I’d give half my years to know what he is thinking about. He seems so peaceful under the city lights; they are painting neon stripes on his face. The beauty of the moment breaks my heart a little. Why couldn’t this happen back then in that café, many years ago when we could have been unconditionally happy? Now we had to take the sadness and the guilt, too.
“One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel,” he murmurs mostly to himself, like he was talking to a memory. I look at him for explanation, but he avoids my eye. He takes my hand instead and draws tickly circles in my palm with his thumb.
I decide that I don’t care about what others might think and I nestle into his shoulder. I toy with his hair; it feels like silk, just like I’ve always imagined it. The cabbie stares stiffly at the road. He must be sick of lovebirds making out in his back seat or he might just be tired. We arrive to a hotel somewhere in the western part of the city, judging from the houses, it might be Notting Hill. I vaguely remember being here once, but it might have been a movie. Everything is a blur. David is paying the silent driver for the ride. In a moment of radio silence my stomach grumbles loudly.
“Are you hungry?” he asks laughing.
“I didn’t have time to have dinner with the reading and everything.”
The driver’s face remained emotionless, but his lips twitched. He hated the lot of us, it was official now.
We get out of the car finally; the driver looks relieved and disappears into the night, a shiny black spot in the darkness.
“Should we find something to eat?”
Laughter always hides in his voice, but there is sadness in his eyes.
“I doubt that anything is open.”
“I’m Scottish, I can always find food,” he says. He looks around, smells the air with an exaggerated motion. “That way!” He points in a random direction and sets out, his coat floating after him like tired wings. He hurries off, but then remembers you and waits under a street light.
Music drifts to the street from a house party somewhere, old songs from the nineties. They taste like youth. I start dancing on the rain-splashed street, forgetting about the world, forgetting about him. I want to forget about him, but it’s impossible. I feel his presence under my skin, trembling at the end of my every nerve. I only stop and open my eyes when the song ends. I feel his eyes on me, his looks make me feel self-conscious, reminding me of the times when I wore too high heels or too low cut tops. I feel really stupid.
“I’m sorry,” I say, staring at the nose of my pink Converse. I was willing to grow up in everything, but my shoes.
“Why?” he says and grabs my hand. He spins me around even without the music. “I missed this, the drunkenness of freedom. I haven’t done anything crazy for years, would you believe that? Me who wanted to be an artist. The most irresponsible thing I’ve done recently was to buy shirts before the sales started.”
I raise an eyebrow.
“No, really. That was the adventure factor in my life.”
A young couple passes us by, the girl has a shock of purple hair and wears a T-shirt which says “The boobs are real, the smile is fake.” When she is not paying attention, the boy looks at her in a way that squeezes your heart. They are so young. Also, very much in love, but neither of them wants to admit it.
I notice an oily paper cone in the boy’s hand; they are sharing a hearty portion of chips. I wonder where that might have come from and I swallow back the rising hunger. It echoes a very different kind of hunger I felt in the cab a mere twenty minutes ago. Guilt sinks in again: How can I feel so carefree and unconcerned in the middle of a crazy and possibly adulterous escapade?
“Excuse me,” David walks up to the couple.
“What’s up, mate,” the boy says. His voice is strangely calming and playful, like the waves of the Thames.
“Could you tell me where did you get your chips which smells so heavenly and unhealthily?”
The guy grins at him.
“Sure thing, there is a Favourite chicken just around the corner. Say that you are a friend of Lark, they’ll give you a discount.”
“Thanks,” David grins back and the couple walks off into the night. I follow them with my eyes and I hope they don’t waste their chance like I did.
We find the chicken place. The warm greasy smell hurries to welcome us like an old friend and I feel much better. I order an incredible amount of comfort food and I’ll let the Anna of tomorrow worry about it.
The tall guy behind the cash machine just sighs and touches a plastic card to the reader. It has the image of a beautifully stylized brown bird and, as by magic, all the prices he entered disappear.
“There you go, it’s on the house. I just hope Lark doesn’t send a any more people here,” he grumbled “We’ll go bankrupt.”
I offer to pay, but he refuses, so I thank him and grab my loot.
David must be also wondering about our mystery benefactor, but he doesn’t say anything just dives in the cone of chips. It’s a piece of greasy heaven.
After thirty, people try to live as healthily as possible, I’m no different. I avoid red meat; I usually don’t eat carbohydrates after five and I torment myself with Pilates twice a week. I even made friends with my childhood archenemy: broccoli. What is this if not the complete treachery and failure of adulthood?
Sometimes, however after a very long and exhausting day, I raid the closest fast food place and buy some oversalted fries and crumbling chicken breast. I live a spotless life, my only sin is occasional junk food. Pathetic. I smile at David above my can of fizzy drink. His mouth is too busy with the food, but his eyes sparkle back.
I dive in right away. My stomach protests at first, but I don’t give into its weakness. After a bit of grumbling, it happily welcomes the midnight junk food galore. I immediately feel the love handles building up on my side, but for once, I don’t give a damn.
I’m from Hungary, but I live in France.I don’t really remember the exact moment when I started writing, it’s always been part of my life. It became something serious during high school.My realistic dream is to finally finish a novel (in Hungarian or in English.) My unrealistic dream is to have my stories made into a BBC series and to meet Neil Gaiman and have a writer to writer talk.