Caledonia Review - Scotland's international journal of new fiction Caledonia Review - Scotland's international journal of new fiction.....  












Ronnie James


Earlier today I woke up fucking trashed, half hanging fae the couch, my head nearly dunked in a cereal bowl of milk, the door making a racket. ‘Fuck’s this!’ I’d woken up, my head clearing sharpish, some wanker’s fist punching on the glass panel. The guy who greeted me I’d never clapped eyes on.
‘I’m Kieran,’ he said in a sharp Irish tongue. This was one ugly fucker mark you, no said because I’m a Rangers fan, but because he had a horrible face. Large, misshapen front teeth sticking out of thick, nosy lips, a kind ay dirtiness on his skin. The immediate impression was weasel.
‘Whit’s the idea wae the bangin?’
‘Nicky told us t’ chap loud eh, you’d be out for t’ count.’
I’d examined this character, his loose Adidas polo shirt unbuttoned at the neck, a gold chain with a St Christopher’s, a pack of smokes in his hand. Rourke had sent him through as a favour, he was asking for some pills for a big party in East Kilbride that night, someone’s eighteenth. I’d taken him upstairs and rummaged. He made me nervous though. He was new on the estate and takin no crap, he’d come from Derry or some shite, and I couldn’t phase him with my hard look, he knew I was small time. I got to engaging him as he made himself at home on the bed sheets.
‘How’d you know Nicky?’
‘Nah,’ he said, ‘I only met today, he was with some folk I know.’
The ugly fucker was like some lion exhausted after feeding time on the bedspread so I bagged his shit and he paid me ten-spot light. ‘I’ll get you next time,’ I said as he went out the door to start up his motor, barely hearing me. I wondered if he’d fucked over Feelie as well or whether Feelie would stand for it. Then I’d pulled on some jeans and went to meet Fiona. We’d got together last year and I liked to fuck about with her on Sundays when everyone was vegetating and bankrupt from the weekend.
Around three we’re up the calder, she’s on her back, her cardigan under her head on the grass, and I’m smoking, blowing streams ay grey over the farmland below the current mound we’re on. Scott disny like our set up, says Fiona’s a tramp cause she let Lowis put it in her mouth when she was fifteen. I can remember us congratulating him, patting his back, telling him if he’d come she wouldn’t introduce him to her parents. I sit down and she pouts, conveying her desire for a drag. I put it between her lips and she waterfalls the smoke vertically.
‘We’re no really cut oot for this crap,’ I tell her, checkin her reaction.
‘What d’you mean?’
‘We should get on a waiting list and move.’
She looks at my trainers mournfully. ‘I like it here.’
‘Fuck off.’
‘Whit? It’s true.’
‘Do you fuck, this is garbage and you know it.’
See, Fiona and me live just on the outskirts ay the scheme, the gang territory. Her da’s a chartered accountant and my own parents both work in retail. They’re in Goa on holiday just now but my uncle who lives next door’s been eagle-eyein the house like a motherfucker keeping the clips on me. I’m moody and tryin tae persuade her.
‘I’m chuckin sellin. It’s nae good. They nearly caught me last week, I was there wae the full whack up my duke.’
She giggles and rolls on her side, catching breath. ‘You’re makin more money than in that fuckin call centre.’
‘I can make okay money there if I’m no wasted. Anyway I’m gonna try that intern thing wae ma da.’
‘I thought you needed a degree?’
She’s squirming, and I know for her it’s way different. She’s not using but for the occasional draw or E to liven up a club, and round here she’s got her harem all interested in being hairdressers and goin to college once they tire of playing with the bad guys. She’s peaceful layin still after the quiet and it’s hard to bother her like that.
‘Anyway, why’d you want to go on a waiting list, they’d just put us in another midden of a place. At least we’re no in Tollcross right now.’
‘Near enough,’ I sigh.
‘Wait. Wait Mark, we’re still young.’
Her face lightens, she gets up, and I push her back down. I get on my hunkers and press my lips on her, going under her wee aqua Roxy shirt. She’s put on a bit of cuddle but I like it, and her tits are quite crammed, roughly the shape and fullness of a wine glass. Her small, worried eyes are closed, I get to finish and feel lousy man, terrible. It’s a slicing cold and we break up, I go back to the house and tidy, that fucker has a key, the uncle. Jamie’s at the Bells and I should stroll over to make some dough on the pool tournament, since my empty inbox means no cunts are buying.

I’d been off the ball for a while and it was making me nervous. I didn’t feel sharp, and every time I ventured through to the estate I felt vulnerable and on-guard, hiding my hands in the hoody and trying to deflect attention.
Today I went across to the protestant school and hung about at the gates. There’s no action, start of the week is usually slow. So fuck it, I catch a McKindless bus and see if anything’s going on at the catholics. I get some eyes, lose a light load on two third-years, one of them calling himself G and I’ve heard the name.
‘Don’t mention me to any cunt,’ he says, and I tell him, ‘Nae damage, my man.’
Real work’s at five, I’m PT in Scottish Power doing the inbound calls. It’s minimum effort but I have to take it easy during the day as the manager’s got a disciplinary against me for chewin up a customer ragin about caps on energy usage.
Chrissy is in, and telling me about pumping some bird from uni. ‘I’m dreadin turnin twenty though.’
‘How?’ I ask.
‘Cause you can’t get away with shagging virgins anymore.’
I look at him and say his code of ethics are stuff of legend.
‘Aye,’ he accepts this, gratified, ‘you can talk.’
Chrissy’s on a finance course, and havin only met him when I started this job six month ago, I feel closer to him than any of the boys I grew up with through primary and high. I sell some of them coke and they bring me to house parties sayin, ‘Look at her, a half ounce and she’s aw yours.’ Now and again me and C go into town, neither of us really inebriated, me riding shotgun in his souped-up Fiesta with the twin exhaust, our chat-up lines purely physical as we snatch at girls on the dance floor like they had banknotes safety pinned to their waists. Though clean-livin and pretty teetotal, Chrissy enjoys a fight, and now and then we have to scrap it out, usually outnumbered, the end of the night short bursts of conversation in the car parked outside his father’s duplex, the odour of sweat being chased away by high air-con.
‘Scotland’s fuckin shite,’ he says. ‘We should move tae fuckin…Venice Beach.’
I tell him when I get a big score I’ll cut him in, we’ll fill the tank, just piss off. If Fiona’s game she can come, but I never picture it, she’s in Tollcross with the bricks, her whole family loving their neighbourhood too much to consider the shitehole spread out beyond the fringes of the chipseal pavements.
‘You should cut yourself oot, no cut me in,’ he says, lookin at me like maybe it’s time for the night to end. It’s no an ideal arrangement, but I ignore it, get him to drop me at Mr Singh’s after work. It’s late and I’m lookin down each end of the road, fingering the belt holding the Topman trousers on my hips, tryin to prove something to myself. Eventually I sprint home, the grit bouncing behind my heels, and someone hollers from a third-floor window but I’m offski, gone.

My cousin Connor comes through fae Cumbernauld the night before the family’s due back, which is bad luck as I’d had the house squared-up and my stash hid, all set for their return. So we stay upstairs in my room, order in a pizza. I’m at the PC playing iTunes, creatin an atmosphere, some rap and dance tunes. We split a crate of Miller and polish a half-dozen each, until I get a call. Connor’s no very streetwise so I tell him to untuck his T-shirt and let his chain out. ‘You act like there’s rules, a dress code,’ he scowls.
‘You don’t know the half ay it. You got a blade as well?”
Colour swings out his face. ‘A blade?’
‘Aye. Don’t tell me you dinnae bring one.’
‘You serious?’
‘It’s a fuckin Friday night, man!’
I finally crack up when he’s fumbling through the cutlery drawer, throwing away ice cream scoopers and can openers. ‘You can fuck right off!’ he sprays, and we go out, make a left then a right straight into Potter, bullet country.
Some lassie fae school is havin a party, her mother and father in Marbella. This gives Daz amusement when we get up to him outside the barbers’, standin wae a smile on his face. ‘He’s a screw as well,’ he chuckles.
It’s here we meet more folk, Adam, Pearson, Billy. I introduce Conrad around like he’s a new tattoo and he sticks to me like whiplash. Billy takes Foley’s money at chippy and they get a Chinese before we invade Lindsay’s. It’s a yellow bungalow style brick house a fifteen minute jaunt away, near Fullerton Park. Pearson accepts a gram and pays me partly in 02 top-up cards he ripped off Phones 4U.
Turns out I can’t even remember this lassie Lindsay, but she tells me we took standard grade geography the gither. ‘You used to fall asleep in class,’ she laughs, lookin down towards me, me feelin twice as small as normal. ‘Want a drink?’
The hallway’s narrow and a daido rail runs along underlining photographs; the old copper in the day job get up, Lindsay on a skiing trip, some generic group ones. We funnel into the livvy, crowded, and I spy Adam hanging back and lifting up their house phone. He winks; probably calling his cousin in Australia, the mad bastard.
The livvy’s busied by girls and a few boys I don’t recognize, who stiffen up when we push our way in. The kitchen’s better. Johnny’s in there at the gateleg table smoking, and Lindsay’s got the back door shoved open, voices audible outside also. We get to drinking and I make some quick money doing the rounds. It’s a piece of pish wae the old school chums and girls I pretend to remember, laughing when they recount fondest recollections of the fuckin shitehole institution. Connor’s eyes double in size as I work the place, ‘Aye okay, you savvy bastard.’
‘I’m supplyin demand mate, that’s it.’
‘Sure,’ his mouth clasped on a bottle of Bucky, kinda enjoyin now the novelty of the night. Nothing much else til about midnight. The boys bicker about the Champion’s League, problems finding work, solutions to these problems: the few who are still in high school, who didn’t drop out, are tortured but envied in equal measure. Me and Connor sit out the back after a while, he’s keen on this fancy lookin college bird who’s fronting him it big time, letting him rest his hand on her kneecap. Fiona’s unreachable on her mobile and I’m kinda starin back through the door at the cluttered kitchen counter, unsure what I’m lookin for. It always happens when there’s girls about, I have to phone her up, we’re like that, boys, we just get fuckin sentimental man, people don’t think we do, but we do, we’re fuckin under the thumb, most of us.
When I go back into the house, forty minutes later, it’s because my cousin’s went off with that slag and someone’s spilt a big dollop of Gordon’s Gin on the cream shagpile rug. Lindsay’s flipping her lid, but she’s over it in a couple of minutes, and her older sister drops by, we fire into her with smartarse lines and compliments. By twelve most people are bevvied. We hear some commotion outside and I plank my stash in a cupboard beneath the sink. But it’s no screws.
When a few of us get outside into the street we see Ants and Kyle, they’re messed up and screamin injustice. Ants is older than us by a couple years, we all used to look up to him when he went to St. Andrew’s and turfed it out for us. ‘Whit’s the problem?’ Daz asks, smooth as felt.
‘Bring Lowis oot here! Ah know he’s in there. That fucker’s been spreadin shit about me.’
‘Calm doon, Ants.’
‘Just bring him oot.’
I wasny in the mood for shit. I ducked back inside the bungalow and told Lowis the situation. He was pissed, but mostly afraid, and I sat with him to boost his confidence. The reality was I knew Ants would bounce both our heeds together like it was a comic book scene. Johnny defused it and ended up drivin off wae them; they were more his crowd anyway. We were just pleased to get some fuckin peace.
When it’s cool I pocket my shit and call up the hall for Connor. He’s nowhere to be seen, and Adam’s stepping up to me, ‘Come on, sit doon,’ the glass thrust under my nose smellin rank, fecund. I do it to shut him up, then squirm away when he’s nipping some girl his age I went to nursery with.
The bus takes me to near enough her street, battling Friday night traffic, rash and horn-happy. Her house is blacked out. I chap five times with power. Nothing. I slouch away, lifting my hood up, wander over to the woods behind her complex. Everything here is leftovers; brown leaves that’ve worked their way out of the trees, shrivelled and bundled on the ground, an old milk carton, a baseball cap. I balance on the edge, the lights fae the street lamps behind me brightenin the trees. Get a smoke there and chill, trotting back to the house only when Conrad phones up. I’m at the door when his taxi pulls in, his mouth open, laughing, as he climbs out. He’s got a cheeseburger in one hand from the drive-thru, and the fact that he instructed the driver to take a detour, a detour that’d cost him money, means he’s happy.
When we’re back in the room, from his inflatable bed, in his sleeping bag, I can see his eyes open reflecting the amber yard light. ‘I nailed her,’ he gives a grin, ‘I fucking nailed her.’

Stacy is standing in the rain arguing with her mum. It’s actually hailstones, spiked like golf tees, and I tell her to leave it. Her mum slams across the glass window and the van slopes down to the opposite end of the street, its theme tune a merry Rock-A-Bye-Baby disturbing the silence. I don’t see her much, couple times a month when she tracks me down lookin for a handout or knockdown deal for old time’s sake. ‘Ah need you,’ she’d say in that piteous voice, and I’d feel that flash of guilt, the cumulative feeling of our separateness or some shite.
She had grown up in Cathcart and moved here three years ago, acquaintin herself with the pushers and dopers fae the off, but she was okay. She’d been dealt bad cards, that was it. We used to be close for a period, I sorted this crackhead who was trying to put her skinny arse on the street. I’d sneak into her room and we’d bad mouth at the creeps who lived on the block, forcing ourselves to feel detached. Once she got drunk and hit me, a punch, square on the chest, storming out and smashing a framed glassed photograph of our family, all grins, me in a kilt, and I knew we’d come from two polar extremes, that it wasn’t meant.
Later Jordan got with her, and I made myself feel sound about it, even when she turned up to school, standing awaiting twos at the smoker’s corner with purple bruises decorating the soft flesh of her arms. She got herself a flat after school, a one-bedroom set up near the leisure centre, but she kept getting into problems. She’d leave the stove on and blacken the ceiling or forget to lock up and awaken with the microwave or armchair missing. But she was always the optimist. She hangs about with a bunch of numpties fae roundabout Sandyhills, the flats, I don’t know them; Danny claims the guy she’s often with is a razor man. He’s good at knowing that type ay stuff, through knocking shoulders with Johnny.
She nabbed me this time as I stepped off the 255 bus, ran across from the street from Co-op and tied me in a cuddle. ‘Where you been?’ I’d said. ‘I thought I seen you on Crimewatch.’
‘Shut up,’ she laughs and nuzzles to me. I offer her a smoke but she wants to buy, she says, as she takes it, clamps on it dry. ‘Ma maw’ll gie me money.’
When the tally van her maw ran rolled away, its exhaust pipe defecatin smoke that darkened the road, she grabbed my arm. ‘Come oan, you’re flush int you?’
‘Stacy, you look sick. Are you sick?’
‘Naw, I’m no sick.’ She pulled away like she got a backhander. ‘Why’re you here anywiy?’
I light her up. ‘Got a collection.’
‘Aw, yer a thug int ye, a thug.’
We sit on the kerb and she tries tae enjoy the fag, I can see her trying to squeeze permanence out it. It’s fucking hopeless, I’ve did the same thing when I’ve been skint. She does it a bit like me, only she shuts her eyes ower.
‘Who owes ye?’
‘Ah, he’ll dodge it. Ah seen the provvy at his door earlier an he told them he’s pratted.’
‘I’ll break him in half.’
It’s never for long. I put a few crumbs in her hands, literally – she’ll have a hard time no singeing herself when it comes to burning into a joint. She kisses me on the cheek.
Sometimes she’ll try it on, but I’m no interested. We’re like drowned rats shielding our cigarettes fae the rain wae our heads lowered and our hands hiding them. We find a bus shelter and she’s nippin my arms, pointing out aw the Mondeos going by on the road. After she’s left I think about my first time: it was with her, in her maw’s house, she wis out at the Bingo and I’d demolished a half bottle before sliding over to her side of the couch, the auld eyes lowering down her whole body without a backup plan. Ah’d told Francis Grady in secret and in a week the whole fuckin team knew. It was nice though, for a while, kind of positive and no worrying about losing it constantly, but after I thought to myself somethin’s finished here, somethin’s changed and stopped and that’s it, fucked.
About one week later we’d been queuing for a class outside and I was playing it cool with the boys, lined up havin a puff before the teachers came out. She’d been standin about twenty feet away and somehow an argument she’d been having with some girl escalated, in a minute they were entwined on the deck, a tangle of arms and legs like bent paperclips, and vicious punches going back and forth. I’d been in fucking shock, rooted to the spot, as they ravaged each other, for minutes, amid cheers and swears. They finished up, got torn apart. Stacy had come off worse, her hair split, frayed, unfolded madly like a new head born from under her skull, and she’d stared at me, bedraggled, for as long as it took the queues to file in. I sat on the techy bench, a fucking block ay wood fashioned into a sailboat in my fist, and the puke had started as an ache in my sides, ended as orange matter among the shavings on the floor.
The stories are all the fucking same.

A big match was on, an international. Scotland against some other lowly nation, the Faroe Islands or some crap. The tartan army (which I’ve always thought wis more like a squad, mixed of two main divisions, a bit like the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) were out in force in the toon, jimmy hats and that, sporrans. I didn’t give a fuck but I’d went in to meet Foley and them, they were in The Goose in Union Street. The bouncers wouldn’t let me in though, too jam packed. Fuck. I go over to St Enoch’s and buy a pie then walk towards the Tron, a bit peeved. It’s no so good. I’m on my tod and see that character from the old school, Baird. He legs it after me and I try and get rid of him on the road, sprintin near enough into traffic, their horns goin mental, but the bastard chances it. We get back on the pavement and I’m prayin for some screws, the fuckers are never there when you need them. The Celtic club’s got no doormen, know the one opposite the Barrowlands, so I crash in, barely any breath left, and scream, ‘A fuckin hun’s chasin me!’
Luckily there’s some right bold cunts in, big, thick-necked geezers who want to find out for themselves. They step ootside and I hear, ‘Aye, aye, whit you wantin Billy?’ and Baird’s curses. Something about me. I barely know the guy, just one of those things. You hang about with folk in school, and they dislike other folk, and there’s some scraps and all the rest of it, but when you leave you want to leave that behind, it’s finito. Baird gets chased on this occasion, chased back into my past.
In the end up I befriend a couple of Irish guys, every time I laugh at their tales really thinkin about their reactions if they knew I was proddy. They bring us to a taxi rank after the game (an anticlimax, fuckin draw) and it’s squared away, the afternoon, with a bit of luck.


The wages had came in but all was quiet. I’d had a headache all day and only came downstairs for cereal and when the old dear made dinner. Our house is a fair size, probably cost about a hundred k to buy outright, with three bedrooms and a decent sized garden with patio and that, a drive. Walk five minutes away and you’re keeping douts in your ears, know whit I mean.
I was on my bed, the iTunes playing, looking out the window at the impressive oak tree in the third neighbour down’s back garden. I locked the door and rolled a few, deodrifying the smell with Lynx after. My da had been a smoker at my age but he never dealt. He told me a natural high was better. He’s quite a butch man, my da, and he works the free weights to pump up his chest and arms. One of my mates, Queen, is like the son my da fucking never had, and when I bring him over they’re nonstop chattin shit about muscles and exercise and fuck knows whit.
‘See, whit these young yins don’t realize,’ my da says, rubbing his paws together, ‘is that the boys in the gym doing proper lifting are going out on the Friday and Saturday nights with a much better feeling than they get on the coke. Your body releases endorphins when you work out and it’s like being wired so it is, but it’s perfectly natural. You’ll do well, Queen.’
He always called him Queen rather than David. He was the only friend of mine my father addressed by surname, and I think it was almost a mark of respect.
I wolfed the food and got ready. Unwell or no it was the weekend and getting on for nine. When I’m in tracksuit bottoms and a Karl Kani sweatshirt I fuck off up the road to the Indian restaurant around the corner. Tonight it’s neither warm or cold and it doesny look like it’ll rain but who knows. I’m no up for sellin ought the night but I’ve got three joints on me to smoke.
I walk about for a while before I see Feelie, a fellow tradesman. The cunt has a plant room in his flat even, it reeks of money. He’s tuned to the moon and doesny know what I’m talking about when I mention Kieran the paddy. He’s just back from the calder and saying we should go find some Shettleston boys to scrap with. ‘Have a good yin,’ I tell him, strollin away. The buses passing by are full of people going up the dancing.
The calder’s always mobbed on nights like this. It’s where the evening starts, everyone sober, eager, with a clean face and a quick mouth, and if there’s no party or plan it’s sometimes where we end up by 2 a.m., sprawled about and nippin our birds or playin pound coin poker, a few fad Beechy introduced.
I don’t go immediately, head for Jamie’s and chap until there’s no answer. Then I equip myself with a glass bottle of Red Kola, just in case, since I’m solo. I find Billy up the dump by himself, lookin for a prized toy from his childhood his maw flung out. We don’t find it, the cunt’s practically distraught. ‘She’s a bitch man, a bitch,’ he keeps repeating, and in the pub, when I hesitantly pass him a beer, he’s all, ‘She’s a bitch, a slut.’
Everyone is standing around when me and Billy show up. They don’t look so fresh the now, but tired, slow, even sickly. Adam’s in his own world, smashing up the paving under his feet with a mallet, Daz is out as well, he’s wearin the new Spanish football tracksuit. He’s like, ‘You’re lookin good the night, whit’s the matter?’ and when I see Jamie’s face I know something’s off. He’s standing straight up smoking a fag, and no giggling and playacting like he usually does, the puffer jacket making him look like some awkward, solitary bear in the wilderness.
‘Whit’s up?’
‘You’ll no like it,’ Jamie says, husky from the infection in his throat. ‘Feelie fucked your bird.’
His new Peugeot sits in the carpark round the corner, opposite Dalton’s pub, its lower fender obscured by streaks ay mud. I’m kind of numb and whit my old dear would call ‘all in a dither’. The headlights penetrate the stuffy darkness of the back roads, fences, scree, brambles and that. Good thing about Jamie is he doesny speed, and it’s just as well since maybe I should think about this. On cue, as though reading my thoughts, Jamie says, ‘Whit you thinking ay dain?’
We get to my house and the lights are out. They usually go for a drink round that fucking posh wine bar further up the road. I root out the Fungo baseball bat I got in Florida from my cupboard and wield it out into the drive, no shy about letting any cunt see, my good sense a bit frazzled by now. Jamie’s panicked. ‘Whit happened?’ I ask him.
‘Fucked if ah know. He wis off his nut an ah think she’d had a pill, but wis awright. She wis okay like, brand new. He wis bein a bit wide wae it, actin ten men. He kidded on he wis feelin up Danny, sayin ‘come oan big boy, ah know you swing that wiy,’ and Danny manhandled him. Then next hing ah see is him an Fiona walk aff the gither, an he’s back telling us he…know?’
‘How’d naebody tell me?’
He turns on the engine for the heater. ‘Ah think only me and Pearson heard him.’
Fiona’s phone goes to Voicemail a couple times, my hands are shaking man. Jamie’s making a song and dance about heatin up his hands, like it’s somethin worth my undivided attention. Eventually I get her and she’s greeting down the phone, it’s gibberish. ‘Whit? Whit you sayin? Fiona? Hey? Whit’s the score?’ I strain hard. She’s cut up and blubberin, even Jamie’s cranin his neck, cocking an ear to make sense ay it.
I hear ‘-he forced me.’
Jamie knows to start the car.


Once we get there though I just sit there. Jamie kills the engine and the lane’s barren, most of the lights on in the apartments, the streetlamps pulsing. I look at his flat on the ground floor, a single light on. The basey rests on the floor, erect, cushioned on my thigh. Jamie’s cool, he understands. Because although he belongs more to them than me, neither ay us are really cut out for this carry on. Not only are we under resourced (Feelie’s contacts bein a sizeable crew compared to our own) but we just havny got the bottle. My fucking brain hurts, Fiona’s ringing and I’m dingying it, the Usher ringtone a pain.
I lean my cheek against the cold glass window and punch the glove compartment. Then the waterworks threaten to split open man, it’s the absolute worst. I bring my head up and listen for footsteps, other motors. Then I hurry out the door, jog around the garden railings. I’m at the living room window and bring the meaty leg of the bat over my shoulder, a sudden thrust. It batters into the glass and it rattles, the glass, breaking into different parts. Jamie ignites the engine. I polish off the main square window so all glass is removed. There’s busted beer bottles in the abrupt space acting as a front lawn, in the weeds. I walk along the house front and direct the bat towards the bathroom window. It obliterates, shards in all di-regions. Someone’s in there, I can hear them breathing in the hall, debating whether to come out with a machete or crowbar. No more. I’ve had enough. Jamie’s hoarse and trembling as he slides the motor into reverse, dumbfounded as he takes us around the corner and tucks into the filing traffic, and finally motionless when we stop in an empty Sainsbury’s carpark seven miles away.

She stepped forwards into the night when I appeared at her door. We didny touch each other, but her sequential blinking indicated that she was nervous. When we walked indoors the place was threadbare, a pigskin settee, alcove, Persian carpet. She lowered herself down, sitting with her legs crossed. It was plain and obvious that she was drunk, and her make-up had been shoddily administered, the paleness on her neck bridging the tan sleek of her jaw line. I stuck the kettle on but when it clicked off, boiled, I was in the livvy with her, her head on my lap and some trashy late-night current affairs programme on the screen. ‘Are you awright?’ I kept askin, but she just snuggled her face close, like she was refusing to watch a horror movie. Jamie’s car hadn’t moved, but after some time I heard its engine crank, whatever patience or loyalty he had left vanishing, the headlights smeared like lipstick across the pink curtains coverin the windows. Soon she is dreamin, her feet jutting out, the toes prising apart from one another. It seems uncomfortable, but I like to think she’s picturing the future, bright and optimistic, ignoring her eyes which violently flicker, holding as she shudders, and when I wake her up it’s light outside, her face turns. ‘Today,’ she seems to say.




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