Challenge set by Katabatic.
Themes: Missing persons, streetlights, lost. Angst.
Last line: ...and there it was, he/she/amoeba had found insert something at last.
She hated clichés. She hated them with a passion. She hated the fact that she was sitting on a car bonnet on top of a grassy hill, watching the streetlights of the city below. She hated the fact that it was her schoolboy sweetheart beside her. She hated the fact that she was crying, and she hated the fact she couldn't stop. She hated the fact she couldn't go home, and she hated the fact that it was all her fault.
This last cliché she loathed the most.
I knew she hadn't really meant to… well, screw up so much. Neither of us had. We didn't suspect when we first met. She was just my Maths teacher and I was just someone who was incapable of such a subject. I gave a wry smile as I remembered the private tutoring that had brought us here, to this hill – together. Everything about us was a cliché.
I watched her as she sat, utterly motionless save the tear running down her cheek. Her blonde hair blew slightly in the chilling breeze. She looked like a sixteenth-century painting. I shifted to the left a little and put my hand on her leg. She barely seemed to notice.
"What are we going to do?" she murmured. How could I answer that? Wasn't she supposed to be the capable one?
"I don't know, Katy."
"You never know, do you." It wasn't a question. A little bubble of anger surfaced but I kept my cool. "How stupid am I?"
"You're not, Katy. You're beautiful, you're wonderful." I moved to kiss her but she leant back. I backed away, hurt.
"Oh shut up, Jack. I mean, look at me. I'm sat here on a car bonnet at three in the morning, watching some sodding streetlights twinkle, with my schoolboy lover sat beside me. I've lost my job, my home, my family." The schoolboy lover bit stung, but I let it go.
"It'll be ok."
"You always say that!" she exploded, slamming her palm onto the bonnet. "You're ok! You're just a seventeen year-old boy. I know why you're here. You don't love me; this is just another little adventure to you, isn't it!"
"As if! Nicking a trolley or two from ASDA and racing them, that's an adventure. Things like that. But this! This is my life now. You are my life now!"
"My life is nothing now."
"You've got me. Wasn't that the point?"
"No! I mean," she said, backtracking, "Yes. Yes, of course." I stared at her. She continued to watch the streetlights as I gasped and groped for words.
"What?" I finally managed to squeak out. I felt like the bottom had gone from my stomach. My head felt lighter than usual. "This… this was supposed to be us, starting again. No one knows where we are. We've been reported as missing, Katy. They're after us. But… you… what are you saying? You don't want this?"
"No, I -"
"We could go abroad!" I gabbled. "Go to Ireland! Or, or, we could go to France! Wouldn't you like to live in the south of France? All the sunshine and the food and the beaches! It would be heaven, Katy," I pleaded, grabbing her arm. She wouldn't look at me. I was acutely aware that my legs were chilled to the bone on the cold bonnet.
"Jack," she said softly. My heart stopped and I felt my stomach churn. "I made a mistake. I made… a mistake in doing this."
"Then, then why did you do it?"
"I don't know!" she wailed. It echoed back at us – she didn't know, she didn't know. "It just seemed right at the time. I think I'm looking for something. I don't know what it is. When we planned this, I was looking for excitement." She turned to face me at last and finally met my eyes. "When I said you were just looking for an adventure, I guess… that's what I was doing." She searched my face as her words sank in.
"You did this because you were bored?"
"Jack! Don't cheapen it. I -"
"Don't cheapen it?! Katy, we're living in your car! We're completely lost! There's an age gap of fifteen years between us! It's already so cheap it'd be in the sale at bloody Pound World! I just – this is – I – oh, I give up!" I jumped down from the bonnet and strode around, not knowing what to do or how to react. "So, what do we do now? Do we go home? Do we go our separate ways? Or do we stay together? Because that's what I want! I don't know about you, Katy," I yelled, striding up to her and grabbing her wrists. "I don't know about you but I know that I want to stay with you."
"What are you looking for?!" I screamed. We fell silent.
She gazed down at her knees. I didn't know how cold they were but I guessed freezing. She played with her fingernails. I waited, wondering what she was going to say next. I expected an apology – either for this argument, or to say she wanted to go home. I was dreading her opening her mouth.
But when she got up and went to the backseat of the car, that's not what I wanted. I wanted her to say something, to reassure me she didn't mean any of what she'd said. Instead, she brought out her mobile phone and switched it on after a week of pretending it didn't exist. The glow of the screen lit up her face and she looked like an angel. When she looked at me her eyes were dry.
Still she didn't say a word but merely dialled.
"George?" she said nervously. I heard a lot of spluttering and sobbing at the other end of the phone. "George, listen to me. I'm fine. Ok? Look, I'm – I'm coming home." She looked at me, revealing nothing. I just stood there like a lemon as I felt myself go slowly numb. "We'll set off tomorrow afternoon and I guess we'll be home by this time tomorrow." She hung up without saying goodbye and closed her eyes.
"But… you'll… the police."
The phone rang again, and she picked up instantly. "George, I said I was -" She stopped, and raised an eyebrow. "Oh – alright. Fine. I love you, George." She smiled a little, and then laughed out loud. It was the first time I'd heard her laugh in quite a while. "Yes, I love you, George!" As she turned her back on me and talked to her husband back home, I watched her with blurry eyes. When I couldn't bear it any longer, I turned to look at the streetlight, now no more than yellow smears against the black sky. As I heard her laughing I realised, there it was: she had found what she was looking for at last.