Who Says Romance Has To Be Sweet?

August 28, 2011 by  
Filed under British Beauty, Pixie's Novels

13th November 2009

The rain thunders down outside, casting a dark loom over the biggest library in the city. Its rush hour and the company cars, buses and black cabs are running rings around the business people on the streets below. The rain falls so rapidly and with such force that it resembles hail stones; each oversized droplet bouncing off the pavement, as if god himself were beckoning it back into the sky.  A fair haired woman in bare legs and peep toes runs across the street where paused traffic waits for the lights to turn green, she dashes under the alcove of an ageing bell tower and waits for the downpour to subside a little. A black Mercedes-Benz bleeps urgently below the library, presumably set off by the vibrations of the storm, it waits for its owner to return and drive it to safety. A bald headed man in his late forties rushes out from the glass cased building opposite; his ditzy print tie swings in awkward directions as he braves the weather. He forks into his trouser pocket for his keys, drops them once onto the watery ground and reunites the sensor pad with the car; the air falls quiet as the alarm stops almost instantly.

“If anybody asks what we’re doing down here, you’ll tell them we’re looking for a book” Garner looks at me with his intense, almost murderous eyes. “It doesn’t matter which one, and no, we don’t need any help finding it” He crouches down to rest on the balls of his feet, and jabs a set of his angled knuckles into my right shoulder. I collapse onto the carpet; a blur of deep maroon fills my vision as I land on my side, the cushion of my cheek a few inches from the ground. Garner grips the top of the arm I’m holding myself up with. He curls his bulky fingers around my skin; lacing them into one another so I have no room to pull away; and digs the tips of his fingernails into my flesh, as far as they would go. He pierces it, creating a trail of rich blood that trickles downward and makes me feel physically sick as it soaks through my vest top and onto the skin underneath; it feels sticky and warm.

“How about I tell you what the best part is, sweetheart?” Garner doesn’t expect a reply, but keeps his eyes on me to enjoy my grimace; he knows how much I hate that word. “I can feel this, you can feel this; but hell… nobody else can” His words come out as nothing more than a prolonged whisper. He glances around at the other people in the room, all of whom sit, read and work in silence. I stifle a sob as it travels through my chest and gets caught in my throat, my nerves are tightening my airways, it feels like I’m trying to push a solid ball through a tube, and failing miserably. I move slowly to straighten my back as Garner searches through his rucksack, allowing my body to go stiff whenever he looks as if he’ll turn around. I unfold my body from the crumpled-up ball I have been curled up in. My breasts move further away from my stomach, and I can now take deep, expansive breathes with ease. My new found lease of oxygen gives me a little strength, it settles my nausea just enough for me to slouch into a position different from the one I had fallen in.

A boy with dusty brown hair, in his late twenties, perches on the edge of a bench with chrome legs a few feet away; he hunches over to study the zoomed in text on his laptop screen. I concentrate on the movement of his wrists as he flickers from tab to tab; he’s cross referencing dates for something, and is too far gone to notice a girl sitting on the floor behind him. Why would he suspect I’m in trouble, in a library, a busy central library, of all places? I feel sick again as I suss the reason behind Garner’s choice of meeting places. He’s smart, I give him that. Garner would have known the library would be busy at this time of day, especially with the weather so bad outside; it’s an ideal place to take shelter; with its super powered radiators and comfy, worn in chairs and bean bags. He would have also known people would take advantage of the bean bags instead of awkwardly milling around in the ancient history aisle- he planned all of this perfectly and knew exactly how it was going to go, sick.

The boy’s hair is scruffy; but in an attractive way, not a neglected way. The ruffled cream collar of his shirt stands out in contrast to his deep blue jumper, and the tired looking bands around his left wrist suggests he has a relaxed side to him. I concentrate on the boy with the dusty brown hair for as long as he will stay sitting there; in the hope that something, somehow, will force him to turn around.

“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” Garner presses, fixating his eyes on the rows of books in front of him, being careful to maintain his hold on my arm. “You’re on my side, remember? That means you’re supposed to back me up, it doesn’t mean you can make me look like a fool. We’re a team, you and I” Garner carries on, his expression becoming wilder as he realises he’s going to get nothing from me but the silent treatment. “So, what, I don’t deserve an explanation?” I squeeze my eyelids shut as he produces a sewing tack from his palm and plucks it into the edge of my cut. My cheeks are sodden with tears as the stinging sensation overwhelms me; my pores weep from the sudden clamminess of the room and the sweat curdling my day old concealer.

I feel a thick, dizzy pain rush over the flat of my forehead as the wound in my arm becomes unbearable; if I don’t lie down and let the blood rush to my head soon, I’m going to faint. My body begins to surrender itself, and I slump further down so that my spine is pressing up against the ridges of a book shelf. My body becomes moist, and I can feel nothing but the cool of my tears as they travel across the surface of my skin.

I can still faintly hear noises in the background; but they are too muffled to make any sense. An uneven rumble moves through the carpet beneath me; is it still raining and thundering outside?

A sweep of fresh air whirls around my face as somebody rushes over and kneels beside me; I can’t open my eyes to see who it is. A different kind of tingle fills my insides as he gently touches my cheek; there is no movement as he pauses for a few moments. His breathes quick and deep as he gasps for air; he seems as stunned by the situation as I am. I subconsciously feel his eyes search my face, he wants answers. He wraps the thick, woollen edge of my cardigan around my torso and tucks it underneath my breast to the far side of me. It feels like an actual blanket, warm and fluffy; but also like an invisible blanket, his invisible blanket; as if he promises to protect me from now on.

The grip on my arm is quickly released by Garner, who shoots back in realisation of what has just happened. His profile is full of unsaid apologies, but by now, with me lying on the floor in front of him, it’s a little too late for him to play and cheat his way out of it. “Let… her… GO!` A male voice, one I don’t recognise, growls at Garner; a command so deep that I fear the window panes will cave in to the storm and wipe out the contents of the entire library.  I flinch in my skin as the boy leaves my side and heads toward Garner. He grabs either side of his oesophagus with one hand and slams him into the heavy pine book case; loose books free themselves from the shelves and fall to their feet and my head.

The thuds of the books hitting the floor makes my body shake, both out of anticipation of who will come off better, and from fear of a stray hardback hitting me in the face. I am more alert now, but still too numb to manoeuvre my hands quick enough to shield my features.

-An extract from the prologue of my novel, “British Beauty”.

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