We’re leaning at the bar when I see Kelly. She’s on the dance floor with her friends. After a while, she sees me. She smiles and looks down and her hair falls forward over her face in the way it does. Then she throws It back and comes over.
“Evening,” I say. “What brings you here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” she says. “Where have you been hiding yourself?”
I laugh and think to myself that the question could have come from me. But I don’t ask it. Instead, I just thank fate that we have actually met again. It was looking like we might not.
“I’ve been here and there,” I say. “Played a gig the other night. You should have come.”
“I didn’t know you were in a band,” she says.
“I wasn’t until recently.”
I proceed to tell her about The Shots and me joining and the rest of it. She seems impressed, says she’ll come and see us the next time we play. I think about telling her I’ve got a job but think better of it. She didn’t know I wasn’t working the last time we met.
The night proceeds as I knew it would, as soon as I saw her. Like last time, she suggests we find some seats. So we head to the back of the club and, once again. things quickly start to get intimate.
A short while later, we head out of the club and back to her pad. It’s a hot summer night and the mood’s a good one. I have my arm round her shoulders as we walk and I stop every so often to kiss her and then we carry on walking. The conversation flows naturally and carries on from where we left off the last time. I almost mention that I’ve been in The Queens and she wasn’t there, but I don’t. There doesn’t seem any point. I’ll make a date with her next time, make sure we meet again.
We get back to the flat at the top of the high street, go up the steps and she opens the door. We fall inside and into her room and things develop naturally, just as I hoped they would.
The next morning I wake and slowly open my eyes. She’s there next to me, her long blonde hair lying sleek and loose on the pillow, the duvet over her waist. I stretch and look up at the ceiling and the light coming through a crack in the curtain. I’m not in the mood to go back to sleep. Not now.
I need to wake her, as subtly as possible, without making it obvious. I cough. I fidget. I move about. It doesn’t make any difference. She’s out for the count. There’s nothing I can do that will get her to wake. And I, after last night, have a need to head to the little boy's room for some necessary relief. I ease myself out of bed, open the door and head out into the hall and find the bathroom. I walk in and check my reflection in the mirror. I’ll do. My eyes are a little bloodshot and my hair’s a mess, but nothing to bother me too much. I go over to the toilet and relieve myself. I flush it and wash my hands and then wet my hair and towel dry it. That looks better.
I go back to the bedroom and ease open the door to check the position. She’s still asleep, a veritable sleeping beauty, lying there not wanting to wake. I close the door again and find the kitchen. There’s only one way to overcome this issue. I boil the kettle. I take two cups and locate the tea bags, putting one in each. Then, when the kettle clicks off, I pour some boiling water in and leave them. I wander over to the window and look out onto the street. You can see the top part of town from here, early birds wandering round to shops, buying the papers, gossiping with acquaintances, putting the world to rights, as early birds have done since the dawn of time.
I go back to the tea and take a teaspoon out of the drawer and squeeze the tea bags. I take them out, hold them over my hands as I take them to the bin, so not to drip tea on the floor. Then I put two spoons of sugar in each, add milk from the fridge and take them back to the bedroom.
“I wondered what had happened to you,” she says, as I walk in.
“I thought I’d bring you some tea,” I say.
“Mm. Very nice," she says, snuggling down into the bed, her hair becoming enticingly messed up as she does. “I could get used to this.”
I put one cup on the bedside table next to her and take mine to the other side. I have a sip of it as I slide into bed. I put my hand round her waist and kiss her forehead. She feels warm and soft and increasingly inviting.
“So how are you this morning?” she says, smiling.
“I’m good,” I say. “And you? Hope the hangover’s not too bad.”
“It’s been worse,” she says. “Much worse.”
And I lean over and kiss her. And that’s all that matters, for the moment.
I go home in the early afternoon with an arrangement to see her later, in The Queens. We both keep the date. I walk in at my normal time and she’s at the bar, with her gang of friends. Josh and the others are sitting in the corner, as usual, and he grins at me as she turns, greets me, and I buy her a drink. We stay there for about an hour and then take our leave, head off to other pubs, and do our own thing. We go to a few bars around town, The Red Lion, The Ship, and the wine bar before we head back to hers as the small hours beckon. It follows the same course as last night.
The morning is much the same as well. I’m lying in her bed, cup of coffee in one hand and a ciggy on the ashtray next to me, when she suddenly turns. That’s when she comes out with it.
“I’m in a relationship,” she says.
She looks at me. It’s more serious than I’ve seen her before.
“Sorry?” I say. It’s instinctive. My brain hasn’t time to process what I’ve just been told.
“I’m in a relationship,” she says again. “With this guy.”
“Just some guy.”
“Someone other than me?”
“I’m afraid so,” she says. “I didn’t know how to tell you. But I knew I had to.”
“I see. So that’s it, is it?”
“No. I didn’t say that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I still want to see you.” She laughs that little giggle that I’ve started to love.
Neither of us say anything for a moment.
“So what does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I just know I want to keep seeing you.”
“And what about him?”
“I don’t know about him. It’ll sort itself out. I know that.”
Again there’s a few moments where neither of us say anything.
“Who is he anyway?”
“Just this guy. You don’t know him.”
“I don’t know most people. I’ve only just moved back here. I’ve been away for three years.”
“I suppose so.”
“So where does that leave us?”
“It leaves us where we were before I told you. I hadn’t met you until recently. I want to keep seeing you.”
“Oh, Billy. I’m going to sort it out. I’ll let him down gently. Give me time.”
I look at her and smile. It does concern me for a few moments. He might be a prizefighter for all I know. That’s my first instinct. But she confirms that’s not the case, when we talk about him a few minutes later. He’s an accountant, in a local firm and heading for the top. It’s pretty obvious she sees pound signs against his future prospects. Maybe that’s the case. But it’s also clear I can charm her. Even if she ends up with him, when he’s the Head of some financial firm in the years to come, there’s plenty of opportunities for me to have fun on the way.
What more did I want, anyway? It’s better to be the bit on the side. I’d rather be the usurper than the usurped any day.
So, with that thought, I take her in my arms and forget about the future top cat on Wall Street and have some fun and games for the rest of the morning.
On Monday morning, I head back to work. The revelations of the weekend have been on my mind all night. The outcome is that I have a restless night, lying in my own single bed, waking up every so often and having dreams of Kelly and some guy who looks like Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt, and wears a flash pin striped suit, walking into a bar and ticker tape falling on them as they smile and look glamorous and I’m just standing at the bar, watching from the sidelines. I wake finally at half-past seven, covered in sweat, my duvet thrown off.
All I want to do is go back to sleep, but I can’t. I know that. I can’t lie here all day. I have things to do. I push myself out of bed and make some tea and then get a shower. The folks have left the house for the day, which is something.
I get dressed and head for town. I get to work and walk by the boss’s office and can’t stop myself looking round to see if I’ve been noticed. Thankfully, he is not there. I walk into my office and I can hear his dulcet tones from next door. I manage to get my papers out of the drawer when he walks in. I don’t know if its obvious I’ve just got here or not. It’s a bit rude of him though. I haven’t even had time to make a coffee. And you know what I’m like about caffeine in the morning. I love the smell of coffee in the morning.
He asks me stuff about this job I’m working on, which I don’t know the answers to. I make it up. He goes away satisfied. I sit back and make a coffee.
I’ve got two letters this morning. One is from Jimmy, the other’s from Max. Suddenly these letters don’t seem to matter so much anymore, not like they did in the days when I’d just finished uni.
Jimmy’s telling me about bands again and I want to check them out but I don’t know if I’ll have time. I’m out a lot. I don’t have time to listen to Peel. Max is in Ibiza, partying his days away.
I put them in my drawer. It feels strange. I haven’t really felt like this before. They feel like communications from another place, another time.
I head for work again. I sit in my usual place in the office and look around. I feel bored. I knew I would but it’s happened quickly. I wish I was still on the dole, I really do. Those long, laid back days, when I’d just got home from uni, seem a long time ago now. What I’d give, right now, to be sitting in the garden with a glass of orange and the sun beating down on my head. But things move on. I suppose there’s nothing I can do about it.
As I’m sitting here, my boss gets a visit. There are always people visiting the office. I’ve seen this one about but not met him before. He’s one of these people who thinks a lot of himself, strutting in like he’s the most important cat in the world. I sit and glance over as he talks to Saunders, who’s all smiles and full of corporate welcoming. He talks a while and then introduces him. His name’s Damian and he’s working in Finance somewhere or other. He stands there, in his business suit with a stripy tie and a stripy shirt, his hair swept back in the traditional style, looking at me. I don’t know if it’s paranoid to think he’s being condescending. But that’s certainly the impression I get.
“Billy’s just out of education,” says Saunders.
“Oh yes,” says Damian. “What did you study?”
“Philosophy,” I say, looking back at him.
“I see,” he says.
“It was the best thing I ever did.”
He smiles saccharin and leaves the office. He’s a chinless wonder par excellence. I already hate him.
I haven’t played my jazz for a while. It’s somehow got lost in everything else. When I get home, I put that right. I kick off my shoes and fall on the bed and dig out a record. I put it on the turntable and let the grooves get into my soul. It’s just what I need after the sort of day that I’ve had. It’s been busy. Any thoughts that I might be able to relax and settle into the job easily are gone. They’re going to want their pound of flesh. Saunders does, certainly. For a mild-mannered chap, he can certainly be a hard taskmaster.
I let the music float over me and then start to think about what I’m going to do tonight. I should really have a night at home. But I’m not going to. I’ve been out most nights for as long as I can remember and I’m in the mood to do the same now. I lift the needle off the record and head into the bathroom and have one of those showers that refreshes you and gets you in the mood for later.
Then I come back and get dressed. Summertime is still with us, for a while yet, so it’s light blue jeans again and a polo shirt and loafers. I check myself in the mirror and head out.
It’s a leisurely walk into town. I head down the back streets and am soon heading down the alleyway to The Queens. They’re all there when I arrive, Josh and the rest of the band. I go up to the bar and get a drink and go and join them. Josh moves up to let me in and I smile and have a good drink of my beer.
“We’re thinking of having another practice one night later in the week,” he says.
“Sounds good to me.”
“So you’re up for it?”
“Sounds good. I’ll let you know when we’ve sorted what we’re going to do.”
We sit and drink and put the world to rights, as usual. The jukebox is blasting out and it’s a good selection tonight. It’s one of those nights when things go well and everything falls into place. The door’s open and the summer breeze wafts through, to cool it down.
Josh is full of questions about Kelly, how it’s going, what my plans are and the rest. I don’t say much. I avoid mentioning what she came out with the other morning. I can’t see Josh being impressed by that one iota. I’ve been trying to forget it but it’s at the back of my mind. I suppose it’s bound to be. Then I tell myself not to be soft. You’ve always said you should take things as they come, don’t get involved, just have fun. That’s what you need to do. Enjoy your time with her and move on. Don’t think. She isn’t.
The conversation moves onto The Shots. The band are suggesting we go into a studio and record a demo. Everyone’s up for it. We’d all chip in a share of the cost and go from there. It sounds good to me, though the question of price does enter my mind. How much do demos cost to make? I forget it and enjoy the night. It’s a question for another day. Though the idea of recording something and sending it off to The NME or hearing it played on Peel appeals. It would be good as well. No question about that.
At closing time, there’s talk of clubbing. I’m not in the mood. I just want to get home and crash out and save it for the weekend and all it has to offer. So that’s what I do, head home through the streets and, when I get there, put some Hammond jazz on again for the second time today. Life may have ups and downs. But most of the time it’s a wonder. To be young and free in England in summertime.