Department of English and Modern Languages

  • English
  • Thorn Among Roses

    by Jacob Rafferty

    I guess it started the night that Rose left. She thought we had had ‘problems for more than a year now.’ I thought that was what people said in films and American sitcoms, an excuse as weak as ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ She said that as well, bitch. I fell into a hole after she left, it was hard to get out of it. Nothing too serious, just a little too much of this and that, a little too often. This is the last thing she said to me, just to give you some idea of what happened:

    ‘All of that is true.’ Rose looked at me, ‘All of it, from beginning to end. I don’t know what else to tell you babe.’

    Rose left that night, she packed up her things into the Chess Removals cardboard boxes that two months ago we had excitedly unpacked, dividing the boxes into ‘his’ and ‘hers’, and left me alone for the first time in my life. I didn’t know what to do with myself. How do you just carry on your life after someone leaves you? How does anybody do that? I tried to eat something, I cooked baked beans on toast, but my body wasn’t up to the task and the beans fell out of my mouth, staining my bright white t-shirt. I had a drink. That’s how people carry on. After that drink, I had another drink. At first my throat burned as I poured the gin down my throat, but once I’d had a few I got used to it. After finishing the bottle I decided it was an excellent drink for all occasions. I left the flat to find some more gin.

    * * *

    My clothes stuck to me as I lay in bed. My head was turned to face the wall, eyes glued together, my feet fidgeting under the duvet. Sweating, I unpeeled my eyes to see the wall spinning and in and out of focus. The grey light that flooded my room unnerved me. I stretched my legs out behind me and my heart stopped. I managed to lean up onto my shoulders and look around to see a girl, naked from the waist up, wrapped around my bed sheets, sharing my pillow, breathing in slow, deep breaths. What was she doing there, and why wasn’t she Rose? Her smooth hips, flat stomach and ample breasts disgusted me. Why isn’t she Rose? I shuffled off the end of the bed and walked into the kitchen, takeaway boxes and lipstick stained wine glasses were scattered around the surfaces. They looked up at me and they knew what I had done. The glasses were smug so I smashed them. I threw them into the bin, with each crash my head pounded and flashes of light and dancing and shots and dancing and shots and a girl and me, spun around my mind. I ignored my headache for a little while, looking out the window at two homeless men – probably in their thirties but pushing fifty – squabbling over a lighter. Succumbing to the throbbing in my head, I found some paracetamol and a glass of cloudy water. They had no effect.

    ‘Morning Teddy.’ Oh God, she’s awake.‘Alright. Sleep well?’ Get out of my flat.

    ‘Did we sleep?’ She winked and I grimaced.

    ‘You’re going to have to go, sorry I – I have things to do. You’re going to have to go, I’ll give you a call sometime.’

    I ushered her out of the flat, telling whassername that my mother was coming over and that I needed to clean the place up. She gave me a look. She didn’t believe me. I didn’t care. As the dust settled I sat in the lounge pestering my brain for answers. I felt sick and I was sure that it wasn’t the alcohol. Why had Rose left? Why was she calling me Teddy? I lit an ill-advised cigarette and immediately ran to the bathroom. Back in the lounge, my throat burning and my mouth dry, I readdressed my own question. Why had Rose left?

    * * *

    I found some more gin. A lot more gin and a lot more besides. I stumbled into town, waving at strangers, pissing on the pavement and singing, ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ – I’ve seen Green Street.

    ‘Rose! Rose, lemme speak to you! I dunno what it is you want but I’ll do it. I’ll change, I’ll do anythin for ya! Rose, don’t hang up! Don’t leave me on my ow – FUCK! FUCK FUCK FUCK!’ My phone bore the brunt of my anger. ‘What are you lookin at mate? Come on – whass ya problem?’

    I wandered around for a while, stumbling into bars, being rumbled, and thrown out again soon after. I didn’t know what the time was; I must have left my phone at home. I never forget my phone – keys, wallet, phone, tap tap tap on my pockets. At what I guess was around eleven thirty, I bumped into a group of girls I had met a couple of months ago. I didn’t know their names, but they were lovely looking and liked the look of me. They told me to come along ‘for a laugh’ and one of them reached out for my hand and clasped it the way Rose did; fingers interlocked, her hand facing outwards, mine following her lead. Holding hands with her made me feel better. I allowed my eyes to shut as the clip clop of her heels led their way down the road.

    Once we got to wherever it was that we were going, the hand holding girl, Alice, took me inside and started to dance with me. I say she danced with me, it was more dancing near me. I cannot dance, and do not dance, at the best of times.

    ‘Hey Teddy, come and do shots with us!’ Alice’s face flashed in and out of focus in time with the strobe lighting. ‘Come on, it’s five for a tenna.’

    I made my way over to the bar and collected my sambucca. ‘Bottoms up.’ The syrupy shot burned my throat and I hung my head waiting for the dizziness to pass.

    ‘You’re coming with me…’ Alice’s words hung before me as she strutted off, an air of expectancy in her slaloming hips.

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