2: The Middle of Nowhere, Four Years Later


Woody throws his head right back and roars with laughter at his mates' reaction. The four of them are one step down from completely fucked, taking advantage of Woody's mum's absence to commandeer the TV, the leftover pizza and most importantly, all the beer they could lay their hands on. Which was a lot; Mrs Woodford had been stockpiling cans ready for Woody's uncle's fiftieth birthday bash the following weekend.

"Birthdays be buggered," Woody had proclaimed, supremely unconcerned, "Finders keepers … " and so here they all are, unable to walk straight and seeing double at the very least. The ability to focus, however, has miraculously improved a thousandfold since Woody (with a slightly wobbly flourish, like a pissed magician) produced his infamous Secret Porn Stash to huge applause. "Tits and tinnies," Jez says, slurring happily, "what more could a bloke ask for?"

More laughter, and then an "Oy, oy!" from Fishface, who has the truly annoying ability to remain ridiculously observant despite drinking like his namesake. Jez and Woody look up at him, eyebrows raised, curious. Fishface grins hugely, nods across the room to where the fourth member of the little gang lies sprawled on his stomach, nose practically touching the pages of the magazine in front of him.

"Y'alright there, Frankie?" Jez calls, sniggering.

"Fine," comes the slightly breathless reply, followed by a muttered "and it's Frank, you fucker," without looking up.

Woody cackles. "Need a HAND, mate?" He makes furious wankery motions for a few seconds before collapsing into giggles, pounding the floor with an empty can. Frank doesn't answer, but his ears begin to turn seriously red, always a danger sign. Jez, apparently, is far too pissed either to notice or to care. "Jesus, mate, you want us to leave you alone?" he mocks. "Give you some privacy with your new girlfriend?"

"The girl of his dreams … " Fishface says with a big fake romantic sigh, before narrowing bloodshot grey eyes and adding maliciously, "Hey, Frank, I will pay you one hundred dollars to roll over right now. Lie on your back." He snorts loudly. "Make it a thousand. One thousand dollars."

"Not … a … chance," Woody says smugly. "So come on, then, mate, gissa look … I wanna see this dream girl of yours. What happened to poor ol' Deb, then, eh? She stopped putting out or what?"

Frank goes even redder, and lowers his head slightly in an attempt to disguise the fact; but even as his brows knot into a scowl, one side of his mouth quirks up into a nasty little smirk. It amuses him, the way they try to wind him up about stuff they have no real idea about or experience of. Fact is, the chances of Deb not putting out are pretty slim. It's just … not fun anymore.

At first there was the risk of her dad finding out and smashing him into little pieces and then stomping on the bits, which was scary, but kind of exciting … but now it's just … everyday. Commonplace. Ordinary. Like Deb herself. Ever since they were kids, she's been there like a shadow or a stray dog, deciding to belong to him no matter how badly he treated her or how unwelcome he made her feel, because why? He's never really bothered to give it much thought. Because it's better to belong to a nasty little scumbag than to nobody? Because if someone's using you, at least they're aware of your existence?

Frank doesn't like to think about it too much. His mates all make a big joke of it, calling her his wife when they're not calling her worse; and chances are, he and Deb will end up married simply because they might as well. Sometimes he feels like his whole life has been planned out already; his nondescript little future, bought and paid for. This is how it's going to be, Frank: the job and the wife and the kids, the weekends spent drinking with people who call themselves your mates but will never truly be your friends, the barbie-and-booze nights down at the disused drive-in as exciting as it gets; and all it'll cost you is your dreams. And that scares him more than anything ever has.

No fun anymore.

The girl in the picture, on the other hand …

She stares boldly up at him from the pages of the magazine, hot greenish-brown eyes challenging, daring him to do instead of just to wish. Long blonde hair falls in dishevelled curls past her shoulders, the hint of a smile lurking at the corners of full red lips. Inviting.

Now she would be fun.

Frank stares back at his dream girl so intensely that his eyes begin to water and he can feel himself growing hard; he presses his hips downwards, the resulting half-pleasure, half-pain making him want to groan out loud. The others' voices fade to inconsequential background noise as he imagines her walking towards him like a bird of paradise, appearing as if by magic in the middle of this drab, dusty little town. Like the genie of the lamp, here to grant him three wishes, here to transform his boredom into something different, something special …

He imagines the way it will be. How she'll be as hot for him as he is for her; the way her voice will sound, how she'll have a crazy, sexy-as-hell chuckle, low down in her throat and filthy; the way she'll moan at his touch, how he'll throw himself willingly into her fire and turn at last to ashes and dust, and never even care.

One day, he thinks, and again that curious little half-smile twists its way across his face.

One day you'll be real.

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