He holds the door for her, and the young woman carefully gets into the car. Stuart’s eyes shamelessly search every inch of her body.
“How old are you now?”
“Turned 21 a couple of days ago.”
She removes a strand of blonde hair from her face and smiles, but doesn’t look up at him. She feels how her tight, black dress moves up her thighs as she slides over in the seat. She knows that her lace underwear is showing and, with an involuntary movement of her hand, she tries to cover herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him smile, and it makes her feel tense. A shy smile briefly covers her face. She knows that she’ll have to push off with one leg, and that her thighs will then spread before she can pull down her skirt again. She squints a little, but the moment she slides over, her eyes meet the driver’s in the rear-view mirror and he grins at her. She looks up, but Stuart is busy staring at her legs.
Evy is sure he must have noticed her staring at him. But he doesn’t look up at her. “I’m a good girl! I’m a good girl. I’m a good girl.” She whispers these silent words to herself, but she can’t feel them in her heart. Goose bumps run over her arms like a thousand ants.
“There, I think you’re settled now.”
Stuart’s sudden, hoarse voice surprises Evy. He slowly slides down in the seat beside her – his thigh touching hers. He looks at the driver, who smiles politely.
“Let’s take the young lady home.”
Stuart isn’t talking to the driver, but still the limo starts moving. The car moves slowly in a moment that seems to go on forever. An unpleasant silence fills the limo and only the faint sound of the tires can be heard in the distance. After a long time, Evy dares to look at Stuart. Absentmindedly, he smiles at her. The warmth he has showered her with all evening is completely gone. He had chatted with her and never let her out of his sight. Brought her one drink after another and told her little funny anecdotes. He had vividly told her the story about how he had obtained his wealth and success, and told her about his youth and his dreams of becoming rich and respected. He had paused at times, as if he was remembering. Evy had felt honored. She knew how many high profile social events he attended, and all the attention he had given her seemed unreal. Sitting there beside him in the limo, she suddenly felt a strange connection to him – as if he was no longer a stranger.
Evy is a little embarrassed, fearing that her voice gives away her thoughts. She smiles at him. In his smile she rediscovers the attention and warmth of the previous hours.
“I have been wanting to ask you a question all evening. Can I ask you now?”
His tone of voice makes her feel safe, and her muscles seem to relax one by one.
“Yes, of course.”
“Evy, do you remember me?”
She looks at him – no longer smiling.
“Remember you? No.”
She gently shakes her head and a feeling of guilt overwhelms her.
“Do you remember the playground you and your sister used to go to? It was always in the shade.”
It’s as if he wonders whether he should go on.
“The crowns of the four trees were so large that their shadow almost covered the entire playground.”
Evy slowly nods.
“I remember the playground.”
“How old were you? Nine?”
“I’m not sure when exactly you mean. We came to the playground a lot.”
“Your sister… Linda?”
Evy nods silently.
“You were holding each other, crying, and suddenly Linda ran away and left you there alone.”
Stuart looks out the window and seems to choose his words carefully.
“I used to go there a lot when you and Linda were there, but suddenly you stopped coming.”
The limo stops at a red light, and Stuart watches a beautiful woman as she picks up a bag of apples she has dropped.
“Ten. We were ten that day. I remember.”
Evy looks down at her hands.
“I was sitting on the bench as usual. I don’t know what happened, but suddenly you were both crying. You were left alone, and I walked over to you and took you in my arms.”
Stuart no longer looks her in the eye.
“We sat down on the grass behind the trees so I could comfort you.”
The tense feeling suddenly returns and makes her gasp. Her thoughts travel back in time, but can’t seem to find their way. She looks at the driver in the rear-view mirror, but he only stares at the road ahead.
“You don’t remember me at all?”
“Stuart, what happened at the playground?”
Stuart looks straight at her.
The lines in his face are prominent in the dim light and form a contrast to his pale, almost ice blue eyes. He looks at her, and an unpleasant chill runs through her.
“We’re almost there.”
The driver’s voice is toneless. Evy’s eyes focus on the road ahead, and a cold feeling of despair takes hold of her as they drive down a road with small houses. She knows that her mother will be in her chair in front of the TV, collapsed and most likely asleep.
Stuart looks at her.
“Shall we continue the party?”
Stuart touches her thigh lightly – almost as if by accident, and suddenly the memories from the playground so many years ago make their way to the surface. She looks down.
“Hmm, should I pull over here?”
The driver sounds impatient.
“Shall we continue the party, Evy?”
Stuart grabs her chin and turns her face toward him. Evy tries to smile in spite of her discomfort.
“Shall we continue the party?”
His tone of voice has changed, and his cold eyes seem to strike something inside her. She suddenly realizes that she really doesn’t want to go through the door of the small yellow house with the white windows, and find her mother asleep in front of the TV.