Chapter Twenty Nine: Girls in Love

The morning after the Girl Trouble gig started badly when, at half past nine, I found myself being shaken awake by a half dressed and increasingly fraught Fergus. Fliss had also overslept, it transpired, and she also took some rousing. Jenny was furious by the time we finally arrived, and she didn’t buy our various feeble excuses, so the day ended with her frogmarching me through Victoria to the nearest café for coffee and an interrogation.  She had tried to discuss our lateness and disarray with Fliss at dinner, but she had turned her woeful blue eyes on her, and Jenny hadn’t felt inclined to pursue things after that, Nat’s right: it’s too like kicking Bambi.  So, she was asking me, what had happened?

  “Did you tell her?” asked Fergus that night as we lay in bed.

  I sighed, heavily, and turned over to face him, my eyes level with his.  “No.  She wouldn’t understand.”

  “She might,” he reasoned.

  I thought about it, Jenny was au fait with the sort of nameless post riot grrrl scene we’re a part of, and she had wanted me to keep her up to date on Fliss’ girlfriend, but I still shook my head, “It’s not that… so much, it’s mainly that she wouldn’t believe it.  I’m only just beginning to believe it myself.”

  The identity of Fliss’ girlfriend hadn’t been the only bombshell dropped on us that week, for the weekend after the Girl Trouble gig I was woken up by a very excitable Nat. “I’m getting married!’ she blurted out as soon as I announced my presence on the line.

  I blinked, sleepily, for a few seconds before I said “Sorry Nat, this must be a terrible line… I could have sworn you just said that you were getting married.”

  “I am getting married!”

  “To who?” asked Fergus, sleepily; he blinked his eyes as he slowly sat up in bed, and the gentle morning light shone through my curtains and onto his face, highlighting his half opened eyes. 

  “Dylan” I said, still feeling shocked.

  He yawned, and his tone was blithe as he said, “Rather him than me”, I watched as he closed his eyes again and slid back down the pillow.

  I closed the door behind me, and moved along the corridor to Fliss’ bedroom.  I knocked on the door, but there was no answer, so I tiptoed inside.  Fliss, like Fergus, was still in bed.  Her tangled hair trailed across the pillow, and I could see her pale, tear stained face and woeful blue eyes peering out at me amidst the pink and white bedding; the definitive little girl lost.  Her face became clouded by confusion as I told her Nat’s news.  “But she can’t” she said as she pulled herself up by her elbows; “she likes girls.”

  “And boys” I pointed out.

  “Yes, but…” her forehead was creased in puzzlement “Why?”

  It was a question I put to Nat when I met her for dinner yesterday, upstairs at Afflecks Palace.  She was late, and I watched in seething impatience from a table by the window as she queued up by the counter.  I kept remembering a conversation that we had had when we were fifteen, in the long, hot summer of 1997.  We had just come up with the idea of starting a record label, and we were on our way home from a gig at the Twilight.  As we walked along Oldham Street, we chattered excitedly about the two bands (Lungleg and the Yummy Fur, from Glasgow) that we had just seen.  Lungleg had played ‘Maid To Minx’, and we were singing it when we reached Piccadilly; the shops and the bus station lit up Piccadilly, and even though it was night, we were stiflingly hot in our crop tops and mini skirts.  Across the way was Piccadilly Gardens, and at its centre was a fountain; somehow, we found ourselves running towards it, giggling and shrieking as we raced.  People turned to stare as we charged past, listening to our shrieks as we threw ourselves into the cool, stale, and still water.  Later, as we dripped our way to the bus stop, she suddenly said, “I will never marry”.  It wasn’t an announcement; it was an observation, stated simply, casually almost, and without regret.  “Me neither” I said.  She smiled as she took hold of my hand, and we ran.

  “Earth to Maggie” her dryly amused voice broke into my thoughts, and I looked up into her similarly amused dark blue eyes, as different to Fliss’ forget-me-not pale blue sad eyes as a night’s sky, full of mystery and stars.  Her whole face seemed to light up as she laughed.  “You were miles away.”

  I nodded my mind half on the past, half on the present, as I asked.  “Why are you marrying him Nat?”

  “Because I love him,” she said, simply.

  “I don’t believe you,” I said, quietly.

  She shrugged, and a secretive expression seemed to veil her face as she said, “Don’t then.”

  “It isn’t like you.” I remembered when I had last seen her.  It had been at Juvenile Hell, when she and Violet had discussed Fliss’ dress, a dress that I now know was a present from Adrienne.  I remembered Nat choking on her drink when I had described the girl shinning down our drainpipe… Had she known? But Nat had been with Dylan that night, all night, and she had been very, very drunk… “Nat” I said, as casually as I could “You’re not marrying him because you’re pregnant, are you?”

  She pulled a face “Hardly…”

  I was beginning to feel about as puzzled as Fliss had seemed when I had told her the news “Well then… why?”

  She sighed as she rested her elbows on the table, and propped her chin on her left palm.  She held her right hand out to me, and I could see the ring, winking out at me from her middle finger.  It was a platinum snake ring, with tiny sapphire eyes.  As she withdrew her hand, she gazed at the ring herself, and her expression was one of fondness as she said, “He wanted to get me a different one, but I like this.” As she looked up, her expression became sheepish as she said “We were sat on one of those huge wooden seats by the fountains in Piccadilly when he proposed.”  The dreamy, fond expression returned as she continued, “It was so romantic… He said he knew he’d only known me for a few months, but he knew he was in love with me.  He said that he’d never met anyone like me before, and he didn’t want to lose me, he wanted me to be always there.”

  My scepticism was fading as I asked “And you?” she didn’t reply, but I persisted “How do you feel?”

  “I feel… great, I feel… so happy that I could never explain.”  The secretive veil was lifting from her face as she said “I never met a man who managed to balance protectiveness with freedom and trust, never without it seeming false, never with it feeling natural… It always felt as though they wanted to own me or as if they were trying but… as though they were confused about what they wanted from me, and from the relationship, I don’t sense that.  I feel comfortable with him, he’s supportive and he listens to me, he doesn’t assume things.”  She grinned widely “And he’s equally wonderful in bed too.”

  I smiled, cynically, to myself.

  Her own smile faded a little as she said “I told Violet yesterday, about Dylan… she thinks I’m selling out.”  She looked up at me nervously “Do you?”

  I shook my head, “No,” Not if you love him, I added silently to myself.

    Fliss was back to her usual cheerful self at the recording studio today, so Jenny appears to have accepted her behaviour as a blip and has lost interest in finding out what happened, for now at least. Earlier in the week, Fliss was stumbling over her chords and forgetting her lyrics, not to mention all the times when she ran out of the room in tears, but today was very different, and she smiled all day long as she calmly and easily played and sang her way through the takes; everyone was very pleased.

  The reason for this abrupt change of mood became abundantly clear almost as soon as we arrived home.  “I’m going to see Adrienne!” she beamed as she gleefully skipped along the hall and into the living room.  Even when she threw herself down onto the sofa, she could barely contain her excitement.  Her feet in their pink and white trainers did a little dance and she was more alive than I had seen her since the night of the Girl Trouble gig.

  I hated to ruin her mood, but I had to ask “How?”

  She beamed up at me, angelically “She’s got it all planned out” she began “We’re going to both go to this hotel tomorrow, some Travel Inn place in Birmingham, only…”

  “Why Birmingham?” I asked, curious.

  “Because it’s exactly in the middle between Manchester and London.”

  “Go on…” I said warily.

  “…Only then we check in at different times.  She checks in first, texts the room number to me, and I walk in a few hours later and just go up to her room and knock.”

  It sounded so simple.  “What if someone realises that you’re not booked in?”

  She shrugged “They won’t.”  The expression on her face turned to pleading as she asked “Will you cover for me at band practice tomorrow?” I hesitated, and her expression grew more desperate as she asked “Please?”

  I nodded my agreement.  “I’ll say that you had a last minute shift at work, and that you couldn’t get out of it.”

  She hugged me, impulsively and tightly, “Thank you Maggie!”  As she bounded out of the room, she called “You won’t regret this!”

  “Possibly” I conceded, “I just hope that you don’t, Juliet.”

  She paused mid bound in the hallway, and then turned to face me; I sensed her puzzlement as she asked, “Who’s Juliet?”

  “As in Romeo and Juliet?” I prompted.

  “Oh” still puzzled, she continued on her way.

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