Saturday, 26 May 2012

Journey V – Talking her down

‘There’s someone here to see you’ says a man’s voice in my ear. I look blearily about and prop myself up on my elbows. It’s Jeb. It’s still totally dark.
‘What?’ I say.
‘Nicky’s here – over among the trees. She wants to talk to you.’
‘Ok. I’ll be one second.’ I’ve nothing on inside my sleeping bag and my shorts are down in the foot of it (so they won’t get lost in the night, Excellent plan). I rummage around for them, cursing under my breath, afraid she’ll disappear again if I’m not quick enough.

Jeb indicates a tree up on the slope and explains a relatively thorn-free path to get up there. My eyes take a while to accustom themselves to the darkness and I only have sandals and shorts to hand so I’m in some discomfort by the time I get to her. I try to hide it.
‘Hey babe. What’s happening?’ I say and sit down next to where she sits curled up like that time in the library. She seems to be trying to smile at me but it’s hard to be sure in the gloom. ‘Are you ok?’ I say, knowing it’s a stupid question.
She looks away and down, like she’s embarrassed.
‘I was worried about you. We all were’ I add.
‘I’m ok’ she says. ‘I needed some time. That’s all.’
‘We were worried’ I repeat. ‘We were afraid something would happen to you. It’s not safe out here.’
She gives a dismissive little laugh and shakes her head. ‘I don’t think so. It would have been a burden off your hands anyway, wouldn’t it.’ She says this matter-of-factly, not spitefully.
‘Well, I don’t feel that way, and I don’t think most of the others do either.’
There’s a short pause and then she says ‘Did you know Ned was supposed to be in this group?’
This jolts me a little. I’d put him out of my mind. I had a pretty good idea what had happened to him but I hadn’t taken the time to think about it, or ask Jeb about it.
‘I didn’t’ I say. ‘Did you see him?’
‘No. I just heard the guides talking about not being able to find him. I guessed.’
‘Me too. I saw him that last night, just before dawn.’
‘Really? Why didn’t you say anything?’
‘I didn’t think you’d be interested. You hardly knew him, did you?’
‘That’s not the point. I liked him. And, no, I didn’t fuck him if that’s what you’re thinking.’
‘I wasn’t.’
‘But you would have, sooner or later. Anyway, that doesn’t matter now. I heard your little speech by the way. Thank you.’ Again she says this without sarcasm, but still I expect a mood swing at any moment. She picks up a stick and starts making shapes in the dust.
‘You think I need love’ she says.
I make some equivocal noises and gestures but admit I do think that’s true. ‘So did Muriel, by the way.’
‘I noticed. I quite like her. Agnes is a bitch. You need to watch her. She seems nice, but...’
There’s something far away and unconcerned about her. She’s easier to talk to now than the way she was but it may be because she doesn’t care any more. I suspect we may actually talk properly tonight but it won’t matter because she’s on her way out. It’s horrible. It’s like she’s dying there beside me.
‘Could you love me?’ she says, still not facing me. This is a terribly loaded question. I have to proceed with care or she could be gone at any moment.
‘I care about you. I’m very fond of you.’
‘But you said I needed love. Who’s going to give me love if not you? Or Muriel of course.’ I get the impression she doesn’t like Muriel that much.
‘It depends what you mean by love’ I say and know as soon as I say it it’s completely beside the point.
‘And you’re with Shamim anyway aren’t you.’
‘I wouldn’t go that far...’
‘But you want to be. I mean, why wouldn’t you? She’s gorgeous. God, I’d have her.’
‘You’re gorgeous too.’
She smiles a little and I see the old vanity surface for a moment but it quickly vanishes. ‘But you want to be with her.’
‘Look Nicky, it’s just... well... you may be twenty years old, but you look, and I’m sorry to have to say it, but a lot of the time you act a lot younger. I just can’t imagine... being with you.’
‘But you fancy me, don’t you?’ and she suddenly leans over and presses her body against me and kisses me – slowly and sensuously this time. After a minute or two of this she grabs my rapidly swelling cock through the leg of my shorts. ‘See’ she says, defiantly.
‘For God’s sake Nicky’ I shout, pulling myself away and rearranging my tackle.
She ducks back down out of the way, as if I might hit her.
‘Sorry sorry I’m so sorry’ she pleads, automatically going into a blocking move with her hands around her face. I look down at her and wonder, not for the first time, what happened to her.
‘Yes, ok, I fancy you – I’d love to have sex with you – who wouldn’t? But that’s just biology babe. It’s not love. Surely you know that.’
‘Of course I know that’ she cries. ‘I’m not a complete idiot.’
We resume our previous positions and gather ourselves for a while.
‘Can I say I love you, but as a friend Nicky? I know you don’t believe such a thing is possible but...’
‘Would you have been with me if Shamim wasn’t here?’
I’m beginning to hate this no-lying thing. Sometimes, just for tact’s sake a little lie would be so handy. I give it a try, just to be sure, I try to say ‘No I wouldn’t, but we’d be friends’ but I find myself tripping over the words. Amazing.
‘Probably, but I think it would be a disaster’ is what I actually say.
‘But why? I don’t get it’ she says, with tears of frustration in her eyes. It’s beginning to get light now and I can see her face more clearly. Her eyes are puffy and red, as if she’s been crying all night. I feel like I just want to hold her and comfort her, take her home and look after her. But of course I can’t.
‘I don’t know why either, but it’s not about reasons is it? We just wouldn’t be any good together – surely you can see that. And anyway, you don’t love me. Be honest.’
That stops her. She wipes the tears away and fiddles with some twigs on the ground. Then she looks down at the camp. Jeb and Mike are wandering around getting the fire going.
‘Did you know there are tiny people up here?’ she says in a distracted way. ‘They brought me chocolate.’
I have no idea what she’s on about. Has she been hallucinating up here? I wouldn’t be surprised.
‘Nicky, I really like you, and I care about you and I really meant what I said. I think you’re a lovely person, despite everything. Actually I said all that because I can sort of relate to you too. Can you believe that?’
‘I suppose I have to.’ She’s quieter now.
‘Come down and have some breakfast Nicky.’
‘I don’t know. What about Agnes, and Mr and Mrs Sadeghi?’
‘Actually Shamim’s parents have been very understanding.’
‘Well, considering they don’t really understand you at all, yes.’
She smiles a little and moves a little as if she might get up.
‘What about Shamim?’ she says, more anxiously.
‘She likes you, and she knows I like you too, so nothing to worry about. They’re good people, really.’
‘I know they are.’
‘Come on babe. I’ll give you a hand.’
She stands and looks down at the camp and the look of hopelessness returns.
‘I can’t’ she says with sudden panic. ‘Oh God I must look terrible. I bet my hair looks awful, it’s full of leaves and stuff...’ and she turns and just as I think she might make a break for it she pulls out her little pink makeup bag from somewhere.
‘Is that all you brought up here?’ I say, incredulously.
‘Yes’ she says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world and sits down again and sorts her eyes out and brushes her hair.
‘Ok?’ she says after a few minutes.
‘You look fabulous darling’ I say. She smiles uncertainly and I take her hand and lead her down.

A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.