The lavish lace drape billowed and rose as a gust of baking desert air
     barged in through the open window. Mounted in it's place over the 
     sprawling emperor size bed, a massive ceiling fan projected the only
     void of comfort amid the throttling heat, and Charlotte, absorbing
     the obscene opulence of her surroundings, fully expected its blades to
     be cast from solid gold.
          In the en-suite bathroom - a space larger than her fathers billiard 
     den back  in Cresswell, which, she reflected, seemed a thousand light
     years from this time and place, Charlotte had changed into the gown
     as bidden by her host. The silk felt almost weightless, impossibly 
     smooth and appeared to emit a mesmerising  metallic violet hue. 
          Closing the material around her front she took a breath as her 
     aureoles tightened in unison.

          Shortly after she had settled onto the bed, trying to use the 
     splendour of the setting to quell her simmering concern, a servant 
     entered the quarters bearing a tray of 'refreshments'.  The slight old 
     man moved to the bedside table in a motion that could only be 
     described as gliding. He said nothing, but after setting
     down the tray and turning to leave, Charlotte wondered if she'd caught
     a glint in his eye. Or maybe not. Her emotions were all over the shop; 
     bouncing from eager intrigue to nervous unease. She had to stabilise, 
     and the best available way to do that, she reasoned, was to reach   
     out for the sparkling jug and pour herself a glass.
           The wine was heavenly and slipped down with freedom. The next
      helping being meted out just a couple of gulps later.
           Soon her head was swimming and she relaxed into the bounty of
      scatter cushions. Laying propped up on an elbow she ran her palm
      down her thigh, marvelling again at the gown's seductive allure.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Charlotte had never bothered much with seafood - battered
       cod or festive salmon was about it - but she now found herself
       peeling spiced gelatinous molluscs from their rocky shells to let
       them slither toward a burning, naked death
             Just what would they be saying now,if they could see her?
        Those snooty cows back in Surrey. Girls who were, by all official 
        social accounts, her friends.
               ~Slut~ no doubt, Charlotte snorted, ~I would be deemed by 
           poison  tongue and twisted mouth a wanton harlot of selfish and 
          reckless abandon  


                                          ______________________________________


         The Boy's heart capsized when he realised who he was looking at.
  His old school nemesis,an arch rival since childhood 5-a-side was brutalising his girlfriend.
         Worse still,she was loving it.
         He hadn't the strength or will to do a thing about it,and as he turned to 
  traipse on he knew,amongst the darkness, he'd glimpsed a wedge of white knicker,its 
  elastic bulging over a sinking wrist.
        His knees weakened in sync with his crumbling soul.
        After what seemed like an age the Boy reached the far side of the park.A small but
  deep puddle of mank guarded the old rusty gate like a murky maw,patiently plotting to snair
  and enrage the unwary.
      -Dinnae even fuckin hink aboot it cunt,fuckin wideo...
    Threatening inanimate objects - in this case a small volume of rain water - was a habit
  of his.
     Skirting the clart with a nifty skip,his finesse ended within a second when the leading foot
 landed on a buckfast bottle,flipping him on his back slapstick style.
     The Boy's blood iced over.
      -Aw fuck NO....
      An unmistakable soft,moist and lukewarm horror coated his hand and sleeve.Springing onto
  his knees he rubbed his palm on the grass,wiping the worst of the rancorous stool from his 
 skin,but also serving to further embed sloppy lumps of pungent dug shite into the bulky fibres
 of his woven jersey. Catching his reflection in the mirror of mud he witnessed  the most
 extreme contortion of youthful features he'd ever seen;a twisted mask of revulsion. He got
 to his feet and carefully removed his jumper then flung it into the undergrowth,retching sharply as
 the heavy cuff slid over his knuckles.
      Cheap white t-shirts were never designed to hold body heat,and the rest of the journey 
 was horrendous : piercing cold making his whole body vibrate violently as he shuffled on up the 
 road,a tortured mind conjured dark imaginings of his fallen corpse being picked to the bone
 by ravens with fiendish red eyes.
    The midnight chill had numbed all exposed flesh by the time the Boy reached his door,and
 getting fingers into pockets to search for his keys was like trying to feed a half  frozen squid
 into a rat's lug. He soon realised however... 
      -Hud on......wait......naw...no....fuckin NUHT!!  Muh fuckin hoose key....it's...on ma car
 keys at the cuntin' accident repair centre! Fffffffffuckin.........baaaaaaaasturt!
       He gripped his auburn mop in a silent wail,scewred by a lance of anguish.
       His gran would be asleep in her bed,and couldn't even hear the door when she wasn't,so
that left but one choice: the drainpipe and the bathroom window.It was of the small rectangular
type that hinged outwards like a letterbox,and with no extractor fan to combat mildew it was
always open at least a crack.A good year or two had passed since this particular threshold had
last been crossed,but thanks to an early start on the snouts he hadn't grown that much in the
meantime,so it should be cool.
      Edging between the gable end of the house and the overgrown  privet hedge,the Boy 
 grasped the drainpipe,pulled in a slow deep breath,and began to climb.
                     It was fuckin dodgy as fuck.
       The roughcast was weak,and clumps of soggy moss behind the pipe mocked his grip.
 By the mid-way mark he was fairly bricking it;certain that any second he'd sense the 
 terror that would be bracket screws scraping out cement.
       Drawing level with the sill,now shaking with fear and exhaustion,he made the precarious
 transition onto the tiny stone ledge,resting on his forearms and elbows.As he began to
finger the frame open the bathroom light flicked on and his gran wandered into the bathroom,
semiconscious as she always was on her frequent nocturnal visits.
      -Gran.Tidy... He rejoiced and chapped the frosted pane with his forehead,only to be 
 greeted with a howling shriek.
      Believing she was being assailed by a drug-fuelled  house breaker,the old woman thrust
 the window out with adrenalized vigour, belting her grandson a stormer on the jaw.She 
 sent him arching off the building and down towards the hedge,which may have been more
 merciful had it not concealed within its leafy bulk,a sturdy fence.
       As he fell he turned his head,shifting weight and rotating his body a quarter turn.His
 outstretched arm plunged into the hedge,a gnarled twig drilled his eardrum,then gravity rammed
 a reinforced pine board into his ribs.
       Shocked and winded he couldn't make a sound,but crumpled onto his knees in 
 crippling  pain,wondering if he now had a punctured lung to add to his tally of torment.
 He managed to crawl out of the passage before slumping down onto the buckled slab
 path.
       The next thing the boy became aware of was his gran on rapid approach,clutching
  what appeared to be the poker off the fireplace.
       -Gran....wait. He wheezed
       -Wha...is that.....?    She halted,then cautiously stooped forward,straining her eyes
 at the shadowy figure at her feet; faulty yaks struggling to obtain visual verification of the
 face belonging to that voice.
      -Aye Gran,it's me.Hud on. He groans,rising.
      -Hud....wh....Crivens son!! What on God's green Earth ur yi daein by-Christ!
      -Ah'm sorry Gran. Ah forgot muh key. Ah didnae want tae wake yi
      -Well yi bloody near pit ays oan the morgue's cold slab ya stupit wee numb-nut! Yi
 ken whit the doaktir sais. Ah could be oan deaths door wi ma Alan Wicker gaun ten
 ay the dozen like this! Get up, get in that hoose.
       She turned and headed back in,making no effort to aid her injured grandson's final
 aching steps to sanctuary.
       The Boy lurched into the front room as if bearing a crucifix.He eased himself onto the 
 couch and reflected,staring blankly at a violet trimmed doylie.  -What a brutal night,no
 tae mention this effty. Fuck sake,tae think ah was feelin hard done-by afore ah even 
 tanned that stag.
        It was only too true. No one could argue that he had indeed suffered a steady 
 stream of shannery in a cruelly compressed space of time. Wildlife,women,nutters...
 even the traffic of a dogs colon had royaly ripped the pish in the last few hours.
 What ever prankster forces were at work in this world now sat back, lighting massive
 cubans and basking in the glow of their finest days graft for decades.
         - Is Brando shroo there?! His gran squawks from the kitchen.
         -Cannae see um.
         -Eh's no touched eh's food
         -Cannae see um Gran.
         -Right.That's me away back tae muh bed.
         -Tidy.
         -Dinnae stert gettin lippy son! No now! Her scowling dish appears round the door.
 -And dinnae be steyin up aw night either!
         -Aw, don't worry. Ah'm gaun tae ma bed awright.
         -Aye,that's right.Cause yir up early the moran!
         -Eh?! He sits up sharply and hears his ribs creak.
         -Yi'll be cleanin that hovel ay an oven like ah telt yi last week!That mother ay yours
  never lifts a finger roond here,and if your no oot ti' aw ooirs yir up in that room wi yir pals,
  aw smokin they funny fags!
        -Naw Gran, he protests, -ah dinnae ken aboot that stuff..
        -Dinnae gies it! She waddles into the room and thrashes a finger at him. -Ah'll bet
  yi a pound tae a penny you DO know about that stuff.Aw aboot it!! If ah wis boran
  yistirday then your no a bone idle wee tyke!
        -Night Gran. He sighs.
        -Ah mean it! She shouts back,heading off up the stairs.

             And that was that. All the boy had to look forward to now was a brief spell in
          oblivion.  He hobbled up stairs and into his room,switching on the wee lamp.The
          dim light was sickening to his eyes.  He stood hung and broken.  Several privet 
          leaves clung to his ruffled hair,and he had the stare of a shock victim; it would be 
          easy to convince someone he'd just been trampled by a horse.
             Dread rippled through him as he considered what tomorrow might hold.It
          wasn't shaping up well from the outset.

                  And Jesus fuck, he'll be back soon.
            
            Arms hanging limp the Boy approached his nest looking brainwashed.With nothing 
         left he keeled forward,mattress bound.....Bliss Awaits.......



              It's cold fur plugged his nostrils,and The Boy knew his gran's rickety auld
             cat had died on his bed.