THE THURSDAY REDHEAD
   
   The sun is setting; shade begins to extend its long fingers across the patio towards the table
where every Thursday she sits. Where she orders a drink and stares out to sea, her long red
hair blowing softly and blending with the deepening hue of an approaching dusk.
   Occasionally she’ll glance through the restaurant’s panoramic glass window and I feel she is
looking at me, shaking me out of my mesmeric state and inducing a stab of guilt for my
indulgence in her.
   Why each Thursday, why always alone – someone so pretty? I know not, I only know she
stirs me. I feel a strange affinity towards her.
   And I am stirring now, but it is driven by anxiety. Because her table remains vacant and as
my mind has been tumbling thoughts of her gently over, time has been slipping by. Those
fingers of shade have shaped into a dark hand, eliminating the last strands of sunlight. Last
orders for food have now been taken; last orders for drinks will not be far behind.
   She is not coming. The thought hits me hard, like a punch in the chest, illogical but true.
There could be a hundred reasons for her non-appearance, but although I know
nothing about her, not even her name – I am disappointed, yes and oddly worried, she
captivates me so.
   My period of duty is almost over, I serve my last order on the floodlit patio but I am doing so
mechanically, because I am looking south, the direction from whence she comes and where
she goes.
   It is a curious direction because there are few dwellings past this point; this part of Suffolk
contains much heath and marshland, providing habitat mainly for wildlife.
   But along the shingle road there is a marina which houses a flotilla of yachts and boats, and
it strikes me then that unlikely as it may seem. She resides on one of them.
   I finish serving my order, return to the restaurant and make an inexplicable decision – to take
the track to the marina. Even though an inner voice is ridiculing my foolishness, fifteen minutes
later I begin my quest.
   I am aware of embarking on a pointless, illogical exercise but undertake it just the same. The
broad shingle track is now in total darkness, the only glimmer of illumination provided by a half
moon on the gentle waters lapping the marina.
   Nothing stirs other than the cluster of bobbing yachts and the distant hoot of an owl; I begin
to feel more foolish than ever. But in the distance, on the shingle spit of land that houses the
Martello tower, a light shines.
   Like a moth to a flame, if you’ll excuse the pun I head on, and nearing the structure I catch
the reflection of a dark silhouette against the yellow glow thrown from the small window. As the
shape glides past it I see long hair sway around the neck and what I reckon to be the soft
outline of a female face.
   I edge around to the wooden ramp that bridges a basin which was probably once a moat and
place my hands on the railing, staring through the darkness at a stout oak door, willing it to
open and to my amazement it does.
   And beyond it there is warm amber light through which I can see her, standing there in a
dress as red as her hair, and my heart begins to throb in my throat.
   The vision of her standing there at the tower entrance, tall and erect, eyes smiling across
the ramp becomes an imprint on my mind and I am transfixed, unable to move.
   ‘Well hello,’ she greets me, ‘you’re from the restaurant aren’t you?’
   But I am speechless and ashamed. I feel like I’ve been caught snooping.
   ‘Don’t look so embarrassed,’ she calls across to me, ‘it’s quite alright, I’ve been expecting
you.’
   ‘What do you mean?’ The words have left my mouth but I am not hearing them, ‘Oh come
now,’ her voice is soft yet strong, she seems refined and immeasurably capable, ‘don’t think I
haven’t seen you watching from beyond the glass façade, watching me  - wondering why I turn
up every Thursday – me on my little lonesome – looking out to sea. Only tonight I didn’t and
here you are. I suspected you’d find your way…’
   Her smile broadens; I notice her high cheek bones, her strong nose in a broad face, ‘Come
in, why don’t you?’
   I don’t know what to say and feel silly, then falter, ‘I’d better be getting back, I’m needed at
the restaurant.’
   Her smile blends with a frown; I think she is mocking me, ‘What on earth for, feeding time at
the zoo is long gone surely – of course if I somehow frighten you?’
   Frighten me? Standing across from me at the tower door, she is imposing, taller and
stronger than she looks at the restaurant, but she is the same woman and I have nothing to be
frightened of. I feel my resolve to leave weakening and walk across the ramp as she stands
back to allow me through. I find I need to raise my head to meet her eyes and a moment’s
disconcertion is dissolved by the soft yellow ambience of a circular ground floor room; the
concrete floor has been softened by laminated wood upon which two spacious white leather
couches face each other, separated by a rectangular coffee table. On the other side of the
huge, mushroom like pillar that supports the structure I see a smoked glass dining table has
been set for two.
   She comes from behind me, ‘I’m Adam,’ I say looking up at her. ‘Then I shall be Eve,’ she
responds with a laugh, laying her hand on my shoulder. I deduce this is not her real name but
am captivated by the brilliance of her smile. I can see how fine her teeth are, shining like pearls.
   ‘As I say Adam, I’ve been preparing the ultimate meal.’
   I shake my head, bemused, ‘But you don’t know me, you don’t know what I like – what…’
   ‘Oh shush.’ Her low strong voice resonates astonishingly in the concrete building and I am
instantly stilled. She marches on ahead, ‘Everyone likes what I cook,
   I’ve never had a disgruntled guest so you’ll forgive my confidence, but first I want to show
you something.’
   Mystified, I follow her up the spiral staircase and on this floor I find the small window where I
spotted her. There is an easel opposite, supporting a painting which is covered. I can see there
are paintings mounted on the walls but the lighting in the recesses is dim…
   Eve flits across to the easel, she is as swift as she is tall and with a deft swipe of her hand
the cover is swept away.
   And I am looking at a coastal scene viewed from a window, yes the very window I’d stand
and watch her from – and there is a figure seated at a table on the patio, undeniably her. She
is staring inwards, a fiery brightness in her eyes, as though she is watching me. Above, the
stormy clouds are blood red, matching her hair and they stretch out towards a large sinking
amber globe, creating a deep bronze hue on the sea below.
   I am staggered by the weird beauty of the painting – and feel her hand on my arm; she
smiles, ‘I can see you’re impressed, it’s almost finished – just needs a little touching up. I
thought you’d appreciate it; come now, dinner is waiting.                *           *          *
   We are seated at her dining table downstairs, soft amber lights radiate above it, while all
others are dimmed. She has served me with the most delightful seafood salad, I am intrigued
that she is so confident I’d eat it but bewildered that her own plate is empty. And she is
studying me with a curious sloped grin as she sips a glass of red wine.
   I look down at my own glass; it is bright red, slightly clotted and smells strange. A sickly
odour I recognise and I begin to feel uneasy. So much so that I feel like leaving, knowing to do
so would be an act of rank rudeness.
   ‘Aren’t you eating?’ I ask, rising tension making the food seem to cloy in my throat, but she
isn’t answering me, continuing to sip the foul smelling wine as though she has fallen into a
trance. I raise my glass to my lips but recoil from the taste. Meanwhile Eve has finished hers, ‘I
need a refill,’ she says. I assume she is heading to the fridge for a fresh bottle but lightning
quick she is at my side. Her arms lock around my neck and her lips push against it; too late I try
to struggle, because her arms are strong.
   I feel something in my neck, something sharp and release an agonised cry as I feel blood
spurt onto my chin. In a few seconds the room is spinning, my eyes closing…
   And then I awake upstairs but feeling so weak it is all I can do to force my eyelids open.
   She is at the canvass making quick strokes from a broad brush which she dips into a red
bowl.
   The painting has changed, now two hands have been added, pressed against the restaurant
window. I am both anguished and petrified, but too weak to move a muscle.
   She looks at me wistfully as my eyes close. I feel her teeth brushing my neck, ‘Just need a
little more paint,’ she says. ‘One last drop.’  

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