He was a golden boy. His skin was gold; glowing in the shade of the shop. His hair was gold, glinting like purely spun element. His eyes were gold; two melting pools in his tan face, drawing her in, biding their time, slowly leading her over the edge so she could fall right into them and it would be warm and so sweet.
She could stare and stare and stare. But she didn’t, of course. She just nodded at him, distracting herself with the shopping which he scanned through for her.
Eggs. Milk. Bread. Generic. Generic. Generic. Oh, Thyme. Fresh parsley. Mmm, that smelled great. A stick of rock candy for Peter. She eyed it longingly. She wouldn’t dare to get some for herself.
‘Alright?’ he was looking at her. Maybe he’d said it twice. She wasn’t sure.
Flustered, she said, ‘Alright.’
He packed her groceries away for her, and she handed him her coins. His hands were grubby, fingernails mere stubs on his long fingers, like he did a lot of work. She could see the hairs on his muscular forearms, gleaming goldenly in the afternoon sunlight filtering in through the shop front.
His face shone with invisible perspiration, and she glanced outside at the heat radiating off the pavement, tugging at her tight collar.
‘Say,’ he said suddenly, as she carried her bags towards the door, ‘What’s your name?’
She wasn’t sure he was actually talking to her. So she smiled at him, an excuse to look at his golden, golden face. His lips were full and red, his nose perfectly straight, yet slightly wide and snubbed, in the sweetest way possible, and he was waiting for her to reply.
‘Poppy,’ she said, her voice small.
‘Poppy. You have fantastic hair, did anyone ever tell you that? It’s like the fire of the setting sun.’
Warmth rushed through her body, raking down her back and flooding her face with embarrassment. She touched her red curls self conciously.
‘Thank you.’ She said shyly, and when she walked out of the shop, the image of his grin, with the deepest dimples she had ever seen, was burning behind her eyelids every time she closed her eyes.
The world was so peaceful, so still. The birds seemed to have forgotten to chirp, or maybe they were too tired to. They flitted languidly from tree to tree, as she made her way through the town, her hair on fire.
‘Poppy. You’re late. Does it take seventeen hours to get some groceries?’
‘Poppy, put everything away and hurry, the baby’s crying.’
‘Poppy, you haven’t dusted behind the bear.’
‘Poppy. POPPY. Honestly, that darn girl, are you deaf or something? I’ve been calling you for the last five minutes!’
Poppy cleaned and mopped and sang the baby to sleep before shining the pots and pans until it was so late that her arms felt like they were falling off and the world outside was so silent she almost heard the stars twinkle.
She stared at them, her eyes closing and opening softly, and they shone back at her. They were hopeful stars, against the dark sky. They were her stars, her glorious night time partners.
When she finally went to bed and closed her eyes, the golden boy with his dimples smiled her to sleep.
To the Golden Boy,
I hope I see you again.
The Girl with the Fiery Hair