“Can you pull over?” she said. “Over there.” She pointed at a patch of level ground to our left.
I was puzzled, but I did as she told me. I slowed down and stopped at the area she indicated.
“Thanks,” she said. She stretched her legs and pressed her back against the seat. She let out a deep breath.
I turned to look at her but she was facing the window now, looking out at the empty road.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
“Nothing,” she said. “You can switch off the engine, if you like.”
I switched off the ignition and a great silence fell upon us. Before us was a marvelous view — the city with its yellow and orange lights, flickering like a thousand candles.
I took a deep breath myself. “Wow,” I said.
I saw her from the corner of my eye, raising her arm, perhaps to brush her hair, perhaps to touch her face.
“Are we going to be here long?” I said.
“I don’t know, maybe,” she said. “Is that okay with you?”
After a few moments, I said, “What’s up?”
“Nothing. I just need to breathe, that’s all. Can you open the windows a little bit?”
I turned the key halfway so that I could roll down the windows slightly. Immediately the evening air rushed into the car, carrying with it the sound of crickets.
“Thanks,” she said. She was smiling.
“Are you okay?” I said. “You’ll be late.”
“I’m tired of weddings. This is the third one I’ve attended this year.” She laughed.
“They’re probably wondering where you are.”
“Let them wonder.” She brushed her hair again with her fingers. My lungs were filled with her scent.
“Will he be there, too?” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “Why do you ask?”
“He’s probably looking for you right now.”
“So what? I’ve made up my mind. I’m not going back to him. That was our last fight.”
My breath quickened. I thought, Really, why?
As if she read my mind, she said, “He’s no different from the others. He wants the same things they wanted. I’m sick of being pursued for the same things.”
The light from the lamp post above us flickered for a second and then died. For a moment we were covered with a thick kind of darkness. A cold gush of wind brought the smell of grass and soil through the windows.
“Why can’t I do the pursuing for a change?” she said. “Why can’t I choose a guy and do my own courting?”
“That’s not how it works,” I said, laughing.
“Says who?” she said.
“Society. It goes against social conventions”
We were quiet for some time. I turned on the stereo and adjusted the volume.
“May I?” she said.
“Sure,” I said.
The night was not too dark anymore. The moon has emerged from the clouds and a pale yellow light fell on the hood of the car and the branches of the nearby trees and bushes. Her arm glowed in front of me as she changed the dial from one station to the next.
“Are you the romantic type, Dale?” she said.
“I’m not sure. Are you?” I said.
“Nah. Not tonight.” She settled for a jazz station. A girl was playing a mournful song. “I got the blues.”
Her smartphone lit up from her lap. She let it vibrate for a few seconds before switching it off.
She hummed along to the song. “‘I’m not here to forget you, I’m here to recall the things we used to say and do; I don’t want to get over you. I don’t want to get over you.’ Do you know this song?”
“‘I haunt the same places that we used to go, alone at a table for two. I don’t want to get over you. I don’t want to get over you.’ Her voice become more mellow and languid as she sang. “You’re not into jazz or country music?”
She continued singing while I surveyed our surroundings. It occurred to me that we were not in a very safe place. We were the only ones hanging around in that area at that hour in the evening. I locked the doors.
I took the bottle of water I brought with me and drank half-way through.
“Can I have some of that?” Scarlett said.
I passed the bottle to her. I could hear the gulping sounds she made as she swallowed the liquid.
“I’ve made up my mind,” she said. “I want to do the courting this time.” She began laughing again. “Can you recommend anyone who I might like? I want to start at once. It’s a terribly lonely world.”
I laughed with her and shook my head.
“Come on, I’m serious, give me a name. I’ll court him and if I’ll like him enough I’ll marry him. It will be my own wedding I will be attending.”
“I don’t know anyone.”
“You must know someone.”
She was staring at me now, her eyes perfectly still, in mock seriousness.
“I can’t give you any name; I don’t know anyone who deserves you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re too beautiful, too good, for any guy.”
“Ahem,” she said. “I don’t recognize myself in that description.”
“Really? You are too modest.”
A more cheerful song began to play. I could recognize trombones, drums, and saxophones.
“That’s shocking — I mean, the idea of you courting,” I said. “Any guy will say ‘yes’ to you.” I chuckled.
My heart jumped up my chest and lodged in my throat so that I couldn’t answer.
She turned on her phone and played with it for a while.
“Are you hungry?” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you want to go back and find a place to eat? Or do you want me to drop you off at the reception?”
She placed the phone inside her bag, turned to me and looked me in the eye. “What do you want?”
I stared at her and then at the view of the city below us. I fumbled for my eyes, turned on the car, and closed the windows. My knees were shaky.
“You,” I said.