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Authors: Ted Lewis

Tags: #Crime / Fiction

All the Way Home and All the Night Through (7 page)

BOOK: All the Way Home and All the Night Through
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“What do you mean?”

She moved slightly forward, ostensibly to let some people get by in the aisle. Her hips gently rustled against my kneecaps. She didn't move back.

“Why, how long have we been back at college then?”

“Last week then two days this week. Why?”

She slid her pelvis round a little more. I could feel the hard, bony part. I could measure her breathing with my kneecap.

“Why, Vicky, I thought you'd have been in by now.”

“If you get much closer I will be.”

“Rude.”

She didn't move.

I said: “Why don't you tell me what you're talking about? All these hips are fascinating me but what's the point?”

“You like the hips part then?”

“I like the hips part. It's the rest of it I'm not so keen on.”

“That's why you tried to find out what it was like, then?”

“When I began it was quite interesting, but the more I discovered the less I found.”

“That's not how I saw it.”

“I never saw it at all, did I?”

“You didn't look hard enough, did you?”

“I think so. As hard as I'm ever going to.”

“Yes, Vic.”

She looked me straight in the eyes, sucking in her cheeks, pre-tending she was trying not to smile, as if she was humouring a funny lunatic.

“Oh, give over.”

“Yes, Vic.”

“I thought you came over here to say something.”

“That's right.”

“So, er, do you think there's any chance of my hearing what it is? I mean I've only got another year at college and I was counting on getting one or two other things in as well, you know, before I leave.”

“That's what I was talking about.”

“What?”

“Getting things in.”

“Ha-Ha. What exactly?”

“Well, I thought by now you'd have been sorting out the new Inters. I mean it's been over a week, and there are one or two sweet innocent whatsits that ought to be up your street, and what with your sans regular night-shift work at present ... I mean, what's up Doc?”

“I'm surprised. Surely you're not encouraging me to go to work on the sweetnesses. I mean, by now you'll have told them what a rotten and filthy old cabbage I am, you know, quiet girls' talk in the ladies' bog while you're in there between break times.”

“Oh, I've given the word to anybody who I thought you might fancy. You know, I always like to help.”

“Help yourself.”

“What, to you?”

“You're always after a spoonful.”

“Cheeky.”

“Who've you been telling, then?”

“You'd like to know then, Victor?”

“Only to keep away from the ones who'd talk to you. I don't want to catch anything.”

“I shouldn't think you've much to catch it with.”

“Get a second opinion before you talk facts.”

“I would if I could.”

“Come on, who've you told?”

“What do you think of that Karen bird?”

“Why?”

“I was talking to her yesterday.”

“And?”

“What do you think of her?”

“Not bad. Quite attractive really. Bit of a silly bitch. Bit like you in that respect.”

“She thinks you're marvelous.”

“Why?”

“Talking to her in classes and sitting with her in the common room. She thinks you're all keen. Starry-eyed and all.”

“She must be mad.”

“That's what I said.”

“I only talked to her in the common room once, and we do happen to be in the same classes a lot.”

“There you are. It's your natural charm.”

“Pfui.”

She chatted on about various girls, but never once did she mention Janet.

Harry bowled toward us. I could see he was feeling irritated though no one else could have known it. I guessed the trouble. I'd just seen Jenny heart-to-hearting with a nice lad called Alex Joplin for the second time that day. The buffer hadn't moved quick enough.

“Alloden, Harry,” said Angela.

“Alloden.”

He pulled up a stool and sat down.

“I see the new ones are fraternizing pretty freely,” I said to him. He took out his cigarettes and offered them round. As I was lighting mine, Janet walked past and went over to Jenny and Alex accompanied by Tony Jensen. Thunder and lightning.

“You were right, son,” said Harry.

They were all flushed and laughing, enjoying exploring each other's fresh looks with their eyes. The static of new acquaintance crackled round them.

“I thought so,” said Angela.

I turned to look at her. She was smiling her guaranteed-to-annoy smile. I didn't say anything.

“Well, well. We are looking up, aren't we,” she said.

I looked at Harry. He started smiling.

“Don't think you've much chance there,” she said. “Too nice.”

“You don't have to make yourself appear more stupid than you already are,” I said.

“Not a chance, Victor. Stay in your own class. Karen's more your drop. Janet's a lovely girl though.”

“And you're not. Don't be soft, Angela. I'm not interested. You know that really.”

“Do I?”

“Come off.”

She stopped leaning on me.

“See you later, lads,” she said and minced over to the happy group.

“I'll break her neck,” I said.

“It's cast iron, like her head,” said Harry.

“No, she's too sharp for her own good.”

Silence prevailed.

“So anyway,” said Harry. “It's Freshers Ball on Saturday. Taking anyone or are you going to let Fate take the reins?”

“I shan't take anything, I don't think. Several bodies should be there which will be of interest. I think I'll let them sweat a while.” We grinned at each other.

“It's old stuff really,” said Harry.

“What?”

“This talking to other blokes when all they're waiting for is for us to get their corsets off.”

“True, true. They'll learn, perhaps too late,” I said.

We left, not looking in the direction of that charming group. We climbed the stairs.

So, suddenly within minutes (as Harry would have said), there I was. In a situation. There was no doubt about it. The main thing was to get the girl. For no reason, suddenly she had become the Most Desirable Object—Why? One minute marked antipathy. Next, urgent predilection. How did it happen? It hadn't been conscious. There were plenty of other girls, all okay. Even the transition hadn't been noticeable. It was as if in one minute this feeling had thundered up from my lower vertebrae, covering every square inch of me. A nervous tremor possessed my lungs whenever she entered my mind. Immediately she had become purer-looking than the Holy Grail. The whole weight, height and depth of the emotion was unfamiliar. I was harbouring a stranger inside me, and the bridge between me and then was only two minutes long. I felt happy and apprehensive at once. Skies sang over. September, five P.M. Everything became orchestrated. The air became cleaner to taste. Bus rides were filled with adventure. I even talked to my landlady.

The next day was as fresh as talcum powder before clean sheets. The cold blue air was intimate and dryly sunny. You could see winter getting ready to come a little darker over the river's horizon. The noises in the streets were physically clear through the thin autumn atmosphere. Again, it was dinnertime when I got close to her. I was wandering across the car park which flanked one side of the college. It was five minutes to class-time. I was walking diagonally across the park. Then I saw a group of students hanging about next to the tubular metal fence which cordoned off the car-park from the pavement. She was with the Karen bird. They were talking to the second-year display group. Their leader was sweet-faced Matthew, God's gift to fifth-formers.

I changed direction. I hauled over to the group. I climbed onto the tubular fence and decorated the top bar with my presence, squatting Glenn Ford-style, shoulders hunched and eyes wide.

“Now Victor,” said Sam Finn, Matthew's Banquo. Matthew was lazily supported by the important prop in this scene, the fence.

“Now Victor,” he said. They knew what I was up to, Matthew and Sam. The others carried on chatting with Karen and Janet.

“Hello, men,” I said. “Had any good displays lately?”

“Well, the principal caught us kissing in the common room,” said Matthew, looking at Sam.

“He didn't say anything, though,” said Sam. “We promised him his turn tomorrow.”

“How's the bird situation?” I said, trying not to look at Janet.

“Blooming, just blooming,” said Matthew.

I caught Janet's eye. She was being talked at by one of the lower orders. She looked at me as though she'd never seen me before. Her expression didn't change. She carried on with her listening but apparently not perceiving a bit.

I carried on talking to Matthew and Sam, furiously trying to work in some dialogue for Janet's benefit. We got on to the Steam Packet. Janet's talking acquaintance had given over for a minute, and Matthew said to the girls:

“You two ought to come down on Fridays. It's a good night down there.”

I cursed him. Why hadn't I thought of that?

“Oh?” said Janet.

“Oh, yes, I'd love to,” said Karen. “Where is it?”

“Well,” said Matthew. “We usually meet in the White Horse about seven. Then we wander on down to the Steam Packet, don't we Vic?”

“Yeah, that's right.”

“You could meet us there round seven and then we could all go down together.”

“Yes, that would be super,” Karen bleated.

“Are you all coming to the Freshers Ball on Saturday?” I asked.

“Oh aye,” said Sam and Matthew.

“I am,” said Karen, “aren't you, Janet?”

Janet looked as though she had had her private thoughts in-terrupted, as though she hadn't heard a word of the conversation.

“I'm not sure. I'm meant to be going somewhere.”

“Oh, but you must come,” said Matthew. “All good things will be happening and the Savannah's playing, aren't you, Vic?”

“So true.”

“The arrangements are all made now. I might come if they happen to change.”

Everyone began moving toward college. I slid from off the fence, and cautiously maneuvered myself next to Janet. We drifted, lazily, slow-footed. The traffic buzzed by soothing me with warm slip-streams. It took only two minutes to walk to college from where we had been standing. Today the distance stretched far away over the horizon. A lorry surged breezily past, its sound far away, and she brushed back the dislodged hair strand with the tips of her fingers. I concentrated on the pavement. Particles of sunshine tickled the back of my neck. The comfortably warm pavement fed itself in through my rubber-soled suedes.

“Are you still interested in the Film Society?”

I held my breath. The answer would be crucial.

“The Film Society? I don't know. Why?”

“I mean, about coming along with us sometimes. You know, on Sunday afternoons.”

“Sunday afternoons would be difficult. My parents might not like the fact of my going on a Sunday.”

“Wouldn't they? Why not?”

“No, I don't think so. I'd better not.”

I screamed and cursed inwardly.

“Well, if you can ever make it, I'll let you have the dates sometime and then you'll know when it is.”

“Thank you.”

Inside college the group dispersed. I sped down to the cloakroom. The dialogue with Janet had actually left me out of breath. My lungs were great wings beating inside the cage of my ribs.

I began combing my hair, to ease tension. The bloody, cool, cool, bitch girl. Her face full of indifference kept floating in my eyes. Harry came in. He hung up his streamlined Mambo hat, low crowned and feathered, on one of the pegs.

“Alloden.”

“Eh up, Harry. I've got something to say. You know that Janet? Well, I reckon I may ask her out.”

He adjusted his knitted tie in the mirror.

“Good for you.”

“Well, I mean. There you are.”

I had expected Harry to be as excited as I was trying not to be.

“There I am indeed, Thinstuff.”

“Well, what do you think? I mean, what sort of a chance do you reckon I've got? You know, if I ask her out.”

“Who knows, who knows? That Tony Jensen is doing a lot of being in her vicinity.”

“Yes, but apart from that?”

“I dunno. Better ask her and then you tell me.”

Five o'clock that evening. After college. The pale, blue sky be-coming slightly fringed with early night. I walked through the station at the back of the college. A good quiet time. Prospects of a cosy bus ride and a big digs' tea with plenty of gravy. I stopped at the tobacconists on my way through the railway station to the adjacent bus station. I bought ten Parkies and lit up. About twenty feet away, Janet and Tony Jensen were passing by. He was taking her to her bus. They weren't quite hand in hand. Next time he would try harder. The bus ride wasn't all that easy after all.

“Hey up, Harry. I've asked that Karen bird out with me.”

“Bloody piss. You soft sod.”

“What's up with you?”

“Bloody hell, Victor. What are you gaming at?”

“What?”

“Well, I mean.”

“So why not? I've nothing to lose. She's a cute chickie.”

Harry shrugged and left the cloakroom.

I took Karen to see
A Hole in the Head
on the Thursday night. We had beans on toast in the canteen and crossed the road to the cinema just in time for five thirty. The cinema was only a quarter full at that time of night. We got ourselves installed in the back row. The newsreel was in progress. It finished and a film about deep-sea fishing came on. I put my arm round Karen. She shifted closer. I turned her face toward me by putting my index finger under her chin. Standard practice but effective. We kissed, tentatively. Our heads parted slightly. Then they rushed together for the passionate sequel, the hard one with the fingers charging through the hair and the teeth sometimes clacking together. My finger-tips scored lines of pleasure straight down the middle of her back, and hers caused tickling explosions on the nape of my neck. Very nice. She was sexily malleable. Once I put my hand palm downward on the top of her thigh. I could feel her suspender throbbing underneath her hot skirt. I pressed it with my thumb as hard as I could, so that it caused a valley in her skin. Her back became taut, and her knees kept slithering together. Her mouth hooked into mine. Keeping my thumb on the suspender, I bunched up a handful of skirt-cloth, opening and closing my fingers, my nails scratching across her thigh through the material. I tore my face from her for a second and muttered:

BOOK: All the Way Home and All the Night Through
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