We lay on our backs, on her bed downstairs in her upside down house. Flush. Silent. Smiling. She was resting her head in the crook of her arm, thrown back behind her. Gently she pushed herself up onto her elbow, resting her cheek in her hand to face towards me.
“First lines” she said.
I looked at her and leant over to push a strand of hair back from her face. “I was hoping for a better reaction than that to be honest”.
“Stop fishing” she grinned. “I wouldn’t be asking about first lines if I wasn’t happy about that.” It hung there a moment. “A little longer might have been nice…” She started to laugh and I pulled the pillow from behind her and half heartedly caught her round the head with it. I relented as she protested, through stifled laughter, that she was just teasing.
“First lines” she tried again. “Lyrics. First line of a song and the other person has to guess.”
“It’s a good way to get to know someone” she said. “If you want this to all happen again then indulge me.”
“Okay, let me think.”
“Come on, come on, don’t think too hard about it.”
“Alright, how about ‘I never thought that it would happen with me and the girl from Clapham’ ?”
“Too easy. You can’t have that. Besides I’m from Brighton and easily jealous.”
I let my head fall back into the pillow and stared at the ceiling. She started to impatiently drum her fingers on the duvet.
“And this I know… his teeth as white as snow.” I said it to the ceiling and then rolled over to face her, smiling. “You must know that.”
She started repeating it, furrowing her brow. “Ah man, I do know that” she said. I watched her struggle to recall it, letting my eyes follow the line of her neck down to an exposed shoulder. There hadn’t been much time to look the night before. She felt my eyes on her and caught my gaze, eyebrow raised in enquiry.
“Are we playing my game or checking each other out ?” she asked, the hint of a smile.
“I thought we were doing both” I replied.
“Ha ! A clever one. Always beware the clever ones” she laughed. I watched her mouth twist and dance as she moved through expressions of curiosity, amusement, and mock outrage before leaning in to kiss her. She responded and then pulled away. “Okay, so not just a clever one. That I also remember from last night.”
We looked at each other for a minute, both lost in our own thoughts, before I broke the silence. I started to sound out the repeating, circular bass line from the song that I’d asked her to guess. Round and round, over and over. “And this I know… his teeth as white as snow…”. She clutched at her head.
“This is infuriating. I know it. I bloody know it.”
“Hey Paul, hey Paul, hey Paul, let’s have a ball…” I sang quietly.
“The Pixies. It’s The Pixies” she shouted. “Gigantic. Really ?” She raised both eyebrows this time, a kind of bemused admonishment.
“You know what that song’s about, right ?” I asked, grinning.
“Stop leering” she said. “I believe that song’s about a ‘big, big love’. Don’t kid yourself mister.” I started singing the chorus softly – “gigantic, gigantic, a big big love” – only to hear her join in besides me, mockingly singing “average, average, a mid sized love”.
“Alright, alright, stop” I protested. “I have very fragile self esteem.”
“Yeah, of course you do” she said.
“Besides, it’s Pixies. Not The Pixies. Just Pixies.”
“Like I said” she groaned. “A clever one.”
I stared at her again as we lay on our sides, the duvet tracing the rise of her hip and curve of her waist. “You checking me out again ?” she asked softly.
“Maybe” I conceded. “I was wondering what yours would be ?
“First line. It’s only fair. I’ve given you two. What’s yours ?”. She looked away and, for the first time, she seemed uncertain. Eventually she looked back at me and replied.
“Here goes then. Mine’s always the same when I play this game. You ready ?” I nodded. “Just before our love got lost you said ‘I am as constant as a northern star’…” She paused.
“Constant in the darkness ? Where’s that at ?” I finished. There was a sharp, surprised intake of breath. People’s jaws don’t really fall open but surprise registered on her face. Surprise and something else; a cautious, tentative delight.
“You know that ?” she said.
“Joni ? Are you kidding ? Of course I know Joni. We’ve all had our heart broken, right ?” Again she looked away, let her eyes roam the room as if searching for the right reply, as if she’d pinned it up somewhere in preparation for this. Without making eye contact she finally said:
“Too many times.” Again, more quietly. “Too many times.”
I reached over and took her hand, tugged it gently so that she’d turn and face me again, waited until she did. “Maybe not this time, eh ?” I said.
“I barely know you” she said with a sigh. “There have been a few I’ve barely known. But, after, there’s always Joni.”
“Well Joni’s my go to heartbreak record too” I said. “So we’ve got a problem.”
“How’d you figure ?”
“If this doesn’t work we can’t both sit around, separate, listening to the same song. Knowing the other person’s listening to it. That song’s for me when I break up with someone.”
“No, no, no. It’s for me”
“Exactly. You see the dilemma.”
“So why don’t we share her ?” She asked it lightly, passing it off as a throwaway question.
“I’d like that.” I said. “I think I’d like that a lot.”
She leaned over and kissed me before whispering. “A case of you. I really, really love that song. I better still be on my feet mister.”
“You will be” I whispered back.
This is the ninth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Please share it if you liked it (or even if you didn’t…). If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page. https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/