The third installment of this week’s story in five parts. With possibly the best opening sentence ever.
The Bridge | Part Three| Pat Black
“I mean… look at the tits on the cunt,” Nellany said, draining a bottled beer to the suds.
They both watched the blonde girl from Geography crack open a beer. Whether she knew she was being watched or not, she took a drink out of the bottle. A foamy rill trailed down the side of her mouth, and she wiped it hastily.
“Um, there’s a napkin over here, if you want to… Um…” Nellany held up a filthy dishtowel which he’d used to soak up a spilled can of lager. The girl blanked him, frowning.
“She blew you out,” Darren said, draining his own bottle. “Ouch.”
Darren and Nellany sat beside the stereo with a few of the other football boys. Sullen and twitchy, they commandeered Nellany’s dad’s CDs and ancient, esoteric vinyl records. A Wishbone Ash album was subjected to comic turntable scratching at one point, which had perhaps led Nellany to take up this defensive position near the stereo.
Nellany’s older brother, who was home on study leave from uni, had soured the atmosphere somewhat, taking control of the evening from the kitchen and inviting in his girlfriend and their lame pals. The younger teens had slowly drifted away, sensing that the house wasn’t quite as open as it had been hoped. Only a few stragglers remained.
John Sinton, the lanky goalkeeper, stretched and yawned. “I think I might boost, man.”
“Yeah, you go for it,” Nellany said. “That’ll liven up the atmosphere.”
Darren belched, and reached into the ripped case of beers. He clicked off the top of the bottle and let it tinkle on the floor. He rested his chin on the top of the stereo, which poured out hip hop at an almost timid volume.
Nellany frowned at him. “And what’s your excuse, then, Smiler?”
“Blue balls? Join the club. Come on, pucker up.”
Just then, the doorbell sounded, and heads snapped up. Outside, girls giggled.
“You want to come outside for a walk?”
Sybil took a sip out of a bottle livid with a bright blue drink, and chewed the side of her mouth. Darren couldn’t be sure if she was drunk or not. “Outside for a walk? Are you serious?”
“Where are we going, like?”
“We could watch people throwing themselves off the bridge. Don’t forget, they have a safety net now.”
She shrugged. “Why not?”
He allowed her the lead, picking her way past the legs and splayed feet on Nellany’s carpet. The front room was loud, now, with the surprise inclusion of Sybil and her friends. Nellany’s older brother had stuck his head around the door and hadn’t looked at all happy. Control had slipped away from him. There could be no more obvious sign of this than on the stereo, which blasted out thumping techno with impunity. Some of the girls started dancing, barefoot, over by the bookcase, rattling the ceramic ornaments and crystal shaped animals on the shelves. Nellany, sitting between Melanie Douglas and Helen O’Shaughnessy, appeared completely unbiased over the question of their musical choices. Noone noticed Darren and Sybil leave.
The sun had dipped below the horizon out in the cul-de-sac, set at the top of another steep slope. The lights of the town glittered at the bottom of the road, while the bridge kept watch over the scene to the right, red guide lights flashing steadily. The structure appeared straighter in profile, the spans less crooked. Darren and Sybil carried bottles, swigging from them occasionally.
“Did you get your letter through?” she asked.
He took a pull of beer. It was easier than speaking to her. “What for?”
“Court. The inquiry.”
“No… Well, I don’t think so. My ma maybe picked it up.”
“It’s in eight weeks.”
He smirked. “Right in time for the end of the exams.”
“What are you going to say?”
“Do you get to take in notes?”
She emitted a choking gasp, and doubled over. He patted her on the back, horror-struck. But she was laughing.
“Well,” she finally managed, “I didn’t quite think about that. It’s not the same as revision.”
“What are you going to say?”
“Well… I dunno. Shit. Tell the truth.”
He realised the moment was getting close. He let his free hand trail along her back. Her shirt was porous, sheer but not delicate, synthetic like some of the training tops he had piled up on his bedroom floor back home.
She shot him a look, then straightened up, wiped her mouth, and had another drink. But she did not move his hand away. “And what’s your truth?”
“The truth? That Donegan… that clown, showed up and… what happened happened.”
“You’ll have to go into exactly what you saw. You’ll need to be ready for that. They’ll ask you for all the details.”
“I guess.” He shrugged. “Pretty simple, all in.”
They took a turn down the cul-de-sac, stopping short of the main road. “No,” she said. “It’ll be more like, you know… ‘did he say anything? Did you? Who did he shoot first?’”
“I know all that. It’s kind of hard to forget. Hold on… are you asking me that?”
“Sorry.” She took his hand. Before they reached the main road, where they could hear the traffic occasionally hissing past, he kissed her, heart surging.
They kissed in the main road, only stopping when someone shouted abuse at them from the open window of a car. The shrill sound dopplered into the distance.
“When he walked past you, on his way to the gym,” Darren asked, a little while later. “What did he say to you?”
“Nothing,” Sybil said. “Nothing at all. He looked at me for what seemed like forever. Right in my face. He didn’t point the gun at me. He didn’t say anything. Just kind of nodded. Then I ran. I don’t even remember hitting the fire alarm, but everyone told me I did.”
“Did you know what he’d done right away?”
“I could guess. I heard some shots. And screaming, from the science block.”
Darren’s phone went, the blue light pulsing through the material of his jeans in the dark. It was Nellany, and he was out of breath.
“Miss me?” Darren asked him. “What’s happening?”
“Dormer’s just tried to get into the house.”