He’d known, somewhere in the back of his mind, that she lived round here. A couple of his mates has seen her, plus, when she’d been on TV, bits of it had been in Chiswick. He was waiting outside the bank for his brother and had been standing there long enough to notice a black cab with its meter running, sitting at the curb outside Waitrose for a good five minutes. That’s expensive, even for someone who can afford digs in these ends; recognised her as soon as she came out of the shop, even before he saw her face. It was the way her shoulders hunched; the way she scurried. Even though she should be used to people looking at her by now, she must’ve felt his gaze, because she turned and caught him with his mouth open and a look of surprise on his face. Eyebrows up; jaw dropped. He could imagine what he must’ve looked like but couldn’t help himself, and trying to disguise a look like that, well – it only makes it worse. A flash of misery and insecurity flickered in her eyes before she dived headlong into the backseat. Moments later, the open door was flanked by Waitrose staff, packing carrier bags into the cab. He could see her in the far corner, cowering; face turned away from the shop assistants as the door slammed and the taxi pulled away from the curb. The bag packers whispered amongst themselves.
“Poor girl,” one of them said.
He hoped she would turn round to look at him out the back window, but instead, she just slipped down in her seat and was gone.
Later, in the pub.
“Yeah, I saw her.”
“She used to be well fit.”
“Bet she got bare payout for that.”
“What’s she like – up close?”
Before he can answer, someone else chimes in.
“Mash up! He threw acid in her face. What do you think it looks like?”
He lets the boys do their thing, smiling as pints are slammed down on the table.
Walking home that night he thinks of the girl some more. How she was beautiful once. And how she was beautiful now. How he had stared at her, but he wasn’t thinking what she thought he was thinking. She thought he was staring at a freak, macabre and grotesque, but really he was looking at her the same way he would look at any girl. He wanted to see her again. He thought how, if he did see her again, he would go up and talk to her, try and get her number. He thought how he could hold her in his arms, how he should kiss her fucked up face, how he – screw it, who’s he kidding? He would totally bang her.