Echo Valley Cover

 

“Oh my god, I look like shit.” Announced Stacey in her loud northern accent, loud enough to turn a few heads of the other passengers sharing the same train carriage. Sat opposite, Mathew let a laugh escape in a rush of air rasping between his lips. He hoped it came out in a way that said: you never look like shit. You're always beautiful. But if Stacey understood, she hid it well. She dragged down the skin beneath her left eye, revealing the wet, red fleshy part.

“Ugh, can you hold this for me, Matty?”

Mathew hated being called Matty. Mathew was fine, Matt if you must, but not Matty. Yet, Stacey was the only person in his life who he actually preferred calling him Matty. She said it so sweetly she practically sang it. It made him feel good, kind of like a pet name for a boyfriend. Except the part where he would actually be the boyfriend. Stacey never really had official boyfriends. The guys she was seen with were tall, dark, most likely in a band and undoubtedly covered in tattoos and or piercings. Certainly not quiet, short and stocky boys like Mathew.

Mathew hunched over on his seat and shyly held the small, rounded mirror with the crack down the middle that Stacey held out to him. Peering over the curve of the mirror, Mathew watched Stacey delicately apply her heavy black eyeliner around her deep emerald eyes.

 

Mathew didn't really understand her undying need for the makeup. She put it on every morning on the train to college due to almost always oversleeping. Sure, she looked tired, but certainly not terrible. And definitely not to Mathew.

            “Cheers Matty.” she said finally, taking the mirror back off him so he could put down his aching arm.

“Ugh, I really cannot be asked with today.” She puffed loudly, spreading herself lazily across the two seats. Mathew noticed a couple of older passengers shaking their heads.  Mathew grinned and swept a strand of midnight blue hair back across his forehead, becoming suddenly aware of the possibility his natural ginger roots could be peeking through. “I’ve always wondered how far up country I could get before getting kicked off.”

Stacey’s eyes went wide. Her mouth formed a perfect ‘O’ shape. “We should definitely do that!” she squealed in amazement.

Mathew chuckled to himself. “I was joking. But yeah, one day maybe we should.”

Stacey’s eyes then fell away in her familiar thoughtfulness. Her lips pursed and a dark, drawn on eyebrow curved high. As she looked down, her jet black and lemon blonde extensions flowed like silk across her white sports jacket. Then she turned back to Mathew and shot him a look. A look she had when inspired with one of her own outrageous ideas. A look he could never resist.

A look he should’ve said no to.

“Why not now?” she whispered.

Mathew chuckled nervously. “Are you serious? We’re almost at college now, you nutcase!”

“Come on Matty, why not? Fuck it, let’s just do it!” She still held the same hungry look, trapping him.

            Bing-bong!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now approaching Exeter Central. Exeter Central, our next station stop. Change here for…”

Stacey’s hand was on Mathews arm like a whip before he could even pick up his bag. “Stay!” she commanded with her playfully assertive face. Mathew hoped if he kept laughing, she would stop and let go. Awkward laughter got him out of most situations, but not this one. “Stacey, no. Come on, I’ve got a project to hand in today and collect my negatives from the dark room.”

Stacey rolled her eyes but kept her grip on him. “Matt, will you stop being such a pussy? Just do it!” Outside the window, Mathew saw the train slowing down as it approached the station. The sky was filled with the morning colours of a smooth lemon to baby blue gradient over the horizon. The train came to a halt and Mathew was beside himself. He watched the other passengers leave the carriage, leaving it empty except for himself and Stacey.

“It’ll be fun.” She chimed in a deceivingly angelic voice.

That was when Mathew made his first mistake. He succumbed to her and her look. A look he came to dread. Hesitantly, he sat back down and heard the whooshing of the train doors closing.

“Fine.” He huffed. “But only because I might actually get some good shots.”

“Yes!” Stacey bounced gently up and down on her behind, pulling up her clenched fists to her chest in victory and excitement. This drew Mathew’s eyes to the fresh, colourful tattoo she had spread across her chest. A heart shaped lock with two white angel wings on each side. He remembered it was one of the first things he asked Stacey. “What does your tattoo mean?” and to his disappointment she sniggered “I don’t know. It just looks cool.”

Mathew pulled out an old film camera from his bag- A polaroid, to be exact. “Smile” he grinned as he aimed the view-point at Stacey.

Through the tiny plastic square hole, Mathew watched Stacey let a corner of her red lips curve up and escape to her cheek. She flipped up her middle finger to the camera, trying to position it close enough to the camera that it covered her face.

Click! A blinding flash. Mathew didn’t remember changing the settings.

When Mathew put down his camera, he saw the once morning colours had gone from outside only to be replaced with a mix of midnight purple and blood red. The train had come to an eerie silent standstill. Stacey was gone.

 

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