Still Life with Strings (4 page)

BOOK: Still Life with Strings
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“So I guess I can stop
calling you Bluebird, then,” he whispers.

I smile and joke, “I
have you pegged. Women are all birds and bitches to you, right?”

He gives me a startled
look, and I hold back a grin.

“I’m pulling your leg,
hon,” I tell him, and the startled look fades.

Several moments of
silence ensue before he regains his confidence. “So what’s with the living
statue thing? They don’t pay you enough here or something?” He’s trying to be
flirtatious now.

“That’s a hobby. And
no, to answer your second question, they don’t pay me enough here. Not when
I’ve got two mouths to feed at home.”

His brow furrows before
he asks, “Are you a mother, Jade?”

I let out a small laugh
and shake my head. “The look on your face! No, I was referring to my younger
brother and sister.” I lean against the bar so that our faces are inches apart,
then whisper, “I’m a poor little orphan, Shane. You want to come rescue me?”

He swallows, his Adam’s
apple bobbing in his throat. My eyes flick to Avery when I hear her make a
small noise of surprise. Damn, I’d almost forgotten she was listening to us.

“In what way do you
need rescuing?” Shane asks back, his voice gravelly.

I stand up straight
then and return to drying glasses.

“Contrary to popular
belief, not all orphans need to be rescued,” I tell him with a wink, and walk
to the other end of the bar. Soon the musicians begin to head home, and I
finish closing up for the night. When I look back to where Shane had been
sitting, I find he’s gone. Avery has left, too. Hmm, I wonder if he went home
with her.

I call goodbye to a
couple of other workers, hitching my bag up on my shoulder and making my way
out through the employee exit. I give a surprised yelp when somebody emerges
from the side of the building. Clutching my chest, I see it’s only Shane
carrying a violin case and a small backpack.

“Shit, you scared me,”
I exclaim, my breathing fast.

He gives me a sheepish
grin. “Oops, sorry.” He pauses, biting at his full bottom lip. “I’ve been
waiting for you.”

Smiling now, I reply,
“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. I was, uh,
wondering if I could take you out some time?”

“Aren’t we past all
that?” I ask.

He looks to the ground
and then back up at me, scratching at his jaw. “I don’t think so.”

I take a step closer to
him, putting my hand on his arm and letting it drift lightly downward. He
closes his eyes at my touch. Wow, this guy really likes me. Like,
really
likes me. All those posh women in his line of work must be prudes. Perhaps
that’s why my overly forward ways have him so affected.

“You don’t think so,
Shane? So it wasn’t you who fucked my brains out in the back of an alley last
night?” I whisper.

“Bloody hell, Jade,” he
exclaims, looking around to make sure there’s no one within hearing distance.
Breathing heavily, he continues, “That wasn’t my initial intention. I did
actually mean it when I said I wanted to have a drink with you. You’re
amazingly beautiful — in your costume and out of it.”

I smile softly now.
“You like my wings, honey?”

He nods. “Very much so.
Your appearance as a living statue is striking, to say the least. I couldn’t
look away when I saw you. You had this expression on your face like you were
imagining heaven.”

I give him a full-on
grin for that one. I don’t think I was imagining heaven last night, but it’s a
nice idea. Now I’m trying to remember what I had actually been imagining, but
it’s not coming to me. I think I was just noticing him and thinking he was
incredibly attractive — him fucking me was pretty heavenly, though.

I smile up at him. “Are
you a bit of a poet, Shane?”

He smiles back, and I
see a dimple deepen in one of his cheeks.

“Nope. Just a lowly
violinist.”

I start walking now and
he moves, too, keeping pace with me. “Ah, I like a bit of modesty in a man. So,
you must be thrilled to have snagged a place in the symphony. Where did you
play before?”

His eyes light up at
the fact that I’m asking questions about him. “Yeah, I was over the moon,
actually. I had to do a number of auditions and interviews. Up until about a
year ago, I was in a string quartet. We had a fairly large European following,
so I got to do lots of travelling.”

“Wow. That sounds
exciting. What was your group’s name?”

“The Bohemia Quartet.
Ever heard of us?”

“Sorry, can’t say that
I have. Do you have any recordings?”

“Yeah, three albums.
You can buy our stuff on iTunes.” He gives me this cute little self-deprecating
grin.

“Cool. I’m going to
look you up sometime. So why did you leave?”

His shoulders slump as
he shoves his hands in his pockets. “That’s a depressing story.”

“I can deal with
depressing,” I tell him.

He shakes his head.
“Nah, not tonight. Perhaps some other time.”

“Okay. So are you
planning on walking me all the way home?” I ask, noticing we’re almost at the
end of Harcourt Street now.

Shane glances up and
down the road. “How much farther is your place?”

“Five minutes from
here. You can head off if you like. I might see you around at work.” I begin
walking away, but he rushes to catch up with me.

“Hey, what’s your
hurry? I can go another five minutes.”

I stop and turn to face
him, giving him a sad look. He’s like an enthusiastic puppy — a darkly exotic
enthusiastic puppy.

“We’re not having sex
again,” I state, getting straight to the point.

He blinks and sputters.
“Is that what you think I’m after? Jade, I just want to talk with you some
more. I like you.”

Putting my hand
comfortingly on his chest, I tell him softly, “That’s really sweet, and I’ve no
problem talking. In fact, I’d love to be friends, but I just need to know you
understand that what went on between us last night won’t be happening again.
’Kay?”

He stares at me, and
his eyes tilt downward. Great, now I’ve kicked the puppy. For a moment I think
he’s going to argue with me, but then he simply replies, “I’d love to be
friends, too.”

He gives me a small
smile, one which I return. “Friends it is, then. Come on, buddy. Walk me home.”

A few minutes later
we’re approaching my house. I take a glance at the group of boys who seem to be
continually camped out at the end of the street. Then I breathe a relieved sigh
when I confirm that Pete isn’t with them.

Pulling my keys from my
bag, I turn to Shane. “Well, this is me. Thanks for the chat. It was good
talking to you. Hopefully we can do it again soon.”

He stands at the end of
my front step, hands dug into his pockets. He doesn’t say anything, but he’s
staring at me, real intense.

“What are you looking
at me like that for?” I ask, letting out a small nervous laugh.

“I’ve never met a girl
like you before,” he says.

What am I, a mermaid or
something?

“Well, I wouldn’t
imagine many of the girls from around here hang out with men who play the
violin, nor do they attend any string quartet concerts,” I reply jokingly,
gesturing over to a couple of girls standing by a house across the street,
puffing on cigarettes in their pyjama bottoms, massive gold hoop earrings in
their ears.

Shane looks to them and
then back at me. “No, I don’t suppose they do. You know, I’ve never actually
been in this part of the city before.”

“No, I don’t suppose
you have,” I say, teasing him.

He narrows his eyes,
giving me a tight-lipped smirk. “I, uh, don’t think I remember the way back.”

I laugh. “Well, that
was silly, now, wasn’t it? Where do you live?”

“Ranelagh. I was going
to catch a cab.”

“In that case, come on
inside and I’ll call one for you. My neighbour Barry drives a taxi. He’ll do
you a discount if he knows you’re a friend of mine.”

I turn my key in the
door and step into the hallway, my ears immediately getting blasted with loud
rap music. Great. I forgot my brother Alec usually has his friends around for a
few beers on a Sunday night.

“Sorry about the noise.
It’s just my brother and his mates. Come on into the kitchen.”

I gesture for him to
take a seat at the table. “Do you want some tea while you’re waiting?”

“I’d love some.”

I put on the kettle and
then pick up my phone to call Barry. It rings out twice before he answers.

“Jade, what can I do
for you, love?”

“A friend of mine needs
a lift out to Ranelagh. Are you free?”

“I will be in about
fifteen minutes. You at your house or somewhere else?”

“My house.”

“Right, give me half an
hour, tops. I’ll beep when I’m outside.”

“Great. Thanks, Barry.”

The music coming from
the living room gets louder, and I find it hilarious when Shane furrows his
brow as though offended. I can’t blame him. If I spent my life playing
classical music, I’d be offended by rap, too.

I bang my fist on the
wall, shouting, “Keep it down, Alec.”

The volume lowers, and
I go about making the tea. A minute later Alec walks into the kitchen, opening
the fridge to take out more beers. My eldest brother is a sight to behold these
days. He’s been working for a construction company, so all the hard labour has
bulked him up, and he’s taken to tattoos in a big way. He’s already got a full
sleeve on his right arm and is building another on the left. His light brown hair,
the same shade as that of all my siblings, is cut in a Mohawk down the centre
of his head.

“Sorry about the music,
Jade. Some of the boys got carried away.” He notices Shane then and gives him
the once-over. The two couldn’t be any more opposite: Shane in his black shirt
and slacks, and Alec in his jeans and ratty T-shirt.

“You a friend of
Jade’s?” he asks, taking the cigarette that had been resting behind his ear and
lighting it up.

“Yeah, he is. This is
Shane. Shane, this is my brother, Alec.”

“Nice to meet you,
bud,” says Alec, reaching across the table to give Shane’s hand a sturdy shake.
What with his appearance and his deep inner-city accent, Alec can come across
like a bit of a scary bastard, but he’s actually a really amiable guy. He’s the
funniest fucker I know, brilliant sense of humour. You’ll never get one over on
him in a battle of wits.

“Nice to meet you,
too,” says Shane, smiling urbanely.

Alec grins when he
hears Shane speak and gives me a look that says,
haven’t you done well for
yourself, snagging the posh fella.

I give him a look in
return that says,
we’re just friends!

“Right. Well, I’ll
leave you both to it,” says Alec finally, picking up the beers and strolling
back into the living room.

“And keep the music
down,” I call after him.

“So, you’ve got two
brothers and a sister?” Shane asks as I set a cup of tea down in front of him.

“That’s right, though
Alec’s big and ugly enough to take care of himself now.”

Shane laughs. “Right,
yeah, I can see that. What happened to your parents?”

“Whoa, bit of a
personal question there,” I say, pulling out a chair and sitting down across
from him.

He looks embarrassed.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, you’re all right.
Mum died four years ago from lung cancer. My dad died a few months after I was
born, got knocked over by a car. The others have a different father, though —
that’s why I’m the only one with this mad albino hair. Their dad’s name is
Patrick, absolute waste of space. He shows up every once in a while, but mostly
I try to keep him out of the picture.”

“Sounds complicated.”

“It is. So, do I get to
ask about your family, or does this interview business only go one way?”

Shane sits back in his
chair. “You can ask. My situation is fairly simple, though. I’m an only child.
My parents live in Dalkey.”

I grin. “Well, I’d
never have guessed. Is that where you grew up?”

He eyes me
speculatively. “Uh-huh. And what do you mean, ‘you’d never have guessed’?”

“I was just teasing. I
knew you must have been raised somewhere around that area, given your accent.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah. Are both of your
parents white? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you look like you’ve got some Asian
blood in you.”

“Bit of a personal
question,” he says with a smirk, throwing my own words back at me.

“I like asking personal
questions.” I lean in closer to him, my elbows on the table, and bite
flirtatiously on my lower lip. I do it jokingly, but Shane’s expression heats
up nonetheless, his eyes zeroing in on my mouth.

BOOK: Still Life with Strings
7.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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