Story blog

Key words with Peter and Jane – part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy on 12/08/2009

Peter and Jane swap keys

Peter was cooking spaghetti the wrong way. Jane rang the doorbell and then opened up with her old set of keys. She had come to say goodbye.

‘Hello,’ she said.

In the hallway she gave him the crap hug. The one where you don’t quite touch. Had to. Knowing how easy it would be just then to slip into perfect contact. Two bodies, used to fitting together can always click into place – like driving, it stays in your physical memory.

‘You’re early,’ he said.

Peter and Jane go to school

Shared history is a problem. All the tea-stained years and backed-up memories glaring at you like you owe them something.

And they went to the same primary school – something they never talk of now because the old memories have been almost completely wiped out – replaced with the Jiff-clean smell of the new, grown-up ones. And you never know if they remember what you do. You don’t want to ask in case they don’t remember. It becomes a pride thing.

But she remembers:

Flying lessons in the playground. Three steps and then a gravel landing leading up to the art room’s French doors. A metal bar running along the landing, parallel to the floor. She said, ‘grab hold of the bar and jump. (he jumped) Now keep jumping, higher and higher, and eventually we’ll take off. We’re almost there!’


And he taught her basketball. Not a proper game, just shooting hoops in the back garden. She was awful. Blindly happy when she got one in every twenty through the net. He had to let her be a bad winner then. Shining in her barely-there victory.

Peter and Jane take an overdose

Peter was friends with the in-crowd, without being part of it. Clever without being a geek. He had his crowd and Jane had hers. Their friendship took place outside school – Saturday afternoons when he’d knock for her, whole evenings on the telephone. They had designated playing counters in monopoly. She was his aliby for getting stoned. Their mothers were friends.

At fifteen years old they made a suicide pact. Peter’s first girlfriend was forbidden from seeing him by her strict parents. Life was over for him, and for Jane, whose crush wasn’t interested. Peter had approached him on her behalf and been told, ‘she looks like she’s got a nice personality.’  The words would ring in her ears for years afterwards as an excruciating whisper, like the soothing sound the sea makes before it sucks you under.

Jane was never alpha, but she blossomed – later than most, in her early twenties. She had a renaissance, as some clever girls do. She joined a gym and went from the 10 stone she’d been all her adult life to suddenly 9 stone. Less of her to go around and more herself then ever. She had laser-eye surgery, grew out the bad haircut, and then other things changed too. Men at work started holding doors open for her. Her father stopped hugging her. Women’s magazines weren’t out to get her. Clothes shopping was fun.

Peter noticed too.

Peter and Jane have a new hobby

Making love became something they did, like bowling or playing tennis. Then it became everything. Tennis and bowling were suboardinate.

Peter and Jane paint the lounge

Day eighty one in the new flat. Jane was painting the lounge. She wasn’t a natural. You had to strip the walls and then wipe them with turps before applying a layer of primer and getting started on the first coat. So seven weeks after beginning, she was finally bringing roller to wall, too impatient to keep the paint thin so each impact caused a light shower of paint flecks like spraying blood. She slicked on bile-green emulsion, dreaming of mass slaughters. She thought of a thriller she’d seen on the telly where the detective knew the murderer by the new carpets and drapes throughout their ground floor. Spanking new walls and floors covering the stains of a brutal massacre.

In between coats she checked in on Peter, who was in the bedroom, recovering from a nasty cough. She made him tea and put ginger snaps in a lattice arrangement the way her mother had taught her on sick days. You had to lick the corner of the biscuit to make it stand up…

more to come