Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 5


So Rae had a mouth on her and I was guessing no filter between said mouth and her brain, but underneath the prickly demeanor I sensed a real affection for her employer and her colleague. Stu was loud and blunt but easygoing and laid-back. And Simon seemed just as easygoing and nice.
It couldn’t be the worst place to work.
Who was I kidding? They could be horrible and I’d still be accepting this job. I stuck out my hand. “Thank you. I’d be pleased to accept.”
Stu beamed, shaking my hand and with it my whole body again. “Brilliant. How does Monday sound?”
“Brilliant,” I echoed, smiling hugely for the first time in days, weeks even. I was relieved to finally be moving forward with my life.
Stu looked over his shoulder at Simon. “She said aye!”
Simon laughed. “Good news. Cole will love her.”
“Oh, aye.” Stu chuckled in a way that made me feel suddenly nervous. Who was Cole? Stu’s eyes twinkled. “I’m actually semiretired. I’m not around a lot, so I leave the running of the place to my manager, Cole. He’ll go over everything you need to know on Monday.”
I smiled weakly in response.
I suddenly had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
*   *   *
The room was cold and narrow, but at least it was a place to rest my head for now. Although that didn’t make the surroundings any less depressing. Not to mention I hated having to share the communal bathroom with the five other guests who were staying at the “hotel.”
I’d finished filling out the employee details form Stu had given me before leaving INKarnate. On the one hand I felt incredibly lucky to have secured a job so quickly, and on the other I was absolutely dreading meeting my new manager. I had to hope that he was just like Stu or even Simon. Not a bad boy.
Grumbling under my breath about the miscommunication that had landed me in this situation, I pushed away the form and picked up my phone. No messages. As if I really expected there to be any—I hadn’t been entirely visible back in Glasgow to my family, but at least I’d existed. Now it was like I’d been wiped from all recollection.
Ignoring the burn of anger in my gut, I got up and crossed the small room to where I’d piled my suitcases and five boxes with my belongings. I’d thrown most of my stuff out before moving. I thought it might help to purge myself of those memories in order to start over.
Searching through the boxes, I found the one I was looking for. The one box I’d kept from high school was the one with all my old sketch pads and art materials. Sketching always relaxed me—it took me out of myself for a little while. I seemed to need that a lot lately.
When I was packing up, I hadn’t had enough time to go through all my old drawings, but tonight I had nothing but time and four grim walls. I needed something to take my mind off my family problems, and I didn’t have money to buy any new books.
Hauling the box over to the bed, I wiped away the dust that had collected on the top of the sketch pads with an old T-shirt and curled up on the bed to look through them. Some of the older drawings made me smile. Drawing wasn’t something that had come particularly easy to me at first. I’d loved to do it but was never able to make a sketch come alive. Until a boy in my first-year class (one I happened to have a massive crush on) in high school showed me how to hold a sketch pencil correctly and how to stroke against the paper, not draw in hard, unbending lines.
From there I caught on quickly and I was hooked.
The art lasted. The first crush didn’t.
A sheet of paper fell out from the third sketch pad I’d picked up and suddenly I was reminded of another boy. A year ago I would have been able to look at the sketch and feel nothing but a prickle of pain—a ghostly reminder rather than the real thing.
Now, however, looking down at the drawing of my ex-boyfriend Nick, I felt bitterness well up in me. That bitterness was becoming a familiar part of me and I hated it. I just didn’t know how to fight it.
But I leaned against my pillow, my fingers crinkling the sketch of the gorgeous Nick Briar. I’d gone out with Nick nine months after my first boyfriend, Ewan, had dumped me out of the blue. For a time Nick soothed the hurt Ewan had left me with. In my immaturity, I actually felt like I had won something over Ewan when I began dating Nick. He was nineteen and gorgeous and the lead singer in a rival rock band.
Nick had been the first of my bad boys . . .
*   *   *
The small club was dingy and smoky and much too hot. But I was filled with giddy excitement as I watched Nick sing onstage with his band, Allied Criminals. I thought their name was stupid and I wasn’t a huge fan of their music, but I loved Nick’s voice and his passion and how excited people were by them. I felt proud standing in the crowd as his girlfriend, and I promised myself I would always support him, no matter what.
Nick played up his brooding persona onstage, but in reality he was such a sweet guy. The night before, when I told him I wouldn’t be able to make it to this performance because of a family thing, he’d been really cool about it. He was disappointed, but he didn’t make a big deal about it like Ewan would have. And he made me feel special in a way that Ewan never had. Nick was always telling me how beautiful I was, how funny and interesting. I’d felt ordinary until I met him. I was completely falling for him, which was probably why I’d had sex for the first time with him a few weeks ago.
My friends were acting all immature about it and jealous, which was ridiculous. They thought it was a mistake for me to give it up to him and were really being unsupportive and ignorant about the whole thing. Lucky I had Nick in my life so I didn’t have to put up with their silly naïveté all the time.
After Nick was so cool the night before, whispering sweet nothings in my ear while he made love to me, I decided I’d get out of my aunt’s birthday party to come and see him play. I couldn’t wait to see the look of surprise on Nick’s face.
The band finished up and I hurried toward the door that would lead to backstage. A bouncer tried to push me back, but after I explained who I was he disappeared backstage and returned with the band’s “manager.” In reality he was Nick’s older cousin, Justin, and I wasn’t really sure what it was that qualified him to be their manager. I didn’t really care just then. Justin recognized me and got me backstage only to disappear before I could ask which way I was going. I wandered in the opposite direction and came upon the band sitting around a randomly placed and barren pool table. They were drinking beer and talking loudly among each other with a couple of guys and girls I didn’t recognize.