Tania Casselle

There used to be a George Michael CD that Annie and Jen played several times a week. They liked the guitar riff in ‘Faith’. Driving an open convertible through New Mexico’s red rocks, they wriggled their hips, stopping at that moment where the music stops, their rears raised from the leather car seats, eyebrows raised in anticipation. At the first chord after the silence they dropped down heavily.

"You know you gotta have faith!" they shouted. The guy overtaking in a lorry nearly fell out of his outsize Levis.

When they came home, after the police and the questions and the flight home to London — where Annie didn't say a word, just plugged in her earphones and watched a film about a college boy who got high, got laid, got dumped, got over it, got on the straight and narrow, got the girl — they took a black cab from Heathrow, the waxed hood beaded with rain.

Annie went ahead into the house, which smelled of nobody, and threw the George Michael CD in the bin. She didn't mean Jen to know it was gone, but Annie had forgotten that bins need bin liners, and Jen was the kind of woman never to forget. So when Jen tossed the cork into the bin from the bottle of wine they opened immediately — Italian Chianti, so glad to return to Europe they headed for the south and the sun through a dark red grape, telling themselves it was 2 am by their body clocks, a reasonable hour for a drink, even though it was morning in London, the sun high but hidden behind castles of clouds — when Jen dropped the cork in the bin it landed with a sharp metal ting. She bent to pick out the cork and there was George Michael. She tucked the CD under her arm, lined the bin neatly, and threw the cork and George in together.

"You know you gotta have faith!" she hummed, pouring the wine.

Later Jen unpacked her dirty clothes. They had planned to do laundry in Taos, but they never reached Taos, and the police had taken some of their dirty clothes anyway.

When Annie told the police their London phone number, she had repeated the UK dialing code so often that the officer, his nose too small for his face, became impatient.

"Yes, ma'am" he said. "We surely have got the number."

Jen unpacked the turquoise shawl she’d worn in Albuquerque. She remembered the stars, so many she could spend a lifetime counting them, and she knew this sounded like a Barry Manilow song. By the end of the trip they stopped counting stars. They counted bruises, with the police showing them photos of unfamiliar men.

"He looks nice," Annie said, pointing to one.

"These are all convicted felons, ma'am," the officer with the small nose said.

"None of these," Jen said.

She shook out the shawl. The fringes still moved with New Mexico wind, dust falling. Downstairs, she heard Annie hammering the back door closed.

“It’s for your own good,” was all Annie could say as she tested the padlocks on the inside of the door and nailed half a dozen wooden strips across the frame. She swore at the weight of the hammer as she drove the final nail to secure her web of slats. “It’s for your own good.”

Tania Casselle is a contributor to the short fiction collections Harlot Red (Serpent's Tail) and The Sensitively Thin Bill of the Shag (Biscuit Publishing). "Faith" is a flash spin-off from her novel in progress.

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