I am slightly embarrassed by his scrutiny, I imagine he must think I look pale, wrong in some way, ugly. But that is not what his expression suggests. I wonder what he’s thinking.
A lock of hair has fallen into his eyes, he pushes it back with his hand and leaves a red mark on his forehead. When he looks at his hand and sees that it is sticky with paint, he realizes what has happened. “Have I got red paint on my forehead?” “Yes.” I smile. So does he, slightly embarrassed again. “A lot?” “No, not really…let me.”
I move a step closer and run my thumb gently over the mark on his forehead. He looks at me, no longer smiling. There is a strong smell of paint, as if the hot, still air is intensifying the smell, making it linger. The lock of hair falls into his eyes again, and I gently push it aside to get at the paint. I can feel his breath against my cheek, he is close now, bending his head toward me so that I can reach. His forehead is brown from the sun, his whole face, his arms, he is wearing a faded black T-shirt and he smells wonderful, warm.
“Has it gone?”
I hold up my hand to show him, red paint on my thumb and forefinger, and he suddenly grabs hold of my wrist, twists my hand around, and looks at my fingers. It is a rapid movement, decisive, his grip is hard, just like when I met him on that first evening, the firm handshake. Perhaps he isn’t aware of how strong he is. “Pretty nail polish,” he says. I did my nails last night, a cool pink, shimmering like mother-of pearl in the sunlight. “Thanks,” I say quietly.