Red. Blue. Red. Blue. Like gemstones, in this case sapphireand ruby, the lights sparkled rhythmically in the rearview mirror. It was almost hypnotic, save for the fact that it was hardly calming.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Two girls sitting in a car. Down below the night so grim. Like angels poised and prim.”
Lucy did her best to keep her hands from shaking as she maneuvered her royal blue Ranger over to the curb and slowed to a stop, eyes never once leaving the image in the mirror. A shape emerged, eerily lit by the flashing red and blue lights. Man shaped and ominous.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she whispered, trying to quell the panic that was rising inside her rib cage and threatening to suffocate her.
“No,” Alice agreed, although her eyes were focused on some far away point of light or, perhaps, a distant point of time as she answered.
Hands gripping the steering wheel in a death grip, Lucy watched the figure grow larger until it was bigger than life, it’s face wrapped in shadow, a wall of leering trees the only background, their fingers twitching as the wind cut through them. Shivering, she rolled the window down, unable to resist the protocols of civility.
“Hello, Officer. I wasn’t speeding, I’m sure of it?” It was more of a question than a statement.
He chuckled, making him seem less monstrous, more human. She could see his eyes, now, and his teeth. Gleaming and even.
“No, Miss. But you do have a tail light out. Can I see your license and registration, please?”
Without a word, Alice handed both over, and Lucy passed them on, heart beating like a drum as he retreated to his car, leaving them to carry on a conversation that needed to be shared in private.
“It’s just a cop. He’ll give you a fix it ticket at worst, Lucy. Probably, if you just tell him you’ll get it taken care of right away, he won’t even do that.”
Silence greeted her, making her sigh.
“You mustn’t think like that.”
That elicited a response. Eventually.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, Alice.”
Another sigh, this time accompanied by a tender touch on the back of her hand, gently prying her fingers from the wheel, fingers locking together until her heart slowed.
“No, you didn’t.”
She remembered that night. They asked so many questions, sometimes the same ones, over and over, until she grew confused and her story changed and then, they started over again. And again until, finally, Alice had had enough, and began answering for her, allowing her to disappear for a short time into a place no one could reach her.
“You’ll get that fixed, right?”
The cop again. She hadn’t even noticed. Startled, she simply nodded, offering him a shy smile.
“I’ll make sure she does, Officer,” Alice added, but, as usual, she was ignored. Folding her arms, she pouted, her lips turning down in a frown as he returned Lucy’s identification back to her and returned, once again, to his vehicle.
“I remember every little detail at the strangest times,” Lucy whispered as she turned the key in the ignition, the engine purring to life. “The smell of peanuts, mostly. And looking up at the lamp post. It was broken, you know. The bulb, I mean. Had been for a while, I guess. I just got used to it being out.”
“Once, you said it didn’t matter. That the stars were enough to see by. Glittering little lights, millions of years away. So far away, and so bright that anyone looking up into the sky could see the same stars, whether they were standing right next to you or half a world away as long as it was dark out.”
“I say the stupidest things, sometimes…”
“No,” Alice said with conviction, kissing her tenderly on the cheek. “It’s true.”
Adjusting the mirror, she placed her fingers under Lucy’s chin, and slowly turned her face towards the reflective surface.
“Look. No, don’t turn away. Look.”
Lucy found herself staring into eyes so dark that they threatened to swallow her whole. All she could do was hold onto Alice’s hand, anchoring herself her childhood friend, taking comfort in her gentle voice.
“It would take a lifetime to count them all.”