Sunday, 31 March 2013

The man who was not there.

She had not heard from him in a week but he was everywhere. On a train to Blackpool, Heather spotted him in the next carriage, sat next to a brunette. He’d always said he preferred brunettes. They were sat with their backs to her and she could see the curls in his hair, right at the top of his neck, that she had played with all those times.

His head arched towards the brunette and Heather saw a flash of his cheek. That was his cheek right? The same olive skin, the same indentation in line with his lips, those lips. Heather gripped her seat in anger. He hadn’t bothered to call her but he could hang out with this girl, talk to her, make her laugh? He was wearing a coat that she’d never seen before. So he’s gone shopping too, plenty of time for that, it seemed.  The pain in her chest grew deeper as the curls shifted, the lips motioned to hers, and he leaned in for a kiss. .  

But that profile was not his. No, there was something wrong about his smile afterwards. His mole, the one which she was sure was the shape of a heart, her heart, was not where it should be. 

It was not him. And never would be, no matter how many times Heather tried to mould the picture of Ben in her head to the boy who seemed so very close.

This was a torture that she went through repeatedly. She saw him over six times that day and heard the word 'Greece' at least a dozen. It was like fate was screwing with her head. 

‘Cheers fate, give us a break will ya?’ she muttered.

'Er, hello to Heather?! For fuck's sake stop day dreaming. Have you listened to anything I’ve just said?' 

The eloquent sounds of Alice hit Heather's brain with the subtlety of a mnemonic drill. Heather groaned as they drove past another 'Discover the hidden treasures of Greece' billboard. 

'Y’know you've turned into a right sap since Ben.' Alice continued, undeterred by Heather’s sudden fascination with the ends of her hair, zips on her clothes, anything that was not Alice’s judgemental gaze.

Her friend turned to her. 'Heather seriously, drop it. He's a loser, a fit loser, but still a loser. He wasn't even that interesting when you were actually talking to him. You were always saying how he didn't get your jokes. But I suppose he's only human' 

Heather received a, slightly too hard, dig in the ribs. She moaned, 'is there a point to your bullying, because you do realise I could wang you like a welly if I so desired, Al.'

Her 4’10 friend did not care for threats over her size, and continued with her jack-russel-like bark. 

'All I'm saying is that God, fate, Scientology alien, Allah, whoever the fuck brought you two together may have just got it wrong.'

'Don't start the lectu...'

'Just because you met and talked about books all night does not make you soul mates. I mean, just because he liked the same old boring shit that you like does not mean that you are meant for one another.' 

Heather returned to the window. 'I have to believe it is for some reason, Al, I don't mean to sound like a creepy spinster from a Mariane Keyes’ novel, but surely this, us, what we had, is more than the usual, well,' Heather winced at the phrase, 'holiday fling? It has to be.'

'But maybe not. Maybe you were drunk, maybe it was a hot summer's evening and you’d had too much Sangria’

‘Sangria’s Spanish, Al’



‘Whatever. Maybe it was just the heat of the moment. Maybe it was to stop you nausing over Dave. Maybe it was to just break you two apart.’

Heather winced. Dave, she had not even thought about him in such a long time. The guilt washed over her, permeating her skin and forcing her to flush.

Alice continued.  ‘I mean, let's face it, you've been with tons of people...' 

'....and? Where the hell is this going now?' 

Alice grabbed her by the hand, 'and, Honey you weren't right about any of them. They all started off very sweet and full of potential but when it comes down to it, they were all wankers. So either you are just chronically awful at choosing men...' 

'LOTS of men, it seems' 

'Or' Alice interjected, 'or, you have just done the ground work and have to be patient now' 

'So….what you’re saying is being a slag is the same as building the foundations of a house?' 

'Even though you are being sarcastic here Heather, I think, I think that's exactly what I mean.' 

Heather returned to the window, just as the train slowed into a village and a pub called 'Ben’s Bar' flashed into her vision. 'Such bullshit' she whispered. 

Alice pulled at Heather’s anorak and called her attention. 'My dear darling screwed up slut of a best friend. Like that song, y'know the one, you just have to wait patiently for love, some day it will surely come.'

Alice began a power ballad rendition of 'that song' for the three seconds it took for Heather to reach out and press her hand firmly against her friend's gaping mouth. 

'Ok, no more.' She said.  'I promise, no more Ben. No more waiting for messages, no more moping.' 

'Thank all that's holy! Yo everyone, Hev's stopped being boring! It's a fucking miracle!'

The quiet carriage filled with elderly couples and families glared at Alice’s outburst. She had raised her pale arms above her head, like she was expecting an encore and a round of applause.  

‘It was only to stop you bloody singing’. Heather snapped, but her face soon echoed the infectious smile of her friend’s as the train lunged forward from the station.  ‘Now give me a drink. I think I’ll need it for ‘I love Lance and even though he's prematurely bald and watches too much porn, I'll still marry him’ time tonight.’

Heather took the glass offered to her from their train picnic and raised it, ‘to Lance and Lauren, I suppose’, she exclaimed, half-heartedly.

Alice raised hers to meet: ‘to being single and hanging around with pathetic, needy, hopelessly in love people all weekend’

‘Hear, hear.’ The clink joined the sound of whimpering babies and old, marginally deaf couples shouting names of sandwiches to each other in the carriage.

The wine slipped down her throat easily and a smile pasted itself on Heather's face as she listened to more of Alice's stories. But what she couldn't figure out, no matter how hard she tried, was why the pit of her stomach had turned so very cold. 

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