England is dark and cold. The damp air sends Charlotte’s straightened hair into frizzy, unruly curls within minutes of being outside. The small Suffolk village she lives in winds with narrow muddy pavements, dotted with frozen puddles. Frost hangs on the bare branches of the trees, giving the impression of living inside a Christmas card. But it’s January now; all the glitz and warmth of Christmas is over. The next holiday to look forward to is Valentine’s Day, which, if you’re single like Charlotte, is not a day to particularly look forward to much.
The fan heater bellows dry heat onto her feet as she sits on the couch. She closes her eyes and starts to dream. Her mind fills with dusty hot desert landscapes with burning orange suns in pink-streaked skies. Rattlesnakes, and cowboy boots, preferably with cowboys in them. ‘You won’t find no frosty trees or muddy puddles here, little lady.’ Just heat, dry heat, and passionate nights where she stops at desert motels with strangers. Yeah. They admire how her ruby red lipstick matches her dress and how smooth and straight her hair is. Then they take her to bed in a way that only imaginary cowboys can. Afterwards, they go for a drive in his huge pickup truck — American huge. The land meets the sky in colourful and dramatic ways, as they drive for miles and miles without coming across anyone or anything. The earth seems as if it’s theirs.
However, in the desert there are those rattlesnakes. And scorpions. Are there nasty spiders too? Charlotte isn’t sure. As long as she’s with her cowboy he’ll be able to stomp on them with his big, manly boots. But what if they stop off at some gas station in the middle of nowhere and she’s waiting there on her own whilst Imaginary Cowboy struts over to the kiosk to pay? What if it’s then that a scorpion decides to make its move? There’s no way she’d be able to squash that nasty thing with these shoes! There’d be only one outcome: the scorpion would sting her on her dainty big toe and within moments she would be dead, collapsing just in time to fall into her cowboy’s arms.
She’d be buried in her ever-so-sexy red dress and stylish, yet evidently deadly shoes whilst Imaginary Cowboy wept uncontrollably. He’d turn to the Sheriff, looking for solace: “What do I do now? She was the best I ever had!” And some ancient, bearded townsperson, with his hands placed firmly on his scrawny hips, would shake his head ruefully, spit tobacco to one side and say, “The desert ain’t no place for an English rose.”
When Charlotte wakes up, her new kitten — a blue British Shorthair with copper eyes — is biting her big toe with its tiny teeth. “Goddamn, little lady!” she says, scooping the nibbling creature up onto her lap. “I guess I’d take a kitten over a scorpion any day.”
JC Piech lives in south-east England with her lovely and patient husband. Her writing forms a pretty mixed bag. Perhaps it’s because she’s a Gemini? Or perhaps she’s just a weirdo. You can follow her on Twitter @JCPiech, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jcpiech.