Angel 18 (portrait)
Pizza Face parked the car in a layby off the street, and at the end of the building. He clutched Angels hand and frog-marched her down the hill and into his close. Across the street she saw the lights of the chippy he’d been talking about and the silhouette of a dark haired women in the window.
‘That’ll do now,’ Angel chided him on the stairs. ‘Don’t hurry me. I’m all in climbing all these stairs and I’ve no go big, louping, feet like you.’
His flat was on the third landing, an old fashioned wooden door facing the stairs, but the mortice lock was for show and he jiggled them into the flat using a Yale key from his pocket.
He flicked on the light at the door. ‘This is the hall,’ he tugged at his ear, rather self-consciously. It was at the sour smelling work-in-progress stage. Linoleum on the floor and the walls scraped and scored, institutional green and blue paint working its way to the surface. The thirty-watt bulb on the light hanging loose.
He took off his Wrangler jacket and hung it on a hook on the back of the door. Rubbing his hands together. ‘There you are,’ he said. Then as if he’d forgotten something. ‘You want to take off your coat?’
‘Suppose I better, if I’m staying.’ She peeled off and folded over her arm the black jacket with fancy, tiger-print lining and presented it to him.
Their hands brushed as he hung it on top of his denim jacket. Her emerald eyes opened wider and she stared into him. And she held out her arms and stepped into his and held him close in a hug. She felt her cheeks wet and didn’t know why she was crying.
‘Oh, you must think I’m daft,’ she moaned.
‘Not at all,’ he said. Rocking her back and forwards. ‘You’re here noo and that’s aw that matters.’
She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him and he devoured her face and squeezed her so hard, like an accordion, she gasped, his cock pushing through his trouser and flattening against her belly.
‘Sorry,’ he apologised, not meeting her eyes.
Grasping her fingers, he pulled her through the hall. ‘This is the living room,’ he said, rather unnecessarily, because she was sure she could have worked it out for herself. The heavy curtains were half drawn against the darkness of the night. He let go of her hand to switch on the light behind the black leather couch. The grey carpet was new and gave the room a deceptively fresh smell to what was a bachelor household. Two overflowing ashtrays, Pot Noodle with a spoon still in it and unwashed mugs found islands of space on the wooden table next to the telly. The remote was perched on the cushion of the armchair as if he’d just flung it there before popping out. A portrait was propped behind the ornate silver carriage clock on the mantelpiece.
She recognised a remarkable likeness of Pizza Face’s mum painted in oils, which made her look, with her bulldog features and heavy build, like Winston Churchill wearing a wig. She went closer to get a better look and picked it up to squint at the artist’s signature, knocked against the clock and, in stopping it from falling, whacked the portrait against the edge of the fireplace and knocked a hole in the taut canvas.
‘Sorry,’ she muttered, turning to see how he’d take it.
‘It’s alright,’ he said. ‘I didnae really know whit to dae with it. I mean, her eyes were following me all around the room. Everywhere I went. You’ve done me a favour.’
She held the canvas out to him face down, showing where it had been stapled to the wood and where the tear was. ‘It’s no that bad. I’ll pay to get it fixed.’
‘Och, no, don’t be so daft.’ He took it off her and flicked it on to the couch. ‘Plenty mair where that came fae.’
‘But it’s really good. Who painted it?’
‘Junior. He paints aw the time noo. They move him from prison to prison, but he’s ne’er got a paintbrush out of his hand, unless he’s starting a fucking riot.’
‘He’s good.’ She nodded. ‘Tell ‘im I said that, he’s really good.’
His jaw tightened but he spoke with a soft tone. ‘I will. He’ll be glad to hear that. No point in painting, unless at least one person sees your pictures. And they bastards destroy maist of them for sheer badness.’
She didn’t know what to say, but he raised his eyebrows and held out his hand. ‘I need to show you the rest of the house, noo.’
‘There’s mair?’ she laughed.
‘Oh, aye, there’s always mair.’ He winked and dragged her through to the kitchen. It had the same worn, triangle-shaped linoleum as the floor and three pots welded to the rings with grime. A long sink stood beside the window, with a false marble work surface and yellow cloth drawn across the rusty metal straps and plumbing of the sink to hide its modesty as if it were a Victorian gentlewoman in danger of being exposed.
‘And that’s the bed,’ he said, dragging her in a slow dance towards it.
The sheets looked unwashed and piled higgledy-piggledy. ‘Well, you could at least have made it.’
His hand was up inside her dress feeling her breasts. And when they kissed he rubbed and patted the curve of her bum.
‘Wait a wee minute,’ she pulled back from him and whispered. ‘Close the blinds.’
‘Naebody can see in here,’ he grumbled, good-naturedly. ‘No unless they’re sixty-foot tall.’
He broke away from her and yanked the blind down. When he turned she was stepping out of her lace pants and pulling her velvet dress over her head. She undid her bra, her face reddening with his direct gaze.
‘All the artists in the world couldnae dae you justice, Angel.’ He grabbed at his shoes, balancing on one leg and pulling them off. ‘You’re fucking beautiful.’
She dived at the bed and pulled the sheets over her chin. ‘Brrr, it’s bloody freezing.’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I liked you standing there naked. I wanted to lick you like an ice-cream cone aw the way up. And lick your cunt oot.’
‘Don’t talk dirty and spoil it…And anyway you’ve got your work to go to.’
He shook his head and ran at the bed naked, his penis taut as a metronome. ‘No chance. The work can go and fuck itself. I’m no leaving you. Nae chance. Never.’