Monday, 19 March 2012

Chapter 1

Cassandra Jade's Facebook status read, "Fucking whore stole my boyfriend!"  I clicked the 'like' button.  Not that I liked being called a fucking whore, but there was no disputing the fact that I stole her boyfriend as I lay in bed naked next to the tanned and perfectly toned body of Miles, her recent ex, but things are never as simple as they seem.
I turned my phone off and smiled.  I wasn't a vindictive bitch or anything but Cassie had it coming to her.  I slipped out of bed and put my phone down on the console table so I wouldn't be tempted to read the nasty comments her friends were sure to make about me.  It was still very early and I could see the sun just beginning to rise over the city skyline through the wall of glass that was the penthouse suite's bedroom window.  The London Docklands were bathed in an orange glow and everything seemed clean and new in the half light. 
I got back into bed, wriggled down under the black Egyptian cotton sheets and wrapped my arms around Miles.  He stirred for a moment and whispered, "Morning, Angel," but he soon drifted back to sleep, snoring softly.  I ran my fingers through his spiky blonde hair.  He still smelled of sweat and stale beer from the gig the night before.  Things had kicked off pretty bad but Miles never let any of that stuff bother him, at least he didn't let it show.
I had met Miles 2 years before, back when I was plain old Angela Blackman, a very naive 16 year old school girl with mousey brown hair and a shy smile.  The boys at school never paid me much attention, apart from Simon of course.  He was quite cute in his own way, not really handsome but he had strong cheek bones and striking features that set him apart from the other boys.  He somehow looked older, more mature than he really was.  Perhaps it was the dark stubble on his jaw line, the jet black hair that was speckled with a premature hint of grey, or the way he carried himself with such confidence, but people never seemed to believe he was only 17 years old.  That was good in some ways, he never got asked for ID when he was getting the drinks in, but it also made me feel slightly inferior, which I hated.
Simon was in the 6th form at my school.  I'd seen him around but I'd never spoken to him, not until the day I was sent to see the head teacher.  I can't even remember why I got sent to the office, it wasn't like I was a troublemaker or anything.  I was a straight A student with a 100% attendance record, but for whatever reason I found myself sitting on a plastic chair in the corridor outside the head teacher's office.  I was scared half to death that they were going to expel me or something, when Simon came striding through the double doors at the top of the stairs. 
He slung his black canvas messenger bag down on the floor and sat down on the chair next to me.  He let out a sigh, put his arms behind his head and stretched his legs out across the grey lino floor.  His tight black jeans were a little too short and I could see his red socks peeping above the tops of his black suede Chelsea boots.  Red socks, my dad had warned me about men who wore red socks, some rubbish about them having rebellious tendencies and how they were not to be trusted.  Red was my favourite colour, I liked them.
I don't think Simon even noticed me, it was like I was invisible, that was until I dropped my bag.  I could have died from embarrassment!  I'd been rummaging through my stuff for a tissue but in my hurry the whole bag slid off my lap and landed upside down on the floor, spilling the contents all over the corridor.  I looked up and caught Simon trying not to laugh.  He must have thought I was so pathetic but when I caught his eye his expression instantly changed to a look of sympathy.
"Please, allow me," he said in his posh, deep voice.  I was so flustered I didn't know what to say.  I got down on my hands and knees and started gathering up my belongings, pens, pencils, strawberry lip balm, hurriedly stuffing them back into my school bag.  Simon reached over and picked up my mp3 player.  It had turned itself on when it hit the floor and he could hear the tinny beat coming through the ear bud headphones.  Out of curiosity he put one to his right ear.  He jumped back in shock, his eyes wide.
"Bloody hell!  You listen to Joy Division?" he asked in surprise.
"Yeah," I replied nervously.
"How on earth do you know about them?" he demanded.
"My cousin used to play them all the time, he liked New Order too but I never really got into them."
Simon sat back down in the chair and gave me back my mp3.  I dropped my head, too shy to look at him.  I quickly put my mp3 player back in my bag but Simon grabbed my wrist.  Surprised I turned to face him, he swept my long mousey brown hair off my face and studied me intently for a moment.  He had the palest blue eyes I had ever seen and I couldn't take my eyes off him.  I could feel my heart beating hard in my chest as I held his stare then he kissed me!  He kissed me on the lips, right there in the corridor outside the head teacher's door!  He kissed me
My face must have been a picture because when he let me go he laughed at me.  I was in shock.  I'd never had a boyfriend before and I'd never had someone just snog me out of the blue like that.  Simon stood up and turned his back on me as if to walk away but then he stopped.  He turned back to face me and with a serious expression on his face he quietly said, "I think I love you.  Come on, let's go!"
Before I knew what was happening Simon had grabbed my hand and we were running down the corridor.  We burst through the double doors, he dragged me down the stairs and we didn't stop running until we were outside the school gates.  We crouched down with our backs to the wall breathing so hard we could barely speak.  I'd never felt such a rush of adrenaline, it was exhilarating beyond belief.  I knew this was a bad idea.  What was I thinking?  I was supposed to be seeing the head teacher, not playing truant with a 6th form boy that I had only just met!  I had to admit though it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my entire life.
Simon looked at me and smiled.
"Simon Wetherall, pleased to meet you!" he said, offering me his hand.  Gingerly I shook it and murmured, "Angela Blackman."
"An angel, eh?  You don't meet one of those every day!  So Angel, do you come here often?"  I couldn't help but smirk at his poor chat up line.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of him.  Was he wonderfully eccentric or criminally insane?  Whichever he was, I was completely enthralled by him.  His posh accent turned my knees to jelly and his blue eyes were piercing like they could see right through to my very soul.
"I'm going to get into so much trouble for this, aren't I?" I mumbled.
"Oh I shouldn't think so, just say you felt ill and went home.  They can't argue with that."
"I suppose," I replied.
"Anyway, where are my manners?  Would you like to come to tea?"
This was all too surreal for me, but I though what harm could come from having a cup of tea?  It was only 11.30 in the morning, I couldn't go back to school and I couldn't go home yet so I replied, "Yes please."
"That's my girl," he said as he helped me up onto my feet.  He put his arm around my shoulder and we walked up the hill to where the posh houses were.  I wondered if that's what I was now, his girl?  It didn't seem like a very normal way of meeting a boyfriend but Simon didn't seem very normal in the slightest and I had to admit that excited me. 
I wanted to know more about him, where he came from, what other music he liked, but I was too scared to ask.  Right now he seemed to like me and I didn't want him to think I was boring or nosey or anything. 
We walked on up the hill to the most exclusive area in town, then we turned down a private driveway, lined on either side with mature trees.  I didn't think it was ever going to end until we came upon a high stone wall with an imposing wrought iron gate blocking our path.  Simon casually pressed the intercom and spoke into the microphone.
"Martha, it's me.  Tea for two in the drawing room, if it's not too much trouble."  The gate swung open, Simon took my hand and lead me through.  I was quite shocked when I caught sight of the house.  It was bigger than I could have possibly imagined, a proper mansion.  It must have had a dozen bedrooms at least.  I knew Simon was posh by the way he spoke but I had no idea he lived in a place like this!
"Martha?" I asked.
"She's the housekeeper.  It's just my father and I in this rambling old place.  My mother died years ago.  He lives in the east wing and I live in the west, it's better that way."
"Oh I'm so sorry about your mum."
"Don't be!" Simon said curtly.  "You didn't know her and believe me this world is better off without her."  He quickened his pace and rushed me through the front door and off around a maze of corridors until we reached his room.
I don't know what I was expecting to find but it wasn't this.  Simon had managed to transform the drawing room of a grand mansion into a teenage boys bedroom.  The walls were covered with band posters from the 1970's and 80's, every surface was cluttered with books, empty pizza boxes, overflowing ash trays and dirty tea cups.  The furniture was antique but battered and unloved and there was a modern divan pushed against the wall in the corner with a stained blue duvet thrown across it.
"Do take a seat," he said, ushering me towards a chaise longue upholstered in deep blue velvet fabric that had now faded to a dull grey.  "I'm sorry about the mess, you just can't get the staff these days."
I sat down and at that moment there was a knock on the door.  A small elderly woman shuffled into the room carrying a large tea tray set out with two cups and saucers, a teapot, sugar bowl, milk jug and a plate of biscuits, the posh kind that come in expensive boxes.
"Thank you, Martha.  That will be all," said Simon as he cleared a pile of books from the coffee table to make room for the tray.  I felt out of place with all this formality and I started to wonder what the hell was I doing here?  Simon must have noticed as he sat down next to me and started to pour the tea.
"I suppose this is all a little strange to you, isn't it?  But we don't stand on ceremony here.  Sugar, Angel?"
"Yes, two please," I said with my voice shaking.  I still couldn't make my mind up about Simon.  He seemed nice but there was more than a hint of psycho about him.
"You are rather privileged, Angel.  You are the first friend from school I've ever invited here but I thought I'd take a chance on you because you struck me as rather special."
"Me, special?" I asked.
"Of course, you don't meet many Year 11 girls with perfect bone structure and an excellent taste in music."
"I guess not," I replied, sipping my tea and completely missing the compliment.
"I want to show you something," he said hurriedly putting down his teacup and dashing off to the other side of the room. 
Simon stepped over more piles of books and discarded clothes, and he returned with a large metal box.  He unlocked it and with great care he lifted out what looked at first like a magazine in a plastic sleeve.  He placed it in my hands and stared at me, eagerly waiting for my reaction.  As I looked down I gasped.  There in my hands was a copy of Licht und Blindheit, an incredibly rare Joy Division record.  I'd only ever read about it in books, I never dreamed I'd see one in real life.
"Mint condition, never been played.  Would you like to hear it?" Simon asked me quite casually.
"No!" I shouted.  "I mean, yes of course I do but you can't play it, it's worth a small fortune!"
"It's just a thing."
"Yeah, but it's a bloody rare thing!"
"What the heck, you can't take it with you, eh?" he said shrugging his shoulders.
I almost jumped out of my seat to stop him but it was too late.  He ripped open the plastic cover, removed the record from the sleeve and with great care he set it down on his record player.  I didn't know people still had record players.  My dad had got rid of his years ago but I remembered when I was little he used to get drunk on a Saturday night and play some awful prog rock LPs and moan about how modern music was soulless and that every band sounded the same.
There was a crackle as the needle hit the vinyl.  Simon sat back down next to me and took my hand.  I couldn't help but let out a sigh as I heard the first notes of 'Atmosphere'.
"How did you know this was my favourite?"  I whispered, but Simon put his fingers to my lips to silence me.  He gazed into my eyes and then kissed me again.  It took my breath away.  He pressed his body close to mine and ran his fingers down my arm.  It was magic, but the song was over far too quickly.  Simon reluctantly pulled himself away and replaced the record back in its sleeve and returned it to the box.
"I'd give it to you now but it means too much to me.  You can have it when I'm dead."
"That's an odd thing to say!" I blurted out without thinking.
"My dear, I thought you'd have noticed by now that I'm rather an odd kind of person."  We both laughed.
It was the most unusual afternoon.  Simon played me some wonderful music by bands I'd never even heard of.  We lounged about just talking, kissing and holding each other.  I totally forgot I was supposed to be at school until I got a text from my mum. 
"Shit!  I should have been home an hour ago!" I panicked.
"Then you'd better tell your mother that you were doing your homework at the library and hurry on home," said Simon.  He gave me a sad kind of look.  I didn't want to leave him but I had to go home sometime.
"Sorry, I'd love to stay but I don't want to get into trouble and I've got to babysit my sister tonight."
"Of course, but please just wait one moment before you go."  Simon walked over to his desk, he took a sheet of white letter paper from a drawer and scribbled something on it with his fountain pen.  "I didn't mean to get you into trouble today.  Please give this to your teacher tomorrow."  I looked down at the paper, it read 'Please excuse Angela Blackman's absence from school yesterday.  She was taken ill with food poisoning.'  I thanked Simon and asked if I would see him tomorrow at school. 
"Most definitely," he replied with a smile.  He took my hand and walked with me to the gate where he kissed me one last time.  I was on cloud nine and I have no idea how I managed to get home without being run over or something. 
That night I couldn't sleep for thinking about Simon.  I was pretty wrecked the next morning.  I was too busy yawning to notice him walking past me as I waited with my friends to go into morning registration.  I called his name but he walked on by like he didn't even see me.  I was mortified and nearly burst into tears on the spot.  Yesterday he was telling me he loved me and now he wouldn't even say hello!  He certainly was odd and I started to feel a little paranoid.  Did he really like me or was he playing some kind of game? 
I sulked all morning and I didn't feel like company at lunch time so I sat on my own near the tennis courts, eating my cheese sandwiches and feeling rather foolish to be taken in so easily.  I was so lost in my own self pity that I didn't notice when Simon sat down next to me.  He placed a kiss on my cheek and whispered, "Hello Angel," in my ear.  Oh how could I ever have doubted him?  My frown turned into the biggest smile.  I wanted to fling my arms around him right then and there but I resisted.  I couldn't make a show of myself in public, that would be so uncool.
"I've got something for you, close your eyes," Simon said.  Obediently I did as I was told.  I felt him slip something in the top pocket of my blazer.  "I highly recommend you start taking these."  I ran my hand over my pocket and felt a blister pack of tablets through the fabric.  For a moment I was shocked.
"Pills?  I don't do drugs!"  I whispered under my breath.
"Not drugs, THE pill," Simon replied in hushed tones.  "I had my father's physician write them up on a private prescription for you.  I know we've only just met, it's just apparently they take a couple of weeks to become effective and I have a rather unfortunate latex allergy which precludes the use of other products.  Oh God, I'm sorry.  This is too forward of me, isn't it?"  He hung his head and ran his long fingers through his jet black hair.  It was the first time I'd seen him not in complete control.
"No, it's OK.  It's rather sweet of you actually," I lied, not knowing what else to say.
"Sorry, I'm a fool.  I'm too used to getting what I want and well, I want you, Angel."  He stared at me so hard that it felt like his blue eyes were burning right though me.  I blushed and looked down at my feet.  How could I tell him that I wanted him too?  I didn't want him to think I was easy or anything, but I didn't want to lose him either.
"It's OK, I've just, well...  I've never had a boyfriend before," I admitted.
"Neither have I," said Simon.
"What, you've never had a boyfriend?" I said in jest.  We both burst into fits of giggles.
"I meant girlfriend, obviously!" he sniggered.
"I figured that!" I said smiling at him.  This whole situation had taken me by surprise but I had a good feeling about it now.  Simon was weird but he was wonderful too.  "OK I'll take the pill," I said, giving him a nervous grin.
"Fantastic, I'll see you later!" he said as he strode off towards the science block.  Later?  We hadn't arrange me to meet later had we?  Maybe he didn't mean it like that, but whatever he meant I was completely love struck.
I couldn't concentrate on anything for the rest of the day, every thought in my head was about Simon.  I walked home from school in a daze, I pushed my food around my plate at tea time, unable to eat a thing.  All I could think about was Simon. 
I went back up to my room to study but it was hopeless.  I gave up on revising my French vocabulary and threw the text book across the room in frustration.  It clipped my blazer that I'd draped over the back of my chair, knocking it to the floor.  As I went to pick it up I noticed the blister pack of pills sticking out from the top pocket.  I picked them up, turning them over in my hands, debating what to do with them.  It certainly was a strange kind of present to give a girl you'd only just met, but Simon was rather strange and that's what I liked about him.  He must be serious about me to even consider it and I guess it was good he was being responsible and everything.  Before I'd realised what I was doing I popped one of the small white pills from the blister pack.  I looked at it for a moment then I put it in my mouth and swallowed it.  I hid the rest of the pills behind my poetry books, I didn't want my mum to find them and I knew she would never look there.
I crashed down on my bed, listening to The Cure through my netbook speakers when I thought I heard Simon's voice.  At first I thought it was a hallucination.  What was in those pills Simon had given me?  I presumed they were contraceptives, then I heard it again.  That was definitely Simon!  I ran to the top of the stairs and peeked over the banister and sure enough, there was Simon on the doorstep talking to my mum.
"Angela," mum called, "there's a boy here for you.  He says he's got one of your text books."
I couldn't believe it!  What was Simon doing here?  How did he find out where I lived?  Gingerly I started to walk down the stairs. 
"Oh, hi Simon," I said trying to act all casual.  "It's OK, mum.  Simon was helping me with an assignment in the library at lunchtime."
"Yes, but we didn't quite get it finished, did we?" said Simon.
"Well you'd better come in then," said my mum as she ushered him into our tiny hallway.  "Your dad's got the football on in the room so why don't you take him upstairs so you can have a bit of peace and quiet." 
I couldn't believe it as I stood on the stairs and watched Simon take off his Chelsea boots off and walk up the stairs in his red socks to my bedroom. 
"So, this is where my Angel lives," said Simon as he sat himself down on the end of my bed.  He looked around the room taking in every detail from the lilac walls to the battered old teddy that sat at the foot of my bed.
"How did you find me?" I asked.
"Oh it's not that hard to find people you know," he said flashing his iPhone at me. 
"Ah, I should have guessed!" I said. 
Simon jumped up and grabbed a book off my bookshelf.  "The complete works of Sylvia Plath.  I'm a big fan myself.  What was that Oscar Wilde quote she used in The Bell Jar?  Oh yes, 'Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace,' or something like that," he said, reciting the quote word perfect.
"Yes!" I said, gazing up at him in amazement.  I was just about to speak when the books toppled over and the packet of pills I'd hidden there fell to the floor.  My cheeks flushed and I went to grab them but he beat me to it.  He held them up to the light and noticed that one was missing.  He held them out to me with a smile on his face.
"You might want to find a better hiding place than that, my dear!"  I blushed even more and turned away but he turned my face towards his.  "I'm sorry for surprising you like this but I wanted to see you again.  I've thought of nobody but you all day.  What kind of spell have you put on me?" he asked.  I held his gaze.  How could I tell him I felt the same way?  I couldn't find the words but I could show him.  Bursting with confidence I raised myself up on my tip toes and leaned in to kiss him but he pulled away, quickly grabbing my text book and sitting down on my bed.
"And that is why the invasion of Poland was so important," he said quite calmly.  A moment later my mum opened the door.
"Are you two alright up here?  Would you like a cup of tea or something?" she asked.
"We're fine as we are thank you, Mrs. Blackman," said Simon, being as charming as ever.
"Oh OK, just give us a shout if you need anything."
I managed to mumble, "Thanks, mum," as she closed the door behind her.  Simon began to laugh.  I sat down on the bed next to him and laughed too.
"How on earth did you know that she was there?" I asked.
"Oh, I noticed the floor board at the top of the stairs creaked quite badly and I knew from the way she looked at me that she was too curious not to come in the room at least once."
"Thank you!" I said, blushing.
"Now, where were we?"
"The invasion of Poland?" I asked.
"No, you were about to do this," he said as he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me.  We lay on the bed just kissing and holding each other for what seemed like an age, then Simon's phone alarm went off. 
"I'm afraid I have to go, Bailey will be waiting for me."
"Bailey?" I asked.
"My driver.  I asked him to pick me up at 10.  I didn't want to keep you up too late, you've got school tomorrow.  Oh, before I forget, I hope you don't have any plans for the 17th because you're having a sleep over at Alisha's house."
"What?  That's my birthday weekend.  Why am I going to Alisha's?"  I asked confused.  Simon reached into his pocket and handed me a folded piece of paper.
"I'll see you at school tomorrow!" he said as he left my bedroom and walked down the stairs.  He put his boots on and popped his head around the living room door.
"Goodnight Mr. and Mrs. Blackman, thank you for having me," he said very politely, and then he let himself out.
I opened up the paper Simon had given me.  It was a flyer for a gig at The Old Ship, Unknown Pleasures plus support.  Doors 7.30pm.  On the back was a hand written note.  Alisha will cover for you.  Meet me on the corner at 6pm.  Don't forget your toothbrush :)  Love you!  x
I checked my diary, the 17th was a Friday, 2 days after my 16th birthday.  Simon was taking me out to see a band at the pub?  I couldn't believe he'd arranged for me to stay at Alisha's house, but wait, he said she'd cover so I wouldn't be sleeping there.  Oh how could I be so naive?  Of course he'd want me to spend the night with him, but my mum would never allow that, would she?  I was so happy I could have screamed out loud, but instead I curled up on my bed, barely able to contain my excitement.  I could still smell his scent on my pillow and I fell asleep dreaming of my Simon.

Go to Chapter 2

© Clair Louise Coult 2012