And David just hit him. Just a tap, but just enough so that he fell back and caught his head. He hadn’t moved. He was just lying on the kitchen floor, lino with a little pool of red black blood. There were the three of us, David, Sandra, and me stood around him. In the living room we could hear music still, loud drums, guitar fuzz, people talking, stamping about.
“Call an ambulance.”
“Don’t. He’s just out. He’ll wake up in a bit. Don’t call an ambulance.”
“We need to call an ambulance.” said Sandra.
“He’ll wake up in a bit.” said David. I heard someone step out into the hall and try and open the door. I wasn’t thinking and I just threw myself against it. The handle was going and whoever was on the other side pushed harder and then gave up. I kept myself pressed to the door.
“Is he breathing?” Sandra asked.
“He isn’t. He isn’t breathing. He isn’t breathing.”
“Shut up. Shut up.”
“Check he’s breathing.” I said. Neither of them moved. Sandra was shaking almost crying. David had never hit anyone before. Never in his life. Not even that hard. Just a tap.
“Check.” He stooped over him slowly, like he was asleep and any sudden move might wake him, bending at the waist and knees but not letting them touch the floor. He held his hands over him, a few inches, not touching, not wanting to touch, like he was holy-man curing a leper. Like he was cold and trying to warm his hands.
“Andrew?” Sandra whispered. She took hold of his sleeves and began to tug on them, frantic little tugs, whispering his name, asking him, over and over growing louder until she looked up at David and his white face and his hands held out and sobbed
“Why did you have to hit him?” almost screaming her voice breaking, folding up.
“I didn’t mean…” and they were both sobbing and David put his hands out and touched her shoulder, and they leaned over him and put there arms around each other, but she was holding him and pushing him away at once. I couldn’t move.
Someone tried the door again and I put all my weight against it. Most people had their beer and stuff in carrier bags in the front room but the ones who’d come early had put theirs in the fridge.
She’d only been seeing him for a week or so. I didn’t know him, she’d met him at work. Her and David had been broken up for half a year or something.
“What did he say?” I asked David, like it was important. They didn’t hear me. There was banging at the door, someone was shouting through, laughing “Who’s in there?” “What’s going on?” “Stop Shagging!” laughter. “Sandra?!” a voice cutting through it all “Sandra! The Police are here, Sandra!” There were cheers and jeering from the front room, people singing the Guns of Brixton, shouting fucking PIGS and all that. I kept my weight against the door, keeping the world out of the little kitchen and the three of us and the guy on the floor. Andrew? His name was Andrew.
“What are we going to do?” I asked and the two of them. They were still clinging to each others clothes, and looking at me. “What are we going to do?” The banging on the door was a metronome, a hail storm. “David, get the door. Don’t let anyone in here. Get the door.” he stood up and put his arms against the door. I opened it a bit and pushed everyone back, squeezing through the smallest gap I could. David pushed the door closed behind me. People were laughing asking me “What’s going on?” I tried to smile but I was shaking still, shouldering my way through the heat and the noise of the party, into the living room. I pressed stop on the stereo, and then eject. I took out the CD, and I don’t know why, as people were booing and asking “What the fuck?” I was looking at the shiny side of the CD, moving the reflected light across my face. Carefully I put it back in its case, and then back on the shelf. I walked back through the crowd, telling everyone “Be quiet. Just be quiet for a bit, yeah?” and opened the front door, holding it like a shield, craning my neck to look around it. There were two policemen at the door, solid, tired looking men. I breathed in their handcuffs, tasted the tang of their metal badges.
“Are you the owner?” One asked.
“No. I’m not. I live here, sort of. It’s my party, I mean. If its about the noise…?”
“We’ve had several noise complaints in the last few hours.”
“Sorry. We’ll turn it down. I’ll send everyone home now.”
“We’d like to come in actually, have a look around if that’s all right with you, sir?” It was only one of them that talked. The other was staring at a point just above my eyes. He turned his back to me.
“No. No you can’t come in.”
“Is the owner of the house here?”
“No. It’s a rented property.”
“I see. So can we speak to the tenant?”
“She’s busy.” I said. “Look, I’m sorry about the noise. I’ll send everyone home now.” I closed the door before either of them could speak and ran to the front room shouting
“Look, you all have to get out of here now! Pick up your shit and get out. I ran to the window, and saw the two policemen walking to the car, talking into their radios.
“Look, I’m not fucking about. Everyone out now.”
“Simon, what’s the matter?” Some girl in a long pink skirt asked. My name isn’t Simon.
“Hey man, they can’t come in here, y’know. It’s a private residence. The law doesn’t allow it. You should have told them about…” And this guy with dreadlocks I don’t know in baggy jeans is telling me about some law, and I’m screaming now, I’d kept it together for as long as I could but I fall to bits, picking up coats and throwing them at people, get out now! and they begin to file out, and some of them are banging on the kitchen still, with David on the other side, shouting that they want their beers and their coats. And I walk out of the door, I leave my phone and my jacket in the kitchen, pull up the hood on my jumper, and walk out of the front door.
There’s a crowd of people stood outside, clustered in little groups asking each other what’s happening and I say nothing, don’t stop, move through the groups hands in pockets shoulders squared and head down, past the police car that’s still parked outside and I keep walking.
And there’s groups and people by themselves walking home in all directions coming off the street, and I’m walking through them and around them faster and faster and I’m talking to myself saying it wasn’t me, its Ok, Fuck fuck fuck I did nothing, under my breath over and over and faster falling to bits like I’m falling through space about to hit the ocean burning.
I walked, sort of in the direction of home, but I was missing turnings, taking the longest route I could.
She was sat on a curved wall, a half moon, outside a closed pub. Glittering Pink trainers swinging not touching the floor, kicking a gallop on the wall with her heels, the only sound I can hear in the quiet before the birdsong and the commuters.
She’s in a jacket striped like a rainbow.
“Hello,” she says. And I stop dead-still, pinned down.
“Hello,” she says. “sorry, do you have a lighter?” I pat my pockets and shrug.
“It’s OK,” she says and pulls out a lighter, covered in sequins and glitter, from her pocket. “It’s OK.” She says again. “Would you like one?” I nod and step forward, carefully.
“You were at the party?” She asks. I light the cigarette and pass the lighter back. She puts it neatly in her bag and I say
“Yeah. Yeah, I was there for a bit.”
“It got too hot in there. My friends had gone home I think, the people I was with. So I went.”
“You missed the police then?”
“Police? Oh my god, what happened?”
“Nothing! Nothing happened. Just noise. Noise.”
“Oh. Ok.” She pulls out half a bottle of whisky from the carrier bag next to her and opens it. She sips some and passes it over to me. I sip some and offer it back, and she waves her hand refusing. I’m standing in front of her holding the whisky.
“Talk to me?” she says.
“Ok. ok.” I look up and down the street. “What do you want to talk about?”
“What’s that?” she says, pointing at an old Saab.
“It’s a car.”
“It’s a tree?”
“A conker tree. A chestnut tree.”
“Yes! What’s that?”
“ Do you mean the cloud, or the stars?”
“Its a cloud and some stars.”
“Orion.” I say, “Libra. The Pole star.”
“You’re making this up!” She’s laughing.
“No.” I sit down next to her “When I was little I got a telescope. I was into it for a while.” I drink more whisky. It’s very quiet.
“What colour’s your hair?” I pull my hood down and look at her. “Ok.” she says.
“Where are you going?” I ask.
“I want to walk you home. I want to stay with you.” I say.
She smiles and says
“Ok.” and we begin to walk, passing the bottle back and forth. We take each others hand. She looks at the floor, kicking things along the pavement drunk and tired.
She leads me up the drive of a house, and says
“We need to be quiet.” I nod. I can’t speak. She leads me into the house, upstairs into her room, strewn with clothes and posters, knotted socks and photographs and magazines.
“What do you think of me?” she asks.
“I think you’re beautiful.”
“What do you think of me?”
“Do you mind if I stay?”
“No.” I kiss her like kissing a saint.
“I wonder if my brother’s home yet?” she says. I kiss her again.
“I’m so tired.” I say. The world is swimming. I kiss her again.
I wake up and look down at her. The way her dark red hair spills out across the bed sheets. She isn’t moving. My stomach turns. I hold my hand an inch or so over her slightly open mouth. That face. God.
She wakes and lurches away, shocked that I’m hovering over her, seeing something in my face while I’m seeing something in hers. She asks me straight away, holding her head,
“What time is it?”
“Three.” I say, looking at the clock on the wall, searching the dresser and walls for photographs.
“Where are we? This house I mean?” I ask. She pulls the duvet up to her neck covering herself, and starts checking her mobile phone.
“Did we?” she asks still looking at her phone.
“Did we use anything?”
“Yeah. Probably. I…don’t know. It’ll be OK.” I can’t think.
“What? What are we going to do?” she asks. I lie back and close my eyes like David holding the door closed.