Oh my love, can’t you see yourself by my side? No surprise when you’re on his shoulder like every night.
“Your hair is so nice and thick!” Mairead flourished her tongs and another shiny loose golden-brown curl fanned down around Scarlett’s face.
The girls were sat in Mairead’s room, drinking, listening to music and beautifying themselves in preparation for the gig tonight. Mairead’s room wasn’t as colourful as Tabitha’s but it was just as pretty and inviting. White fairy lights hung from the ceiling and the walls were tastefully decorated in vintage Vogue covers and sketches of Mairead’s own fashion creations. Plush fabrics, faux fur and velvet cushions were scattered everywhere and it smelt like berries and jasmine.
Tabitha was stretched out on Mairead’s bed on her front, texting frantically in one hand and holding a wine glass in the other, a small smile on her brightly painted pink lips, while Mairead was helping Scarlett with her hair and make up.
“I take it Kwame is coming tonight?” Mairead said, teasing out another curl.
Tabitha looked up from her phone, “How did you know?
“That goofy smile you have while you’re texting can only ever mean one thing.”
“Who’s Kwame?” Scarlett asked.
“Tabitha’s sort of boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
Scarlett raised her eyebrows and looked at Tabitha through the mirror, “What’s the story?”
“Oh you know how it is,” Mairead lifted her wine glass from the dressing table as she stood back for a moment to admire her handiwork, “boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy dumps girl to go and cure parasitic diseases in Africa. Its a tale as old as time!”
“He didn’t dump me, we were never together like that,” Tabitha clarified, “we enjoy each other’s company but we’re realistic. When he finishes his medical degree this year he’ll be moving abroad to be part of the Medicin Sans Frontiers and that’s just how it is.”
“Sounds like an impressive guy,” Scarlett noted.
“He really, really is,” Tabitha smiled wistfully and returned to her phone.
“That means we’re getting ditched tonight,” Mairead said, spritzing Scarlett’s hair with something that smelled like coconut, “And on the night I’m probably gonna get jumped by Ros as well.”
“Ros won’t come near you,” Scarlett said with confidence but Mairead didn’t look convinced.
“Hopefully she’ll be too busy trying to lock lips with Jim to notice us. Anyway, on a lighter note...how fit do you look?!”
Mairead was finally finished creating Scarlett’s look and so she stood up from the dressing table and headed to the ornately decorated, white full length mirror in the corner of the room.
She had to admit, Mairead was good. Scarlett barely recognised herself. Her hair, usually thick and unruly, looked soft and silky as it cascaded down over her shoulders in bouncy waves, whatever technique or product Mairead had used brought out the lighter golden and auburn tones in it as she moved. Her naturally long eyelashes looked impossibly long thanks to Mairead’s curling and layers of mascara, a touch of rose gold eyeshadow highlighted the green in her eyes, and the subtle creamy matte nude pink she’d applied to her lips made them look even softer and fuller than usual.
She’d chosen a form fitting and short blue velvet dress with a white lacey peter pan collar, coupled with sheer black tights, boots and a leather jacket. Scarlett noticed the dress pulled her in to make her waist look tiny, in turn accentuating her breasts. She felt like she was looking at someone else. Someone pretty and cool. Someone she couldn’t have ever dreamed she would be.
“Wow!” Tabitha exclaimed from the bed, “You look smoking!”
“Yeah. Maybe too good...you better not ditch me tonight too!” Mairead winked at her.
* * * * *
The girls arrived at the venue a few minutes before the boys were due to go on stage and headed straight for the bar.
"Uh-oh, trouble at 3 o' clock," Tabitha murmured out of the corner of her mouth, referring to Ros who was stood at the other end of the bar, "Oh God, is that Chelsey with her? Double trouble or what?"
"Chelsey is the girl Drew was seeing a bit ago, she was a complete bitch to him in the end," Mairead explained to Scarlett, leaning across the bar to get the attention of the barmaid.
"Poor Drew," Scarlett said.
"Don't feel too bad for him, he falls in love with a new girl every week, he totally got over it! Excuse me, can I have a pint of Strongbow please?"
Once the girls had their drinks they made their way towards the stage. Scarlett clocked the piano again and remembered the scenes from earlier. The way Jim had looked at her. Like he was amused or intrigued by her. Like he was observing her like you would a penguin at the zoo or something. Whatever it was it made her very uncomfortable. She couldn't figure him out but she knew he didn't like her. He veered from pretending she doesn't exist to being downright rude and now it seemed he was trying to make fun of her. Everything would be so perfect if they could just be friends but he clearly didn't want that to happen and Scarlett had a bad feeling that she could end up homeless and friendless again as a result of this pompous, churlish man.
"Kwame!" Next to her, Tabitha shouted and waved at a man across the bar who started to make his way over to them.
He was so tall, he seemed to take the length of the bar in a few strides and engulfed Tabitha in his arms, smiling warmly at Mairead and Scarlett over Tabitha's shoulder, the lights from the stage bouncing off his dark skin and thick rimmed glasses.
Kwame and Tabitha were quickly deeply engrossed in conversation, Scarlett could instantly see their spark, in fact it was blinding her.
Scarlett had finished her drink before the lighting changed and she looked up to see Jim and Drew walking up onto the stage. Jim looked amazing in head to toe black, his insanely blue eyes the only pop of colour as he headed to the front of the stage and surveyed the crowd. Drew took the position to the right of him in a loose plaid shirt, winking out from behind his messy hair at his housemates as he picked up his guitar.
Scarlett held her breath in anticipation as Drew strummed the first note, him and Jim locked in eye contact to ensure they were in time, both holding guitars now. After a few punchy, raucous chords, the drummer and the bassist jumped into action and Jim turned away from Drew, coming back to his microphone at the front of the stage to sing in a deep, sultry, sexy as hell voice.
Scarlett couldn't stop watching him. The way his eyes flickered closed as he let the music take him over. They way he seemed to grind into the microphone as he sang. The way his big hands strummed at his guitar loosely but with force and structure. He was completely mesmerising.
Drew took most of the complicated guitar parts, Scarlett noticed, as he skilfully manoeuvred an upbeat but impressive solo in between verses, his long hair falling nearly entirely over his face as he danced and swayed in time with the music.
They were brilliant. She had always known they would be. Drew's taste and skill alone were enough to make her sure of that but once you added Jim's sex appeal and that voice into the equation - these guys were rockstars.
Scarlett suddenly felt very humbled to have the relationship she had with Drew. He'd never once made her feel lame or uncool even though he was this huge star in the making and she was basically a naïve school girl. As she looked around at the crowds that were gathering she knew that more than a few of these girls would kill to be living with him and have the relationship with him that she had. But Drew had never made her feel like anything other than his equal. She couldn't say the same about Jim who obviously knew he was too good for her. And as she watched him clasping the microphone with one hand and leaning into the crowd to sing the next line, she thought who could blame him? He was truly a God amongst men.
When the gig was finished, Scarlett pounded her hands together as hard as she could. She loved their sound and their vibe, punky but more polished than punk with garage rock undertones and flashes of indie greatness. She couldn't wait to speak to Drew about one song in particular which she thought could have been straight off a Strokes album.
She felt Mairead pulling at her elbow, "Lets head outside for a cigarette!" she shouted over the whooping and cheering from the crowd.
Scarlett turned around to find Tabitha and Kwame gone and so followed Mairead through the crowds and out into the smoking area.
"They were so great!" Scarlett exclaimed, accepting a cigarette off Mairead who pulled her cream fur jacket around her in response to the coldness of the night.
"Yeah, they really are, they've been playing music together for like ever..." Mairead trailed off, looking anxiously over Scarlett's shoulder.
Scarlett spun around to see Ros heading straight for them.
"You can't polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter!" Ros laughed as she looked Scarlett up and down, "I'm sure you're not old enough to be here."
"Leave us alone, Ros," Mairead sighed, looking dejected, "We've come to see our friends play a gig, we don't want trouble."
"Yeah. Back off," Scarlett added, setting her jaw and looking back at Ros defiantly.
"Are you talking to me, little one?" Ros simmered back at Scarlett, placing a hand on her hip, "Because you had better not be. I'll end you before you've even began. You have no idea who you're messing with."
"Go ahead! Do your worst! I've dealt with far scarier monsters than you. But I do think you might be the hairiest."
The altercation had attracted a crowd, a few of which sniggered at this line, further enraging Ros whose nostrils flared as she stepped forward aggressively.
"Who the fuck do you think you are? You are a literal nobody."
Scarlett took a step towards Ros, her fists balled at her side, her face determined, "This 'nobody' is gonna fuck you up if you don't back off. Right now."
Ros scoffed and a disdainful smile stretched across her face as she lifted her hands up to push Scarlett out of her personal space. But before her hands could even reach Scarlett's body, she had already retaliated, bringing her own arms up to block Ros' push and launch one back at her that took her off her feet.
Ros landed on her back and let out a yelp before scrambling back up onto her feet and frantically smoothing out her hair, her eyes wild and her mouth parted, breathing heavily. A few people who had been watching let out surprised exclamations.
"Would you like another shot?" Scarlett asked, smiling sweetly, "I warn you though, next time I might actually hurt you. Turns out street rats know how to use their fists."
"You're a fucking psycho," Ros whimpered before turning on her heel and marching back through the crowds, towards the road.
Scarlett let out a whoosh of air and felt a slap on the back, "Oh my God you absolute legend!" Mairead squealed, "That was so insane!"
Scarlett turned around to see that Mairead had been joined by Jim and Drew. The people that were watching nearby turned back to their friends and pints.
"Yeah that was brilliant," Drew gawped, "I've never seen Ros lose her cool like that. You're a hard motherfucker!"
Jim said nothing but had that look on his face again. Like he was watching something funny or interesting on TV. But something horrible, like a puppy dying or a fish trapped in plastic.
"She can't talk to people how she does," Scarlett shrugged, looking at her feet, the adrenaline and confidence from the altercation dissipating under Jim's glare.
"Cooking, playing music and now fighting. Is there anything you can't do?" Jim spoke now, his voice cocky and mocking.
Scarlett looked up and met his steely gaze. She had a bad feeling about him but knew she needed to make an effort to win him over if she wanted to stay at Luke Street with her new friends.
"You guys were so great tonight," she said, changing the subject but not looking away from Jim who blinked at her and took a deep sip of his drink.
"Thank you," Drew answered for them both, "You look...amazing!" Scarlett looked at Drew who was looking back at her with amazement and fondness in his eyes.
"Its all Mairead, she's a wizard." Scarlett blushed, her head falling forward so her hair covered her face.
The conversation moved on to discuss the next bands and the plans for afterwards, cigarettes were finished and the foursome headed inside to order drinks and find a table to inhabit.
When they sat down, Scarlett took the opportunity to steal another glance at Jim who looking straight at her from across the table. She looked away but could feel his gaze burning into her face so she looked at him again. He licked his lips slowly, and smiled at her. A sensual, alluring smile that made Scarlett feel as though her world had just been spun upside down.