Storytime – James Bond.

James Bond 

The tack room smelt of saddle wax and damp. A bizarre mixture of plastic and leather, oats and hay. A scent a thousand teenage girls carried with them, until they don’t. Riding lessons had been cancelled, so the other girls and I huddled inside, happy we at least had a counter to climb on and a mini fridge to raid. A small heater clicked in its corner as it attempted to heat the cold concrete, and we waited for our parents.

I was the youngest. Too short to climb up onto the counter, too chubby to try. Relegated to the floor. The cold seeped through my jodhpurs, and I still had my helmet on. It was heavy and warm on my head. Plus, the strap was fiddly.

I felt buried in my own silence. Redundant. The older girls were talking about boys. Who they fancied, when they would see them next, whilst I looked up at these girls wondering if I’d be invited to join in. One of the nicer girls noticed I was watching, and out of some misguided kindness extended the question to me.

‘Is there a boy you fancy?’

I’d had time to think about it, so my response was immediate.

‘James Bond.’ I said. ‘I love James Bond.’

There was silence. Tight lips tucked in on themselves.

‘Which one?’ a blonde girl broke.

Too young to understand, I persisted, ‘James Bond. All of them.’

Hyena like, pack-cackling rippled through the tack room, and I realised too late I’d made a mistake.

‘Do you mean Pierce Brosnan?’ a third girl pressed. She didn’t have kind eyes or a nice temper. She was baiting me. I was smart enough to know that much. If one of the nicer girls had asked, I’d have been more honest. I’d have explained the difference between traditional Bond over the newer, flashier Bond with his out of control gadgets and unnecessary explosions.

But I buckled under the eyes of this older girl. I nodded. Feeling like a coward. Not brave enough to admit Sean Connery was better.

*

A few years later, the scent of saddle wax had been replaced by salt watered air and evening cold. The faux shipwreck, climbing wall and wooden towers of Folkestone’s coastal park were haloed by the orange fluorescents of metal streetlights. Strange shades were cast by the palm trees, as our playground attempted its best impression of being anything other than a fishing town.

I’d been abandoned by my friends who were smoking weed in the top tower of the wooden castle. A boy with curly hair had offered me a toke and I’d politely refused.

He and I sat in the little children’s boats that rocked, his feet touched the floor whilst mine did not. He thought he was a bad boy because he’d done a bit of shop lifting, skipped school and smoked weed. He’d had sex too, which he was clearly proud of. He also walked his niece to school, played rugby religiously and offered me his hoodie when I shivered. I refused that too. I was determined to be warm in my rugby training jacket with South East Girls printed in barbie pink across my back. I didn’t want to look needy.

Our friends heckled us from the tower. Making smoochie noises and laughing. He gave them the middle finger back, like a bad boy. And I laughed.

When the shouting died down, and fresh smoke billowed out of the tower. The tall boy relaxed his body into a slouch. I relaxed too. I liked this boy; he was funny and nice and that was all it took for me to like someone. He’d told me that he fancied someone in our group, and a small part of me hoped that now we were alone he’d tell me who it was. Not so I could mock, or shriek or sympathise. Just my common curiosity.

‘Is there someone you fancy?’ he asked, watching me in the haze of orange and black.

Less than a second passed before I answered. His game was clear to me, because it was the same as mine. I decided to reward his curiosity with the truth. Not the whole truth, I knew James Bond was not going to be the right answer. But I would tell this tall, curly haired rugby player exactly how I felt.

I shrugged. Looked him dead in the eye so he knew I was being honest and said,

‘Nah. Boys are stupid.’

Flash Fiction #2 – Date with Death

Writing.Prompt.s (Instagram) – A dating service where matching is based on people’s search history exists. You’re a serial killer. You go on a date with a writer. 

I check my bag again. Wire, cheese wire to be specific, with wooden handles in the first pocket. Duct tape, and a bin liner in the third. Purse, keys and my Urban Decay in Venom lipstick in the second – middle – pocket. It’s a dark purple. I haven’t put it on yet. My bag is just a handbag. Nothing special. Nothing expensive. Nothing I mind getting blood on, and then dumping. New though, so it shouldn’t have my DNA in it. Purse is also new. Keys are in a plastic baggie. More plastic baggies in the middle pocket, just in case.

I’m stood outside the restaurant. You can’t really call it a restaurant. It’s a Nando’s. It’s a thing unto itself. I do love a Nando’s though. I’ll have to get something I can eat with a knife and fork. Can’t have Piri Piri fingers leaving a mess at the scene. My scene. The thought sends a shiver up my spine. I’m excited. Not just for the murder. For my date as well. I know he’s going to be tall; I’ve seen his bio. And we’ve talked a little bit about where we spend our time. Mainly work. Mainly late-night walks. His favourite tv series is Wire in the Blood. It gave me the idea for the cheese wire in the first place.

In my coat pocket are my thick leather gloves. They’re men’s, and a little too big for me. Hopefully I won’t have to lend them to him. I’m also wearing flats. I hope he doesn’t mind. I went on a date with a guy once and he made a nasty comment about me looking wider in flat shoes. My profile photo is me in heels. I left it three weeks, which is a personal best, before I broke into his house and skewered his testicles and his eyes. He was found three days later, because no one gave a shit enough to visit him sooner.

Prick.

My date arrives and he is tall, which is a relief. He’s got big hands too. I imagine them holding the wooden ends of my cheese wire and feel a bit giddy. A bit shaky. He seems timid though. He goes to kiss me in a greeting and panics. Pulls away so it looks like he’s bowing to me awkwardly. Never mind. Hopefully it’s just first date nerves.

We’re led in, given menus and chicken. I’ve no idea what to order. He talks me through the menu like a child, and I can’t decide if it’s sweet or not. I go for sweet. It’s safer for him. I think about the lipstick in my handbag and decide it was a good idea not to go for it. It might put him off. Everything about him is softly spoken, reflective, and he uses words he must have read in books because he’s saying them wrong.

I get up and order my dinner. Chicken wrap – I’ll pull it apart with my knife and fork – rice, halloumi and a bottomless drink. I’ll need my energy. He gets a chicken burger. Chips. Mild sauce. I don’t know how to feel about this.

Back at our table, I ask him what he does. He’s a writer. I ask what kind. He shrugs. Ghost writer. Works on murder mystery books for a company that supplies bigger named writers with new stories. FBI agents. Big explosions. Poisoned coffee and deep psychopathy.

My disappointment is tangible. He feels it as deeply as I do. A lightbulb has burst for me, whilst his barely flickers. He doesn’t know. Not yet. I start to pray the chicken is brought to us quickly before he can realise.

He asks what I do. I lie. Dentist. It’s what a friend said to say if you want a date to end quickly. But he’s interested. Am I private or NHS? Cosmetic or general? He knows more about dentistry than I do, and I’m starting to think he doesn’t believe me when – finally – our chicken arrives, and I can stop talking and start shovelling.

He brings up Wire in the Blood. Says he wants to write a series as good as that. That he’s been researching serial killers. Murders. Real, local crimes. I nod. Make a joke about having a passing fascination with the same things. He’s not convinced. The lightbulb is flickering more so now.

He asks how I spend my free time. We’ve mentioned it briefly over the website we met on. But I can’t remember whether I gave an honest answer. I make a joke about killing people. He doesn’t laugh. He finishes his chicken and looks at me. Asks me if I want to hang out after. I wipe my mouth; still glad I didn’t choose the dark lipstick. I’ve got hand sanitiser in my other coat pocket.  I squeeze more than I need to cover both my hands and rub it in over my wrists as well.

I’ve still not given him an answer. He seems genuinely keen though. And maybe this’ll be good for his next book.

Okay. I agree. But only if he promises not to scream.