Continuing our series of short stories set in, or influenced by, London. This month’s theme is ‘sexy, sensual, saucy London‘ (see below for how to submit entires), and Theo Klay continues with a closing-time coupling.
The pub spewed our bodies out of its door. We stumbled over one another, laughing, calling, not giving a shit. That is what alcohol does really: insulates. It bubbles you, wraps you up in a protective coating of wine or rum that does not allow the world in. Not the pub neighbours who can't sleep for our hollering, not work tomorrow, not the anxiety of what happens next with her?
About eight of us lasted until the end. It had started at five, celebrating a birthday, as if we needed an excuse. No dinner, of course. I watched the heads of my colleagues – friends? – bobbing along towards the main road and the tube stop. I was at the back beside her. We bobbed too, and as we did our knuckles kept brushing into one another's. It made me shiver.
We must have been walking more slowly than them; the gap between us widened. Unconsciously eager to accentuate it, our footsteps slowed in synchrony. The warmth of the night surprised me. It was one of those spring nights where the city reminds you it hasn't forgotten what summer is. I was even sweating. Though perhaps my heart beating like a goddamn snare drum had something to do with that. Suddenly I saw my chance: a mews curved away to our right. The rest were ahead. I took her hand in mine – for the first time – and pulled us into the road. We made it across, they didn't see us, we were hidden now. I let go of my breath and looked at her. She said nothing and smiled.
We walk two blocks, relaxing into our anonymity. I love this gift the city gives, the way she'll disappear you wherever you please: amongst townhouses or kebab shops. I can be anything here. The eyes don't know me and the stones don't judge me.
I haven't let go of her hand. It is warm, slightly sticky. Her winter coat hangs open, inside she wears a simple white top over jeans. It gently hugs her hips. My eyes linger before I pull them away, look up into her face. It's easy to talk to her, always was, from her first day at work. Her use of words is deft and powerful. She knows exactly how to flirt. I mean exactly. She is three moves ahead of you, just waiting til you catch up. Every conversation we have becomes a story, complete with hero, heroine and monster, defeated. Outside our fairytales though, I know nothing about her.
I can feel her pulse through her palm. I don't know what to do next. We are walking down a narrow street, dark, very quiet. One side is lined with gleaming (even by night) white Victorian homes. Their pillared doorways oozing money. On the other side is a park. One of those private ones, a small square, with spring greenery inside, entirely enclosed by a tall black wrought iron fence. Upon each post below the spikes are bulbs, sitting proud like shiny black pearls.
We turn a corner of the park. Ahead is an electrics box, offering the perfect foot up. We look at each other and nothing is said and something clicks. I go first. Onto the box, hoist myself up to balance atop the fence, foot carefully positioned between the sharp daggered prongs and with a spring I'm over. I reach out and she throws me her bag. Just as she copies my spring from the fence top her shoe catches between two prongs; she lands on the grass with one shoe and one socked foot. Laughing, I retrieve the other shoe. I think about running off with it, but instead I give it back. We walk slowly out into the middle of the park. Trees obscure all of the houses surrounding us. The grass is a fantastic green: lagoon-like, luminescent. She sits down in the middle of the lagoon, cross-legged. For a moment I just stare. Am I high? Everything seems too real. I kneel down beside her only for a second before I turn straight on, uncharacteristically confident, and kiss her.
Immediately, we melt into the grass. She's lying flat on her back pulling me in, biting my lip, wrapping her fingers into my hair. I push back, my weight on her. She tastes of pear cider; I must taste of beer. I pull back for a moment to remove my jacket, and tug hers off too, down over her shoulders. I want less between us. I fall back in and I lose myself on her lips, on her rising chest, on her falling chest, on the softness of her earlobes that I trace with a finger. I can feel her hip bone pressing into my thigh. She dissolves me.
A siren passes close by. Rather than piercing the air, its call sounds sing-song, like it is singing our song, and sharing our secret tonight.
The night wears on, I guess. I stay lost. We stay lost. Tomorrow will never come.
I am riding home in a taxi. I never take taxis. As we cross Chelsea Bridge I realise that there is new light in the sky, just behind the shard. Someone is draining out the night. I have had one of those rare, magical nights. I still taste her; my senses flooded. I'm still hammered too, my hangover tomorrow is going to be a killer. I'm bursting to tell someone. Maybe this driver? But I don't. I sit quietly and grin. Beat by beat, my heart is slowing down. Bed nears, tomorrow awaits.
Copyright, Theo Klay, 2014. Image by Simon and his Camera in the Londonist Flickr pool.
Please continue to send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. As well as general London stories, we’re now looking for tales with a ‘sexy, sensual or saucy’ theme. Entries (whether general or sexy) must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.
Previously in this series
- Amelie: Narges Rashidi considers the interactions of three people on a District Line tube.
- Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
- Compatibility: Stephen Lynch conjures the awkwardness of flat hunting.
- Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
- Shelter Drawings: Stuart Snelson’s tale of a mysterious Circle Line artist.
- Harvest Festival: A spooky Halloween tale in the London suburbs by Helen Craig.
- Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
- Bishopsgate: Oliver Zarandi visits the site of a bomb.
- A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
- Tracks and Albums: Richard Lakin attracts the attentions of the British Transport Police.
- An Extract From the Diary of Kay Richardson, Actor: The surreal tribulations of a washed-up London thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
- Seeing Red: Anthony Fitzgerald on the woes of a cab driver.
- You Were Not In When We Called: A Christmas tale from Megan Toogood.
- The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairytale in which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
- The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.
- The Do: Alan Fisher gets party phobia.
- Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some housework.
- Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the future of north London, through a glass darkly.
- Ordinary Days in London: Madelaine Hills on a Docklands disturbance.
- Instant Karma on the 263 to North Finchley: one seat left on the bus. Next to you. Raving drunk gets on. By Ronnie Capaldi.
- Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the answers? By Heidi Scherz
- The Writer and the Dancer: Close encounter at a flat party by Vincent Wood.