Chapter Twenty Four: Young Girls, Run Free!

Having left Fliss singing in the shower that morning, it was something of a shock to arrive home from work that evening to such noisy chaos. I was feeling tired and irritable as I opened the front door, and a severely shaken ginger and white cat ran past me, almost knocking me over in the process. It was as I was still stumbling that I became aware of the shrieking; it was coming from Fliss’ room, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I made my way up the stairs and wearily opened her bedroom door. A half naked girl squealed, pulling Fliss’ duvet across her body, and then halfway across her face; a freckled snub nose, and a pair of mischievous grey-green eyes were all that could be made out of her face, but her long brown hair was disconcertingly familiar. On the other side of the room, Meelan, clad only in one of her long, baggy t-shirts, was laughing hysterically, whilst Fliss, in her dressing gown, flicked through her clothes, an expression of absorbed determination on her face as the Supremes blared out of her hi-fi, maintaining that you ‘Can’t Hurry Love’; I decided to leave them to it.

  About half an hour later, the three of them tumbled out of Fliss’ room, along the hall, down the stairs, and out of the door. I watched from the window as they sped down the street. Meelan was on her skateboard, clad in baggy dungarees and tight t-shirt, her usually loose hair in pigtails. The young singer, Kylie, from Angel and the Razorblades, was on her bike, peddling furiously in a very short skirt of Fliss’, a customised Girl Trouble t-shirt of Flora’s that Fliss must have borrowed, and her own Doc Martens, her hair was in long bunches, which flew out behind her as she soared past. Fliss, pink in the face from running and laughing, ran to keep up, her hair flying loose behind her. She was wearing a smoky blue velour halter-top and a pair of baby blue denim hot pants that I’d never seen before. The trainers killed it, of course, as did the Bagpuss bag and pink rhinestone tiara, but they certainly made for a colourful, not to mention eccentric, spectacle as they raced down the road. I felt rather old and nostalgic as I watched them. I would have given anything to be sixteen again then.

  I overslept slightly the next morning, by about half an hour, which wasn’t a disaster, but it did mean that I had to catch a later bus to work.  Fliss walked into the kitchen at quarter to eight, still in her hot pants and halter top, and I could tell from the way that she jumped that she wasn’t expecting to see me there “Oh,” she said, startled, “I thought you’d have left for work by now.”

  “Just about to leave” I reassured her kindly as I put my mug by the sink and picked up my bag.  I could smell cigarettes, sweat, and alcohol on her as I walked past her, and there was something else too, something sweet and strong, a sticky, vanilla, floral, cloying smell of perfume, but not her own (she normally wears Wild Rose.) Her clothes and hair seemed slightly rumpled, and she looked exhausted as she sank into one of the kitchen chairs. As she wearily tucked a strand of hair behind one ear, I saw a dark smudge of lipstick on her neck, and left for work wondering who it had belonged to.

  I went to Juvenile Hell one night after work, and watched from the bar as Nat prowled the floor, organising the evening’s entertainment.  She seemed to be everywhere at once, talking to the bands, watching them sound check, conferring with the sound and lighting crews, arranging guest lists and riders.  Amber served me as I waited.  She isn’t as pretty as Fliss, I don’t think, but she is older, and is likely to be more experienced than Fliss, which I expect is what Violet wanted.  Still, I thought, if Fliss was happy, and she certainly seems to be, does it matter what Violet wants? That hadn’t been her lipstick on Fliss’ neck that was for sure.

  “Kylie isn’t gay!” laughed Nat when I mentioned the Angel and the Razorblades singer, “There’s a boy from Chorlton Year Eleven I’ve seen her with.” She slouched against the arms of an office chair by her desk.  Her office was fairly small, and the furniture was shabby, but it wasn’t an unpleasant space by any means.  She had stuck up some Girls From Mars posters, and a Titanium Rose poster, words only, cheaply xeroxed in black and white.  “As to Meelan, I have no idea – I simply don’t know her well enough to know, although I doubt she is, I can usually tell, and I’ve had no radar like feelings about her, so far.”

  “Probably innocent fun then,” I said.

  “Probably,” agreed Nat, “and best if you keep out of it anyway – Fliss’ self esteem doesn’t need any more battering.”

  I went out with Fergus a couple of nights later. He took me to an Italian restaurant near Stockport where, because it was a Tuesday, we were almost alone. I always feel very self conscious when it comes to eating out; I think it’s because of my work history as a Catering Assistant and Waitress. I see the whole experience of eating out from too much of a staff point of view I think. But it was blissful to sit in the dimly lit room, holding his hand, and just… gazing at him… loving him.

  He drove back to our flat, and we went upstairs to the kitchen. Out of deference to my reluctance to drink, we were boiling the kettle for a post-meal cup of tea when he slipped his arms around my waist and blew, very lightly, on my neck. It sent a thrill through me, and when he kissed me I felt a surge of happiness so strong and fierce it made me dizzy. My enjoyment was short lived, however, because a few moments later there was a noise from outside the open window. Startled, we paused to look outside, and it was then that we saw the figure shinning down the drainpipe. “Hey!” yelled Fergus, indignantly. The figure looked up, and I could see now that it was a girl. She had a peaked cap pulled down over her eyes, blocking my view of her face, and as she lost her grip on the pipe and fell, I saw her long dark hair stream out behind her. She landed, noisily, next to our dustbins, and ran off, limping slightly.

  I ran down the stairs, as fast as I could in bare feet, and ran out of the door. I could hear Fergus behind me as I ran down the street. I had her in my sights, but she had a head start, ran like a cat, and was evidently an experienced garden hopper judging by the ease and carelessness with which she treated such obstacles as hedges, fences, gates and, even, at one hair raising moment, traffic. I lost sight of her far too soon, and stopped, panting for breath, on the pavement as I nursed a stitch. Fergus caught up with me at last. “Who,” he panted, “the hell…”

  I shook my head, too out of breath to speak.

  We slowly made our way back to the flat.

  Having limped back upstairs, I knocked on Fliss’ door before entering. Her light was off, and she was in bed. I switched on the light, and she turned over, moaning a little as she pulled her duvet nearer to her face in the warm late September air. “Did you hear anything just now?” I asked as I plonked myself down on her bed. “I heard two people running down the stairs like a herd of stampeding wildebeest,” she muttered through the duvet, evidently awake. “And you’re sat on my leg.”

  I adjusted my position on the bed, and Fliss sat up. She rubbed her eyes, but didn’t seem to be particularly tired as she pulled the duvet up to her bare shoulders. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright, and she was wearing slightly smudged lipstick of a tea rose colour, and an expression best described as mixed. I glanced over to her wide open window, and she blushed still further as she looked away, sliding further underneath the duvet as she did so. I got up from the bed without saying another word, and limped back to the living room, and Fergus.

  He laughed when I told him of Fliss’ reaction to my questions and, after a moment or two, I did too. As I leant back into his arms and closed my eyes, I wondered what Fliss’ girl had to be afraid of.

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