by Rebecca Metcalfe
I meet him behind the carousel after closing time. He’s spent his day selling popcorn and candy floss to obnoxious teenagers. I’ve spent mine driving the ghost train round and round the haunted house of plastic phantoms and fibre-glass thrills.
It’s nearly dark and the wind is picking up. He lights my cigarette for me and we shelter behind a garish pastel horse. We can hear the waves rattling about underneath us and when I look down I can see foam from between the gaps in the planks. I kick off my peeling work shoes and he follows, as well as removing his thin tie and dropping it through one of the gaps.
“Long shift?” he says, taking a drag of his cigarette.
“Hardly,” is my reply as I blow smoke up into the air, towards the canopy of the silent carousel.
“I do need this, though,” I say, taking another puff of my cigarette.
“Well, we’ll get going in a minute,” he says, moving closer to me. He puts his hands on my shoulders and gently teases my jacket off me before tossing it over the barrier and into the deep below. Still puffing away on my cigarette, I use my free hand to do the same to him.
He smiles and kisses me, the smoke from each of our cigarettes swirling around our sore, chapped lips. We need water.
I smile back and with one hand I start tugging at my laddered tights, pulling them down my legs. They fall past my ankles and they too slip through the gaps. My skirt soon goes the same way.
“You’re keen,” he says with a grin on his face that reveals his slowly-blackening teeth and gums. When his head moves, I can see the patches of bottle green on his neck, the scaly chafing flesh tinged with dirt like grubby fingernails. I reach out and stroke it gently. It feels dry and scabby under the tip of my finger, almost like dandruff that won’t shift, and he winces at my touch.
“Sorry,” I say as I take my finger off his neck, “I forget it hurts sometimes.”
He’s finished his cigarette now, and with both hands free he begins unbuttoning his shirt. It billows out over the side of the pier and floats down like a parachute. My blouse isn’t far behind, and then his trousers descend into the water in a somewhat less graceful manner.
We’re almost naked now. Our skin is showing its green patches and the cold doesn’t bother us. He caresses his hand up the inside of my thigh and rubs my own green, scaly embellishments that I have to keep hidden. His hand keeps moving upward and momentarily sooths an ache.
“You ready?” he asks and I nod, knowing this isn’t just something we want, it’s something we need.
In a few minutes, our underwear falls through the gaps and we kick our shoes over the edge before climbing over the barrier and jumping down, down into the cold, grey water that we call home.
Rebecca Metcalfe is a 22-year-old from Essex. She did her undergraduate degree at the University of Chester and is currently studying for a master’s in Victorian Literature at the University of Liverpool. There, she writes for student magazine Ellipses and has also been published in Pandora’s Box, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Electric Reads Young Writers’ Anthology and Foxglove Journal.