“Don’t stare” I say, my voice sharper than I mean it to be ” Don’t stare, it’s rude”
But of course she stares and so do I, our attention transfixed by this apparition from another century, another time.
I had been told that we might see them, that they farmed near by and were almost accepted, taken for granted, part of the landscape.
The adults, parents perhaps, sit upright, silent, still, except for his hands moving on the reins, the whip as he drives his horse forward at a steady trot, but the child, the child is staring directly at us.
Her face is scrubbed, clean, wholesome. Yes, wholesome is the only word I can use to describe it.
She glows with purity, innocence and there is an intensity to her gaze, her focus completely on my daughter who lounges louchely in the passenger seat next to me.
Her legs are bent upwards, folded onto the dashboard, her feet, encased in hot pink Converse baseball boots, tap out a rythmn on the windscreen, a counterpoint to the playlist in her ears.
Her hair, still streaked pink, red, orange from a night hysterical with teen sleepover and makeover madness is mostly covered under a baseball cap.
Her face is pale, she favours a matt foundation, cites Marilyn as an influence and never leaves the house without false eyelashes.
On a good day, I can marvel at her commitment to perfection, on a bad day, an hour, 2 hours behind schedule, I stand at the bottom of the stairs, voice hoarse with shouting, desperate to get the show on the road.
She has insisted on wearing a backless cocktail dresss, tight waisted, it pushes her breasts upwards, makes them more visible than I can comfortably cope with.
She seems unaware, indifferent to the glances, the stares from the men and they are men, whose eyes follow her as she walks up any street.
Walking behind her, I too catch their eyes, reel them in with a death stare, a warning glare, a hands off message.
I should over take, move on by, drive off, but the two lanes on our side of the road are deserted, just us and the buggy, so I match their speed, just for a momment or two and I watch the girl watch my daughter.
And just for a moment, I wonder what it would be like to have that child, that other daughter in my car.
That spotless face, her hands demurely in her lap, eyes bowing to the floor when ever an adult speaks to her and then my daughter looks up from her mobile phone
“Drive ” she says ” Just drive, they’re staring at us”