“I just don’t feel… happy.” Ella lets a deep breath of smoke fill her body and cloud her eyes. She shivers and her toes writhe on the deck. I pause; I have no idea what to say next. We sit in the quiet, I take another sip; she takes another drag. The world crusts over in congealed smoke and brown beer bottles. I look across the lake. It’s different at night. The water may as well be ice. I let it sting the cracks in between my toes.
“What if that’s how it’s supposed to be?” I mumble. Ella’s hands surf her stockings from ankle to thigh before she realises what I’ve asked. The bruises on her legs flower in blues and pinks. Little soccer trophies, or so she says. Her stockings are black, but worn thin and ripped. Circles of her skin reflect the security light above us. I take another sip, she takes another drag.
“What kind of answer is that?” Her eyes narrow into two green lights that shine through the void. Her hair sweeps across face and neck. Her lips contort, she wears a natural shade of fuck you. Her cheeks hold fire; the tip of her lip.
“Who do you know that’s actually happy?” She leans back on the deck. Her white blouse; stained with nightlife hangs open at the top. Her necklace hangs low on her chest. A Christian pendulum, a gift from mother, 24 carats. Her skirt is a deep green. The kind of green that nobody would wear. Her finger tips nestle between her legs. Seeking protection from the cold. I take another sip, she takes another drag.
“If pointing out how shitty the world’s become is supposed to make me feel better, you’re fucking it up.” I watch her lips reseal around the cigarette. She breathes in more smoke. I let it roll out before I answer.
“Why is happy so important?” She reapplies her shade. “We are so much more than that. You’re selling yourself short. You’re far too amazing to worry about just being happy.” I take another sip, she takes another drag.
“You’re more fucked up than I give you credit for aren’t you?” She forces a smile. Her skin wrinkles. It’s not real.
“You have no idea.” I take another sip, She takes one last drag and flicks the carcass into the water. It floats on the surface.
“It works for you though doesn’t it?” Her hands find their way into her jacket.
“What?” I stare as she fumbles in her leather. Her wrist glows red in the lamplight.
“Being fucked up, it’s like you’re not even a real person. You’re just this thing, you just… are.” She finishes with a hand gesture before lighting her new cigarette. For a moment a universe is created. A new spark, a new energy, a new life. Then it collapses back on itself.
“I am a real person.” I take another sip, she takes another drag.
“Pinocchio, it’s time you got me home.” She tries to stand but falters. I don’t want to take her home. Taking her home I go back to mum, to another bottle of empty pills. We stop outside her mail box. She forces another smile.
“Don’t do that.” I lock her eyes.
“You are the strangest boy I have ever met.” She flicks her hair back out of her face. She steps towards me steadying herself on her mail box. Her perfume is sweat and smoke. Her lips have lost their shade. Nothing forced, perfect.
“Goodnight.” I smile at her. She smiles back. A real smile. I take a drag.