Sunday, 28 November 2010

Faded Charm

“Not him, no never, it can't be.” Fortunately the staff room was empty and no one could hear her squeal of surprise.

Annabelle really needed to concentrate on her class's homework and get it marked for following day. It was easier to work here in the staff room then in her dull bedsit. There she would suffer numerous annoyances: the screaming kids next door, the booming old lady's TV upstairs and the bustle of the main road. She yawned... one more monstrosity completed... it was all so mind numbingly boring.

Yawn. Annabelle sipped a cup of the most disgusting plastic coffee. She was fed up with Form 4C and the dilapidated St Benedict's High School for Girls. Distracting herself from the monotony she flicked through a magazine. A magazine confiscated from one of her more precocious girls. At least she could attempt to understand their silly minds. It was then the squeal occurred.

Surely she knew the person in that murky photo cascading across the centre spread. She tried to disregard the provocative pose, the shaven head, the black leather jacket and the offensive tattoos. It could be. No. Could it be? But he was such a geek back then, a positive square with rigid ninety degree corners. Could it be the Tommy she had known ten years ago? Known back in her own school days. The Tommy she had felt so sorry for. The more she studied the photo the more it seemed likely. So how did he get into such a trashy celebrity magazine? The magazine didn't say very much. To her disappointment it assumed you already knew who he was. It just hinted that his band had managed to remain together and would be giving a UK tour. This must mean he's some kind of minor pop star. Though his bands reputation apparently stemmed from their antics than any musical ability.

The staff room door was flung aside and in marched mismatched brown trousers and jacket. Annabelle pulled the next exercise book over the magazine and studied appalling scrawl.

“You still here?” It was Brian, it would be Brian. He hovered. He lingered. He mumbled. “Coffee?”

“No, I'm good.” While Brian was making his cup of plastic she shuffled the magazine further out of sight. It was not in keeping with her prim style.

Brian was single, head of department, friendly, thrifty and emblazoned with elbow patches. He was always sniffing around and never quite having the courage to hint. Could she? But elbow patches, she could not possibly demean herself with dark purple elbow patches. There were limits.

Annabelle scooped up the exercise books and her accompanying paraphernalia and skedaddled out mumbling some lacklustre farewell. Even her bedsit seemed more appealing.


It was a Wednesday night and the nearest venue at which Tommy's band was playing was a three hour drive from St Benedict's. The venue was difficult to locate and looked minuscule. Inside it opened out into a reasonable sized arena and looked cavernous compared to the small audience. Some nondescript band was well into its deafening set. Annabelle had no idea how to behave around this punk crowd. They appeared to believe this was fun. She waited. No matter where she stood she was in the way. She waited. The roadies set up the next band. She waited. Tommy jumped onto the stage and spat into the audience. They loved that.

Several Aspirins later and Tommy's cacophony ended. The audience was even thinner now. Myriad bodies swarmed onto the stage and started to pack up. She waited and then realised her journey was useless unless she went backstage. Annabelle expected some kind of security but she just breezed into a rabbit warren of corridors and small rooms.

Those backstage seemed to be enjoying themselves more than those out front. Eventually she stumbled upon a noisy, laughing, crowd one of which looked like the bands drummer. He had his arm around a girl in a yellow t-shirt with dank green hair that had seen better days. One of the crowd got up and lurched drunkenly towards a table.

She guessed it was Tommy and watched as he grabbed another can. Annabelle walked towards him as he gulped half his lager. She did not know what to say. Why hadn't she rehearsed some introductory lines?

Tommy leered at her. “Been at ya' mums, bit overdressed. Got a name?”

“Annabelle, remember, Annabelle, school, final year.”


“Went out, we did, couple of times, Annabelle, remember. You, me, cinema.”

“Yeah, yeah... Starchy, now I do, Starchy, well I never, 'add a bet, at that cinema thing, see if I could get 'ands on ya' tits.”

Tommy reached out with his lager free hand and mauled her right breast. Those petite breasts were barely discernible through her thick jumper and padded bra. Swaying precariously in front of her he just about maintained contact.

“Never got to play with 'em, waste of time that was. Bit on the small side. Nice though.”

Annabelle did not move. When she regained composure she was totally hemmed in and longed to escape. The stench of stale beer, the claustrophobia, stifled her every attempt. Eventually she pushed her way through the smelly, sweaty bodies and into the arena. A final glimpse backward and Tommy was leering over another girl, more suitably attired and, inexplicably, the pink hair and leather seemed to be laughing.

Out on the pavement Annabelle ran, not looking, squelched and stopped. Looking down at her pristine heels she saw one foot enveloped in fresh runny puke. It took an eternity to limp back to her car. There no amount of tissues removed the kebab remnants, salad bits, lager dregs, smell or indignity. Hateful, this just about summed up her entire evening, her entire life.


The following evening Annabelle was back in the staff room: sometimes daydreaming, sometimes revolted, occasionally marking. It was safe, warm – just about, if you sat right up against the radiator. And so desperately lonely.

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