Letters To Louisa (work in progress)

Alex is in love with Louisa, but there's a slight problem. Louisa is gay. Alex is learning to cope with wanting what he can never have, but what will happen when she is torn from his life in the most brutal way?

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1. Chapter 1

 

Chapter 1

Alex

For perhaps the fourth time that day I was laid on my back with pain shooting up my spine and my skateboard sailing merrily off into the distance. I made a mental note to kill Jason, you see, we'd had a conversation about two hours ago that went something like this,

Jason: Hey, Alex, let's go skating.

Me: Why in the world would I want to do that?

Jason: Because.

Me: No.

Jason: Yes.

Me: No.

It went on like that for a while before I finally gave in just to get him to shut up, Jason was obviously far more stubborn than I gave him credit for. Not long ago I reached the ripe old age of seventeen, (practically middle aged) with that age came wisdom, not much of it, but enough to know that hurling myself up and down concrete ramps on a piece of wood is not the most constructive pass time, or the safest. So I think it's safe to say I'm over the whole skating thing, Jason however was another matter. You only needed to look at him to see that, he was tall and gangly with long floppy blond hair, he wore baggy jeans, Vans, a studded belt and a black t-shirt. I think he was mentally time locked in the early 2000’s, back when Avril Lavigne was still writing songs about skaters. Poor kid.

I got up and dusted myself off to see Jason rescuing my skateboard from the shrubbery it had buried itself in. We were in the park, I say the park, I mean I know there's other parks in the world, but this is the park in the same way that Highcross shopping centre is not the only shopping centre in the world but is the shops. As Jason was walking back towards me I noticed two girls noticing him, they weren't being subtle about it and judging from the smug grin on Jason's face he'd noticed them noticing him too. They were giggling and whispering behind their hands, I glanced from Jason to the girls and back again, he smiled knowingly and winked at me. Smug bastard. I knew I was about to be third wheeled, well, there was two girls and one Jason so I was about to be forth wheeled.

“I'm off to work,” I said to Jason, I knew it would make me an hour early, but I'd rather sit around work for an hour than watch the impending display of sickening charm that never failed to lure women to their untimely demise.

“Thanks, bro, have fun I might drop by later.” He said, I turned around and started towards town, within seconds I could hear the sounds of him showing off on his skateboard. Jason was a good friend and most of the time a nice guy, but he was also a serial womaniser. He wasn't not violent, nothing like that, if his life was a road there would be a line of emotionally broken girls sat by the side of it, one every six months or so.

 

I worked in a small café just off the beaten track, about five minutes walk from Leamington town centre, but despite that it was almost always busy. I found out long ago that some people would do anything for a good cup of tea. “The Tea Pot” as it was quaintly named was a small place above a photography shop; you had to climb a steep and cramped staircase to get there, and if you were over five foot ten, which I was, you had to duck to avoid a wooden beam three stairs from the top. You know that line Boromir says in The Fellowship Of The Ring? It could have been written about the café, “one does not simply walk into The Tea Pot”.

After navigating the stairs I pushed open the door (a fancy stained glass affair) and was greeted by the bell above the door ringing and the smell of freshly brewed tea. The room was bright due to the fact that one entire wall was a glass sliding door leading onto a balcony. There were three tables on the balcony and six more inside, one of which was tucked back into an alcove with a sofa in front of it. There was a woman named Beth sat out on the balcony, she was one of our regulars, most days she'd sit there reading some romance novel or other. Against the wall opposite the balcony was the counter and behind that stood Louisa.

A couple of things happened every time I saw Louisa, my heart rate would skyrocket, all coherent thought would leave my mind with frightening speed and my vision would tunnel until she was the only thing I saw. I was in love with Louisa Morrow, there was however one slight problem with the whirlwind romance I had dreamed about so many times. Louisa was a lesbian.

She was short with pale skin and ear length red hair except for the bangs framing her face, which were white. She'd bleached them once when drunk and decided when she sobered up that she liked the look. She was wearing black jeans that were tight enough to make paying attention to anything else a challenge, a white shirt and a black apron with “The Tea Pot” sewn onto it.

I'm not sure how long I was stood there gawping like a goldfish before Romance Novel Beth walked up to the counter, nudging me and shooting me a sly grin on the way past. She knew how I felt about Louisa and had been covertly teasing me about it for a while. Either the constant stream of romance novels had given her a preternatural sense about other people's romance dramas or she'd picked up on the not so subtle signs. After all it wouldn't exactly take a Sherlockian deductive ability to figure it out.

I walked behind the counter as Louisa was getting Beth a refill, opened the staffroom door and rolled my skateboard in and threw my backpack in after it. I waved a brief hello to Claire the owner of the café, she was sat at the desk, spinning slowly around on her chair with her mobile phone nestled in the crook of her neck.

“You're early aren't you?” Louisa asked.

I leant against the counter and folded my arms. “It was either come in early or watch Jason destroy a promising young woman's life.” I said

Louisa rolled her eyes. “Your reports of that boy's destructive potential are greatly exaggerated.”

“Says you, I'm still remember Claire.” I said. Specifically I remembered a very weepy three hour conversation with her, bearing in mind I didn't even know her before Jason started dating her.

“Okay, good point, well made.” She paused for a second then said, “speaking of Sarah.”

“Which we weren't,” I said.

“Whatever happened to you and her?” She asked, ignoring my interruption.

“We just didn't click.” I said.

Sarah was a girl Louisa set me up with, she was a perfectly nice person and very pretty, but she wasn't my type. My type was Louisa.

“Honestly, Alex, sometimes I think you're allergic to happiness.” She said with mock seriousness. At least I hope it was mock seriousness.

“You're still on for band practice tonight, yeah?” I asked, it was a weak subject change, I know, but it was better than pursuing the topic of my love life any longer.

“Of course, I'd have told you if I wasn't, stop trying to change the subject.”

Louisa, Jason and myself were in an indie rock band called The Hollyhead Massacre, Jason was our drummer, I played bass and was the backing vocalist, Louisa was the guitarist and lead vocalist. I also played the piano for a couple of songs but we hadn't performed either of them live yet.

“I hereby decree,” Louisa started very theatrically, “that you will ask out the next person who walks through that door.” She pointed to the door, almost punching the espresso machine in the process. Some of the customers watched her display interestedly, others ignored it completely, anyone who'd been in the café more than once was used to Louisa and I being weird.

“And what if the next person to walk through the door is Mrs. Henderson?” I asked, Mrs. Henderson was another of our regulars. She was eighty six and had blue hair, false teeth and a seemingly endless supply of lemon drops stashed in the pocket of her floral pattern coat.

“Then you're going to take Mrs. Henderson out to dinner and a movie. It has been decreed, Alex.” Louisa said, “don't get too handsy though,” she added as an afterthought, “remember, Mrs. Henderson is from a different era.”

The mesozoic era? I thought, I didn't say it though, offending your clientèle is never a good idea. Instead I said, “I decree you shut up.”

Louisa opened her mouth to retort when we heard the bell above the door ring out.

 

I swore under my breath when I saw who walked into the café. Three Lynch Girls. Students of William Lynch's Sixth Form For Girls. All Lynch Girls wore a small red metal badge at all times, I don't know why. I could understand it being part of the uniform, but why wear it when not in uniform? But even without the badge I could spot them a mile off, they reeked of money. The three of them wore expensive clothes and shoes with heels that must have been in violation of health and safety regulations. They had ridiculously perfect salon hair do's, probably held in place with hot melt glue, and shopping bags from places most people would need a mortgage to buy anything from. They looked like models that had gotten lost trying to find their way to the catwalk and ended up in the café. They stalked over to the table in the alcove and all sat on the sofa in a move so perfect it looked like it had been choreographed.

I turned to Louisa, about to beg to be let off the hook, and to my relief I did see doubt in her eyes. I went to Leamington Spa sixth form, a state school. I hated Lynch Girls on principle, because they hated people from Leamington Spa sixth form. For me to date a Lynch Girl would be like an American soldier circa 1946 standing in front of his comrades and saying “you know, I don't think this Hitler guy is half bad.”

I'd get lynched.

No pun intended.

Louisa turned to me and opened her mouth to say something, but then the bell rang again and another girl walked in. She looked around the room, spotted the Lynch Girls and dragged a spare chair over to their table. They distanced themselves from her slightly, like maybe they were being forced to socialise with her. I looked back to Louisa and the momentary sympathy had gone.

Shit.

“Go on,” she said to me, pushing me not so gently towards their table.

“They're Lynch Girls.” I said almost in a whisper, the last thing I wanted was to incur the wrath of a pack of Lynch Girls.

“Not that one,” Louisa said, pointing towards the newcomer.

I looked at her properly for the first time.

She wasn’t a diamond in the rough, because the girls she was with were far from ‘rough’. She was more a sun among diamonds. At the same time emphasising the qualities of the diamonds, and putting them to shame with her own radiance. They were hard, she was soft, they were angular and sharp with their beauty, she was flowing and understated. The kind of girl you can look at forever and never quite pin down what it is that makes her special.

She had wavy blonde hair reaching down just past her shoulders and eyes like emeralds, her nose was small and rounded and her lips looked just too full to be hers. She wore a brown skirt and a white t-shirt and tatty blue Converse, the toes of which she had drawn on in black pen.

She was stunning.

But then I looked back to Louisa and none of it mattered. I loved Louisa Morrow, and right then I hated myself for it. Asking a pretty girl out is hard enough on its own without feeling like you're cheating on something that could never happen.

“Go.” Louisa said, she pushed me out from behind the counter hard enough to make me stagger half way to their table. I was stuck between the Lynch Girls and the safety of the counter, in a bizarre sort of no man's land.

I walked over to the Lynch Girls' table and took a deep breath, resolved to ask the newcomer out, simply to get Louisa off my back about it for a while. But when I spoke what came out was, “Hi, welcome to The Tea Pot, can I take your order?” This was a stupid thing to say on a number of levels, not least of which because the café didn't actually offer table service.

It appeared that the Lynch Girls were determined to stick to all the worst stereotypes of wealthy women. There was a synchronised head flick to look at me, then when one of them spoke the end of her sentences rose in pitch like she was questioning me. “We've only just got here? Give us chance to decide what we want before you start harassing us?” The one who I had gone over to speak to was looking vaguely ashamed of the others, who were clearly enjoying themselves.

I turned back towards the counter desperately wishing for a whole to open up and swallow me down to hell. Anywhere would be better than in the same room as Lynch Girls. Especially Lynch Girls I had just embarrassed myself in front of. They giggled amongst themselves as I walked back to the counter, and Louisa looked like she was restraining herself from laughing hysterically.

“That went well.” She said to me when I got back behind the counter, quietly enough so that no one else would hear. “You've got her right where you want her.”

I don't want her at all, Louisa, that's the problem. That's what's really messed up about this. The one person I do want is trying fix me up WITH A LYNCH GIRL.

That's what I thought, what I said was, “why don't you just keep out of it, Lou!”

“I'm trying to do you a favour, Alex.” She said, all traces of humour were gone, but she wasn't angry, just insistent.

I turned back towards the room and saw everyone trying to look like they weren't paying attention to our exchange, except the Lynch Girls who were pulling shoes out of bags and comparing them with the kind of proud expressions usually reserved for parents gloating about their children's first words. The fourth Lynch Girl still looked vaguely disgusted at their behaviour. Upon closer inspection I noticed the small red Lynch Girl badge was on her bag, she was satisfying her obligation to wear it, but wasn't exactly displaying it proudly. I understood. There were two ways of getting into William Lynch, money or being intelligent enough to earn a free ride. It was so the school could remain 'exclusive' but also admit enough clever students to keep the average grade respectable. She was clearly one of the ones that got in with brains rather than money, but to paraphrase Shakespeare, a poisonous snake by any other name is still gunna sting when it bites you.

I took my phone from my pocket and started fiddling aimlessly with it just for the sake of looking busy, I've found playing with a mobile phone is about as effective as a ten foot concrete wall when you're looking to stop people talking to you. So when I heard a soft and almost musical voice say “excuse me” I ignored it, that is until Louisa elbowed me in the stomach. I looked up, resisting the temptation to elbow her back and saw the fourth Lynch Girl stood in front of me.

“Erm,” she started, faltering when she looked at me. I realised my facial expression was stuck somewhere between hateful and murderous so I tried to rearrange it into something more friendly. “I'm sorry about them,” she said gesturing vaguely over her shoulder. “I'd like to say I'm not with them, but I obviously am.” She started toying self consciously with her badge as she spoke.

“Don't worry about it,” I said. I tried to think of something else to say but failed spectacularly, Louisa drove her heel into my shin when the silence stretched on long enough to legitimately be called awkward. She was wearing high heels, it was quite painful.

“What my mentally handicapped friend is trying to do is ask for your number.” Louisa said.

The fourth Lynch Girl smirked and said, “really? It doesn't seem that way to me.”

“That's because he looses control of his few remaining brain cells around pretty girls.” Louisa said, then added, entirely straight faced, “or at least I guess that's what happens because he always acts pretty dim when he's around me.”

The fourth Lynch Girl smiled and glanced at me for a second then pulled a pen from her bag and a napkin from the pile in front of the till. She scribbled a phone number down on it and slid it across to me. “I'm Darcy.” She said.

“Alex will call you when he regains full control of his mental faculties.” Lousia said.

“Alex can talk for himself,” I said, trying my best not to sound like a sulking child who'd just been told to go to his room.

“All evidence so far has been to the contrary.” Darcy said with a slight smile, just one half of her mouth quirked up in appreciation of her own wit.

“You can thank me later.” Louisa said quietly to me after Darcy returned to her table.

 

I got home from work with only about an hour to spare before Jason would be round to give me a lift to our rehearsal space, I was tired and hungry and entirely not in the mood for band practice.

“Hello?” I shouted as I opened the front door.

There was no answer.

I wasn't entirely surprised, dad was at work and it was pretty much impossible to keep track of mum's social schedule. I was shocked she managed it a lot of the time. I went through to the kitchen, which was by far the nicest part of the house; It was new, the worktops were granite and the appliances were stainless steel, walking from our distinctly average and quite untidy living room to the kitchen was like walking into a different house. I made myself a sandwich, being careful to wash the knife and wipe the bread crumbs from the worktop afterwards. I'm pretty sure the penalty for leaving the kitchen in a mess was to be hung from your toes for an hour, and dad's definition of precisely what a mess was varied according to his mood. After ensuring there was nothing in the kitchen to provoke the afore mentioned toe hanging I went up to my room.

I slid my shoes off and kicked them into the corner of the room and dropped my bag next to the rather epic floordrobe I had created. There was a desk against one wall of my room, and a single bed opposite it. My pride and joy, an old blue Fender Jaguar bass was stood in its stand in the corner of my room. It had seen heavy use with its previous owner, the paint was faded in places and there were a couple of dings in the wood, I loved it because of that. It gave it character. The walls were covered in posters for bands most people had never heard of, and some that I had forgotten about. They were the remnants of when I went through that phase that teenage most musicians go through, mistaking obscurity for quality.

I sat down at my desk, moved my laptop to the side an pulled a pad out from the top draw. I wasn't a writer, in fact I could barely string a coherent sentence together on paper, but I found that writing about my problems helped me deal with them, or at the very least remove them from the forefront of my mind. Consequently I wrote a lot about Louisa. I had an old shoebox full of letters I'd written to her, it was hidden at the bottom of my wardrobe. I took a pen from the draw and got started on another one.

Louisa,

What the hell do you think you're doing, setting me up with a Lynch Girl? There's fraternising with the enemy and then there's this. Are you actually trying to make me a social pariah? To be fair I doubt dating a state school pleb will do much for Darcy's social standing. Maybe that's my way out of this, maybe once she finds out I go to Lemington Spa sixth form she'll sever all ties just to avoid the embarrassment. Or maybe I'm doing her a disservice by assuming she's just as shallow as her peers. I don't know. There's a lot I don't know when it comes to women. I can't very well ask Jason, that would be like asking a shark for advice on fish.

I'd really like to know why you're so fixated on setting me up with someone, especially lately, it seems like you'll try and get me to date anything with two legs that's vaguely woman shaped. In fairness to Darcy she is more woman shaped than a lot of women. She has a very nice smile, a kind of confident quirk of her lips like she's laughing at something that you haven't quite figured out yet and enjoying the fact that she got there first.

She is very attractive, but she's just not you.

I don't know if you've ever been in love with someone who can't love you back, but I don't recommend it. It's awful. I heard somewhere that love is the meaning of life, which would make my life meaningfully meaningless. The only person my love means anything to is myself, does that mean the only person my life means anything to is me, or am I missing the point? I hope I am missing the point, because that's a pretty depressing thought.

I can hear Jason's car outside, I keep trying to tell him that cars shouldn't sound like the engine is made of bricks, but apparently it's always sounded like that. I'm still waiting for it to explode when it hits forty five miles an hour.

I'll see you soon, providing Jason and I don't die in the fiery explosion of a fifteen year old Ford.

Love,

Alex.

As I finished stashing the letter away with the others my phone started to ring, it was Jason.

“Dude, I'm outside.” He said.

“I know, I heard your car from five miles away.”

“I could always make you walk, you know.”

“Yeah, but you won't. The door's open come on in, dude, I'm not ready yet.” I said, then hung up. I shut the wardrobe door, then headed to the bathroom.

The sight the greeted me in the bathroom mirror as I washed my hands was reassuringly familiar, but at the same time different. I looked tired. Not the perpetual tiredness of an internet generation teenager, but the I only got two hours sleep because Louisa kept me up last night type of tired. She and I had been on Skype until about four o'clock, and I didn't have the slightest idea why. She didn't seem to want to talk about much, but whenever I tried to leave the conversation she asked me to stay. Consequently I had bags under my eyes that you could pack for a fortnight's holiday in.

My hair was dark and short and flicked up at the fringe, my eyes were equally dark and I had a very faint covering of stubble on my chin. I was just over six feet tall and starting to lose the skinniness of youth. At seventeen I was at that awkward stage between boy and man; that time when you find yourself getting treated like a child when you want to be treated like an adult, and treated like an adult when you want nothing more than to throw a childish hissy fit.

“Where are you, dude?” I heard Jason ask from my room.

I walked through to my room to see Jason manhandling my bass into its case. Maybe it's because he was a drummer, but he never seemed to understand that instruments need to be treated with love.

“Jeez, Jason, she needs to be treated gently.” I don't know why but instruments were always female to me. Like boats.

“That's not what she said to me last night.” He said, slamming the case shut.

“You repulse me.” I said, though my heart wasn't in it. I found it funny, I just didn't want him to know I found it funny.

That is what she said to you last night.”

That time I did laugh.

 

Jason's car was a small yellow box on wheels that smelt vaguely of fast food and disappointment, though there was a good chance I was imagining the second of those smells. To be fair to Jason he was a pretty good driver, the time I rode with him in his parents Mercedes had proved that, but the concept of a 'smooth ride' was entirely lost on Molly. Oh yeah, Jason called his little yellow box of death Molly. Molly managed to make every single bump and pothole feel like we were being shelled some celestial howitzer. The music was good though, we had Green Day playing and the windows open. It's one of life's great pleasures, driving with good music playing.

“So how was work?” Jason asked.

“Mostly dull, except for the part where Louisa foisted a complete stranger on me.” I said.

“A hot complete stranger?” Jason asked.

Part of me resented the word hot, it always seemed insufficient. Hot was used to describe weather or food, I may not have known much about women, but I knew they were neither weather or food. I'd given up trying to communicate this particular distinction to Jason though.

“Yeah,” I said, “yeah she was.”

Jason was silent for a long while after that, Jason being silent was never a good sign; he was always tapping or whistling or humming, when he was silent it meant he was thinking. Nothing good ever came of thinking.

“Louisa knows.” He announced after maybe ten minutes of silence.

“Knows what?”

“That you have feelings for her.” Jason said as if it was something infinitely obvious.

“No she doesn't.” I said.

“Credit her with some common sense, dude. You're not exactly sly about it.” Jason said. He started drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

“So what were their names?” I asked. I wasn't really changing the subject, the fact that Jason had resumed making noise said that he considered the discussion over.

“Whose names?”

“The girls from the park.”

“I never found out, they giggled and ran off before I got chance to talk to them.”

“Clearly their survival instinct kicked in.” I said.

 

To say the rehearsal studio wasn't an upmarket place was to be kind to it, it was a concrete box in an industrial estate about twenty minutes outside Leamington. There was graffiti over one wall, some of it actually quite artistic, some not so much.

“Louisa's here.” Jason said as he parked along side her red Mini Cooper.

“Ten out of ten for observation.” I said as I climbed out of Molly.

“One of these days I will make you walk home.” Jason said. I grabbed my bass from the back seat of the car then we headed inside.

The interior of the studio was no less dank and uninviting than the outside. As soon as walked in we were in front of 'the office' which was little more than a cubicle with an obsolete computer and a desk that looked like it would fall apart at any moment. Behind the desk was stood the balding bespectacled owner of the studio.

“Head on in, guys, Lou's paid up.” He said. So we did.

Beyond the office was a maze of grey cinderblock walls and thread bare carpet, the sound of other musicians came through the walls muffled but still recognisable. In the first room we walked past I heard Bunny Suicides playing, the band we were supporting in two days. “I'll see you inside,” Jason said as we reached room six, he took my bass from me and went into the room, I proceeded through to the store room which was right at the back of the building. When I got there I threw my weight against the door, which was the only way to open it, and turned on the light. It was a grime coated bulb hanging from the ceiling on its wire, it stained the room an unfortunate yellow colour.

The store room was a mess of equipment, some owned by the studio some owned by the musicians who used it. Right at the back of the room behind and old piano that I don't think had been tuned for years was my amp, it was an old Ashdown amp bought from the same guy who sold me my bass. As I wheeled my amp closer to our practice room the sound of Jason's enthusiastic drumming got louder, all drummers are loud, but I think Jason took pride in how many decibels he could throw at you at once. I slipped my ear plugs in and pushed the door open, wheeling my amp through in front of me. I expected to see Louisa inside but she wasn't there, I paid it no mind and got on with setting up my equipment.

The room was a white cube with brown carpet and foam on the walls, which while it was technically sound proofing, it was not actually proof against all that much sound. There was a battered green sofa against the wall next to the door, on which Jason had put my bass. Most of what we needed was already set up, Jason's drums and two microphone stands were set up in a triangle with Louisa's amp behind one mic stand. I moved my amp behind the free mic stand and plugged it in, then grabbed my bass, lifted the strap over my shoulder and plugged it into the amp.

Standing in front of a loud bass amp is a uniquely powerful feeling, and I was addicted to it. I had started out playing guitar, but switched to bass out of necessity when our bassist left. Because of this a lot of my bass lines were very melodic and, well, not very bassy. Louisa and I worked well together as musicians, our guitar and bass parts often weaving around each other like a musical dance. Jason was a great drummer too, he had a natural sense of rhythm and wasn't showy, yeah, he could do every fill imaginable but he also knew when to just keep time. I'm not going to lie, we were good, we had a pretty strong following and could reliably fill most of the venues in Leamington. Jason kept pushing for us to do a couple of shows outside Leamington but Louisa was against the idea.

Jason and I were part way through our third song when Louisa staggered into the room, her cheeks flushed and her clothes dishevelled. Her girlfriend, Cameron, came in after her looking distinctly pleased with herself.

I felt like a hole had opened up in my stomach and was swallowing everything that made me function, replacing it with lead. I wanted nothing to do with band practice anymore. I wanted nothing more than to leave. Fast. But I couldn't. I turned back towards Jason trying to ignore the fact I could barely breathe, I closed my eyes and rested my head on the microphone in front of me. I stayed like that until I heard Louisa finish tuning up.

“Let's start with It's Not Even Twelve O'clock Yet And Already I'm Hungover.” Jason said. Louisa and I shared a liking for needlessly wordy song titles, but even by our standards that one was long.

Louisa started playing the opening riff, I counted to twelve and came in with my part, and for the next two hours music helped mask the hurt I was feeling.

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