October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
“So, do you think you might wanna fuck me tonight, then?”
Even as the words came tumbling unchecked from his mouth, he surmised that it was probably his worst chat-up line ever; and there was a long and illustrious legacy of those, make no mistake. Five years of spectacular failure with the fairer sex, coalesced into one alcohol-fuelled moment of hope, delivered in the midst of a stinking, bustling chip shop. A horrified glance also confirmed that the girl on the receiving end of such a lady-killing bullet was halfway through chomping down on an enormous saveloy, bulbous and shockingly red, making the situation a million times worse.
It was the beginning of fresher’s week, and Jack had struck gold, or so he had thought. A bumbling, gangly mass of hair, acne scars and awkward mumbling, Jack was a self-proclaimed outcast, and the first days of a four-year course in Graphic Design had instilled in him a range of uncomfortable emotions. First, there was a sense of creeping dread, gently enfolding itself around his heart and chilling his genitals. It had mutated into a paradoxical strain of panicked calm, as he tried to convince himself that whatever will be, will be. Then, in the final hours of the comfortable rut he had settled in, as his parents drove him along the coast to drop him off in the dilapidated digs that were to be his home for the next twelve months, that “calm” had become a piercing, world-consuming terror.
She had changed all that at a stroke. Bravely entering the communal kitchen within a few minutes of getting his room key, she had looked up from the rickety old table with a big grin and proclaimed: “I fucking LOVE your hat.” It was a ridiculous hat. Made from crinkled brown leather and dirty sheepskin, with floppy ear-flaps, it was the kind of hat that only required a pair of goggles to complete the sepia-tinted aviator look. Jack never did live on the cutting edge of fashion. He had frowned at her in confusion, sensing an imminent putdown. But her smile was genuine, and it had made his heart plunge down into his stomach, and his pubic hair stand on end. She extended her hand, porcelain-white and slender-fingered. “I’m Kirsty.”
Kirsty’s porcelain-white skin was now a violent crimson as she stood stock still in the middle of the chip shop, rapidly approaching the same shade as the saveloy that was now perched precariously on the end of a little wooden fork in front of her. The other girls from the communal kitchen, in various stages of ingesting their own dirty post-pub suppers, were equally silent. “What the fuck did you say to her?” asked Justine, after what felt like an age. That bitch. Jack had hated her from the start; all false eyelashes and make-up applied with a spade.
The night had gone so perfectly, too, which made his clanger stand out in such stark relief. Emboldened by cheap beer and sleazy rock music, Jack had slowly begun to relax. They had gone out as one big happy family; Kirsty, himself, and the other boys and girls of Hamwick house, floor 3, kitchen 1. Boasts were made, shots were consumed, guards were lowered. From across a row of flaming sambucas, against a backdrop of heaving bodies dancing to the beat, he could have sworn that Kirsty had been watching him, eyeing him up and down, taking stock. He had winked at her, a truly brazen, cocksure gesture that he never knew was in him. She had smiled broadly, brushed a stray lock of blonde hair away and downed her shot. With another lingering look directly at him, she had sauntered back to the bar. He watched her.
“Never gonna happen, mate,” Ben had said. Jack had made fast friends with Ben on account of him studying a similar course to himself, and with the first few days of fresher’s week already behind them, was probably his most trusted confidante. But Ben was wrong. It was going happen. Kirsty was different. She saw something in him that none of the others had seen. She saw past his clumsy flaws and his awkwardness in almost every social situation. It made him bold. It also made him brash. “Wanna bet?” Jack had said, with a smirk.
The night had drawn inexorably to a close, and Jack had felt his confidence ooze out of him with every passing song. As today ticked over into tomorrow, the beers came too thick and fast, and that cocksure arrogance that had briefly elevated him above his own self-doubt soon gave way to drunken lechery. He stood at the edge of the dancefloor, statue-like, feet like lead. All he had to do was talk to her, lead her off somewhere, go for a “chat”. But five years of rejection hung like an albatross around his neck. Ben watched on from the sidelines, confident that he would £20 up when the sun rose.
The saveloy was resting on Kirsty’s uneaten tray of chips now, and Jack’s last desperate gambit for love and money hung thick in the air between them, an tangible as the smell of chip fat permeating newspaper. She still hadn’t breathed a word. The saveloy fell off the mountain of chips onto the floor, comically rolling away from her. Kirsty then turned on her sparkly high heels, and sailed out into the night. The other girls dutifully filed out behind her. Jack stood mute as Ben came over and ruffled his mop of tousled hair. “Very smooth, mate. You owe me twenty sheets though.”
Jack reached into his pocket. He had kept the note back as the night had drawn on; he had expected this all along. As his fingers found his wallet, his phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a text.
Come to my room when you get back. Hurry 😉 xx
He held the phone up to Ben’s face. And winked for the second time that night.
Image is for illustration purposes only. Photo credit: Amy Massey.
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