This Wretched Heart

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Falling down, all the way down, down to the bottom where it can’t be found now’.

The Raglans


She plunged her hand into the gooey mess and inhaled the musty smell. Her fingers clenched the spoon as she scooped the orange flesh and dolloped it onto a tray, closing her eyes at the realization that it had been over a year since she had first bumped into Sam running in the park. Her favorite time of the year was back but this time the magic was not as sharp. That said, she was looking forward to Halloween with Peter, they always had a great time. He would always take the night off the Bistro and they would get bundles of sweets ready for the trick or treaters. This year was no exception and in a few days they would start the celebrations as they always did with pumpkin pancakes, bacon and maple syrup. The excitement she normally felt however was dampened and she was furious at herself for this. Was she really going to let the fact that she had bumped into Jane and Sam a month ago play over and over in her head ? Peter would be heartbroken if he knew but she was even though she was more certain than ever that the way she felt about Sam had nothing to do with Peter. It was just that when something was wrong in one part of her life she was unable to stop it contaminating everything else and she was terrified that he would sense her melancholy.A few days earlier she had answered the phone and had jolted Jane’s clear voice filled her ear.

‘ Lara hey, how are you ? I’m sooo sorry I have been out of contact it’s just...’ Lara waited for the ‘ Sam and I have been so busy wink wink’ but instead, Jane ranted on about how busy she was researching her new position as TV presenter of a late night music show.

‘ Well I kind of bluffed my way through the interview and it worked.' If only life were that easy for everyone.

' So now I have to act like I know who these bands are and that of course I loved ‘The Smiths’ blah blah blah ..that and I’ve started going to gigs just to absorb the whole music vibe thing.'

‘ Wow that sounds great.' Lara felt a pang of envy which turned into a full blown stab in guts when Jane added:

' Sam’s been great and comes along to most of them with me. He’s a great guy Lara, I’m so glad you introduced me.

‘ I fucking didn’t, he just happened to be here and you must have thrown yourself at him because he has feelings for me you wench’ Lara held this back and took a deep breath.

‘ Yeah he’s lovely’. It actually hurt her throat saying that one. She felt so angry with him. She knew she shouldn’t, she had no right but Jane ? Did he really have to move on with one of her friends? What a cock. She grinned silently as she realised that she always used a synonym of the male appendage when it came to insulting him. Her councillor would say that this was freudian.

‘ So anyway in the spirit of helping me adapt to my new job, would you come with me to a gig next week?’

Lara was taken aback. She had not expected this. She really didn’t want to see them together again but she didn’t want to hurt Jane’s feelings. She had to try really hard to remind herself that Jane knew nothing about her silly emotions. In fact it was she who was being deceitful by not mentioning to her what Sam had happened ever so briefly in Marrakech. Sam mustn’t have divulged this. It would afterall make very interesting pillow talk. ‘Silly married Lara having feelings for someone else’.

‘ Sam has to go to this thing with his parents, you know how they are’.

Lara did. He had told her so much about his life. He must have admitted this to Jane.Why else would she assume she would know what his parents were like?

‘ Yeah good old Margaret and Denis, they keep him very busy’. This was a ridiculous thing for her to say. She might as well have commented on a football match. She was clearly trying to mark her territory and she instantly felt like a fraud. She also felt relief that she wouldn’t have to see them together as a couple again.

‘ Yeah well it means that I’ll be on my lonesome otherwise so please please come, it’ll give us a chance to catch up again’.

Lara wasn’t certain whether it was goodwill or a desire to probe her friend face to face about how she and Sam had actually gotten to dating but she found herself saying yes. Now as she carved out the pumpkins on the table for the next night she couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. Sam wouldn’t be there at least. The latent anger was dissipating slowly and seeing him might only blow it back in her face.. The grimacing orange faces of the Jack O Lanterns were laughing at her. ‘ Yeah right’ they cried out in unison. .

Jane’s research venue was one of those trendy places she had heard of but never been. Story of her life. She pictured all the hipsters staring at her, mouthing ‘ She doesn’t belong here’ at each other. Her decision about clothing had been ridiculously over-analysed as she tried to pick out something she imagined a ‘ gigger’ would wear. She thought that converse and a black T shirt would be too obvious so she settled for black leggings and a black flowing dress top with a cut out back in the shape of a heart. She had pulled her hair back in a ponytail for a change but felt an instant need to have it envelop her as she walked towards the bouncers.

‘ You alright love?’ She knew they were assessing her intoxication level which was in fact nil. She had wanted to have a glass of wine but Peter had drunk the last of the white the night before.

‘ Yeah I’m good thanks’. She had never known what to say in these moments. Jane had always bantered good humouredly with everyone and Lara had been able to fade into the comfortable background. She sounded so prissy in these situations.

‘ Go ahead gorgeous’. Well that was easy and she remembered that she didn’t look underage anymore.

A text came through to her phone ‘ Running late darling sorry, Sam is coming after all , keep us seats’.

Shit shit shit. She should have known this was going to happen. Had he changed his mind because she was here ? A part of her hoped that this was true but the realistic side of her argued that his parents had probably changed their plans and he was now able to meet his girlfriend. She reminded herself what it felt like in those first few flourishing months of dating someone. She would have dropped everything to see Peter. Sam was doing the same with Jane. Peter had raised his eyebrows ever so slightly when she told him she was going to the gig with Jane. He hadn’t asked if Sam was going and she knew this was deliberate. She deliberately didn’t mention anything either. She couldn’t trust herself to act normally when Sam’s name was mentioned. He was so different from her. She would have probed and accused and sent herself and him into a frenzy. He had taken her at her word and she felt awful for it. She wanted him to tell her that he had feelings for someone else because for once she would understand. For once she could see that it was possible to love someone with all your heart but expand it for someone else. Society had put up the fence.

All these thoughts flowed through her mind , briefly distracted by her mouth ordering a glass of wine. She couldn’t remember the last time she had done this for herself. When she had been in college Jane had always ordered the drinks. On work nights out her manager had kept them coming and every other time there was Peter. Peter, Peter, Peter. Would he be angry if he knew Sam was going to be there? Should she make up an excuse and leave ? She knew she wouldn’t. There was a force greater than her and it was keeping her glued to the chair. She had found a table close to the stage and she could see the band getting ready.

‘ The Raglans’ Jane had said ’ I’ve heard they’re up and coming and bloody brilliant.

She admired her tenacity. Here was a woman who had just left her husband a few months ago and who had never held down a proper job and was now presenting a TV show and going out with an amazing if very insensitive man. What had she done to warrant a pat on the back ? For such a long time she had told herself that getting out of bed was good enough. But the black that had, held her in place was not as strong as it used to be. Even after Marrakech, even after the tram she had continued to live her life. Maybe it was time she tried to branch out from her nine to five. Maybe she should start the bakery with Peter. Why not her ? Why not her ? The wine was making her brave and she hoped that this lightbulb moment would still shine as brightly the next day.

‘ One two, One two’ The lead singer was staring into the dark. ‘ Good to see you all here hope you enjoy the show’.

‘ Falling down all the way down’ the lyrics slithered everywhere as she let herself get lost in the music. It was easy, they were amazing and she wondered why she didn’t go to more gigs with Peter. It was like going to the cinema. The moment the lights went out and you felt the magic penetrate you, you always wondered why you didn’t spend most your days in a movie theatre. A cold hand tapped hers and Jane’s beaming face appeared from the dark as she sat on the opposite side of the rectangle table. ‘ Sorry we’re late ’ She mouthed and rolled her eyes towards Sam deflecting the blame.

Lara turned away from the stage and towards him as he sat on her side of the table. They smiled awkwardly and she couldn’t bring herself to hug him. She hoped Jane would just understand that the gig had started and she didn’t want to make a fuss. She smiled at them both then turned back to the stage her heart thumping in her ears. She could smell the cold night air and smoke emanating from him and the familiar odour of his aftershave and clothes. She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it but she was sure she could feel the heat of his body reaching for her as the songs continued. Jane kept smiling at them both and nodding as if to say ‘ Wasn’t I right? They are great !’. Lara agreed but felt annoyed at having to give her the credit for it. Jane always felt the need to be associated with anything ‘ a la mode’ by incessantly blabbing on about how much she loved it. Eventually Lara would indeed think of her everytime she heard a particular song or ate a particular food and somehow it wouldn’t sound or taste as good. Maybe the same would be true with Sam but at that moment every fibre of her body was aware of him sitting behind her. She wondered was he staring at her at all. At one stage his legs stretched out underneath her chair and she fought the irresistible urge to touch them with hers. She knew she wouldn’t but in that moment, in the dark with beautiful music filling her ears, she allowed herself to feel anything was possible. Maybe life was a rubber cage and at last she was seeing it for what it was. She could stretch the bars that she had always thought were rigid and move into new unknown spaces. She could reach her legs over and tip Sam’s and let the universe and karma do its worst. But the bars were proving their weight and she was too weak to move them. She excused herself to go the loo.

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