Lucy stood in front of Didier, talking earnestly. I was standing no more than five metres away, but I couldn't hear what she was saying, though I could hear the tones of her voice. His voice was much deeper, sadly below the threshold of my hearing, which is as good a reason as any of the many I had to stay out of the music business. I was about to step closer when Jane stepped in front of me.
"We meet at last," she said.
She'd been having this effect on me, and thinking back, she had the same effect on me at school too. My thing with Jane had followed a familiar pattern. I mentioned before that when we all started at the big school, there was a certain amount of clinging to people, a great deal of insecurity about the strange kids from all the other middle schools in the area. But Jane had been a little bit different. I guess she had better potty training than the rest of us or something, but she was confident and friendly, right from the off.
I suppose it helped that she had a couple of older sisters at the same school, as had I. So maybe she was familiar enough with my surname to approach me. Anyway, she was lovely, in her way, just opening right up and getting on with being friends. I can't remember what all we talked about, but I did actually spend several break times in her company.
But then there came a bit of peer pressure. Or, I should say, there was no actual peer pressure, except that which I invented. It was a question of having to reject anyone who was remotely interested in me. Show me affection, in those days, and you get to show it to my back. So, too soon, I turned on her a bit, or turned away from her, pulled the shutters down, and left her to go off and make friends with some other people. Which she did, of course.
One of her friends was a very disruptive girl. Jane claimed she was high-IQ, or some such nonsense, and found lessons intensely boring. But to me she was just intolerably selfish and rude, acting out in every class and wasting at least 10 minutes at the start of each lesson, while whichever teacher it was attempted to bring her into line. She always had this shit-eating grin on her face whenever she was being disciplined. She had long brown hair, I remember, but I can't recall her name.
Jane's own hair was odd, sort of pepper and salt, or mixed spice. My own hair is mousy, while hers was so very mousy that it was almost grey; but it had sort of low-lights and high-lights, and appeared to have the texture of wire. I don't remember touching it, which you would have done, but it looked like the kind of hair, she couldn't do much with it.
As soon as I "rejected" her friendship, and she went off with all the other people, I immediately became obsessed with getting her back, winning her back, however you want to put it. I suddenly wanted her, not just as a friend, but as a girlfriend. So she joined the list of girls I was interested in, girls I'd have any time, dropped everything, you know. So as part of this process of rejecting her because of her interest in me, and then deciding I loved her because she was no longer interested in me, I imbued her with a sense of mystery. In my imagination, she became both more intelligent than I think she actually was, and slightly tragic.
The tragedy I invented for her was based on a half-heard conversation she had with the disruptive girl. It was something about a doctors appointment, or hospital appointment, and to do with her back or spine, or something. I heard her saying that it would be fixed soon and then she'd be able to... do something she hadn't previously been able to contemplate. Which I understood as being about sex, naturally. I'm not even sure by now if I haven't just invented which part of the body it was. I may have decided it was her back simply because she had a kind of lopsided gait, as if one leg was slightly longer than the other, or as if she was in considerable pain when she walked. I decided that her bottom looked like it was odd, unbalanced, slightly flat. Not forgetting that I'm making all this up in a fevered burst of imagination. It was probably just a growing teenager's way of walking, of getting used to having breasts and all that kind of stuff.
There came a time when I happened to catch a brief glimpse of Jane in town one weekend, and she was wearing jeans, rather than her blue school uniform skirt. And she looked completely normal, of course, not to say sexy. There was no flatness or lopsidedness or anything other than just-rightness to her arse at all.
But this didn't stop her from being filled with mystery for me, especially as she continued to treat me with an ever so slight disdain, a just punishment for pushing her away in the way that I had.
By the time we were in our 'O' level year, this had been going on for the best part of 3 years. I remember that in one English lesson (or a series of lessons) the class as a whole read the Wesker Trilogy
. So she had this one part, as did I. Not knowing the play of course, we weren't to know that it would end up with us two being the main characters, spending an entire lesson on one long scene in which the husband and wife talked for a long time about things, about everything. In my mind, this became pivotal, because it seemed to replicate the dynamic of our imaginary relationship. By the end of the lesson her voice had become very croaky and sexy, but the two of us read so well, I imagine it was mesmerising, though most of the kids were probably whispering about what they were going to eat for lunch, or picking their noses.
We never did get closer than that. In the sixth form, I pursued her, on and off, but she became very involved with another bunch of people and had no interest in me. She was one of the first girls in our year to get her own car, and she became very popular after that, and a bunch of them would go out at lunchtimes and not come back for the afternoon. Meanwhile, I was adopting a rock and roll arrogance, getting good at the guitar and beginning to put the band together. I needed a lot of unrequited love in order to write songs, and I had plenty of that going on.
And you're still wondering, probably, what the Sara connection is. Sara, you'll recall, was the lovely blonde girl I was with on the night Lucy and Dave got together. A few years down the line, she was as interested in me as Jane once had been, and I was about to summarily reject her because of that interest. In the meantime, it would have appeared to someone on the outside looking in that I was about to score.
I was beginning to realise that this is how Lucy had seen me. First of all chasing Jane, then possibly Sally Sage, and later, possibly Helen, and Sara, and all the others. Whereas Dave, fighting fit, wasn't such a flutterby, so that his obvious interest in Lucy was both powerful and sincere.
"So how long have you been with Lucy?" asked Jane, still standing in front of me.
"Depending on how you look at it, about 5 minutes. Or twenty-some years."
"What do you mean?"
"You know I've been making my living as a songwriter?"
"A successful one, I've heard."
"Fairly. Well, she was the girl in all the songs."