They say the sun never sets on the British Empire. I have my own theory as to why they wanted it that way; they were afraid of the dark. Not me, though. A good cat burglar has to be perfectly at home in the dark. You have to move quietly, quickly, with precision. My trick is to close my eyes real hard and slowly count to ten. The eyes calibrate, and I’m free to move about the shadows.
I decided to make my way back to the Ferguson place around 3 AM. While I was waiting, I noticed that damn clock was getting worse; tonight it only chimed six times at midnight. I crept out the back, closed my eyes for ten seconds, and was on my way. A flutter of adrenaline began to pump through my veins. I was walking at a considerable rate, and making great time. I kept an eye out for anyone who might be keeping an eye out. If anyone thought I looked suspicious I would have to change course and take a more indirect route, but there was no one around. It was peaceful. The streets were empty.
As I walked on, I could make out a car engine gradually getting louder. I turned to see a Ford convertible barrel around the corner, the tires squealing a bit. It was a young woman, blonde with fair skin. We made eye contact and she slammed on the brakes as if she recognized me. I thought about running, but then again, she looked kinda trampy… 1940s trampy. She put her arm up on the side of the cab and leaned over it a bit.
“What are you doing out so late, guy?” She asked.
“I could ask you the same question.” I replied, nearly falling over. I attempted to look cool leaning against a wall, but there wasn’t one there. She laughed.
“You look like you could use a ride.”
“Oh, no thanks, I’m not going far.”
“C’mon, it’ll still get you there faster.”
“Really, I’m just going to the other end of town. It’s not a big town, I can almost see the place from here!”
“Listen,” she said in a serious tone, “I’m kinda freaked out right now. I almost got into an accident back there, and could use the company.”
I agreed to allow her to give me a ride, but didn’t let her know where I was going. I told her to drop me off at the gas station where I could easily double back for the Ferguson place. She was clearly eager to tell me her story.
“...The folks always say I drive too fast, but sometimes you have to. You have to… feel like you’re going somewhere.”
“I hear ya,” My voice sounded only half-convinced. I was regretting taking what was supposed to be a short ride; it had started feeling like an eternity.
“I was flying down this back road and some animal jumped in front of me out of nowhere!” She shouted, her voice echoing in the night.
“Was it a deer?” I asked. “Deer can decapitate someone in a convertible at that speed.”
“You wanna hear something funny? I could have sworn it was an emu.”
“I’ve got an emu back at the house. Couldn’t be the same one, though, he’s only for decoration.”
“I swerved and lost control. The car started spinning in the gravel on the side of the road I thought I was going to flip, and that’d be the end of me.” Her eyes went somewhere in the distance. “Next thing I knew, I was back on the road and everything was fine.”
“My advice would be to slow down… especially with all these emu running about.” I advised dryly.
“I know, I know, but I get so frustrated! I like to imagine I’m leaving this town for good. I’d like to think that, at some point, I’m going to go off and achieve something.”
“Well, I want to be an actress”
“I’m an aspiring actor.” I said calmly, without hesitation.
“So you know what it’s like! You know what? My sophomore year of high school, I told Mother that I was going to get the lead in the play, and she told me I couldn't because it always goes to seniors.”
“How old are you?” I asked, but she pressed on.
“So I worked and worked on my audition. I thought that if I was the best, they would have no choice but to give me the role. Mother kept telling me not to get my hopes up, but that only made me try harder.”
“Spite can be a powerful motivator.”
“I got to school early the day they were posting the cast list, and waited in the auditorium. A teacher's assistant finally walked in from behind the stage curtain with a sheet of paper. He saw that I was waiting and gave me a smile.”
I began to wonder if she was paying enough attention to the road.
“He hung the list and disappeared behind the curtain again. I looked around the theater and realized no one else was there yet, so I just sat there for a minute. Isn’t that strange? I was so eager to find out if I got the role but, in that moment, I suddenly wanted to take my time.”
I was nodding, “... Strange.”
“Even more so when I read the cast list. I got the part, the lead role; I was ecstatic, of course, but you wouldn’t have known it.”
That’s when I noticed her face had started to light up, all of the sudden her words sounded incredibly genuine. I knew what she was feeling; I had been there before. She continued.
“I didn’t show it at all. I just made my way to first period.” She thought for a moment, “...I could never figure out why I reacted like that.”
Just then, we arrived at the gas station.
“Well, here you are. Thanks for letting me babble on like that.” She said with a bright smile.
I got out and closed the car door, but couldn’t let her leave without telling her something. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be so I moved my jaw up and down to force some words out.
“You know why you reacted like that? Because you knew you would get that part. You didn’t have to jump and scream or show off to anyone, not even your mother. You knew you had it all along.” I paused to let that sink in. “They can never take that away from you.”
She sat back and pondered for a moment, “Heh, maybe you’re right.”
She suddenly had a glow about her… and I don’t mean she looked happy, I mean she started to actually glow. It seemed odd, but stranger things have happened, I suppose.
“Thanks, guy,” as she held her hand out to shake mine. “I think I needed that. I feel like all this weight just lifted off me.”
I realized, as she was driving off, that I hadn’t even gotten her name. By that time the gas station was opening up, so I strolled in to grab a tasty beverage.
“Hey, did you happen to see that young woman I was with?” I asked, as I approached the cashier.
“No, I didn’t see you with anyone.”
I pointed to the spot where she dropped me off. “Right out there; you didn’t see us pull up in the Ford?”
“I only saw you walking, sir. Why?”
I was puzzled; I don’t know how he could have missed her. “No reason. Just thought I’d ask if you knew who she was.”
“Sorry.” He said as I exited the station.
I turned sharply out the door and was nearly blindsided by a bail of newspapers being tossed from a truck. I took one step and was stunned to a halt once again.
LOCAL WOMAN INVOLVED IN FATAL CRASH read the headline, with a picture; it was her.
What’s going on? I thought, as I picked up the paper. There was barely any information given. The article said her name was Donna, 25 years old. She had lost control of her Ford convertible late last night… she didn’t make it. She wanted to be an actress.