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 Twenty Six: Pressure

Another day… and another night out at Juvenile Hell: It can be too easy to become blasé and resigned to nightlife, especially when you end up going out as often as we do. We go out because it’s what we do, and we do it because it’s the only way we get to see our friends. Sometimes we go out to see the bands play, sometimes we go out to dance, but not as often as I would like… Too often it feels as though we go out simply to be seen. Forgive me, I am feeling sorry for myself… But I hadn’t really wanted to go to Juvenile Hell that night. I was feeling tired and irritable again, and I didn’t know why. I made myself go in the end because Fergus and Fliss both wanted to and I didn’t want to be a grouch. Nat was on fine old form when we arrived; It was a Friday night, and she was merrily tottering around her red and gold domain, assisted by a tall, black and blonde haired man in designer combat trousers.  “MAGGIE!!” she screamed when she spotted me making my way through the throng.  I waved, and she unsteadily charged and staggered her way through the crowd, dragging him behind her, and crashing to a halt directly in front of Fergus and me a few minutes later.  I could smell the alcohol as she loudly proclaimed, for his benefit, “This is my best friend in the whole world.” I smiled awkwardly “And, and also, co-conspirer in my first business enterprise, Minx Records.” She added, equally loudly, referring to the record label we had run together when we were sixteen.  I nodded to the bloke she’d towed over, but he was too busy groping her to notice.  I felt faintly embarrassed, and I could sense Fergus giving me funny looks as we stood there, watching him.  Nat was obviously preoccupied, so I was about to slip away when she turned her attention back to us.  “Oh!” she said in a voice that was still too loud “This is Dylan, you saw him last time you were here, when he was photographing me for ‘City Life’.” I looked him over: the guy with the Beckham haircut…  He was quite good looking up close.  I noted an expensive looking chain and watch in addition to the designer clothes.

  “How many do you think she’s had?” wondered Fergus as we made our way over to the bar.  I shrugged.  When I looked over a few minutes later, they’d found a discreet corner and were necking enthusiastically

  Fliss was already at the bar, talking to a suitably glamorous Violet.  But when I joined them, I discovered that it was Violet who was making all the effort.  Fliss was just listening, and nodding periodically.

  After a while, the first band of the night walked out onto the stage, and Fliss made her excuses and slipped through the crowd to the front of the stage.  Violet watched her go with a mournful expression “I was being friendly,” she protested, sadly, “but it was like she was only being polite to me.”  She turned to me, and I sensed her confusion as she said “I know I’ve been away for a few months, but, what happened to the sweet little girl I left behind?”

  “You broke her heart.” I replied, succinctly.

  She nodded regretfully, and her eyes were sad as she said “But when did she turn into such a sex kitten?”

  Fergus and I exchanged a private look.  He had been very surprised earlier in the evening when, after an hours wait, Fliss had finally emerged from her bedroom wearing a simple but slinky black backless dress and black stilettos, her hair had been curled and she was immaculately made up, with flawless foundation, pale pink lip gloss, and pale blue eye shadow. 

  “I’ve seen one of those dresses,” said Violet, quietly, her eyes still on Fliss as she continued “When I was in London.  It was on display at Selfridges, and it cost about four hundred pounds.” I could sense her lust as she said, “I’d like to know how it ended up on Fliss…”

  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Nat weaving her way over to the bar, her clothes were awry, and her lipstick was smudged all over her face.  “Maybe it was a different dress,” I said neutrally.

  Violet shook her head “I saw the label; it looked like the real thing to me.”  She turned to Nat, who was about to knock back a shot of something pale pink that smelt vaguely of almonds and cherries, “Did you buy that dress for Fliss?”

  Nat craned her neck to get a better look at Fliss, and then snorted “No, catch me with that much spare change…” she eyed Violet warily “Why did you think it was me?”

  Violet shrugged dejectedly.

  “What’s the big deal?” I asked, “It’s only a dress”

  “Top range Harvey Nicks,” said Nat shrewdly “Unless I’m very much mistaken…” She knocked back her drink, grimacing slightly as the liquid hit the back of her throat. We lapsed into silence again, until Nat remarked, rather hoarsely, “You’re just peeved because you think she’s found herself a sugar mommy.”

  “She does have someone else,” I murmured.  I quickly wished that I hadn’t though, because they all turned on me, and the unspoken question hung in the air ‘WHO?’ As I gave a deliberately vague account of the girl I’d seen shinning down our drainpipe a few months back now, Nat choked on her second shot.  “What?” I asked suspiciously.

  She was puce from coughing before she was finally able to answer, “Nothing” she spluttered; “It was the image of her shinning down the drainpipe, that’s all…”

  Violet narrowed her eyes “You know who it is, don’t you?” she said venomously.

  “I might do,” conceded Nat.

  “Then spill…”

  “Dear me, is that the time” Nat glanced at her wrist, looking for a watch she didn’t have.  I detected a faint smirk.  “I really must be getting back to…” she hesitated “what I was doing before.”

  “Check his pockets for a pack of three first,” advised Violet cattily.

  Nat smiled dreamily “First things first” she half murmured, half slurred as she got up.

  “Hetty sell-out” muttered Violet bitterly.

  “I am not a hetty sell-out,” slurred Nat “and anyway,” she hiccupped, loudly, “anyway… I have the urge upon me tonight.”  We watched as she weaved her way back through the crowds to where she had left Dylan.

  Fliss retired to her bedroom with her mobile as soon as we arrived home, leaving us to stay up and talk into the early hours.  “I never knew that you’d run a record label with Nat.” he said, interested “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  I shrugged indifferently “It was a long time ago, we were very young.  We only released two records – then we ran out of money.”

  “How old were you?”

  “We were both sixteen.  Fifteen when we had the idea, sixteen when we started releasing records though” I felt a little embarrassed “It was just a little label, Fergus, everyone does them…”

  He shook his head “You make it sound like dying your hair or something, something easy.”

  “Well” I conceded, “it wasn’t all that hard really, it was just expensive.”

  “I know,” he said.  There was a long silence before he asked, “Would you do it again?” I shook my head “With me?” he asked tentatively, but I shook my head again.

  “I don’t want to do it anymore” I explained “I wouldn’t enjoy it anymore.”

  “What about if you had the money to do something else?” he asked.

  “Like what?”

  “I don’t know, let’s think about it.”

  And we did.  We ruled out doing a festival, mainly because Ladyfest is coming to Manchester next year and, if we seriously did it, then the two events would clash.  But we both liked the idea of a one off Christmas party, and we discussed it long into the night.  We decided that it should be a theme party, with costumes, and that there should be bands as well as DJ’s, and maybe films and stalls.

  We stayed up, long into the night, one Sunday last month at his house, just talking about it all in detail, getting increasingly excited and worked up about it.  After a brief lull in the conversation, he looked at his watch, and winced.  “What?” I asked.  He told me it was two am, and added “Don’t you have to be up at six thirty?”

  I cursed.

  “You can sleep here, if you like I mean.”  He wouldn’t look at me, and I experienced one of the rare awkward silences that still occasionally occur between us.  We hadn’t slept together since the night we got together.  This was my fault, not his, and it was something that I had wanted to resolve quite badly, but had felt too awkward to do so, as unlikely as that sounds.  You must think me frigid, or incredibly inhibited at any rate, to be so awkward about it, but it’s not as simple as that.  I didn’t use to be like that, but I’ve grown wary and… out of practice, shy.  It wasn’t even as though it was about sex either, it was just about being near to him

  But by then, it didn’t matter.  I was so tired, so relaxed, and so trusting that I just said, “Yes, I would.”

  The alarm woke me at six thirty, and I opened my eyes with a moan of pain.  My head ached intensely, unbearably.  It felt as though someone had my head in a vice and was tightening the constraints, squeezing my skull, whilst at the same time malevolent elves hit my brain with mallets and stabbed me in the eyes with needles.  I lay still for a few minutes, hoping that the pain would go away.  Then, I tried to move my eyes and, as I did so, a wave of such excruciating nausea and dizziness hit me that I had to close them immediately.

  The dizziness passed and, somehow, I managed to sit up and move over to the edge of the bed.  But the pain and the dizzy nausea returned, causing me to close my eyes and rest my head in my hands as I tried not to think about how I was going to get into the office, and how I was to cope with eight hours sat in front of a flickering computer screen next to a phone that never stopped ringing.  I told myself that if I emptied my mind, closed my eyes, and kept perfectly still for about five minutes, I would be fine.

  One minute… agony.

  Second minute… I felt increasingly sick.

  Third minute… Why is my body temperature shooting up and down in that alarming way?

  Fourth minute… his hand on my shoulder, asking me if I was alright.

  Fifth minute… my answer “I’m fine.”

  Then I stood up too quickly and fell over because my balance was completely shot.

  He picked me up off the floor and put me back to bed.

  “A migraine” pronounced the doctor at nine o’clock, with rather disturbing cheerfulness “have you had them before?”

  I shook my head, and then closed my eyes as the wave of nausea crashed over me once again.

  Back at the house, I went back to bed and took the sedatives that the doctor had prescribed.  By the time Fergus returned from phoning work for me, my eyelids were already drooping, and I was sinking further and further down the pillow.  As I closed my eyes, I heard him, distantly, telling me that he would look in on me at dinner.  I was asleep before he had even left the house.

  It was dark when I woke up, and as I turned my head slightly, I realised that the pain had gone.  I felt groggy, and I still felt as though elves had been digging holes in my head, but at least they had stopped digging.  Fergus was watching me from a chair next to the bed.  “What time is it?” I asked him slowly and carefully.

  “Eight thirty, just gone.” He replied “I looked in on you at dinner, but you were still fast asleep.  I didn’t want to wake you up, so I left again.”

  “How long have you been sitting there?” I asked as I shakily hauled myself up by the arms.

  “About an hour or so, I kept looking in on you when I got home from work, and when it got to half seven, I got a bit worried.”

  I smiled, wearily “Thank you…”

  “How do you feel?” he still looked worried.

  “Much better, but groggy”

  “That’s probably the medication.”

  “Probably”

  “Would you like something to eat?”

  I nodded, and when he said that he would get me something, I said, “No, I’ll get up.  I need to anyway.”

  In bed that night, he asked me “Is something wrong?”

  “No, why?”

  “You said that the doctor said something about stress this morning, that’s all.”

  I nodded “I just hate my job so much.  I wish I could leave, but we need the money.”

  “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked gently.

  I shook my head “No” I whispered.  I felt tearful just thinking about it.

  “I wish you didn’t need the money,” he said as he turned off the light.

  I slept uneasily and fretfully that night.

  On the Saturday, Fergus slept over at our house, and we spent Sunday morning watching T.V in the living room, talking, and generally messing around.  When Fliss emerged from her bedroom around dinnertime, I was lying on the sofa, my head in his lap as he read me gossip pieces from Fliss’ copy of ‘Sugar’, interspaced with stories that he had made up.  “’It’ girl, Lalage Ferrini, whose father was recently outed as a politician, plans to launch a raunchy new career as a topless gangsta rapper…” I laughed, and he flicked forwards a few pages “Ah, here’s one for all the girls… ‘Has Jailbait’s Nyree had a bum lift?’ forget the conflict in Israel, the war in Afghanistan, or the up and coming war in Iraq, what we really want to know is whether arse is the new tits.”

  Fliss was beginning to warm to his theme as she curled up in the armchair opposite with Marmalade, “Boy band The Romford Crew announce their ongoing search for talent.”

  “Ah, well” Fergus began flicking through the pages again “If its boy bands you’re after” he stopped flicking, and his eyes scanned the print “here’s one: Dangerous!’ Jay Adams spotted out, again, with Girl Trouble’s Adrienne Du Shanne.  The blonde sex god was spotted leaving an exclusive West End party in the company of the sultry siren last week, making it the third sighting of the couple this month.”

  Fliss smiled thinly “I read somewhere else that it was a cynical ploy by their marketing teams.”

  “Well, maybe” conceded Fergus as he passed her the magazine “But they look quite friendly here.”

  Fliss inspected the centrefold dispassionately; “She doesn’t look as though she’s enjoying mashing faces with him, though, does she?”

  Fergus inspected the image, “Now you mention it, no… and he doesn’t look as happy as he should do either…”

  “Oh, so you’d like to trade places?” I teased, “I feel sordid now…”

  He kissed me, “Don’t feel sordid…”

  “But you would, wouldn’t you?” I persisted.

  “What?”

  “Snog her”

  “Well, yeah, I mean…” he looked rather sheepish, “come on…”

  Fliss giggled. We asked her what the joke was, but that just made her laugh even more, so that eventually she ran through to the kitchen, red in the face, with her fist in her mouth.

  When she came back, we were watching an entertainment show on Channel Five.  They were showing the most recent Girl Trouble video, which was all come on and cleavage, suggesting that arse hadn’t become the new tits in their case. The overall feel was of something very slick and dehumanised, something a little too perfect to be real.  Fergus pointed to a beautiful girl with dark, glossy curls as she stalked along the video’s urban street, her slim tanned legs set off by incredibly high heeled boots, “That’s Adrienne,” he said.  Her dark eyes were framed by dark make-up like a bruise, and her mouth was painted a glossy plum colour.  The camera shifted position then, it lingered on her legs as the song finished and the video drew to a close.  She stayed in my mind though… not because I had liked the song particularly, but because she had presence.  The programme cut to an interview with her at an awards ceremony or album launch of some kind, and the unseen interviewer asked her a question about her relationship with Jay Adams.  She laughed, but it seemed a bit strained, and she seemed tired as she smiled a coy little smile and peered up at the camera through her eyelashes.  “He’s a close friend.”  Her accent wasn’t as broad as I remember it being at Fliss’ party, and her voice seemed to be an octave or two higher, which struck me as odd.

  “How close?” persisted the interviewer.

  Fliss moved closer to the screen, both she and Fergus were wearing an expression best described as hypnotic longing.

  The popstar hesitated, and then said “Close… that’s all I’m prepared to say.”

  The interview finished, and the camera drew our attention back to the presenters, who appeared to be about twelve, and who sounded as though they’d ingested far too many ecstasy tablets and e-numbers that morning. “I like her t-shirt,” said Fliss suddenly, as the female half of the duo walked over to where a band was waiting to play out over the shows credits.

  “I didn’t care for his hair,” deadpanned Fergus.

  She smiled.

  As the weeks have passed, Fliss seems to have withdrawn further and further into herself. She and her mobile are currently undergoing a trial separation, interrupted by incoming calls roughly twice a day.  These conversations are marked by silence on Fliss’ part, and characterised by a tense, unhappy expression.  She spends a lot of time alone, listening to ‘They Don’t Know’, (the Tracy Ullman version) and writing songs. Sometimes at night, I hear her crying, but I don’t know what to do, or what to say. I wish I did.

Chapter One: Footsteps In The Dark

 The bus was quiet tonight. The shift workers, pub regulars and club goers had all set off for home before me, so I had the bus largely to myself.  The dim orange lighting created pockets of light amidst the creaking shadows as we travelled at a maniacs pace towards Ardwick, and across the aisle from me, a gaunt, dark featured man slept, sprawled across his seat. But I was too excited to sleep, my brain was humming impatiently, even though my body was tired, and I couldn’t wait to get home and write in here about tonight.  As I gazed out of the window into the night, I noticed a small and ragged group of drunks, weaving their way along the damp grey pavement, and as we drew closer to Stockport, the streets became darker and darker as the street lighting grew paler and more inconsistent.

  A wonderful baking smell of melting golden syrup, caramelised sugar, melting butter, and toasted oats floated in through the open windows on the breezy night air as we neared the McVities factory in Heaton Chapel, and the yellow glare of the bus headlights lit up the sign, which read:

Stockport

Twinned with Beziers and Heilbronn.

 What few bus passengers there were disembarked at a variety of stops between the town centre and Davenport, so that when the driver called out, “Anyone going past Stepping Hill?” I was the only one left to call back, “Yes!”

  The night seemed blacker and stiller than any night I could remember as I got off the bus, but I could see the bus driver in the dim light, and I watched as he turned the vehicle around in the middle of the now empty A6.  As he headed back towards Manchester, I waved, and he waved back.  In the silent night, the click and clunk of my boots on the tarmac and pavement seemed deafeningly loud.

  Mum was just going to bed when I arrived home, “You’re up late,” I commented as I walked through the dark hallway and into the warm glow of the living room.

  “I could say the same about you,” she remarked as I dumped my bag down on the floor and threw myself down into the nearest armchair, “I was worried, I wish you’d buy a mobile, that way you could at least let me know when you’ll be late.”

  I shrugged, “Sorry.” I unwrapped the parcel of newspaper I’d been carrying, and offered it to her as she made to walk past me, “Want some chips?”

  She paused, and then peered, suspiciously, into the newspaper, “Where did you get them?”

  “John’s Supper Bar.”

  She relaxed, “Go on then,” she took a few, and had eaten them before she reached the doorway, “Don’t stay up too late,” I heard her say, just before I heard her feet on the stairs, taking her up to bed.

  The chips are gone now, and I’m ready to start writing.  I thought that I would write about tonight so that when I’m older and life is different I can look back on this time and, if I’m unhappy then, I’ll know that it wasn’t always so.  Maybe I’ll look back on what I’ve written tonight in ten years or so and laugh at my naiveté, but I hope not. 

  Tonight Fliss, Flora and I went out to The Gates to see The Lollies, Sarah Dougher, The Bangs, and The Gossip on the Ladyfest tour.  The weather was quite nice and sunny as we queued up outside and there were a lot of people there.  Some were sitting on the pavement feigning boredom, whilst others chatted excitedly in clusters, or slouched against the dark, grimy Gates walls.  Several of the girls were proudly sporting the pink on black Ladyfest Scotland t-shirts and were talking in fast, excited voices.  I caught the odd phrase here and there, “Unbelievable, God it was so cool…” “Last time I was here was for Katastrophy Wife and Hooker,” “Can’t believe I’ve got to go home next week…” There were a variety of looks and styles going on, including a number of girls in denim skirts, customised with glitter, wearing Hello Kitty or Sunnydale High t-shirts, and carrying pastel Hello Kitty handbags of every colour.  Their trainers were pastel too, and they wore them with multi coloured stripy knee socks, pulled right up.  Their wrists were a mass of multi coloured plastic beads.  Of strong contrast to them were those dressed in black and leopard skin, sombre and stylish, wearing black nail varnish, and lashings of black eyeliner.

  Fliss joined a collection of similarly young or younger girls in the Hello Kitty group once we were inside, and Flora and I watched as they piled their pretty pastel handbags on top of each other, and danced around them to The Lollies.  Fliss’ fair hair, which was gathered up into bunches, bobbed as she danced, and the skirt of her pale pink slip dress shimmered as it caught the light.  Everything was going fine until the pipes burst, which was when we found ourselves being dispersed from the dark, warm basement, through the doors, up the stairs, and out into the cool evening sunshine of Newton Street, where we stood blinking and disorientated for a few minutes.

  Fliss slung on her Bagpuss backpack over her white cardigan and slip dress, and bounced over to the steps opposite The Gates, where Flora and I had taken up disillusioned residence.  Her little white and pink trainer clad feet shifted in impatience as she said, “Let’s go somewhere.”

  Flora shook her head gloomily.  It was beginning to rain, and the dampness was making her long, thick, brassy hair cling to her forehead and face in damp strands, “Let’s not.”  Fliss pouted, so Flora added, gently, “We might miss something.”

  Fliss turned to me for support, her large blue eyes pleading, “Where did you want to go?” I asked.

  “Oh, around,” she replied vaguely, “I wanted to go for a walk.”

  “In this?” The rain was getting quite heavy, and those members of the audience who had coats were quickly pulling them on.

  She nodded.

  I shook my head.

  “Oh well,” she sighed dejectedly as she wrapped the too big cardigan around herself for warmth.

  After what seemed an age, it was determined that the gig was going to be moved to The Twilight Café, and that the bands could go on once the Twilight bands had finished playing at around 11:30pm.  Once this was decided, things happened pretty quickly.  People began to text their friends, who had taken shelter in various surrounding pubs, and a group of us volunteered to carry equipment across to the new venue.

  The last band were still performing when we reached the Twilight, and the long, illuminated, table strewn café was teeming with both their audience and refugees from The Gates as we fought our way through to the stage with our precious cargo.

  We set down the cymbals and drum we’d been carrying, and then made our way, slowly, back through the crowd.  Flora was already at the bar, ordering drinks.

  After the gig, we walked to Portland Street where we picked up a bus to Chorlton.  Flora closed her eyes as she sank back into her seat, and I smiled quietly to myself as I savoured the gig.  Next to me, Fliss was beaming with happiness as she rooted through her bag for her phone.

  Katy, our guitarist, was halfway to bed when the three of us arrived back at the house.  She scowled reproachfully at me as I followed the others inside.  Where height is concerned, she is almost as small as Fliss, but whereas Fliss has always exuded a kind of friendly softness, Katy has always come across as being a good deal harder.  Her bleached white-blonde hair was pulled back from her sharp, pallid face into a ponytail, and she was wearing black pyjamas.

  Fliss hung up her Bagpuss bag and disembarked to make mugs of tea whilst Flora and Katy walked through to the living room, the latter complaining of feeling tired whilst the former continued to talk excitedly of the gig.  I followed a few steps behind them.

  Always a dark room, the living room was badly lit by a series of lamps, and cluttered with magazines, a tailors dummy, T.V and video.  A Hi-Fi system stood in one corner, and numerous musical and non musical paraphernalia had been scattered hither and thither, including Fliss’ copy of ‘Angel Food’ fanzine, which had got mixed up with someone else’s CD’s, and innumerable plectrums which were lying on top of the Hi-Fi, and on the table.  We were sitting on a rather dingy moss green sofa, which was complemented by two similarly dingy moss green armchairs, a scarred pine coffee table, and a couple of grey wooden chairs that Flora and Fliss had decorated via a method of flicking loaded paint brushes in the vague direction of the chair, until boredom had set in.

  Fliss placed three mugs of tea down on the coffee table in front of the sofa and sat down in between me and Flora, “Shall I do toast?”

  “If you like,” replied Flora, wearily rubbing her eyes.  We drank our tea and, when the toast was ready, set about arranging days and times for band practice next week and the week after.  This is always difficult, as our work and study commitments rarely seem to mean that we’re all available at the same time. I have two jobs, so I regularly work from nine to five as a Catering Assistant, and then follow it with an evening of market research, which only really leaves the weekends, when everyone wants to go out instead of rehearse. Katy has a similar schedule, albeit with different jobs, whereas Fliss and Flora work even odder hours.  Once we’d finally arranged it, I decided that it was time to head for home.

  “You can sleep here if you like,” offered Flora, her brown eyes kind.  She is the eldest member of the household in Chorlton and, as such, tends to be the one to make such offers.

  “No, thanks,” I got up from the sagging sofa, and picked up my bag, “I’ve got work in the morning.”

  “You wouldn’t want to slum it on the sofa now, would you?” sneered Katy, her grey eyes cold.

  “No,” it was easier to agree with her, especially when I knew that she didn’t want me to stay, “it hurts my back.”

  “I could sleep on the sofa if you like,” offered Fliss, “you could have my bed.”

  “Don’t bother, Fliss,” muttered Katy to her friend, “she won’t stay.”

  She and I glared at each other for a few moments before I dropped my gaze.  “I have to go.”

  It seemed easier to let her win the argument, I reflected, as I stepped out into the night.  I’ve been aware of the fact that Katy doesn’t like me ever since I joined Titanium Rose, but I always thought that she would come around to the idea.  Their previous drummer was a friend of hers, but he left to go to university over a year ago now, and she really needs to get over it, because I’m not going anywhere.  I like being in the band, and hanging out with Fliss and Flora tonight was good fun.  If only Katy could see that.