Chapter Seventy: Point Of Departure

“I still can’t believe I let Fliss talk me into this,” murmured Adrienne as she stood just outside Manchester Registry Office that chilly December morning.  The wind ruffled the white chiffon mini-dress that she was wearing over white jeans and white patent doc marten boots, and I could see the ‘F’ tattoo through the thin fabric of the dress.  Her dark hair was loose, and the wind was blowing it across her face in thin strands. Next to her, holding her hand, was Fliss, in a white princess line chiffon dress which fell to her knees.  The neckline was low, and I could see her tattoo, the ‘A’ written across her heart in the same permanent script as Adrienne’s ‘F’, carved and seared into the skin forever.  Both were holding bouquets of red roses, and Fliss’ hair was loose.

  The Registry Office was ringed with press, some from the gay and lesbian press, but many more from the tabloids and gossip sheets.  We blinked through the constant, relentless, volley of flashbulbs, and then someone called from the crowd, “HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A MARRIED WOMAN ADRIENNE?”

  “BLOODY MARVELLOUS!” called back Adrienne immediately.  Her smile was a perfect vision of white enamel against scarlet lipstick.  The cameras drew closer then, and she and Fliss posed together for their benefit, taking great care to display those matching silver rings, which shone out, prettily, from the middle fingers of their right hands. 

  “We weren’t really expecting much press interest,” confessed Adrienne.  A low chuckle ran through the crowd, and she smiled, “we thought you’d all be over in Windsor, covering Elton John and David Furnish.”

  “We weren’t invited!” someone called back.

  Everyone laughed.

  Someone asked if they weren’t perhaps a bit young to be getting married, and Adrienne said, with calm dignity, “No, because if I was marrying a man, twenty wouldn’t be too young, so why should it be too young for us?” She took a deep breath before she continued, “We’re not here today to argue the toss about civil partnerships and the validity of gay marriage, we’re here, essentially, because we love each other and we wanted to do this, not to prove anything to the world, or for publicity or anything that cynical, but because we wanted to do this.  There’s been a partnerships register in Manchester since 2002, so if we’d wanted to, we could have got married before this, but we didn’t want to.  We’re here now because now felt like the right time…” I sensed her awkwardness, “that’s all I can say really…” She shot an agonized glance at Fliss, who responded heroically.

   “I’ve never considered myself to be a fully paid up member of the Pink Pound,” she announced, slightly apologetically, “that isn’t a lifestyle, or stereotype, that I feel very comfortable with.  I firmly believe that the gay community shouldn’t be complacent, and that it needs to take a good hard look at the various divisions and elitist cliques within it’s own ranks, but, at the same time, I believe in gay marriage for the same reason that I believe in heterosexual marriage, because, despite it’s faults, and many of my friends have highlighted its faults to me, one way or another.” I saw Nat grin, sheepishly as she looked away, Fliss continued, in her slightly apologetic way, “I’m not good at speeches, but, I suppose what I mean is that, like a lot of girls, fortunately or unfortunately, I grew up with a desire to walk down the aisle, laden with flowers, in a white dress, and, to be honest, I never saw any reason why I shouldn’t do it.”

  A fresh onslaught of flashbulbs went off as she finished her speech, then the press began to depart, their story gained.

    Fliss sagged a little in relief, “Was I O.K?” she asked, her eyes wide with anxiety, “I’m not used to justifying myself to the worlds press, and I don’t know if I did it very well, I’ve had some arguments with some of my mates at the Basement about it, but I never actually won any of them…”

  Adrienne hugged her, “You were perfect.”  They kissed, softly and lingeringly, no longer caring, or noticing if anyone was watching.

  The intensity of their relationship had not been in any doubt, for me, since they had come home; they not only looked right together, they were right together.  The marriage had been Fliss’ idea originally, she had wanted to marry Adrienne quietly in Paris, but gay marriage is illegal in France.  This didn’t put Fliss off, however, it simply made her set her heart on a Manchester wedding, which would be more special, and which would mean having all her friends around her.  Adrienne was more sceptical, and I suspect that she shares some of my opinions about marriage ceremonies being bizarre and anachronistic, but she conceded to Fliss because; “I could tell how much it meant to her.  Fliss has a very romantic streak and, whilst I don’t always understand the way it manifests itself, I love and respect her too much to just ignore her feelings, besides” she smiled, sheepishly, “I really do love her enough to marry her, it’s just the actual marrying part of the deal I have issues with…”

  As the press departed, I spotted a small, mousy figure, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she was standing at a slight distance, away from the crowd, she wasn’t with the wedding party, but she was watching just the same.  I walked towards her and, as I drew closer, I saw the damp streaks on her face, “Shouldn’t you be in Uni today?” I asked her.

  She nodded, “But I had to be here,” her voice was choked with emotion, but she was done with crying I think, “I’m not bitter or anything, Maggie, because it would never have worked between us, there would always be Adrienne….”

  “She did love you,” I told her, “she wasn’t lying about that, it’s just…”

  “She loves Adrienne more,” she finished for me.  Her brown eyes were full of pain as she said, “I’ve learnt from it all though, next time I’ll be stronger, next time I’ll not hold back, I’ll be a better girlfriend.”

  I just nodded.  I didn’t trust myself to speak.  As she walked away, and headed back to University, and back to her student pals, my heart travelled with her.  She would have to go to her lectures, to her seminars, see her friends, and pretend that everything was fine.  Or else she would concoct a false story about a feckless boyfriend, and everyone would be incredibly well meaning and sympathetic.  Not for one moment would they think of Emily Garcia; that mousy, quiet, shy girl, one of the very few girls in the engineering department, in connection with Fliss Keale; the pretty, blonde, celebrity wife of Adrienne Du Shanne.  I wanted to help her, but I knew I couldn’t, especially since the pain she was in was partly my fault.  She would have to make her own decisions; I couldn’t make them for her.

  If Adrienne and Fliss had remained in France, it may have been less painful for Emily, but there were more complex reasons for their return than simply being eligible for the partnerships register.  There have been unkind suggestions in the press that they fled Adrienne’s “luxury penthouse apartment” (read: modest flat.) in order to escape the riots in Paris, but that’s not true, and the truth is that they were ready to leave.  As well as tentatively exploring the idea of a solo career, Fliss has been approached by a new digital radio station, based in Manchester, who have picked up on the Djing that she’s done, and will continue to do, for Nat at Girl Night, and they’ve offered her her own show.  She doesn’t get complete control over her playlist, but she does have some influence.  Adrienne, meanwhile, has some acting work; the BBC have hired her to read Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Mary Barton’ for Radio 4’s ‘Book At Bedtime’, and there are some T.V and film companies sniffing around, many of whom she is very suspicious of.  There’s a small film being made in Manchester about the cities “Gunchester” years though, and she’s very interested in that.  The writers sent her agent a script, and if the project goes ahead, she’ll be playing a very scary gang girl with sociopathic tendencies, which she says will be much more challenging than any role involving pole dancing or girl popstars who’ve fallen from grace, which makes up the bulk of what she gets offered.

  From the wedding, we moved on to The Twilight, where Violet is showing her art exhibition, entitled: ‘Friends And Lovers’.  Whether Violet and Nat scheduled the opening of the exhibition deliberately or not, it certainly resolved the problem of a wedding reception for Fliss and Adrienne, given that most of their friends were there.  A massive cheer went up when they arrived, still in their wedding clothes, having led a strange procession of paparazzi, curious onlookers, and friends on a pilgrimage through Manchester city centre en route.

  The mood was more orderly and relaxed than is common at The Twilight, possibly because it was dinnertime and not the evening.  Drinks were being poured and drunk, but in a more restrained manner than was usual.  Looking around me, I spotted some journalists and photographers from the wedding, but there were less of them now, and it was easy to ignore them when I knew they weren’t there for me.  Violet was being interviewed by a tall, fair haired, and slightly earnest woman when we arrived, I recognised the interviewer as someone I’d seen on T.V, which suggested she was fairly important, “Who’s that?” I asked Liberty Belle as we queued at the bar for drinks.

  Liberty obligingly gazed in the direction of Violet and her interviewer, the woman was just packing away her dictaphone, “Marie Flanagan,” Liberty is a woman of few words.

  “Do you know her?”

  Liberty shook her head, “Jenny met her once; she said she was nice.”

  Jenny joined us at the bar, “I hope someone buys this piece off me when it’s done,” she muttered, darkly, “If I’d known there’d be so many London people here, I’d’ve not bothered.” She sloped off again, dejectedly, with Liberty in her wake, and I turned away from the crowd and began to look at the pictures.  Some of them, I knew, were fairly old, and dated from Violet’s art student days in Bolton, but some were more recent.  They were a mixture of photos, sketches and watercolours, but most of all, they were more than simply pretty pictures, they actually revealed something beyond that, something deeper, and more meaningful.

  I stopped in front of a photograph of Fliss; it had been enlarged to poster size, and had been taken, I would guess, when she was sixteen.  She appeared to be asleep, and was facing the camera; her eyes were closed, but there was a rosy glow to her face, and she was smiling slightly.  Her fair hair was trailing across her face, and a ginger and white kitten was standing on her back, looking at her.  The pink straps of Fliss’ nightie showed above the duvet, displaying lightly tanned shoulders, but the focus was on her face.  I turned away from the picture, and watched Fliss, who was talking to Marie Flanagan with Adrienne.  The photograph conveyed a certain girlish innocence that Fliss possessed then but that, I realised as I watched them, she no longer has.  Some of the softness has gone too, but some of it returned when she went back to Adrienne, and Fliss is right: she isn’t a little girl anymore.  That photo was taken four years ago now, when Fliss was with Violet I would suspect, a lot has happened since then.

  I was surprised by the number of pictures there were of Nat, and it was something I raised with Violet later on, when she’d finished talking and schmoozing with the press, “You must have been stalking her for years…” commented Meelan, her dark eyes wide, having counted twenty pictures, of varying sizes, of Nat.

  Violet looked uncharacteristically shy, as she said, “We’ve known each other for a long time…”

  “So,” I said casually, “it’s not that you’ve been trying to figure out how to ask her out ever since you blundered into each other in the village when you were eighteen then?”

  Violet glared at us, “I can see that you two will make a good double act now that Fliss is taken and Nat’s come over to my side…”

  “I’m training her up,” I explained as Meelan smirked, “its part of her musical apprenticeship…”

  “I don’t need training up,” protested Meelan, “I’ve been around, I know…”

  Dotted around the room were pictures of The Girls From Mars, many taken on tour when perhaps certain members of the band were somewhat tired and emotional, as well as separate shots.  There were photos of Andrea and Jasper together, and Jasper alone and apprehensive in a hotel lobby somewhere, and of them both with their baby son, Sam, who was born last month.  Most interesting of all, there were pictures of the fans, and of people Violet must have met on tour.  There were two girls with day-glo hairslides and bracelets, wearing short, garish dresses and fishnet tights, and a gang of male urchins with vaselined spiky hair, dressed in leather and denim, delivering Sid Vicious style sneers to the camera.  There were pictures of The Flirts, of Angel and the Razorblades, of the crowds at Ladyfest Manchester, and… pictures of Titanium Rose.

  There weren’t many pictures of me, fortunately, and I tried not to look too long or hard at those that there were.  It was easier to look at the group shots.  There was a great picture of us from four years ago, huddled together by the tourbus, all eager and expectant, about to head off on tour with The Girls From Mars.  There was a great one of Flora too, spread-eagled on the floor of her shop at Afflecks Palace, pinning patterns to fabric.  There was one of me on the tourbus, talking to Fergus on that first tour we did with The Girls From Mars, it was next to one of me backstage after my “comeback” gig at The Gates, in which I am staring, distractedly, into the mirror, with a very anxious expression on my face, and you can see the scars on my arms because I’ve rolled my sleeves up because of the heat.  There are dark shadows under my eyes, and my face is all bones and huge, frightened eyes.  Fergus came up behind me as I stared at it, “This one’s better,” he murmured, directing me over to a more recent photo.  I don’t remember the occasion at all, but it showed me waiting outside The Gates, smiling slightly self consciously, but looking reasonably normal.  “I’m going to ask Violet if I can buy it,” he told me.  I said that I didn’t think it was that good, but he insisted that he wanted it.  When I asked why, he said it was because it “captures your essence” or something.  Violet was happy enough to sell it to him anyway; she had already had a request from Adrienne for the one of Fliss and her kitten, so once the exhibition is over, it’ll be ours.  I suppose I shall have to get used to seeing pictures of myself.

  A week after the wedding, and the exhibition opening, I had my own photo session.  It had been decreed by Jasper, and agreed by Jenny, that pictures of me needed to be sent out to the press along with the press release announcing that I am joining The Girls From Mars.  To make me feel more comfortable with the idea, and in order to create more natural seeming photos, the shoot took place at home.  Liberty was hired to take the pictures, Flora to style me, and I had no sense of egos doing battle as the two of them worked together, in fact, they appeared to get along very well.  Most of the pictures were taken in our kitchen and living room, and I wore jeans in most of the shots, with very little make-up.  Whilst the shoot was taking place, I noticed Fergus take Jenny off to one side for a chat, and, when they returned, I knew that they had been talking about me.  Jenny gave me a thoughtful, measuring look, before glancing back towards Fergus, and I could guess what he had said to her.  He isn’t going to sit back and watch me get ill again, he said, and if I start to deteriorate, mentally or physically, on tour, he wants me home.  I told him it wasn’t as straightforward as that, and he knows it, but he’s also not prepared to sit back and watch me self-destruct again.

  I had several long chats with Andrea, about drumming mostly, but also about being in bands, and about fame.  She believes she’s been lucky; she is a member of a reasonably well known, well respected band, with a loyal fanbase all around the world, the records sell well, the deal they have is reasonable enough to allow for creativity, but also earns them a reasonable amount of money, and because she is the drummer, she doesn’t get recognised in the street and asked for autographs like Moyra, Violet and Jane do.  “I’ve been able to go about my business largely unhindered,” she told me, “whereas if I was Moyra or Violet, every little detail of my private life would be all over the press.  As it is, no one cares, because I’m the drummer.”

  Andrea and Jasper were absent from the party that waved Violet, Moyra, Jane and me off from Chorlton Street today.  Normally Jasper would be present on the tourbus, but he wants to be with Andrea now the baby’s born, which is understandable.

  As the time of our departure drew ever nearer, the coach station filled up with well-wishers, all wanting to wave us off; Flora was there, also Fliss and Adrienne, Angel and the Razorblades, Meelan, Dew, Shahina, Nat, Fergus, Jenny, and Liberty.  Everyone wished us luck, and Jenny hugged me and told me she would see me soon; she’ll be joining me in London in a few days time, “Behave,” she warned, “or I’ll have Fergus and your mother on my case.”

  I smiled.

  Eventually, everyone trickled away, leaving just Nat and Fergus.  Moyra and Jane very tactfully said that they had something to do, and disappeared, leaving us alone.

  “Well,” said Fergus, awkwardly.

  “You don’t have to say anything,” I said, “I know.”

  And we didn’t say anything; we just clung to each other silently until the coach arrived.  All I could think of as I held him, and as I felt his arms around me, was how much I was going to miss him, but I will come back, I will come back.

  The coach was waiting for us, and Violet and I made our way over to its waiting doors and climbed aboard.  As the coach pulled out of the station, we waved to our two “Rock Widows” and then watched in silence as Nat and Fergus walked slowly away.  I felt sad as I watched them leave, for I know it will be months before I see him again.  I know he trusts me, and I trust him, but I will miss him incredibly badly.  Just now, Violet tapped me on the arm and asked if I was alright, I have been writing ever since we left Manchester, and now we are speeding down the motorway, somewhere near Milton Keynes.  I know where I am going now, and I know that he will be waiting for me when I return.  I am going out into the world, on an adventure, who knows where it will take me? Or what will happen along the way?

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Chapter Sixty Nine: Interlude

A couple of days after I’d been to see mum, Thomas, and Elisabeth Ann, Fergus and I went to see Angel and the Razorblades play at Retro Bar. When the gig finished we walked over to Scubar on Oxford Road for Girl Night.  Nat’s been banned from holding it at Juvenile Hell because of the infamous Valentines Day party, which seems very unfair… “It’s not what I would call a satisfactory solution,” she said, as we fought our way through the crowds to the bar, “I love Scubar, and they seem to like having me here, but it’s too small really, I need somewhere bigger.”

  “Did you try the village?” asked Fergus as we joined The Girls From Mars at their table by the bar.

  Violet snorted in disgust, “Yes, she’s tried the village, she’s tried around Piccadilly too, she’s tried everywhere; it basically comes down to politics…”

  “Vee,” murmured Nat, “keep the politics out of it; it’s incredibly tedious and boring…”

  “I don’t care,” snapped Violet, furiously, she turned back to Fergus, “The situation is basically this: The straight venues think Girl Night attracts too gay a crowd, the gay venues think it attracts too straight a crowd, and they’d all rather do something different, something that brings in more money, basically.”

  “But you always packed out Juvenile Hell…” I protested.

  Nat turned to me, “The thing is, we queer girls here,” she gestured to herself and Violet, “and our absent friends,” a reference to Fliss, “are effectively caught between a straight music scene which, particularly in Manchester, still thrives on male bravado, and a conservative, again, male dominated, gay scene, and neither scene has ever given much of a welcome to young keyed up punk girls, who don’t have a lot of money to spend, who don’t wear designer clothes, and who insist on dancing to un-commercial, un-familiar records.”

  “And Scubar does?” asked Fergus, sceptically.  The last time we had been there, we’d witnessed the tail end of a freshers week skool disco night, and had seen an overgrown schoolgirl dragging an overgrown schoolboy off behind the club by the tie, hell-bent on having her wicked way with him.

  “Scubar,” explained Nat, tersely, “is a student club and, as such, whilst not necessarily being pro queer, is used to a younger crowd, and is ostensibly equal rights.”

  She confessed that she was considering leaving Juvenile Hell in order to start her own club, “But no one has that kind of money, least of all me.  At least Ladyfest Brighton’s coming up, that’s something, and there’s always Kaffequeeria, but I’d like more.” She sighed, “I’m going to try and track down those girls who do Shake-O-Rama; I hear they’re having venue trouble too, maybe we can work together.”

  As much as I love Girl Night, Nat’s right; Scubar is too small for it.  It seemed as though you’d just start to lose yourself to a particularly great record, only to get trod on or elbowed by someone else, and you’d be distracted and have to start again.  In the shadows against the red brick walls, and amidst the pillars, I saw most of the old Girl Night regulars, including Meelan and her mates from Clinch, also Dew and Angel and the Razorblades.  Kit has started doing some Djing for Nat, along with Sabine, and some of Meelan’s mates.  “But I wish Fliss would come home,” sighed Nat, “I miss her so much…”

  “We all do.”

  “I know,” she raised a glass, “we shall never see her like again,” she drank.

  Thursday nights seem to be getting more and more like Friday nights, I thought, as we walked along Portland Street at half two.  The pavements had been furred with vomit by 8pm, and there was a dangerous atmosphere in the air as we walked; the pubs and clubs had emptied, but no one seemed to have gone home yet.  Fergus had his arm around me, and in front of us, Nat and Violet were talking quietly.  By the turning for Chorlton Street, some guy with a bottle leered from a bench and roared, “LESBIANS!”

  I heard Nat sigh as we continued walking; she took Violet’s hand as she murmured, “Do I have it tattooed on my forehead or something?”

  Violet proceeded to check, “No,” she said, neutrally, “nor are you wearing a necklace that says ‘Queer As Fuck’ I notice.”

  Somewhere behind us, the guy was still shouting, and people were gazing in our direction, curiously, and in a not entirely friendly way, as Nat said, “Do you think I should?” in anxious tones, “I could shave my head as well.”

  “No,” said Violet, decisively.

  Fergus didn’t find it remotely funny, however, he turned and started to make his way back the way we’d come, until I tugged on his arm, “Don’t,” I murmured, “he’s drunk, it won’t do any good.”

  Violet and Nat, who’d also stopped, nodded in unison, “She’s right, it won’t do any good.”

  Just then, I heard a voice somewhere behind us, “Did you just call us lesbians?” I turned in surprise.  A group of about six twenty something women had gathered around the bloke on the bench.  He stuttered some kind of a response, but it was too late, even as we moved away, they were closing in for the kill.

  Violet sniggered; Nat was content to merely smirk.

 “Aren’t you angry?” demanded Fergus as we waited for taxi’s.

  Violet and Nat shrugged, and Nat said, sardonically, “Que sera sera…”

  “Lairy drunken men are lairy drunken men,” said Violet, philosophically, “and besides, you get the odd good reaction sometimes, and plenty of no reaction at all…” 

  Fergus shook his head sadly.

  “Cheer up, Fergus,” said Nat, with almost forced cheerfulness, “we respect you as a man who will never ask if he can come home with us and watch.”

  He smiled a little, “Ha ha.”

  We got the first taxi, and they waved us off cheerfully, still holding hands, still smiling.

  When we arrived home, there was an ansaphone message from Fliss, “Bonjour mes amis,” it began, “nous retournons en Angleterre…”

Chapter Eighteen: Fast Times Across The Pennines

Katy arrived to pick me up at 7pm; I wasn’t quite ready, so I opened my window and chucked my keys down to her so that she could let herself in.  I was just fastening the buckles on my boots when I heard her voice, from behind me, asking “Is Fliss’ room as neat as this?” I nearly jumped out of my skin.

  “How come you don’t make any noise?” I demanded as I spun round to face her.

  She shrugged, “Must have picked it up watching all those episodes of ‘Xena…’ with Fliss,” she surveyed me from head to toe, and shook her head sadly.  “I wish I knew where you got your clothes…” I looked down at my outfit.  It didn’t seem that remarkable to me, it was just the kind of thing I normally wore: Big boots, olive green, a-line mini skirt, tight, cropped, black t-shirt, bearing the legend ‘Sullen Teen’ (bought aged fourteen) in white lettering, and an ex-comprehensive type grey v-neck jumper, frayed and worn, tied around the waist: nothing very spectacular really.

  Katy was, of course, wearing her usual black: Black Doc Marten boots, black boot cut cords, black polyester shirt, and black leather jacket. Her peroxide blonde hair was tied back tightly and severely in a ponytail.  She glanced at her watch and nodded in a businesslike way to herself, “Let’s go.”

  The gig was fantastic; like a jagged flash of bright, frenetic, shiny excitement in a dull rainy week.  Ashleigh Nixon fronts Prick Tease, and she makes for an excellent frontwoman; she swung her glitter-drenched guitar as she snarled, and her brown and blonde hair fell forwards into her face.  The sound was hard, jagged, slightly dark grungy punk. “I’ve seen that snarl and bug eyed expression somewhere before,” remarked Katy thoughtfully as we made our way across the beer and sweat drenched floor, littered with fag ends, to the Princess’s Bar. It was situated in the dimly lit, smoky, table strewn half of the venue, and the wet floor turned to carpet as we walked. The dark wood of the bar was sticky with beer spills as I rested my elbow on it and observed a group of young teenagers, dressed in jeans and band t-shirts, and adorned with Hello Kitty and glitter as they danced to Sleater-Kinney’s ‘Little Babies’.  It was a school night, but they didn’t care; so what if the feedback from the bands tonight meant that they couldn’t hear the drone of tomorrow’s lessons? So what if they fell asleep in assembly, or forgot to do their homework, again? Teenagers have to study too hard anyway.

  The cigarette smoke was a heavy fug, clinging to us, wrapping us up, embracing us…  “You shouldn’t smoke,” said Katy as I sparked up, “it’s bad for you.”

  “Tell me something I don’t know,”

  “O.K, eighty percent of smokers die of smoking related diseases, if you smoke when you’re pregnant you poison your child, and…” she paused for emphasis, “you pay a large chunk of your earnings every week to the government, who squander it further on…”

  I raised a hand in surrender, “I get the picture… but I quite like killing myself, thank you.”

  “Well, at least stop blowing it in my face.”

  Soon we were joined by former Girls From Mars drummer Thayla, Alisha and Elidh from The Trashcan Princesses, the band who had headlined, and Bob from Dew, who with his languid body language, limp, fine hair, and scruffy jeans and t-shirt as usual looked as though he had only just got out of bed.  Alisha and Elidh, meanwhile, were staying true to the glitter mini-dress, high heels, fairy wings, tiaras and sparkle school of thought.  “Is Death Club One still going?” Bob asked Alisha.  She confirmed that it was, and he turned his attention to me and Katy, “You have to come to this club with us, it plays all these old goth records, and E.B.M, gothy trance stuff, industrial stuff, bit of dark metal, bit of indie… it’s a total riot.”

  Katy and I exchanged glances, “Sure,” we replied, “why not?”

  Death Club One was, appropriately enough, situated in a black pit at the bottom of a rather tired old rock bar.  It was the kind of venue that men with bad perms and leather trousers who played air guitar to Whitesnake records flocked to every night of the week, whilst downstairs their black clad, pale faced brethren hid from the light and danced to Christian Death.

  “Goth’s coming back you know,” remarked Alisha as we made our way, single file, down the pitch black, echoing, spiral staircase into the bowels of the club.  The thud of a JAMC record met our ears, an ear mangling guitar, relentless drums, gloomy bass… we had arrived.

  Soon the DJ had switched to Nine Inch Nails, and Thayla had produced a spliff, lit it, and was passing it around.  I took a few drags before passing it on to Katy (I can take or leave hash really) and she had it for a long time before passing it to Bob.  Before long, the four of us had worked our way through five spliffs, and I began to feel quite relaxed.  The music seemed louder and denser somehow, and it seeped into my bones and harrowed my soul.  The voices and laughter of those around me seemed to linger longer than usual, and everything felt clearer and more vivid, yet far away.  It was as though I was watching the events unfold whilst not actually taking part, and I felt drowsy and tired.  I was enjoying the music, the conversation, and the dark, intense, feverish atmosphere, but I wanted to go home and sleep.

  Katy and I left around two a.m and weaved our way, uncertainly, back towards the Princess and the car. I fastened my seatbelt just as Katy yanked us into reverse, and we shot backwards, right into some dustbins on the opposite side of the alleyway, and skidded to a halt with a loud clang.  We looked at each other, and broke into a fit of giggles, tears of mirth rolled down our cheeks as a dustbin lid rolled around in a circle before coming to a noisy standstill just behind us.  Finally, Katy changed gear, put her foot down, and we shot forwards into the night.

  Soon we were on the motorway, driving oh-so-fast along the never-ending road, lamp posts illuminating our way through the blank, still night.  All the windows were down, causing gusts of cold air to snake into the car and sting our skin as we giggled, shouted, screamed, and sang along with the goth CD’s Katy had purchased in a mad binge at Death Club One.  The Sisters Of Mercy were singing ‘This Corrosion’ as we zipped towards the Pennines, The Cure were singing about ‘Lovecats’ as we passed a service station somewhere near Huddersfield, and the March Violets were singing ‘Snakedance’ as we crossed the Pennines.

  The Shaman’s ‘Jesus Loves Amerika’ segued into Nine Inch Nails’ ‘March Of The Pigs’ as we sped towards Manchester.  We were travelling so quickly now, faster, faster, as the night moved towards the morning.  I glanced at Katy to ask her to slow down, and saw her head droop and her eyes close. The car swerved, violently, as I grabbed the wheel, steadying it, stabilising it.

  Katy jerked awake as suddenly as she had nodded out, “Huh?” she mumbled, “What happened?”  But I could tell from her eyes, suddenly wide and frightened, that she already knew.

  “Next service station,” I gasped, my heart pounding as the surge of adrenalin made it hard for me to speak, “next service station, we stop.” I surrendered control of the wheel.

  She nodded in subdued agreement.

  In the largely deserted, artificially bright, white and red perspex cafeteria of the service station, we glumly supped strong black coffee and wondered what to do.  A couple of lorry drivers were enjoying a fry up at the opposite end of the long, neon lit, room as Katy said, in tones of wonder and amazement, “My whole life flashed before my eyes… I always thought people made that up, but I remembered meeting Fliss at primary school, it was so real…”

  “You know,” I said thoughtfully as I downed the last of my coffee, “we probably shouldn’t be drinking this stuff, our heartbeats are probably accelerated enough already, accelerate them anymore and we’ll probably bring on a cardiac arrest.”  I went back to the counter and purchased two more coffees, two big plates of chips, and ten chocolate bars.

  “I remember when I first met Fliss,” Katy was saying, seemingly oblivious as to whether I was listening or not, “on a day in June in 1993… this plump little girl with a cheeky grin and her hair in bunches.”

  “Fliss is younger than you though,” I remarked as I divvied up the chocolate bars between us.

  “True,” she nodded as she speared chips with her fork, “I must really stop smoking hash…” she closed her eyes, and I moved her plate just in time.  She awoke upon impact with the table, “Ow…fuck,” she rubbed her nose cautiously with her right hand; “I think I may have broken something…” her nose was bleeding.  I handed her a paper napkin.  As she mopped up, she grew strangely pensive, “I know,” she began carefully, “that Fliss is growing away from me…”

  “Katy…” I began.

  “No,” she interrupted, “it’s alright… it’s not as though there’s anything I can do about it after all, it’s just…” she caught my eyes with hers, “don’t take her away from me, she’s growing up, I know, but… leave a little bit of the old Fliss, for me.”

  I smiled sadly, “I’ll try…”

  We took it easy for the remainder of our journey home for we were both weary and wary; ready for our beds yet kept awake by the fear that we would fall asleep at the wheel if we relaxed for even a second.  The haze of hash and alcohol was wearing off, and we were jumpy with caffeine and sugar.

  Katy slept in Fliss’ room.

  No sooner had I nodded off, it seemed, than the phone was ringing.  With a great deal of moaning and histrionics, I muttered, cursed, and staggered my way into the hall.  It was Fliss, she was crying, and she wanted Katy.

  Katy’s expression, upon returning from the call, was one of barely contained anger, “I could kill Violet,” she muttered as she flung herself down into one of the armchairs in the living room.

  “What happened?” I asked.

  “She asked Fliss to meet her in London yesterday and, well, you know Fliss; she went without so much as an argument.  The argument came later, when she got there, and Violet told her she’d been seeing someone else.”

  “Who?” I was shocked.

  “That blonde barmaid from Juvenile Hell, Amber…” she clenched her fists, “I could cheerfully swing for Violet” she got to her feet, “Fliss wants me to come and see her in London, she says she can’t go home to her mum and dad ‘cos she’s too upset, and needs someone to talk to. She said she can’t talk to her family about it, it’s not like…”

  “I know,” I interrupted, quietly, “She said, she’d have to come out to them first, before she could even discuss Violet.”

  “And even if she wanted to,” pointed out Katy, “now isn’t the time to do that.”

  “No.”

  She walked across the room, and paused in the doorway, “I’ll get myself cleaned up a bit, then I’ll drive back to Flora’s and pack.”

  I was apprehensive as I said, “You won’t drive to London, will you?”

  “No,” she shook her head, gravely serious, “I’ll catch a train.”

  Once she had left the room, I went back to bed, and slipped back into sleep almost immediately.  I didn’t even notice her leave.

Chapter Twelve: A Kind Of Wistful Loneliness

I got off the bus in Heaton Chapel at ten o’clock and, figuring that Fliss was about due to clock off at the Heaton’s Fryery, made a slight diversion along the dark and busy A6 to pick her up.  The chip shop was full of shift workers and clubbers en route to Manchester when I arrived, and it was as noisy as any pub, but I could just about make out Fliss’ bunches and diamante tiara, busily bobbing about above their heads as she shovelled chips into barms or nans, and expertly wrapped them.  I slid my way through the crowd to a small wooden bench built into the shop wall, where I found Violet waiting with barely contained impatience.  A couple of not entirely sober young men were eyeing her speculatively, and she met their eyes with a look of pure poisonous disdain, which only seemed to encourage them.  I joined her on the bench, and she moved her bag to make room for me.  “How long have you been waiting?” I asked politely.

  She gazed up at the white tiled ceiling, and sighed, “Too long.”

  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Fliss slide around the side of the counter, only to be replaced by a slim Chinese boy.  She blinked a few times in confusion as she spotted Violet, and me “Hello,” she said uncertainly, wiping her eyes tiredly with her hands, “Do I have an escort home?”

  It took us ages to get out.  Some of the regulars had come in; old men, and shift workers from McVities, and Fliss had a few words with them on the way out.  They love Fliss at the Fryery; they used to call her the deeley-bopper kid when she wore deeley-boppers to work; now it’s Princess Felicity because she’s switched to tiaras.

  As we walked along the A6, and turned off towards home, Violet said, rather urgently, “I had to see you, Fliss, I got a call from Jasper,” Jasper is The Girls From Mars’ manager, I don’t think it’s his real name, more likely it’s some kind of nickname, “telling me to pack and be ready to leave for London in the morning, we’re meeting an A&R again.”

  Fliss nodded.  She looked vaguely eccentric in her white overalls, with her bunches and tiara, but her face was serious as she asked, “How long for?”

  Violet sighed, “I don’t know,” she took hold of her hand, and the two of them fell behind, talking softly amongst themselves as I strode on ahead.  I would have liked to have known more about The Girls From Mars’ trip to London, but knew instinctively that Violet was only there for Fliss, not conversation.  The bag she was carrying told me she planned to go straight to the station in the morning: It’s a long way from Bolton to Stockport, especially at night.

  Back at the flat, I made myself scarce with a pack of B&H, some hot chocolate, and my copy of ‘I Capture The Castle’.  As I lay in bed, smoking and reading, (I know I shouldn’t smoke in bed, or whilst reading, but it’s a bad habit with a lot of history attached, so I find it a hard one to break) I could hear the soft, muffled, rhythmic moans and groans from the next room even with my door shut.  I put down my book with a sigh: I’d been hoping to get lost in the world of Cassandra Mortmain and forget about Fergus for a while, only now I felt lonelier than I’d ever felt before.  I decided as I stubbed out my cigarette and switched off the light that there is nothing more isolating than the sounds of someone else having sex.  A kind of despair washed over me as I lay there, trying not to listen.  It wasn’t that I was envious or jealous: I was simply lonely.

  Violet had gone before I left for work at eight, and Fliss was quiet over breakfast, pensive almost as she thoughtfully mashed her cornflakes into a cream coloured mush in her cereal bowl.

  That night we went to The Gates to see Failure Is The New Success, an art rock ensemble from Preston.  Slinky, from Bradford, were on first, and they were good, sort of poppy glam, light metal; very thrashy and energetic.  Deep in the dark and smoky bowels of The Gates, I found Nat, propping the bar up; she seemed strangely downbeat and ordinary, not at all her usual glamorous self.  Fliss quickly made her way through the crowd to the front of the stage, and began to jump about to Slinky, beaming blissfully all the while.  She was wearing a white slip dress that night, decorated with lace, and she hadn’t even attempted to hide the love bite on her neck.  Nat watched her rather wistfully as she downed her pint, “I always had a soft spot for Fliss,” she remarked suddenly.

  I nearly choked on my drink, “Really?!?…”

  “Yes,” she sighed, her eyes still on Fliss as she danced, “but it seemed best to kept quiet about it until now.”  She grew thoughtful as she turned her attention away from Fliss, and back towards me.  Her expression was serious, and she seemed sincere as she confessed, “Well, I wasn’t going to be the one to break her heart, and I knew someone was going to… I didn’t want it to be me.”   I didn’t feel that there was anything I could say, so I kept quiet as she turned her attention back to Fliss, her bunches flicking back and forth as she danced, blissfully unaware of Nat’s eyes on her.  “If I was with Fliss, I’d hurt her.  I don’t think I could do that… it would be like kicking Bambi…”

  I smiled, sadly.

  “And that’s why I kept quiet; besides,” she met my eyes, and there was an intensity that she was trying to hide as she said, “she isn’t interested in me, and I have my pride.”

  I smiled, but if I had suspected that Nat was a little the worse for wear, that was as nothing compared to Jenny Malone, whose magenta hair made her easy to spot as she lurched around the floor with a brooding Liberty Belle in tow.  They had been dancing in the moshpit to Slinky too, but one of The Gates bouncers had hauled them out when they became too excitable.

  “I’ve been hearing things,” said Nat, tensely, as we watched Jenny stagger, smack, straight into a pillar and fall to the floor in an ungainly heap, “about One Way Or Another, from her and Liberty, they say Aiden from Dew told them that Fergus tried to touch him for money for the new record, only Aiden wasn’t having any.”

  I nodded, but my heart sank as she continued.

  “Apparently Hardpop are interested in signing Dew, and they’re willing to pay Fergus’ debts in exchange for their back catalogue.”

  “What” the sinking feeling turned to panic as I asked “all the One Way Or Another back catalogue?”

  “No,” Nat quickly sought to reassure me, “just Dew’s back catalogue.  They’re a good label, Hardpop… But Fergus is thinking about dropping some bands or folding the label, I’m pretty sure that’s true…”

  I felt slightly sick as I admitted, “I know he hasn’t much money: Is it really that bad though?”

  She seemed worried, “I don’t know – he wouldn’t tell me anything – but you need to talk to him, find out what’s going on…”

  “I’ll tell Flora, she can phone him about it.”

  “I think it would be better coming from you,” she said, softly, seemingly unable to meet my eye.

  I looked away in discomfort. I could feel myself blushing as the band finished their set, but I reluctantly agreed to phone him.  I don’t particularly want to, not after our last meeting, but I suppose I shall have to now.  The second Titanium Rose single is due out soon though, and as far I know, there are no plans to put the date back or cancel the release; Nat’s probably worried about nothing.

  In looking for Fliss after the Slinky set, I spotted Meelan, the fourteen year old drummer from Clinch, whose drumming I had so admired at The Twilight.  She was leaning against the wall, a little away from the stage, staring, seemingly at nothing.  Her face was serious, as though she was thinking, but her clothes belied her youth; a Nirvana t-shirt and dog collar complimented scruffy skater style jeans that looked very new, and she was wearing black leather studded wristbands.  She was tiny, and her long black hair made her seem even smaller.  I wanted to walk over and talk to her, but something held me back… it seems strange to admit it now, but I felt in awe of her.  She may only be fourteen, but there’s a lot of talent there, and it was intimidating to me: I am six years older than her, yet I could never be that good.

  It came as a surprise to me when, a mere five minutes later, she moved away from the wall and walked over to me.  “Hi,” she said, extending a hand to me, “I’m Meelan.”

  I shook her hand.  Her accent was Lancashire, quite broad, and she was so tiny that she had to crane her neck in order to meet my eyes.  “Fergus said when I saw him at The Twilight a week or so ago that you’d liked my drumming.”  I nodded, faintly taken aback by her directness and confidence, “You’re Maggie, right?”  Again, I nodded.  She smiled, a delightful smile that lit up her entire face, and made her seem younger, less like a cool, self possessed musician, more like the young schoolgirl she was, “I haven’t heard Titanium Rose yet, but I’ve met Fliss, I see her around with Violet a lot in Bolton, and The Girls From Mars live near me.”

  I found her easier to talk to after this, and it wasn’t long before we had exchanged gig anecdotes, drumming styles, and favourite bands.  It warmed my soul and made me feel very happy inside to be able to talk to another girl about drumming, because I hardly ever meet any girl drummers: there are others out there, but we’re spread pretty thin, even these days.

  Back at home; Fliss said, rather tentatively, “It was nice of Fergus to hook you up with Meelan.”

  I nodded, and sank deeper into my armchair, closing my eyes.  I’d pulled a long shift at work, and the gig had finished me off.

  “Maggie?” asked Fliss, cautiously.

  “Hhmm?” I opened my eyes.

  I could sense her discomfort as she asked, “What are you going to do about him?”

  My hackles were up as I replied, rather sharply, “Phone him, and ask him what’s happening with One Way Or Another…”

  There was an awkward pause, during which I could almost feel Fliss searching for the right thing to say.  At last she said, “And what are you going to do about being in love with him?”

  I closed my eyes again.

  “Maggie?”

  “Nothing,” I sighed, “I’m going to do nothing.”

  I made the mistake of changing the subject to Violet, and Fliss grew very pink, and became very coy.  “Is she your first girlfriend, Fliss?” I teased.

  She squirmed a little, obviously embarrassed as she replied, rather quietly, “No,” her face showed her reluctance to divulge any information, so I didn’t push for details.

  After another awkward silence, she uncurled a little, and said, “Do you think A&R people will be coming after Titanium Rose soon?”

  “Maybe,” I said, neutrally.

Chapter Eleven: Alias Belle And Malone

We had agreed to meet Jenny Malone (from the ‘NME’) at six p.m tonight, but as it was, things didn’t work out that way.  Jenny and her photographer, Liberty Belle, arrived in Chorlton at six p.m sharp, just as Flora arrived home from work, but Fliss and Katy were both stranded on buses at that time, and I was still traipsing through the snow to the bus stop.  Still, by 7pm, we had all made our weary, convoluted way to Flora and Katy’s snow dusted home.

  Jenny and Liberty, it turns out, are the new girls on the block at ‘NME’.  “It’s a locality thing,” explained Jenny; she spoke quickly, and with a strong scouse accent, but something about her choice of words suggested she wasn’t a Liverpool native. “I was the one who suggested interviewing you, but no one in London wanted to do it, so I got it.”  She had long, wavy and unruly magenta coloured hair that she forever had to shake back when it fell across her face.  Her jeans were tight, stonewashed, and diamante studded, and she was wearing a Red Vinyl Fur t-shirt.  A diamante stud twinkled against her naval, matching the ones on her jeans as she lounged on the floor of Flora and Katy’s living room.  “This is my first full piece.” She said, excitedly. “They usually have me doing local gigs or reviewing the singles.” I decided that I liked her, and I knew that Flora and Katy did too, if only because one of the first things she had done upon entering the house was to congratulate them on their taste in décor.

  There have been some adjustments made to the house in Chorlton following Fliss’ departure.  The landlord has forbidden Flora and Katy to paint the walls, but doesn’t seem to mind drawing pins, blue tack or staples, so the room is covered in posters of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sophie Dahl, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law.  There is also a ‘Xena, Warrior Princess’ shrine, and the beginnings of a Manga shrine, although these are both housed in the room that used to belong to Fliss: Flora is currently using it as her sewing and manufacturing room.

  Of the two ‘NME’ girls, Liberty was the quieter.  I’ve seen her at The Gates a couple of times, as she often does the photos at gigs around Manchester.  She is tall and skinny, with very straight black shoulder length hair, which is parted in the middle, framing a small, delicately featured, heart shaped face.  I got the impression that she could be pretty, but had made a conscious decision not to be, and had, instead, chosen to be as quiet and invisible as possible.  Her movements were small and muted, she rarely spoke, but when she did her voice was low and quiet, and she never smiled.  Her small, snub nose sported a nose ring, and her left eyebrow and tongue were also pierced.  Her eyes were grey and gravely serious.  Both she and Jenny seemed quite young, mid twenties tops I would say, and, like Jenny, Liberty was wearing jeans and a band t-shirt.  But her jeans were scruffier, light and torn, and she was wearing a Hooker t-shirt, not a Red Vinyl Fur one.

  The interview was candid and friendly, with anecdotes extracted easily on both sides.  Whilst we were changing out of our work clothes, Flora showed Jenny and Liberty around the house.  Flora’s bedroom is particularly spectacular these days, she has covered all the walls with red and gold drapes and hung strings of gold stars from the ceiling, and the floor is covered in rag rugs.  The kitchen isn’t bad either, it is adorned with Hollywood stars of old such as Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, along with copies of the Martha Seward ‘White Trash Guides’ that Flora had bought as cards, and then enlarged on a colour photocopier.  As we waited for the others to finish getting ready, I worked my way around the kitchen, reading them all.

  Eventually the others were ready, and we headed into Manchester with Jenny and Liberty, our destination Fab Café on Portland Street where we had agreed to meet Violet and Andrea, who is the new drummer in The Girls From Mars.

  I love Fab Café; it’s quite a little club, and the dance floor is tiny, but the atmosphere and misé-en-scene is fantastic; it’s kitschy sixties chic, pure and simple, right down to the pinball machine and the Darlek.  When Tiger Lounge used to do their thing there on Thursday nights, the pillars were decorated with fake tiger fur, a woman in a Catwoman outfit took your money and gave you a lollipop, and as you descended into the darkness, the T.V monitors would be playing a loop of Andy Warhol, Betty Page, ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, ‘Gilda’, ‘The Great Rock’N’Roll Swindle’, and ‘Man Who Fell To Earth’ clips as the dance floor heaved to the sounds of Tommy James And The Shondelles ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ or Betty Boo’s ‘Where Are You Baby?’

  Tonight’s atmosphere was more restrained.  We sat our drinks down on top of the old pinball machine, and then set about procuring tiny tins of peanuts, olives and other snacks from the dispenser at the bar.  I had olives, Fliss had sugared almonds, and Flora had salted peanuts.  Violet and Andrea, who had arrived some time before us, were tucking into the Fab Café T.V dinner special of beans and potato waffles.  Fliss took up the seat adjacent to Violet, and Violet shared her meal.  The rest of us picked up chips in Piccadilly later.

  “Who else are you interviewing apart from us and The Girls From Mars?” Flora asked Jenny, over the strains of ‘The Avengers’ theme.

  Jenny exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke, “Fergus from One Way Or Another: We’ve already done the record shops, Afflecks and all that earlier, but if there’s any places people mention that we haven’t done today, then we’ll do them tomorrow.  We’ll do Dew and Clinch tonight, after the gig.”

  The gig in question was at The Twilight Café.  Fergus would be there because both bands are One Way Or Another bands.  He was sitting at a table by the stage when we made our way inside; it was covered with records and fanzines for sale, as well as the One Way Or Another catalogue.  I went over to say hello, and introduced him to Jenny and Liberty in the process.  Liberty took a few photos of his makeshift stall, and I left them to talk.

  Red candles in green wine bottles lit the room, and the sound guy was playing ‘The Best Of Lou Reed And The Velvet Underground.’  All along the bar, groups of people were talking, laughing, drinking, and smoking as they made the most of their respite from the bitter January air.  The tables were less crowded, so Flora and I bagsed our favourite table, tucked away between the bar and the window.  It has nice long wooden benches, which come in handy when there are a lot of you sitting together.

  Clinch played an amazing set.  They’re a band that I haven’t seen before, or heard anything about, and they were a total revelation.  The drummer is particularly good, she is very young, very small and fragile looking with dark hair, light brown skin, and big brown eyes.  She plays with a precision and complexity that I admire so much it hurts.

  I talked to Fergus after the gig, and he told me that the young girls name is Meelan, and that she’s fourteen.  I must have looked astonished, for he added hastily, “She goes to a special music school though.  She’s, like, a scholarship musical genius girl.”  He must have noticed the envy in my eyes because he quickly changed the subject, “You look really good tonight.”

  I laughed; I couldn’t help it, if I had made any effort at all with my outfit I might have been flattered, but I was still wearing my work skirt and shoes. All I’d done to change was remove the decidedly skanky flesh coloured tights that I have to wear for work, and swapped the shirt for my bootleg Siouxsie And The Banshees t-shirt, which had long ago transformed itself from a clean white colour to a dubious greyish green.

  Then it occurred to me, as he placed his hand on my bare knee, that he was probably flirting with me, or trying to: That wiped the smile off my face.  I turned to look at him, and took his hand in mine; my only intention had been to remove it from my knee, but he must have got the wrong idea because he leant towards me and tilted his head as though to kiss me.  I tried to back away from him, but he put his arms around my waist and pulled me closer to him.  As his lips met mine, I panicked and began to struggle with him, only he held onto me, for what seemed like hours.  In reality, it was probably only a few seconds before he let go.  I scrambled away from him; my heart was beating too fast as I got to my feet, and I cried out as he grabbed my hand and pulled me back onto the bench. His eyes told me that he was both worried and hurt as he asked, “What’s the matter?” I couldn’t answer him, but I could sense his grip lessoning, then his thumb, stroking my wrist.  “What are you afraid of?” But I still couldn’t answer him.  My mind wasn’t focused on the present at that point.  I was remembering the past.

  Terry had grabbed my wrists, just as he had, over a year ago now.  He had twisted it and tightened his grip when I tried to run, and had smacked my wrist against the living room wall when I struggled with him.  He had me pressed up against that wall so tightly that I could barely breathe, then, he had kissed me, and it was horrible; his tongue in my mouth, pushing harder and harder against me, had made me gag: There was no love there; it was all force, all violence, and all pain… There was more, much more that he did.

  Violet and Fliss broke the moment; I came to and found them both crouched in front of me, asking me if I was alright, over and over again.  “Yes,” I said, eventually, “I’m O.K” Where was Fergus? I wanted to ask.

  “Was he hurting you?” asked Violet.

  I shook my head, “Nn, no” I stuttered, “he didn’t hurt me, I, I panicked.”

  Then, something clicked in my mind.  He hadn’t hurt me.  He had taken advantage of me, which was bad, but… it was forgivable.  More forgivable than if he had hurt me.  But still… he had taken advantage of me, and he had put me in a position that I couldn’t deal with, and he had kissed me… and suddenly that was all that mattered for a few minutes.

  In my mind, I saw him.  I saw his face when he was talking to me on the bus when we were on tour, I saw his eyes light up as we talked.  We had clicked then, and there had seemed to be so much to talk about.  I saw the way his hair was always falling into his eyes, and the impatient way that he would tuck it behind his ears.  I saw his slow, white teethed smile, and the way he held his cigarettes when he was smoking.  I saw him take my hand that time on the sofa, and in my mind, I kissed him.

  Nat says that I get excited about the little details, not the bigger picture, and maybe she’s right.  A kiss can do a lot of things; a kiss can even change your mind… Nat would never settle for just a kiss, but I would.  Maybe I’ll have to.

  You can’t be in love with him, said a disgusted voice in my mind, he’s the record label guy, you can’t fuck the record label guy, first rule of rock’n’roll girldom.  Who said anything about fucking? Argued my other self.  If you get involved with him, the band will suffer, said the voice again, and people will say you only got a deal through fucking the label guy, do you really want that? But I’m not fucking the label guy, I reasoned.  No, said the voice, knowingly, But you will, won’t you? I might do, one day.  Don’t do it, urged the voice.  Do what? Fall in love with him.  “But I already have.”

  As Fliss and Violet exchanged glances, I realised that I had said it out loud.

  “Already have what?” asked Fliss.  She was clutching my hand and was gazing up at my face in a distinctly worried fashion.

  “Fallen in love with him,” it was almost a whisper, but I could tell that she had heard me, and that she knew who I meant, as well as what it meant.