You, Me, Him and Her ‘Oh God.’ I whined throwing the pillow over my face. Picking up my phone, I noted that it was three am. We had been back in London for fourteen days and this was the eleventh time I was being awoken in the dead of the night, by a knock on the front door. Each time it had been the guy from upstairs, coming down after a midnight text from Tally, who wanted yet another pick me up. She was sleeping all day and snorting all night. I tried talking to her and letting her know that I knew how she felt but after they stopped showering, I stopped going into her room. I say they because Jack had taken up residence since we came home and while I knew Tally was no walkover his presence meant that the house was overcome with the scent of free sex, expensive drugs and cheap romance. It was less than thrilling. I was annoyed for many reasons. The primary one at this point was that I was unable t work from home. There was no way I was going to invite clients to spend time with me, in what now actually looked like a whore house. All we were missing was a toothless bouncer, random needles and a couple more girls. I had standards. But this meant, I was spending more than was necessary on Taxi’s since I was only doing outcalls. Since Jack had been down Tally had ceased working but continued spending. I knew that they were ordering no less than two grams a night. And I knew full well Jack wasn’t paying for it. I had tried not to show my unhappiness when after the committal, Tally pulled me to one side and let me know that he would be returning to London with us. ‘Ok.’ I half smiled. ‘Maybe he would be good for you. Help you take your mind off things.’ I winked. We both giggled awkwardly. Fast forward a fortnight and I regretted not just saying ‘No.’ The common misconception about me is that I’m hard as nails and don’t think to say what’s on my mind. Nothing could be further from the truth. And living in an unhappy home was proof that I preferred to walk on eggshells than upset any sort of apple cart. But I didn’t know how much I could take. Sliding out of the bed, I shook my head. Looking over at my dresser, I noticed that my running clothes were draped over the chair. I hadn’t been for a run since before the funeral. Without giving it too much thought, I began to slip into my running tights. Running was like work. You couldn’t think about it too much, or you’d back out every time. You had to commit to the task or road ahead. If you didn’t, you would be caught off guard because both the road and sex always have something new to teach you. Also both had an ability to help you escape reality, which is what Tally was doing. I just wish she found a less harmful and cheaper way of doing it. By the time I had laced up my trainers, I was happy to be hitting the road. Grabbing my keys, phone and earphones, I turned my face up at the idea of wearing a jacket or taking my bus pass. The weather seemed fair and I knew I wouldn’t go too far. Stepping into the hallway, I could hear Tally sniffing. Shaking my head, I opened the door and slammed it so hard, the entire building seemed to shake. As I’d figured, it was fair and our neighborhood was still very much alive. That was another thing I appreciated our choice of location for, at any given time you could step out alone and not actually be alone. Jumping on the spot, I put my earphones in and just hit shuffle. Turning left I began with a slow jog to warm up. Cutting through backstreets, I began to pick up the pace until I was on the main road. This was just what I had needed. Fresh air and a form of exercise, that didn’t involve using my Kegel muscles. There was something indescribable about running through the city at night. While to some it could look threatening, I always thought at night, the streets and it’s inhabitants became more honest. Daylight was like a huge microscope, where everyone knew they were being watched so we were all on our best behavior. But as soon as the Sun set, the cloak of darkness that descended was like a cloak of invisibility. We were all able to show who we really were and our actions, no matter how grotesque yet genuine were always put down to being under some kind of influence. I was headed towards one of my favorite places; Tower Bridge. My love affair with it began when at ten years old; I saw it rise up for the first time. The traffic was manic and the sun was beating down on us. ‘Undo your seatbelt Cand.’ Dad said. I never questioned him. ‘Stand on the seat.’ He encouraged taking off his sunglasses so he could get a better look himself. The roof of the car was down, enabling me the extra room to pull myself to full height and get a good look at what looked like the bridge snapping in two. ‘Wow.’ I exhaled. I used to think that it was my lack of vocabulary that made me just settle for ‘Wow’ but coming across the bridge over a decade later, with my fathers face on my t-shirt, I still hadn’t found another word to use. Running backwards, I took in the cheers, the crowds and the elation of being halfway through my first ever marathon. Even before my first disastrous fourteen minute mile, I had always believed that there are two types of runner. The first was the one that ran towards something. Be it weight loss, a promotion or self-confidence they were out there using those miles to better themselves. Then there was the second type. This kind of runner ran from things. Usually the reality of life but this also included insecurity, questions and depression. I was the most definitely the latter. I had picked up running to get away from grief. But after trying to get Tally to do one full lap of our local park, I had to admit that it wasn’t an antidote for everybody. Although I could diagnose her with having a bad case of overwhelming grief, I learned quickly that I didn’t have the correct cure. And since then had resigned myself to getting the miles in, all by myself. Thinking of Tally, I had to admit that I was a little jealous. Being around her and Jack had made me yearn for male interaction outside of work. No matter how imperfect he was, there was no doubt that he loved her. They loved each other. Spending time in their company only highlighted another thing I was running from: loneliness. Even though my phonebook was full of male contacts, and I lived with someone I considered to be a dear friend, I had never felt more alone. The bridge was in sight now, so I really started to go for it. Pulling my knees to my chest and using my arms as accelerators I tried to focus on my breathing and keeping my steps light and graceful. That was another thing about nighttime running; not having to hurdle over tourists or citizens contemplating suicide on their lunch break. Sprinting to the middle of the Bridge, I put my arms out to steady myself on a bollard that sat ahead. Ripping the earphones out, I struggled to catch my breath. Through the pain, I chastised myself for not running more often. I only ever stuck to a training plan if there was an upcoming race I wanted to be a part of. And since I hadn’t raced in over five months, I was unfit. Standing up straight, I put my hands on my head to stop a stich from creeping in and opened up my lungs at the same time. God the view from here was ridiculous. London was illuminated by millions of, lights but due to distance they resembled candles. The waters below however murky by day, looked like they were filled with a million stars due to the reflections. Grand architecture met my view as far as I could see. There were a couple of boats docked, Varying in size, the silent rock of the tide made them sway as if they too were hypnotized. I closed my eyes and worked on controlling my breath. I heard footsteps, which seemed to come to a halt close behind me. My eyes fell open. Even though I seemed to be alone I was not afraid. Work had taught me to listen to my gut instinct and for some reason, she had not yet spoken up in fear, so I kept my gaze fixed on the view ahead. ‘I thought I was the only one that ran at this hour.’ He said. I recognized that voice. Not because I had heard it often but because it had been on replay since the day I had looked into his charming face and his grip had left a burning sensation on my arm. Beyond that, I had lost count how many times I had masturbated over it. Slowly, I turned round. ‘Ste..B. We meet again.’ I smiled embarrassed that his nickname had almost escaped my lips. ‘Candice.’ He smiled, showing his perfect set of teeth and went on to perform a mock bow. We stood there taking each other in. I hadn’t banked on him being so tall but then again, I had met him sitting down. That seems to be the only time I’m taller than most five year olds. He was wearing miniscule running shorts, which on a normal day, anyone would say showed far too much leg. But like I said, people seem to really get comfortable once the night creeps in. Clearly he ran a lot, as his legs had not an ounce of fat on them. Although he was standing perfectly still, every muscle seemed to need to be the center of attention. Even through his running jacket, I could estimate that his waist was tiny. This was only further accentuated by broard shoulders, which supported a long graceful neck. All of sudden I became very aware of how much I was perspiring. I tried to wipe sweat from face. Not one to usually fuss about my appearance, this was a clue to the fact that I actually fancied him. He didn’t have a bead of sweat on him, it was as if he just appeared. His stare felt like an x-ray machine, taking in the very marrow of my skeleton. I shifted my weight and folded my arms across my chest. ‘I wouldn’t have taken you for a runner.’ He commented I giggled. That wasn’t the first time I’d heard that. My clients sought me out because my body type was far from sinewy. Although not as robust as Tally, I wasn’t lacking in the curves department. Every time I revealed I enjoyed running, I was met with wide eyes, chuckles or flat out disbelief. ‘You’re not the only one.’ I retorted trying to stifle a giggle. ‘No! I didn’t mean it like that.’ He cried bringing his hands to his face. He seemed to be a little cheesed off with himself. ‘None taken.’ I said throwing up my hands in mock surrender. ‘So, gotten your teeth into any Sashimi lately? Work experience had taught me that men do not like feeling insecure, so I took the lead in changing the subject. And offering up a sense of humor. ‘Ha, ha. Matter of fact, I have. I eat there once a week now.’ He winked ‘Hmm, I’m impressed!’ I laughed and I was. Very few people got my curt sense of humor. But I was now regretting the fact that I had decided against wearing a jacket. Since I’d stopped moving it was suddenly very chilly. My nipples seemed to agree. ‘Cold?’ he nodded, trying his hardest not to stare at the obvious. ‘Just a little.’ I blushed, wrapping my arms around my chest once more. He began unzipping his jacket. ‘Didn’t your Mother ever teach you to not leave home without a jacket?’ he playfully chastised, shrugging out of the jacket. I watched as the surrounding lights danced off his smooth skin. As I had guessed, his waist was akin to that of a small boy. He was delectably athletic. Stepping closer to me, he wrapped the jacket around my shoulders. Raising my arms so he could dress me, our bare skin touched. There it was again, that burn, spark, that thing. ‘She taught me a lot. Thank You.’ I said, pouting. Bending down, he toyed with the zipper. It was an erotic sight. Me drenched in sweat and this man stooped down below with his face dangerously close to my cunt. Finally the zipper caught, and he slowly and deliberately pulled it up. When it reached my breasts, it strained a little but he just tugged at it harder, until it came to a stop, just beneath my chin. ‘Yeah, like how to be insanely beautiful.’ He sighed stepping back to admire…his jacket. Usually, these kind of compliments would have me running to the hills, laughing my head off or at the very least, rolling my eyes. But for some reason, everything that fell from his full lips, seemed to be sincere. He stepped towards me once again, more slowly this time. ‘How lucky I am, to have bumped into you, jacket or not.’ He smiled I had to look away. ‘Luck is not real.’ I answered flatly. I was going to have to put up a fight on this one. I wouldn’t allow his teeth, skin and the delicious scent of some expensive cologne rising from his jacket to upset my head. ‘Ok. But would you believe me if I said, that I only eat at that Japanese place once a week, with the hope of bumping into you again?’ My lips fell apart and formed a little ‘O’ ‘Yep.’ He nodded. ‘And since it’s almost four am, on a work day, in the middle of London, I would say that providence, luck or even God had a hand in this one.’ He laughed. I shrugged. Truth be told, his admission has just taken the wind out of me. I was used to being coveted, that was part of the job. But what he was talking about –eating at a specific place just because he wanted to see me- seemed, romantic. And that was new to me. ‘Maybe he did.’ I smiled, looking down at the floor. He inched still closer to me. ‘Warm yet?’ He whispered, lifting my chin so that I was forced to meet his gaze. ‘A little.’ ‘That’s not good enough.’ He remarked lowering his face so that I could feel the heat of his lips in line with my own. I wanted to step back. Fuck, I wanted to take off running and not stop until I was well shot of him, but something other than the fact I was wearing his jacket rooted me to the ground. I wanted him to kiss me but I didn’t know how this worked. I didn’t usually waste time, kissing clients. His lips came closer still and just as I offered up mine, the sound of my phone ringing startled us both. It was Tal. I knew this because since she began her decent into drug addiction, I had assigned her, her very own ringtone. The sound of Jay-Z rapping ’99 Problems’ pierced the early morning stillness. ‘Whoever that is, I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume that you don’t like them very much.’ Little did he know. Even though I didn’t want too, I answered. ‘Yeah?’ I answered in my most ‘I cannot be fucked’ tone of voice. But I didn’t receive the response I was expecting. ‘YOU NEED TO COME RIGHT NOW!’ It was Jack. ‘What? Why? Where is Tally? I sighed. This boy was working my last nerve. First he had overstayed his welcome and now he was just picking up Tal’s phone shouting. ‘SHE IS NOT BREATHING!’ he shouted. It took about two seconds for me to comprehend the situation at hand. ‘SHIT! JACK WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE TO HER?!’ I began speed walking back across the bridge. B was right behind me. ‘SHE WONT RESPOND!’ He cried. ‘FUCK! LISTEN TO ME, TURN HER ON HER SIDE AND CALL AN AMBULANCE. I AM COMING!’ I hung up before I could translate the wail coming down the phone. I knew it was too good to be true. That phone call pulled me right back down to earth and quickly. Turning to B, I reeled off some facts. ‘That was my flatmate’s boyfriend. By the sound of it, she’s overdosed. I have to go now.’ I began unzipping his jacket. His eyes became wide as he took all the information in. But he remained calm. ‘Keep the jacket. You’ll freeze without it.’ He ordered zipping it back up. ‘I’ll be fine, I’m going to get the bus…FUCK!’ I just remembered that I left my bus pass indoors. ‘What?!’ his face was filled with more concern than was necessary for someone he knew for all of five minutes. ‘I have to run back, I left my bus pass at home.’ I put my head in my hands. ‘I have money.’ He raised an eyebrow I hated taking help from people. Especially men. But it would take me at least thirty minutes to run back home. And only God knew what could happen in that time. ‘Could I borrow a couple of quid for the bus?’ I asked ‘The bus?’ he asked, screwing his face up I nodded franticly. He kissed his teeth. ‘I don’t like the fact you’re out at this hour, your friend may die and you expect me to lend you money to get on the bus?’ He sounded angry. I was confused. Grabbing my arm, he began running across the bridge. I struggled to keep up. ‘What are you..?’ I watched as he flagged down a Taxi. It pulled over. Opening the door, he kissed my cheek and pushed a twenty pound note into my hand. ‘Got a bit of an emergency mate, get the lady home, quickly.’ He ordered slamming the door shut. ‘Will do.’ responded the faceless driver who began pulling away. ‘Thank you!’ I shouted through the closed window. He lifted his hand as if to signify ‘You’re welcome.’ It wasn’t until his figure became a small dot, that I realized, I didn’t have his number. Sitting back in the cab, scared about what I was about to witness, I couldn’t help but let out a nervous giggle at the absurdity of the nights events. ‘You better be dead Tally, if not once you’re better, I’m going to kill you.’ I muttered under my breath as the Taxi swept through the still quiet streets. Turning onto our usually quiet street, it seemed that every household had been awoken by the sirens. ‘Thank you.’ I shouted, throwing the money into the driver’s window and not waiting to receive change. Fuck, there goes our inconspicuous lifestyle. Even the landlady across the way was out. Fluffy slippers and all. ‘Everything alright love?’ She shouted Nosey bitch. Yes, everything was fine. We just decided it was time to provide the entire street with some early morning entertainment. I didn’t respond. The only person I couldn’t see was the dealer. As angry as I was, I couldn’t blame him. As I approached the door, there was Tal coming down, strapped to a gurney. ‘Tal!!!’ I cried running towards the male paramedic. ‘Do you know this woman?’ He asked shoving past me ‘Of course! She is family!’ The moment the words left my lips, I knew how ridiculous it sounded but how true it was. But right now I was her family. ‘Errr, ok, well are you riding with her because that lad in there is a mess.’ He detailed. ‘Yes, Yes I am.’ I said scrambling into the back of the ambulance. ‘Sit there and buckle up’ Instructed the female paramedic, pointing to a an uncomfortable looking passanger chair. Slipping into the big chair, I watched in horror as the paramedics, moved Tal around as if she were dead. ‘IS SHE GOING TO DIE?’ I screamed Neither of them answered me. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. The male paramedic, slammed the doors shut and ran round to the drivers seat. He ran. That wasn’t good either. The female was squeezing what looked like a giant turkey baster down Tal’s throat. Just as I looked away, the Sirens began blazing. The worst sign of all. By the time we reached the hospital, I had got no more out of the paramedics and had seen no sign of life in Talia. They pulled her out quicker than they put her in and if I thought we were in the shit before, the fact that doctors were awaiting her arrival really made me realize that I had to be realize that there was a chance I could leave, with less than I came with. Holding my breath, I hovered around, until I was told to go and ‘get a coffee and wait for a doctor to come and find me.’ Stepping out of the cubicle, the last thing I saw was the nurses cutting her top off. Walking without purpose, I decided to skip coffee- I was already wired- and go outside. I felt as if I were going to vomit and cry simaltanelously. Stepping into the dawn air, it was ironic how beautiful the sky looked, It was the colour of flamingo’s. Birds chirped carelessly and the streets were starting to come alive. Wrinkling my nose, I could smell cigarettes. I looked over at what was clearly a cancer patient, sucking the life out of a Marlboro. Clearly I stared for longer than I realized. ‘Want one?’ She snapped, her huge bald head hanging off her body like a bobble head toy. I nodded. ‘You’re going to have to come get it I’m afraid.’ She chuckled nodding towards her walker. Gawking, I walked over and retrieved the cigarette. Leaning forward, I allowed her to light it for me. Smoking was like riding a bike. I didn’t do it very often but every time was as easy as the last. ‘Yeah, this place will do that to you.’ She said eyeballing me. I tried not to star at her but her veins seemed to be rotting. ‘I know I shouldn’t.’ she said, raising her cigarette ‘But fuck it, what’s the worst that can happen? Can my Cancer get Cancer?’ she tried to laugh but it just sounded painful. Instinctively, I moved forward to pat her back but then I recoiled. She looked far too fragile. Once her cough had settled, we just stood there watching the world go by. And waiting for life, be it her own or my best friends, to do the same. Apr 16 Chapter Five.