(P1) Chapter Seven: Sometimes I wonder who he's picturingMature

“...No one said it’d be this hard”

The young girl had a beautiful mellow voice.  The guitarist with her was the
tone deaf weed from two weeks earlier.  I hadn’t been invited this Thursday by Simon, although I saw on his Facebook status that he would be going “To do a turn.”  Despite the early February chill, I was wearing a short skirt, freshly shaved legs and a top flattering to my meagre bosom.  I had roped by on-and-off friend Alicia into coming with me.  Not because I enjoyed her company, but because I didn’t want to appear to be on my Larry-lonesome.

“But I think we’re here to stay.  I can’t imagine it any other way.”

I was early this evening, Simon hadn’t yet arrived, and whilst Alicia was chatting to a tall pretty boy with a woolly looking, chestnut mop of hair, I was stood tapping the glass around my nearly empty bottle of WKD.  I could see myself in the mirror behind the bar, if I was ever to look stunning, then it would be tonight.  I could see my thick black make-up around my eyes, warm foundation on the skin of my face, and thick seductive red lips as was the fashion back then, and I remember thinking that somebody would notice.  But nobody was noticing me whilst I was with Alicia.

 “No one said it would be easy.  No one thought we’d come this far.”

Yes jealousy is an ugly colour on me, but if I could have her ample breasts, her eyes and her smoking hot curvaceous lower body, then I wouldn’t be tapping my bottle alone in this Spartan crowd.  It came so easy for Alicia, she was born with a body that screamed “Abuse me boys”, whilst I was born with one that whimpered “Please don’t break me.”  In that moment I hated Alicia.  It was completely immature I know, but I could have tipped the scant remains of my bottle all down her body hugging red ‘fuck me’ dress.

“Sometimes I’m wondering who he’s picturing, when he looks at me and smiles.”

There was nothing else for it, I was going to have one more drink, and if Simon hadn’t arrived by the time I was finished, or one of Alicia’s newly attracted entourage didn’t finally gravitate towards me I would leave.  Putting the smile back on my face I turned to face the bartender.

Next to my nearly empty bottle, was a full one.  Underneath it was a small note written in blue ink and unknown handwriting:

T…

Your friend will probably get
it tonight

But only once

I’ll be back up in minute

Having a fag x

S

I looked dumbly around the room, the penny having not yet dropped.  I noticed a
small smile on the pretty ginger barmaids face as she caught my glance.  I smiled with confused lunacy and raised two questioning eyebrows.  She replied with a
humourous shrug and turned to serve a tall man in a leather jacket.  That was my first conversation of the night, grinning and shrugging like a mute mental patient on day release. 

I grabbed the drink and walked down the stairs to the smoking area, although I had a good idea who had bought me the drink I was still surprised to see Simon through the large glass doors, sucking on a roll-up, and swigging out of the bottle of his favourite Newcastle Brown.  It struck me at how innately scruffy Simon generally was, baggy jeans, trainers falling to bits, a black t-shirt with KORN emblazoned across it, and what I began to think of as his signature checked shirt.  This time red, purple and white.  His hair (now jet black, streaked red) unkempt and wild swayed and wriggled in the wind.  His right arm, holding his drink, had a purple tattoo saying “CJW 22-11-06” on this inside of his forearm, his left arm had “GHW 01-06-09” in pink printed above his wrist.  The guy was so disorganised to look at, even
his tattoo’s lacked symmetry.  But there he was animatedly discussing something or other, with someone or other.  He caught me looking and smiled, turning from
his friends he opened the door for me.  I aimed to walk through with feminine dignity, however fate is a jester.  As I stepped through the door, the six inch heel on my stiletto snapped and I pitched awkwardly forward.

Simon caught me before I hit the ground, but he couldn’t prevent me from planting my face forcefully into metal frame of the door that had remained closed.  Rapturous laughter erupted around me from many sources, I suppose it must have looked ridiculous.

“Come on boys; make sure she is ok before you start taking the piss out of her.  That looked like it hurt.”  Although soft with a jovial edge, Simon’s voice contained an unmistakable note of admonishment.  Simon helped me to a wooden bench and sat me down.

I could smell cigarette smoke, and spilt beer around me; I could taste copper in my mouth; I could feel a throbbing and pulsing pain in my cheekbones; and I could see nothing but fluorescent dancing spots.  As the phantom colours faded from my vision, Simon’s scruffy and goofy face swam into vision.

“You OK Toni?”  Stupid bloody question.

“Amazing thanks.”  I spat some blood from my mouth, vaguely aware that I had bitten my tongue.

“You know, you don’t have to fall at my feet, I only bought you a drink.”

“Twat!” I spat a little more blood on the floor, much less than the first mouthful I had released.  Simon chuckled in response before kneeling in front of me to take the broken shoe from my foot.

“You aint half done a good job of this Toni.”  Simon said as he inspected the criminal footwear.  “How’s your face?”  As he asked he took my other shoe from my other foot.

“Better than my pride.  I had better get home.”  I was shaking with cold, and embarrassment.

"Don’t be foolish, you’ll be ok you haven’t done any serious damage.”  He handed me a surprisingly still full bottle of WKD.

“I have no fucking shoes Simon.”

“Ok, fair point, but I didn’t trip you over did I?  No need to snap at me like that.  Wait here.”  Simon stood up, leaving me ashamed.  Ashamed that I swore at Simon, ashamed that I tumbled, and I was ashamed that Simon didn’t get to see me smoking with effeminate sexuality.  I sat there sulking for five minutes, listening to the hubbub of chatter around me, a few laughs at my expense and the odd less-than-genuine inquiry into my wellbeing.

Simon came back from inside the café brandishing a pair of garish white and green trainers.  Confused I shook my head at him.     

“How did you get a pair of trainers from a café?”  It must have tickled Simon at how
completely dumbfounded I had looked and sounded, because his smile widened into
the grin of a man stifling a laugh.

“Nikki, the barmaid has rented them to me for the evening.  She will need them back
before she goes home.  At least you can stay?”

“Rented?”  I inquired.

"Ah, I could tell you.  But I would have to kill you.”  Simon winked at me and knelt down to put the trainers on my feet.  They were a little bit big, and looked a ridiculous pair of shoes to go with my sexy outfit.  That wouldn’t have bothered Simon anyway; his attire was hardly the sort of outfit that would have pleased the fashion police.  “Perfect, the red tongue of these beauties matches your cheeks.” 

“Nice!” I tried to maintain an irritated demeanour, but the comedy of the situation was beginning to dawn on me.  Cursing fate I sat up straighter and watched as Simon lit another roll up.  He blew the smoke straight upwards to avoid blowing it at me; the evil smelling smoke rose up like a ghost and spread so thin it could no longer be seen in the purple dark. 

“Where’s Rob?”  I asked.

“You know one day I might get a ‘thanks’ out of you.  You know thanks for buying
me this drink, thanks for catching me as I fell, or thanks for selling your soul to get me some comfortable footwear Simon. Rob isn’t coming tonight, I am going to play on my own.”  Although his admonishments sounded only like jesting, I realised I had been incredibly rude to an incredibly helpful guy.

“I’m sorry.  Thanks for drink, shoes, etcetera.”  I looked goofily at him as he offered his hand to me to help me up from the bench.  The chilly night pressed against my throbbing face as he gently directed me forward.  As we reached the door, he opened it for me.

"Mind your step.” 

“Piss off.”  He chuckled a warm reply.  I glided through with infinitely more grace
than I had done twenty minutes earlier.  For brief moments we moved in silence towards the stairs in the spacious lobby, nodding to the smiling doorman.  A
new voice had the microphone upstairs, a man singing another song that I didn’t
recognise.

“No harm, no life, no love.  No stranger singing in your name.”

“This is a wicked song.”  Simon said very matter-of-factly, as we stood on the first step.  I grabbed the white metal handrail as we walked up towards to the fluttering lights.

“When are you playing?”  I asked as we made it to the fourth step.

“I think I am on next.  I like playing on my own sometimes, I get to play songs that nobody knows, and perform only for me.  It’s nice sometimes to think selfishly as you play.”  We had reached the tenth step.  Only two more steps before I would have to share Simon with the rest of the Café.

“Long road to ruin, there in your eyes.  Under the cold streetlights.”

I stopped one step before the top and looked directly at him, scanning his eyes for something, unsure what it was I wanted to see, but I wanted to know why he bought me the drink, caught me when I fell, and ‘rented’ me the shoes.  Instead I observed just two green, beautiful and contented orbs staring back at me.  Staring into me. 

“That note.  You’re saying you want to get into my friend?”  Of course that is what he
wanted; he’s a twenty first century man; she’s a smoking hot young slut.  He bought me that drink so that I would introduce them and they could go and have some very messy and squishy sex.  Simon’s face lit up as he laughed in responseand shook his head.

“No mate.” (Ouch) “I have no interest in your…er…friend.”  He drained the last of
his drink and we started to walk toward the bar.

“So what was it about then?”  Confused I matched him step for step in these stupid trainers.  He slipped his arm around my waist as he glided to the other side of me to get closer to the bar.  The ginger barmaid came toward him grinning as Simon pointed to my bottle and his own.  He then motioned for two shots of something
red.

“I noticed the dark green and thunderous look on your mush as those boys were dribbling down your friends dress, that is obviously at least one size too small. 
It’s so small; she’s had to come out without any under-crackers.”  He smiled as once again I obviously looked stupefied.  “There’s no sign of a waist band underneath that stupidly tight second skin of hers.”  Ginger barmaid brought over the drinks, putting a shot in front of me next to my bottle.

“How’s those trainers?”  I wondered if she had any other facial expression other than that stupid grin.

“They’re fine thanks, are they yours?”  She nodded and turned to serve another customer.

“No tomorrow, no dead ends.”

"It was nice of her to loan you her shoes for me.”  I said simply.  “So you’re not interested in Alicia then?”

“Look, she’s drowning in attention over there with those inexperienced teenagers. 
Not one of them could get it up for longer than five minutes, and none of them are interested in anything more than her physical assets.  I know that she isn’t a woman of substance, one of those poor boys will learn that in the morning, after the best twenty minutes of their comparatively short lives.”  He frowned slightly as he talked.  I should have defended Alicia at this point, but I was intrigued by
Simon, and his thoughts.     

“I don’t follow, what you mean she isn’t a woman of substance?”

“Well, look two female friends walk into a bar together, to get into one of those girls a man usually has to engage both friends in conversation.  Girls come in together, go to the loo together, go to the bar together and look for men together.  You two have walked in together, and she has gone straight for the testosterone.  She’s in competition with you, pure and simple.”  Simon spoke sense in a way, all my other girl friends would have stuck with me, our night would have been fun talking girl talk, and drinking girl drinks. Damn Alicia didn’t even know that I somersaulted into a door less than half an hour ago.

“I am not sure you’re being fair.  She’s been through a hard time with men recently.”

“I am not surprised.  Here’s a prediction, she’ll get into a taxi with the curly-haired lad, go home and fuck him.  For ten minutes it will feel like love for her, until the morning when she wakes up and has nothing in common with him, nothing to say to him apart from the customary little lies we tell all of our one night stands.”

“Wow, you’re bitter aren’t you?”

“Nope, I’m just observant.  You’re standing at the bar nursing a drink whilst your friend flaunts herself to all and sundry, being tolerant, jealous, but very quiet.  At that moment I walk in and think you are the most beautiful thing I have seen all day.  You don’t need to be jealous Toni; you don’t need the night she’s having.  Her
happiness is temporary.”  The microphone called his name out, intruding what was just turning into a warm and wonderful conversation, with a warm and understanding man.  Simon winked at me, took a large swallow of his drink, and turned to the stage.

Once again he sat down, a completely different Simon.  The Simon that he pretended to be, whilst he held a guitar, gazed wistfully into the audience and
announced that he wanted to sing a song for a friend (ouch) of his.  He said my name, and stared straight into my eyes.

 “I was tired of waiting, playing all the games and, living in a place that was not
for me.”

I looked around the room slightly abashed by his announcement, only to see ginger barmaid looking at me with a slightly miffed frown.  She caught me looking at
her, and resumed grinning like a demented Meerkat.  Alicia was looking involved heavily in tonsil tennis with the young curly haired boy.  Lucky him. 

“If I run to you, will you hold me in your arms forevermore?  If I run to you, will you hold me in your arms forevermore?”

I looked toward the stage as he sung these words, only to find his green eyes gazing straight into mine.  I can’t describe the look on his face, there is no word in the English language for it, but it felt like he was singing those words only for me.  It felt like he wanted me to answer his melodious questions.  It was hypnotising,
numbing and exquisite to watch and listen to him sing to me, over a crowd of
rapt and salivating young women.  The scruffy little man had everyones attention, but I had his, and all of a sudden it didn’t matter what clothes he wore, or how unkempt his hair was.  Simon owned this room, and everyone in it; including me.

“Though I don’t deserve it, I know it’s unheard but, living here without you my life is done.”

Although the room was dark, and all the soft reds and greens of the stage lights were pointed toward Simon, it felt like there was a powerful spotlight on me.  Only Simon could see me, he performed so powerfully.

"If I run to you…”

I drank his performance deeply, swallowing the words and making them meaningful in my mind.  I was giddy again, focused upon this enigmatic man.  It did hurt a little though; he is so all encompassing and mesmerising whilst on stage, but off stage he speaks to me like a friend.  I couldn’t put the humourous jester, the analytical mind, and this mysterious musician together into the same body.  It was dizzying to try and work out what Simon was really thinking.  Am I just a tool for his performance? 

“Nowhere to run to, and no one to turn to I’m dying out here on my own.  And long before I even thought of returning your arms are wide open waiting for me to come home.”

Even if I was just a tool for his performance, I couldn’t fight the feeling inside that he was singing directly to me.  I was rooted to the spot, eyes (and mouth) wide open and gaping inanely at him as he finished this remarkable song.  I have heard that snakes can hypnotise their prey rendering them motionless and powerless, oh my god I was powerless. 

The next two songs by without event, and I turned to the barmaid and bought myself and Simon a round, this time with green apple flavoured shots.  Ginger said
nothing to me this time and passed the drinks to me with a deflated attempt at
a smile.  I looked toward the stage as Simon gave the acoustic guitar back to its owner and walked toward me, pulling tobacco out from his pocket and rolling a cigarette.  Wading through a sea of people clapping his back, throwing him momentous praise made it difficult for him to move back towards me, but he smilingly struggled his way through the ardour and fervor back to my side.

"My god you’re awesome.”  Yes I know, what a thing to say, but the loony mix of alcohol and rapt fever had rendered me almost mute again.     

“Glad you approve.  Is that mine?”  Simon pointed to the shot of green liquid.  I nodded and pushed it toward him.

“Thank you mate” (OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH)

“Did you write those songs?”  I tried to desperately ignore the sinking feeling within my stomach and focus on the performance.

“No, I did a bit of professional thievery.  I hardly ever play my own material, I don’t think people like it.”  Simon clinked our shot glasses together and threw the liquid down his neck.  I chuckled as he shivered involuntarily as the sour taste of apples, and vicious bite of the alcohol assaulted the inside of his mouth and throat.

“You going for a smoke then?” 

“Yes, are you coming?”

“No it’s just the way I’m standing.”

“My god it has a sense of humour.”  Simon put his warm and sweaty arm around my
shoulder as we walked to the stairs and down to the smoking area.  I spent the rest of the evening with Simon talking and laughing, Alicia and moppy-locks had disappeared, probably to a club, or to bed, or both.  I didn’t care anymore, I was having the time of my life with a disheveled guitarist, and not caring in the slightest who could see me.  This was definitely good for the gander.  Countless minutes swam by, at times I was bent over struggling to breathe through the laughter, others I was up dancing and shouting along with the music, the rest of the time I was locked in conversation with Simon.  But all nights had to end.

As last orders were called Simon sat me on a bench and took the trainers from me and instructed me to stay on the bench.  He was gone for about ten minutes, returning smiling to me.  I wonder what the look on my face was like, I was just in awe of this man, I wished there were another twenty hours in a day.  I just sat looking at him as got on his haunches before me, then turned around.

“On you get!”

“What?”

“Piggy-back.  I’m getting you to a cab, there’s puddles all over the town and we have thrown your broken shoes away.”  Simon bounced comically on the balls of his feet as he waited for me to clamber on board.  The bloke was such an idiot, sprinting at times, spinning around really fast at others, but reliable he was.  He placed me into a taxi and stepped out.

“You fancy coming back for a cup of coffee Simon?”

“Any other night I would happily take you up on that offer.  But I have to go and
pay my rent.”  Simon kissed me on the cheek and with a strange look in his eyes he closed the taxi door.  I looked at him confused as the taxi pulled away.

Simon stood watching the taxi until it turned out of view.

The End

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