Counting Down the Days Till You’re Flat On Your Back (15+)

 

Ah, the advent of take-away coffee and the days before Facebook. Another wee spot of nostalgia for you. Part one here.

2006.

“Gareth, you’d better have anticipated my every need this morning!”

Gareth raised his eyes to the heavens and let out an exaggerated sigh. He specialised in those, sucking in his cheeks and blowing out breath loudly. “When they all warned me what you were like to work for, I said, ‘No, no Gareth! One can’t allow oneself to be unduly influenced by the naysayers. I’m sure ‘unreasonably demanding bitch’ isn’t at all true’.”

When he said, ‘I’m sure’, he reminded Lillian of that terrible sitcom from years ago—Keeping Up Appearances. The main character, Hyacinth Bouquet, had tried her best to emulate posh tones. Gareth (real name Gary) decided long ago to get ahead in fashion meant disguising his native accent. Sometimes it worked.

“Ay’m sure”. Not so much.

She poked her tongue out and grabbed a coffee from the tray he carried. A stint in New York ten years ago had given her a taste for strong, syrupy take-away coffee. The coffee shop trend was only just beginning to take off in Glasgow. Fashionistas were obliged to buy it in lieu of breakfast. John had stared at her in disbelief when he witnessed her buying herself a hazelnut Frappuccino with soy.

“Two pounds fifty for a coffee? You’re kidding me. You could buy yourself a bag of beans at that Italian deli in Merchant City and have hunners’ of them for that price.”

“Hungover, are we?” Gareth carped, plonking himself down at his desk. He waggled a paper bag at her, the grease stains marking it out as something deliciously fat and sugar-filled. She snatched from him. Last-minute crash diet plans be damned.

The headquarters of Glitz were on Bath Street. Lillian paid fearsome business rates for the privilege. But in fashion you had to appear successful, and the appearance of that meant locating yourself in the heart of the city. Their basement office was shivery-cold eight months of the year. They burned extra calories thanks to trying to keep warm, Gareth said—something to be thankful for.

Glitz wasn’t something Lillian had envisaged as an art school student. In her first year though, she’d discovered she loved working with textures and materials, and that’s what she had focused on during her four years.

Post-art school, she drifted. A rich background had many benefits, not least that of not needing to work. Then, a friend of the family got her an internship at an up-and-coming fashion house. Lillian fell in love. Because it was a small company, she got to experience everything. From design to pattern cutting, to sourcing fabrics, making clothes and then fussing over models as she sent them down the catwalk.

It was every bit as glamourous as it looked. She dressed Kate—the highlight of her time there. Even snorted a few lines with her. When the internship ended, she persuaded her mum and dad to pay for yet more tuition; this time at a polytechnic that concentrated more on the practical side of clothes designing and making.

Glasgow was the natural choice. It was far cheaper to set up a business there than London. And she had all her old art school friends, who’d welcome her with open arms.

Right? Sort of.

Glitz started life in 1999. Then, it had been her, two professional tailors who called themselves seamstresses and an assistant, a shy and retiring Gary who had long since come out of his shell. There had been ups and downs, but the last few years had seen solid success. The catwalk shows were greeted with enthusiasm and praise. Clothes sold in reasonable quantities and she achieved a reputation for quirky menswear.

“At least I can claim I’m single because I’ve been working too hard to establish myself.” It became a mantra; a comfort blanket of a statement. Love was for those who had time to spend on it. Lillian’s working hours ate into her evenings and weekends. Holidays happened seldom as she was too frightened to take time off.

But the aching loneliness hit her now and again. She was in her mid to late 30s. Lately, evidence of how easily other people found partners seemed to be everywhere. The unlikeliest of folks made it look easy.

“What did John say?” Gareth wore her clothes exclusively; the reason she put up with his backchat. Today, he’d prematurely anticipated spring. He wore the sandstone gilet and matching chino shorts with a long-sleeved pink shirt. She’d need to get pictures of him later.

“About Richard? He gave a useful gay guide to blow jobs. And advised on clothing.”

Gareth nodded, stretching out an arm to switch on his computer, and rattling off the subject lines of the emails that had come in. Lillian said yes and no where necessary, the coming weekend with Richard distracting her.

A whole weekend with someone you barely knew! Yes, they’d shared some drinks. Even gone out for a couple of meals together. She knew about his job, some of his personal history and that he’d been married before and had a daughter. He knew…less than that about her. On a first date years ago, Lillian blurted out intimate details of her life. Her date stared at her, muttered platitudes and bid a hasty farewell not long afterwards.

The first and last date she had with him.

“Haud your wheesht, Lillian,” as Kippy far more Scottish than her or John might say.

The paper bag held a large chocolate chip croissant. The flakes scattered everywhere as she ate, Gareth watching her in fascinated disgust.

“Are you sure Richard agreed to take you away for the weekend?” he asked. “If he’s been with you while you’ve eaten anything?”

She poked her tongue, realising too late it was covered in half-chewed bits of pastry. Gareth screwed his face up.

“Yes. And fuck you. Get on with your work.”

The croissant finished, she got up and made her way to the back room where they kept rails of clothing. Lillian favoured an androgynous style. As a tall, straight up and down shaped woman, tailored trouser suits, over-sized jeans and shirts suited her. John had said stick to that style but choose the more flamboyant stuff.

“Are you sure?” Lillian queried. Sixteen or so years in fashion taught her that men who appreciated the style and clothing she loved weren’t the majority. Shouldn’t she be picking out pencil skirts, wrap dresses or those full-shirted, narrow-waisted skirts? And stilettos, preferably Louboutins?

John smiled ruefully. “Yes. If you wear clothes you aren’t comfortable in, it’ll be obvious. It shows in your face. And didn’t you tell me Richard talked a lot about how you’re not his usual type and that’s amazing?”

The back room smelled of clothes, brand new fabric and overtones of hot cotton that came from ironing. Lillian took deep breaths of it. She came here to refresh, the sight and smell of the clothing charging her up, battery-like.

John told her to choose the shorts from 2004. That collection was on the third rail at the back. She took out a hanger and held them up in front of her. Men’s shorts, brocade pantaloons embellished with Swarovski crystals roughly modelled on pre-French revolution court fashion. They hadn’t sold well.

Worn with bare legs and sliders though, they’d work. A silky tee shirt on top would complete the look. Glitz did a line of silk tees that sold in industrial quantities, bought by men and women who loved their quality.

She picked a Paisley-patterned purple one from another rail and then changed her mind. Plain black would be better. Perhaps Richard did think her difference from his usual type a virtue. Best not to push that to the limits though, eh?

Main outfit picked, she added a few other basics. Two more silk tee shirts in various colours, the super skinny jeans that made a virtue of long legs and a utility-style jumpsuit that doubled up as daywear and evening wear if dressed up with heels and a silk scarf.

Her phone buzzed. “Can’t wait! Don’t expect too much sight-seeing. You’ll be too busy on your back…”

Seconds later. “Sorry! 😊 Seriously, tho. Can’t. Bloody. Wait to get you into bed.”

Her heart and stomach clashed together, the one beating super-fast, the other squirming in a combination of super-charged nerves and excitement. And something else. A man had only ever told Lillian once before he couldn’t wait to get her into bed. It hadn’t ended well.

She folded the clothing she’d chosen over her arm. “That was then.” Another mantra. “This is now.”

Wouldn’t every woman be flattered that a man counted down the days, hours and minutes until he tumbled onto a pristine-clean bed with you?

©Emma Baird 2018* Copy this and claim it as your own and I. Will. Hunt. You. Down.

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Anyone else remember the early days of match.com? Here’s a wee bit of nostalgia for you…

2006

“… so, I’m trying this new thing. I refuse to proactively do anything. They have to contact me. If a man wants to see me, he needs to make all the arrangements. Thanks. Not too much! I’m also trying to cut down how much I drink.”

John filled her glass anyway. He knew her of old. If he didn’t pour the wine to the top, she’d only bug him in a few minutes’ time, demanding more. And the sofa wrapped itself so well round his old, cold bones. He’d no desire to give up its embrace any time soon.

“How’s it working out for you, the new thing?”

Really, this was unfair. When Lillian had arrived at their flat a few hours ago waving a bottle of Cava and desperate to talk about her love life, Kippy had promptly vanished. Oh, there was this painting he was working on, he claimed airily. Desperately sorry he couldn’t hang about to listen.

Lillian could claim dibs on friendship with them both, but she and Kippy had been close at art school back in the early nineties. And she’d always shown huge interest in his life. The rules of friendship and fairness surely demanded he repay the favour?

It wasn’t so bad for John though. Lillian made dramatic pronouncements. And she was so dreadful at intimacy, tales of her love life were almost always comedic.

Tragi-comedic, John supposed. There ought to be someone out there who’d be the willing recipient of Lillian’s considerable energy and intensity. Together, they could scream and shout at each other, and then make it up with mad, passionate sex. It was impossible to imagine Lillian in a relationship where a couple sat opposite each other in a restaurant and found they couldn’t be bothered with conversation.

Lillian had two relationships with married men behind her. One was careless, two made it look like a pattern, Kippy always said. When the second one ended disastrously—he promised to leave his wife, did so then returned to her weeks later, managing to wreck her happiness and Lillian’s in the process—Lillian turned to match dot com.

Her stories kept John and Kippy entertained for months. Her complaints were wide-ranging. Firstly, there were the unrepresentative photos. “Honestly!” Lillian exclaimed. “That picture was at least ten years out of date. All his hair’s disappeared. Did he think I wouldn’t notice?”

Then, there were the conversations that started up and suddenly went silent. “I thought we’d established a rapport,” Lillian said. She showed them the emails. Back and forth, back and forth went witty exchanges. Lillian would mention something, and the man would fervently agree. And then, nothing.

The first time it happened, Lillian had written plaintive messages. “Is something wrong? What did I say?” After a while, she left it. Ghosted, they called it. It was nothing personal. Maybe Mister ‘I’ve Got So Much in Common With You!’ had been conducting such conversations with a few other folks. And he’d met one lassie and fallen for her.

Lillian’s first “new thing” she applied to her dating life was to meet people very quickly. No point in getting into these long email conversations. You had to see the person as soon as and work out if there was a) chemistry; and b) well, just chemistry. A shared liking for Placebo’s songs played loudly on a Sunday morning mattered not a jot if you didn’t fancy a dude.

Lillian took a gulp of wine, the liquid turning her teeth and tongue black the way it always did. John wondered if those men she dated noticed that and it put them off. He and Kippy were lucky, he supposed. The mysterious gene that made some people prone to the black staining effect of red wine didn’t apply to them, even when they drank cheap shit.

“My new thing is working very well! John, I think this might be IT.”

Oh. Genuine pleasure. She was a terrific pain in the arse. Nosey, bossy, irritating and capable of outstaying her welcome every time, but John and Kippy discussed Lillian a lot. They rolled their eyes considerably as they did so, but they wished her well. Kippy said Lillian in love would be a God-send. She wouldn’t come around to their flat half as much, for a start. It was affectionate though. Who didn’t want their best friend to experience love? Happy ever after was too simplistic, but that’s what you wanted for anyone you cared about.

“He’s taken his profile down from Match,” Lillian said, tilting her glass perilously close to John and Kippy’s beautiful cream sofa. The glass righted itself and John’s alarm eased.

“And as I say, I leave all the arrangements up to him. So freeing!”

John perked up at that. Oftentimes, Lillian contradicted herself. As she said, “so freeing”, doubtless she believed it. But there was no bigger control freak John knew than Lillian. She spent her life bossing others about. Allowing a man to make all the arrangements must kill her. He nodded anyway. You don’t disagree with people’s assessments of themselves. It never worked.

“I think it’s a variation of that old ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ thing,” Lillian added. “He thinks I’m not that bothered if I hear from him or not. Conversely, this makes me more interesting. I’m just unsure how long I need to keep it up.”

Ah, the crux of the matter! Yes, Lillian claimed it was freeing for her not to worry about arrangements, but he heard the longing in her voice. She desperately wanted to take control.

“How long have you been doing this, your new thing?” John asked, and she jumped in with her reply. The ongoing tactic had lasted three weeks so far. She and Richard (never Dick, obviously, Richie for short) had seen each other two times a week. And the last text message from him has suggested they go away for a weekend together.

Torture for someone like Lillian to leave all the arrangements for a dirty weekend up to someone else. “We’ve not had sex yet either,” Lillian said, wide eyed. “That’s another of my new rules. I decided I had to get past date six till that happened.”

John smirked at that. He had never been a promiscuous gay, but the thought of not sleeping with someone until you’d been with them for a set amount of time was an anathema. You had to shag early on.

“Katrina,” he said. “She did that years ago with Mick. Refused to fall into bed with him until a bit of time had passed. Just as well, really.”

Lillian frowned, summoning up long-ago memories. Mick had been a notorious ladies man. When Katrina found out his dark secret, she’d thanked the stars she’d never slept with him. Maybe it was more of a female than a male thing. You couldn’t separate the personality from the body.

“Oh yes,” Lillian said. “What was it he did again? I saw him a few months ago. Did I tell you? He was at this launch I was invited to.”

Asking lots of questions and not waiting for replies was typical of Lillian. John decided to address the last.

“No? How is the Rock ‘n Roll chef?”

Mick was a childhood friend of Kippy’s. He’d found fame and fortune in the early 90s as the first of a new generation of TV chefs. In the early noughties, he’d gone through a very public breakdown. Too much cocaine—as the experts always said, a sign you’re making too much money. He’d gone into rehab and these days, promoted a raw food diet as the cure for addiction and did TV, magazines and events as the Rock ‘n Roll chef gone good.

Lillian made disparaging noises. She was no more a fan of avocado smoothies than your normal punter. “Still far too good looking,” she said. “And these days fucking women he’s old enough to have fathered.”

They both grimaced. Was there anything worse than the man who refused to hang up his shagging shoes? Everyone looked at him and thought, Give it up, mate. You’re not twenty-five anymore. You’re beginning to look too much like Sid James.

“Two days’ time!” Lillian said, pushing her glass at John. A hint that he hadn’t anticipated her quickly enough. He pulled himself to his feet once more, telling her to keep talking as he searched out the red wine.

“My mini break, as Bridget Jones would put it! Because I’m doing this ‘no-show too much interest’ thing, what the hell do I pack? It could be abroad. Do I take shorts, for example?”

John filled her glass and prayed to the House Design gods that she still had the motor neurone skills not to spill it all over the lovely sofa. The glass tilted again, and a drop spilled out, the redness fanning out against the cross-grain of the fabric. They both watched it.

“Oops,” Lillian said.

John touched her shoulder. Years ago, he’d been in a flat where he’d spilt vodka and coke. The host had shrieked fit to wake the dead. He’d vowed from then on he would never make someone that uncomfortable. Even if the sight of that spillage kept drawing his eye, the minute spreading of maroon too attention drawing.

“Take shorts,” he said. “But only if they’re the 2004 spring-summer collection you did. Now, do you need me to discuss the perfect blow job? Gay men offer you amazing advice. Together, we’ll have him coming back for more every time.”

She nodded at that. Sex tips from a gay guy. Always a winning strategy. “Do you think this is it, John?” she said, the glass shaking slightly. “I want it to be.”

Oh. Who knew the secrets of the human heart? All you could do was offer optimism.

“Yes!” he said, fixing her gaze with his. “Absolutely! Now, tell me everything you plan to wear and what you’re going to do. We’ll work this out.”

Another chapter of something I’m working on at present. It’s set about twenty-five years ago, as you might realise from the smoking reference…

“Do you know when he’s coming?”

Alfie observed her as he asked the question. In a moment of weakness earlier that week, Katrina had told him she’d had a postcard from Mick, and that he was coming to London.

It was the first time she’d ever mentioned a guy, and Alfie had stilled the second his name left her lips. He stopped what he was doing—the ever-necessary sweeping up of chopped-off hair—and looked at her.

“Who’s Mick?”

About to reply, Katrina paused. She recognised the tone. It was the sound of someone asking something they thought was crucial, and Katrina couldn’t stand the thought of anyone knowing too much about her. Her secrets were her own. If she wasn’t prepared to share how she felt about Mick with Daisy, she certainly wasn’t sitting down to a confidential with Alfie.

She bent to the floor with the dustpan and brush. “He’s this old friend from back home. Nowheresville, remember?”

When she had started at Chevelure Chic last year, Alfie had cosied up to her straight away. The salon was miles apart from Dulcie’s, the hairdressers where she’d started her apprenticeship at the age of sixteen. There weren’t pensioners’ specials for a start, where little old ladies could come in and get their hair washed and set for less than the price of one of the glossy magazines that littered the low-slung coffee tables of Chevelure Chic’s waiting room.

No, this salon catered for what Daisy called “famouses”, the rich, the great and the good of London came here to be pampered and flattered. It had taken Katrina one or two tries to get the flattering bit right, but a few terse words from Chevelure Chic’s owner had done the trick. Nowadays, she simpered with the rest of them.

Alfie, one of only two young male apprentices, waited for her outside the salon after her first day.

“Want a fag?” He held out a packet of Marlborough Lights.

Katrina wrinkled her nose up. “No. I only smoke menthols.” She hadn’t expected him to produce those too, but he did so.

“Where are you from, love?” Alfie was a Londoner through and through. She thought his accent ugly, too harsh for someone so young. He was about her age, she guessed, and slight, another contradiction to the voice.

Like everyone who worked in the salon, he took advantage of the freebies on offer, and his hair was incredible—thick, dark and shaved in at the sides, with the top of it artfully curled and hanging forward on his face.

His hair was the best-looking bit of him. The rest Katrina didn’t care for, not when the vision of perfect maleness she held in her head was tall, blonde and blue-eyed.

“A wee place in Scotland. You’ll no’ have heard of it.” She lit the cigarette and held it to her mouth. Moving on was something Katrina was experienced at. The best way to get through it was to keep talk of where you’d come from before to a minimum.

“I might have done.”

“You won’t,” she said flatly. The denial was a waste of time anyway. When she came in the next day, he smiled at her triumphantly.

“Kirkcudbright! I bribed Michelle to let me check your records to see where you’d worked before.”

He pronounced it the way all English people did. Kirk-cud-bright.

She poked her tongue out. “It’s Cur-coo-bree, smart arse. And up yours.”

“Want to go for a drink after work?”
“No.”

Nevertheless, she did go out with him a week later. In the company of the other young hairdressers, admittedly, but out. After a while, she began to like his company. He was sarcastic, and he did a great impression of the boss, Rick Javeson. Alfie didn’t push her either, seemingly content to have her to talk to, the two of them bitching about their boss and colleagues.

“I dunno when he’s coming,” she said now. Katrina and Alfie stood outside, in the narrow alleyway that ran by the side of the premises, taking a fag break. It was now a regular routine where one of them smoked a Marlborough Light, and the other a Menthol. Rick didn’t allow smoking in the salon, although his richest clients could do it while they waited for their highlights to take.

“You should meet him.” Again, she was careful, making sure she didn’t sound excited. Allowing Alfie this contact with her past life was a biggie, and the hand behind her back crossed its fingers he would say no.

“Alright then,” Alfie said, blowing out a stream of smoke into the frosty air. “Someone needs to show the country bumpkin the big smoke.”

“He’s not a country bumpkin,” Katrina said. “Not anymore. He’s been working in Edinburgh for months. He’s used to big cities.”

Alfie rolled his eyes, dropping the butt of his cigarette to the ground and grinding it out with his heel. “I went there a couple of years ago. It’s tiny.”

She argued with him about that. She couldn’t contradict the tininess of Edinburgh as he kept coming up with facts, the size of London’s population compared to Scotland’s capital, and where the seat of the UK’s power lay. But it wasn’t all about size, was it? At that, she faced him and deliberately looked him up and down. Alfie was self-conscious about his height.

“Cow,” he said, and walked off. Another feature of their relationship was trading insults that sometimes went too far. She’d make him a cup of coffee (black, three sugars) in the afternoon, and they’d be friends again by closing time.

Later, as she made her way back to the Walkers house via the noisy, crowded Tube and the pavements that you shared with hundreds of others, Katrina allowed herself one of the daydreams that had appeared in her head ever since the postcard had arrived.

In this particular one, Mick told her the telly thing was an excuse. He’d come to London, he told her seriously, watching her as carefully as Alfie had watched her earlier.

Will you marry me, Katrina? I now know that you are the –

She stopped the thought. It might only be a daydream, but even thinking that way seemed stupid; the kind of thing Daisy would probably do. “I’m no’ Daisy,” she said it out loud, and those around her in the Tube carriage drew back in alarm. Speaking to yourself was a well-known nutter alert, the horror being that the self-speaker might then address you.

She got out at Highgate, surging out of the station with the thousands of other people. There was the beggar who always tried to catch her eye. This time, she smiled at him and dug in her bag for the loose change that always fell out of her purse.

“God bless ye, ye wee sweetheart!”

Aye, of course, he was drunk. And yes, he had to be Scottish.

To her surprise, she spotted Daisy, waving frantically at the top of Archway Road. Her mouth was open and her eyes round. She waved both hands and then held both fingers out, pointing at the spaces next to her.

Katrina blinked, her eyes closing and opening as if to confirm what was in front of her. On one side, Daisy’s dad. On the other, Mick.

©Emma Baird 2017

Wakey, wakey Sleeping Beauty…

Another chapter from a book I’m working on at the moment. It does contain adult content and swear words, so please don’t read on if you don’t like that kind of thing…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesmemorables/16524725715Kippy resurfaced slowly, his awakening senses taking account of what he could see, hear, touch, smell and feel.

He wasn’t in his own bed, the single mattress in his room in the student halls. This bed was far more luxurious, twice the size and covered in clean sheets, for a start. The room was large-ish too, spacious enough to hold not only a bed and wardrobe, but a sofa, a desk and chair, and an exercise bike draped with clothes. The view from the bay window told him he was in a flat some three or four storeys up. The sun was high enough in the sky for it not to be early morning.

His mouth felt furry, his tongue sticking too closely to its insides, and his head ached. Next to him on the cabinet beside the bed was a glass of water. It wasn’t very cold, but refreshing nonetheless.

The door to the room opened slowly, a face peering cautiously around it.

“You’re awake then, Sleeping Beauty?”

The face was joined by its body, the man letting himself into the room and closing the door gently. To his dismay, Kippy didn’t recognise him. He’d have guessed the guy to be in his late twenties, perhaps even his early thirties. He was sporty looking, wiry and muscular arms under a black tee shirt and powerful quads encased in Lycra shorts. Also very much on view was the outline of his genitals.

He heard his cousin Katrina, her mocking wee voice singing in his head: “God almighty, that would poke your eye oot wouldn’t it?” and he stifled a smile at the thought of it.

The man sat down on the bed, plonking himself down on Kippy side. Kippy had to force himself not to pull away.

“How are you feeling?” the man asked.

“Rough as a badger’s arse.”

No-one could possibly know what a badger’s arse felt like, but the saying had been enthusiastically taken up by students everywhere of late. Kippy, a mature student compared to everyone else, felt he had to stay on top of modern slang in case he stood out.

“Not surprised,” the man said. “I’m John, by the way, in case you’d forgotten.”

He had a nice face. His nose was too long and crooked, and his eyes too close together for him to be handsome, but there was kindness in the way he looked at Kippy.

“I got you this,” he held out a bottle of Lucozade. Now that was ice-cold, and the sweet fizziness of it made Kippy feel one hundred percent better. He drank the whole bottle down in three big gulps and laid back on the propped-up pillows.

“Did we…eh…do anything last night?” Kippy was still in that pristine white tee shirt Lillian had insisted on last night and his Calvin Klein boxers, so any night-time derring-do seemed unlikely.

The Lucozade gave him confidence, though. Maybe last night he’d fully embraced gayness and was no longer a homo virgin. It would be a relief to be rid of it, the burden of not knowing what to do, and at the same time coping with the lustful imaginings that ran rampant through his body, and overwhelmed him at times.

John’s elbows were on his thighs, his hands clasped together and his backside touching Kippy’s legs, which were covered by the duvet. What did you do in these situations, Kippy wondered. Did he put out a hand and touch the back of the man sitting on the bed?

John turned his head sideways, so he was looking at Kippy. He had dark brown eyes, almost black in colour—eyes that would be a challenge to paint.

“No. You were too drunk. If I’d done anything, I would have felt like a rapist.” He smiled as he said it, a soft, sweet smile that took the sting out of the too-drunk sentence.

“You’re only just out, aren’t you?” Again, it was said kindly, but the question felt like an accusation. Kippy sat up, mustered all his courage and placed a hand on the back of John’s head, pulling it to his. He pressed his lips on John’s, noticing at once how different the mouth felt to the last one he’d kissed, a firmer, harder, rougher feel.

John closed his eyes, and moaned softly, the lips opening slightly. Kippy couldn’t stop now. The pent-up and frustrated desire that had dogged him all through his pre-pubescent years and into his adolescence, the want that he’d always tried to ignore fired up through his torso into his head, his mouth and his tongue, the tongue that now pushed itself into John’s mouth, tasting coffee, toast, bacon and more.

The heady rush of want had made its way back down his torso, and he felt himself stiffen. Eyes closed, he patted the bed around him, trying to find John’s hand. He must, must, must place that hand on his cock, and have it encircle the hardness of him, work its way up and down the shaft until he–

John pulled away. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-one. Well over the age of consent.”

Some years ago, he’d asked Daisy that same question. He’d been stalling then, using her youthfulness as an excuse not to do anymore to her. John stood up, running a hand through hair that was lightly flecked with grey at the temples. He blinked several times, glancing out of the window.

This might be the same excuse.

Or it might not. Evidence of his body’s approval for what he and Kippy had just been doing was apparent, the front of those Lycra shorts straining to contain him. Kippy’s own body quivered in response.

“I’m more than fifteen years older than you. You’re a student, you’re young, you’re just out. I don’t think we want the same thing.”

Fuck knew where the bravery was coming from this morning, but Kippy recognised ethics when he heard them. Here was a man trying to talk himself out of something Kippy now wanted more than he’d ever wanted anything in all his life. More than he’d ever wanted to go to art school, maybe even more than he’d wanted…

Well, now was not the right time to be thinking about HIM.

Danny had said last night that he was pretty, aye?

He closed his eyes and took the tee shirt off, stretching his arms to the ceiling slowly as he did so, making sure John got an eyeful of naked chest. Kippy had always been lean, ribby-looking in his teenage years. Slight physical changes had taken place in the last six months or so. He was still slim, but now the pecs, shoulders and biceps were padded so that you could see the muscles under the tight stretch of skin. There was even—finally—a neat smattering of hair starting an inch or so below the clavicle and covering him to just below the nipples.

He opened his eyes. John hadn’t moved, his cheeks puffing up as he blew out air and a heartfelt sigh.

“Oh, God…”

Who knew Kippy had it in him? He pushed aside the duvet, and lay on his side, one hand supporting his head, and the biggest, brightest smile on his face.

“C’mon then. I wannae know what’s it’s all about.”

 

*Photo thanks to J@YGS on flickr. Shared through Creative Commons.

The Power of the Postcard

“Look what I’ve got!”

Daisy’s face was triumphant. She waved the postcard in front of Katrina’s face.

“It’s from Mick!”

No way on this earth would Katrina ever take that postcard from her hand. Even though she wanted to. Daisy knew this, which was why she dangled the card, wafting it in front of Katrina, that annoying half-smile on her face. Theirs was a relationship that depended on the to and fro of power. Postcard drifts up to Katrina’s nose, the advantage. Away, the ball back in Daisy’s court.

Debbie had come into the kitchen. She snatched the postcard from Daisy and handed it over to Katrina.

“Here, you go. Take no notice of my cow of a daughter.”

Debbie and Daisy’s relationship never ceased to surprise Katrina. Her own mother was a mystery to her, a weird, unknown quantity who smoked, watched TV, spoke seldom and rarely expressed an opinion. Since she’d moved down south and in with Daisy, her mother Debbie and brother Toby, Katrina’s mum had been in touch twice.

Aye, Mum. Full of loving concern, right?

I do not care. She said this over and over.

Mick’s postcard was something else. He wrote me a postcard! She hugged the thought to herself, skipping up the stairs to her room. The Walkers lived in a big house. They kept telling her it wasn’t, but for fuck’s sakes, this place had four bedrooms! And a dining room. A kitchen with a table in it, so they could all sit around it and eat! It smelled permanently of lavender, thanks to the potpourri Debbie littered in every room.

Aye, posh. Right enough.

“Catty, I’m coming to London!”

When she’d got to the age of thirteen, Katrina had hit upon the idea of people calling her Kit-Kat. Why not? Mick never listened. He’d called her Catty from the first time he’d met her when she was twelve, and he was fifteen.

His mum, Morag, was an old schoolfriend of her mum’s who ran the local hotel, the Star Tavern. When they’d left Katrina’s dad, Morag had taken them in for a while, giving them a free room in the hotel. Katrina’s first sight of Mick came the day after they moved in.

She heard voices downstairs, a whispered conversation where one party sounded aggrieved.

“They’ve nowhere else tae go, Mick. Think of it as a good deed. Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, aye?” At that, Morag laughed, the sound of it dark and dirty. Her words made Katrina uncomfortable. She and her mum were or had been, Jehovah’s witnesses. Morag’s words held a mocking edge to them.

Katrina made her way slowly downstairs, treading heavily so that they heard her coming. Stood in the doorway to the lounge bar, Morag grinned at her.

“Wee Katrina! D’ye want some chips, or are you down here on the scrounge for vodka?”

That deep, dirty laugh again. Morag had said a few things along those lines since Katrina and her ma had moved in.

“No thanks, Morag, but your vodka needs replaced. The bottle’s just aboot empty.”

Morag started at that, ducking back behind the archway and checking the optics behind her. When she came back, she looked at Katrina differently, appraisingly. She hadn’t expected a smart mouth or the bossiness.

But any thoughts of Morag vanished. A second figure had materialised, taking up space beside Morag. Katrina fell in love. It had to be love, right? Her stomach flipped over, the blood rushed to her face warming it uncomfortably, and her legs appeared to be glued to the spot.

Mick was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. He was taller than Morag, though he shared her blonde hair and blue eyes. His hair was a lighter blonde than his mother’s, and the ends of it touched his shoulders.

Katrina hadn’t known many men with long hair—Jehovah’s Witnesses tended to favour conservative hairstyles—but this was the best hairstyle she’d ever seen, she decided. A little mousse and some scrunch drying would make it perfect. The thought of being allowed to run her hands through that hair made her shiver.

“I’ll order him to let me do it,” the thought leapt into her mind. “I’ll just go into his room with my mousse and tell him he has to let me style his hair.”

Two days later, she did as she’d promised herself. Mick had returned from catering college, his beautiful blonde hair greasy and messy after having spent its day covered by a bandana.

Katrina knocked on his door. Her hand shook as she held it out, so she knocked extra hard. There was no answer. She knocked again.

Mick opened the door and peered around it. “What d’ye want?” He glared at her.

“I’m gonnae do your hair,” she announced, pushing past him into the room so he couldn’t shut the door on her.

His room was covered in posters, film posters in the main and the odd band she didn’t recognise, though given her upbringing that was no surprise. It smelled different too, antiperspirant layered over sweat and something else, something sharp and salty.

Mick ran a hand through his hair. He looked flustered and irritated.

“What’s wrong wi’ ma hair?”

“I can make you look like a film star,” she said and watched various emotions chase their way across his face: irritation, calculation, want…

Who didnae fancy the thought of resembling a film star?

“Aye, alright then.”

The postcard she held now showed the statue Greyfriars Bobby, the wee dog that had sat next to his master’s grave in Edinburgh for years. Flipping it over, Katrina read the words again.

“Catty, I’m coming to London!”

The next bit said words that were surprising and at the same time, not so. “I might be going on the telly!”

Hadn’t she told him years ago that she’d make him look like a star? Here was the proof she was right. Wee Katrina Allan, forecaster of people’s careers and fortunes.

This being Mick, your typical lad, the postcard lacked any further detail. Like, when he was coming. All it said was, “Maybe I can come and stay with you? Mick x’.”

Katrina hadn’t written anything much to Mick over the years, the odd birthday card, and a good luck card when he moved to Edinburgh to take up that sous chef position at the fancy-pants restaurant. She never put a kiss, too frightened he’d see it and think she was coming on too strong.

Of their own accord, her fingers moved to the cross after his name, tracing the tiny lines of it.

There was a soft knock on her door. “Can I come in?”

To be honest, Katrina was astonished Daisy had managed to hold off barging her way into Katrina’s room this long.

“Aye. If you must.”

Daisy’s eyes sparkled, and she clapped her hands a few times as she came in, like some kind of demented clown.

“Mick’s coming to London! My mum says he can stay here, by the way!”

She sat down on the bed beside Katrina. The Walkers had given Katrina their spare room and told her to do with it as she wanted. Katrina had bought herself some cushions and posters, and a noticeboard. Mick’s postcard was about to have pride of place there.

Daisy’s offer on behalf of Debbie irritated and gratified Katrina at the same time. They’d read the postcard and discussed it! On the other hand, the thrill of Mick coming to London and being able to stay here…

And then on the other, other hand… bloody Daisy, knowing that Mick meant so much to her when she’d never so much as admitted anything.

“Who says I want him to?” she said. “He’ll be a bad influence on Toby.”

Toby was Daisy’s little brother, and Katrina was very fond of him.

Daisy rolled her eyes. “What, and you’re not?”

It was a fair point. Only the other week, Katrina had brought the thirteen-year-old Toby a porn mag, saying his boys-only school kept the boys in ignorance of what women looked like. Possession of the said magazine increased Toby’s popularity at school ten-fold.

“You can tell me,” Daisy wheedled now. “Dead exciting, isn’t it? Mick coming here? What do you think he’s going to do on TV? Be a presenter, or maybe he’s an actor and has been one all along. How exciting!”

She didn’t need answers, Katrina reckoned. This stream of consciousness questions thing was something Daisy did all the time. Mick was yet another of those distractions the Walker family loved.

Something that took their mind off the fact that their husband/father was in prison.

Katrina leant back, letting her elbow support her. Daisy was still sat upright, and she turned her face so that she could look directly at her.

“Say thanks to your ma.”

“For what?” Daisy smiled. The to and fro of power.

“For saying Mick can stay here. That’s awfy nice of her. I’ll write to him and say that it’s okay.” Sometimes, you just had to give in to Daisy.

Daisy beamed, triumphant. “Good-o!”

Her face changed, comedic acting at its finest as something appeared to dawn on her.

“But we don’t have any other spare rooms! Where’s Mick going to sleep?”

©Emma Baird 2017

 

The Making of Alan Kirkpatrick

Here’s a short extract from a project I’m working on…

“Oh wow. You’re so pretty.”

Kippy wasn’t sure he liked a man touching his face, but Danny had reached out a hand and swept two fingers slowly from the temple to his jaw.

“I adore freckles.”

There was another thing Kippy wasn’t sure about: campness. Danny was as camp as Christmas, as the saying went. The party hadn’t been his idea, but Lillian insisted. She’d kind of taken him under her wing when he first arrived in Glasgow. She was very posh, but then he and posh girls got along if Daisy had been anything to go by.

Kippy was older than everyone else at art school, apart from Lillian whose parents had been wealthy enough to finance her through not just one, but two gap years. She swooped on him on their first day.

“Ooh—and what’s your name, precious?”

He was monosyllabic, partly through nerves and because he didn’t want to get into yet another Daisy situation where a woman fell for him.

She shook her head when he said ‘Kippy’. “I’m not calling you that. What’s your real name?”

“Alan Kirkpatrick.” He was still mumbling, hoping this pushy blonde would push off.

“Hmm,” she wrinkled her nose. “Terrible, too. I suppose I’ll have to stick with Kippy.”

She threaded an arm through his. “We need to stick together. Everyone else here is so young and so inexperienced. I hate teenagers, don’t you?” Said with all the bloated confidence of one just a year out of her teens.

Kippy’s worries about a repeat of the Daisy situation came to nothing. Lillian knew he was gay, she announced grandly. She had a sense for these things. As someone only just coming to terms with life beyond the closet, her revelation made him uncomfortable.

He remembered the teasing he’d put up with while he was doing his college course some years ago. Davy, Ewan and those other apprentices, the ones skilled in wrinkling out differences in their peers, zoning in on anything they suspected wasn’t just so. Had he not hidden it as well as he thought?

Kippy hadn’t actually known what he was hiding for a long time. Instinct had warned him to keep quiet about how different he felt from everyone around him anyway, though. He hid behind Daisy for some months until…The Thing happened. And then his life changed, mostly for the better but the start of his new life had been unbelievably hard and painful.

Lillian was like no-one else he’d ever met. She insisted that in the 90s, it was de riguer for al la mode women such as herself to have a GBF. When he looked mystified, she sighed. “A gay best friend, precious.”

She cocked her head to one side. “You’re from the sticks too. I don’t suppose you had much opportunity to explore your sexuality.”

Honestly, sometimes it was a bit like having a conversation about sex with your mum. He squirmed.

“Auntie Lillian can help!”

She was unbelievably nosey too. She asked questions all the time, almost as if she was researching him. So, tell me about Kirkcudbright? What about your mum and dad? When did you realise you were gay? Have you ever kissed a man?

When he finally admitted that no, he’d never so much as given a guy a hug, she clapped her hands together.

“That’s awful. First thing, then. I must introduce you to some friends of mine.”

Hence, the party.

These being Lillian’s friends, the party was taking place in a flat in the west end, just off the Great Western Road. These flats were so posh, they had two floors.

Lillian had insisted on picking out his outfit for him. Kippy had been going through a phase of velvet blazers, but she turned up her nose on them. “Too obvious!” She held up a plain white tee shirt and his old, worn Levi’s.

“Be the man in the laundrette,” she said, referring to the old advert where Nick Kamen stripped off, puts his jeans in a washing machine and sat in his boxers waiting for them to dry.

As a fourteen-year-old, Kippy had watched the advert a lot. Even now, if Marvin Gaye’s Heard it Through the Grapevine came on the radio, he felt his body quiver in excitement.

The outfit seemed to have done the trick. The party-goers were sixty-forty men to women. Lillian and Kippy were fashionably late arriving, and the attention that greeted them was flattering.

The party’s host made his way towards them, his eyes fixed on Kippy.

“Lillian! You beautiful thing, you. Who’s this?”

Danny wasn’t his ‘type’ anyway. Until very recently, Kippy couldn’t have told you what his type was. A picture swam before his eyes, a half-naked man wearing turned down overalls and a lazy grin. He blinked several times, hoping he wouldn’t cry.

Lillian leant forward and whispered something to Danny.

“I’ll get you both a drink,” Danny said. “And then mingle, do! We’re all good friends of Dorothy here.”

He winked, the eyes then flashing Kippy a lustful look.

“Are you okay, Alan?” Lillian asked. She was the only person under thirty who ever called him that, but he thought he maybe liked it. She said, ‘Alan’, when she was being serious, or asking difficult questions.

“Aye,” he nodded slowly. He’d be better once he had a drink in him. “Who’s Dorothy?”

 

©Emma Baird 2017

Preposterous Endings and Implausible Plots

The burnt-out car - it doesn't happen half as much as Hollywood would have you believe.

The burnt-out car – it doesn’t happen half as much as Hollywood would have you believe.**

Last week, I watched a film I thought preposterous and a book that featured an implausible plot.

It made me think because when you’re a writer you imagine various scenarios in your head, trying them out to see if they work or not, and rejecting plenty of ideas because they seem unbelievable.

It’s the biggest contradiction about fiction – good films and books need to be believable. Even if you’re writing about teenage boy wizards and their adventures saving the world from a malevolent man everyone fears to name. (Except for the said teenage boy wizard.)

By the time I’d got to the end of Jason Bourne, I had switched off. The last car chase (and there had been a few beforehand) seemed ludicrous, as did the final fight which was long, drawn out and physically impossible. Films like to throw together the main good guy and the main bad guy for a final fight, the main bad guy always managing to miraculously escape everyone else’s efforts to bring him down.

The book I read* featured three women who managed to set up a business together which was of course an immediate success. They all managed to find the loves of their lives at the same time so that the book had a happy – and very neat – ending.

It did make me think though. Should writers spend too much time worrying about the plausibility of their plots? Does it make something less enjoyable if the ending is predictable and unrealistic?

Plenty of us go to the cinema or read books for escapism. When life’s pretty uncertain, why not watch something or curl up with a book where you know the goodies will win, the baddies will get their just desserts and the heroine will find love?

I’m currently fretting over several elements of my own book, wondering if they are realistic enough. I’m worried about a car crash, where a car conveniently explodes (forums online suggest car explosions are nowhere near as common as Hollywood makes out), the progress of an old woman’s Alzheimer’s (I suspect I’ve made it too quick for plot reasons) and the timings of some revelations that I fear have come too thick and fast.

Making something interesting and making it believable don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but I’d rather write a book that people read and don’t feel forced to mutter, “Oh, for God’s sake! Seriously?” or “What a load of rubbish!”

 

 

 

*I don’t like giving mean book reviews, so I’ll keep the book’s identity a secret. And actually, I did quite enjoy it.

**Picture thanks to Jeff Buck.