I saw her, I was walking down the street and I saw her, I fell in love at that instant, and I was struck dumb.
I was on my way home from work. I was just crossing the road at the top of Tate’s Avenue when she saw me and smiled. Her smile lit up her eyes, and her whole face. But she wasn’t smiling at me – or at least, she was smiling in my direction, but you could tell the smile was for herself.
Even with the smile, you wouldn’t exactly have called her pretty. She had that funny tintin haircut that I really don’t get. And you could tell she wasn’t wearing any make-up. And her clothes… She looked like the kind of person I wouldn’t usually give a second glance. But I was bored; bored with my life, with myself, dissatisfied. I had the job, the house, the boyfriend, and the friends. I didn’t want to start thinking about kids just yet, but I wanted… something.
So when she stopped in her tracks in the middle of the road, and turned around to watch me walking by, my first thought was that it would be easy for me, noticing her look, to slowly smile back at her smile, and kind of flick my head, as if to say, ‘Come on, then.’ It would have been so easy to do that one small thing. So I did.
I heard voices as I turned the key in the lock, but by the time I’d closed the door behind me, there was complete silence. There was a strange girl sitting on the sofa, untying her bootlaces. And I mean strange in both senses of the word. I was about to ask her who the hell she was and what she was doing in my house, when Grace came in from the kitchen.
‘Oh good, you’ve met,’ she said. ‘Would you like some tea?’
‘Yeah, sure.’ I sat down in the armchair as the girl pulled off her boots, and sat back on the sofa. Then she turned the tv on and started flicking through the channels. She went through them all – even the religious ones and the advertising channels, and had begun to loop through them again, when Grace handed her a cup of tea, and she had to put the controller down.
‘So, how do you know my girlfriend?’ I asked her.
She smiled at the tv, and said, ‘Actually, we’ve only just met.’
She was still not looking at me, and still smiling. I used the opportunity to grab the controller.
‘So how did you two meet?’ I asked, flicking onto the football channel.
‘We kind of… on the street, I suppose,’ she glanced at me quickly and looked away again.
She was still smiling in that annoying way. Was it cocky? Starstruck? And I realised two things: Number one, she was in love, and number two, it was with my girlfriend, whose top she was looking down, as Grace handed her a plate of biscuits.
‘I didn’t know which ones you liked,’ she said to the girl, as she sat down beside her.
‘Oh, I like them all,’ the girl replied, dipping a custard cream in her tea.
‘Grace,’ I said. ‘Can I talk to you for a minute.’
‘Sure,’ she said. ’Do you want a refill, Georgie?’
Georgie nodded. Grace followed me into the kitchen, and I closed the door over behind us.
‘You do realise she’s a nutcase,’ I said.
‘Oh come on. You must have seen the way she’s been watching you, the look in her eyes.
‘What look?’ She raised her eyebrows.
‘Do I really have to say it?’
‘Well you could try sending me a psychic message.’
‘That’s not funny. You know fucking well what I mean.’
‘Look. I don’t know what you’re talking about. So why don’t you just calm down and tell me.’
‘Fine,’ I said, realising I was going to have to play along with whatever game she was involved in. ‘The freak sitting on the couch in there is in love with you.’
‘She is not a freak. She’s just a girl. We’ve only just met, but she seems like a nice person. I doubt very much that she’s in love with me, and even if she is, what’s it to you? And what are you doing with that remote control?’
I realised I’d brought it into the kitchen with me. ‘Whatever.’
‘Right then. Whatever. I’m going to make some more tea. And you can either be polite to our guest, or leave the room.’
I heard them arguing through the crack in the door. Not much, but enough. But not enough to know whether she meant what she said. When she handed me my tea, our hands touched, and I realised that it didn’t matter.
The next day I made sure to be at exactly the same place, at exactly the same time. When I saw her I could have hugged her, but I was too afraid. Then she hugged me. I would have said, ‘Why did you do that?’ but I couldn’t say anything. Then she took my hand.
When I took her hand it was easy. Like we were both expecting it to happen. Though I don’t know what either of us had been expecting. Her hands were small, like a child’s hands, and softer than any boy’s. We walked to my house again, and I wondered what her hand would feel like on my face… and arms… and…
‘I’ll make the tea.’ I said. ‘Do you want any biscuits?’
‘No more of your love biscuits, thanks,’ she said, as if that was the kind of thing people say every day.
‘What music would you like to hear?’ I asked her. She was looking at her hands.
‘None of that rock,’ she said, ‘Something mellow.’
But I was watching her lips.
We looked through the cds together. I could smell her hair. I wanted something romantic. I could smell her perfume, as well. She was flirting with me. I should have been angry, bitter. But I could only find it in me to be happy. I wanted to tell her everything.
We talked for hours, our tea went cold. The room got dark around us. It seemed like she hadn’t talked to anyone for her whole life. Eventually, we got tired of talking. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, Bobby was home.
‘Why are you sitting there in the dark?’ he asked me.
‘I was asleep.’
He looked around the room for evidence, but there was none.
I knew someone had been there, and I knew who. What made it even worse was the fact that she was hiding it, but I couldn’t be bothered to have another fight about it.
‘Come to bed, honey,’ I said, and she did. We had sex, but even while I was fucking her, she seemed to be somewhere else. So I fucked her harder, but the harder I pushed, the further away she seemed to go. Part of me knew I should stop, but that part wasn’t in the driving seat, and besides, she hadn’t asked me to. So I fucked her until I came, and then I turned over and went to sleep.
I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I knew it was a bad idea. She wasn’t even gay. If something did happen between us, it would be because she was bored, or wanted to experiment. It wouldn’t mean anything. Not that I thought anything was going to happen.
But she was lovely. Pretty and graceful, and unspoilt, and disinclined to self-analysis. It was hard not to day-dream.
The next day was Saturday, and she didn’t show, but on Sunday I went back, just in case. She was there.
‘Let’s go for a drink,’ she said. ‘I know a short-cut. Follow me.’
I followed her down an alley, and I turned the corner to find her standing against the wall.
‘Come here,’ she said, and I wondered what she meant. I took a step closer. She licked her lips. She looked into my eyes, pulling me closer by them. I started to shake.
‘Awww…’ she murmured, pulling me into her coat. She held me close. ‘Why are you shaking?’
And I looked up at her, and she put her lips on mine, and began kissing me. We sat together on the wall, and kissed until the rain started again.
‘Come on,’ she said. ‘Let’s get that pint.’
We held hands under the table. Not just holding each others’ hands, but touching them all the ways hands can touch when everything is new.
It was so easy, kissing her. I mean, I made it happen, but I didn’t have to try. It was just the next thing that happened, that was supposed to happen, if you know what I mean.
I didn’t like her. It wasn’t that she was a lesbian, or even that she was a butch lesbian. It wasn’t even the fact that she was obviously in love with my girlfriend. There was just something about her that I didn’t trust. Maybe it was because she never spoke to me except to answer a question, and even then it was generally a yes or no, whereas everything she said to Grace was full of meanings, even double meanings, though Grace never gave any indication that she got them – at least as far as I could tell. Or maybe it was because Grace had been acting so different since she’d been around.
They sat together every night watching the soaps that she used to beg me to watch with her.
‘Please watch with me,’ she used to say. ‘It’s no fun on my own.’
These days she said stuff like ‘You head out if you want, Bobby. We’re just gonna stay in tonight.’
But I couldn’t leave the house with them sitting there. It was like watching a horror movie. Even though you know something bad is going to happen, you can’t tear your eyes away from the screen. Even though you know how it’s going to end, you can’t stop watching. You can’t turn it off.
To anyone watching, it would have seemed as if I had the same life as the one I had two weeks ago. Same job, same girlfriend, same house. But Grace was acting different. And I felt different. And nothing felt like it used to.
We met every day. We did the same things – talking, listening to music, watching tv. Of course, I wondered if she’d ever kiss me again. Anyone could have told me to play games, to stay away sometimes. That is how you manipulate people into giving you what you want. But I couldn’t do that. How could I, when being in her company was happiness?
If she had made it difficult at all, I wouldn’t have gone for it. But she didn’t ask me for anything. She didn’t try to force anything. She just went with the flow. And she always seemed happy, and peaceful, and content. I wanted to be like that. So when he pushed me away, I let the current take me too, and it took me to her.
One day we met up and I said to her, ‘Let’s go to your house for a change.’
Her house was all hippy, which surprised me, though maybe it shouldn’t have. It was all plants, and incense, and wind-chimes, and colorful, stripey throws. There was no tv. She put on some kind of nature music, and asked me if I’d like a joint.
We sat down together on some bean-bags, and she skinned up. We smoked the joint and then lay back to admire the colored lights playing across the ceiling.
She cuddled up next to me.
‘So is this how you seduce all the girls, then?’ I asked her.
She was quiet for a minute. ‘Noone else has ever been here before.’
So I turned to face her, and I kissed her, and she kissed me, and she touched my face, and her hand was as soft as I had imagined it. We went really slow, and stopped more than once for another joint. It wasn’t like making love to a boy. It was much more sensual, and spiritual, and meaningful. Everything was warm and soft.
In the morning, she made us herbal tea.
‘I have to go,’ I told her. I was afraid she’d say something like, But how can you leave me now, after last night? but I should have known better. She just smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
‘Ok,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you soon.’
I was up and ready for work when she finally walked in the door.
‘Where the fuck were you?’ I asked her.
‘You know where I was. I sent you a txt.’
‘Yeah. And then you turned off your phone.’
‘It must have run out of power.’
‘Yeah right. Suppose there was an emergency? Suppose I needed you for something?’
‘Like anything. I don’t fucking know.’
‘Well, obviously nothing happened.’
‘Nothing, apart from the fact that my girlfriend doesn’t bother to come home at night.’
She just looked at me.
‘You are mine,’ I told her. ‘You’re my girlfriend. And if you want to keep on being my girlfriend, you have to play by the rules.’
‘Ok,’ she said, too calmly, I suppose, but I was just relieved that it was over.
‘Right. Well give me a hug.’
We hugged, and she held me really tight.
‘I have to go work now,’ I told her.
‘Ok.’ She walked me to the door. ‘I’ll be gone by the time you get home.’
‘I’ll miss you,’ she said, closing the door behind me.
‘Fine.’ I replied, and left for work. It was a while before it sank in.
She told me it was over between them. She told me it was nothing to do with me. She said she didn’t know what she was going to do. She asked me could she stay here for a while. Of course I said yes.
‘I don’t belong to anybody,’ I told her.
‘I know that.’ She laughed.
‘But I have to ask you something. What do you want from me?’
‘I’m just happy that you’re in the world.’
She smiled at me. Then she picked up her book again. After a while I went over to the bookshelf and picked one out for myself.