Someone To Watch Over You
Everyone knew that Tony, her previous boyfriend was a bit of a one. Had an edge to him. Wearing long sleeved shirts in the shvitzing height of summer, people wondered; Amanda had seen the bruises when Sally hadn’t turned away quickly enough when they were changing at the gym.
Sally met Stuart when he moved into the flat next door to her. Fifteen years older, shorter, balding, annoying nasal accent, and predilection for monopolised conversations; he wasn’t exactly a heartthrob. But my Grandma used to say there’s someone for everyone, and Sally’s music had stopped (like in musical chairs: when the music stops, you marry whoever you’re going out with) about ten years previously.
Not so much born to be bad as born to wed, Sally had planned every detail of her wedding since she was fifteen. A prettyish girl, somewhere on the plump-curvy continuum, she dyed her hair a too-brash blonde, and years of peroxide abuse had reduced it to a frizzy, frazzled mess. Blonde, though.
Stuart arrived on the longest day, with a friend, Mike, who unpacked a rentavan while Stuart yelled instructions from his rusting deckchair. In the afternoon, Stuart’s two teenage sons – living with their Mother, his estranged second wife – turned up. Ostensibly to help their Dad, but they ended up in the empty spare room, having silent wanking competitions while the adults argued over how badly built the flats were and why the faded Ikea sofa wouldn’t fit through the front door.
Sally watched faux-nonchalantly out of her spare room window into the concrete courtyard below. Her mandar sensed a recent divorce/separation: an incomplete suite, jangled kitchen utensils, the sense that only half the ark had made it to Shipsdown Close. He was ugly, though.
In the late night sweltering heat - a poor man’s Do The Right Thing – Sally went out to the hall to water her plants. Windowless, light-starved window boxes lined up against the bright red brick hallway, however much Sally watered them, they died. Not exactly green-fingered, Sally.
Stuart’s hall light was on, and Sally was worried about his electricity bill. She buzzed.
- Hi, er, hi. You, er, you left your -
His glazed-over red-bleary eyes stared at her, unseeingly. His black silk shirt, open to the waist, gave him the look of a seventies mid-range rock star on a failed comeback tour. He’d been interrupted mid porn-spliff extravaganza, and was a man who didn’t like to be interrupted.
- You left your, er, your light on?
His reactions were ten minutes behind reality. He looked at the light over his door. Sally tried to make sense.
- The electricity. If you don’t turn the light off, y’know.
She could smell the spliff, wafting through from the lounge, Tony-style.
- Yeah, yeah. Thanks.
He fumbled around by the unfamiliar front door, looking for the light switch. As she put her hand out to turn it off, he found it. Their skin met.
She had the look he liked. Half-pretty. Needy. He held his hand out.
- Stuart. Hi. Sorry.
- S-Sally? D-do you fancy a c-coffee?
Like two dysfunctional ships passing in the night, they negotiated their way into a relationship of sorts. She cooked, he fucked. He got angry, she kept shtum. Temper to wake the dead, he had.