1: Unauthorised Metal Attachments

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I sniffed and inspected my shirt closer in the mirror.

"Fucking bastard," I whispered. "You lied to me, Paolo."

Alright, perhaps it was on me this time— I had been told not to get nipple piercings, and all of my research (the drunken three minutes spent frantically googling it before the fact) suggested that it was a terrible idea. Long recovery period, loss of sensation, infection– Jesus, what if I lost my fucking nipples?

Paolo had told me they wouldn't show through my shirt.

"You got no tits," was how he had delicately phrased it.

That was one of the last things I remembered before waking up in the sweating, hairy arms of some bloke this morning, with Paolo sprawled over our feet. I had hardly made it home in the earliest hours to avoid my mother noticing me coming in. Clearly my standards were slipping further than I had thought... Or I was being more stupid about my alcohol tolerance than usual. Either way, I was going to be stiff at training– and Dmitri was going to fucking kill me when he saw what was clearly under my shirt. I took one last despairing glance at the raised bars under the blue material and gave a forced shrug; perhaps if I could pretend that I didn't care about them, I wouldn't.

I kissed my mother goodbye on the way out, as I always did. She had, after all, always kissed me on her way out when I was young.

"Ciao, Frankie, baby," she cooed as her soft, fleshy arms gripped me tight as a constrictor. I didn't mention how much this hurt. "I love you, mio diletto."

I wriggled free and scrubbed hastily at the lipstick stain left on my cheek as I pulled out my car-keys, swirled them vainly around my middle finger, and unlocked my little Ford Mondeo. God, it was pug-ugly, but I loved it. I yanked the door open (the frame was always stuck) and dropped into the driver's seat, dumping my bag onto the back seats along with several empty McDonald's bags and not-so-empty coffee cups and several cans of Red Bull. Jesus, I needed to get my life together at some point... And some point would surely come.

Once the useless little thing had coughed out its entire exhaust pipe waking up, I stepped down the clunky clutch and persuaded the gearstick into place. It argued with me every movement I made as I pulled out into the quiet cul-de-sac. I reached for the stereo system— not quite modern enough for a radio— and flicked along to my favourite song.

"Good fucking morning, Ashbourne!" I called out the cranked-down window as the Scissor Sisters' I Don't Feel Like Dancin' came screaming from the grotty speakers, shaking my head from side to side as I whipped along the empty main road and almost ripped out the bottom of the car hurtling over speedbumps.

"Balls," I let out as the resultant rattling of the suspension put the fear of god in me. "Sorry, old boy."

I had always loved driving in the early hours of the morning. It was not yet half over five, and nobody was up— not even Therman's wife walking the dog. Bloody Mrs. Therman. They had a tiny yappy thing that always jumped up at Caro and made her scream. One day I was going to kick it in the face.

Elspeth was waiting outside her house as ever with her bag slung over her shoulder and her expression the cold, hard 'don't-fuck-with-me' look of a true northerner. I crunched the car to a halt and she was hardly in before I set off again.

"You drive like a fucking nonce pulling away from a school," she declared as she pulled out a purple Babylips from her sweater pocket and rubbed it smoothly across her small, mean mouth. "Is it because you don't have a father figure, or because you're a useless fag?"

I grinned and tipped my head to the left.

"And do we have to listen to this shitting song every shitting morning?"

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