Love Bites

A dark tale of love, desire and dentistry.

He opened his eyes. His eyes saw nothing and his mind felt nothing. For a moment he had no idea of a before or an after. He had no interest. All was now and now was all inky-black nothing. He was blank.

Then clarity began to permeate the blackness. Sparks of memory, like tiny, phosphorescent, deep sea micro-organisms, flickering on and off like a coded signal trying to tell him something. Just small flickers of light, a slight pulse, then gone… then a sting, and that fire in his blood… Darkness swallowed him up again and he went under.

Love bites dark shapes

Zoe had dumped Luke almost a year ago. He hadn’t seen it coming – although she had been thinking about it for weeks; apparently. It was a few weeks before Christmas, which was harsh. But at least it gave Luke the ideal opportunity to drown his sorrows and – ‘sow the seeds of recovery’ – as Ed had put it. ‘Tis the season to be jolly so stop moping you miserable twat’, he’d told him. ‘Everyone splits up at Christmas. They split up at Christmas so that they can go to Christmas parties and shag someone else without guilt and get back together in the New Year – you’ll be right. Don’t worry about it.’ Luke didn’t go to any parties and he didn’t shag anyone and Zoe didn’t come back for New Year.

Love is what love is – blind and irrational. Luke had felt the loss and the desperation, he’d been through the blaming and beating himself up bit – he’d even gone beyond the hating-her-fucking-guts stage. It was just past memories now. The odd twinge of regret every now and then and the occasional ache of sadness when something reminded him of what could have been had things gone a little bit differently. But things hadn’t gone differently and she hadn’t – couldn’t – or just wouldn’t give it a bit more time, a bit more effort. She obviously didn’t love him enough – the first thought that struck him when it happened, but one of the last thoughts he’d chosen to accept. Now he had. If she had loved him she wouldn’t have left him so suddenly and so completely. If she had loved him she wouldn’t have cut him off and left him floundering in the poison of his own lovesick head-fuck. If she had loved him they’d still be together. But she didn’t, so they weren’t. He wasn’t bitter anymore but he still felt a little empty. A little numb.

He awakens with a scream that shrieks back at him as it echoes around the dark, cavernous tomb within which he finds himself. He is lay on a cold slab. An altar? A death bed? He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know what these… these… devils are. These creatures surrounding him. All around him they’re eating. Black eyes on pale, translucent skin look at him with hunger. They’re eating him! Sucking away his very lifeblood. In that darkness from which he had just awoken he thought he was dreaming; a nightmare. In that nightmare he was surrounded by demons, but it was real. It is real and she is one of them. A demon… a devil… a beautiful, dark angel. Her face comes close to his and through those deep, crimson-black eyes she looks into him and through him and he is lost to her wanting…

Dark female

Luke’s work as a freelance photographer offered him many opportunities to get away, but he seldom stayed anywhere longer than the job required. When he did get the opportunity to holiday he would usually go and visit his best friend Stuart in Barcelona. Luke and Stuart had been friends since university where they shared digs. They’d had some great times at Uni and those great times continued when they came up in the fashion industry together. Then Stuart met his wife Lora and settled down.

Stuart and his wife owned a fashion boutique in the up-market, bohemian district of Graçia in the city’s centre. They had lived in Spain for the past five years, the last two of which they had been married. Stuart had met Luke’s ex-girlfriend and knew them when they were a couple. He’d insisted on Luke staying with him over that New Year when Zoe had left him. He knew how hurt Luke had been and was glad to see him getting back to near his former buoyant, confident self.

Although Luke had never had a problem finding a girlfriend, something had changed in him since he’d allowed himself to fall for Zoe. With her he had felt something that he hadn’t felt with the dozens of other girl’s he’d been with. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than not at all, but he wondered whether that was true. He’d been happy as an aimless bachelor, hitting and running. Dropping in and enjoying the honeymoon before baling out. But he was now well into his thirties and starting again was becoming a lot harder. Now he’d experienced something with more substance he couldn’t go back to those empty relationships. That was why his mind would still drift towards thoughts of Zoe. After Zoe everything else seemed dull, pale and passionless. But he had gotten over the worst and regained most of his enthusiasm for love and life and August in Barcelona was doing what it was intended to – reinvigorating his passion.

On Luke’s visits to see Stuart their last night together was always a late one, and this was no exception. The two of them had partied hard the night before, got up late and lounged around the private enclosed terrace all day, recovering. They drank and ate and smoked and Lora played a perfect wife to the perfect host, and on a perfect day, Luke remembered that it can be good after all.

They sat out on the terrace all evening and into the warm Catalan night talking about old times and wringing out the last minutes of their time together as they finished thirteen bottles of beer, two and half bottles of rosé wine, a gram of poor grade cocaine, a knuckle sized chunk of Moroccan hash and a bowl of mixed nuts – one of which had cracked one of Luke’s teeth. In that time they put their respective world’s wrongs to rights and the following day Luke left Barcelona feeling complete again.

He didn’t know whether it was a dream. Like angels they shone – more a glow – an ethereal glow, like fresh snow in the moonlight. But their touch; cold – but sensual; irresistibly sensual. These were dark angels. Dark angels who played music through his blood. A music that he had never heard before. A music that coursed through his body. A music he felt without hearing, attuned to his soul. The softness of their lips on his body and the injection of joy and pain they gave was like nothing he could describe. It felt so right, like it had always been right and it had always been. Like something he had been searching for forever but never knew he had. Now he knew nothing else as he melted into their touch. Rapt with wanting he felt nothing but a sleeping acquiescence where he was part of the pulsing in their veins. Part of their hunger, a deep hunger… A deep sleep…

gothic

Luke’s teeth weren’t in the best of condition. The tooth he’d cracked in Barcelona wasn’t even a complete tooth. It was little more than an enamel husk that had been filled with dental lead. His dentist told him that what was left of the tooth would have to be removed. This would leave a big gap next to a cluster of teeth that had been crowned when he was a teenager after he had been hit in the mouth by an erratically bowled cricket ball. The gums had long been receding on those crowned teeth, leaving a hairline rim of unsightly, decay stained metal showing every time he smiled; but this had never bothered him. He’d worked long enough in the superficial world of fashion to be beyond petty vanities. However, this new gap did draw attention to those old discoloured crowns. Narcissistic preening was one thing, but having a smile like a vagrant really wasn’t a good look for anyone, so he asked his dentist how much it would cost to have them all put right.

Luke left the dentist feeling depressed. To have all the work done on his teeth would cost around £5000. He couldn’t exactly just not get it done either. After losing the molar he was left with a big gap surrounded by four other loose, badly crowned teeth and he was struggling to chew, or even bite on anything on the left side of his mouth. The dentist had suggested a cheaper option, but at thirty-four Luke wasn’t ready for dentures. ‘But five grand!’ he thought. It was a lot of money and he couldn’t really afford it. But could he afford to have no teeth either?

When Luke told Ed about his dental issues, Ed told him to check out Eastern Europe. Ed was a fashion stylist and knew lots of models who’d had teeth done abroad. ‘It’s supposed to be at least half the price mate, I’m telling you. And you can’t leave them looking like that anyway ‘cos you look like Fagin.’

You always got nothing but the truth from Ed, that’s why Luke liked him. In the fickle and sycophantic world of fashion it’s good to have a friend who doesn’t mind giving you his honest point of view – even if he might occasionally stab you with it. Ed said he’d ask around to see if he could get a contact for a good dentist, but Luke knowing Ed knew better than to wait on him. Instead he went onto the internet and found an agency based in London that arranged dental trips to Budapest.

At Magyar Dental Luke spoke with a cordial, well-spoken woman who gave him all the details. She even recommended a private apartment near the city centre that was owned by the dentist where he could stay. It looked beautiful in the pictures, overlooking the Buda hills and the River Danube on the Western side of the city. Patients who used the apartment were shuttled to and from the airport, apartment and surgery as required. All of this, including flights – which Magyar Dental also arranged – came in at a little more than half of the surgery alone at home. What’s more, having previously spent two days in Budapest on a shoot a few years earlier, Luke had always wanted to return to take a closer look at the city described as ‘The Paris of Eastern Europe’. Budapest had a rich history and some beautiful buildings – a much more appealing prospect than hanging around a dingy dentist waiting room reading back copies of women’s magazines before being drilled and filled.

Luke had completed a pre-op questionnaire over the phone with Anna, the British agent. She had been very thorough in her questioning – name, address, age, blood type, past medical history, relationship status, next of kin – she even asked about his travel arrangements, whether he would be travelling alone or not. She suggested that if the work was for cosmetic reasons to keep it to himself until it was completed; ‘Oh yes’ she said, ‘it is always a nice surprise for patients to see the reaction of friends and relatives when they see your new smile without knowing about it beforehand’. Luke was very impressed with the attention to personal consideration, such a refreshing change to the grim conveyor belt of medical service in England. There was also a small, petty part of him that liked the idea of bumping into his ex with a gleaming new set of teeth. It would be even better if he had a beautiful Eastern European girlfriend on his arm too. Luke booked his appointment and his flight and was surprisingly, quite looking forward to his dental trip.

Awake! In darkness. In the darkness he could see; feel. Damp stagnation smothered his skin. He threw his hands forward to leap from the cold slab he lay on but he didn’t move. Then he roared; a cry for help, a cry of frustration, he shouted with all his strength – but no sound came from his lips – lips that moved only in his minds eye. He was dreaming? No; he was dead? But how could he be? How could he be dead yet feel so alive; so hungry? He looked around – feeling the environment with his senses. Feeling in the dark. Seeing in the dark. He saw the cavernous blackness of a gothic… basement? Cave? Mausoleum? Total darkness – yet he could see! Only he wasn’t sure whether what he was seeing was really there…

Creepy dark image

Luke’s flight arrived at 18.05. He collected his bags and was met at the arrivals lounge by a young, dark-haired woman. She seemed to immediately recognise who he was as she introduced herself; ‘Mr. Forshaw? Hello, I’m Klára; pleased to meet you.’ And how pleased was he to meet her. She was beautiful, so much so he found himself staring.

‘Hi’, was his muted reply. He was so taken aback by his beautiful escort he found himself uncharacteristically dumbstruck.

‘You have all of your bags?’ she asked.

‘Er… yes. Yes, this is it.’

‘Okay, then we go?’

‘Yes; we go.’

Klára smiled an innocent smile, but there was something inviting in her look. Maybe that was just wishful thinking. Or maybe it was just the way she looked – those, ice-blue eyes, set against clear, immaculate, olive, skin; a mouth that seemed to permanently smile at the edges. Lengths of coal, black hair fell from underneath a simple, black, woollen hat. She wore an uninspiring, black, winter jacket; thick black leggings hugged shapely legs all the way down into a simple pair of black leather boots. ‘God, she’s gorgeous’ he thought.

It was almost December and even though it was early evening, it was practically dark. It was also very cold. It was cold and foggy, but this beautiful young Hungarian woman warmed Luke’s passion. As they drove toward the city centre, along the Danube, across Széchenyi Bridge toward the apartment in Castle Hill, Luke and Klára made small talk. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five yet he felt like a shy schoolboy in her presence. And although experience and instinct made him want to charm and seduce her, he somehow felt… he felt overawed!

They arrived at the apartment. Based on the top floor of a classically restored, pre-communist building  –  courtyard, high ceilings,  parquet flooring, TV, DVD, power shower and spa bath – it was a beautiful place. ‘You have a complementary bottle of Vodka in the freezer’, Klára points out to him as she gives him a brisk overview of the amenities before handing him a set of keys and confirming the time she will come to pick him up in the morning for his pre-treatment consultation; 7am seemed very early. Although well pleased with his apartment, Luke’s concentration is completely lost on Klára. His attraction to her is almost of a feral nature. Yet despite this, his instinctive urge to ask her out remains somehow repressed although his heart seems to be racing. As she leaves the room, her welcoming smile seems almost teasing. As the door closes behind her Luke finds himself momentary glued to the spot staring at the empty space she has just left. He blinks, gives his head a tight, sharp, shake and puzzles at the cold layer of sweat he feels on his brow before reaching for the vodka. He quickly pours and downs the first shot and then pours another. It’s 19.56 according to the clock on the DVD player.

The clock on the DVD player says 21.21 as Luke snaps out of an almost hypnotic daydream he has found himself in for the last hour and a half. His second glass of Vodka is untouched. He ponders for a moment on his present, hazy, mindset, but his thoughts keep on veering toward the image of Klára. He knocks back his Vodka and decides to go straight to bed. That night he dreams of Klára. Strange, erotic dreams.

Dark erotic picture

The following morning he is awoken from a very deep sleep by the buzz of the intercom. It’s still dark outside and his watch reads just after six, but it’s still an hour behind and he was due to be picked up at seven. The buzzer rings out again, ‘Shit!’ he says as he jumps out of bed… A wet bed! ‘No way!’ Luke becomes aware of the sticky wetness in his boxer shorts and sees the damp smudges on the bed sheets and he blushes. He cannot remember the last time he’d had a wet dream. There is a knock on the apartment door. It’s Klára. ‘Just one minute’ he calls to her; ‘Sorry… I didn’t change the time on my watch’ he continues as he scrambles around for his clothes.

‘That’s okay, we have time’, she replies from behind the door. She has a coy smile on her face and affords herself a little snigger as she waits for Luke.

He is in an underground cavern that stretches as far as his eyes can take him. There are row upon row of tomb like openings, some with their burial slab pulled out to expose lifeless bodies like his own. He can see the pale glow of human shapes, like ghosts, moving freely through the dank, black air. Floating up and down the giant burial chamber as they feed off the entombed, listless bodies. Then she comes back. She is beautiful, alluring and mysterious. She is like Lady Death come to take him on that eternal journey into the unknown – and he wants her. He wants her and she wants him. She says nothing and he says nothing. He raises himself up off the slab and she takes him in her arms and looks straight into his soul. Without speaking he says yes as she envelops him in her embrace and they kiss. A kiss of joy and death…

vampire woman

After the silent journey that dark morning (Luke felt a little embarrassed about his wet dream, as if Klára knew), when he arrived at Maygar Dental Clinic Luke began to have second thoughts. The architecture in Budapest is quite awesome, but some of the structures remaining from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were left to fall into disrepair during the days of communism. When he saw the large, discoloured wooden doors leading into the building and the dusty marble stairs leading toward the dental surgery, he had visions of a horror film style torture-porn scenario! But once inside the dental office, the antiseptic smell and state of the art equipment partly reassured him. The pages of endorsements in the comments book also helped. But ultimately it was the assuasive words of Klára – who was also the dental nurse at the surgery – that talked him into going through with it. The dentist Dr Kiraly talked him through the procedure; the treatment would involve having two teeth removed, an implant screw inserted through his gum and into his jaw, and another two teeth filed down and fitted with temporary crowns. This was only the first stage but it would be quite lengthy and painful, so Dr. Kiraly advised that he be put to sleep.

As Luke lay there watching the injection of general anaesthetic leave the tube and enter his vein, he thought how much the liquid looked like blood. He tried to remember the last time he had had a general anaesthetic. That had been many years ago when it was administered via a gas. Then Klára held his hand and smiled at him and he felt comfortable again. Her hand was icy cold; ‘Cold hand’s, warm heart’ he thought to himself as he drifted away into unconsciousness.

*****

He had no idea how long he had been under and he wasn’t sure whether he was dreaming or not. What he was sure of was that in this dream he was being led through a dark, underground corridor. The arched walls are ancient, damp, black rock – like the inside of a cave. He’s trying to speak, to move; but he is paralysed. Then he looks up and he see’s her. A sudden sensation of fear shoots through his paralysed body as he looks into the dark, crimson-black eyes of Klára. He tries again to move but he can’t. She smiles at him, revealing, sharp, pointed teeth. Fear fills his veins as he screams within himself in silence…

Gothic bloodstained face

They had been here for millennia – since the dawn of mankind; but they weren’t men. They were of men – humanoid – but something more than man. They had gone by many names – Vampires, Vorvolakas, Strigoi – even Chupacabra, the ‘goat sucker’. But these magnificent creatures were more than evil bloodsuckers. They had seen the birth and death of prophets and saints. They had seen empires rise and fall and lived through it all. They had been revered, worshipped and feared before being almost hunted to extinction. All that remained of them in the modern world were myths and legends, rumours and secrets. Now they lived underground, in the shadows of society. There influence invisible to the masses, but deeply ingrained in the governments and offices of the most powerful institutions on the planet; safeguarded from exposure and total extinction. They claimed those that had no family, no home, no future or passion in their lives; and they offered them a choice – an endless death as food to these God’s, or join them in immortality, a slave to their hunger and a slave to the hive.

Luke had been chosen by Klára because she wanted him. He wanted her too – more than anything that he had ever wanted, but he couldn’t think clearly. He was on the cusp of complete transformation and his blood, the very core of his being, was full of the memories of a bloodline stretching back before recorded time. He was being bombarded with images and thoughts, equal in their beauty and horror. He felt an immense power within him, whilst at the same time he felt a terrifying vulnerability. But the most significant thing about all these feelings, was that they were pure, powerful feelings, infused with a substance the like of which he had seldom experienced in his old life; – pure, raw passion. For the first time in a very long time he felt a strong, unyielding passion and desire. Klára allowed him to take her. With her nails she cut an opening in her jugular. As he drank, she sank her teeth into him and they fed off each other. Luke was born again. Born into darkness. The darkness of an ancient, pure desire.

****

The Old Lady who Lives in Apartment C

There’s an old lady who lives in my apartment block who I have concerns for. She is somewhere between 67 and 102 years old and she often occupies my thoughts. Not for any perverse reasons, but because in over 10 years I have never seen anybody visit this lady. I have never even seen her speak to anyone. As far as I can tell the only company she keeps are the two bulging Asda bags that she carries around with her at all times. I don’t know if she keeps pet rats in these bags but I suspect not because they are plastic bags and any living thing kept in there would surely suffocate; which conjures up a stranger thought – what if she keeps dead pet rats in those bags? Or what if she is a serial killer and she is regularly disposing of body parts of people who came to visit? What if she is a reclusive millionaire and she keeps rolled up wads of money in these bags? You see this is the thing, the more I see of this woman, the less I know about her and the more outlandish my assumptions about her life become. Sometimes if I see her in the evening it keeps me up at night, but not in a perverse sense of course.

I have tried to speak to this old lady to be neighbourly and make her feel at ease, but her eyes frantically dart around in all directions like Stevie Wonder in an attempt to avoid any kind of eye contact when we pass on the street or on the driveway. When I did speak with her I couldn’t understand what she said. Her voice was little more than an incoherent mumble, a bit like a cross between Beaker off the Muppets and a drunken Ewok. I simply assumed that she is a little neurotic and nervy and my intrusion into her personal carrier bag space made her uncomfortable, but events later on in this post have made me reconsider.

“…when I look beyond the wrinkles, silver hair and charity shop clothing of the old lady in apartment C, I imagine that she was once quite a Looker.”

I have a problematic habit of staring at people. My Partner/Friend/Lover/Contracted Call Girl hates this. Although my staring is just an incidental to my mind working overtime as I try to imagine the lives and scenarios of the people and events around me when I’m a little bored or mentally restless, she only sees me staring at members of the opposite sex and reduces my social curiosity to banal lechery. Whilst banal lechery is sometimes my motivation, for the most part I’m just making things up. For example, when I look beyond the wrinkles, silver hair and charity shop clothing of the old lady in apartment C, I imagine that she was once quite a Looker. I then wonder why she doesn’t have a husband or some children. This leads me to believe that she was either a bitch or a slag or both; that her husband left her or that she was a party girl and has been around the block a number of times, but eventually left it too late to settle down and was banished to the shelf of spinsterhood. Whilst I understand that this might seem a little unfair and that there could be more sad and tragic reasons behind her apparent loneliness, and that people aren’t supposed to think ill thoughts of the elderly, it is only make believe. And let’s not forget that the elderly were once young, and just like all those Nazi war criminals, are just as likely to have been dirty, rotten, nasty, evil wankers as anybody else.

I thought about breaking into apartment C and fitting some webcams and streaming her inner life onto my computer, but I realise this is illegal. I also realise that I might see her naked, which, having seen Julie Goodyear parade around the Celebrity Big Brother house for two weeks, is an altogether more disturbing prospect. Instead I attempted to invite her around for a cup of tea if she was ever feeling in need of some company. This was a mistake.

One evening at around 9pm I heard my doorbell ring. I don’t like unexpected visitors and I’ve made this clear to my two friends. I wasn’t expecting anyone that night and it was too late for the postman or the bailiffs, so I was curious as to who it could be. When I looked through the spyhole of my front door I couldn’t make out what I was seeing through the fish-eyed-lens view. At first glance it looked like Heath Ledger as The Joker, but I knew this couldn’t be true because he would never have survived that fall at the end of The Dark Knight. Then she leaned forward to press the doorbell again, and the distorted image crystallised into meaning – it was the old lady from apartment C. She had put on an evening gown, some makeup and was carrying a bottle of something that looked alcoholic. I was scared. She looked like Betty Davies in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’, but the scary thing was she looked like Betty Davies in black and white. I stepped back from the door in the way that you do to distance yourself even further from a door when faced with an unwanted visitor through a spyhole, as if doing so makes you even less visible than being behind a solid wooden door would. She rang the doorbell one last time and I simply froze in fear and anxiety. It seemed too off-key to stand on the doorway and apologise to a woman old enough to be my history project that she had read my invitation all wrong, that I already had a Partner/Friend/Lover/Contracted Call Girl and our relationship was going fine. If the neighbours saw us how would it look? For a moment I thought of Fatal Attraction and feared for my pet rabbits, but we ate those at Easter as an offering to Jesus in protest toward the commercialisation of his festival (if you have never tried it, rabbit is quite a tasty dish; a lot better than cat and certainly not as tough to chew on as dog – although not as good as grey squirrel).

Cropped screenshot of Bette Davis and Joan Cra...

“Let me in, let me in NOW DAMN YOU!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After ringing one last time, the old lady from apartment C bowed her head dejectedly, backed away from the door, spat on my car and left. I stood at the door for a moment and pondered what had just happened. I thought about that first time I attempted to speak with her and how she blushed and fidgeted and averted eye contact and I realised it was the same reaction a young girl has in the playground when a boy she likes asks her out. This thought made me feel sick. Had I led her on? Does this woman think that I was making advances? Does she put a glass up to the wall and listen to me having sex and pleasure herself at the thought of it!? Oh my God, what had I done!?

I now avoid the old lady from apartment C. I am now the one who crosses the road when I see her coming. I am the one who averts eye contact when I pass her on the drive. And instead of imaginatively ruminating about what her life was like when she was young, I imagine her stood at the end of the garden staring up at my bedroom window at night whilst caressing her breast and some nights I tremble and cry myself to sleep.

He Said, She Said

I realise that my last couple of posts were a little bit sentimental and serious – I don’t know what’s come over me! Anyway, here’s a bittersweet tale of modern love to ease me back into the sublime, ridiculousness I intend on returning to… Enjoy.

‘It isn’t my fault!’ He said;

‘No, it never is.’ She said;

‘Oh, fuck off!’ was his return;

Louise said nothing; she didn’t have to. This was the part of the script that she always wrote and she knew the lines off-by-heart. It was just a matter of how long Jamie could resist predictability.

‘Did you book them?’ she asked.

‘Huh?’ Jamie smoked weed and wasn’t always dependable.

‘The tickets– you know? Did you sort them out?’

He could have remembered – he would have remembered – but she didn’t trust him.

‘Did I sort them out?! For the Weekender you mean?’

‘Yes’, she said.

‘O-oh, was this one of her oh-so-rare cock-ups?’ he thought;

‘You said you’d do it whilst I was gone. Didn’t you?’

‘“Didn’t you?” – Was she questioning herself here? Yes she was! She’s forgotten to get the tickets’ Jamie sensed a victory; ‘She’s not gonna twist this one around; No way’. He curbed his enthusiasm, placed his splif in its groove in the ashtray and braced himself to take command;

‘Babe; you said you’d do it on the way through town, I distinctly remember you saying that’; he tells her.

‘Yeah, but you said; “Don’t bother Babe, I’ll do it on the internet whilst you’re away”…’

‘Yes…’ Jamie interrupts – mustn’t loose his flow or get distracted… ‘…because I didn’t want you rushing to get to the station. But you said, “No, it’s alright, it’s on the way, it won’t take a minute…”’

‘Yeah but…’ She attempts an interception; – Not today – Jamie parry’s…

‘…YOU ALSO; – said – that I’d probably forget, so it’d be better if you did it; – Remember Babe? Remember when you said that? – ‘Smart bitch – I smoke weed, what’s your excuse?’ he thought.

She paused (she hated being called ‘Babe’ – but that wasn’t why she paused. She paused because for once she was losing and she needed the time-out to re-strategise).

‘So you didn’t get the tickets then, is that it?’ She said.

‘I didn’t get the tickets! I didn’t get the tickets! – Babe, you were supposed to get the tickets. Don’t try and put this one on me’; He had her this time. – Or did he?

‘Look, I’m not going to have a row about it. It’s always the same thing – I said, you said…’

‘…No no no – not this time…’

‘…Jamie, you do it all the time! You smoke a joint, get all confused and swear it was me.’

Despite his best efforts, Jamie was getting confused. He tried hard to remember whether he was right or not – and it was that moment of doubt that threw him off. He snatched the splif out of the ashtray and lit it, frowning hard in concentration.

‘No, Babe. Not this time – this isn’t my fault.’

‘It doesn’t matter…’

‘…It isn’t my fault! You said…’

‘…Jamie it doesn’t matter…’

‘…Yes it does! You always blame me – and you’re usually right, – but this time you’re not’

‘Look, just forget it. I’ll go on the internet and book them now, okay?’

‘It isn’t my fault!’

‘It never is’, she mutters under her breath.

‘Oh fuck off,’ he mutters under his.

Behind the glazed look on Jamie’s face he was seething with frustration. He was three-nil up at half time with everything going in his favour. Now, with the final whistle about to be blown she had managed to equalize – ‘Aaaaaaggh – the bitch!’ he thought, as his metaphor dragged its team off the pitch, arguing with the referee and bickering with each other as they walked down the tunnel past the disappointed fans and into the dressing room.

As Jamie leaves the room Louise smiles.

Jamie and Louise had been together for almost three years. They had come together via the archetypal 21st century mating ritual  –  bar, alcohol, sex, more sex, followed by getting to know each other. Whilst they were having fun, the time flew and weeks become months. The months became a year and when parental emigration made Jamie homeless, Louise let him move in.

Louise was a team leader peddling customer deflection and corporate tricks in a call centre. Jamie peddled classic vinyl in a second hand record shop. She was all assertiveness, management strategy and office politics. He was the ‘Er?’ in Slacker. She had never gone to University but had worked her way up into mid-management by the age of twenty-five. He had got a 2:2 in Art History after spending three years getting stoned to the soundtrack of rare grooves and electronica. She hadn’t had a boyfriend in almost three years. He hadn’t even noticed the last three years. On the surface Louise and Jamie couldn’t be more different; but in some perverse way they complimented each other.

Fate had brought them together on an end-of-month Friday night.  Their regular venue closed for refurbishment, Louise and her work colleagues had found themselves on the opposite side of town in a student bar that was having a promotional vodka night. Jamie was usually the resident DJ at ‘Carbon’, but that night he had taken off to take advantage of the free drinks, never expecting to take advantage of Louise too, who had quite frankly drank enough to be anybody’s; Not that she wasn’t attractive or that Jamie wasn’t desirable. Despite his lack of physical definition Jamie was quite a good-looking guy in a metro-sexual, floppy haired kind of way. He had the face of a young Mick Jagger and an unlikely style made attractive by the celebrity of Jarvis Cocker and Russell Brand, but now a de rigueur image in pop-culture. Although an unremarkable looking woman, Louise had legendary breasts and a well-presented cleavage – quite irresistible for any straight man to look at without at least a mild throb of enthusiasm. She had a stern look but not a stern face, but it was only when she was relaxed and dropped her guard that you would notice the difference. Blonde hair, hazel eyes and a body that Rubens would have called beautiful, but ‘Hello’ magazine wouldn’t have; she was a fuller woman no doubt.

The romantic details of how they met they will probably never remember. The alcohol, fuelled sex of that night they couldn’t forget and frequently repeated. Those prurient pleasures probably carried them through the first year, but there was more to it than a great pair of tits and a good shag. Despite their obvious differences, they did sort of… complete, each other.

She may have worked hard and done well, but she had few friends and knew her profession was soulless. Despite her organised, confident, persona, at least twice a week she would cry to herself in her lonely two-bedroomed designer apartment in the city centre. She would cry because she was overweight and lonely.

Jamie wouldn’t have smoked so much if he didn’t want to blur the edges of his underachievement and numb his feelings of insecurity. He would have loved to buy new things and live on an income rather than an overdraft, but he knew you needed drive and ambition to do that. You needed to take responsibility and make plans, and those were things that terrified him.

As individuals Jamie and Lou disliked themselves. As a couple they at least loved each other, sort of. So their relationship worked; sort of.

Louise booked the tickets then asked Jamie if he fancied eating out, as a sort of peace offering. He’d live off beans on toast if he had to, but she knew how much he liked a good meal;

‘So where do you want to eat then?’ she said.

‘I’m not arsed, whatever.’ he said.

‘Why can’t he ever make a decision?’ she thought.

‘McDonalds then?’ was her return

‘McDonalds!?’

‘Well you said you’re not arsed.’ She said.

‘Yeah but I don’t want McDonalds’

‘Then try making a decision then, dickhead,’ she thought to herself. Jamie did this whenever they would go to eat – go anywhere. He’d never commit to making the choice but be the first to complain if it wasn’t the right one.

‘Well what do you want to eat then?’ she said.

‘I’m not bothered, you decide.’ He replied (surprise, surprise).

‘I always decide and then you moan when we get there – “It’s too expensive, it’s too snobby, they don’t have anything you like, the menu’s foreign…”’

‘Alright, alright! – Turkish; That’s what I want.’

Louise was surprised. Was this a trick? ‘Okay, Turkish it is.’, she said.

‘Then, I think we should go out for a drink and a bit of a dance’ he continued, ‘It’s Friday, I’m not in work tomorrow, we’ll get pissed on cheap Vodka’s, stagger home and…’ As he went on to tell her what they were going to do that night, Louise felt warm and happy and very much in love with her skinny, little, layabout, boyfriend who worked in a record shop, smoked too much weed and knew how to rub her up the wrong way; and the right way.