Clatter

The chalky clatter of pills and plastic in her purse that might otherwise have camouflaged itself as white noise was, for him, a screaming rattle. It was a secreted warning, only perceptible to those unfortunate enough to have honed an ear for it- rendering it null to the innocents whom she generally preyed upon. But Finch wasn’t one of these gulls and they both were supremely aware of it.

Lilah did prefer her saps for the most part, Finch knew. The malleable little flunkies who found her neurosis to be charming and her impetuousness exhilarating. Her fine-tuned manipulation cruising at an altitude above detection, Lilah would drag them through the sand, then lick their wounds with her deliberate tongue, just to pop them down again. Yet this process, which some might suspect she’d crafted into an algorithm, was so foolproof (well, maybe not for the fools) that a true shedding would require malice beyond reproach. Not beyond reproach for Lilah, of course, but for those who can be bothered by futile tendencies like warmth or perhaps even mercy.

It was over the screaming rattle that Finch heard Lilah say, “I’m thinking of going dark.”

Weighty connotations aside, Finch opted for his cue instead.

“Really?”

“Chestnut maybe. Or espresso.”

Impulsively, Finch sipped his coffee.

“I like the honey… blonde… whatever you call that.”

*

He had picked her up- believe it or not- at a Bank of America kiosk. It was impulsive bordering on crass, according to Lilah. And the real reason she agreed was not because she was impressed, or even because he had her father’s perfectly Roman nose. It was, like everything that motivated Lilah, deeply rooted in narcissism. (An insight Lilah herself lacked, but her therapist could tell you as much).

If I say no, she thought to herself, that makes me a coward.

*

She was bothered by the nerves that pulsed under her skin when they arrived at the restaurant, and flat out irritated when they persisted through their second course. But as the dregs of the second bottle of Garnacha slipped down the curve of her glass and onto her deliberate tongue, the anxiety dissipated.

She passed on dessert, as she always did. It was a rule she’d instated while juggling body dysmorphia and a shallow bank account during college. And just that quickly, she’d reclaimed her lordly spirit.

*

If there was one thing Finch did not expect from Lilah, it was that she’d play coy when he slipped the silk strap of her camisole off her shoulder. A well-considered maneuver, no doubt, it finally occurred to him. So instead, as it goes, they spent the night talking. There were no earth-shattering connections and no love-sick eyes until dawn. But it was amusing and pleasant and she left with a vintage Coca-Cola bottle, and she thought it charming that he offered her one for the walk to his favorite coffee shop.

*

A week later she saw him at a pharmacy near the kiosk where they met. He had- of all things- a leggy brunette on his arm. Not quiet hickory. Burnt toast, Lilah thought. What happened next she was sure wouldn’t- considering they were sandwiched between shelves of at-home Marijuana tests and laxatives. But without hesitance he leaned in with the softest kiss, his hand wrapped around the girl’s lower back.

“Camel Lights,” Lilah instructed the cashier moments later.

“Do you have a Wellness Card?”

Obviously not, Lilah thought.

In her car, Lilah opened her purse and procured the translucent orange bottle that rattled about inside- a sound that always made her self-conscious. The label read: Atorvastatin. When her father passed away 10 months ago from a heart attack, her doctor suggested she start taking it. “Your heart,” he said, “is not something to take lightly.” TC mark

thumbnail image – Charles Williams

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