Chapter Thirty Three: A love like this…

On the day that we moved here, over a year ago now, Fliss brought with her some packs of neon glow stars, and arranged them, with painstaking care and precision, on her bedroom ceiling in the shape of the night sky.  She liked to watch the sky at night, she said, and having her own artificial sky to gaze at was something that seemed to soothe her in the fractious months after Violet left her.  On the night of Adrienne’s arrival, I had walked through the shadows along the corridor to my own room and, as I passed her bedroom, had heard her describing and naming the various stars in a sleepy murmur.  I don’t imagine that Adrienne was any more interested in astrology than Violet had been that night at the coach park, but she appeared to be making vaguely interested noises as Fliss blithely continued her commentary.

  The pale sun shone weakly on me the following morning as I made my way along that same corridor, and the pale light was complimented by a girls voice, low and faintly husky, slightly breathy in quality, singing Blondie’s ‘Pretty Baby.’  As I drew closer to the kitchen, the singing grew louder, and I could hear the unmistakable, joyful sound of Fliss’ giggle.  Both the singing and the giggling suddenly ceased as I rounded the corner, and in the outline of the kitchen doorway, I saw Fliss lean forwards, quite suddenly, and pull her towards her with a kind of fierce passion, Adrienne stopped singing, and gazed into her eyes for a few moments, and then they kissed, not gently and softly, but with that same fierce passion, pressed closely against each other, holding onto each other as though they were afraid to let go.

  I prolonged my entrance into the kitchen for as long as possible, but still felt as though I was intruding as I crossed that threshold and saw them spring apart, almost as though it was a reflex.  Their shared expression was furtive as they gazed off into space, and as Fliss moved over to the table, and Adrienne returned to the coffee she’d been making, both seemed a little flushed and flustered.  “Don’t mind me,” I murmured, trying to sound natural rather than peevish, as I grabbed a glass of milk.  The atmosphere was heavy with unsaid words and unexpressed feelings, unbearably so, I felt, so I tiptoed out of the room without another word, feeling… not jealous, for what have I to be jealous of? But… I don’t know, sad perhaps, a thread of melancholy seems, even now, to weave its way through my heart just to remember that morning.

  I watched Adrienne from the kitchen table as she made coffee for herself and Fliss the morning after our night out at X-Offender.  She had traded the previous night’s glamour for her usual denim rags, and her plaid shirt was, as usual, tied around her waist.  She was wearing one of Fliss’ t-shirts, which was pale yellow in colour, and had a picture of Miffy on the front; it was as tight on her as it was on Fliss, and was stretched a little across her chest, finishing a few inches short of the waistband of her jeans, and revealing a wide band of pale, toned flesh.  She had brushed out her hair, and the previous nights ringlets had all but vanished under the assault as it hung, loose and ruffled, down her back.  She murmured, almost to herself, as she stirred the water, “I don’t know where this is going to lead…”

  “Nor do I,” I confessed, ruefully.

  I saw the confusion in her face as she turned to me, “I love her,” she said, a little unnecessarily, “I love her so much, but,” she sighed, “everything’s happened so quickly, and…” She rubbed her eyes, tiredly, “I feel as though I’m losing the threads of my life almost… I don’t know who I am anymore, or what I am, or… what I’m going to be.”  Her expression became clouded by guilt as she confessed, “I feel lost.”

  Just how lost didn’t become apparent until the Monday night, when I arrived home from work to find them both in tears, having argued.  Adrienne, it transpired, needed some time and space to think.  “You’re leaving me,” wailed Fliss, “you’re leaving me because you’re too scared to stay and give us a chance!”

  “I’m not leaving you” Adrienne’s voice was taut, her expression pained, and her eyes tired, “I need space, I need peace and quiet; I can’t think here…”

  “Let me go with you!” pleaded Fliss.

  “No,” moaned Adrienne “you’re needed here; I won’t let you leave Titanium Rose because of me”

  “Let me come with you!” Fliss’ pleading became increasingly insistent and desperate, “We could go abroad, or we could…”

  “No!” she shouted, and in the awful, repressive silence that followed, she said, in a voice so taut it could snap, “I have to be alone.”

  Fliss snuffled, pathetically, “You don’t love me.”

  “I do love you, Fliss,” murmured Adrienne, sadly, “it’s because I love you that I have to go… I have a lot of thinking to do, I’ve a lot of decisions to make, choices I have to make, and I can’t afford to make a mistake… I can’t decide here, because you’re here and…”

  “But what about me?” wailed Fliss, tears running down her cheeks.

  Adrienne was crying as she took her in her arms, she kissed her and their tears merged and melted together.  “You deserve better than this,” she whispered, “You know you do.”

  In the cool rationality of the evening, when Fliss had cried herself into exhaustion and sleep, Adrienne tiptoed, cautiously, and warily, into the kitchen.  “Can we talk?” she asked, a little nervously.

  I set down my book, and nodded.

  “I have to go abroad,” she confessed, a minute or two later as we watched the last rays of sunlight disappear behind the dark clouds.  “I need to be somewhere where the press won’t be so interested in me…” Tiredly, she rubbed her forehead with the palm of her hand, “I was thinking Holland; I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam…”

  I nodded in the shadowy half-light; I felt both sad and somehow relieved, “When will you go?”

  “At the end of the week, I think,” she said, wearily, “the longer I leave it, the harder it’s going to be.”

  “You’ve thought about this?” I cautioned.

  She nodded unhappily.

  That was on the Monday; by Tuesday the atmosphere in the flat had defused or altered in some way so that when I left for work the mood wasn’t of despair anymore, but of weary resignation.  That was the day that they went into town and got tattoos; Fliss had the initial ‘A’ tattooed over her heart, and Adrienne had ‘F’ tattooed over her heart.  Both were very pale and quiet upon their return, and I watched with a sinking heart as they lay in each other’s arms on the sofa, holding each other tight, their eyes shiny with tears.

  At one am on Friday morning, Fergus drove Fliss, Adrienne and I to terminal one of Manchester Airport.  We stood some distance away from them, quietly observing as they sat next to each other amidst the sea of white, on the hard airport seating, holding hands and leaning against each other, isolated against the world.  All too soon, the 3:25 KLM flight to Amsterdam was announced, and they both got to their feet.  I took Fergus by the hand, and led him away towards the entrance so that they could say goodbye.

  Fliss caught up with us a few minutes later, looking so small and lost that I hurt for her.  “Take me home,” she said, dully, her face a mask of misery, and we did.

  She cried all the way home, and was still crying when I put her to bed.  I could hear her sobbing still, even as I lay down next to Fergus in my own bed, even as I closed my eyes and drifted into sleep.

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