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not completely kosher...

by sarahsoltera 

Posted: 30 August 2004
Word Count: 8253
Summary: These are the first three chapters of a novel I'm most of the way through. There are three central characters and the story is told in three different strands from their three points of view. This is just one of the character's p.o.v.s, the others enter the story later. A lot of this is scene setting (too much, do you think?) but in Chapter 3, the first incident which central to the story line takes place.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Chapter 1

As the plane touched down on the damp runway at Manchester Airport I felt an unexpected sense of contentment at having arrived home. Fuck knows why white skies and light drizzle were so welcoming after five months in the sun, but they were.
On hearing the security woman shout "Cod you ‘av yer passparts reddeh pleeez!" in a Manchester accent which was nasty and hard but strangely comforting, I realised it was all the little things which I’d come to miss whilst being away. I hadn’t heard an English accent like that in months. There wasn’t much call for them in Costa Rica.
When I left the baggage hall, I was still so preoccupied with enjoying the dreary, grey Englishness of everything, that I hardly noticed by brother, Joel, standing and waiting for me calmly and quietly with his hands in his pockets.
Joel had just finished his final year of university. He’s one of those guys who never appears to get particularly excited about anything. I don’t know whether he does it to be cool or what.
He gave me a hug and seemed mildly pleased to have me back. He told me how tanned I was and asked me how the flight had been.
‘The flight was fine but it was a shame about the fat fuck with smelly breath I’ve had sitting next to me for the past seven hours. And to make it worse, the person in front did that thing where they put their seat back as far as it can go. I need a shower and a sleep or a sleep then a shower. Shit, I’ve been travelling for like twenty five hours, I don’t even know what I want,’ I said, laughing deliriously.

Stepping into the hallway of our house, I paused to check whether anything had changed. I sensed an emptiness.
‘What’s it been like here since Dad went away?’ I asked.
‘Well, I haven’t been here really so I haven’t had the chance to notice a difference,’ answered Joel.
‘We shouldn’t leave it too long before we go and visit, you know. It could be lonely for him out there.’
A couple of weeks ago Dad had moved to America to oversee the set up of a branch of his computer games company. He wasn’t going to be back for a few months. He used to be the director of a TV production company but left in the early nineties to start a revolution in computer gaming, as he liked to put it.
Before he buggered off to California he’d found me some work experience for the summer at a production company in Manchester. At the moment I’m kind of planning to work in television. I think I’d like to be a producer but I don’t really know, that’s why I’m doing this work experience thing.
As a result of Dad’s career move, Joel and I were left with this huge, fuck-off family house in Millton to drift around in. Our other brother, Jake, lives in London and we haven’t seen our Mum for about ten years. She left our Dad for a Bangladeshi plumber, much to the discontentment of her Jewish family. It had been difficult enough for her family to cope when she married my Dad, a middle class TV executive of unspecified religion, but leaving him for an Asian tradesman was just too much for her family to cope with. Consequentially, none of her family have seen her for about ten years either.
When we were young we hardly had any contact with my Mum’s relations. Her efforts to endear herself to her family (things like calling us all Jewish names like Jacob, Joel and Jude and taking us to the synagogue when she didn’t have anything better to do), didn’t pay off.

I went and crashed out on my bed then woke up a couple of hours later and had a shower. I unpacked a few essential items then left my suitcases on my bedroom floor where they would, no doubt, remain for the next few days. I then made my way downstairs to look for my phone. I hadn’t taken it with me to Costa Rica and the last few months without a mobile had been an interesting experience. I located it and switched it on, smiling to myself as I read the welcome message which had been saved onto it by a girl I had kind of been seeing over Christmas, just before I left for Costa Rica. “You sexy beast” it read, bringing back memories of all the good times I’d had around here and all the people I new in Millton.
Feeling nostalgic, I immediately had the urge to see all the guys and get back into it all. I thought about who I could have a drink with at the local later on. Scrolling through the names in my phone book I was having trouble finding someone who wasn’t doing something else in some other part of the country or world. Everyone was either living the student life or involved in all that typical ‘gap year’ bollocks like bungee jumping in Thailand or looking after orphaned elephants in Sri Lanka.
Mike. Now, he was at Oxford University. Didn’t their terms finish earlier then most? It was the beginning of June, perhaps he’d be home. I decided to give him a ring.
‘Hello?’ he bellowed over a background of pub noise.
Whilst establishing that I was home and wanted to meet up I got the impression he was slightly pissed.
‘Mike, are you leathered at four in the afternoon?’ I mocked.
‘Yeah, I’m well hammered. I finished term today,’ came the loud response.
‘Will you be back up here soon though?’ I asked.
‘Probably going to stay here on the lash for a week or so,’ he replied.
On the lash? That wasn’t a term I’d ever heard him use before. It must be an Oxford thing, the place was clearly having an influence on him.
I realised I was probably going to be annoyingly bored over the next few days until I started work on Monday. It seemed Joel would be my only hope where a social life was concerned for the time being and even he was going to be away this weekend. I decided when he came home from work I’d force him to go to The Castle with me that night.
I began to wonder how things would be in Millton over the summer. Would things go back to the way they were? It was Wednesday so at least I had a few days to settle back in before I started the job. I scanned the familiar surroundings of the expensively furnished kitchen and realised I was already pretty fucking bored. I wandered into the living room and after switching on the television and flicking rapidly through all the channels I ended up watching a Behind The Music on VH1.
At about six o’ clock the phone rang. It was my Aunt Deborah.
‘Jude!’ she exclaimed. ‘How’s my favourite nephew? I heard you’d be back today. How are you?’.
Deborah was my Mum’s sister and she had never had much to do with us until my Mum left, at which point she took it upon herself to ‘take care’ of her three nephews. She ran a successful property business and had never married and didn’t have any children of her own. She paid us more attention than our mother ever had and, although she was loud, over-confident and sometimes a little pushy, her heart was in the right place. She was a substitute for the fussy Jewish mother I never quite had.
‘You’ll need to tell me all about Costa Rica,’ she enthused. ‘What have you got planned for the next few days?’
It was always a little stressful to meet up with Deborah, but it wasn’t as though I had anything better to do over the next few days.
‘I’m starting a job on Monday but I’ve nothing planned till then. In fact, Joel is going away tomorrow so I’d welcome some company.’
‘Joel is going away? I didn’t know that! First your mother runs off and abandons you, then your father, now Joel. You poor thing.’
‘Dad’s hardly run off or abandoned me and Joel will be back on Saturday.’
‘How about I come round on Thursday evening and cook tea for you?’
‘It’s a kind offer,’ I said, ‘but you don’t have to go to all the trouble. I can look after myself.’
The prospect of a whole evening-in with Aunt Deborah was perhaps a little too much.
‘It’s ok, it’ll be a nice treat for you. I’ll bring…. Wait a minute. What am I saying? I’m going away on business on Thursday and I won’t be back till Saturday. I’m going to view some properties in Spain.’
‘Nevermind,’ I said, trying to sound disappointed.
Deborah continued, ‘I’ve got to go all on my own you know. My assistant Sarah had an emergency appendix operation the other day. It’s a lot for me on my own. You know I’m not as young as I used to be. And I’ve already paid for her flight and accommodation. Perhaps I could claim it back on insurance. I probably could, couldn’t I?’
She couldn’t half talk. I muttered my sympathies to her and she carried on.
‘Of course! It’s obvious! You come with me. You can carry my bags. Jude, you must. I don’t like the thought of you alone in that huge house.’
Deborah still tended to think of me as if I was ten, as I had been when Mum left.
‘I’ll be able to change the ticket won’t I Jude? Oh, it’ll be great having you with me.’
Well how could I refuse a trip to Spain?
‘We leave in the morning and come back on Saturday. You don’t mind travelling on Shabbat do you? I know we shouldn’t but there wasn’t really an alternative.’
‘Deborah, I’m not Jewish.’
‘Of course you are love,’ she said with an air of finality.
After she’d twittered on for a good while longer she eventually hung up so she could go and pack.
So, two days in Spain with Aunt Deborah. Random. At least I didn’t have to worry about my boredom any longer, which was a relief, as I always ended up doing things I regretted whenever I was bored.

When Joel arrived home he wasn’t especially enthusiastic about going to the pub. I told him that if he came with me I’d let him see the huge collection of 70p DVDs I’d bought in Costa Rica.
‘I’ve got some films which are only just about to be released at the cinema in this country and some Latino porn, ’ I persuaded.
Joel agreed to go to the pub. On viewing a random selection of the DVDs, we found that some were fine, some were in black and white and some had very inaccurately translated Spanish subtitles. But at 70p a go, we agreed they were good value.
On walking into The Castle at around quarter to ten, I was disappointed to see that it looked like a quiet night in there. It was to be expected really – I didn’t remember reading anywhere lately that Wednesday was the new Friday.
‘You don’t mind that I’m going away tomorrow do you Jude?’ asked Joel once we had sat down with our drinks.
‘Oh, I forgot to tell you, ‘ I said, ‘I’m going to Spain with Aunt Deborah in the morning, so it’s ok.’
Joel gave me a confused smile and then said, ‘Ok. How did that happen?’
‘She rang up this afternoon and was fussing a bit as usual. Her assistant can’t go with her so she said I may as well go instead. I was so busy persuading you to come here with me that I forgot to mention it.’
‘Well, that’s not bad. You bugger off to Spain and I get to go to Cardiff.’
‘Yeah, why exactly are you going there?’
‘One of my friends from university is getting married.’
‘Married? How old is he?’
’Twenty two. I think it’s time to start feeling old when your friends begin to get married.’
‘Perhaps. But he’s the abnormal one. Just be glad you’ve got years of fun ahead of you before you have to settle down,’ I consoled.
Joel mumbled ‘mmm’ and then stared into the distance, deep in thought.
I glanced around the pub, hoping to see an old friend I’d not spoken to in ages. There was no one.
Joel and I chatted about this and that. He told me the latest on our brother Jake who lives in London. He told me about the accountancy job he was about to begin and other equally uninteresting things.
‘Another one? My round,’ I asked Joel as I nodded at his empty glass.
‘Alright, just one more though.’
‘Oh dear. This doesn’t sound like the usual Joel. This whole ‘friend’s marriage’ thing is getting to you. Next you’ll be taking up gardening.’
‘Oh god,’ he grumbled, ‘maybe it’s the thought that I’ve finished university now and I’ve got to settle down in a proper job. It won’t be long before I probably am getting married.’
‘Oh for god’s sake! You need to be reminded how to have fun again. Next opportunity there is, we’ll get off our faces and do something really immature.’
I left him to contemplate the meaning of his life and walked over to the bar which was deserted but for a bored looking girl stood behind it and a couple of middle aged regulars rooted to bar stools. The girl behind the bar looked up as I approached. Nice one, she was well fit. She brushed her shiny hair back and gave me a huge, warm, dazzling smile as she said ‘hello’ in what could only be described as a ‘refined’ tone of voice.
I did the whole flirting thing and she flirted back, looking right into my eyes as she asked what I’d like. She was so nice and English. During the last five months, the only women I’d had to keep me going had been irritating Americans who kept asking me if I was Australian and dark, hairy Costa Ricans who couldn’t pronounce my name properly. No offence to either, but you know what I mean. I turned away from the bar and walked back to where Joel was sitting.
‘What are you grinning about?’ asked Joel as I sat down.
‘Just that barmaid.’
Joel turned to look at her and then raised his eyes to me, as if to say - I should have known.
When we returned home from the pub I realised I would need to pack some stuff for Spain. I pulled a few things out of my Costa Rica suitcases and put them in a bag. We had to be at the airport for seven in the morning, so I would need to get up at six. Bugger.

Chapter 2

When I arrived at the airport there was no sign of Deborah where I had arranged to meet her. At 7:15 she rushed through the automatic doors dragging an excessively large suitcase. I went over to help her and she immediately threw her arms round me and hugged me very tightly, proclaiming how wonderful it was to see me and how much I’d grown and all the usual shit.

When we arrived in Spain I did my bit by carrying Deborah’s bags and sorting out transport. The taxi driver laughed at me for sounding like a Mexican. I told him he was wrong and that if I sounded like anyone, it should be a Costa Rican. Great, I spend six months perfecting my grasp of the Spanish language, only to have Spaniards rip the piss out of me.
When we arrived at the hotel I couldn’t decide whether it was very classy or incredibly tacky. The entrance was flanked by white plaster ancient Greek style statues and small waterfalls. Inside there were more statues and waterfalls as well as pools, chandeliers, tropical plants, mirrors and marble staircases. It was trying to look lavish, luxurious and extravagant but had, I felt, managed to go just a little over the top.
We left our bags in our rooms and then set out again. I spent the day keeping Deborah company as she looked round various villas carefully noting the distance from beach, size of balcony and quality of view. She occasionally asked me questions, such as ‘Would you say this swimming pool’s too small?’ or ‘How do you think this compares to the last one in terms of location?’. I wasn’t able to give very constructive answers and the only real piece of advice I offered all day was ‘I thought that kitchen looked a bit Eighties.’
When we arrived back at the hotel in the evening we went straight for our meal. The hotel restaurant was practically deserted and the waiters were very eager to please.
Deborah poured me a glass of wine and mentioned how lovely it was to have me there with her. She really seemed to care about me and value my opinion and it was good to feel adored.
My earliest memory of Deborah was the time when she had taken me to my Grandmother’s wig shop. The experience scared the shit out of me. I must have only been about five years old and all those false heads with wigs on really freaked me out.
I mentioned this to Deborah as we were waiting for our food and she laughed then told me that the visit to my Grandmother’s had been a bit of a stealth mission. My Grandmother had practically disowned my mum after she married my non-Jewish Dad and the two refused to make any contact with each other. Despite this, my Grandmother was still desperate to see her grandchildren, which proved problematic as my mum never spoke to any of her family. My Grandmother had seen Jacob and Joel a couple of years earlier but decided to send her daughter Deborah on a mission to take me out for the day. My mum agreed and I was taken by Deborah to meet my Grandmother. I didn’t have a clue who this old woman was and was pretty confused as to who Deborah was, as I’d only met her a couple of times before.
We had a good laugh about it and Deborah told me I’d have to finish the wine because she wanted a clear head for tomorrow. Deborah put her knife and fork together and briefly became a little more serious as we considered what my mum may be up to these days and whether she was happy and well. Then Deborah asked me whether I had a girlfriend at the moment.
‘Well, as I only got back from Costa Rica yesterday, I’ have to be a pretty quick mover if I did,’ I said.
‘That’s true,’ she agreed, ‘but what about in Costa Rica, there must’ve been some lovely young ladies there.’
‘There were a few nice ones, yeah,’ I said, not wanting to give too much away.
‘You know, there are plenty of lovely Jewish girls who’d be very interested in you Jude. Lots of my friends have daughters who’d love to meet such a nice handsome Jewish boy.’
‘Thanks, I said feeling a bit embarrassed, ‘but I’m not actually Jewish remember.’
‘You could be,’ she said.
‘I suppose,’ I agreed, not really knowing what she meant, but not wanting to ask her to explain either.
When we’d finished the meal, Deborah said she was going to go to bed as it had been hard work today and would be just the same tomorrow. She was right, I never realised how tiring house viewing could be. I told her I’d probably go to bed now too.
I went to my room and sat on the bed watching a German music channel for a little while. Then I realised that it was only a quarter to ten and perhaps I wasn’t that tired after all. I decided to wander downstairs and see what was going on.
The restaurant had got a bit busier and there were a few people in the bar. There was one of those terrible singers with a keyboard and a backing track that you always get in foreign hotels. He was crooning Chris Rea and Eric Clapton ‘classics’. He was truly awful, I might have expected more from a four star hotel, but I decided to hang around and get a drink never the less. I was hoping I may be lucky enough to spot some girls I could talk to, but after about half an hour it became obvious there were not going to be any. None under forty anyway.
There were a couple of fairly old men sitting at the bar as well. I smiled at them and one with white hair and a deep tan suddenly said to me, ‘The singing’s not fantastic, is it?’
‘Certainly isn’t,’ I agreed.
‘My friend I were just commenting on how bored you looked.’
‘Did I?’ I asked. I wasn’t feeling especially bored.
‘You did,’ added the other man who had a very carefully clipped moustache. ‘What’s a young man like yourself doing in a bar like this?’
‘I’m staying at the hotel with my aunt for a couple of days while she looks at some villas she’s thinking of buying.’
‘I see. We’re on holiday here with our wives. This is our twelfth consecutive summer in Spain and our third at this hotel.’
‘You must like it here then,’ I said.
‘The wives do,’ said the white haired man.
I began to wonder where these wives actually were.
‘Do you want another drink then?’ asked the moustached man.
‘Yes please.’
I never turned down a free drink
‘What’ll it be?’
‘Whatever you’re having.’
‘Three whiskys please,’ he said to the barman.
The barman placed glasses on the bar and poured measures twice the size of those you could expect to be given in England.
‘Well, it’s not often I drink straight whisky,’ I commented before downing the contents of the glass.
The two old men looked at me, both of them appearing slightly puzzled. Then they began to slowly sip their whisky.
‘Oh sorry,’ I said, feeling slightly embarrassed. ‘I’m just used to knocking shots straight back. I don’t usually sip them.’
‘That’s ok,’ said the white haired man with an understanding look on his face. ‘At our age we tend to take it a bit more slowly though. I’ll get you another and you can give it a go.’
‘Another whisky,’ said to the barman, ‘in fact, make it a double.’
The barman handed me what looked like a tumbler full of whisky and I graciously accepted it and began to sip slowly. To be honest I would’ve rather just downed it, I wasn’t a big fan of the taste, but I stuck to ‘old man tradition’ and made it last.
‘Where are your wives?’ I asked the two men.
‘They’ve gone to bed. They can’t handle the pace quite as well these days. You know, women may live longer but men know how to keep going right up until the end.’
‘And that’s just in the bedroom!’ added the other.
Oh no! Old men talking about sex! Disgusting!
‘You’re right there matey. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like!’
I smiled and nodded, desperately trying to think of something with which to change the subject.
I didn’t need to as the moustached man said to me, ‘What do you do for a living then?’
‘Nothing really at the moment. I’m going to university in September.’
’Starting university?’ interrupted the white haired one. ‘How old are you?’
‘Goodness. I thought you were about twenty five.’
‘So did I,’ added the moustached one.
‘Afraid not,’ I said.
‘And there we were being smutty and talking about what goes on in the bedroom.’
‘I’m sure he’s heard it all before,’ added the other.
How humiliating.
‘I’m always amazed how fast you young people grow up these days.’
I took a few more sips of whisky. Actually, they were more like gulps. It was beginning not to taste so bad now.
Then the old men started talking about cricket and tried to ask my opinion on various matters related to it. I know nothing about cricket and the only opinion I held on it was that it looked pretty bloody boring. It was unlikely they would be interested in hearing that though, so I continued to sip my whisky quietly. Then they began to offer me their ‘old man wisdom’ and I quite enjoyed that part.
Handle-bar moustache said to me, ‘I’m not sure I’d want to be your age again, you know. The only good thing about being your age is that you have your whole life ahead of you.’
‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ interrupted the white-haired one. ‘You don’t have much to worry about at that age. It’s all friends and girls and enthusiasm for everything.’
I found that older people often said this kind of thing about the young. Sometimes even I look at little kids and thought about how good it would to be that age have absolutely nothing to worry about. Although I think older people often underestimate the amount of worries that people my age actually have.
“We have our fair share of worries. We have to think about what to do with the rest of our lives. Whether we’ll pass our exams, whether we’ll be able to find a job. Whether or not your girlfriend’s cheating on you, whether or not you should cheat on her.’
‘I agree!’ said handle bar moustache as he slammed his whisky glass on the bar. ‘When you get older life settles down and you know what you want from it and who you are. No more worrying about what your friends think of you or how to get the girl you like to notice you.’
‘That’s all very true, but I did enjoy my younger days despite all that. Make sure you do too, son.’
‘I’m pretty certain I enjoy myself. In general,’ I said.
‘One thing I would say to you is, always make sure you’re happy with what you’re doing in life. We only get one shot at it and there’s no point in wasting it,’ said the white haired one.
‘I won’t argue with that,’ agreed handle bar moustache. ‘If you find you’re not as happy as you think you could be, then try your damn hardest to do change things, don’t just make do.’
‘Yes, I like that bit of advice,’ I said to them.
‘Make sure you remember it,’ said handle bar moustache.
‘I will. Now how about I get you two a drink,’ I said, finishing the last drop of my now not-so-bad-tasting whisky.
‘Same again please,’ they said in unison.
I bought the whisky and scanned the bottles in the fridges behind the bar for something for myself. I had got used to the whisky but certainly didn’t want another. I bought myself a Smirnoff Ice, much to the amusement of the old men who insisted on buying one for themselves in order to find out ‘what you young people drink these days’.
‘Tastes like pop!’ exclaimed the white haired one after taking a swig from his.
‘Take a bit getting used to, that will. Rather sweet,’ added handle bar moustache.
They soon lost interest in the Smirnoff Ice and returned to their whisky.
‘You drink those, son,’ they said, pushing the bottles in my direction.
Soon the awful keyboard and backing track guy finished singing and the two old men clapped enthusiastically and said to me, ‘About bloody time! I thought that racket would never end!’
The old men stayed and chatted for a bit longer, then announced it was ‘time to turn in for the night’. I said I’d stay there and finish my drink.
I polished off the two rejected bottles of Smirnoff Ice and then noticed the bar was practically empty. I stood up and walked towards the door, realising I was pretty mullered.
In the foyer I spotted a comfy leather armchair which looked very inviting. I couldn’t be bothered making my way all the way upstairs just yet, so went for a sit down.
An artificial stream tiled in a very pale turquoise blue wound its way through the foyer. At various points along it there were white concrete islands, which could be reached by little white concrete bridges. Some of the islands, like the one I was now sitting on, had a few of these lovely comfy armchairs arranged in a circle on them. Others had shiny tropical plants, others had a single white plaster imitation statue of a famous Greek god. Which fucked up weirdo decorated this place? I thought it all looked fun though. As I sat in my arm chair on the concrete island and watched the small fountains trickle around me, I decided that I would probably decorate a hotel like this if I owned one.
I hadn’t been sitting there long when a girl, mid-twenties with her hair up, walked through the entrance in tears. She stopped and looked in her bag, then started sobbing even louder. There was no one else around, even the guy behind the reception desk had disappeared.
‘Are you alright?’ I called over.
‘Not really,’ she replied.
‘Can I help?’
She walked over and came to sit in the black leather armchair next to mine and rested her head in her hands.
‘My boyfriend is pissing me off. We went out and got talking to a bunch of random people. It was ok at first, then the blokes challenged my boyfriend to some kind of drinking contest. So I got really bored and he got hammered. I said I wanted to go home but he said he was having fun and didn’t want to and that I could go if I wanted. So I did, but now I’ve just realised he’s got the key and I can’t get in the room.’
It sounded like a pretty standard boyfriend/girlfriend dilemma really.
‘It’s ok. Reception will have a spare key. I’ll go and explain.’
I went over to the desk and called , ‘Hola?’.
A man appeared and, trying to sound as sober as possible, I told him what the problem was.
I went back over to the girl who was still in tears and said, ‘Here, we can use this key. The guy wants it brought back down straight away so I’ll come with you so I can bring it back.’
We took the lift upstairs. It was a glass lift and we shot up past the various floors which were like balconies over looking the downstairs.
I unlocked her room for her and said, ‘Now, are you sure you’re going to be all right?’
‘Yeah, I could do with a nice big hug though, you know.’
I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tightly.
‘Thanks,’ she said, ‘ I feel better already.’
‘No problem,’ I said, ‘take care.’
If I wasn’t such a respectable boy I may have been tempted to take advantage but I made my way back down the corridor. I delivered the key to reception, then realised I couldn’t face going back up again straight away and returned to my leather armchair.
It wasn’t long before a man, who I assumed had to be the boyfriend, staggered into the foyer. I may have been fairly pissed, but he was so wasted that he couldn’t even work out how to use the lift. And he only had the choice of one button to press to call it. I had no intention of helping him out and eventually he got it sorted.
Soon I heard the sound of high heels clicking down the stairs opposite. Then I heard the sobs and realised it was the same girl as before. She crossed the foyer and sat in the armchair she’d been sitting in earlier.
She said angrily, ‘He’s such a dickhead. He just can’t admit when he’s wrong.’
I tried to think of some advice to offer.
‘How long have you been together?’ I asked.
‘Nearly four months.’
‘Well,’ I began, ‘I’ve never been out with anyone for that long, unless you count… well, no. I’ve never been out with anyone for that long because it’s such a long time and I…’
You’re rambling now Jude, I thought. Get to the point.
‘What I’m saying is, it’s a quite a long time really so that probably means that….’
I wasn’t actually sure what it meant, now I came to it.
‘I couldn’t really say what it means actually because I don’t know the background. Do you get on with him most of the time? You must do because you’ve come on holiday together. So I’m sure it’ll be all right. But I suppose…. does he always piss you off? Because if he does maybe you should just sack it because there’s, like, plenty more fish in the sea, so maybe you’d be better off without the hassle because….’
She stopped me and said ‘Do you often give boyfriend advice?’.
‘Not really,’ I said.
‘No, I could tell,’ she said, starting to smile.
I must have looked humbled because she said, ‘It’s very kind of you to try though. And at least you’ve made me smile.’
‘People made me drink loads of drinks. I may be able to give better advice if I was sober.’
She smiled at me, almost in a pitiful way.
Laughing, she said, ‘You’re so adorable.’
‘Well, sorry I can’t really give any good advice.’
‘I don’t think I want advice actually, that’d keep my mind on the whole thing. I just want to forget about the stupid wanker for now.’
She looked at me in quite a challenging way. I didn’t know what to make of that because I was too pissed and couldn’t think straight enough to work out what she might mean by it. We sat in silence for a few moments and then I caught her looking at me again.
She said, ‘I don’t want to go back to my room yet – it’d mean another argument with him. Can we go to your room instead?’
I tried my hardest to think everything through to its logical conclusion and then started to worry that I maybe be leading this girl on in someway. But I was sure I hadn’t done anything apart from drunkenly ramble on to her about complete bollocks. This was all her. Definitely.
‘Erm… We could.’
‘So shall we?’ she said with a dangerously cheeky smile.
‘Ok then,’ I said, without moving from my chair.
‘You’re not shy are you?’
‘No. I’m just a bit confused. I think.’
She grabbed hold of my hand and marched me along the bridge over the stream.
She ran a little way ahead into the foyer and shouted back, ‘Let’s go then, if we’re going!’.
The guy at the reception desk gave us both a look and then in a moment of hazy, drunken clarity I walked purposefully over to her. This is so random, I thought to myself.
We waited for the lift and once we were inside she took hold of me, pushed me up against the side of the lift and proceeded to kiss me. Yes, I was aware that the lift was glass. And I’m sure she was too.
We got to the door of my room and as I was hopelessly trying to coordinate my key and the lock, she began crying again. She leant her head against the wall and sobbed quietly as tears streamed down her cheeks. I stopped what I was doing, took hold of her hand with both my hands and uttered some attempt at sympathy.
‘I just don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I want,’ she managed through her tears.
I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing either but I did know that I was beginning to feel genuinely quite sorry for her.
‘I think I should just go,’ she said.
‘If that’s what you want,’ I said, ‘but will you be okay?’
She began crying even louder and I could just imagine Aunt Deborah bursting out of her room three doors down the corridor to see what all the commotion was about. I would certainly have difficultly explaining all this to her. I silently urged her not to appear – matters didn’t need complicating any more.
‘Why don’t you just come in until you’ve calmed down?’ I suggested. ‘Then you can go back to yours when you’re, like… ok again.’
I found it troublesome dealing with women’s emotional traumas at the best of times but it was an even bigger challenge when I was shit-faced.
She nodded and I recommenced my struggle with the lock on my door. I eventually succeeded and I indicated for her to go in.
‘You could sit on the balcony if you like and get some fresh air. It’s well hot it here. I think I definitely need to sit on the balcony.’
I opened the glass door for her. She went outside and I fetched the bottle of Evian I’d put in the mini-bar fridge earlier, then walked over to the balcony. I lent against the open door and, nodding at the bottle, said, ‘Do you want some, erm…..’
‘Water?’ she said.
‘Yeah, water.’
‘Yes please.’
I handed her the bottle and when she finished drinking she held the bottle to her forehead and said, ‘That’s so nice’.
She gave me back the bottle and after taking a few mouthfuls which were, indeed, ‘so nice’, I went to put it back in the fridge. I sat down on the bed as I closed the door of the tiny fridge. Then I lent back and closed my eyes. So, so random…

‘Jude! Jude! Are you awake?’
I opened my eyes and got that ‘Aargh! Where the fuck am I?’ feeling. I could feel a hammering in my head. Then I realised that the hammering was on the door. Then I worked out where I was.
Aunt Deborah continued calling me from outside my door.
‘Yeah, I’m awake!’ I shouted back.
‘Thank god, I thought you’d disappeared or something,’ she called. ‘I’ll come back in half an hour and we’ll have breakfast before leaving for the day.’
‘Ok!’ I said.
I closed my eyes again. Then there was more hammering on the door.
‘Are you ready for breakfast then?’ shouted Aunt Deborah.
Oh Christ. Had it been half an hour already?
‘Very nearly! Shall I meet you down there?’ I called.
‘All right, but don’t be long!’
I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus on the thin strip of sunlight which was slicing across my knees. Shit, I’m still wearing last night’s clothes, I thought. I sat up and shuffled to the end of the bed to reach for some much needed Evian from the fridge. I drank some huge, cold mouthfuls and thought – that’s so nice. The sensation, or the thought, or something, triggered a hazy memory from last night. Then slowly but surely the details of last night’s events came back to me.
I stepped out onto the balcony. The light was bright, perhaps too bright for any ordinary hangover-prone mortal, but not for me. Although, how I managed to feel this fine after the strange mixture of drinks I’d consumed last night was a mystery. First there was nearly all that bottle of wine. Then an unnatural amount of whisky. Then numerous bottles of Smirnoff Ice. I could remember all that and I could remember the old guys in the bar and getting the key for the girl who was crying and trying to console her and having her pounce on me in the lift and her drinking water on the balcony. Water from this bottle, on this balcony. Weird. It seem liked something from years ago.
I admitted to myself that there was a bit of a gaping hole between the lift and the water on the balcony. I could be pretty sure that we hadn’t got up to anything because I was still fully clothed and I was sure I’d remember something like that. Wouldn’t I?
I stopped thinking about that and put my mind into gear. Aunt Deborah was waiting for me downstairs so I went into the bathroom and tried to work out how to turn on the shower. Once in the shower I tried again to remember the full extent of last night’s atrocities. I hoped I hadn’t embarrassed myself too much.
Just as I was getting out of the shower I remembered the tears at the door and the girl’s sudden change of heart. I remembered my confusion at the whole situation and how the girl had come in to my room to calm down. I was glad that was sorted.
If I wasn’t mistaken though, she’d definitely been up for something with me. I think her sudden flood of emotions at the door was probably a good thing though. I doubt I would’ve been able to perform to the best of my abilities in the state I had been in. I leant my head in my hands and thought, last night was fucking strange.
I wrenched some clean clothes from my bag, quickly threw them on and tried to shake some drops of water off my wet hair. I walked over to the door and almost missed the folded piece of hotel note paper which was lying in front of it. I picked it up and closed the door behind me. Walking down the corridor, I unfolded the note. In the top corner it said 8:15am. I looked at my watch, it was 8:45 now.
‘Thanks for being such a star and tolerating me and my emotions. I didn’t really get to know anything about you but you seemed like a genuinely lovely guy. Sorry for everything. Jen.’
How sweet, I thought, but I bet she was minging – my beer goggles will definitely have been on last night. I looked at the note again and smiled to myself. Bless her though, I thought.
I got in the glass lift and cringed at renewed memories of last night. I made my way over to the restaurant and found Deborah.
‘Good afternoon,’ she joked, ‘teenage boys and their need for sleep, I don’t know.’
‘Sorry’, I mumbled.
‘I got you that,’ she said pointing at a coffee, ‘but I’d didn’t know what else you’d want.’
‘I’ll just have some toast,’ I said.
‘Did you sleep well then?’ she asked.
‘Fairly well, yeah. Did you?’
‘Yes, I did,’ she said nodding contentedly, ‘And did you go straight to bed when I left you?’
‘Pretty much.’
I started to worry in case Jen may walk past. This risked looking a bit like something from The Graduate. Me. Deborah. In a hotel. Then I worried that my hair may be drying in a strange way. Too sticky up or too flat or something.

I tried my best to stay out of trouble for the rest of the visit, which I found a bit boring really, but it was probably for the best. When we were at the airport waiting to board the plane, I got a text from Paul, a guy from school, to say he’d be back home today and did I want to go to the pub in the evening. I was pleased to hear it.

Chapter 3

I was in the middle of unpacking when Hazel, my brother’s aged ex-girlfriend came round. Well, when I say aged, I mean thirty. She was intensely annoying and emotionally unstable.
‘Is Joel here?’ she said, standing on the doorstep.
I wasn’t expecting Joel back until tomorrow. I told Hazel this.
‘Why? Where is he?’ she demanded.
‘He’s gone to a wedding.’
‘Oh. Shall I come back tomorrow then?’
‘If you want.’
I knew that Joel would definitely not want to see her.
‘Ok, see you tomorrow then Jude.’

That evening in the Castle it turned out that a couple of the other guys from school were back home too. As soon as we got there Paul was eager to tell us something about a guy we knew from school.
“I was driving parst Pizza Express today? And I saw Rick Regan? And he was standing outside with this guy? And I think they were holding hands! I was going quite farst? So I’m not sure? But…”
He was making everything sound like a question and pronouncing ‘past’ and ‘fast’ in a really Southern way.
“Hold on,” I said, “what the fuck are you talking like that for?”
“What?” said Paul.
“You sound like a knobhead. That’s how they talk at Cambridge is it?”
Needless to say, by the end of evening he was talking properly again.

It was well good to see the guys again. In a way it felt totally normal, like any usual time in The Castle from last summer or before. At the same time though, there was something strange about hearing all the guys I’d been really good friends with talking about what they’d been doing all year in new places with new people. I’d known them all for years and we’d done everything together – or at least told each other about things as soon as they happened. But now, we’d all moved on in different directions and had new experiences that the others didn’t have a clue about. I didn’t mention this, of course. I would have been laughed out of the place for sounding like a loser. I told them a bit about Costa Rica and the hotel where I worked when I was there but I found it difficult to describe how good it really was and what it was really like.

I got up late on Sunday and at about lunchtime as I was in the kitchen making breakfast, the doorbell rang. I went to answer it and found Hazel on the doorstep.
‘Hiya! Is Joel back yet?’
‘No. I’m afraid not. He’ll be back… in a while. I don’t know’
‘I’ll just wait a bit then, if he’s not back soon I’ll go.’
I had no choice but to let her in. I wandered back into the kitchen and sat at the table in front of the paper I’d been reading. She leant against the work top looking miserable. I just ignored her. Then her presence began to irritate me. ‘Would you like to sit down?’ I asked her.
‘I suppose so,’ she mumbled. She sat down opposite me and I could feel her watching me as I read.
‘You up to anything exciting tonight Jude?’ she enquired after a minute or so.
‘I don’t know yet actually, are you?’
‘Probably not, I don’t have anyone to do anything with. My life’s pretty dull really.’
‘Shame,’ I said.
‘Last weekend,’ she continued, ‘one of the girls I work with asked me if I wanted to go to this charity do, I said I would, then I realised I didn’t even have anything to wear so I had to let her down at the last minute.’
‘Bet she was upset about that,’ I said, sounding more sarcastic than I intended to.
‘And of course I’ve put on weight recently, that was half the reason I couldn’t find any of my clothes which looked nice on me last weekend.’
Why was she telling me all this? Did she expect me to give a shit about the sob stories of a moaning loser with a body image problem?
‘Look, I really think you’re going to be in for a long wait,’ I told her.
‘Perhaps I could ring him, could I?’
‘Ok, I’ll ring him for you.’
I dialled his number.
He answered with, ‘Jude. Quickly. I’m driving,’.
‘Oh, Hazel’s here she wants to know when you’ll be back,’ I said immediately.
He sighed. ‘Never, tell her. I’m dropping someone off on the way, I’ll be a while.’
‘Right, see you then.’ I said and turned to Hazel.
‘He’s only just set off, he says he’ll ring you when he gets back,’ I lied.
She looked like she was about to cry. I’d love to know what attracted my brother to a manic depressive, eight years his senior. They only went out for three weeks and that was months ago, though Hazel had never been out of his life since.
‘I’ll go then,’ she mumbled as she walked through the hall to the front door.
She stepped out onto the porch and said, ‘I’ll come round and try and catch Joel later, if he’s not in maybe you and I could do something.’
Before this last statement of hers had time to settle in, she was walking away down the drive, looking slightly more cheerful than she had done when she arrived. Why would I, a nineteen year old boy with a life, want to ‘do something’ on a Sunday night with an insane and depressed woman who was virtually old enough to be my mother? Frankly, the idea was disturbing.

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Comments by other Members

nudgy at 11:33 on 03 September 2004  Report this post

Welcome to the site. I've just read your first chapter (I think 3 is a bit too long in one go) and enjoyed it.

I like the apparent normality of the opening, and there seems to ne an edge to it which is waiting to come out at some time. The dialogue is, at times, good, but I think you've got scope there to add a bit more humour. Maybe you're just showing the attitude of the main character.

The narrative does seem to me a bit like a diary at times, and the swearing through the narrative seemed to add a bit to that. Why not stick more swearing in the dialogue?

Anyway, I will be reading chapters 2 and 3 and will comment upon them. I think you've got something deffo and I hope you don't think I been too picky.

Good stuff

I first heard 'on the lash' in Manchester!


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