Danny and Sarah
Danny thought: Brendan wonít notice me.
He made himself small, opened the door of the block of flats and walked quickly across the forecourt.
The winter sun skulking in the washed out sky over Hackney cast his shadow and betrayed him.
"Danny. Ten pounds." Brendanís voice boomed from under a car.
Brendan worked cars for the extra money at weekends and because he was good at it. You got to know that, you had a problem with your car you knew where to come.
Cash only, Saturday and Sunday.
Today was Saturday.
"Ten fucking pounds," said Brendan.
Brendan slid out from under the Volvo and sat up next to the remains of a bacon sandwich and a half drunk bottle of Sol.
"Ten pounds," said Brendan and tipped his bald head and took a swallow of beer.
"I donít have it," said Danny.
Brendan was bigger than Danny, had a crucifixion tattooed on the right of his neck.
"Show us your wallet," he said.
Danny opened his wallet. It contained two ten pound notes.
Brendan took one. "You said youíd get it back by Friday."
"Get on," said Brendan sliding back under the car. "Last time I ever lend you money."
But they both knew that he would. It was a tiny ritual his making this promise that he never kept.
Danny walked onto Lordship Road.
You had to have twenty pounds minimum to get into Nickís game. Minimum. And no-one came with the minimum apart from him and now he did not even have that.
He walked up the hill of Lordship Road but did not carry on to The Blarney where Nick had his poker game in a top room.
He turned right onto Fairholt Road.
An elderly couple came toward him laughing, arms linked. They wore clothes they had grown out of but into which they squeezed for a Saturday lunchtime drink. As they reached him they separated, passed either side of him, rejoined with a squeal of delight.
"Cheer up," the woman called.
Dannyís face imitated a smile.
"Christ," said the man. "It ainít that bad."
Danny came to a halt outside a William Hill.
Across the road was Patelís Super Off-Licence.
Beer or betting?
He could taste the beer but if he picked the right horse and did it quickly he could still make Nickís.
He took the bet.
The betting shop was fugged with men. Big hands and stubby pens. Dogs on the screen. A black man shouting: "Come on Droppyís Bismark, come on Droppyís Bismark, Iíll marry you."
The next race was the 1:40 at Wincanton, a scrappy selling hurdle.
Danny read the form in the Racing Post pinned to the wall. 5-1 was The Bald Mechanic.
Danny thought of Brendan, the bald mechanic. It was fate. Sixty quid out of ten. A certainty.
Danny gave his money to an older woman behind the betting counter whose memory of prettiness hung on her like a dress.
"Thatís a winner that is," said Danny as the woman supplied the ticket.
"Weíre all winners," she smiled.
It was a two mile race and three furlongs and two hurdles out The Bald Mechanic was close up fourth and pulling double.
"Going like a train," said Danny and thought of Sarah who had broken up with him nine months ago.
Because he was a loser. Because he made nothing of himself. Let her see him now.
Perhaps he would give her a call.
The Bald Mechanic got to the front with one hurdle remaining.
This felt so right. With luck like this he would clean up at Nickís.
And didnít Sarah have a sister, Janet?
The Bald Mechanic hit the last hurdle.
He didnít plough through it, just tapped it. A small thing.
Stay up, thought Danny. Sixty quid and Nick and Sarah and maybe Janet.
And it all came apart as the horse confused his legs, tangled on landing and tumbled.
Danny tore his ticket, dropped it to the chemically cleaned floor.
He had given himself a chance but he had lost.
As he walked out the woman at the counter winked at him. She wasnít as old as he had first thought.
Stepping onto Fairholt Road, Danny lit a cigarette.
The smoke curved cancerous and reliable into his lungs.
Opposite, Sarah was standing, looking into a Jewish bakery.
She was dressed in a long blue coat and blue jeans. Her dark hair was pinned up.
She was watching him in the reflection of the bakerís window.
He crossed to her.
Though they had broken up they kept bumping into each other and neither went out of their way to avoid that.
He stood next to her.
"What are you doing?" she asked as she looked at the curved and sugared pastries, those sweet things, not at him.
"Talking to you. How you been?"
"Iím with Tommy now."
Well-off Tommy Harris.
"I know," said Danny.
She glanced at him. "Youíre such a loser."
After the betting shop: "Yeah," he agreed.
They started to walk.
"Weíre done. Bloody history," she insisted.
"How can you be with that guy?"
"What? A good guy? A reliable guy? A guy with some cash?"
It wasnít fucking remarkable. Danny could see that.
Sarah kept going: "A guy who is never down to his last few quid and if he was he wouldnít blow it on a horse."
She had seen him come out of the William Hill.
"Sometimes you got to take a chance," said Danny and leant in to kiss her.
She pushed him away. "Donít kiss me on the street."
He looked at her.
"Work. Some people work. Do stuff."
"I do stuff."
"Drinking, smoking, betting. What else do you do?"
You, he thought but did not say it.
They were on Lordship Road and he turned into the forecourt of his block of flats.
She was alongside him. "Sometimes I think I must be out of my fucking mind."
Sarah, thought Danny, took her own sort of chance and he loved her for it.
Brendan slid out from under the Volvo. "Sarah," he said.
Sarah nodded: "Brendan,".
The entrance door of the block of flats clicked closed behind them.
The stairs and walls were painted institution green.
This was the past, thought Danny, as they climbed the stairs to his flat.
They both knew that.
Danny opened the door of his flat.
"Come in," he said.
* * *
Danny opened his eyes. The bed was a wreck. Sarah was sleeping on her back, her hair splashed on the pillow. As she breathed her breasts gently rose, gently fell. The morning light lay on her like honey, puddling in the gorgeous curves and hollows of her body. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
That vignette of her impressed upon his heart he swung out of bed.
The room in which he lived was small and untidy. A bed, a sink, a gas ring.
He filled the kettle, switched it on. When he turned Sarah was watching him.
"Coffee?" he asked.
"Tea," said Sarah.
He should have remembered. He had some tea-bags, buried in the cupboard.
As he looked for them she asked: "What are we doing here?"
They were in here somewhere. "Weíre having breakfast."
"I feel like weíre sixteen again"
He found a box of Typhoo. "Weíre not sixteen, Sarah."
"Like our lives are loops that keep ending up here."
He popped a tea-bag in a mug for her. "And thatís a bad thing?"
"Iím with Tommy."
The kettle boiled. They were ready to go.
She said: "Tommyís a good man. Steady, reliable."
"And Iím not?"
"Reliable?" and she smiled.
He reached for her and he watched himself doing it like he was watching another man. Like his life was a porn movie.
* * *
It was and it wasnít.
The pub was mouldy with weekday, day-time drinkers. There was no music or t.v. Conversation stumbled between drink orders. The customer closest to them, belly swollen with beer, hacked a cough, took a slop of his pint.
"So good," he reminded himself and did it again.
Danny watched the man focus on his beer. Sometimes we looked into the world and only saw the things that we loved. Danny saw Sarah. Theyíd been seeing each other on the side for a couple of weeks.
"This is how itís going to be?" asked Danny.
"What?" Sarah took a sip of gin and tonic.
"You. Us." Danny pushed at an untouched pint. He had not been drinking. He wanted to be sober when he had things out with Sarah.
"I thought you loved me," she said.
"I do. But what are we? Together?"
"We can get together again at the weekend."
"Tommy away again?"
"Yeah." She looked at him, dared him to call her on it.
The sobriety had been a mistake.
"My place," she said.
* * *
Tommyís place, he thought, walking up to the town house front door.
Sarah opened the door in dark blue shorts and a light blue Ramones tee-shirt. She looked like the best fuck in the world. Perhaps she was, thought Danny, she definitely was in his.
She smiled: "Hey," and took him through to the living room.
"Got something," she said as she pressed play on the Blu-ray remote.
Later, upstairs, the room was as blue as the film she had shown him.
"Anything," said Sarah. "Anything you want."
She spun, walked to a big, blue quilted bed.
Danny turned her around.
She looked into his blue eyes and said: "Do you know why the sky is blue?"
"Never mind," and kissed him.
Dannyís fingers fumbled with the Sarahís shorts. She unbuttoned his trousers, reached inside, took hold of the hardness there, grinned at him.
"What?" he said.
She slid out of her blue underwear, guided his hand to the wetness between her legs. "Feel that?"
"You do that to me. You make me like that."
His lusty motions banged into one another as he struggled out of his trousers, joined her on the bed.
She knelt behind him, wrapped him up in her arms, bit down on his neck.
Marked, he thought, hers. It was only right.
He rolled onto his back and she reached into a drawer of the bedside table, fished out a small bottle of blue food colouring.
She unscrewed the bottle.
"What do you want?"
"I donít believe you, Danny. I canít."
She took his erection, worked it with her left hand, filled her mouth with food colouring, brought her lips down to his cock. Her tongue, blue, flicked out.
"God," came from him.
She took his cock in her mouth, into the blue there.
His hands tangled in her inky hair.
He thrust into her mouth the blueness spilling out over him. "Jesus fucking Christ, Sarah."
She came up from him, let the blue drip on his chest. She looked at his erection, stained blue and eager for her.
Her hands on his shoulders she backed onto his cock.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," the words murmured like a prayer.
He said her name.
"All blue," as she came.
She slipped off him and he held the lovely burden of her in his arms.
He was spattered with blue and cum but he enjoyed his body being the canvas on which she worked out this art.
It was crazy, it was fucked up and it was the best thing in his life.
* * *
Tommy was upset. Danny could understand why. He had walked in on him and Sarah.
Danny, standing, naked, feeling that with Tommy as he never felt it with Sarah, said: "Calm down, man." As though that was the reasonable thing.
"Calm down? You fuck," said Tommy and swung for Danny.
Tommy was a big guy but slow. Danny stepped inside the blow.
"I donít want to fight you."
"Fucker," said Tommy and let go with his left foot.
Danny could not fully avoid the kick that caught his knee.
"Prick," gasped Danny hopping back.
Tommy looked at Sarah who had pulled up the sheets to cover her.
"And you," he yelled.
Tommy swung his left hand, missed but Danny was being backed into a corner.
Another right which Danny ducked.
Tommy stepped in to get a hold.
"You fucker," said Tommy and lifted Danny off his feet.
Sarah was watching.
For a moment Danny thought: who does she want to win?
Then he pulled his head back and butted Tommy flush in the face.
Tommy lost his hold and Danny butted him again, stepped back.
Tommy was bent over, clutching his nose.
Sarah came off the bed, hissed at Danny: "Get out."
"Get the fuck out."
She thought this could be fixed? But her arms were around Tommy.
* * *
Danny looked out of the single window of his room into an evening world dripping with rain. It would clear, he knew that.
There was a knock on the door.
Sarah was in her long, blue coat. "You didnít have to hurt him," she said.
Lying next to her in bed he thought that he hated her seeing the contrast between Tommyís place and his room riddled with damp and doubt. But in his cracked heart he loved her being here.
He looked through the grimy window at a night clear of rain and spermy with stars.
"Where are we going to end up?" he asked.
Sarah lifted her pretty head, smiled at him.
"This isnít a story," she said. "It doesnít have an ending."
And pulled him to her.