Tales of the Bearded Toad

Short stories and the occasional true tidbit devised in the life and times of the Bearded Toad

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Shaded Strands

Not so much! He was pouring salt into the mixture as though he were trying to completely hide the other ingredients. The taste of ginger was something she liked, but if he put too much salt in it would overpower it.

He put the heat on high and turned to look at her. His eyes were brown with a little ring of green around the pupils when there was enough light to make them small, like little holes poked into a tie-tied shirt. A little bit of darkness was still underneath his left eye from a few nights before. Seeing it made her twinge.

“What?” he asked, seeing the small crease appear and disappear just as quickly from between her well-plucked eyebrows.

“Nothing.” She said it flatly so hopefully he’d believe her, not wanting to talk about it again, hoping he’d let it go.

She was shorter than him by a couple of inches, with curly black hair and a pretty smile that always got her out of speeding tickets and got her free drinks before he showed up. He’d even bought her drinks that first night. Walking up to her with feigned confidence, betrayed by the shy way he looked down when she said yes to his offer, he asked to buy her a drink and maybe even a chance to wrap his fingers in those curls.

Thinking about that night, she wondered about how much she’d had to drink. These days it seemed she couldn’t handle more than two glasses of wine without forgetting some of what happened, some of what she said. That’s why she didn’t want to bring it up again.

She smiled at him now, with her head tilted to the side and slightly lowered, put her index finger into a ringlet of hair, and said, “Don’t you wish this was your finger?”

He laughed for the first time in days. “I do.” He slipped his hand under her arm and jerked her in close to his hip.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “My eye had no business getting in the way or your fist like that.” They kissed, shallow to start, but it moved on toward genuine feeling.

She pulled back and gently kissed his bruised lid. When he opened it back, the green wasn’t visible. She watched the pupil shrink, letting her see the color emerge. It was why she said yes.

He moved one barrel of hair from her forehead with his index finger, letting it slip into it for a moment. When he first hit puberty, it was redheads he’d fantasized about, with orange eyebrows outlining long lashes, pail legs leading up to what he still couldn’t really picture. Now, though, it was her he envisioned all the time.

So why had he said it then? The girl was nothing special, especially not compared to the one right in front of him. But the color of her mane caught him off guard, made him revert back to one of those fantasies. He was still mad about her punching him, but it had definitely brought him back to his senses.

“I’ve got an appointment tomorrow with Missy at 4:30.” She said it with a little smile creeping up one side of her mouth.

“I thought you just got your hair cut. Don’t you like it?”

“I’m not getting it cut this time.” He felt his stomach drop, as he pictured her in red ringlets.