Not one to bore the people who view my blog (thank you so much to those of you who do – it means a lot) this is the penultimate extract from ‘Life, Love and Lost Causes: The Adults’. Contains material of a risqué nature, and swearing. Enjoy!

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.”

Shit.

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.

“Hmm?”

“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.

 

Copyright gingerbread house

 

 

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Not wishing to bore the people who view my blog (and thank you so much for doing so – it means a lot), this is the penultimate extract from ‘Life, Love and Lost Causes: The Adults’. Contains material of a risqué nature, and swearing (of course). Enjoy!

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.”

Shit.

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.

“Hmm?”

“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.

 

Copyright gingerbread house

For your delectation: Extract 3 from ‘Life, Love and Lost Causes’: The Other Girl. Unsurprisingly, it contains strong language…

For the record, I didn’t really want to get to this stage when I told you about her. But I knew it had to come eventually.  The Bitch, as she was often warmly referred to. Dom knew Claire. Not because he wanted to, but because she made it her business to know pretty much everything and everyone I hung out with.  It wasn’t that difficult; I’d only had two friends in my entire life who I’ve clung on to in some vaguely desperate attempt to look popular, and to boost my Facebook news feeds of course. And she fancied one of them.

Seven years. Seven shitty, lonely, arsey, bollocksy years. The itch, when it came, was such a relief. Anna often wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner, but she just didn’t get it.

I couldn’t.

There is a part of me that has an inherent weakness for standing on my own two feet. It’s because of her, of course. Everything I did was, according to her, shit, stupid, pointless, wrong and/or because I’d done it. And she had to be right. Always. This was the reason I no longer liked arguments or confrontation. So leaving her wasn’t an option.

In fact, in the end, she left me. Quite spectacularly, as it happened.

You see, we’d been drifting apart for some time.  Not that either of us would have cared to admit it, of course, but it had been happening very obviously.

One particular weekend, we were on our way to her best friend’s wedding.  We’d had to agree to the hotel room booking some months before, when everything was passable.  Being in confined spaces with Claire at this point in time wasn’t exactly an occasion I had reserved my best seat for.  What I had done, though, was borrowed some of Anna’s CDs (her collection far out-rated mine: she owned stuff by Jane’s Addiction, The Killers, The Libertines and Muse – I never even got that far alphabetically in the record shop because my musical tastes started and stopped at the beginning of the alphabet with The Barenaked Ladies and Elvis Costello) and burnt them onto my iPod.  This was my idea of trying to prevent any form of conversation, hostile or otherwise.  In situations like the one I found myself in, isolation by deafness is, frankly, the only remaining option.  Anna had said that not getting in the car at all was far better, but truthfully I rather liked Claire’s best friend’s fiancé and he’d invited me.

Somehow, on the way to Oxford, I’d managed to fuck up spectacularly.  Claire spent the best part of the M40 screeching random obscenities in my ear – impressive, considering they were full of plastic – telling me that I was an utter waste of space, fucking useless, blah, blah, blah.  I managed to text Anna while the shouting was going on; Claire never noticed.  I swear that if she had, I would have been ejected out of my seat pretty sharpish.

We actually agreed, mutually, to call it a day that weekend.  I ended up sleeping on the floor of our hotel room (something that I later realised I was going to have to get used to) and clearing out the entire contents of the mini bar as consolation.  Not that I needed consoling; inwardly I was celebrating the fact that I was itch-free.  I could scratch to my heart’s content and feel liberated for the first time in seven years.  We actually got on better than we’d ever done that weekend, too.

Yet, as soon as we got home, things turned very ugly.  For some reason, completely unbeknown to me (as most of life generally was), we were at war.

I’d been visiting my parents for the weekend (something she didn’t like me doing because it meant that I would be spending time with other people, without her. She could have come, of course, but that took effort. And her driving the two hundred or so miles to Gloucester. The fact that her parents lived just ten miles from mine was irrelevant) and arrived back to the house we shared. No, shared is the wrong word; for some months, the house had been divided into two zones: Hers and Mine. It kind of resembled Europe during the 1940s. Of course, she occupied three quarters of the territory; I a measly less-than-a-quarter. (The bathroom was considered joint occupation, neutral land, rather like Switzerland.) How did I do so badly? Easy: I avoided confrontation and handed everything over to her, rather like when the British Empire dissolved on grounds of the acquisition of independence.

It was quiet. No one home. I breathed a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to explain my whereabouts.

I went straight past the Iron Curtain and up the stairs to my share of the house.

All my possessions had, surprisingly, been crammed into the second smallest of the three bedrooms. I dumped my bags in the doorway and turned round to go back downstairs, into the kitchen to fix myself some food. Something simple. Pasta would do it.

As I wandered into the kitchen, there was something that didn’t feel quite right about the place. But, as always, I couldn’t put my finger on it. I opened the cupboard door just above the oven. Staring back at me, like a faithful companion, was the pasta. I smiled at its predictability, lifting it out carefully so that the contents didn’t spill over the floor where the bag had been ripped beyond safety from the last time it was used. Reaching into the cupboard below for a pan was the point at which I discovered what was different about the place.

The cupboard was empty. Curious, I bent down to closely inspect the inside. No, there was no doubt about it.

The pans had gone.

On that point of realisation, I rushed into the adjacent living room. The sofa had gone, as well as all the dodgy pictures. Claire, it seemed, had left. Either that or we had been burgled by a burglar with very odd kleptomaniac tendencies and very little taste. My heart skipped several beats. I couldn’t hold my breath. Not yet. I needed confirmation.

Re-entering the kitchen, I opened the draws. There was one knife, one fork, one spoon.  I almost laughed out loud.

All too soon I was suddenly gripped by fear.

Pulling myself out of my near-trance, I flung open the fridge door.  I breathed an audible sigh of relief. Thank fuck.  She’d left the beers.  They were mine after all.

Moments like this always called for a Hamlet cigar.  In the absence of one of those, a can of Stella was a more than suitable replacement.

I tore back the ring-pull, and contemplated the new life, new chapters, that waited for me to start writing them.

For some reason the beer tasted better than usual. Colder, more refreshing.

It wasn’t until I’d finished my beer, standing in the middle of the virtually bare kitchen, that I realised it had grown darker outside. Remembering also that I was supposed to be cooking myself some food, and my hunger had now turned me ravenous, I wandered back upstairs to grab my phone.  I needed food support, and there was only one place I was going to get it. I brushed the light switch firmly with my fingers on my way. I was half way down the hall when I noticed something else wasn’t right.

I turned and walked back into the kitchen. Slowly, deliberately, I looked up.

The Bitch.

“Hi Anna, it’s me.”

“Oh, you’re back. How’s things?” Anna always asked, even if she had no interest whatsoever.

“Good and bad.  The good news is that The Bitch has gone.”

“Seriously? Bloody hell! Are you certain?”

“Oh yes.  She’s taken everything, Anna. All the pots and pans, spoons, you name it.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  She’s even taken the fucking lightbulbs.”

I planned to only put a few essential things in my bag: a book, some relatively clean pants, a pair of vaguely similar socks, and the rest of the beer.  I’d decided to buy Anna some wine on my way over to hers. Kindly, she’d offered to let me stay the night. I returned to my room to pack, where I was finally greeted by the answer to what had unsettled me first of all on my return.

She’d taken my bloody bed.

Copyright gingerbread house

Not one to allow work to get in the way of weekend fun, here’s Extract 2 of ‘Life, Love and Lost Causes’. And yup, it contains strong language from the start…

It was about nine o’clock on Christmas Eve that did it.

The last few days had passed by in a haze of last-minute shopping and frequent texts from Evan – I’m sharing a table with this guy who’s bought his wife a blender for Christmas and Wish you could see this man, he looks like Father Christmas – were two of my favourites I’d received whilst I was shopping, killing myself slowly and painfully in the crowds of morons that inhabited my home town.  Finally, there we were, settling ourselves down to The Night Before Christmas, waiting to sit through the annual old faithful of  “It’s a Wonderful Life” whilst eating the day’s purchase of cheese nibbles with Sam sipping a hot chocolate with marsh mallows and me somewhere between my third large whiskey and diet coke.  Earlier on, I had surrendered my outdoor clothing in favour of my best, most well-worn pair of pyjamas: rather unsexy cowhide patterned bottoms with a white t-shirt top that had ‘lazy cow’ stitched across the middle.  Rather apt, but then again I had no intention of doing anything other than sitting on my cowhide arse for at least the next two days.  On my feet were my large white furry yeti boot slippers.  Yes.  I was a picture of sophistication and beauty.  Not to mention the idea of luxury.  I could live like this all the time. Attractive it may not be, but the warming sensation felt by a pair of manky old pyjamas could never be equalled by the presence of another human.

Evening like these were rare, but definitely my favourite.  Sam and I loved each other’s company and my child-like mentality meant that silly games were always on the agenda.  Tonight’s special was ‘Orifice Twiglet’, where you have to stick twiglets in as many visible orifices as possible and then persuade the other person to eat them.  No, I hear you cry, definitely not the sort of game a single person should really be playing to make herself look attractive (particularly with what I was wearing anyway), but nevertheless Sam loved it and the photo opportunities were endless.

Just as I was retrieving a rather awkward shaped twiglet from Sam’s ear, my mobile text alert sounded.

Thinking I should remove the twiglets currently standing to attention up my nasal passages, I leaned over the table and grabbed my phone.  Instantly thinking I should perhaps straighten myself out by brushing the creases out of my clothes (why? A belief that the other person had a video phone, and that I found it almost impossible to conduct sensible conversations knowing full well I was dressed in novelty nightwear), slowly, and as if on autopilot, my left hand scrolled down the message displayed on my screen whilst my right hand fished out the larger of the two twiglets.

It was Evan.

Hey. Just sitting here on the kerb looking up at the stars thinking about a stunning red fox. 

Aware of the cryptic connotations of the message, I stopped to think what the message could possibly mean before I launched into a reply.  Absent-mindedly, my right hand reached up to the last remaining twiglet sticking out of my nostril.  It was slightly soggy.

My fingers hovered over the buttons for what seemed an age before I finally responded.  Needless to say, it was rather obvious.

Who do you mean? Janey?

Janey, or Janet as she was christened, was a feisty lady who believed she owned the ground she walked on.  She wasn’t overly popular (with me, anyway) and she had previously had her wicked way with Evan before dropping him like a hot potato.  Of course, she expected him to go back to her.  Often.  Which of course he did.  Often.  Oh, and she had red hair. Hence the connection: red fox. It had to be her.

No. You.  You are everything I’ve ever wanted – funny, sexy… 

I checked my phone.  This was clearly a mis-sent message and he wasn’t talking about me. Sexy was definitely not a word that could be used alongside a girl wearing cowhide pyjamas after all.

gorgeous and I can’t stop thinking about you x 

My eyes read and re-read the last six words.  Hastily I began re-living the past few days of conversation: where was the sign?  How could I have missed it?  It’s here, on a plate with a side order of watercress and rocket salad, staring me in the face without any pre-warning and somehow, maybe not surprising but currently surprising enough, I had missed it.  Not just missed it, but obliviously walked straight through any of its neon signs and screamingly obvious hints.

“Mum, can I remove these twiglets please?  They’re starting to get uncomfortable.”

In a flash, reality brought me back to Christmas Eve, Orifice Twiglet and to my life.

“Sorry darling. Yes, I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“Thank God,” Sam muttered as the soggy ends of twiglets emerged from his nose and corners of his mouth.

“Go and get a drink, babe,” I laughed, trying desperately hard at the same time to appear normal all the while an emotional tidal wave was washing over my insides. All too suddenly I could taste a familiar cheesiness in the back of my throat.

What the fuck was I going to do?  How did I feel? I’d had no preparation time for this and now I’d been caught totally off-guard.  More importantly, what about Kerry?

Thinking time was clearly not an option as the house phone made me jump out of my skin.  Horrified and terribly nervous at the same time, I reached for the offending article which I now inwardly referred to as a plastic tarot card.  My mobile, with the message of doom still on show on its screen, remained glued to my terrified hand.

“Hello?”  I sounded wary, as if I was about to be given some terrible news.  In some ways I was.  There was no doubt who was going to be on the other end of the phone.  At any other time, I would have pretended not to be in, and actually hidden behind the sofa until the nasty ringing had stopped.

“Well?  What d’you say?”

Evan sounded stupid; like he was grinning for the first time since his mouth had become unstapled.

“Er,” I stumbled.  I hadn’t considered any response; what did he expect?  I was hardly about to run manically into his virtual telephonic arms, was I?

“What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”[1]

My ears began to ring with his words.  The whiskey I could no longer taste, and my head jumbled with thoughts, panic, fear and speculation.  Nothing had ever been this easy.  Or was it difficult? Now, though, I started to realise that perhaps I was actually glad of not knowing.  I was afraid of this situation and was about to run a mile.

“Er…oh.”  Yes.  That really was the best I could muster.  Pathetic really.  And now you can clearly see how and why I’ve remained single for so long.  Somewhere, though, I thought about how crap that had sounded.  Did I want him to pick up on negative vibes, realise that the red fox was actually doing a feeble impression of an M20 Road Kill, mutter an apology and snap the phone shut quicker than Wall Street did the Stock Market?  Or did I really seriously believe I could take this somewhere?

I settled for another attempt at a reply.

“Er…oh.”   Marvellous.

It only then occurred to me that Evan had been talking to himself since my first moment of terror because I caught odd words floating down the telecommunication line, like ‘morning’, ‘meet up’, ‘think’ and ‘talk then’.  I snapped violently out of my terror.

“Sorry, what was that?”  I couldn’t possibly; it was Christmas Day in less than two hours.

“I’m meeting Kerry on the morning of the twenty-seventh.  I’m going to talk to her then about everything that’s going on.  Including you.”

“No.  You mustn’t.  You have to give her a chance, Evan.  Don’t tell her anything yet; it wouldn’t be right.”  I sighed, believing wholeheartedly I’d bought myself some time.  Oh, how the stupid are brought quickly crashing down to earth.

“But you’re happy for me to tell her, right?” Evan was clearly enjoying this; if not seeing me squirm, but hearing me squirm. “Look,” he said, finally, when I still hadn’t answered, “you know how I feel.  I’m crazy about you, not Kerry.  And I think you could be the one.”  His voice tailed off slightly at this point and I reached for my glass and stole the moment to savour the fiery amber liquid of the Gods.  This was not happening, I kept telling myself.

The truth was, I hadn’t even given myself time to think about the possibility of ever fancying Evan.  Why would I?  The thought hadn’t even been entertained by my mind and here I was, being told by some bloke I’d only ever exchanged three hours’ worth of conversation with was telling me that I could be the o…

What?!  How the fuck did I miss that?!  This was worse than ever.

“Evan, I’m going to have to go; it’s getting late.  How about I phone you tomorrow?”  I said this, knowing certainly of two things: 1) I wouldn’t be around, and 2) he would be pissed and passed out.

“I love that,” he replied, scarily dreamy-sounding.  I cringed. The sooner I could put the phone down the better.

“Great. Well I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  Sleep well and hope Father Christmas brings you everything you want.”  In hindsight, that was really stupid.

“He already has,” he slurred, and hung up.

Shit shit bollocks fuck.

“Webster, it’s me.  I really need to talk to you.”

“Hi. A bit early for Christmas morning, even by your standards.  I take it you haven’t phoned to wish me Yuletide greetings?”

His voice was rather merry, absorbing all the clichés this time of year brought with it. But I was most definitely not in the mood to be seasonably sociable. I thought for a moment that he may have been on the gin.

“Ha. Webster, I have an issue. A big one.”

“Anna, I’ve told you about buying stuff from the homeless.  It may be charitable and all that, but it contains little or no relevant information.”

“Can’t you just be – normal for once? Please?” The phone felt heavy in my hand, heavier than my eyelids. Webster was almost certified nocturnal. He seemed abnormally bouncy and cheerful. I was definitely not in the mood for hilarity or joviality.

Sensing that I hadn’t phoned up to crack jokes or mock someone on the television, Webster suddenly straightened and sat up. The tone in his voice became serious.

“Okay, what’s up?” It was surprising that he never sounded dismissive, despite the fact that I was just about to rain on his one-man carnival.

“I’ve just experienced the worst moment of my life.” Okay, it sounded dramatic, but this was genuinely how I was feeling.

“I’m all ears,” he replied.  In any other situation I would have made a crass point about the size of Webster’s ears, or his ‘flappy wassters’ as I constantly referred to them (both behind his back and to his face), but, as it was a silly hour on the eve of Christmas Day, I decided that that would probably be rather counter-productive.

“Evan has pretty much just – confessed? Admitted? – undying love for me,” I murmured, hating the sound each syllable made as it came out of my mouth. I paused, waiting for Webster to laugh, say that Evan was: a) mad; b) blind; c) stupid or d) all three, but he didn’t. Instead, the silence caused by Webster was deafening. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he spoke.

“So, what do you want to do about it? Do you like him?” I hadn’t considered this option. I was so hell-bent on everything being a bad idea that I wanted Webster to be on my side completely and confirm Evan’s status as a mentalist.

“Well, he’s all right, I suppose. But that’s not the point. He’s with Kerry.”


[1] From, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, 1946.

Copyright gingerbread house

Not one to allow work to get in the way of enjoyment, here’s Extract ” of ‘Life, Love and Lost Causes’. And yup, it contains strong language from the start…

It was about nine o’clock on Christmas Eve that did it.

The last few days had passed by in a haze of last-minute shopping and frequent texts from Evan – I’m sharing a table with this guy who’s bought his wife a blender for Christmas and Wish you could see this man, he looks like Father Christmas – were two of my favourites I’d received whilst I was shopping, killing myself slowly and painfully in the crowds of morons that inhabited my home town.  Finally, there we were, settling ourselves down to The Night Before Christmas, waiting to sit through the annual old faithful of  “It’s a Wonderful Life” whilst eating the day’s purchase of cheese nibbles with Sam sipping a hot chocolate with marsh mallows and me somewhere between my third large whiskey and diet coke.  Earlier on, I had surrendered my outdoor clothing in favour of my best, most well-worn pair of pyjamas: rather unsexy cowhide patterned bottoms with a white t-shirt top that had ‘lazy cow’ stitched across the middle.  Rather apt, but then again I had no intention of doing anything other than sitting on my cowhide arse for at least the next two days.  On my feet were my large white furry yeti boot slippers.  Yes.  I was a picture of sophistication and beauty.  Not to mention the idea of luxury.  I could live like this all the time. Attractive it may not be, but the warming sensation felt by a pair of manky old pyjamas could never be equalled by the presence of another human.

Evening like these were rare, but definitely my favourite.  Sam and I loved each other’s company and my child-like mentality meant that silly games were always on the agenda.  Tonight’s special was ‘Orifice Twiglet’, where you have to stick twiglets in as many visible orifices as possible and then persuade the other person to eat them.  No, I hear you cry, definitely not the sort of game a single person should really be playing to make herself look attractive (particularly with what I was wearing anyway), but nevertheless Sam loved it and the photo opportunities were endless.

Just as I was retrieving a rather awkward shaped twiglet from Sam’s ear, my mobile text alert sounded.

Thinking I should remove the twiglets currently standing to attention up my nasal passages, I leaned over the table and grabbed my phone.  Instantly thinking I should perhaps straighten myself out by brushing the creases out of my clothes (why? A belief that the other person had a video phone, and that I found it almost impossible to conduct sensible conversations knowing full well I was dressed in novelty nightwear), slowly, and as if on autopilot, my left hand scrolled down the message displayed on my screen whilst my right hand fished out the larger of the two twiglets.

It was Evan.

Hey. Just sitting here on the kerb looking up at the stars thinking about a stunning red fox. 

Aware of the cryptic connotations of the message, I stopped to think what the message could possibly mean before I launched into a reply.  Absent-mindedly, my right hand reached up to the last remaining twiglet sticking out of my nostril.  It was slightly soggy.

My fingers hovered over the buttons for what seemed an age before I finally responded.  Needless to say, it was rather obvious.

Who do you mean? Janey?

Janey, or Janet as she was christened, was a feisty lady who believed she owned the ground she walked on.  She wasn’t overly popular (with me, anyway) and she had previously had her wicked way with Evan before dropping him like a hot potato.  Of course, she expected him to go back to her.  Often.  Which of course he did.  Often.  Oh, and she had red hair. Hence the connection: red fox. It had to be her.

No. You.  You are everything I’ve ever wanted – funny, sexy… 

I checked my phone.  This was clearly a mis-sent message and he wasn’t talking about me. Sexy was definitely not a word that could be used alongside a girl wearing cowhide pyjamas after all.

gorgeous and I can’t stop thinking about you x 

My eyes read and re-read the last six words.  Hastily I began re-living the past few days of conversation: where was the sign?  How could I have missed it?  It’s here, on a plate with a side order of watercress and rocket salad, staring me in the face without any pre-warning and somehow, maybe not surprising but currently surprising enough, I had missed it.  Not just missed it, but obliviously walked straight through any of its neon signs and screamingly obvious hints.

“Mum, can I remove these twiglets please?  They’re starting to get uncomfortable.”

In a flash, reality brought me back to Christmas Eve, Orifice Twiglet and to my life.

“Sorry darling. Yes, I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“Thank God,” Sam muttered as the soggy ends of twiglets emerged from his nose and corners of his mouth.

“Go and get a drink, babe,” I laughed, trying desperately hard at the same time to appear normal all the while an emotional tidal wave was washing over my insides. All too suddenly I could taste a familiar cheesiness in the back of my throat.

What the fuck was I going to do?  How did I feel? I’d had no preparation time for this and now I’d been caught totally off-guard.  More importantly, what about Kerry?

Thinking time was clearly not an option as the house phone made me jump out of my skin.  Horrified and terribly nervous at the same time, I reached for the offending article which I now inwardly referred to as a plastic tarot card.  My mobile, with the message of doom still on show on its screen, remained glued to my terrified hand.

“Hello?”  I sounded wary, as if I was about to be given some terrible news.  In some ways I was.  There was no doubt who was going to be on the other end of the phone.  At any other time, I would have pretended not to be in, and actually hidden behind the sofa until the nasty ringing had stopped.

“Well?  What d’you say?”

Evan sounded stupid; like he was grinning for the first time since his mouth had become unstapled.

“Er,” I stumbled.  I hadn’t considered any response; what did he expect?  I was hardly about to run manically into his virtual telephonic arms, was I?

“What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”[1]

My ears began to ring with his words.  The whiskey I could no longer taste, and my head jumbled with thoughts, panic, fear and speculation.  Nothing had ever been this easy.  Or was it difficult? Now, though, I started to realise that perhaps I was actually glad of not knowing.  I was afraid of this situation and was about to run a mile.

“Er…oh.”  Yes.  That really was the best I could muster.  Pathetic really.  And now you can clearly see how and why I’ve remained single for so long.  Somewhere, though, I thought about how crap that had sounded.  Did I want him to pick up on negative vibes, realise that the red fox was actually doing a feeble impression of an M20 Road Kill, mutter an apology and snap the phone shut quicker than Wall Street did the Stock Market?  Or did I really seriously believe I could take this somewhere?

I settled for another attempt at a reply.

“Er…oh.”   Marvellous.

It only then occurred to me that Evan had been talking to himself since my first moment of terror because I caught odd words floating down the telecommunication line, like ‘morning’, ‘meet up’, ‘think’ and ‘talk then’.  I snapped violently out of my terror.

“Sorry, what was that?”  I couldn’t possibly; it was Christmas Day in less than two hours.

“I’m meeting Kerry on the morning of the twenty-seventh.  I’m going to talk to her then about everything that’s going on.  Including you.”

“No.  You mustn’t.  You have to give her a chance, Evan.  Don’t tell her anything yet; it wouldn’t be right.”  I sighed, believing wholeheartedly I’d bought myself some time.  Oh, how the stupid are brought quickly crashing down to earth.

“But you’re happy for me to tell her, right?” Evan was clearly enjoying this; if not seeing me squirm, but hearing me squirm. “Look,” he said, finally, when I still hadn’t answered, “you know how I feel.  I’m crazy about you, not Kerry.  And I think you could be the one.”  His voice tailed off slightly at this point and I reached for my glass and stole the moment to savour the fiery amber liquid of the Gods.  This was not happening, I kept telling myself.

The truth was, I hadn’t even given myself time to think about the possibility of ever fancying Evan.  Why would I?  The thought hadn’t even been entertained by my mind and here I was, being told by some bloke I’d only ever exchanged three hours’ worth of conversation with was telling me that I could be the o…

What?!  How the fuck did I miss that?!  This was worse than ever.

“Evan, I’m going to have to go; it’s getting late.  How about I phone you tomorrow?”  I said this, knowing certainly of two things: 1) I wouldn’t be around, and 2) he would be pissed and passed out.

“I love that,” he replied, scarily dreamy-sounding.  I cringed. The sooner I could put the phone down the better.

“Great. Well I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  Sleep well and hope Father Christmas brings you everything you want.”  In hindsight, that was really stupid.

“He already has,” he slurred, and hung up.

Shit shit bollocks fuck.

“Webster, it’s me.  I really need to talk to you.”

“Hi. A bit early for Christmas morning, even by your standards.  I take it you haven’t phoned to wish me Yuletide greetings?”

His voice was rather merry, absorbing all the clichés this time of year brought with it. But I was most definitely not in the mood to be seasonably sociable. I thought for a moment that he may have been on the gin.

“Ha. Webster, I have an issue. A big one.”

“Anna, I’ve told you about buying stuff from the homeless.  It may be charitable and all that, but it contains little or no relevant information.”

“Can’t you just be – normal for once? Please?” The phone felt heavy in my hand, heavier than my eyelids. Webster was almost certified nocturnal. He seemed abnormally bouncy and cheerful. I was definitely not in the mood for hilarity or joviality.

Sensing that I hadn’t phoned up to crack jokes or mock someone on the television, Webster suddenly straightened and sat up. The tone in his voice became serious.

“Okay, what’s up?” It was surprising that he never sounded dismissive, despite the fact that I was just about to rain on his one-man carnival.

“I’ve just experienced the worst moment of my life.” Okay, it sounded dramatic, but this was genuinely how I was feeling.

“I’m all ears,” he replied.  In any other situation I would have made a crass point about the size of Webster’s ears, or his ‘flappy wassters’ as I constantly referred to them (both behind his back and to his face), but, as it was a silly hour on the eve of Christmas Day, I decided that that would probably be rather counter-productive.

“Evan has pretty much just – confessed? Admitted? – undying love for me,” I murmured, hating the sound each syllable made as it came out of my mouth. I paused, waiting for Webster to laugh, say that Evan was: a) mad; b) blind; c) stupid or d) all three, but he didn’t. Instead, the silence caused by Webster was deafening. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he spoke.

“So, what do you want to do about it? Do you like him?” I hadn’t considered this option. I was so hell-bent on everything being a bad idea that I wanted Webster to be on my side completely and confirm Evan’s status as a mentalist.

“Well, he’s all right, I suppose. But that’s not the point. He’s with Kerry.”


[1] From, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, 1946.

Copyright gingerbread house

Extract from the novel, Life, Love and Lost Causes: Revelations

“Hygiene is a hugely important factor when it comes to man-on-man activity.  And besides, Webster here never goes near the tap.  And why would he need to, being as single as he is, the poor love?”

“What the fuck?” I cried indignantly.  Why was that closet pervert paying any attention to my lavatorial habits anyway? Did he have nothing better to do? Worse, did he keep some sort of chart or table so that he could, by the law of averages, probability and Sod, theoretically discover his ideal man? I shuddered at the thought. I longed for Anna to say something to the contrary.

“Do you remember, during one such visit to the toilet, his mobile going off?” Oh God. I’d forgotten about this. I vaguely recalled Anna and Anthorny scheming, but I had been more preoccupied with the need to refill my glass with Guinness.

“Yes, he had to leave so soon after that.  Pity, we were rather getting on.” I quickly threw a look at Dominic, but he was entranced, nee majorly bothered, by what Anna was about to tell him.

“Well, the person on the other end was me.  During one of your spells of talking about yourself, Anthony slipped me a note on a piece of paper that said, “Here’s my number.  Call me and pretend to be my wife.  I’ve got to get out of here.”

Dominic’s face was a mixture of abject horror, hurt, bemusement and hatred. I reached for the wine bottle. We were out.

“He wrote you a note?  How comes I didn’t see him do it?”

“Because you never notice anything when you’re in ‘Dominic Mode’.  You never gave him the space he needed to escape your wrath and interrogation, so the next best thing was to get someone else to do it.  I must say, it gave me huge satisfaction.  We’d managed to tell him all he needed to know about you in under a minute. And the weak bladder was a lie.  He said it in vain attempt to get rid of you,” she added.

Anna could be so cruel at times. The ‘Dominic Mode’ she referred to was, I believed, something she almost envied. In fact, setting her a challenge to equal the cruel machinations of the evil Dominic and his pulling technique, and given a large dose of hefty persuasion (not to mention several large JDs), Anna would, and could, have any man she wanted. She had a way of saying the right things in the right way. She even looked the right way. She could have had Anthorny that night. Easily. Why else did he offer his phone number?

She just didn’t realise it.

Admittedly, Dom could be full-on. But that was because he was freshly endorsing his sexuality, flexing his freedom muscles, exerting his exertion thing.

“What exactly did you tell him about me?”  Dominic was doing an almost convincing impression of someone getting a testosterone-induced bout of aggression.

“Well, we told him you were newly ‘out’ and keen to road-test your new-found sexual freedom.  Oh, and lonely and desperate.” Anna had reached new heights with this.  I threw her a look, but it was obviously not loud enough.

“You bastards!  How could you say – ”

We?! You, Anna, not me. Bastard, I opened my mouth to say, but I quickly closed it again. It wasn’t worth the pedantry, although it had never stopped me before.

“He was very understanding of course.  Turned out he was a psychologist.  He gave me this for you.” Anna reached into her bag and pulled out a business card. Dominic immediately took it out of her hands. Over his shoulder I scoured the black lettering on the small white card.

Dr Anthony Reed, Psychologist. PhD Psych., MSc

COMFYMINDZ

 For people who need to feel happy in their own skin

 

“Well, at least you got his number,” she sneered.  Anna wasn’t helping, but there was an element of pride in her voice.

“Look, can we just get on with the reason why we’re here? I don’t know why I’ve suddenly become the focal point of everyone’s ridicule.”  Dom folded his arms, and with a surreptitious movement, slotted Anthorny’s business card into the arse pocket of his (tight) jeans. He was hardly a master of subtlety, yet despite the public humiliation, Dom displayed his one-dimensional motive. I rolled my eyes in Anna’s direction.  The truth was, Dominic loved the idea of being centre of attention, yet deep inside he was vulnerable, despite his six foot frame and enormous hair. Dom preferred to be spoken about, whispered about, sung about. It wasn’t an option for him to be in a room full of people and for something other than him to be the focus of attention.   In fact, he hated the thought so much, he once said to me that his worst situation would be for someone to refer to him as ‘the one with the hair’.

There were a number of strings to Dominic’s bow, however.  Before meeting him in Wales he’d read Music at College, preferring to throw his talents into the double bass (his justification for playing such a cumbersome instrument was simple: “in order to play the double bass you’ve got to be like the double bass: big, loud and awkward”) and singing male soprano in the college choir. Anna didn’t know this about him; she’d have given him the pasting of a lifetime, making comments regarding ‘dropped balls’ and ‘nut tightening’. Oh I knew them, all right.  I’d thought of them myself.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Anna reach up for a bottle of wine. I turned my attention to watch her fight with the corkscrew, her elbows stuck out at right angles while she struggled to bend the arms down.  It then occurred to me that not ten minutes ago I’d wanted wine and thought we’d run out.  She must’ve hidden it, like she always did.

Why did I never notice little things? Part of my problem with Claire had always been my neglect of little things.  I could put up shelves, build rabbit hutches (okay, I never had to because we didn’t have a rabbit, but I could have done quite easily); even install boilers, washing machines and ovens. But if I hadn’t washed up, vacuumed or made the beds, she got annoyed. She always seemed to be annoyed. But she wouldn’t listen when I tried to tell her that I didn’t have time to wash up.

I was brought out of my thoughts by Dom.

“Men rarely do go to any trouble.  They see it as an unnecessary waste of time and brain space.  Not that many of them have space in their brain to waste anyway,” he said, looking at me. Bloody cheek. I got up from the kitchen table, making a deliberate noise with my chair as I did. I needed to get out of here, if only for a few minutes.

“Speak for yourself,” I grimaced, deftly sticking two fingers up behind Dom’s back as I walked past. Juvenile, yes, but I was proud.  I made me feel better after all.  “I’m off to see how many pixies are dead, then I’m going to the offy.  We’re running out,” I said, as Anna threw me a look to remind me that I shouldn’t spend all my money on wine or beer. But after all, what else was there? “And I’ll only get three.”

Outside, the sky had turned overcast.  The offy was only five minutes away but, as I started with my lengthy stride along the road, large splashes of rain started to fall. Typically, I was wearing my grey top, which goes two tones darker if water from any place splashes on to it. I cursed myself for not possessing white tops; for not looking out of the window before stepping out. Mind you, I didn’t even own an umbrella any more.  She took it.

Things for me were odd at present.  I’d been forced to get out of the house I’d shared with her within two weeks of her Houdini act. Not that I minded, but it didn’t give me much choice with what was available on the market.  Anna had offered me her spare room, but I declined, partly on the basis that it was crammed full of Sam’s stuff – and Anna’s posters of men, who made me feel inadequate, hung from the wall. Anna lived in a dream world, a world of overt, extreme optimism, at times. She believed that one day David Tennant would pop by in the TARDIS and ask her to join him back in time somewhere, or that she would become a successful writer, quit her day job and discover that Tom from Kasabian had secretly admired her ability to teach, longed to meet her and wanted to spend the rest of his indie rock star life with her. She hardly ever allowed life to piss her off, but when it did – as it invariably does for most people – Christ, we all knew about it.  She was tough, mentally, and it seemed that nothing phased her. To her detriment, Anna was also very plain-speaking.  Yet strangely, there was something totally affable about her.

When I stepped out of the offy the rain was teeming down.

“Bollocks,” I muttered, and ran back up the road, the bottles clanking as I ran.  If only Dom could see me now…

By the time I reached my front door I was pretty wet though. I rummaged in my pocket for the key only to realise I’d left it in a coat pocket. Bollocks. Meekly, I pulled the string.

Moments later, Anna opened the door.  She was clearly unfocused on me as she simply opened the door without actually opening the door.  She just released the lock. Tutting, I kicked the door lightly with my foot to make the gap wide enough for me to fit through, then shut it with my knee.

My glasses steamed up from the warmth of the room, and Sam popped his head round the door to see who it was.  He looked me up and down slowly (twice), stifled a giggle, then returned to his game. God, he took after his mum.

Wiping my glasses on the sleeve of a (Dom’s) coat that hung by the door so I could see, I walked stiffly into the kitchen. I paused at the door, so I could glean a sense of what they’d been fighting about in the time I’d left them. I was rather bemused to hear Joe Dolce’s one and only hit ‘Shaddup Your Face’ being mentioned by Anna.  Obviously her arguing strategies had reached new heights. I entered the kitchen, attempting to make a drama out of my wetness.

“Raining out there,” I stated, placing the carrier bag on the side. The bottles clanked once more, toppling over on their side. I knew how they felt.

“But what I don’t understand is how you arrived at that conclusion,” Dominic said. I looked at him squarely.  There was no other response than the one I was about to give.

“There is a heavy precipitation falling from the sky.  My clothes, as you can see, are several shades darker than they were when I left.  I am also fucking wet.  That’s how I arrived at that conclusion.” I paused for a moment before realising that neither of them was going to say anything, not even to acknowledge that I had spoken.  I left the room, disgruntled, fed up, fucked off. With life, as well as the weather.

Copyright Gingerbread House

Chapter One: The Trouble With Wigs

Some years ago, I was invited to a work ‘do’ (I feel an interjection is necessary here as I have a huge problem with the word ‘do’ as a noun, when it’s clearly a verb. As a noun it implies that there will cause for something to emerge from the event; something as yet unborn, unnamed, and duly aimed at that certain someone who causes such a stir in one way or another that the ‘do’ will then forever be named in their honour: indelibly, and possibly on the staff toilet cubicle doors) and, not one to enjoy the idea of being labelled as miserable or anti-social (despite being both of these), I agreed. And then I discovered the fancy dress theme…

I’m always wary of people who label themselves as a ‘social secretary’. To my mind, this suggests they have way too much time on their hands and spend many, many hours pondering the sadness of the lives of others and how to offer ways to inject excitement into them. GET A PROPER JOB! The reason I say this with so much venom is that every ‘social secretary’ I have ever met has actually been either hiding an obsessively morbid crush on a colleague, so they concoct a string of ‘socials’ to get them to come along, get them pissed enough to agree on a separate ‘social’ that only involves the two of them; or the fact they have a massive drink problem and invariably end up being the ones after whom the ‘do’ is named on the toilet cubicle door. Plus, the word secretary means a person employed by an individual or in an office to assist with correspondence, keep records, make appointments. As this clearly states, as rubbish as my life may or may not be, I do not require a person to organise my social life as it’s not in the spirit of the definition as laid out here. Nor do I really want any records kept of my social disasters. My memory does enough of that itself…

Anyway, I digress. (Incidentally, I do a fair amount of digressing, so if you’re of a particular constitution whereby you just want to read the story as per the intro, then this blog really isn’t for you.) For this event to be given a fancy dress theme was odd, especially as the venue – a local Indian restaurant – didn’t really offer itself as a venue for a bunch of prats in stupid themed attire. But still, with not much else on the calendar (my secretary had cleared my diary) I cobbled together a suitable outfit for the 70s theme.

Ok, I’ve said ‘suitable’. In fact, it was a minimum fuss, maximum scream at low-level botheredity that saw me in a pair of glittery bootcut trousers that were easily passed off as flares, a tie-dye t-shirt and black-bobbed wig. Don’t ask me why I opted to wear a wig. But I did, and this is why Chapter One is named after the bloody thing.

So, in my attempt to fit in with the themed ‘do’ I left home. On foot. I live on the outskirts of town and had to walk through a substantially busy town centre in this stupid attire. Of course people stared at me. And the staring continued when I arrived at the Indian restaurant – because only four other people had bothered to embrace the spirit of 70s fancy dress. And these were all people who were old enough to have outfits from the seventies that still fitted them. And guess what? The social secretary wasn’t one of them. Fucking bitch.

So, there I was, even more awkward and uncomfortable in my skin than usual. I realised I had one of two choices: turn and run, with everyone staring at me, or find a seat… with everyone staring at me. I chose the latter for fear of repercussions of my disappearing act being talked about at work the following day.

In case you weren’t aware: nylon wigs get progressively itchy as evenings wear on. This one was of no exception. So, I made a decision to find the restaurant loos and remove the wig whilst being extremely aware of then having to address my appallingly flattened wig-hair that lay underneath.

Twenty minutes I was gone. I missed the starters. Some people actually thought I’d left via the toilet window. And all because of a wig.

Then came the awkward line of questioning that followed once I had emerged from the toilets:

“Dodgy bhaji?”

“That lime pickle is a bit potent, isn’t it?”

“Pissed already?”

Not once did I have the temerity to tell them a) I hadn’t had any food yet, and b) no, I wasn’t pissed. As a result, my reputation as a lightweight was established.

I also had the added burden of a wig without a head. Not being a ‘bag person’, I had nowhere to keep it either. Until an idea popped into my head. Off to the toilets again, this time to a sea of shaking heads and rolling eyes.

Moments later, I emerged, wig-free. Happy that I had rid myself of my burden, I set about the business of catching up on the drinking and giving my colleagues something to talk about that was true. That was until someone came over to where I was sitting and asked, “Is this yours? I found it in the sanitary bin.” Yup, she was holding the wig.

So I sighed and took it from her, stuffing it between my legs. I could then only hope that no one dropped an onion bhaji on the floor in my vicinity and suddenly assumed I had extremely wayward and alarmingly bushy pubes.

Several drinks later, I made a second attempt to rid myself of this wig, which I could swear had started growing. So, back in the direction of the toilets I went, again amidst a sea of shaking heads and rolling eyes.

Again, moments later, I emerged in a state of what I deemed to be victorious. For a second time I settled myself into my drinking, trying desperately hard to put some distance between myself and that bastard wig. Until…

“Is this yours? It wouldn’t flush.”

Bollocks. Sighing again, I took the now soaking wig. However, the places I could leave it were now running thin; stuffing it between my legs would not only create the earlier impression of untamed pubes should anyone drop anything under the table, but it would also leave a distinctly unpleasant wet patch, thus creating an additional impression that I’d wet myself.

In the end I decided that leaving it on the floor was the only option. And so what if someone complained to Health and Safety, saying that there was a genetically freakish rat under one of the tables? I wanted someone else to take responsibility for that wig for once.

So, the moral of this story is threefold:

1) never trust a social secretary

2) check that everyone who goes to a fancy dress ‘do’ actually has the intention of going in fancy dress

3) rely on your own hair