I’ve just looked back at that image of Vinnie (Drew), in a previous post and thought I’d better update you on him a bit. I’ve started work on the sequel to Damage. It’s called Distance and it starts three months after the end of Damage. But unlike Damage this is the story of Drew and Suzie. It still involves Cerys and Aiden but it’s told through Drew’s viewpoint and there’s a real jaw-dropping shocker in paragraph one. We’re back to secrets and lies again, but different ones this time.
This book has songs all the way through just like Damage, but here there’s a song that sets the tone for each chapter. My favourite so far is chapter three – ‘Cold November Rain’ by Guns N Roses! That’s when Drew’s life hits rock bottom and the only way from there is up. But it’s going to get a lot more compliated before that happens.
Here’s the opening chapter:
(Here Without You – 3 Doors Down)
If it’s true that the life you’ve lived begins to show on your face, then my life was currently a car crash. I looked far older than my twenty years and life was etched into every dirt mark, frown line and shadow that pitted it. If you were seeing that face for the first time though, you probably wouldn’t notice any of that straight away. You’d notice the scar that tugged at the skin above my right eye. It was recent, about three months old, and seemed to be the first thing that people’s eyes were drawn to these days. It no longer hurt unless I touched it and had almost faded from an angry red to a pale white line about an inch long that curved up around my eye socket, puckering the delicate skin at the corner into an odd crease that unbalanced my features. The people who care about my face, and there seemed to be a surprising number of them, had been mortified at the ruination of my handsome good looks. But every time I saw it, it just made me smile inwardly. Not because of the circumstances surrounding how I came by it. That had been bad. But it was a daily reminder of the person who I’d been protecting when I got it. A person who was probably completely unaware of how I felt about her, and who could never be allowed to know.
I sighed and lifted the razor to my chin. I felt the need to make some kind of an effort to look presentable this evening. I was meeting Suzie in an hour and she wasn’t going to want to see me like this. She was worried enough about me already. According to her various texts, emails and phone calls over the last few weeks I was apparently ‘depressed’, ‘coasting’, ‘withdrawn’ and most recently ‘not making any effort to sort my life out’. I had a sinking feeling that tonight’s meeting had been engineered to do just that. Sort me out. Get me back on track. As if it was all just so simple. As if the cracks in our relationship were purely down to me. If we could just fix me then that would magically solve everything else.
A drop of blood splashed into the sink where I’d dragged the razor too hard down my chin and I winced and swore. Never shave when you’re pissed off, pre-occupied or drunk. I was currently heading for two out of those three and hoping to be all of the above before the night was over. Even so, another scar on my already botched up face wasn’t going to help much, like another reminder of my currently botched up life.
On an impulse I dropped the towel from my waist and took a good long look at myself in the steamy glass. Thankfully my body was still in good shape. In fact I was probably the fittest I’d ever been. I’d been working out a lot lately and it showed. I almost had a six pack going on and as the water trickled from my wet hair down over my collar bone it ran in little rivulets around the curve of my pecs instead of a straight line down to my navel, as it once would have done. The spiky black Celtic tattoo on my left arm had been boosted by my upper body workouts as well, wrapping itself around my bicep and spiralling down to my forearm in a satisfying arc. Would Suzie appreciate it? Would she even notice? As I towelled myself off and shrugged into my shirt I had to admit that I wasn’t even sure that it was Suzie I’d been making the effort for.
I headed back down the landing to my room, reaching angrily for a comb, and then swore again as I inadvertently knocked over a half full beer bottle onto the desk, soaking everything in its path. I hastily swept aside the various bits of crap and flicked the drips onto the carpet. Bank statements, half written song lyrics and underneath those the rejection letter from Newcastle university, still in its torn envelope, where it had been sitting for the last two months since it arrived. Two months since I’d been politely informed that I’d failed my first year exams and wouldn’t be going back to Uni in September. Two months since Cerys and Aiden had finally hooked up and started a new life together and Suzie had gone back to start her second year at Reading. Two months since my own life had taken a nosedive and begun to spiral out of control. Tonight I had a horrible feeling it was about to crash land, and there would probably be casualties.
When you start going out with someone you’re in a crazily good place. Every time they touch you it tingles like sparks and when you’re without them you feel the physical separation like a pain in the groin. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you can’t concentrate on a single other thing and your hormones are off the scale. That’s how it felt when I first started going out with Suzie.
We met three years ago when she transferred from her all girls’ school to join the sixth form at ours. There were a whole sea of new faces that first week back in September, but most of the girls blended into one amorphous mass of cascading bed-head hair and pretentious Hollister sweatshirts and attitude. But not Suzie. She wasn’t scared to buck the trend from day one.
The first time Aiden and I laid eyes on her the bell had just rung for first lesson and she was confidently striding the opposite way down the corridor to everyone else, wearing a mohair jumper and purple skinny jeans. Her hair was in two cute dark red plaits that might have made her look like a Scandinavian storybook character if she’d had freckles and been ten years old. As it was, she looked cute but in the kind of way where you knew she could probably take your eye out if you got into a fight with her. She looked dead serious about something but as she passed us she must have seen me staring because she glanced up and flashed a beautiful smile at me before striding past. It left me grinning like an idiot and wondering what had hit me.
I saw her again several times in the days after that and each time it gave me a physical jolt. Not so much like Cupid’s arrow, more like Cupid’s electric cattle prod. I started to fantasize about how she’d look with her hair loose around her shoulders and the shape of her toned ass under those skinny jeans. But how do you start a conversation with someone you’ve never met? I like to think I exuded some cool and sophistication even back then, but inside I was as much of a trembling pussy cat as every other guy when it came to chatting up girls.
As luck would have it Aiden’s girlfriend Louise came to my rescue. Here I’m pausing to take a breath and remember her. What happened to her and Aiden later that same year was a tragedy that struck us all to the core like a seismic shift. But back then when everything was still OK, and we all still had each other, she was the one who saved the day for me. Suzie was in her AS Physics class and Louise pulled out all the stops to go on a befriending mission on my behalf. Once they’d got past the initial meet and greet conversation they realised they had a lot of things in common. Similar taste in music, A levels, politics… and guys as it turned out. Louise subtly steered her our way one day after school when we were all going for a coffee, and she tagged along. Suzie told me later that she had a hunch Louise was trying to set her up with me and she was more than willing to go along with it. But more of that later.
Here’s the link to the music that accompanies that chapter.
It’s a great song called Here Without You by 3 Doors Down.