Glories of Anticipation

By
The air smells like cigarette smoke mixed with cheap, sweet perfume. Salty rain. The wind plays with your hair, stings your cheeks. You already know, with a mounting sense of rapture, that this is a night you can’t forget, won’t let yourself forget; Tess’ scarlet hair, wind-swept, darkly temperamental in the evening light; Michael’s soft touch on your arm; the sense of fresh excitement building up around you, among the strangers on these streets who smile at you in the dark. This is the release from prison, the opening of the doors. Saturday night! Kids stand around on steps, sharing cigarettes the oldest has managed to buy -- red lips part to laugh. You tear your eyes away at one point, and look up at the sky. It seems like a dusk-coloured blanket, sewn with city stars.

You know this place like the back of your hand. You come here all the time with Tess, to buy one pound lemonade and wander through the market. You sometimes sit by the sparkling river where your mother told you not to go, talking and watching the hippies’ burn incense and send light pink clouds floating over the water. You feel like you are a Queen, and this place is your kingdom; trailing your fingers casually over the clothes in the stalls, watching the sunlight dapple across the paving stones. But now -- now it has changed. Your kingdom has been given to these creatures, with glittering clothes and smiles, of the night.

Tess runs up to you, grabs your arm.

“Don’t you love London at night?!”

You both skip. It is bitterly cold. You pass dance-halls, beaming pools of light across your faces.

“Breathe in...”
You breathe in great lungfuls of air. Spring! You laugh, clutching onto each-other, your dresses blowing in the wind. One of the boys behind you shouts “What the hell are you two doing?” Tess dances up to him and yells --
“Having a good time!”

You’ve come to the dance-hall where the band you like is playing. Michael, hands deep in his pockets, hums a libertine’s song as you join the line. Tess and Jem talk in raised voices about politics; Izzy laughs at them, her arms slung around Matt....

“....I’m not saying that he’s great, I’m just saying he’s better then Ken...”

“You Bloody Boris Beg-friend! Ken was a LEGEND. You do kinda look like old Boris...”

“Shut UP, Tess!”

“You DO! Ha-ha! The hair...BORIS!”

Izzy lets forth an explosion of laughter. You smile, glance at Michael. He’s still humming, looking up at the sky. He sees you looking. He smiles. He leans in nearer to you, says quietly --

“It pisses me off that there’s no stars in London.”

His voice is so close to your ear you can feel his breath, ciggeretty and warm.

“But there are,”
you say. He frowns. Are you mad? Are you the only one who can see them? You point them out. His face relaxes.

“No, idiot! They’re aeroplanes...” he says. You can’t be bothered to explain they're not aeroplanes. He’s flushed pink in the cold.

“You look like a strawberry,” you say. He laughs, says you’re a funny girl. The line moves forward. The laughs around you sound rich and cascading, and everywhere you look there are dark-rimmed eyes and flashes of divine clothes. Everyone is young here. You fish for your ticket in your pocket. Michael takes your arm again. The music is so loud now you can barely hear Tess and Jem arguing any more. The man nods. The entrance is dark and un-indicating. You glance at the others, and Matt whoops.
You go in.
****





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