand on her son’s neck. “Just checking that you are still alive”. Roland smiled at her joke, and Finn shook his head. “I’m really full mum. Those ribs were top”. She looked back at Roland. “What about you? Full up as well?” He patted his belly. “Yes thanks, Roxanne. It was very nice”. Finn laughed. They both knew it was because Roland had used Roxanne’s name, for the first time ever. She waved a hand at the waiter, indicating that he should bring the bill. “What do you say we watch a film when we get home boys? You can choose, I don’t mind. Anything you like”. They both nodded, and stood up from the table as she entered her pin number into the machine the waiter was holding.
Back at Finn’s house, it was still quite early. The long night stretched out ahead of them, as they were allowed to stay up really late on a Friday. Finn scrolled through the menu of the streaming service, and selected a horror film, one of many sequels to something they had seen the original of. Both boys kicked off their shoes, and slumped at either end of the big sofa. When Roxanne came in, she was carrying a bottle of white wine, and a big glass. As she poured some wine, she looked at the opening credits. “Oh, it’s horror. I might have known”. She sat between them, asking random questions about who starred in the film, and what it was about. Finn raised his eyebrows, and Roxanne turned to him. “I know, but it’s all very well for you two, I haven’t seen the first one”. She eased herself back against the cushion, cradling the full glass in both hands.
As the film started in his house, Anthony Mellor was locking the back door of his showroom. Done and dusted ten minutes early, he turned and walked quickly to his parked car.
Less than fifteen minutes after the film had started, Finn suddenly stood up. “I forgot, I’ve already seen this. I think I will go and play Call of Duty upstairs instead”. Roland moved to stand too, and Finn waved a palm at him. “No, you stay here and watch it Roly, you haven’t seen it. Keep mum company, so she won’t be too scared. You can come up and try to kill me when the film’s finished”. Roland turned to Roxanne. “Is that alright?” She looked puzzled. “Of course, why wouldn’t it be?” Once Finn had left the room, Roland fully expected Roxanne to move to the other end of the sofa. But she didn’t budge. As the murderer in the film plunged a knife into his first screaming victim, she slipped off her shoes, and put both her legs up on the coffee table, carefully sliding the wine bottle to the side with her foot, so it didn’t obscure the screen. With only two inches or so between them, Roland could feel the heat coming off of her body, and smell the wine on her breath as she breathed out heavily. They both stared at the screen, but neither of them were watching the film.
Roxanne couldn’t keep still. She tried not to keep fidgeting, and even counted down thirty seconds in her head, determined not to move until she got to zero. But she couldn’t even make it down to fifteen, before the overwhelming desire to uncross and recross her legs took hold again. Roland was trying hard not to turn to his right and look at Roxanne. He couldn’t concentrate on the film, so he watched her feet moving around on the coffee table instead. Even underneath the dark nylon covering of her tights, he could see the pearlescent pink of her polished toenails, glinting in the light flickering from the TV screen. She kept crossing her ankles, creating a sound like someone quietly sanding wood, as the nylon rubbed on nylon. And her toes clenched and relaxed constantly, like tiny fists. As he watched those rather square-looking feet doing their sinuous dance, he felt like a small mammal, hypnotized by the swaying head of a snake as it waited for the right moment to strike.
Roxanne could hear the boy breathing heavily next to her. And the rise and fall of her own chest was visible at the periphery of her vision. She was starting to feel too hot, and the heating wasn’t even on. The sound coming from the TV was merging into a background buzz, and the atmosphere in the room was thick enough to cut with a knife. She knew she should move.
But she didn’t want to.