Bundled into an oversized coat,
thick-fingered gloves and a matching hat.
We tiptoed up slippery pavements,
lights dancing across wet tarmac;
feverish prickle of electric
on the way to the frosty fair.

I was first in line for the giant slide,
a crest above the tide. The ocean
slopped more darkness on the shore,
and the booming beat of the bass rocked the floor.
On a coarse coir rug I plummeted.

Together we jumped in the bumper cars
with their bright designs, metal hooks
flashing blue bolts as we bashed into each other
with the cold of winter nights in our laughter,
and after I’d beg for a cloud of candy floss,
warm like burnt sugar. Or hot popcorn,
a sweetly salted caramel on the tongue.
But all too soon it would be time;
You’re supposed to be in bed by nine.

I’d count the nights ’til we returned,
but when we did, a barricade of breeze blocks
and steel fences barred our way.
Inaccessible, unrecognisable in its array of
monochrome machines and wretched dreams.
They’d drained the colour. Killed the lights.
There’s no delight in rusting girders, splintered
shells of shacks, fluttering tarpaulin. Sawdust and salt
grit the corners of my mouth, turned down in despair.
It’s just not fair.


Cougar: Part One


Bastard. How dare he. How dare he. After all I’ve done for him! He is not getting away with this. Not this time. If he wants to run off with a younger model well then that’s his problem, and I won’t let him forget it. She won’t be as experienced as me. Bastard.

…But how can I live without him? He’s everything to me! Now I have no-one to come home to at night, nobody to buy me flowers or make me feel special… We planned everything together! Our house, our future children, even my perfect wedding… all gone. Poof!

Barbara doesn’t understand. She just keeps pouring wine down my throat and telling me it will all be okay. That I can do better than him. She’s a bit rubbish at this whole comforting thing really. God I’m a mess. I need a man in my life, pronto.

Barbara keeps flicking between channels, changing every time there’s an on screen romance. I’m slowly going insane. Her nineteen year old son Jake comes down the stairs and flops onto the other sofa, paying us no attention.

He laughs at something on his phone, and his thumbs busily stab at the buttons.

“What’s so funny, baby?” Barbara asks eagerly.

Jake looks up with the laughter still bright in his eyes. He’s kind of hot for a teenager. If only I were twenty years younger…

“Nothing. Just something Jess said,” he replies, and goes back to ignoring us.

Barbara totters off to the kitchen to get more pinot. I’m sat here awkwardly, trying not to eye up her son. I end up studying the room, even though I know it better than my own house. The pink fluffy cushions, the expensive light fittings, the designer wallpaper over the fireplace wall, and the marble mantelpiece contrasting against all the pink.

The sides are littered with pictures of Jake growing up: toddler Jake in dungarees on his mum’s lap. Primary school Jake’s toothless grin in his melancholy uniform. Teenage Jake playing the guitar… He’s a boy, I remind myself. I’ve watched him grow up, for God’s sake. I’ve babysat him. You’re just hormonal, and he’s the only guy in the room. It’s nothing.

“Oh shoot!” Barbara comes clip-clopping back into the front room, bringing a welcome break from my thoughts. “I’m all out. Don’t worry, I’ll nip to Waitrose.”

“I’ll come with,” I say, eager to leave.

“No!” Barbara almost shouts. She smiles at me. “No, you sit here and finish off that glass. I expect it all to be gone by the time I get back!” She gives her son a kiss on the head and whispers to him in the I’m-tipsy-so-I’m-not-really-whispering-at-all voice, “Dave just broke Katie’s heart, so don’t leave her on her own. Oh, and don’t talk about Jess or anything relationshippy.”

Jake nods absent-mindedly, still absorbed in his texts. “Do you want anything from the shop, baby?” Barbara asks him.

“Pizza and beer would be good, thanks mum,” he says. She kisses him on his forehead again, grabs her jacket and leaves.

The silence is unbearable. Barbara’s message has alerted Jake to my presence. He’s staring at me, and I’m looking anywhere but at him. Admittedly the wine’s helping my eyes to roll around the room by themselves. I must look like the Sindy doll I had when I was five; bleach blonde hair, fake tan and eyes jiggling around in the sockets. Even the black smudges around my face must look similar to the felt tip eyeliner I applied to poor Sindy.

Jake stands up and plonks himself down next to me. He puts his hand on my knee. “Are you alright, Katie?” He asks softly. Meaningfully. I’m being comforted by a teenager. A teenager in a successful relationship. A teenager in a relationship giving sympathy to a depressed, middle-aged, single, no hope, alcoholic woman. I burst into tears.

His arms shoot around me instantly and before I know it I’m crying into his chest. His arms feel strong and safe. He smells faintly of sweat and Lynx… it’s good. Oh God, what am I doing…

We stay embraced for a little while. It’s calming me, sobering me up. But I don’t want to be sober! I want to be young and wild and free for anything to happen. But I’m not. I pull away and examine the mascara smears all over his designer white T-Shirt.

“Sorry,” I snivel, attempting to wipe the shirt clean despite just wanting to rip it off. “You’ll want to change that before your mum comes home. Don’t want her getting the wrong idea.” I giggle hysterically. Jake smiles too. Ugh, I want to mount him.

The silence is awkward again. I finish off the wine as Barbara instructed me to. I am going to leave, I decide. I’m going to leave right now, and forget about this moment. I do NOT have feelings for Jake Aspinall.

Unfortunately, nature calls. I tell Jake I’m nipping to the loo and make a sharp exit. Sat on the toilet, knickers around my ankles, I try and slap myself out of it. But I can still smell him on me. My body has soaked in his fragrance. As if it needs to tell me it wants him. I want to hide in the bathroom forever. I shouldn’t see Jake again. But I have to leave sooner or later, so I flush, wash my hands and open the door.

Jake’s stood directly outside. He’s looking at me, and if I’m not mistaken, he has lust in his eyes. Before I have time to return a smouldering look, or think clearly and reject him, his mouth is pressing hard on mine and his hand is already unlatching my bra…

For the first time in forever I feel alive. I feel sexy. Dosed up on sex and alcohol, I could quite happily sleep. I can hear the rhythmic da-dum of this gorgeous man’s heartbeat pounding in my ear. I can hear him still panting for breath. I can hear…

…The front door opening. We both look at each other and race to find discarded shirts and underwear . “yoo-hoo!” Barbara calls from downstairs, bottles clinking in the carrier bags. I can’t find my knickers, so I have to go without. I race down the hall to the bathroom and run my fingers through my hair. I take a quick glance in the mirror, flush the toilet and turn the lock on the door. I walk down the stairs, face flushed.

Barbara looks at me expectantly, holding up the bags.

“Got caught short,” I say, and she believes it.