Happy To Hold On: Shoes
Written by Gabcd86.Part 2 of 4.
Naked. Interesting, though not unusual. When alone, I slept naked. And when I had company, I often ended up that way. Soon after this thought came to me, I opened my eyes and noticed there was no light fixture above my head. I was not at home. The bed was smaller than mine, so was the room. Both were utterly unfamiliar. I turned my head - there was an indentation in the mattress. So I definitely hadn't slept alone. That ruled out being out with the lads. Even I had some limits.
Although I had no idea what I had done last night, and how far I had pushed those limits, I felt at ease. There wasn't that horrible feeling I had when I woke up naked in the middle of Hyde Park, without a phone or a wallet, and with the gates being opened to let in a crowd of retired dogwalkers with their grandchildren. Then again, that wasn't really down to any sort of intuition, just plain common sense really.
Time to get up. I shoved the covers back and swung my legs out of bed. A bruise on my shin, fresh. No hangover, but I felt a bit woozy. Drugs, perhaps? I had told myself I didn't do that anymore, but I rarely listen. A post-it stuck to the door. I cross the room, grateful for the large radiator on the wall, and pluck the note off.
Hiya! Hope you slept well, just gone to get some breakfast. Feel free to take a shower.
I guessed woman's handwriting. Bit too pretty for a bloke, you know? I hoped it was a girl, anyway. I'd have had to get pretty fucked up the night before to end up being written notes like that by a bloke. Anyway. I yanked open the door, suddenly realising with a chill that I might not be the only one in the flat. Too late to go back on the motion, though, the door was already wide open. My left hand darted down to cover me somewhat, but there was no need - the room was empty. Relaxing, I headed for a window. We were a couple of storeys up. The area didn't look massively familiar, but it didn't look alien, either. But then again, what does in this country? It's all one fucking row of houses copy-pasted to oblivion anyway.
Couldn't be bothered with a shower. I couldn't see my clothes anywhere, so I just flopped back into a cream sofa, pressing the heels of my hands into my eyes. Think.
Yesterday, I had been thinking. Pondering something. Oh yeah, women. For a change. There were two. If you've got a mo, I might as well just go back a few weeks and let you in to my life a little bit. Hold on tight, I suppose.
You see, when you're in my position, there's like this weird Catch-22. All of a sudden, you can pretty much get with anyone you like, within a certain pay-scale. But just as you're about to go mad with the freedom, you find out you're not supposed to mix with the common folk. Your best source of dates is your PR man, acting on the advice of the gossip rags. Makes sense, I suppose. You meet loads of people at work. Something like half of all couples work in the same sort of domain. Me, I work in the famous domain. I generally go for musician, or artist, but no sense being pretentious, really. I mean, I love the music, and it's what makes it all worthwhile, but sometimes, I feel like I spend as much time cultivating an aura of hedonistic frenzy as I do actually playing the guitar. Not that I'm complaining, mind. Hedonistic frenzy beats soul-crushing routine any day.
Which leads me to Maria. I never worked out how much of her biography was PR bullshit, but let's see... born into poverty, but not that starving to death poverty we love to feel concerned about. The smiley, optimistic, hope of a better life type poverty that lets us all feel like there is hope if girls like Maria can make it. Anyway. She was a model, then a fashion designer and actress, and last year, she released an album. To her credit, the songs were all hers, and not one record label songwriter in the building. But it wasn't my cup of tea. And we didn't really have much contact - not the same crowd, really. Until a Brazilian Independence Day celebration in the city. We both attended, and being the only people under forty in the room, we spent the afternoon together, then went on for dinner, and me being me, we spent the night together. Since then, it's been on and off. Tabloids love it. The Bad Apple and the Girl from Ipanema. I always thought headlines had to be different each time. Turns out you can basically make the same joke every day, so long as you switch a word or a structure.
And we had fun. No doubt about that, none whatsoever. She had been a supermodel, after all. Proper cliched Brazilian, all flowing dark hair, olive-green eyes and tanned skin, not like me, who has to carry my passport around with me to prove I am actually half Brazilian. And the body. Jesus Christ. But more than that, she was smart, funny, and when we stayed up one night until four in the morning just talking, I was reeling for two days afterwards. Me! Just talking to a supermodel. A drunk one! On a sofa! It beggars belief. Things were good, they really were. She very quickly became my longest relationship since Malton, and even the tabloids got bored of us.
Then one week, she had a photo-shoot in Dubai, and fucked if I'm going to go over there and spend all of my money to not be allowed to make out on the beach by some beardy tosser in a tent. So, I took her to the airport and kissed her goodbye, a couple of dogged photographers lapping it all up, and then went home and straight out to the pub. Not my local, too familiar. I walked through the city till I heard some noisy guitar music, and sat at the bar, watching the band play to a pub full of drunk City boys and wasted baby-boomers. The bar was like a rectangle in the middle of the room, with the stage directly across from me.
Crashing, yelping and skittering about the fret-board like a ... well, like one of my concerts, actually, the band finished a song and announced they were taking a break. Cheeky buggers, taking an interlude. Probably off to drink a Pimms and smoke a cigar, the poncy twats. They were good though - a bit Stones, right down to the canyon-like wrinkles in the singer's face.
Can I get you another drink, sir?
I had been rolling my empty pint-glass up and down my face for the best part of fifteen minutes, gradually draining the moisture into my cheek like a bruised sponge - I had taken a bass headstock in the face the other day. I blinked and looked up at the owner of the voice. First thing I saw, great tits. Second thing - she wasn't impressed. She clearly hadn't recognised me, and I was basically a waste of space if I wasn't going to buy another drink.
I'll have another pint, and... pour yourself a drink on me.
She actually rolled her eyes at that one. Still, after she set my glass down on the table, I noticed her sipping some expensive-looking cocktail through a straw, happily looking straight past me as she drank my money. I drained my beer faster than was wise, and set it down noisily on the table, waiting for her to notice me. The band were already well into their next song when she sauntered over and took away my glass. As she set it down, refilled, on the table, I took her wrist gently. She sighed and looked over her shoulder at me.
"C'mon, I bought you a drink. Five minutes?"
"Mmmm, let me guess, is that all it takes you to get women in bed?"
I made a sound I had been practicing in the mirror, somewhere in between a laugh and a snort - supposed to make me look world-weary and slightly bitter, but able to laugh about it. Didn't come out right. I blame the beer.
"Nah, afraid not." Her eyebrows twitched slightly. I had caught her on the back foot. "Takes me about half an hour, if she's not easy."
"Well, I could give you all day and it wouldn't change anything."
"You'd have spent the day with me. And the night. That's something." She smiled briefly, revealing white teeth - the front two were slightly too big.
"Sorry, I'm working. I've got bills to pay. We're not all living off royalties," she said casually. So she had recognised me, the crafty little thing. She was playing games with me before I even spoke to her. I released her wrist, smirking, and she just turned away, heading for one of the slumped old men at the bar. As she reached up to grab a bottle of whiskey from the top shelf, her top rode up just a touch, revealing just a few inches of back, and a hint of underwear, peeking over the top of her jeans. There was something written on the back in red lettering. I finished my drink as quickly as I could and waved over one of the other staff.
"I'd like to pay up, cheers. Oh, and for a couple of quid extra, you wouldn't tell me her name, would you?"
"Oh, Amanda? Dream on, mate. We reckon she's got a boyfriend out of town... or she's a lesbian. Think about that, eh?" He nudged me and winked a bit too sleazily. I think he noticed too, and he straightened up, adjusting his glasses.
"When does she work?"
"Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays. Jesus, you're - "
It was a Thursday. Maria was away until Monday. I was determined to find out what Amanda had written on her knickers by Sunday night. As a sideshow to the main event, naturally. Amanda... I zipped up my leather jacket and headed for the door, leaning into it with my shoulder. I was swaying slightly, I realised as a gust of cold air snapped across my face. Too many drinks, too fast. Never going to impress a barmaid by getting drunk, I told myself, and headed for home.
"For Christ's sake, why do you do these things? I was about to go out and get you a card for lasting three months with Maria!"
"It's been that long? No wonder I-"
"Stop! This isn't normal, you know? What is it with you?" Kate demanded. I was glad I had decided to tell her over the phone instead of face-to-face. She only comes up to my shoulder, but I would hate to get on her bad side once too often. Kate was an old friend from the Malton days. She was older than me - noticeably so, but young enough that she was still hot. A close enough friend that I wouldn't tell her this, of course, without suitable degrees of inebriation or self-deprecation. I only had about three female friends in that category. The others were all up for grabs. Anyway.
"Right, you're a woman. You know when you buy a pair of shoes? Yeah, and you're like, fuck yeah, these shoes are awesome, right? And everyone sees your shoes and goes "Wow, nice shoes, sister" or whatever, and you get compliments, and you spend endless weekends discovering all the new ...outfits you can make with your shoes, yeah? Then a couple of months later, they're a bit scuffed. You realise they only really go with one or two of your outfits, so you don't wear them much. Lo and behold, in one of your regular shopping jaunts, you see a new pair of shoes - shiny, soft-looking, up for grabs - you don't think about the old shoes, you grab the new ones. And - "
"Wait. Are you actually comparing women to shoes here?"
"More or less, yeah."
The line went dead. I was actually pretty proud of the metaphor. Definitely a song in there somewhere. I'd send her a text later, I decided, and put the encounter out of my mind. Silly of me to ask Cat for advice, really - she always reacts like that. The sun was setting - I headed for the pub.
Something caught my eye, slung over the back of a chair. A small pink slip of fabric. I padded over and picked it up gingerly. Definitely a woman's underwear. Across the back, "No chance" in red lettering. Mission accomplished. From that spot in the room, the rest of my clothes were easier to find. Shirt, hanging from the kitchen door, pants on the table, socks in opposite corners of the room, jeans... jeans on the balcony. I was starting to wish I remembered the night before - it was seeming more and more interesting all the time. Gritting my teeth, I darted out into the cold morning air, plucked up my jeans and retreated, before I was caught by frostbite or nosy neighbours. Some might have suggested getting dressed before going out onto a balcony overlooking a busy high street. But my head still hurt, OK?
Once dressed, I started rummaging in my pockets. Phone, iPod, wallet... lighter. I don't smoke normal cigarettes, so I suppose that explains the amnesia. Must have been something strong. I switched the phone on and squinted at the screen. A text message.
"Plane's just about to take off. See you at airport?"
The message had been sent about five or six hours ago - she was landing very soon - even if he were to start driving now, he would probably have to run up to meet her at the gate. But Amanda was coming back. There was still time to devise an excuse. Alibis, urgent meetings, work. That wasn't how it worked though. I had never really done the whole "affair" thing. Terribly unfaithful, but it was never more than an overlap. There always had to be a choice, a decision. One or the other.
Airport or breakfast.
Model or barmaid.
My life or the real world.
I took a deep breath and dialled Maria's number.
"Hey, amor. Listen, I can't make it to the airport. Do you want to meet for dinner? We need to talk."
A key turned in the door. I hung up quickly.
"Oh, you found your clothes." Amanda closed the door behind her, smirking slightly. I matched her smile and doubled it - no-one beats me when it comes to smirking.
Of course, being a member of that so-called elite, the A...well, OK, high B-list group of celebrities, my life attracted quite a good deal of scrutiny. So did Maria's. Enough to ensure that the supermodel's tale of being left for the scullery maid was a big story. Big story. Too big for me to hide Amanda from. Part of me hoped she'd enjoy the attention, the romance of it all. And, let's be honest, shouldn't it be a bit of a compliment? "Wow, he left her for me? Must be a sign he's really into me. Lucky me."
Nope. None of that. Just a bitter laugh, a copy of Heat tossed on the coffee table, and a quiet conversation ending with me, her, and a closed door in between us.
"Cat, why do I do it?" I dispensed with the greetings, speaking as soon as she picked up the phone.
"She saw the articles." Wasn't a question. She had probably bloody seen it coming. "You've got more money than sense? Commitment issues? You're still seventeen in your mind? You're doing the rockstar thing before you get old? You just really love shoes?"
"That one!" I exclaimed. The lift door opened, and I was in the lobby of Amanda's apartment building. I pushed open the door, and there, clipboard and pen in hand, brightly coloured and writing-covered hat on her head, some charity T-shirt pulled tight across her chest, was ... well... call it an Italian leather mocassin with silk lining and Spanish heels or whatever. I don't know much about shoes. "Cat, I've got to love you and leave you - someone's left a pair of shoes on the street. Absolutely exquisite."
"I give up."