He noticed that she was desperately trying to locate a lighter. He recognised her from earlier, the girl who had been dancing near the bar, laughing with her friend, throwing her long hair around as she did so. She looked so happy, so confident and pleased to be in the company she was in. He couldn’t stop looking at her. When he snapped out of gazing at her, he realised he was dangerously close to seeming pervy. So he went outside for a cigarette.
Thing is, she didn’t mean to follow him. It wasn’t a strong, conscious decision to see where he was going, she just felt drawn to the direction he walked in. She followed him out of the club. He was standing there, on the pavement, smoking. They made eye contact and she felt embarrassed, assuming he would be annoyed about being pursued. She fished the emergency menthol cigarettes from her handbag, put one between her lips and then searched the bag for a lighter. There was none.
“Here, use this”, he said as he handed her a red plastic lighter.
“Oooh ta”, she replied, while still holding the cigarette between her lips.
“Having a good night?”
“Yeah, great thank you. It’s a nice crowd”, she smiled, thinking about her friends indoors.
And then they suddenly ran out of things to say, and they walked back indoors together. Together, but awkwardly separate. She wandered back to her friends, picked up her drink, and picked up on the conversations they had begun while she had been outdoors. She chanced a look behind her, to see where he’d gone. He was there, right where he stood before, looking right at her.
He was annoyed at himself, he shouldn’t have looked at all. She would surely think him a bit creepy now. He had the chance to chat to her, he blew it, and now here he was standing in the middle of a club, just looking. He smiled as broadly as he could, to make himself seem more friendly and less odd. She smiled back. Good. She laughed with her friends again and threw her hair back. He couldn’t not watch.
They didn’t speak again, but on her way home she thought of him. She remembered his face and the way he looked at her. It was warm, he was admiring her. No-one had looked at her that way for a long time. One of her friends had remarked on the man who was staring, but those eyes were good and friendly. She wished she had talked to him more, wished she asked his name, exchanged numbers, invited him to join her group of friends in the club.
Opportunity lost. He was unlikely to ever see her again. He had travelled miles to be at that club, and she sounded like she lived out-of-town too. Not from round there. But he thought about her as he fell asleep that night, wondered what could have happened, if only he had been more chatty. He wished that he could turn the clock back and start that conversation over. He wanted to be talking with her now, and regretted that he wasn’t.
She mentioned him to her friend as they drove home. “That bloke who was staring at you? You went to chat to him outside?”. She explained that she didn’t, she just happened to nip out for a smoke at the same time he did. And besides, they hadn’t really chatted. She was embarrassed to have followed him, and he didn’t seem to want to chat anyway. “Did you fancy him?”, asked her friend. She smiled, being unusually coy. She thought of his face, and decided that yes, he was lovely. “I did yeah…”, she smiled again.
Surprised by the revelation, her friend turned to face her and to see the smile. It had been so long since she’d smiled like that, and since she felt anything but mistrust for a man. It was good to see.
They laughed, and as they turned to face the road again, the headlights from the truck seemed to fill the car, followed by the scream of brakes. She closed her eyes, saw his face again, and then nothing.
Her friend screamed and sobbed hysterically she was cut free of the driver’s seat. Not from pain, but because she knew her passenger was utterly lifeless. She was still strapped into the near-side seat, covered in blood, not moving, and yet they made no urgent attempt to cut her free. There was no point.
As he woke up, blinked at the sunlight streaming in through the curtains, and reached for his glasses, he remembered the girl from last night. He tried to recall her name, and regretted that he’d never asked for it. He pictured her again; laughing, smiling and enjoying life.
He wondered what she was doing right now…