So here he is….
As odd situations go, this is off the scale. It 2.30am, and I’m standing in a funeral home car park with my ex girlfriend. She’s convinced she’s just seen a ghost. This Workplace Phantoms vigil has really wound her up.
‘You know, I thought it was Milly for a second,’ she says. ‘The last time I came here I met a little girl. She was here with her mother, who was dying. Milly was acting it out, with a little white carriage, and horses with pink ribbons…’
Her hands are clenched at her sides. I wonder if they’re cold. How they’d feel to touch.
‘Maybe she was just at the back of your mind, because you were back here again,’ I say. ‘That’s pretty heavy stuff, planning you mother’s funeral when you’re only – what?’
‘Six or seven, I’m guessing.'
She looks at me as though I’ve solved all the mysteries of the universe in those two words. Her face opens. Her body seems to melt, sways slightly. I can unlock her, in a way her husband can’t.
My mind goes hazy. She’s like a drug. After all these years it’s just the same. I don’t have to think, I just know what to do. She says something, I say something. She opens out a bit more. It’s like a dance.
I unlock the car and pull a jumper out of the boot. I give it a sniff - it’s been in there since my fishing weekend last summer.
‘Put this on. You’re shivering. I’ve got a blanket in the back there, too. Why don’t you lie down and doze for a bit.’
‘What will you do?’
‘I was just going to sit here in the front and keep an eye on things from here.’
‘Will you put some music on?’ she asks.
I scrabble around looking for something that will pass as chick music. ‘Best Hits of the 90s ok for you?’
She sleeps. I sit. I listen to her breathing. And I reminisce.
I’m standing by the car smoking when she wakes up. I could do with a drink too. Take the edge off this weird night.
‘Did I miss anything?’ She’s rubbing her eyes.
I tell her no. We laugh about the vigil, and her ghost and everything. She’s calmer after her sleep.
‘I must look a mess,’ she says. ‘Have I got mascara all over my face?’
Yes. And the sight of her like that, it sort of undoes me.
‘I’ve never seen you look more stunning.’
We stand for a second. The Verve’s ‘Drugs Don’t Work’ is playing on the car stereo and judging from her face, that seems to be significant in some way.
‘Do you remember this song?’ she whispers.
I don’t have a scooby what she’s talking about. But I nod. It’s part of the dance.
‘Come here.’ I pull her towards me. She lets her body press against mine.
How long would it take to drive her to my flat? We could burn along Braid Hills Road and be on the other side of Edinburgh in eight, ten minutes at this time of night. Maybe we’d pull up somewhere if we couldn’t last that long. I could pull that neat little skirt up over her hips and…
No, you twat. She’s crying. She’s probably thinking about her husband. And - though I still can’t believe this - her baby.…
‘Don’t worry,’ I say. ‘I won’t let anything happen. I know you can’t.’ But it just seems to unlock her further.
I can smell her. I can smell her hair, the scent rising up from her neck, her face, the salt of her tears.
There’s no denying this. She should be mine. I want her lying beside me in my bed, every night. I want to breathe her in, fold my body around her while she sleeps. I want to see her face changing, the moment she wakes up, lose myself in her all over again. Because there’s something about her and me… we fit together.
I pull her closer and pure, hot want surges through me. I think of my flat again. How long before these ghosthunting freaks are finished and we can go?
But no. It’s not part of the dance. I tangle my hands through her hair, her sweet smelling hair, and feel the warmth rising from the skin on the back of her neck. And I let her go.
It’s not part of the dance. Not yet.