I realised whilst applying my foundation and lipstick that I would rather not go to this party with Alicia and Josh. Simon had been right about the utter fakery Alicia represented, and I didn’t need to compete with her. Alicia was born with it, so fucking what? I had something else, and tonight I was going to convince Simon that he could use it. His story is sad, yes I get it, and his ex-partner whosoever she may be has treated him pretty appallingly, so fucking what? Tonight is a party, and I would rather go with Nikki. One morning in her company and I felt so relaxed. Her talk was like coffee: stimulating, rich and honest. She had told me that she would be there tonight, and that if I saw her to “Just jump and join her,” she had even given me and my son a kiss on the cheek before we left. The Woods were a special bunch, that much was certain. Fuck it, I promised Alicia I would go with her, but this time I will ditch her and go and join Nikki. She’d probably be too busy with Josh to worry about little old me anywho.
I was awash with a capricious happiness, after enjoying a bath underneath a mound of lavender scented bubbles, supping down a cold bottle of Newcastle Brown. Yes I know, how pathetic, but Simon swears by it, I was just interested. In hindsight I perhaps shouldn’t have bought four of them, since the first one to me tasted like mouldy yeast and sugar whisked around in wallpaper paste. The second tasted slightly better, but my taste buds were probably all cowering with fear inside my mouth. Didn’t that dude liken Lambrini to rocket fuel? Hark at the pot and all that. I decided that I would leave the final two in case he ever came around to visit. But I had a lot of ground to make up first.
My house was warm, glowing inside with expectation. I sat in my bedroom listening to some generic radio crap whilst prettying, straightening, pruning, epilating, dilating and dancing. I can hardly remember the exact décor of my room at this point, apart from it was yellow with honeysuckle-border-patterns around the walls. The bed was a double, the same colours as the bare buttery walls, and a mirror above the ornate black head rest. The carpet was a deep blue, with an aged hint of some random pattern. I really needed to change the décor. Having done with the surprisingly strong ale, I was on my comfortably sweet blue WKD and dancing around to something meaningless. I started supping slowly, feeling the buzz of intoxication sweeping over me as I danced in the yellow room, under the bright light, and a incense stick smouldering with some pretentiously titled ‘enchanted forest’ scent.
I stood naked in front the full length mirror on my wall and stared at myself. No I didn’t have Alicia’s sensual curves, but I had firm and adequate breasts, a ceramic complexion and small shapely legs. With my make-up and mysterious eyes, long white-blonde silky hair, I could see the shimmer of beauty there. If Simon thought I was beautiful, then by jiggery-fuck I am beautiful. I caressed my skin a little longer, wondering when next I would be touched and caressed, before getting out a short denim skirt, a killer pair of black leather fuck-me boots, and a tight black Basque top, deliberately omitting the bra. The doorbell rang downstairs, and so began an hour of: Alicia, Josh, Alicia, Josh, Alicia, Alicia, Alicia and Josh. Fuck it, when we get there I can tune them out. She can take her tight orange dress and go suck some throat-juice with Josh. I will find someone from the less plastic side of the range. One hour, a Taxi ride later and we were at the Raven Hall.
Now the raven is far more spacious, and a whole lot less intimate than the Café, but it was packed and brimming with frenzied cattle of barging and pushing young adults. Around the sides of the venue, above the long bar and above the stage hung poorly made cloth banners bearing the initials DOF in red paint. The sea of young men and women pulsed, wriggled and writhed to some heavy rock band; spasmodically throwing their heads and shoulders forwards. Faces flickered and flashed in the dark, as reds and greens washed temporarily over the unfamiliar mess of epileptic cattle. Pungent smells of sweat and stale beer wafted sporadically around the room, it was busy. It wasn’t the café. A voice came over the microphone breaking my critical attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a treat doing two songs with us this evening. Normally you can’t drag his ass away from the Café. But tonight he has come to get DOF jumping. Give it up for Simon Wood.” The voice stopped and the crowd screamed and whooped and surged forward toward the stage.
Simon walked on stage, choosing not to wear the DOF t-shirts that everyone else on stage adorned. The band played a mournful note and then the voice began.
“Fight the fight alone, when the world is full of Victims.”
As always I had no idea what song Simon had chosen to sing with this band, but it was obvious what the reaction was going to be.
“In my opinion seeing is to know. The things we hold are always first to go.”
His performance wasn’t endearingly hypnotising in the way I found on Thursday at the café. It was stimulating, angry and impassioned. He sang as if he believed every word that was rattling from his mouth.
“On skinned knees I’m bleeding, and it won’t be long.”
He was stirring these young men and women up into some mad frenzy, whipping them with his voice, mesmerizing them with his jerky head movements and wide stance. His fist punched the air, his pinky and index finger protruding upwards with every fitful throw of his arm. Despite myself I was banging my head along to the music. Then the song was finished before Simon shouted, “I know what it is you want me to sing. Who wants it?” A cheer rose up vibrating the glasses and bottles on the bar and occasional tables.
“I said who fucking wants it?” Simon cried again. This time the reply was thunderous. “This is Hole in My Hand by Day of Fire.” The band started, and so did a very impassioned and persuasive performance. Simon used every part of his body, his hands held to his head, his fist in the air, his hips bending his body double, his mouth wide open, and his skin rippling and crawling. The crowds were frenzied, they were singing and screaming and jumping and pushing and shoving. It was like watching maggots in a fisherman’s tub rolling and sliding over each other. What was this song? Who were these people? Four minutes of passion and noise and Simon took his exit from the stage, fifty yards away from me. I was stuck with my usual idiotic lockjaw.
“Hey babe you came.” Nikki had my arm and pulled me to her. Her eyes shone fervently. Around me the room was punching the air and chanting “DOF” repeatedly.
“I did come. These aint half a spirited bunch. You look stunning Nikki.” She did look stunning. A slinky black dress that showed her sleek figure whilst displaying her womanly curves hugged her in closely.
“Thanks babe. You joining us?”
“Simon, Me and Rob.” Nikki grinned, and grabbed my hand pulling me towards a little room guarded with only one large bouncer.
“What’s in there?” I asked. Dumb question considering the walls had windows looking into a sparsely occupied room with walls the colour of dried mud.
“Look through the windows, it’s just another bar where we can all sit down. It’s a VIP area, you’re with us and Simon put your name on the list. That was one of his terms.” Nikki continued bounding forward, shouting over the cheers and screams of the rampant mob, baying for more music.
“His terms?” Was there something I wasn’t getting?
“Yeah, he weren’t singing here for free. He gets a free bar, space in the VIP area to stir up a crazed bunch of teenagers and young adults. All courtesy of the DOF.” We had reached the door and the bouncer scanned his list for my name before shifting his bulky frame away from the entrance. Ten pairs of eyes from a large table in the far corner looked straight at me as all talking died.
“What is the DOF?” I whispered, afraid to ask a stupid question out loud. The talking began again, rising in a careful rippling fashion, I listened as the microphone-dude announced the next band.
“Depends on who you ask. If you ask that teeming, raging, horny bunch of fools out there then DOF is a left wing socialist political outfit. If you ask Simon, Rob and I then they are a deluded, drugged up, asinine bunch of kids who are angry with the world.” Nikki was still pulling me along to a table as she explained this. She sat down at an empty table with our backs to the door and the bar.
“Where are the boys? You said they were in here.”
“Yes but the lady has no drink in her hand.” Simon spoke from behind me. I looked up sharply, surprised to see that for a change he was not grinning inanely. His forehead was lacquered with sweat, his hair greasy and wayward and his black t-shirt obviously sodden through with sweat.
“Hey you. My you look stunning.” Rob sat down opposite Nikki as Simon slumped into the seat opposite me. Simons eyes were not the dancing green I was used to, a simmering anger existed there as he stared through the glass of his ale as if trying to make it boil. I felt a distinct chill whip through the room. I placed my drink on the teak effect tables and placed my bag on the brown carpet. Despite the chill this room was comfortable. Earth coloured walls, red and orange seats, but a slight frosty undertone coming from Simon.
“Thank you Rob.” I smiled sweetly at him.
“I agree you look absolutely amazing tonight.” Nikki smiled sweetly at me, and she was genuine, however I did notice the forceful momentary stare she threw toward her brother. Simon placed his left elbow on the table and massaged his forehead, as if trying to pull a migraine from within his skull.
“I need air and a fag. You coming?” Simon was talking to me it seemed. I looked at Nikki, who shrugged her shoulders squinting as if confused.
“Er…yeah…I suppose.” I stood up and followed Simon to the far end of the room and through some double doors onto a patio, with benches and patio heaters. I sat down before him looking into his face as he fumbled for a lighter within his pocket. February breathed a chilly gust of foreboding across my shoulders as Simon seemed to struggle for words. This was new, Simon was ordinarily loquacious, garrulous and gregarious.
“How are you Toni? Shit, this is the first time talking to you has been hard.” Simon threw his hands theatrically up into the air as he spoke.
“Why is it so difficult Simon. I am so sorry about Thursday.”
“Maybe we should both be sorry. Right, let me say this for better or for worse.” Simon breathed and closed his eyes.
“Say what?” I needed a map, I needed a compass, I was completely lost. I could hear the distant thump of that spirited bunch screaming along to the music.
“Yes, my sister is right. I like you. I like you a hell of a lot, I think about you a lot. I have been thinking about you for about a fortnight, I cannot seem to get you out of my head. Now I have told myself that this is just a passing phase, and I can get past it. It’s a crush, in a couple of weeks this whole thing will be immaterial and I can pass you at work without wanting to ask you out for a drink. But I don’t know with you anymore. Every time we talk I feel that little bit stronger. So I want to lay this down straight for you. I think you can do better, I think you can find a man without baggage; I think you can find a man who is more open, better looking, an alpha male. There’s a room full of them behind me. But you can still always choose me.” Simon rattled through his speech, nervously, deeply affected by his own words. I had never seen him shake so much; his eyes (ordinarily steady) couldn’t keep contact for a few minutes. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Honey, let’s go back inside. In fact let’s go the somewhere else, I aint feeling it here. Are you?” I kissed him square on the mouth taking him by surprise.
“No I suppose not.” He took my hand and led me back inside.