A shiver the size of Finland and a sigh as deep as the North Sea. The wind scything in from the Firth bore snow flakes and mistrust; icicles and dancing skaters in the mist of frozen ponds. Marc watched the storms blow in from on top of Greystones hill. Below him the bay arced to the south. Behind him lurked starry eyes and insolent, pouting lips.
Freewheeling in the cold, hunched over bars with woollen gloves loose on the drops. Slice through the winter, a dream of warmth ahead. Always the dreams.
Marc reached one hand round to his back, reseating the musette on the curve of his spine. The letters on the fabric said ‘Campagnolo’ and in his mind Marc talked Italian just like Robert De Niro or Francesco Moser. Inside the musette sat a record. A gift. A quick step and a sidestep. Into a gap. Sprint. Relax. Then sprint and sprint some more. Something like that anyway.
The intended recipient of the gift was on the telephone, cord twirled idly through painted fingers. A bundle of cheap bracelets twinkled on her wrist, chinking a metallic and plastic discord when she moved. John Taylor gazed benevolently on her from the wall behind. Nik Kershaw smirked from the sidelines. Across the hallway her brother raised dumbbells and thought of flying.
Marc wanted to say that his mind was empty as he pedalled into the village, but the truth was that his mind was never emptied; was instead always filled with incessant voices that argued over every action. The impetuous optimism of a vivacious youth crossing swords with the doomed nihilism of a reality glimpsed daily in mirrors. The ‘yes she will’ attempting to raise a voice above the overpowering crescendo of ‘no she never will’. At the moment, as he guided the wheels around the bend and sprinted past the war memorial the chirping optimist was winning. The tubulars thrummed with that ‘yes she will’ on the cold tarmac and Marc’s lips cracked the smile of the limitless winner.
Sharon replaced the handset and looked out at the skeleton limbs of the trees that lined the foot of the garden. In a year the hedgerow beyond would be a graveyard of empty vodka bottles and crushed cans of cheap Dutch lager. Her brother would keep an inventory: lists of different drinks accounted for. At first it would seem like a joke, but in years to come it would haunt them as a nagging reminder of something lost, never to be reclaimed. But in that February cold all she could see were slender arms waving in the darkening sky. The door bell rang above Fiction Factory.
Pale yellow light glowed beyond the crinkled glass of the front door. Marc looked at the underside of the overhang and glimpsed cracking paint in the fading twilight. He rested his bicycle against the garage and twisted the musette to rest on his side. Gloved fingers grasped the record, sleeved in a cardboard envelope decorated with hand coloured stars. In his head he could see the music winding out of the cardboard, away from the vinyl, creating spirals in the night, dropping glimmering kisses of tremulous imperfection. He could hear all the sounds even as he watched the door crack open.
Her eyes blinked. One single heart shaped glow of lingering love seemed to pulse in the space between them before dissolving into the chill. A stammered greeting. An uncertain exchange and a smile that crept along her shadowed lips. Fragments of possibility and then, from far too close, the refrain of ‘no she never will’ hammering in his heart again.
Doors closing, tyres crunching on driveway gravel. A shiver the size of Finland and a sigh as deep as the North Sea. Marc ran his tongue over cracked lips as he hunkered down and rode hard into the headwind. Always the headwind home: biting, unflinching and uncaring.