Kinski in the Attic

Rennie wants to kill himself, but things seem to keep getting in the way...

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4. FOUR

The shitty weather has shifted from outside my house to inside my head. I go to rub my face but only one arm responds – the other is trapped under Aggy. Her cheeks are rosier than ever. I coax my arm out, bit by bit, and look for my phone. Text from Don:

;)

I glance at the numbers above it. Shit. Forty minutes to scrape myself together for work. I shake Aggy awake. No food except for some stale cereal lurking at the back of a cupboard. I have to water the milk down so we've enough. Aggy winces while she eats but doesn't complain. The meal passes in silence, apart from the garbled sound of nextdoor's TV.

We walk down to the bus stop at the square, where pretty much everyone who was out at the Social last night seems to be, rubbing eyes and kicking heels. Some of them jeer us. I ask if they've got nothing better to do, but of course they haven't. When I don't have work I'm there with them, whiling it all away. All this youth and potential and we're washed up on some Highland shore, hoping the tide'll carry us back out again.

Aggy and I share an awkward goodbye in front of everyone. Does she want a hug? A kiss? Or would she rather shake hands? She gives me a hug and a kiss and as we part I clock Holly over on the other side of the street. Ha. Eye for an eye.

 

The sight of the pavilion out the back makes me want to go and flush myself down the toilet. Not a wedding, not when I feel so close to death. I get orders wrong, spill drinks, get caught staring off into space and fall asleep during my break. Cherise gives me a bollocking once most of the guests have left. I skag from her office back to the bar and find Joe waiting there.

'Who gets married in December?' he says, shaking his head. 'Pint of Guinness.'

'People on a budget.' I hide a yawn behind my pouring arm. 'Not going to punch me again, are you?'

Joe laughs. 'Nah, not today.' He leans closer. 'I've a proposition.'

I set his pint down on the soaking bar mat. 'Oh aye?'

'It'd be well suited to a man with your...' he takes a swig, smacks his lips, 'particular skillset.'

'Go on.'

He looks round at the handful of other drinkers in the bar. 'Later. When do you knock off?'

'Half twelve.'

'Talk then.'

 

I somehow survive the rest of the shift. By twelve there's no one left in the bar so I go and sit by the fire with a generous measure of whisky. I close my eyes and smell the burning wood. I'm camping somewhere, beneath a dazzling array of stars. The door behind me opens but I don't move, or even open my eyes. I feel peaceful for the first time today. The sofa bulges with added weight.

'I hope you paid for that.'

I snort. 'And if I didn't?'

'I'd ask for one too.'

I turn, scared to look into those blue eyes. Holly gives me a lopsided smile. Cold sweat prickles the back of my neck. 'Everyone has their price I guess,' I manage to say without cracking. I watch her scratching her leg through one of the rips in her jeans while I get her drink, then take a deep swig to chase away the jitters.

'Good shift?' she asks as I'm pressing the drink into her hand. I shake my head.

'Shite.'

'Can't say I miss-'

'Why're you here?' It bursts out of me. I can't look at her so I concentrate on refracting the firelight through my glass.

'Ok. Right to the point then.' She takes a deep breath. 'I'm not sure what you think you saw last night-'

'I know what I saw.'

'Jesus Rennie, will you let me finish? I'm not sure what you think you saw,' she repeats with a heavier intonation, 'but trust me, he's just a friend.'

'Aye, ok then.'

'Fuck's...' she shakes her head, 'look, I don't actually owe you this explanation, alright? But I don't want you being upset over something that isn't real. Especially when it leads you to do stupid things.' She gives me a meaningful look. That a dig at Agnes, or... 'anyway. I've said what I wanted to say. Believe it or don't.' She drinks the rest of her whisky and gets to her feet. Shit. Stay.

'Sorry for acting like a kid,' I say, trying to talk her back into her chair, 'just, when you say you don't want to be with anyone then suddenly there's a huge Spanish guy hanging around you...'

'Hey.' Her shoulders go back. 'Come on. That's not who I am.'

'Yeah, I know.'

The door swings open. Joe walks in, then pauses when he sees I'm not alone. 'Sorry.' Holly looks over her shoulder, then snaps her head back.

'Didn't think you'd have company,' says Joe. He clears his throat. 'Right. We'll talk tomorrow.'

'Don't leave on my account,' Holly says without looking.

'Nah love. Had a threesome once and it was awful.' Out he goes.

Holly huffs. 'What did he want?'

'I thought I knew, but after hearing that...'

She allows herself a little laugh then leans forward. 'He's dangerous. Trust me.'

Can't help scoffing. 'How?'

She wobbles her empty glass. 'Think we can get away with another snifter?'

 

The key to stealing whisky from your employer is to drink a little from as wide a variety of bottles as possible. We've sunk half a bottle by the time we decide on a moonlight jaunt to the beach.

We walk in silence, the wind chipping away at us. Breaking waves sound like the snores of a giant, peaceful animal.

'I saw you with that girl.' It's said without any sort of intonation. A dry, boring fact. 'I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. But I wasn't ready for what it would feel like, seeing you kiss someone else.'

'She's not a patch on-' Holly covers my mouth. I stop talking and her hand falls away.

Over on the other side of the water blinks the lighthouse, small and lonely against the dark expanse of sea and sky. Holly has to keep pulling her hair out of her mouth. Part of me wants to push her, to build everything back up again from that little seed of jealousy, but I don't want to overplay my hand.

She stops and stares out towards the lighthouse, her jacket ballooning in the wind. I stand beside her, trying to see what she sees. Her hair whips my nose. She steps into the water, deep enough so the foam laps her ankles, then sits.

'Uhh, Holly...'

She ignores me. Waves break on her knees. She keeps staring out into the distance. The sea is a dark carpet furling and unfurling in her lap. She sniffs loudly. I step into the water and white spots cloud my vision. She's crying properly now, one sob piling on top of another. I force myself further into the waves. It stings. Deep breaths.

'Holly...' I wade next to her. 'you'll freeze to death.' I pull at her arm but she makes herself dead weight. It's difficult to console her when I'm standing up so, after a few more deep breaths, I sit down beside her. My lower half turns to ice. Shatter at the slightest touch. Holly puts an arm round me. I remain intact. The sea tugs at me.

'Why were we so stupid?' she says. I can't tell if she's shaking with emotion or with the cold. I end up shaking too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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