Clancy, who had been hovering on the periphery of conversation for some time, finally allowed some of the alcohol he’d consumed to do some of the talking.
“Who’s this guy, Anna?”
“Ah. He’s Kerry’s ‘bit on the side’, if you like. Actually, Kerry’s Steve’s ‘bit on the side’. He’s a little pre-occupied with Kerry at the moment.” I watched as the obscure content of the brief description sunk into Clancy’s brain. He was a bright spark, really, but alcohol did funny things to the mind.
“Okay. So, if he’s married or engaged, why is he making a play for someone else?”
“Good point, Clance. Well, Steve’s a – a – ”
“…Total dickhead and a complete prick,” Clancy confirmed.
“Well, yes, I guess he is,” I replied carefully, looking at Kerry. Kerry, I soon learned, was not actually interested in anything anyone was saying because she had a faraway look in her eyes. Delving into her bag, Kerry reached for her cigarettes and went outside onto the patio for a smoke. The night air that stole through the house was warm, with a heady freshness about it. It carried the scent of dying-down barbecues and frazzled embers with it. Seizing his moment, Clancy built on his pidgin knowledge of Steve.
“So, this Steve. What does he have to say for himself in this text, then?” With subtlety that can only be reserved for a drag queen trying to get into a convent, Clancy took Kerry’s phone off the kitchen table. That had been my error; after I’d finished reading the text I’d absent-mindedly placed it on the kitchen table. After all, that’s where my phone spent most of its time, so I guess you could say it was force of habit. I looked, warily, towards the door of the conservatory, where I could just make out Kerry’s frame sitting on the steps of the patio that led down to the garden. The light from the tip of her cigarette hinted to me that Clancy had about three minutes.
Slowly, Clancy read the text that still resided on the screen (I hadn’t known how to cancel it – I’d taken some months to figure my own phone out, so anyone else’s phone presented me with a bit too much of a challenge).
“What’s that all about: AND SO IT IS?”
“Right. It’s part of a Damien Rice song, ‘The Blower’s Daughter’. Steve and Kerry share a special bond with that song. In fact, with the whole album, ‘O’.” I wasn’t sure why I was furnishing Clancy with this information, but it seemed that, now we were here, he might as well know everything. Well, nearly everything. We didn’t have much time.
“I’m not sure I know it. How does it go?”
Whenever anyone asks you a question like this, there are generally only three responses. The first one is to try to hum the song, the second is to sing it, and the third to go and grab the CD off the shelf and stick it on. Option three is slightly tricky to accomplish if you happen to be asked this question when you are neither in reach of a CD player nor surrounded by your own CD collection. But, as this was my house, and I possessed the CD in question, I went to get it. (For the record, options one and two were a no-go on the basis that I can’t hum, and secondly I get really embarrassed by the idea of singing a capella. I invariably begin on the wrong note and it all goes tits up here on in.) So, of course, the mood in the kitchen suddenly changed as the dulcet tones of Damien Rice filled the kitchen.
“And so it is…”
“You see?” I pointed out, decidedly uncomfortable with the idea of playing Kerry’s song to illustrate a point. Clancy nodded; it was my cue to silence my tongue. I obliged, horrified that he would hear the frantic beating of my heart that had suddenly emerged from God knows where.
“Life goes easy on me
Most of the time”
Life never went easy on me, that was for certain. This was a case in point; I felt caught in a dichotomy of lust and moral correctness – absently, my voice emerged in a stifled croak, humming to the tune that was the subject of great fascination. All too quickly I stopped as Clancy looked up from his head-bowed concentration and caught my eye.
“Can’t take my eyes off of you”
“I see,” Clancy said, as the song broke into the chorus. “Rather personal, don’t you think? ‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’ – is there a rule that states song lyrics can only apply to one couple? Only, I think I know how he feels.”
The connotations of sexual desire that lay beneath that statement rushed manically around my head. The words seemed pointed, direct. Loaded. Yes, they were loaded all right. Plus the exchange of eye contact moments earlier had thrown my head into a spin. However, I was being utterly ridiculous, surely. How could I be certain that Clancy was referring to me? He may have taken one look at Kerry and have felt the rush of lust that most men feel when they look at her. I couldn’t be certain he was referring to me at all. Could I? No, of course not.
Of course, the idiot in me barricaded my head of sensible, rational responses.
“Well,” I began, “I guess that if it’s a song you can relate to, it’s not exclusive to one couple. There must be many couples who identify with Rice’s lyrics.” It wasn’t until I’d spoken these words that I realised that there was a chance that Clancy was mature enough to work the lyrics out. He didn’t want me to answer his rhetorical question at all. Why do I fail to identify rhetoric when it’s not written down?
Clancy stared at me. His eyes bore into my soul. Deeply. I felt the warmth from them as I struggled to work out how to break the silence that surrounded us, not to mention the heaviness of the tension. Fortunately, as if a lifeline had been thrown, Kerry returned from the garden.
“It’s a lovely night out there,” she sighed. She walked over to the table where she reached out her hand and grabbed her phone. Staring at it, she noticed that there had been no activity since the last look some five minutes previously. Sighing heavily, she placed the phone back on the table.
“Are you expecting a text then?” Clancy asked her.
His forwardness impressed me. He seemed to command situations, be able to project a point of view that was sensible yet cutting to the core of rationality. His eyes – I found them hypnotic – flashed with curiosity and fun.
“I guess not. But he always replies to my replies. It’s sort of an arrangement we have.”
“Good work,” Clancy said, mostly to himself and me, who happened to be standing very close. I couldn’t help but think that he was being sarcastic. He raised his eyebrows as if to punctuate the sarcasm of his remark. Mentally, he had me there and then. If he’d wanted to, of course. Which of course he probably didn’t. “But doesn’t that mean that technically you could be on the phone to him all the time?”
“Anna, what’s your favourite film?” Dave came out of the conservatory. I was quickly brought out of my hypnosis and the thought of hearing Kerry answer Clancy’s question.
“Oh, been in deep conversation with Webster, have you?” I asked. Clancy laughed. His smile found my eyes and I looked quickly away. I needed to get a grip on what I thought was happening; if I didn’t get a grip now, I’d lose any chance of a grip later on.
“Well then, there are too many films to choose from, so I tend to categorise them. I love Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, so I’m biased about the films they were in. I also like films that I can watch over and over; films like ‘Four Weddings’ and ‘Love Actually’.”
“So you like Chick Flicks?” Dave asked, smirking. I became instantly defensive.
“Bollocks. I like films that make me laugh, Dave. There is nothing more cerebral in my choices than that.”
“Ha. Fair play, Anna,” Clancy replied. I saw this as a sign to develop my reasons of choice. (The fact that I didn’t need to explain the definition of ‘cerebral’ confirmed to me that I was in intelligent company.)
“There are many films that you guys will never see because they will now be considered ‘old’. But the old ones are the best ones –”
“ – You’re telling me…”
“ – and,” I continued, trying desperately hard to ignore Clancy’s comment, “worth sharing with the next generation. The films I watched as a teenager are still applicable today. Take ‘The Breakfast Club’, for example. A John Hughes classic: five teenagers from various corners of society are brought together one Saturday for a detention. They have seven hours to think about what they did. As a result, they all form this friendship bond and go off realising new things about themselves, thus becoming better people and more accepting of other people’s differences. And discovering in the process that they have more in common with each other than they would have given themselves credit for.” I was aware that this was starting to sound like a common lecture. I decided to lower the tone.
“I bet you anything you like you will be able to relate to at least one of the characters in the film. I used to fancy Judd Nelson’s character, Bender. I used to fancy Judd Nelson, actually. Mind you, he looks a bit ropey these days.”
“Which of us is Bender?” Dave asked.
“Hmm, it’d have to be Clancy, I think,” I said, quietly. I glanced up at Clancy. He was watching me; furtively, intensely. There seemed to be this ability for us to communicate without words. For some reason, with both were aware of the hidden messages, and of the low-level flirtation that was existing between us. I also excluded the fact that the hidden messages were alcohol-fuelled, albeit tinged with a sentiment of childish lust.
“Have you got the film on DVD?” Clancy asked.
“Yes, I have.”
“Let’s go and stick it on, shall we?” he said. And without much thought, we walked into the living room.
The living room, which most of the time felt small, was suddenly overwhelming in size. The leather sofa looked inviting, comfortable. I went to the DVD shelf and found the film. I placed it in the DVD player. Before sitting down, I made to return to the kitchen.
“Just getting some drink. You want anything else?”
“Just your company, Anna. That’ll do,” Clancy said, softly.
I found myself almost running to the kitchen, despite the fact that it was only a few feet away from where we were. Suddenly, almost instantly, I was reminded of where I was and what I was partly responsible for in my own house. The words were almost out before I had considered the implications of the sentence.
“We’re watching ‘The Breakfast Club’ if anyone wants to join us.”
Dominic, Webster and Kerry looked at me as if I had just told them all to rot and burn in hell. Not that you could generate that kind of reaction simply from asking a group of people if they wanted to watch a film with you, but nevertheless, that was how I read the look. Perhaps I was feeling guilty, but then if pleasure leaves you feeling guilty, then I deserved to be accused.
Sam and the other boys took me up on the offer. Strangely enough, the look on Clancy’s face as I re-entered the living room with half the house was one of confusion and, dare I say it, annoyance. Before anyone could claim their seat, though, Clancy made it obvious where he wanted me to go.
“Anna, come and join me here if you would,” he asked. I looked at the sofa; on the other cushion sat Slink, spread-eagled and comfortable. He was in for the night, clearly. The gap he’d left me was snug, to say the least. Sensing my awkwardness, Clancy moved his leg slightly to create the impression of more space. He looked at me for a brief, show-stopping second. His eyes (oh God, his eyes) once again breathed a life into me.
“Budge up, Slink,” I murmured, as I sat between the two boys. Slightly slow on the uptake, Slink moved but not soon enough. Or even far enough. With our legs touching more than was respectable, I sensed that Clancy and I would have to do one of two things: relax into the intense closeness, or hold our breath for two hours so that our bodies didn’t get any closer than they already were.
I opted for relaxing. So had Clancy. Although Clancy seemed to be doing a far better job of it on the surface than I was. Inside, my blood pumped through turmoil and frustration, intensity and desire. Weird, but happening all the same. I was acutely aware that our bodies were touching; I wanted to rest my head on his shoulder for that final touch. But I couldn’t. We had company.
And so the film began.
“So, that’s me, is it?” Clancy whispered as Bender came on the screen.
Stifling a laugh I responded. “Yes. I used to fancy him.” Funny, I could have sworn I’d already mentioned that.
“So, which one’s you?”
“Well,” I began, “there are only two female characters in The Breakfast Club: Molly Ringwald’s character, Claire, is a redhead who ends up with Bender. Ally Sheedy’s character, Allison, is completely insane, displaying similar behaviour patterns rather like my own. She ends up with the wrestler dude, Emilio Estevez.” I stopped suddenly – though rather too late for it to be cool – realising I’d gone into way too much detail. Unimpressive. Undeterred, however, I carried on, planning to answer the question I’d been asked before Clancy fell asleep before me. “Well, I’m a bit of both, really. But she (pointing to Molly Ringwald) ends up with Bender, so I guess I’m her.”
Yes, yes, I know. I can hear the shouts, the screams. I’ve noticed what I’ve said. I’m making it obvious. ‘“I used to fancy him”.’ It’s true. I did. Clancy’s clued up. He knew why I said it. Because after I’d said those words he leaned closer in towards me. So close, in fact, that I could feel his breath on my neck.
The film, I thought, was about two hours long. When I looked up twenty minutes later, however, Claire and Bender were kissing. I couldn’t, in all honesty, tell you what had happened to those lost minutes or hours; the only thing I knew was that, when I came out of my reverie, Clancy was still there, watching me.
It was getting late. Some of the boys had grabbed their sleeping bags and were crashed out on the floor, breathing heavily. Slink had fallen asleep in the same spread-eagled fashion with which he used to occupy two-thirds of the sofa. Clancy and I were suddenly aware that we were the only ones awake.
“Bunch of lightweights,” Clancy muttered. He turned his head towards me. Those eyes…
I felt myself being drawn in, hypnotic undercurrents coursing through the expression on his face. His face moved slowly towards mine, those eyes of his beckoning me to jump. Slowly, but surely, our foreheads touched. I lost focus as his eyes were so close to mine. Such an intimate moment. So thoroughly heart-skippingly intimate. And perfect. And right now, right.
“Come on,” I whispered, getting up; breaking the seemingly inevitable. I really hadn’t thought this through, so I had no idea what was going on.
I took his hand and led him out to the kitchen. Of course, the adults. They were still up, looking slightly jaded. Slightly worse for wear.
“Film’s finished, has it?” Webster asked. At least, that’s what think he said. It sounded rather jumbled, rather slurred. He’d hate me for saying that. Webster never slurred; he just got tired. That’s how he justified it, anyway. Quickly, I let go of Clancy’s hand, but not before giving it a gentle squeeze before it tumbled casually out of the grip of my own.
“Yeah. What time is it?” My conversational skills at times like this were legendary. I’d even failed to look at the clock in the kitchen. Webster had failed to notice that I’d failed to notice the clock in the kitchen.
“Just gone midnight. What are the boys up to?”
“Most of them have crashed out. It’s just Clancy here who’s still with us. What are you up to?” I posed the question because, for some strange reason, I wanted everyone to fuck off home. Now.
“Well,” Webster stretched and yawned, “Dom and Kerry are out having a fag, and then…”
“Dom’s smoking?! Since when?”
“Since about an hour ago. He indulged Kerry with chat about Steve and then discovered that all his life he’d missed the lure of the cigarette. So he’s gone outside to embark on that slow, painful process of lung damage and fast-seizing nicotine addiction.” Webster appeared to be irritated by the proceedings. Clancy, meanwhile, had gone over to the fridge and helped himself to a beer. He stood, confidently, in the corner of the kitchen, allowing the adults to engage in sensible, sedate conversation. I studied the folds of his jeans and the way his right foot tapped rhythmically to the sound of the song that quietly played in the background. Clancy’s eyes were focused on the kitchen floor. I willed him to look up at me.
Soon, Kerry and Dom appeared.
“Anna, I’m going to go soon,” Kerry yawned. Jesus, this yawning thing was catching.
“Sure, I guess you’d better go and rest for your big date tomorrow with Steve.” I looked over at Clancy, who had stopped looking at the floor, and he rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. I chuckled inwardly and he winked at me. Quickly, I threw my eyes to the floor; I could feel my heart rattling frantically against my ribcage. Get a grip, Anna, for fuck’s sake.
Meanwhile, Dominic had, somehow, found his second wind. Rifling through the copious number of CDs in the kitchen he found what he’d been looking for: The Eurythmics Greatest Hits.
“Oh bollocks,” I muttered, as ‘Love is a Stranger’ took over the atmosphere. Rather rapidly, Dom took over the floor space.
“Come outside,” I mouthed to Clancy, indicating to the door with my head as subtly as I could after consuming the alcoholic equivalent of the Nile, hoping that it didn’t look like I was attempting to head-butt the air . So while Dominic was busy gyrating and lap-dancing Webster, Clancy and I slipped outside.
Kerry was right; it was a beautiful night. The blackened sky was full of constellations and a warm headiness, and the soft breeze kept itself shackled, confined, under control.
“Let’s look up at the stars,” Clancy said and, taking my hand, we left the confines of the patio and stepped on to the grass. I followed his lead and soon we were laying down on the grass looking up at the stars.
“Do you know much about the constellations?” I asked, fascinated by this intriguing, mysterious, yet endearingly sexy, young man. I reminded myself of the power of alcohol, yet somehow the voice in my head seemed to say, ‘Fuck it. Worry about everything tomorrow’. At times like this, alcohol was good. So, so good.
“A little, but then who doesn’t? It’s just one of those things we all seem to get furnished with from an early age: this is Orion, here’s its belt; this here’s The Plough, blah, blah, blah. What I find more fascinating is not what they’re called, and what they look like, but just how far away they all are.”
Clancy turned his head to look at me. Sensing we were a little further away than he would like, he moved the two millimetres necessary to rest his forehead on mine. I swear: if the ground had caved in at that point I wouldn’t have noticed. I’d have put money on me missing a shooting star, too.
Teasingly, I turned my foot over to gently tap his leg. Unsurprisingly, he did it back. The surge of lust was unrepentant, unflinching, unnerving.
My hand, which had been down by my side, suddenly felt something brush against it. Ordinarily I would have whipped my hand away in a frenzy, fearing the worst; that a snake was manoeuvring its way over it. Only tonight, my fingers closed in around Clancy’s hand slowly but firmly. They knew where they wanted to be.
“Anna,” Clancy whispered.
“Girls my age – they’re dull. They don’t know what they’re doing. I’d love someone like you.” His voice, his words, resonated in my ear. My automatic response was crying out, desperate to be heard:
“Men my age – they’re all arseholes. I’d love someone like you, too.”
But I couldn’t. Of course I couldn’t. I attempted a response that sounded casual and ever so slightly distant.
“Ah well, that’s the beauty of me, you see. When you see me like this, I’m interesting, funny…”
“Fucking stunning,” Clancy interrupted.
“…No, Tom. I was going to say that I’m distorted; alcohol does that to eyes of the recipient as well as the inflicted. You only want someone like me because, realistically, you can’t have me.” Actually, he could have me. Right here, right now.
But it was just wrong.
“No, that’s not true.” His voice grew softer, yet more urgent. “I would give anything for a moment – or even a thousand moments preferably – with you.”
His face moved towards me. Orion with his famous belt was watching intensely; starry, starry night. There was only one thing for it. His breath was warm against the cool breeze of the night air; those eyes of his drew ever closer to mine, leading me to a place of no return. I knew I shouldn’t follow but I had to; temptation was too great. My eyes closed slowly; the headiness consumed me. I waited – the moment was here, right here, right now…
“Oi, Clancy! Get your bony arse in here! We’re playing shotgun.”
Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.
The others had stirred. So had my insides.
Back in the kitchen the light was strong. I closed my eyes for a second and saw stars, constellations, on the back of my eyelids. I breathed in deeply and exhaled deeper. I felt a hand rest warmly on the top of my back. My eyes sprung open to see Clancy leaning towards me. The others had rejoined the kitchen and were savouring the last of the alcohol that remained, indulging in drinking games that are generally reserved for students and rugby players. I could see they were happy; content. They were even laughing at Dominic’s jokes. Or laughing at Dominic. I didn’t really care.
“Some other time, I guess,” he whispered. For the millionth time that night he held my stare with those incredible eyes of his.
“You bet,” I whispered in return. So quietly did I whisper that I doubt he even heard me.
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