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All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. And Hannah, as always. Days are where we live. They come, they wake us Time and time over. They are to be happy in: Where can we live but days? Ah, solving that question Brings the priest and the doctor In their long coats Running over the fields.
But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.
Just the little bit around you. Probably got a little flow-chart somewhere or something. She sniffed. They settled again on the pillow. Forty or something. She got this a lot, posh boys doing funny voices, as if there was something unusual and quaint about an accent, and not for the first time she felt a reassuring shiver of dislike for him.
She shrugged herself away until her back was pressed against the cool of the wall. All those possibilities. Fucking hell. She peered up at him through her fringe as he leant against the cheap buttoned vinyl headboard and even without her spectacles on it was clear why he might want to stay exactly this way.
Eyes closed, the cigarette glued languidly to his lower lip, the dawn light warming the side of his face through the red filter of the curtains, he had the knack of looking perpetually posed for a photograph. He had one of those faces where you were aware of the bones beneath the skin, as if even his bare skull would be attractive. A fine nose, slightly shiny with grease, and dark skin beneath the eyes that looked almost bruised, a badge of honour from all the smoking and late nights spent deliberately losing at strip poker with girls from Bedales.
There was something feline about him: eyebrows fine, mouth pouty in a self-conscious way, lips a shade too dark and full, but dry and chapped now, and rouged with Bulgarian red wine.
Gratifyingly his hair was terrible, short at the back and sides, but with an awful little quiff at the front. Whatever gel he used had worn off, and now the quiff looked pert and fluffy, like a silly little hat. Still with his eyes closed, he exhaled smoke through his nose. Clearly he knew he was being looked at because he tucked one hand beneath his armpit, bunching up his pectorals and biceps.
Where did the muscles come from? Probably it was just the kind of good health that was passed down in the family, along with the stocks and shares and the good furniture.
Handsome then, or beautiful even, with his paisley boxer shorts pulled down to his hip bones and somehow here in her single bed in her tiny rented room at the end of four years of college. Who do you think you are, Jane Eyre? Grow up. Be sensible. She plucked the cigarette from his mouth. Any kids? You sound insane, she told herself. Do try not to sound insane. So do you. I like wine and fags. The burnt out nightlights and desolate pot plants, the smell of washing powder on cheap, ill-fitting sheets.
Nothing here was neutral, everything displayed an allegiance or a point of view. Security, travel, nice food, good manners, ambition; what was he meant to be apologising for? He watched the smoke curl from his mouth. Feeling for an ashtray, he found a book at the side of the bed. The problem with these fiercely individualistic girls was that they were all exactly the same. Silly bloody fool, he thought, confident that it was not a mistake he would ever make. He hoped to be successful, to make his parents proud and to sleep with more than one woman at the same time, but how to make these all compatible?
He wanted to feature in magazine articles, and hoped one day for a retrospective of his work, without having any clear notion of what that work might be.
He wanted to live life to the extreme, but without any mess or complications. He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph. Things should look right. Fun; there should be a lot of fun and no more sadness than absolutely necessary. Tonight, for instance, was bound to have repercussions: tears and awkward phone-calls and accusations. He should probably get out of here as soon as possible, and he glanced at his discarded clothes in preparation for his escape.
With the possibility of sex and drugs in a small yellow tin he felt hopeful again, and decided that he might stay a little longer at least. In the bathroom, Emma Morley wiped the crescents of toothpaste from the corner of her mouth and wondered if this was all a terrible mistake. Forever probably.
He was hardly likely to ask her to go to China with him, and besides she was boycotting China. Dexter Mayhew. So why was she being so stroppy and sarcastic? She saw the dawn light at the tiny bathroom window. Scratching at her awful hair with her fingertips, she pulled a face, then yanked the chain of the ancient toilet cistern and headed back into the room. She peered over her spectacles and pulled the mortar board down low over one eye.
I like the jaunty angle. Now take it off and come back to bed. Thirty quid this cost me. Dexter grabbed at a corner but she swiped at him with the rolled- up certificate before sitting on the edge of the bed, folding her spectacles and shrugging off her gown.
He had one last glimpse of her naked back and the curve of her breast before they disappeared beneath a black t-shirt that demanded unilateral nuclear disarmament now.
Nothing was less conducive to sexual desire than a long black political t-shirt, except perhaps that Tracy Chapman album. They drove back to Leeds. Dad thinks hotels are for toffs. He allowed her in, sliding one arm somewhat awkwardly beneath her shoulders, kissing her neck speculatively. She turned to look at him, her chin tucked in. Cuddling was for great aunts and teddy bears. Cuddling gave him cramp.
Sorry about that. What, together? There seemed little chance of that. They lapsed into silence again. They had been talking, and kissing, for the last eight hours, and both had that deep, whole body fatigue that arrives at dawn. Blackbirds were singing in the overgrown back garden. Ask me in the morning. Why, have you? Pleased with his answer, she curled closer into him.
Nothing tomorrow. No deadlines, no work. She was in no way prepared. It was as if a fire alarm had gone off in the middle of the night and she was standing on the street with her clothes bundled up in her arms. How would she fill the days?
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