Thought it was time to share something a little light-hearted for once – as with all my writing, any critique(positive or negative)very welcome.
Love, so they say, changes everything.
For Tim Forsyth, the timing couldn’t be worse. He is not looking for love, he is looking for a First. Not any old First either; no, he wants to get the highest Economics mark the university has ever seen. He aims to be the Economist of his generation, to create a twenty-first century approach to the subject, win the Nobel Prize. He has a schedule to keep up. He simply doesn’t have time for love.
Tonight though, he has let Ed drag him away from his text books to a party at the Union Bar: the Final Fling. By day, a café of dubious reputation; at night, cheap alcohol is served, and the tables are pushed back to reveal a wooden dance floor that has seen better days. For one last night before the exams people are determined to party hard. They huddle together round tables littered with empty beer glasses and bottles of wine. Couples fondle in corners. The dance-floor is crowded, the music is thumping, the room is ringing with shouts and laughter. It feels hot and sweaty.
He notices her as he reaches the bar. She is a few people down, waving a ten pound note. She is dressed
simply in hipster jeans, a blue camisole and a white wrap-over shirt on top. As she gives the barman a note, he catches a tantalising glimpse of breast. She has a heart-shaped face, and a soft mouth; her dark brown hair is tied in loose plaits. She picks up her drinks and floats back to her table. She serves her friends and sits down. Tim can’t take his eyes off her.
“Wow.” Tim turns to Ed.
“She’s fit all right.”
“I saw her first.”
“I’m sort of taken at the moment. She’s all yours.”
Drinks purchased, Tim wanders over to her, leaning forward with a smile,
“I bet you look good on the dance floor.”
She smiles back at him.
“Watch me,” she says, studying his walk back across the room.Her friend Siobhan is dismissive,
“What a cheesy line.”
“He’s got nice eyes,” she says, “And he dresses well.”
In his crisp white shirt and tight blue jeans he looks like he’s stepped out of a frat boy movie.He’s cute, she thinks, though Kaz Whiting is not looking for love either. She aims to enjoy life, wherever she is. When she is done here, she is going to go round the world. Love would interfere with her travel plans: she simply doesn’t have the time. But… he has a look about him that is rather tempting. And… it’s been a while.
“He’s a bit too good looking, don’t you think?” says Siobhan.
“Naa, he’ll do nicely tonight.”
“Kaz!!” the table laughs in outrage.
The girls get up to dance. The music is playing a loud repetitive beat. Kaz loses herself to the rhythm. She moves her body in one fluid motion: she is dancing for the handsome boy. She unties her wrap around shirt and pushes her arms down her body, caressing her hips. Seeing his appreciative reaction she turns towards her friends, twisting her bottom and lowering her shirt down her back. She gyrates to the increasing tempo, the shirt falling off the end of her arms. As the music reaches a crescendo, she turns back to face him, pulls off the shirt and throws it on the floor. Sweat rolls down her back, and trickles down her nose. She picks up her shirt, drapes it over her bare shoulder and saunters towards him.
“My place, of course.”
I can afford one night, he thinks, just one.
He follows her out of the bar.
But once is simply not enough. They meet again and again. Still they come back for more. They are creatures of the night: tangled limbs locked in wordless embraces that end too soon. As darkness makes way for watery dawns, even Kaz is forced to creep away to the constant drumbeat of revision.
Daylight brings frustrations. They meet for brief lunches, crammed between the endless hours of study. Their conversations are somewhat unsatisfying.
“Why do you smoke dope?” he asks. “It’s illegal, smells foul, and rots your brain.”
“It makes me feel good. You should try some, it would relax you.”
He shakes his head, and wonders whether she is too much of a distraction. He has work to do and she seems a little… well… shallow. But as she gets up to go, he glimpses her marvellous breasts and his doubts disappear.
“If you didn’t run so much, we’d have more time together,”she says.
“Running helps me wind down. You could always come with me.”
She thinks, as if. She wonders why they are together, he seems a little… well… driven. Then he smiles at her with those blue eyes and her reservations vanish.
What we need, they think, is more time together. What we need, they say, is a holiday. They sneak away from studying to browse on-line holidays. They dream of just the two of them, no distractions, undiluted love.
They settle on a barge holiday.Just the thing, thinks Kaz. We’ll snuggle up cozy at night, rise late, meander down river from pub to pub.Can’t wait, thinks Tim. We’ll plan a route, do ten miles a day, get round the whole circuit in a week. It’ll be great.
How they long for that time to come.
The exams end in a blaze of celebratory sunshine. They part company for a while, visiting family and friends. Their next meeting will be at the boat-yard. They cannot wait.Creatures of the night, how will they fare by day?
Tim sees her first, his spirits rising at the sight of her breasts. Then he hugs her and smells the cannabis in her hair. For a moment he wonders if this is such a good idea. Kaz grasps his hand, dragging him onto the deck of the narrow-boat and his spirits rise again. They go down below to explore the living quarters. The roof is low, Tim bangs his head and curses. They squeeze through the thin corridor into a small sitting room, two benches with drawers underneath and pink cushions on top. Beyond this is a tiny toilet and shower room, a double bed with lurid purple bedspread, and a minute kitchen.
“Small is beautiful,” he says, “So are you.” He pulls her towards him. They fall on the bed together laughing.
“That was lovely,” says Kaz afterwards, thinking how nice it would be to linger here for once. But Tim is up
almost immediately, pulling maps from his kagoul, planning a frightening looking schedule. She wonders for a moment if this is such a good idea, but then she is caught up in his enthusiasm. She, too, is eager to get on with it.
The first few miles of their journey take them through the outskirts of the city. It is not a pretty sight. The footpath is covered with nettles, littered with shopping trolleys, rusty bicycles and broken glass. The canal runs through an industrial estate, disused red brick warehouses, a scrap yard, a large car park. The water is rank and black, their prow forcing its way as if through treacle. Rain begins to fall softly. They make slow progress till the city is eventually left behind. A field of red poppies blazes beside them, but they barely notice it. All they are conscious of is grey rain and the smell of manure; even the cows look miserable. Their clothes begin to get damp. Water trickles down Kaz’s nose, and down the back of Tim’s neck. This is not quite what they had in mind.
At first Tim takes control, planning early starts, thrilling to each milestone passed. This is no kind of holiday, thinks Kaz. Water trickles down her nose, this is not quite what she had in mind. By Monday, she is in a state of rebellion. She refuses to get up and they are late getting away. When they finally get going, Tim is
fretful. Water trickles down the back of his neck, this is not quite what he had in mind.
Sometimes, when Kaz is steering, Tim goes for a run. She watches him disappear up the towpath in the driving rain, and feels deserted. When he returns, he laughs at her for being a slowcoach: a joke she doesn’t appreciate. When Tim is steering, Kaz often takes herself downstairs. She rolls herself spliffs that leave the cabin rich in aromatic smoke. If he comes below, the smell irritates his nostrils. He returns to the surface, impatient to breathe clean air.
The narrow-boat fills with steaming wet clothes that are never quite dry. The windows condense constantly. Below deck they get in each other’s way. Even the bed feels crowded. They begin to argue about everything.
How they long for the holiday to end.
On the penultimate day of their holiday, their results are due. The rain stops and allows a watery sun to come out, as they go to the pub to phone Ed and Siobhan. Their simultaneous cries ring round the garden,
“A 2:1. I don’t believe it!”
Kaz knows that this is more than she deserves. She skips about, shrieking out loud.Tim sits with his head in his hands. After all his hard work. He deserves more than this.
“What’s the matter?” she says.
“It’s not a first.”
“You got a 2:1 – that’s great.”
“It’s the end of everything.”
“Lighten up. It’s just an exam. Come on share a spliff with me to celebrate.”
Now she is laughing at him. He sees her in a new light. If she hadn’t come along flashing her tits, he’d have done it. It’s all her fault. He marches back to the narrow-boat and collects her stash, cigarette papers, lighters, hash. He throws the lot overboard. She watches as they float away in the current.
“Why did you do that?”
“I’ve blown my career, thanks to you.”
She looks at him as if seeing him for the first time. He’s so fucking uptight. That cannabis cost her a lot of money too. Well two can play at that game, she thinks. She dives below and returns with his running kit.
Before he can stop her, she is throwing things in the water: one final fling, and the trainers sink with a loud plop.
“You silly bitch, they’re worth a lot of money”
“I don’t care. This was supposed to be a holiday, not an endurance test.”
She storms off. It has started raining again. He thinks, sod it, I’ll moor here for the rest of the day. She’ll be back.
She does not return.
She walks across the fields shaking with rage and tears. The rain soaks her. He’ll follow her, surely he will.
She hits a road, stands there with her thumb up. A passing motorist takes pity on her, and drives her to the nearest town.
When love ends, life resumes.He finds solace in the salary a Merchant Bank offers. By Christmas, he has enough to buy a flat in London’s Docklands. She works two jobs to raise money for her trip. In April, she boards a plane for America.
Time passes. Love comes calling again. Kaz literally runs into Bob at Golden Gate Park. When they catch their breath, they like what they see.
“Been running long?” he asks her later.
“Only since I’ve been travelling. My ex used to run and it drove me nuts. Now I find I can’t get enough. Funny, isn’t it, how lovers change you?”
Tim meets Susie at Ed’s birthday party. She is plump, and blonde. Above the noise of the music, he shouts,
“My, you’ve got curves in all the right places.”
She laughs, and beckons him to sit down. They start to talk. Presently she fumbles in her bag, drawing out cigarette papers and some dope.
He hesitates, then thinks, why the hell not? “Alright, then. Thanks.”He takes a drag of the sweet smelling cigarette, puts his arm round her. Ed winks at him, and he winks back.
Love changes everything.
Copyright c Virginia Moffatt 2008