Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 15


She sobbed and lifted her tearstained face to mine. She shook her head. I understood the pain that was etched into her every feature and I felt my heart clench in compassion. Shuffling closer, I slid a comforting arm around her shoulders and held the tissues to her.
“Bad breakup?” I guessed as she took one.
Larissa sucked in a huge breath. “Yes.” Her lips trembled. “It’s his name I’m getting removed.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” I murmured softly, rubbing her back.
“He was a shit,” she cried. “I know that. I do. But . . .” She wiped at her face.
“Hey.” I tugged on her hand, and she leaned into my comfort. “I understand. You’re allowed to be sad. You are. But just know . . . no regrets, yeah? You’re doing the right thing. This is a fresh start. A new beginning for you.”
Meeting my eyes, Larissa gave me a tremulous smile. “Thanks.”
“Everything okay?”
I snapped my head up, surprised to see Cole there. I hadn’t even heard him approach. His green eyes were on the girl and me. Concern wrinkled his brow.
“Yes.” Larissa nodded, looking embarrassed. “Had a bit of a meltdown.” She smiled sheepishly at me. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I reassured her. She should have had a friend come along and help her through this, I thought, sad for her.
“What’s all this, then?” Rae strode toward us. As soon as she saw Larissa’s tear-streaked face, she rounded the coffee table, gently took her hand, and guided her out of her seat. “I’m Rae. Come on, honey, let’s get a start on removing that fucker’s tattoo from your skin. You’ll feel all better soon.”
I watched my flatmate lead the girl into the back rooms and couldn’t help my smile. I was coming to learn that beneath the bluster and bravado, Rae was a big perceptive softie.
Suddenly the air changed.
I sucked in a breath, feeling Cole’s gaze burning into me.
Not wanting to but needing to nonetheless, I looked at him. I sucked in another breath.
He was staring at me with what appeared to be tenderness.
I didn’t like it. Nope. I really didn’t.
“What?” I said, my tone impatient.
His answer was to give me a small smile, walk casually over to me, place a kiss on my forehead, and then walk away.
My skin tingled where his lips had touched me.
“What the heck?” I muttered.
*   *   *
That night I had the pleasure of meeting Rae’s boyfriend, Mike, for the first time. At first it wasn’t a pleasure. At first I was a little mortified as Rae introduced him, because all I could think was that I knew the noises this guy made during sex.
Once I worked my way through the embarrassment, I was a little surprised by Mike. For some reason, I’d expected this superedgy, gruff guy with a personality to match or outmatch Rae’s. Mike wasn’t anything like that. He was tall, leanly built, had a nice face, kind dark eyes, and short blond hair. From the band on his T-shirt and from what Rae had told me, Mike liked the same music as his girlfriend. But that seemed to be where the similarities ended.
“We were feeling a bit frisky, shall we say?” Rae continued, telling me a story about the second gig she and Mike had attended together. From the moment we’d sat down in the sitting room to have a beer, Rae had done all the talking for Mike and he seemed okay with that. “So I suggested the ladies’ toilets and lo and behold, the place was empty. I dragged Mike in there, locked the main door, and we started going at it against the tiled walls.” She grinned at her boyfriend and he gave her a small smile, not at all put out that she was divulging details of their sex life. It occurred to me that perhaps this was because it wasn’t the first time she had done so in company.
I waited, not sure what my reply was supposed to be. I’d never had sex in a public place. In all honesty I’d never wanted to. My ex had tried to coerce me into having sex with him once in an alley in Glasgow City Center and had been more than pissed off when I told him to take a run and jump off the nearest bridge.
“She thought she’d locked the door,” Mike suddenly murmured, his lips twitching with amusement.
I gasped. “No.”
Rae laughed. “Yup. There we were, my knickers off, skirt around the waist, Mike’s jeans around his ankles as we did it against a cold wall, and all of a sudden we heard, ‘I’m not sure that’s very hygienic, sweetheart.’ We turned and this old lady, with long, hippy-length gray hair—cool-as-fuck old biddy—is standing in the door holding out a cloth handkerchief. ‘You might want to give those tiles a wee clean before you continue,’ she says.”
I laughed. “What did you do?”
Rae’s eyes sparkled at the memory. “Mike took the hanky and I said, ‘I want to be you when I’m older.’ And she replied, ‘Well, you’re going the right way about it.’” Rae chuckled. “Seriously. My freaking heroine.”
“She sounds like a character.”
Rae nodded and then launched into her next story. Although Mike was rarely given a chance to speak, and it appeared Rae could be quite bossy with him, I deduced that from what I could see so far, their relationship was quite balanced. When Mike got up to get himself another beer, Rae shooed him back down in his seat. She stroked his cheek tenderly. “You’ve been working such long hours, baby. I’ll get it for you.”
Every day I discovered new facets to Rae’s personality, and although she could be abrasive and she used the F-word way too much, I was nonetheless charmed by her. For the longest time I’d been surrounded by people who were either negative or fake. With Rae, what you saw you got—and although she teased people often, I knew that it never came from a mean place unless that person was not very nice.
In only a week of acquaintance I knew where I stood with Rae, and I was coming to learn that that was worth its weight in gold.
While Rae got the beers, Mike smiled at me. “How are you and Rae getting on?”
“I know she can be a bit . . . well, everything, but she’s a really good person.”
I smiled reassuringly. “I’m getting that.”
“Talking about me?” Rae sauntered back into the room. “Are you discussing my absolute fabulousness, darlings?” she asked, imitating Tony and doing it so well, I couldn’t help giggling.