‘We’ll have to keep the conversation snappy,’ the man with no cardigan on half-whispered to the girl with the shy smile, ‘I’m soluble. ...

   ‘We’ll have to keep the conversation snappy,’ the man with no cardigan on half-whispered to the girl with the shy smile, ‘I’m soluble. The slightest hint of moisture in the air, and I’ll start to dissolve. I’ve never had a shower in my entire life. I shouldn’t have even come out today; I can feel my skin melting already.’

   The girl with the shy smile and the Starbucks grande skinny latte smoking in her petite, feminine hands giggled a laugh that was a little overenthusiastic, and the snort that followed it made her stop herself abruptly and blush so intensely that her face felt like it might be on fire. She would never admit it to her friends, but a man with a quirky sense of humour and the confidence to show it off was just what she went for. Especially when he was this attractive.

   ‘This will probably be the last conversation I ever have.’ He smiled politely after delivering this deadpan line, and this time the pretty girl with the shy smile and the penchant for a man who told strange jokes hid her keen amusement behind the coffee cup she held, which was almost the size of her forearm. Normally, she would have drunk it on the train home from work, but the rain came out of nowhere today and she just had to take shelter before she was washed away. What luck, she had thought as she reached the awning under which she now stood, that I should be stuck in the same doorway as this hunk in a wet t-shirt. She hadn’t slept with anyone in a while, this pretty girl with the shy smile and the penchant and the coffee and the inner monologue. ‘I’m Steven, by the way.’ Steven, the man with the wet t-shirt that clung to his skin and the quirky sense of humour and the handsome face that had somehow managed to remain bone dry, didn’t hold out his hand for shaking.

   ‘I’m Lillian,’ she replied, sipping again from her coffee cup and smacking her delectable lips after swallowing the warm liquid, ‘but my friends call me Lil.’ 

   A moment of silence passed that didn’t seem awkward for Steven from Lillian’s perspective, and as a result was not felt as awkward by her either. She breathed deeply and calmly and absorbed the atmosphere – the chilliness of the air around them; the endless stream of businessmen and businesswomen half-running along the pavement with newspapers and briefcases held over their heads as makeshift protection from the surprise summer downpour; the loud thumps of the heavy raindrops beating their tribal drumbeats on the awning above their heads – as she tried to think of a witty response. Failing completely (and blaming that on the fact that Steven was making her heart flutter with his skin-tight t-shirt and chin that was carved from marble), she replied, ‘So being dissolvable, huh, that must be a real drag.’

   Steven, the man with the chin of marble and the wet t-shirt and the supposedly soluble body, grinned a warm and toothy smile at Lillian, who cringed at the fresh memory of her just-uttered sentence. ‘It’s a downer, Lil,’ he replied, noticing for the first time just how beautiful Lillian really was, with her tied back brunette hair and slim neckline and acceptable-yet-revealing business attire. ‘The biggest problem is the fact that I can only really eat dry biscuits. I’d give anything to drink a cold beer like all the other men do, but if I did I’d fizzle away from the inside out. Sometimes I think I’m going to turn into a digestive, the amount I have to eat to stay alive.’

   Lillian giggled a third time, and as she began to loathe herself for the shrill tone of her exhalations and the abrasive grind of her snorting inhalations, Steven warmed to her further for the very same reasons. 

   ‘So tell me something interesting about you,’ said Steven the soluble man who claimed he couldn’t drink beer, ‘you know I can’t get wet or I’ll melt, so it’s only fair that I should know one of your secrets.’

   Lillian, the beautiful girl with the slim neckline and the suit that did all the right things for her figure and the coffee that was now reaching its end, tried desperately to think of a lie that was equal in quality and imagination to Steven’s. Again, she failed. ‘You’ll hate me for this,’ she replied with regret, ‘but I work for a company that bottles and sells natural water. And that’s not a lie.’

   Steven grinned again. ‘Who said anything about lies?’ He joked.

   They held eye contact for a moment. Lillian wondered again why Steven hadn’t even been wearing a cardigan; it was not, after all, a fantastically warm day before the rain began to fall. Not warm enough to be in that top. Not that she was complaining, but still.

   ‘Why aren’t you wearing a jumper?’ She began, bending slightly to place the empty coffee cup beside her high-heel clad feet but holding eye contact the entire time, ‘I mean, it wasn’t even that warm this afternoon. Not warm enough to just be in a t-shirt, anyway. And if you’re soluble, surely you should take every precaution.’

   Steven grinned a third time, and Lillian noticed a hint of melancholy in his smile that indicated a secret meaning to his inviting facial expressions. Some people laugh when they’re nervous, she thought to herself, and wondered if she was making him nervous or uncomfortable. Perhaps she was coming across too keen again. Had she mentioned anything about marriage? Babies? Not that she could remember. For now, she was safe. Steven, however, was suffering with a dilemma – to tell Lillian the truth, or to make up an amusing lie.

   ‘To tell you the truth,’ replied Steven, the man who claimed he was soluble and didn’t wear a cardigan on cool days and smiled a smile behind which lay a sad secret or tremendous nerves, ‘I came out today hoping for rain. I’m at the end of my tether, see, and I just can’t go on anymore. I left the house hoping that it would bucket down and I would melt into the rain and be washed down the drain. I didn’t count on meeting such a beautiful lady; if I knew I’d meet you, perhaps I would have worn a rain mac to save myself.’

   Lillian’s flawless cheek skin turned cherry red once again, as she bit her bottom lip without even realising and looked up at Steven with unabashed admiration. ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine,’ she muttered sweetly, almost too quietly for Steven to hear, ‘your t-shirt is quite wet already, and you haven’t dissolved yet. Besides, you seem like you have a hell of a lot to live for.’

   ‘Believe me, Lil,’ Steven began at the same volume as Lillian, his tone betraying a hint of genuine sadness for the first time in the conversation. So often, Lillian’s interminable inner monologue piped up, men with a quirky sense of humour only display them so proudly to hide the other emotional baggage they’re carrying. She wondered in this fleeting pause whether that was one of the reasons that she was so very fond of those guys – that they were like birds with broken wings, who needed nursing back to health. ‘You couldn’t be more wrong. I have no reason at all to go on, and underneath this top my skin is melting faster and more painfully than you could ever imagine.’

   This time, Lillian did not giggle, and it was her turn to return a smile that was only polite and not genuinely amused. In just a few minutes, Steven had transformed from a funny boy to a vulnerable man in Lillian’s estimations, and although it made her heart warm and her desire for this stranger grow, it didn’t make her any happier. ‘Well, I guess it’s good that you’ve met me now then,’ she whispered, with a hope in her heart that she could save him.

   ‘It is,’ he responded, grabbing her arms with his manly hands and standing face to face with her as they looked each other in the eyes, both wondering how the relationship was moving so fast when they had never even met fifteen minutes earlier, ‘because I get to steal a kiss from a beautiful girl before I walk off to meet my maker. Kiss me, Lillian.’

   And even though Lillian’s mother, the woman who couldn’t play chess and loved parmesan cheese and gave all the best advice, had always told her not to kiss strangers, Lillian joined mouths with Steven, the man who claimed he had hoped for rain to wash him away. She kissed him passionately and hungrily, running her fingers through the back of his hair as he pulled her body toward his with his strong hand on the small of her back. The feeling of his tongue against hers made her knees feel weak, as she felt the fizzing electricity between them and the sparks flew so high and he tingled against her tongue so much that she almost wondered if she was kissing Angel Delight. They kissed like it was the end of the world, and even though Steven’s tongue was shrinking with every second and it felt like popping candy in Lillian’s mouth and she could only taste digestives, Lillian felt truly happy and unconditionally wanted for the first time in months.

   When they finally withdrew, they spent a while staring into each other’s eyes. Lillian’s were filled with desire and contentment, and Steven’s were filled with the same degree of melancholy as his smile. The longer he stared, in fact, the sadder they got, until a single tear ran down his perfect cheek. In the wet trail left by the tear, his skin fizzed and popped like that of a freshly salted slug. But before Lillian could react to this strange sight, Steven turned, and walked off into the rain to leave Lillian’s life forever. As he walked, he became shorter and shorter, and thinner and thinner, until he was just a pile of empty clothing that sat, inanimate and drenched, on the pavement.

    And it was in that bar where the barmaid didn’t even know what a fucking shandy was that I stumbled across the man I’ve always wanted t...

   And it was in that bar where the barmaid didn’t even know what a fucking shandy was that I stumbled across the man I’ve always wanted to be. Sitting there, alone at a two-person table, was the epitome of all I’ve ever wanted to amount to as a human being. In short, it was me, but good. After I recovered from the initial shock of seeing everything I ever wanted to be sitting at a table with a J2O and a smile that was as warm and unthreatening to men as it was charming and attractive to the girls that walked past him, I sat and began a conversation that would eventually reveal the extent of the renovation my personality would require before I could ever become even close to the way I’d like to be. Lowering myself slowly into the seat opposite Perfect Me, mouth still agape with the shocking impact of the light that emitted from the bulbs above us and bounced off his skin and hit my eyes, I took in his hair, perfectly gelled into a wave that swept across his face at just the length I’d like mine to be. I noticed how well he must be sleeping, as the whites of his eyes shone blindingly into my own and the blue of his irises washed over those globes in miniature circles that could enchant a blind man. As for his clothes, they were too cool to ignore; and too envy-inducing to describe.

   ‘H-Hi,’ I stuttered.

   ‘Hello,’ he grinned, his straight white teeth putting themselves right out there on display where they belonged.

   ‘You’re… you’re me.’

   ‘Of course,’ he grinned again, rolling his eyes in a way that was equally belittling and charismatic. Every one of his movements seemed designed for some purpose, to suit some end goal. I felt like he was judging me just as much as he was genuinely caring for me. ‘How are you?’

   ‘I’m fine, I guess. You?’

   ‘Literally,’ he paused to raise his eyebrows at a passing beauty and grin as she giggled and blushed before moving on, ‘never been better.’

   I grinned too. I felt like maybe this guy could teach me what it’s like to be me but good. Maybe he held the key to Normal Me becoming Perfect Me. So I made myself comfortable, and allowed my chin to wag.


   ‘Remember that time we told that girl we loved her and she kept following us around for weeks thinking we were made for each other but in the end we had to tell her that we only said it to get in her pants?’ I asked, still trying desperately to find a reference point that we shared. This was seven shandies later, so I was probably slurring my words by this point.

   ‘No, Aaron. I told you, we haven’t had the same experiences. I would never do the things you do, they hurt people and you live to regret them. Me, I have no regrets. I’ve never made a mistake in my life.’

   ‘You mean not even…?’

   ‘Not even that.’

   ‘What did you get in your A-levels?’

   ‘All As, obviously.’ The confidence he exuded cheekily trod the line between Modest and Arrogant so precariously that when it slipped into either side for a moment, you could do nothing but adore its character and charm. Without even realising, you could fall in love with this guy just by having a conversation with him. You’d know fully well that he wouldn’t be absorbing every word you say, but you let him off because he’s just so popular. After all, would you be able to listen intently if you had to keep interrupting the conversation to greet adoring passers-by?

   I bet he even got a first in our degree, the adorable bastard.

   ‘So… I guess you don’t have the messy love life I have?’ I asked, suddenly feeling depressed that I was sitting opposite such a behemoth of all-roundedness.

   ‘I’m single too,’ he replied calmly, ‘but only because I haven’t found the right girl yet. I’m seeing people, sure – that girl from the pub quiz, the one from work that we like, even a few dates with a gothy little number from the train station; but I won’t get sexual in any way with any of them until I know that it will feel special and… nice.’

   Nice is a meaningless catch-all word, isn’t it. It’s appropriate that he used the word nice, because it pinpointed for me exactly what I had had difficulty throughout our conversation putting my own finger on. Normal Me had been feeling uncomfortable throughout the conversation, because he had been under attack from a barrage of … niceness. Everything about Perfect Me was nice, and balanced, and considered, and… fucking… perfect. It was exhausting for everyone around him.

   ‘So let me get this straight,’ I began, as a final ditch attempt at building some common ground between us, ‘you never even got walked in on by…’

   But he held his hand up before I could even finish the sentence, shaking his head and closing his eyes in knowing denial. ‘I know the time you’re thinking of, Aaron,’ he said, ‘but it wasn’t me. I never did that. She and I ended just the way we would have liked, and we still talk regularly. She’ll always have a special place in my heart.’

   Of course he hadn’t done it. He hadn’t done anything. All those mistakes with the webcam, he didn’t do. All the times a little bit too much alcohol and all-too-easy access to a mobile phone had caused havoc in my life, he hadn't experienced. He hadn’t argued with any uppity moron at work over things that didn’t matter; he hadn't lived to regret spouting out his grandparent’s ignorant and outdated views as if they were his own long before he had even had any real political inclinations; and he hadn’t strung girls along like I had all for the sake of gaining their attention. He had never had to learn from these experiences like I had, because he knew it all already. The anecdotes he told were borrowed from other people who led more exciting lives, and they were suitable for family audiences, and they made everyone around him politely chuckle at the charm and wit of the raconteur that he was. This man sitting opposite me, everything I had ever wanted to be, would never have the depth that I have because he didn’t have the regrets and triumphs and tiny imperfections that make up my horribly flawed – but experience-enriched – personality. He would never build real relationships because he kept everyone at that perfect distance of being close enough to feel his charm and warmth, but being held far enough away that they could never hurt him. Sure, no one would ever really hate him, but no one would ever really love him either. He would never benefit from the darkness that looms within me because he was forever bathed in the synthetic halogen light of his success. On the surface, this man was living and breathing perfection; but underneath, I was beginning to notice, was nothing else.

   This man was fucking dull.

   I sighed, disappointed to have discovered what I had discovered. It had been a steep fall from the pedestal I had put him on to the hard ground below, but he hadn’t felt a thing; he was too wrapped up in his perfect, two-dimensional reality to bother reading my mind. ‘Well,’ I said, my voice a let-down mumble, ‘I’d best be off. I’ll see you around, eh?’

   ‘Sure thing, Aaron. You take care now,’ he replied, grinning his grin. He smiled that toothy smile so much that I was surprised his teeth weren’t sunburnt.

   As I walked away, questioning everything that I had aspired to be and every ambition I had ever held with regard to personal development, I was uplifted by a thought that struck me just as I was replaced by a new hanger-on that had noticed Perfect Me from across the room and was dying to join him. He might not miss me when I’m gone from his life forever, I thought, but there are a handful of people who would. There are people out there to whom I mean the world, and who mean the world to me; and that’s something he might never experience.

   And that, I decided, is enough for me.

    It’s been like this for three months now.     Since I wrote that story, the one with the handsome guy and the shy girl and the iri...

   It’s been like this for three months now.

   Since I wrote that story, the one with the handsome guy and the shy girl and the iris-blistering prose and knee-weakening romance, I just can’t write anything else. Like I poured everything I had into that one masterpiece, and now I have nothing left to… put. I don’t know, I can’t think of the word I want.

   ‘The only reason I’m with you,’ she says, stroking moisturiser slowly down her glistening, toned right leg, ‘is your stories. Without those, I don’t know if our relationship will survive.’ She’s nude again. She’s always nude.

   Sitting on the bed with my laptop illuminating my frowning features, watching her apply her beauty regime to her entire body at less than one mile per hour and in an order I can never understand, my resentment grows like a… baby. We haven’t made love in four weeks. What she just said, that wasn’t a joke.

   ‘It’s not like I’m not trying,’ I reply pathetically, tapping the keys so that the screen displays a string of random characters then pressing backspace until it shows nothing again. ‘I’ve been trying to write a short story for weeks. I just… can’t.’

   ‘Well, I don’t know…’ she mutters, straightening her back and cupping her breasts in the mirror, before letting go of them for a few seconds then cupping them for a few seconds and repeating this process two or three times. After a while, she gets bored of admiring her perfect torso and proceeds to apply mascara to her eyelashes even though she has nowhere to go today. She never has anywhere to go. ‘…There’s a poet who lives two roads down. Apparently he writes a mean sonnet. Maybe I should start sleeping with him instead.’

   I swear, if she wasn’t my… muse, I guess… then she’d be out on her… I don’t know… so fast.

   ‘Shut up,’ I snap, slamming the keyboard with my stroppy fingers.

   She pokes her pretty wet tongue out at me in the mirror. ‘Does that inspire you to write a story?’ She asks. ‘Me, playing away? Does it give you the kick you need?’

   ‘No,’ I reply as I light up a cigarette, ‘it just makes me really pissed off.’


   She continues applying her makeup, the cheekiness of the poked-out tongue entirely removed from her… you know.

   ‘I just can’t think of the right words,’ I moan. ‘It’s the words that are escaping me.’

   She stands up with a heavy sigh, and pat-pats her feet across the wooden floor toward a drawer, which she opens and reaches her manicured hands into. She removes from it two heavy books which she throws onto the bed at my feet. One says DICTIONARY, and the other says THESAURUS.

   ‘There you go. Problem solved. Now write me a story, before I leave you.’

   She sits her bare bottom back down on the seat at the dressing table, and inspects her forehead like it’s a… picture.

   ‘Very funny,’ I groan, dragging out each syllable like it’s… something that you want to last a long time, ‘but it doesn’t help, does it.’

   See that full stop? That’s because that wasn’t a question.

   My stunning girlfriend pulls on a pair of French knickers and slides a baggy t-shirt over her head. She’s always pulling on a pair of French knickers and wearing a baggy t-shirt.

   Taking her covering up as a personal attack, I grow bitterer by the… unit of time.

   ‘Ugh,’ she says, applying eyeliner simply because she can and not because she needs to, ‘well I don’t know how to help then. Maybe we should just call it a day right now.’

   We sit in silence for a moment.

   ‘Hey,’ she clicks her fingers; an idea has struck her like a bolt of… erm… ‘I’ve got it! Why don’t you write a love story, and dedicate it to those friends of yours who have just got engaged?’

   ‘What friends of mine?’ I ask sarcastically, knowing what friends she means but deliberately acting difficult out of… spite, I think.

   ‘Oh, I don’t know. Dale and his girlfriend. I’m not friends with your friends. It’s just an idea.’

   I resent the whole conversation. I hate my laptop and I hate the bed that I’m sitting on and I hate the fact that she’s naked when she’s naked and she’s clothed when she’s clothed. Like right now.

   ‘It’s not the subject matter I have trouble with.’ My tone is Educated and Superior, with a generous dash of Arrogant. ‘Some say that I could write a story about a matchstick and make it interesting. On a good day, I could write a story about a road sign and people would tell me it’s the best story they’ve read. I can make any subject matter work, it’s just the words, like I keep telling you.’

   She tiptoes across the room and begins to climb into bed next to me despite the fact that she just spent three hours preparing her face for some imaginary fashion show. Pulling the thick covers tight around her neck and facing away from me, she closes her eyes and… goes uggghhhh.

   ‘I’m tired of helping you,’ she mumbles, already half asleep, ‘I might as well just run off with that poet. Yes, I’ll do that tomorrow.’

   We share another moment of silence, as I bite my nails and suck on my cigarette and rue the day I ever met this idiot and rue the day I ever caught Writer’s Block and rue the day I ever lived two roads away from a damn… poet.

   ‘Or maybe you could write a story about having Writer’s Block,’ she slurs, as sleep pulls her further into its… thing.

   ‘What a fucking stupid idea,’ I reply, through gritted teeth.

So, I'm taking the dive. I'm sending a novel to literary agents. You can't see the novel until it's published, obviously, bu...

So, I'm taking the dive. I'm sending a novel to literary agents. You can't see the novel until it's published, obviously, but for now I'm gonna let you see the cover letter I sent out. I worked on this for days. I followed advice from Writer's Workshop and Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, and I constructed the perfect cover letter, shown below (click to enlarge).

I'm not expecting any rejections.

    She has a boyfriend.     She has a boyfriend, and I'm not him.     We both knew it, but we did it anyway.     We met through a fr...

   She has a boyfriend.

   She has a boyfriend, and I'm not him.

   We both knew it, but we did it anyway.

   We met through a friend. Like in the plot line of my favourite Divine Comedy song, we hit it off as soon as we were first introduced to each other and we were nattering away like lifelong pals within minutes. Around us, our friends and acquaintances danced to the beat that the mediocre DJ was blasting from the gigantic speakers; but we were stuck in our own little world, a bubble we'd created, in which only the two of us existed. Is there a word for the belief that only you and the love of your life truly exist? Solipsism just doesn't cover it.

   I don't like night clubs. I don't like the music they play and I don't like the culture or the clientèle or the staff. But she made it all tolerable. Better than that, she made it enjoyable. Sitting there on benches that did nothing helpful for my piles and watching adolescents rub their STDs all over each other wasn't so bad when I had her eyes to look into, her smile to admire, her voice to soothe me. Forgive me for being over romantic here, like some dreamy paedophile, a Humbert Humbert of 2011, but this is how it really felt.

   When I made fun of her, she would tap my arm playfully and blush and twiddle her hair between two elegant fingers. When people would ask her to dance with them, she would say 'No, thanks' and then look to me to check that I wasn't going to the dance floor without her. And when I asked her where her boyfriend was and why he wasn't present, that's when she grabbed me and kissed me so suddenly that my breath was literally stolen from my lungs.

   I wasn't drinking last night, so we ran straight to my car together, leaving our group in the club none the wiser. We drove out into the night, to the coast, to spend the night together and forget the world we had left behind.

   And what a night it was. We sat up until five or six in the morning, just talking. She loves Lady Gaga and Panic! at the Disco and English muffins and blueberry Pop Tarts and the feeling of having her hair played with and wearing tracksuit bottoms to laze around the house on a Sunday and she dislikes Kerry Katona and our blame culture and organised religion and dramatic teenagers who 'haven't discovered who they are yet' and I listened to every word she said with a childlike amazement. Then, we made love.

   And what a night it was.

   We're in the car now, coming back from the coast, in complete silence. Not because we've fallen out, not because something went wrong, but because we both know what awaits us back home. Neither of us wants to discuss it, but we both know we're in for it. Her boyfriend plays rugby; he's big and he's mean and frankly, he scares the shit out of me. If he isn't furious, which he will be, then we'll still have to deal with the combined outrage of all our mutual friends. The fallout will only last a few weeks tops, but for those few weeks it'll be hell on Earth.

   You know what I mean. You've felt this feeling before. In the heat of the moment, we did something incredibly pleasurable but utterly stupid, and now we're on our way to face the consequences. It's a gut-wrenching, dreadful feeling. Even though we both know we will survive it, our minds are telling us that there's no chance we ever could. If her boyfriend gets his hands on me, I'll be eating through a tube for the rest of my days.

   I have to escape with her. I need to be with her forever and ever, so we never have to face up to the consequences of what we did and we can spend an eternity just in each other's perfect company. So I do the only sensible thing I can think of. I do something beautiful and final and merciful, something that will keep us together forever. I wait for a gap in the barriers of the central reservation, and I swerve into oncoming traffic, and I plough us both into the grill of an Eddie Stobart lorry.

    I had a bath earlier. Normally, this would be an anecdote in itself, but on this occasion I have a whole different story to tell. One f...

   I had a bath earlier. Normally, this would be an anecdote in itself, but on this occasion I have a whole different story to tell. One from my childhood.

   When I was little, my parents would bathe me and my brother together, to save water and probably effort too. Of course you would, if you had two little blonde shitbags to scrub. Anyway, I enjoyed the hot water so much that I never wanted to get out. Every time there'd be a mad struggle to get me out of that tub. 

   So my mum decided to tell me that that sucking and gurgling noise that you hear from the plug when you drain a bath is a monster living in the plumbing. In a genius move, she decided to name it The Plug Monster. When she let out the plug, she'd say, "Quick! Get out! The Plug Monster will eat you! He'll suck you in!" So I used to panic and jump straight out of that white bowl of doom.

   The particular episode that flooded back to my memory today was when I was taking an exceptionally long time to get out of the bath, even though that Plug Monster was roaring his hungry growl through the pipes and sucking away all my bath water. The reason was that I had soap in my eyes, and my mum was busy wiping it all away with a towel. As soon as we were done, I got straight out of the bath and panted heavily with the relief of escaping the monster one more time.

   But there was a problem. My brother was missing. He was in the bath one minute, and the next he was not in the bathroom. Nowhere to be found. My mother soon solved the mystery when she said, "Oh no! Ashley's been eaten by The Plug Monster!" 

   And I cried. Violently and desperately, I cried. The way only four-year-olds who are genuinely distraught can cry.

   I remembered this while I dried myself this morning, and The Plug Monster gurgled his dark laughter at me through the hole in the bath. I remembered this, and I dropped straight to the floor, weeping in the foetal position.


  She gets my train sometimes.   Not my usual train, not the 17** to B****hurst, but the one I have to get if I left my office later than...

  She gets my train sometimes.

  Not my usual train, not the 17** to B****hurst, but the one I have to get if I left my office later than 17** - the 17** to O*****ton.

  She gets that train every day, but I only get it when I'm late. But sometimes, just sometimes, she'll arrive at the platform just before my train does, to brighten up my day.

  She's shorter than me, the way I like 'em; with darker hair than mine, almost brown; she's always wearing nice coats and gloves - she might be rich, but I don't really care about that; and she owns a Kindle, which she reads every day.

  I've tried for a few weeks to pluck up the courage to speak to her. She's very pretty, but not in a standoffish way, just naturally good looking; and we've shared a myriad of glances and even a couple of smiles, but I think she might have a boyfriend. She calls someone occasionally and ends the calls with I love you, but I cling on to the hope that she's talking to her mum. I mean, I never end a call with my mum without saying I love you, so there's still a chance, right?

  So I psyched myself up. I pep-talked myself all the way to confidence until I got to the point where I felt like I could finally reach out and say something like, 'Hey, you have a Kindle - I've been thinking of getting one, is it worth it?' or 'Hey cool, what are you reading?' You know, something that'll start a conversation. That day, I marched cockily onto the platform ready to charm her Ugg boots off, deliberately late just so I knew I'd catch her. I walked to my usual spot, and I waited.

  And I waited.

  And I waited.

  I didn't see her for two weeks after that. Valentine's Day came and went, along with my faith in my own ability to woo her. I assumed she was dead, or at least on a holiday she'd never come back from. I was doomed; it was never meant to be, this wooing I had planned. I packed up my confidence and slid it back under the bed with my guitar case and the box I got this laptop in. 

  Then I saw her again. I saw her and my heart skipped a few hundred beats. This time, I was driving my new car. My shiny new black car was in my hands and I was driving it down my road with all the cockiness required to power the motor. I always knew she lived near me and I'd seen her walking down my road before, but I never expected to see her struggling with bags of shopping while I was in my Shaggin' Wagon and I had a spare seat next to me. My luck was in; I'd hit the jackpot.

  I pulled up next to her and wound the passenger window down while I practised my dark-and-mysterious voice in my head. She didn't look to her left, just continued walking, until I said 'Excuse me...' in the coolest voice I could muster. That is, the coolest voice I could manage before it cracked and my girly nervous voice broke through. She stopped and turned to me, looking suspicious until she recognised me, then just looking a little less suspicious (but still decidedly suspicious). I smiled my glistening smile and gave a cheeky wink. If I'm gonna do it, I might as well go all out, right? Girls love a cheeky guy. 'Want a lift?' I said.

  What a fucking idiot. What a cretin. As soon as the words had come out of my mouth, I hated myself forever more. Even if this girl did fancy me, why would she get in my car as if she knew me? What I had just done was destroy (or, at the very least, damage) every chance I ever had at charming her. This was the best chance I had, and I had blown it in three words. Stupid, unthinking, naive, retarded... 'Yeah, okay,' she said, smiling shyly.

  I almost yelped with excitement. She was about to get in my car! She must like me! Or at least, she must trust me, or she would never have said yes. Keeping her eye contact, I fumbled around my feet for the button for the boot, to pop it and let her store her shopping. Laughing nervously, I finally managed to get a finger on it and the boot popped open behind me. 'Chuck your stuff in the boot,' I said, still grinning and brimming with pleasure.

  The horrible part of the story is that up until now, I've just been setting the scene. From here on is where the real action happens.

  As she walked round to the back of my purring new car, I realised just what would greet her, and my heart sank all the way through my body and the leather of my seats and onto the tarmac of the road below me. My grin became a grimace in ten seconds flat, and when she reached for the handle of my boot, I had to think of a way out before it was way, way too late, and she saw what I was storing back there. 

  The first thing she'd see is the stack of porn mags; probably more pornography than she'd ever seen before. As the lid opened further, she'd see the 24-pack of beer and the latex policeman costume and the extensive stains that even the most trusting of people could only describe as questionable. So far she'd be shocked, but that's not even what I was worried about; that was still to come. Next, she'd be horrified to notice the severed hand of the married lady I met the week before (with wedding ring still attached). She'd notice the hatchet and the chainsaw and the two litres of blood in the Dr Pepper bottle. She'd shudder and scream, and she'd want to run away as fast as she could. If she stuck around long enough, she'd see the grand finale - the holdall containing the tied up secretary, struggling to get out and screaming in a language I can't even speak. That'd be her payload, her big surprise, and I'd never see her again. And all of this rushed through my head before she'd even touched the lid to my trunk. 

  I must admit, I panicked. I just couldn't deal with the pressure, so I floored it. I hit the gas as hard as I could, and disappeared from her view in a screech of tyres and a cloud of black smoke. I knew it would damage my chances with her, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make as long as they weren't obliterated. As long as she didn't discover my... hobby.

  I'm sure it'll be fine. I'll leave it a week or two, and try talking to her at the station again.