Despite a growing detachment, I let Jill shag me for another week. Until the next Friday when I rang her bell and I knew it would be the last time. I knew because every day her post-sex gaze had gotten more intense, closer to real emotions than I could bear. In reply I hurried out of her bed instead of staying the night – my stunted way to address the issue.
“We should talk,” I said.
“I know,” she said and pulled my t-shirt up all the way to my neck. “But first things first.”
I couldn’t deny that there was a certain sexual chemistry between us, but I had no interest in identifying its source. Half the time I screwed my eyes shut tightly and pretended it was Lou touching me anyway.
“This has to end, right?” Jill asked, half her body still covering mine.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t give you what you want.”
“It’s too soon for you. It’s a shame, but I understand.”
“I still love her. I can’t help it.”
“Of course you can’t.” She pushed herself up until she was fully on top of me again. “But do me, and yourself, a big favour, will you.” She drilled her eyes in mine, they were as close to black as eyes could be. “Give her another chance.”
“That’s very big of you.”
“I’m too good for this world.” She dug her nails in my flesh and scratched me all the way from my arm-pits to my hips. “But if it doesn’t work out. Call me in a couple of months.” She lifted herself off and flipped me on my belly. “You never know. We may be more than sexually compatible.” Then she bit the back of my neck for the very last time.
I left Jill’s house around nine that evening and I knew it was now or never. I made my way to Lou’s place, ready to put her crush on Claire behind me. I had to at least try. My only alternative was to go out into the night and find Jill Number Two – an option I had zero motivation for. Two weeks apart was long enough for me to realise that I didn’t just want, but desperately needed another chance. Despite everything, I was still Lou Gallagher’s girl and suddenly I couldn’t wait to see her lips curl asymmetrically while she rolled a cigarette, to have her green eyes disappear into mine when she bent down to kiss me. I knew what I wanted and I couldn’t wait one second longer. I treated myself to a cab to Camden, not even considering the possibility that she might be out on a Friday night. I just pictured her leaning against the wall, a sparked-up cigarette burning between her fingers, the smoke catching in her hair and giving her that musky smell. I envisioned her waiting for me and whispering a quiet “finally” into my ear when she invited me in. I dreamt up all kind of romantic happy endings in that taxi until I stood in front of her door and I actually had to ring the bell. Then the nerves came and washed over me, they flushed my cheeks the most burning shade of crimson and infected my fingers with an unbearable tremble. I stood there, ready to forgive, ready to become Lou and Lee again and I could barely move. Slowly I raised my hand and pushed the buzzer, just for a moment the first time but then I couldn’t keep my finger off. I wanted her to appear in the door frame pronto, without hesitation. My patience was gone. Then a woman opened the door, a woman wearing nothing but Lou’s pin-striped vest and shorts. The woman wasn’t Lou. It was Claire.
To be continued…