Right wake, right time

by James

It was ironic; Ricky Edwards, the man who slept through a firework display and the brass band that followed, now sitting awake in his lounge at three in the morning. He had raised the roller blind over the big window far enough so he could see the lawn, but not a thing. Where were all these foxes the neighbours kept carping about? Instead it was him in the dark with his whisky, trying to fathom why on earth he could not sleep. Even when he was twenty two and trained around Europe with his brother, when the fucking train derailed putting him on the ceiling of the carriage looking up at his brother wedged in that unnatural way, he had barely missed a night’s sleep.

He topped up his glass, sat himself back and realised in that split second, something had changed. A thought went through his head – how long had it been since he had any? – because now, pressed against the glass visible below the hem of the roller blind were a pair of naked buttocks.

Of course they bloody weren’t. It was some animal, and what he had taken to be a naked bum streaked with mud was pale fur streak with dark. He went to the kitchen trying to think of an animal that took on the shape of a pert arse when it was pressed up against your dining room window. He stopped his finger flicking on the light switch just in time, then leaned carefully over the unwashed dishes piled in the sink so that he could ease apart the slats of the Venetian blind.

He had to blink three times, but no, there she was, an actual naked woman sat with her bum perched on the windowsill, arms wrapped around her body to shield her breasts, legs pressed tight together at the knees.

The police would be incessant with their questioning: why did you go outside with a knife? It never crossed Ricky’s mind to do anything but.

She was quivering, her breath coming in fast little gasps that pocked the chill night with tiny puffs of mist. Ricky raised his hand as one might to a nervous animal and her eyes went wider still at the glint of the knife in his hand. He opened his hand and let it fall. He managed a smile, nothing more, and in that cold night as the woman’s breathing halted with a slight gasp the silence became deafening enough that Ricky knew the sound of feet crunching through frost rimed grass.

Right or left, it didn’t matter, just go, get down, get out of the way, and then roll, teeth gritted against the pain you know is coming. Ricky looked up at the figure of a nightmare silhouette in the moonlight, a man with knife in one hand, burlap sack in the other, a man with knife raised, stalking for his prey.

Stalking for Ricky.

And that was it, that split-second he would describe to countless therapists, that girl in the moonlight no longer shivering in terror. That girl, so young and so slim, vision of moonlight goddess for that one split second before she used Ricky’s knife to halt the man stalking Ricky.