This story is a work of fiction and so no offence is meant to anyone who is mentioned within it.
Hope you all enjoy it and if you’ve any constructive comments to make please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
MF, Oral, Cons, Rom
‘And her ways were free and it seemed to me,
Sunshine walked beside her.’
‘Tecumseh Valley’ – Townes Van Zandt
It was under a sky the colour of gunmetal that I’d arrived at the town of Grange Villa in the North East of England. Grange Villa was the last night of a tour I’d started eight weeks
previously as support to a superb English blues singer-songwriter called Johnny Dickinson. We’d travelled the length and breadth of Britain playing in small to medium sized venues in some of the bleakest towns in the country and Grange Villa was no exception. As I manoeuvred my way through the streets of the town it became all too apparent that like many small towns and villages throughout the country that the closure of the adjacent mines had savaged the towns’ economy and decimated any lustre that it might have possessed. It seems that Grange Villa had once boasted a thriving coal industry until the 1980’s when Margaret Thatcher had, in her infinite wisdom, closed mines throughout the country wiping out thousands upon thousands of peoples livelihoods. As I continued through the narrow cobbled streets, Elmore James blasting out of my CD player, I scanned both sides of the road searching out the venue where tonight’s gig was. Out of the corner of my eye a sign caught my attention and there before me was the Working Man’s Club. I grimaced when I saw it…..
The Working Man’s Club was certainly not the most salubrious venue I’d played on this tour. Stepping out of my car, a battered red 1985 Ford Sierra, I screwed a cigarette between my lips and lit it, inhaling deeply. The club was a dimly lit establishment and like many of its ilk it had probably been built in the 1930’s with functionality a premium and aesthetics but a minor concern. It was an ugly venue and on approaching it I noticed that the club sign was hanging at a crooked angle and was in dire need of a fresh coat of paint. God only knows what it would be like inside. Wearily I went back to my car and started getting my gear out.
It came as no surprise that the main hall was in no better state than the club exterior. The walls and ceiling were coated with thick tobacco stains and a fetid stench of mildew mixed with stale smoke hung in the air. Off-colour white paint was peeling from sections of the walls which were also littered with large jagged cracks. The stage looked to be just a large piece of plywood perched on numerous plastic crates. It didn’t look as if it would be able to hold an amplifier never mind a fully-grown man. I tell you the places we struggling musicians have to play! Looking at my watch I saw I didn’t have long to get set up and sound check for the gig.
Less than two hours later I was climbing on stage to be greeted with a muted applause. I scanned the room. It was three-quarters full with a healthy mix of men and women. Most of them seemed to be middle-aged or older but I had noticed some younger people sitting in several places and as I played I noticed them nodding their heads or tapping their feet along with my playing. It was great to see younger people into blues and roots music.
Time flies by when you play live. As I stared out through the haze of smoke I caught sight of the sound engineer who pointed at his watch and held up two fingers. I’d played for nearly forty minutes and it was time to wind down the set. Nodding in his direction I struck the opening notes of the Scottish folk song ‘The Lass of Loch Royale’ the fingers of my right hand picked the notes the glass slide on the little finger of my left ghosted up and down the fretboard. Once I heard my own voice kick in I closed my eyes and became lost in the story. I imagined I was the sailor gone overseas leaving behind the love of his life pledging her his return, physically sitting alone on a makeshift stage in the North of England in the 21st Century but mentally traversing the South Seas on a frigate bound for the Indies in the 18th. When the last notes of the song had sounded I opened my eyes and was greeted with a warm applause with a few enthusiastic whoops and calls for an encore thrown in for good measure. I thanked the crowd profusely and made to get off stage only for the calls of encore to grow louder so I reached down beside me, took a quick swig from my pint, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and addressed the crowd;
“Thank you very much. Thank you…I’m going to play one more song and then get off the stage so you can all see the amazingly talented Johnny Dickinson who is guaranteed to knock your socks off.”
Taking another quick slug of beer I reached for my lap steel guitar and positioning it across my knees adjusted the mike causing it to emit a high-pitched squeal of feedback. Grimacing I spoke as I tuned up:
“This next song is for anyone who has ever worked in a job and found one day that their livelihood had been taken away from them. I wrote it for my father who sadly passed away last year and who worked for thirty-three years in a Sheffield Steel Mill before being made redundant. This song is called ‘The Mill’, my name is Alan Rogers and I hope you’ve enjoyed the show as much as I have playing it.”
Clearing my throat I began to sing…….
Ten minutes later I was standing outside the club smoking a cigarette and watching the first drops of rain splatter on the pavement debating whether or not I should try and drive back to Sheffield tonight. It was going to be late by the time this gig wrapped up and the weather forecast had predicted a sharp drop in temperatures tonight. Rain and a sharp drop in temperatures. There’d probably be ice on the roads then which meant that getting home tonight was going to be extremely hazardous. A night in Grange Villa? Great…
My train of thought was interrupted by the heavily digitised sound of Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. Reaching into my pocket I fished out my mobile phone and checked who was ringing. Raising my eyes to heaven I answered;
‘PJ….how are you?
A heavy Irish accent roared down the phone:
‘Alan…how are ye….it’s good to hear from you boy…how are ye keeping. How is the tour goin’…any problems?’
It was my agent Patrick John Hennessy. A jovial giant of a Cork man in his early sixties with a shock of white curly hair PJ, as he was known to everyone in the business, was widely renowned as being one of the shrewdest agents on the folk/blues/country scene; and one of the toughest. He’d worked in Ireland managing Showbands in the 1960’s and 70’s before moving to America where he’d had great success managing Country bands. He’d settled in England in the mid-90’s and had been my agent for the past 18 months. Since then I’d gotten a lot more work and my profile had risen steadily. Behind his ample girth and amiable demeanour was a character that possessed a steely hard streak. He worked hard to get his acts places and in return he expected you to work equally as hard. So this phone call was not going to be just a social call. Taking a drag from my smoke I answered;
‘I’m fine PJ how are you?’
‘Sure I’m grand….can’t complain at all…and sure even if I did who’d listen?’
He let out a jovial little chuckle and then continued
‘So how did the gig go…you were playing….where was it again…ah yes….the Working Man’s Club in Grange Villa…Jaysus there’s a mouthful for ya….so how did it go….did you manage to sell many CDs?’
Running my free hand through my hair I paced as I spoke;
‘The gig was good. I got a pretty good response….a lot better than I’d expected. But the venue….’
I threw a glance over my shoulder and lowered my voice.
‘The venue was a complete shithole though PJ. The stage was just a piece of wood on a couple of plastic crates. I thought I was going to fall through the fucking thing….and the sound was dreadful. They must have been using a mixing desk that was manufactured before WW 2.’
‘But the gig was good apart from that. Did you sell many CDs?’
I glanced up at the sky and saw that the rain was now pouring out of the heavens. I pitched my cigarette hearing the hiss as it extinguished on the wet concrete;
‘I suppose about a dozen. But I told them they could be bought on the website as well as through mail order. So with a bit of luck we might get some more sales.’
I ignited another cigarette and waited for PJ’s reply.
‘So a dozen there added to….how many have you sold so far on the tour?’
‘I dunno….at a rough estimate a seven hundred maybe. Well that was at the last time of counting.’
After a pause of several seconds PJ spoke;
‘That’s not bad. Seven hundred CDs in eight weeks. ‘Tis not bad. Could be better mind but ’tis not bad…..but you know that you have to work hard to promote……’
Sighing, I closed my eyes and shook my head. I was too weary to argue with PJ. Eight weeks of touring without a break had knocked the stuffing out of me. I desperately needed a few days off to recharge my batteries. PJ was still talking but I was barely listening. I had zoned out completely my attention drawn to a piece of plastic wrapping paper that was being tossed too and fro by the stiff breeze that had appeared out of nowhere. I was so fascinated by the trajectory of this inanimate object that I never heard what PJ had said.
‘Alan? Alan? Are you there….did you not hear what I said lad?’
Awaking from my dazed stupor I mumbled;
The indignation in PJ’s voice was palpable
‘Jaysus you tell a man that he’s been offered a chance to record an album in Paris and he doesn’t even have the decency to pay attention.’
Now I was alert!
‘What did you say? An album in Paris?’
‘Yes…it seems some French Blues label got hold of your CD when you were playing in London a few weeks ago….what the hell is their name again….Ah yes…Cypres Records. For some strange reason they think you’re good. Very good. They want to meet up with you to discuss the possibility of you recording an album for them. And they want to do it soon. Like the day after tomorrow.’
‘Are you shitting me PJ?’
Hearing the incredulity in my voice PJ emitted a bellicose laugh and continued.
‘I thought that might get your attention! No boy I’m not ‘shitting’ you. Sure why would I be wantin’ to do that? Now listen to me Alan we need to meet up tomorrow because these boyo’s want to meet up in London in two days time and I think we both need to be there. Now I’ve talked to them about it and they seem to be kosher….BUT you can never be sure so before we commit to anything we need to find out a little more about them and the kind of deal they’re offering. So drop in to the office tomorrow around mid-day and we’ll take my car down. We should be down in London by tomorrow night. Is that ok?’
My thoughts were racing at this point so all I could manage to say was;
‘Sure PJ. I’ll see you tomorrow. Midday was it?’
Another chuckle reverberated down the phone
‘Hit you for six with that news haven’t I boy?’
‘Hit me for six…you could knock me over with a feather. Have you any idea when they want me over there should I sign.’
‘No idea…I’d imagine as soon as possible.’
Lighting another cigarette I took a drag;
‘Sure probably within a couple of weeks of sign…oh shit…PJ…the Tommy Emmanuel tour! That’s in two weeks time!’
PJ let out another trademark roar of laughter.
‘Jaysus boy don’t be worrying about that….Sure I told them already about that. What type of an agent do you take me for?’
And so it came to pass that after I’d finished a six week tour with Tommy Emmanuel that I packed my bags and headed for Paris……
There wasn’t a soul on the Avenue de la Belle Gabrielle when I emerged from the cavernous depths of Studio Deux dazed with fatigue. I shivered as the cool morning air permeated my clothing, seeping into my sleep-deprived form. Christ it was cold! Hard to believe that it was springtime in Paris. I looked up at the sky. Not a cloud there. The first rays of the new day’s sun were starting to illuminate the gloom. It looked as if it was going to be another beautiful day.
Zipping up my jacket I screwed a cigarette between my lips, lit it and inhaled deeply savouring the sweet corrosive poison that billowed into my lungs. Closing my eyes I jetted short sharp spurts of smoke from my nostrils as I exhaled, a contented grin etched on my lips. Three vocal and rhythm guitar tracks recorded, with only lead and overdubs left to do. They wouldn’t take much longer than a week to get done. I had over three-quarters of the album recorded and despite the fact that I hadn’t slept properly in the month since I’d arrived in elegant sunny Paris from dreary, sleet soaked Sheffield I was feeling pretty damn fine. Picking up my guitar I sauntered into the fresh Parisian morning feeling a wave of giddy exhilaration wash over me. The thud of my boots on the pavement and the incessant chirping of the birds in the trees overhead were the only sounds to be heard as I strolled through the Bois de Boulogne. I smoked contentedly and as I walked toward the Metro I saw the Champs Elysees framed by the rising sun and grinned. Life just didn’t get much better than this.
When I was seated on the Metro I slumped into my seat, stared out the window and thought about events after the gig in Grange Villa.
The meeting in London had gone without a hitch. PJ had found out quite a bit about the record label that he hadn’t let on during our phone conversation. They were a decent sized Jazz/Blues/Folk label based in the centre of Paris. The head of Cypres Records, Sylvain Dutronc was a thin be speckled man with a ponytail and an absolute music fanatic. In his early forties Dutronc had grown up around music, his uncle being the legendary French troubadour Jacques Dutronc. Sylvain it turned out was a huge fan of American blues music, particularly Blues from the Mississippi Delta and had been so impressed with my performance of ‘The Mill’ when he’d seen me in London that he’d decided to sign me. It was a fairly straightforward arrangement; a two album deal with an option for another two. The budget was quite reasonable and the record label even sprang for the rental of a small apartment for me in Pigalle slap bang in the middle of the Moulin Rouge. Nothing fancy really just a small one bedroom place. My neighbours consisted mainly of young working class families, prostitutes and three Australian travellers who had decamped to Paris to work. It was not exactly the quietist place to live but the upside of this was that when I wanted to play the guitar late at night there were no complaints from my neighbours who were otherwise engaged in other nocturnal activities. Sitting there playing the guitar with a bottle of wine beside me looking out at the crimson sky as the sun sank over the city, listening to the hustle and bustle of Paris at night is something I will never forget.
The days when not recording were spent traversing Paris absorbing the history and culture of the place. However when the weather was good, and lately that had been with much more frequency, I’d take my lap-steel guitar up to Montmartre and busk close to the Sacre Coeur which afforded me not only a spectacular view of Paris but also a prime market for tourist cash. I had done it purely out of fiscal necessity. I even managed to sell some of my CDs too which meant that my financial situation was much improved. It was helped even more when after recording one day Sylvain had taken me aside and asked me to do a favour for a friend of his who owned a new Blues club called, very appropriately, Bottleneck (gotta’ love that title!). It meant playing a couple of gigs at the weekend and was obviously a great way to promote my forthcoming album. There were several acts on Cypres who would be playing as well as myself so I guess Sylvain got to use it as a showcase for his labels signings.
As the train pulled in to Pigalle station I hauled my jaded form up from the seat and pretty much sleepwalked to my apartment.
Sixteen hours later I was onstage and halfway through my set. The venue was just over two-thirds full and extremely smoky, the seating literally on top of the stage. So close that even through the haze of the stage lights and cigarette smoke you could see the expressions on everyone’s faces and so it was easy to gauge people’s reactions. Throughout the set my gaze was drawn to a particularly attractive blonde haired woman sitting just in front of me. She was wearing an extremely low cut top thus affording me a great view of her impressive cleavage. Throughout the gig I had a serious fight on my hands to avert my gaze from straying down her top. She knew it too as she kept bending down anytime I’d look in her direction before smiling up at me. Being the consummate professional that I am (yeah right) I managed to finish my set without too many glitches and as I sauntered off stage and towards the bar I looked in her direction and smiled. She returned my smile with a sexy little grin and a wink.
‘Yeah…Looks like you got an admirer there man.’
I turned around and before me was a tall young man who looked to be in his twenties. He was leaning against the bar a cigarette dangling between his lips, unkempt blonde hair, blue eyes, a faded grey Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, ripped blue jeans. An American too by the accent.
‘Maybe…but I think she’s probably taken. See the goon there with the brown hair….I think they’re probably together.’
I pointed, discreetly I may add, at a lean longhaired man who had just arrived at the venue. The two of us stood in silence as we watched him begin to weave his way skilfully through the maze of tables towards where the blonde was sitting. On reaching the table he leaned down and kissed her passionately on the lips.
‘Damn…guess you were right.’
Shrugging I turned and faced him again;
‘Ah…easy come easy go.’
I ordered a beer and as I waited lit a smoke. It was my new acquaintance who broke the silence.
‘That was a great gig. Real good. You can really fuckin’ play. I loved your version of ‘Red House’, man. I’ve never heard it played on one of those slide guitar things before. Man it’s a song I’ve always wanted to learn how to play properly.’
He grinned sheepishly;
‘A little…when I can. It’s a hobby though. I like playing stuff like Hendrix, Dylan that kind of stuff. I’m no good at that really wild guitar playing stuff you were doing. Much as I’d love to be able to do that stuff…’
Taking a swig of beer I shrugged;
‘People prefer to hear songs though. If you just piss about with solos and that type of stuff people will get bored very quickly. The only people who can listen to that type of stuff all the time are other musicians. And believe me even they get hacked off with it.’
He nodded and we both took swigs from our perspective drinks. His looked to be harder than mine. From the smell of it, bourbon. I was the one who broke the silence this time. Stretching out my hand;
‘My name is Alan by the way.’
‘Nice to meet to you Michael. So what brings you to Paris?’
For the next twenty minutes we talked, mostly about music. Michael was reticent to talk a lot about himself except that his full name was Michael Pitt and he was in Paris acting in a film by an Italian director whose name he refused to disclose. I on the other hand told him a lot about myself and how and why I had ended up in Paris. We were in the middle of a conversation about the merits of Bob Dylan’s new album when we were interrupted by a reproachful female voice.
‘Michael…there you are…Louis and I were wondering where you had gone.’
With that I turned around and was confronted with a vision of pure joy.
She was quite simply one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Tall and slim with lustrous dark hair that cascaded well past her shoulders she stood hands on hips with a scowl on her face and a pout on her full lips. Her blue eyes blazed out through the black kohl applied sparingly underneath them. I just stood there for about twenty seconds drinking in her beauty and my stare was only broken when I heard a screech of mock contrition to my left and saw that Michael had dropped to his knees and was begging her forgiveness in such a comical fashion that I couldn’t help but laugh. As if using my reaction as a cue Michael reached out and clasped her knees and began to sob and bawl at how sorry he was. By now most of the patrons in the venue were staring at us in confusion obviously wondering what the hell was going on.
Obviously embarrassed the girl hissed;
‘Michael…stop it….look what you have done!’
This drew fresh cries from Michael and another stifled laugh from me which wasn’t appreciated by the girl who glowered;
‘Why do you encourage him?’
By now Michael had returned to his feet;
‘But he doesn’t need to encourage me Eva…..your reaction is all the encouragement I need Ma Cherie.’
The fact that these words were spoken in quite possibly the worst French accent ever heard was enough for all three of us to descend into laughter. When we had recovered our senses Michael put his arm around the girls shoulder and kissed her cheek.
She looked at him and gave him a little push:
‘Do I have a choice?’
Shit. Were they were together? I was astonished to feel the hackles in my throat when I saw them together. At that moment I remembered a line I’d read in The Godfather several years ago. Michael Corleone had been exiled to Sicily and had happened upon a local Sicilian peasant girl. When he’d seen her he had had this overwhelming sensation of desire; that he must possess her. As it was described he had been ‘hit by the thunderbolt’. That is what it felt like when I first saw her.
With that she turned to me and my heart skipped a beat as she smiled at me. Such a wonderful warm smile that a flush of warmth surged through my body.
‘Eva this is Alan…Alan this is Eva. Eva is one of my co-stars in the movie I was telling you about.’
‘It’s nice to meet you Alan.’
We kissed each others cheeks and as we did my heart did another leap.
They invited me back to their table where I was introduced to the third member of their group, Louis who was also an actor and another star of the film that Eva and Michael were in. He was a pleasant enough man who had a shock of black hair and like Eva spoke English perfectly. Like Eva he had spent time in England where he’d studied acting although not in the same place as her. As we talked I learned more about the movie they were working on. It was called ‘The Dreamers’ and they were almost finished it. The Italian director whom Michael had mentioned was none other than Bernardo Bertolucci.
‘Bernardo Bertolucci? Stealing Beauty and The Last Emperor? That Bernardo Bertolucci?’
They were amused at my astonishment.
As the evening wore on I found I couldn’t keep my eyes from Eva’s face and this was even when the other two were talking at me. A couple of times she caught me looking and smiled back lowering her eyes a little. It also became obvious that there was nothing romantic going on between Eva and Michael, which Louis confirmed me when I’d ‘innocently’ enquired. As the next act took to the stage, a two piece combo called Bluesy Train, Michael and Louis went to the bar to get some more drinks. Eva turned to me;
‘So Alan…where are you staying in Paris?’
I moved over to the seat beside her.
‘I’m living in a rented place just off Pigalle. Les Quartieres Blanc…or something like that. The record label are paying for it so…..so although it’s small and can get quite noisy at night I really shouldn’t complain.’
She shook her head and laughed a little;
‘In Pigalle? But you must never get to sleep at night…’
‘I know….the neighbours can be….well very animated at night. But at least I can play my guitar late and no-one complains. Besides I’m a night time person so it really doesn’t bother me. It’s only for a few weeks anyway and the area isn’t nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe. It is not as bad as Gare du Nord anyway. So what about you Eva? Do you live in Paris or are you just here for the film?’
‘I live in a little apartment with my sister close to the Latin Quarter. It is a small place that my parents bought years ago.’
‘The Latin Quarter? Very nice.’
‘It is nice….but there are too many tourists around there for my liking. But for my sister it is great. She is five minutes away from her University.’
‘Oh…what is she studying?’
‘Business and Finance. She wants to make a lot of money very quickly.’
Taking a sip from my beer I asked;
‘She’s not interested in acting?’
Eva let out a merry little laugh;
‘Oh no….Joy is far too practical for that. She is like my father. She wants to have order and security in her life. She sees acting as far too insecure a profession’
She went silent for a few seconds staring at the stage as Bluesy Train kicked into their opening song. She turned to me then;
‘I am more like my mother. More of a free spirit. She was an actress too so I suppose that is where I get my addiction to perform. She always tried to discourage me telling me that it was not for me, that it was too difficult a thing to become involved in. But I was drawn to it. It was where I felt most comfortable. And as a little girl, of course, to get dressed up in different outfits…well that was a joy!’
I grinned and took another sip of my beer. Eva clapped her hands together;
‘But what about you, Alan? Tell me more about yourself. How long have you been playing music?’
‘Full time? I suppose it must be two years now. I started playing much more seriously when I’d finished studying music in college but that was in between working as a substitute music teacher….’
Lighting up another cigarette I continued;
‘And then I decided to give up teaching and concentrate solely on music. I left the band I was in at the time and started playing solo gigs. It was easier to get them in smaller venues, particularly without a drummer. So here I am two years later…’
‘What did your parents think?’
‘Oh…my mother hated it…absolutely. She’d be like you described your father: very practical and worried about my future security. When she heard I was leaving teaching she hit the roof….My father…well he was the one who gave me my first guitar when I was seven…so he never questioned it at all. He never wanted me to do anything that I hated like he’d had to. And so that is the, very, potted story of how I got into the crazy career that I am currently in.’
She nodded and placed a cigarette between her lips. Before she could reach for her lighter I had mine in my hands. As I flicked it she placed her cool, smooth hands over mine and guided it to the tip of the cigarette. She let her hands linger on mine for a few seconds as we both stared at each other. A feeling of great joy and warmth engulfed me at her touch and the urge to kiss her was overpowering. I almost certainly would have had Michael and Louis not returned at that very moment. From the look on her face I chance she might have let me. As they approached the table she excused herself and went off in the direction of the Ladies room.
Michael placed the drinks down and addressed me in a very bizarre Southern American accent.
‘Did you miss me honey?’
He looked at me and gesticulating wildly snorted;
‘Look at this Louis. I go away for five minutes and look! This…This…bum musician has stolen my seat! Sir, you offend me! I demand satisfaction!’
Louis handed me a beer and sat down across from me;
‘I think Eva would prefer him to sit there. After all he seems to know how to act like an adult. Unlike some people not a million miles away.’
As he said this, he winked at me; a wink which I interpreted as saying that he could see how enraptured I was with Eva. At least I hope that was what it was!
It was becoming more obvious that Michael was starting to feel the ill effects of the bourbon he had consumed. He let out a hoarse cry which caused many seated around us to hush him;
‘Et tu Louis? You would stab me in the back. Apost on thee! When I have smote this ignoble bard….I shall then smite thee.’
We both managed to quieten him down somewhat and by the time Eva had returned he was more docile. As she sat down, smoothing out her skirt, she shot me a little smile.
The next few hours were a blur. We talked and laughed as if we were old friends and not just people whom had met only a few hours previously. As the night progressed Michael became more and more inebriated, and when it reached the point where he could no longer hold his head up under his own strength, Louis decided that he needed to be brought home. So with great difficulty we hoisted him out of his seat and with his arms draped around our shoulders we dragged him out of the club. Eva went out in front of us and hailed down a cab. As the air hit Michael he became more agitated and cursed myself and Louis.
‘I can fuckin’ walk man…I’m not a fuckin’ retard! Let go of me you fuckers!’
I looked at Louis who raised his eyes to heaven and shook his head. We attempted to move forward a few more steps and at this Michael managed to break his bonds screeching with indignity;
‘I SAID LET GO OF ME YOU BASTARDS!’
There was nothing myself or Louis could do but let him go. This led to the inevitable. As he lurched forward to the open door of the cab he tripped over his own legs and collapsed with a horrifying thud onto the pavement. The three of us lurched forward calling out for him, asking him was he ok. The relief when he answered in the affirmative was palpable. It took the three of us to bundle him into the cab. Louis sat in the back with him. Eva closed the door and turned to me, an apologetic expression on her face;
‘Alan…I am very sorry about this’
Putting my hands on her shoulders:
‘Don’t worry about it….a bit of excitement on a night out is always good.’
She laughed a little at this and ran a hand through her hair. We stood looking at each other for a minute and as I was just about to lean in and kiss her the sound of someone vomiting interrupted followed by Louis’ disgusted cries;
‘Michael…for fucks sake…..Eva come on we have to get him home….’
With that I felt, just for a couple of brief seconds, Eva’s lips on mine. It was no more than a brush of lips but it was something I will never forget. Before I could say a word she had turned and without looking back she had jumped into the cab.
As I watched it disappear into the night feeling elated at what had just happened a bolt of horror shot through me and my legs felt weak. So weak in fact that I had to sit down on the curb. I clasped my head in my hands as I realised that I had never even asked her for her telephone number. Hell I didn’t even know her surname.
All I could think at that moment was:
The next week saw me descend into a gloom so dark that I was barely able to record anything worthwhile. Every night I’d return to the Bottleneck club hoping beyond hope that I would happen upon her but I never did. I trawled the length and breadth of Paris trying to find out where ‘The Dreamers’ was being filmed but to no avail. Putting it plainly, I gave up all hope of ever seeing her again.
Then one day two weeks later, quite by chance, we found each other again.
It was a glorious afternoon towards the end of May when I took my guitar and wandered up to Montmartre. I’d put the finishing touches on the album and was now just waiting it to be mixed. I’d just returned to Paris from a brief trip to Sheffield to get my car and some personal stuff because I had been booked to play a tour around France with a couple of other acts. We were due to go on the road for most of June and even part of July. After that a tour of England…and well you get the picture. I found a spot where I could play and soak up the sun at the same time. Setting up I began to play while all around me tourists basked in the warm Spring sunshine.
I didn’t even notice that she was standing in front of me because I had my eyes closed and was totally immersed in singing. It was only when I’d finished the song and looked up that I saw her. My heart leapt as I recognised her immediately even though she was wearing sunglasses. She cocked her head slightly and smiled;
‘So here you are…is this your new job now?’
‘Yeah…what do you think?’
‘I think that it looks really uncomfortable? How do you sit there?’
‘With great discomfort…believe me.’
She took off her glasses and stepped forward;
‘Well if it so uncomfortable maybe you’d like to find somewhere else to sit and maybe have a drink?’
‘Are you asking me out?’
With a mock frown on her face she placed her hands on her hips;
‘It is just for a cup of coffee….don’t get the idea that I want to marry you.’
Grinning, like an idiot, I’m sure, I picked myself off the pavement and went over to her. We kissed each others cheeks and having packed away my gear we headed off to a little café nearby.
It was rustic in appearance with tables outside that were somewhat shaded from the blaze of the sun. Having ordered coffee Eva and myself spent the next three hours locked in conversation. I managed to find out her surname, Green. Not very French but her father was Swedish so…
She had finished filming ‘The Dreamers’ and was now getting ready to shoot another film, a French one this time, called ‘Arsene Lupin’. When I enquired about Michael she told me that he’d returned to the States a couple of days after the incident at Bottleneck, his scenes having been finished. I was disappointed as, apart from when he was drunk, he’d seemed like a good bloke. Louis had returned home for a few weeks and would be making another film soon. She didn’t know what it was. Lighting a cigarette she leant forward a little on the table:
‘What have you been doing Alan? How is the album?’
Sparking up myself I brushed the hair out of my eyes, I needed a haircut badly, and sighed;
‘Well the album is done and should be mixed in a week. Then I have a tour of France and Belgium starting in June. Back to England for a while touring and after that…..well I don’t know. It’s still up in the air. It’s the life of a lonesome hobo….’
Putting on my best, or should that be worst, Bob Dylan impression I started to croak out ‘I am a Lonesome Hobo’
She giggled a little at this and slapped my arm;
‘Stop it! You are as bad as Michael!’
Leaning forward I asked;
‘I’m so sorry…can you ever forgive me?’
‘Why should I?’
‘Because if you do.….I’ll buy you dinner.’
She looked at me for a couple of seconds then leant forward, and much to my surprise, kissed me softly on the lips. It couldn’t have lasted longer than ten seconds but it seemed to happen in slow motion. I must have had a very strange look on my face because she started to giggle. Eventually I managed to say something;
‘I guess that means I’m forgiven.’
She brushed the hair out of my eyes and grinned;
‘You are very quick.’
The next few days were a blur to me. We saw each other almost every day and became close. We had so much in common, film, music, literature that we always had something to talk about. As we got to know each other better and the more comfortable I became with the relationship I opened up more, telling her about my father’s death and my strained relationship with my older brother Dan. As I explained to Eva one day when we were walking along the River Seine;
‘Dan just feels that I should work, what he would call, a steady practical job. I guess he resents that I’ve gotten the chance to do something that I really love to do whereas he’s stuck in a factory. Things have gotten progressively worse since my Father died. Dan thinks that I should move back to Sheffield and help look after Mum….even though she’d never hear of it…she knows what music means to me…I mean I did offer to head back home and teach music but she….’
I sighed and lit a cigarette. Eva put her hand on my shoulder;
‘It is ok. You will make things up with your brother. He may be angry now but that will change. Give it time.’
‘I hope you’re right because I do love him..’
She grazed my cheek with the back of her hand;
‘It will be ok.’
We hugged each other swaying in the warm Parisian sunshine. I think it was then that I knew I really did love her.
So as I said things were going incredibly well. The only cloud on the horizon was the impending tour I was booked on. It would mean that seeing Eva would become more and more difficult, something that didn’t fill me with joy. To see the least. I tired to bury this thought and enjoy the time I had with Eva. I could tell that she was doing the same.
The night before I headed out on the tour we went to dinner and afterwards to a café for a drink. Up to that point we had both tried to avoid bringing up the issue trying to keep up the, admittedly, forced gaiety between us. The mood became even more sombre as we walked back, hand in hand, to her apartment in the Latin Quarter. There was silence between us. I was feeling miserable and could tell Eva felt the same. Putting an arm around her shoulder I drew her closer to me. She slipped an arm around me and placed her head on my shoulder. When we reached the doorstep of her apartment she slipped her hands around my waist and drew herself in closer to my body, her head resting on my shoulder. The feeling of her warmth so close to me was enough to coax my penis out of its flaccid state, much to my embarrassment. It didn’t seem to bother Eva though and she drew herself even closer to me. I placed my fingers underneath her chin and kissed her, our lips locked together for what seemed like an eternity. As out tongues swirled in unison, dancing around each other I gently caressed her cheek with the tips of my fingers. I felt her hand slip inside my jacket and stroke my midriff through my jumper. When we broke off the kiss we held each other, enjoying the warmth of the still Paris night and the warmth of each other. It was Eva who broke the silence;
‘Do you want to come inside?’
I looked at her;
‘Are you sure? What about Joy?’
‘Joy has gone away with some friends to Nice. So we will be alone.’
With that I planted a kiss on her lips.
‘Are you sure you want to?’
She answered this question by kissing me.
The apartment was a medium sized one situated on the fourth floor of the complex. When we entered I saw it possessed a kitchen cum sitting-room and two bed-rooms. The Parisian equivalent of a student flat. But much cleaner then any Student flat I had been in. It had a good view of the Latin Quarter and while Eva went to the bathroom I took off my jacket and peered out the window for several minutes watching the anonymous people below saunter through the streets. I hadn’t noticed that Eva had returned and my gaze was drawn away from the window only when I felt her hand on my shoulder. She wrapped her arms gently around my neck and we kissed passionately. My hands gripped her waist and drew her closer to me, my penis once again springing to life at the feel of her shapely form pressed so firmly against me. I slipped one hand onto her ass and stroked it. We stayed like this for several minutes until Eva broke off the kiss and taking hold of my hand and led me towards what I presumed was her bedroom.
It was a decent sized room with a large double bed. The walls were covered in blue paint and the floor was a wood of some type. There were plenty of books in the room and a CD rack and stereo in the corner. Eva gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and whispered
‘I will be back in a minute’
When she’d left the room I strolled over to the CD collection and had a look. There was some good stuff there. Blues, Jazz, Folk…some Radiohead, Ani DiFranco…not bad. I took a look at some of the books. Again there was a bit of everything there from romance to philosophy. Quite a few English language novels. As I perused them I heard the door close and then Eva’s voice.
‘Do you approve?’
I turned around and saw she was leaning against the door. I looked her up and down nodding;
‘Oh…I approve alright.’
She laughed softly;
‘You are very silly!’
Leaning down to kiss her I mumbled;
‘But isn’t that why you like me?’
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the bed kissing and cuddling. My hands wandered from her face down to her breasts and I began to caress them gently through her top. At the same time she slipped a hand underneath my shirt and began to stroke my flesh slowly. We were kissing with more fervour now and I began to fumble with the buttons of her cardigan. She removed my hands from them and planted a kiss on my lips. She winked at me and sliding off the bed, to a groan of protest from yours truly, she turned on the side lamp before switching off the main bedroom light.
She then unbuttoned her cardigan slipping it off her shoulders to reveal a short sleeved blouse. Sitting up on the bed I watched as she undid the belt of her skirt and as it slipped to the floor I saw she was wearing black panties. She had great legs and a very shapely little butt. I couldn’t take my eyes off her as she climbed onto the bed and crawled up beside me. She pushed me back down on the bed and began kissing me slowly and deeply. She slid her hand underneath my t-shirt again and began caressing the area around my belly-button, ghosting the area around my belt buckle. Sliding my t-shirt off me she began to run both her hands up and down my chest, nuzzling my neck at the same time. I felt her warm sweet breath of my neck and groaned. My cock was now straining against my jeans and I was getting extremely turned on. I drew her face to mine and we started to kiss and as we did, tongues dancing together, I felt Eva’s hands drop to my belt and begin to unbuckle it. After fumbling with it for several seconds she managed to get it unhooked tossing it over the side of the bed. Climbing on top of me she kissed me gently on the lips and straddling me she slowly began to unbutton her blouse never taking her eyes off me. She had a sexy little glint in her eyes as she took her blouse off. Reaching behind her back she unhooked her bra and slid it off revealing a pair of the most gorgeous breasts that I had ever seen. All I could think at that moment was;
‘Where the hell has she been hiding those?’
I sat up and began to kiss her. As our lips met we kissed slowly and languorously, Eva wrapping her legs around my waist. She sighed as I began to kiss her neck and moaned a little when I began to kiss and lick her breasts. She arched her back as I started sucking and licking her large erect nipples swirling my tongue around the aureole of each one in turn. I slid a hand down her stomach and under her panties which caused her to bite her lip and let out a little sigh. As I slipped two fingers inside her moist sex, I kissed her lightly on the lips and laid her down flat on the bed.
I began kissing and licking her body again more slowly this time trying to get every inch. As my tongue danced all over her body, my fingers continued to play with her clitoris causing her to let out little sighs and moans of pleasure. As I reached the waistline of her panties I pulled them off revealing a neatly shaved black bush of hair. I now knelt up and looked down at Eva. Her hair splayed all over the pillows, her cheeks were flushed with lust and her eyes ablaze with desire. I moved up the bed and kissed her. She responded by wrapping her arms around my neck and her hips around mine. I slid my hands down her body and began to caress her inner thighs with my fingertips. Kissing all over her body again I reached her pussy and began to kiss and lick around it, massaging her clitoris with my fingers. I kissed her inner thighs softly swirling circles with my tongue inching closer and closer towards her clit. Snaking my tongue around her labia I heard her let out a low moan and she shivered. I started to stroke her clitoris with the very tip of my tongue while continuing to massage her inner thigh with my fingertips. She shuddered again and her breath started to shallow as I began to lick and suck on her clitoris. She was moaning a lot more freely now, mostly in French and mostly swear words from what I could tell. As my oral ministrations continued she let out a hoarse cry and her body went rigid for several seconds before she relaxed on the bed breathing heavily.
I crawled up beside her and kissed her lightly on the lips noticing the thin film of sweat on her brow. She turned and smiled dreamily at me rubbing my chest with her fingers. We kissed and I felt her hands creep towards my crotch. She pulled down the zip of my jeans and slipped her hands into my underwear. The feeling of her soft hands massaging my stiff penis was indescribable. It was so good I felt sure I would let go right there and then. Fortunately I managed to control myself and lay back allowing Eva continue. While one of her hands explored the shaft of my cock, the other had cupped my balls and was running them through the palm of her hand. With great difficulty I managed to slide my jeans over my hips and while I was struggling with this Eva began kissing my chest. When I had finally escaped from my jeans I guided her head back to mine and kissed her running my fingers over her breasts playing with her nipples. She broke off the kiss and reaching over to the side table she took a condom out of the drawer and having unwrapped it, planted a wet kiss on my lips and slipped the condom skilfully over my cock.
We kissed passionately before I slid myself inside her. A little groan escaped her lips as my length penetrated her. My lips grazed hers and we lay there for several seconds eye to eye, nose to nose, bodies cradled in each others heat. She ran the palm of her hand over my cheek and I kissed it. I lowered my head and kissed her, beginning to thrust my sheath covered penis inside her slowly and deeply. She had closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around my neck stroking it with her fingers. A little surge of pleasure rushed through my body as she did this and I kissed her neck continuing to slide myself in and out of her building up a steady rhythm. Eva was now caressing my back with her hands and had wrapped her legs around my waist and ass. We kissed each other forcefully and continued
As my thrusting intensified we were both starting to moan out loud, our bodies slick with perspiration. Eva was raking my chest with her fingernails, eyes closed, biting her lip against her moans. My breathing was becoming much more laboured as I felt my orgasm build. I wasn’t going to be able to hold on very much longer. Glancing down at Eva I saw that she staring up at me. As I stared into her eyes a feeling of incredible joy overwhelmed me and before I knew what had happened I had ejaculated and I arched my back and moaned in pleasure as my cock erupted. Underneath me I felt Eva’s body shudder and heard a low sobbing cry.
We lay in silence breathing heavily, bodies wrapped together absorbing each other’s heat, kissing and cuddling for what seemed like hours, only breaking to have a smoke which we shared between us.
When the cigarette had been extinguished Eva snuggled up close to me her head resting on my chest, her fingers playing with my belly-button.
‘I wish you didn’t have to go.’
I ran a hand through her hair and sighed;
‘I wish I didn’t have to.’
She lifted her head and looked up at me;
‘You won’t forget about me will you?’
Grinning I winked;
‘Didn’t you know that we musicians have a different woman in every city?”
Pretending to count them off on my fingers I continued;
So let’s see…there’s Natalie in Bordeaux, Christine in La Rochelle, Amie in Perpignnaaaaah.’
I felt her hand take a tight grip of my cock. Looking up at me she grinned;
‘I thought that might stop you. If you value this you will behave.’
‘I’ll be good….I’ll be good.’
Giggling she began to bite and suck on my nipples and started to jerk me off at a steady pace, tickling my scrotum as she did. I was hard within seconds. Having slid a fresh condom over my rock hard member she impaled herself on it gasping as she did. Running her fingernails over my chest she leaned down and whispered;
‘With so many women…..I’m just going to have to make sure you don’t forget about me.’
Planting a kiss on my lips she began to slide up and down my penis arching her back as she did. I began thrusting in unison grasping her waist with one hand and fondling her breasts with the other. Sitting up I sucked and licked her large aureoles in turn. She wrapped her arms around me and drew me in closer pressing my face tightly against her tits. We kissed each other, our tongues dancing around each others mouths probing each other. Pushing me gently back onto the bed, Eva started sliding herself up and down my cock. I lay back and began to play with Eva’s breasts again marvelling at their size. She looked down her face flushed with lust;
‘You like them?’
She laughed a little and began arching her back a little as she continued to ride me increasing the tempo of her pelvic movements.
With my index finger I traced a line from her neck down to her snatch and began stroking her clitoris with my thumb. She let out an airy sigh and leant down to kiss me briefly flicking the hair out of her eyes. I began to plunge my penis into her more forcefully now, grabbing hold of her ass as I did. We were both straining against each other now both panting heavily, bodies alive with pleasure. I was nearing the point of no return and no matter how I tried I was unable to avert the inevitable. With a series of lustful moans, groans and animalistic grunts I came. Long and hard I may add. The sensation that blanketed my body was something I had never experienced before. I think it was then that I realised that instead of merely having sex I had actually made love to a woman. As I marvelled at this Eva let out a moan and I felt her body emit a little shudder as she climaxed. We collapsed in each others arms unable to speak, hardly able to move. The only thing I could do was wrap my arms around her and hold her tight.
That is when we both drifted off to sleep.
Two weeks later found me sequestered in a cheap guest house in the picturesque town of Arles in the South of France. Arles was a town where Van Gogh had spent a year of his life painting and where several of his works were on display. Every year there was a festival in honour of Van Gogh. As part of this there was a prominent local music festival that we’d (two other bands and yours truly) been booked to play. It was a two night thing that promised to be quite an attraction. Several French music celebrities were touted to appear. It was rumoured that even the great Johnny Hallyday could make an appearance. Hallyday was apparently making a film not too far away and it was whispered he’d even made several visits to Arles already. Needless to say this caused great excitement in this sleepy rural town.
Normally I would have been more enthusiastic about this type of thing but as I strolled through the elegant centre of Arles, resplendent with banners and crepe paper, I had other things on my mind. Well one other thing on my mind. Eva.
The day we’d parted in Paris had been hard. I’d left with a heavy heart and in a black mood. The prospect of not seeing Eva for what, 6 weeks, was a heavy wrench. True we’d spent hours on the phone too each other but it was simply not the same. My thoughts drifted back to that incredible night we’d shared together. Just the thought of Eva, naked, blues eyes alive with passion was enough to get my cock twitching and the images racing through my head of Eva writhing below me as my dick pistoned in and out of her pussy was giving me a raging hard on. Keenly aware that I was traversing the main street of the town that was quite busy despite the relatively late hour I fought with all my might to deflate my very prominent erection. At half mast I began to relax.
Eva was heavily immersed in the filming of Arsene Lupin and couldn’t get a break from it. Likewise my touring commitments meant that I was traipsing all over France playing almost every night. I wouldn’t have had the time to travel too and from Paris to see her.
The thought depressed me as I made my way back to the guest house. The light and heat from the sun was dissipating as night approached. It had been a long day and was going to be an even longer one tomorrow. With a jaw cracking yawn, I rubbed my eyes and headed to my room intending to sleep forever. Well until the following morning at least. I wasn’t due to play until 7.30pm so I had plenty of time to arse around Arles tomorrow and catch some of the local sites. Several members of the two bands I was touring with were going out to a local café and invited me to join them. Respectfully I declined and despite their protestations that it would do me good I managed to extricate myself from them and headed straight for my room. Flicking on the TV I collapsed onto my bed and closed my eyes oblivious to the sounds emanating from the idiot box…
I’m not sure how long I dozed before I was awoken by a rapping on my door and the sounds of a stern female voice. It must have been the old battleaxe who ran the guest house, Madame Cleureux. The minute she’d met me she’d taken a dislike to me. My French was shit and she pretty much let me know this.
‘Monsieur Rogers…Monsieur Rogers…Il y a une femme a la telephone pour vous. Elle a dit qu’elle a une message tres important pour vous. Monsieur Rogers…Monsieur…Est que vous ici?’
I sat bolt upright which caused my head to spin which in turn caused me to groan. Running my hands through my hair I snapped.
‘Une moment…Je viens maintenant.’
In my haste to answer the door I tripped over one of my shoes and belted my foot off the end of the bed.
That stern voice hidden behind the door called out again;
‘Monsieur…Monsieur…Qu’est ce que c’est la probleme?’
Muttering under my breath I cursed her long and eloquently. Pain coursed through my leg and limping over to the door I unlocked it and wrenched it open;
‘Qu’est ce que c’est la probleme…….’
My face softened and the rest of my planned diatribe was silenced as I saw who it was.
‘I have a very important message for you from a pretty young woman from Paris.’
Folding my arms I cocked my head, a little grin on my lips.
‘Oh….and what would that be?’
Stepping forward Eva looked up at me;
‘I love you…’
With that we embraced consuming each other in our mutual lust. I slammed the door shut and we stumbled over to the bed ripping at each others clothes. Lying naked on the bed we devoured each others bodies our limbs entwined. Eva began kissing and licking my chest her tongue darting all over my chest as she made her way towards my groin. I ran my hands through her hair as she drew nearer my now very erect cock. I moaned as she peeled back my foreskin and shivered as her tongue started snaking it’s way around the sensitive head of my penis. Eva flicked her hair out of her face affording me a great view as she kissed and licked the throbbing purple head bathing it with her saliva. She then began flicking her tongue quickly around my cock head. I moaned and groaned my approval not really able to do much more because it felt incredible. Her hair fell back in her face and once again she flicked it away. Guiding my cock into her mouth she started to suck and lick me into nirvana her tongue like a magic wand as it traversed the length and breadth of my member. Her hand encircled my penis and she began to pump it slowly as she bobbed her head moaning a little as she began to take more of my length inside her mouth. Her moans melded with mine and I knew that if she didn’t stop I’d spurt.
Guiding her back to my face I kissed her hard and deep my tongue waltzing with hers, my hands exploring her lower back and coming to a rest on her ass cheeks. I squeezed them and looked into her eyes.
‘I love you Eva.’
She smiled and hugged me, her body pressed tightly against mine. I could feel her heart beating next to mine as we lay together embalmed in the heat of two lovers. I closed my eyes and stroked her hair, reached across for my wallet, opened it and took out a condom. She sat up on my lap and ripped open the packet. Guiding myself inside her I lay her down on the bed and grabbing hold of her waist I sank the full length of my penis inside her tight pussy. As I started thrusting I leant down began to suck her erect nipples causing her to let out a little cry as I bit them gently. Our hips were grinding together harder and harder as our fucking intensified. Rolling on top of me Eva kissed my chest and began to grind her pussy down on my cock. I began thrusting into her with a lot more urgency. I looked at her face flushed and contorted with desire. Her eyes were closed and she was moaning loudly. Her breasts were bouncing in time with our thrusting and I buried my face in between them kissing and licking them all the while continuing to fuck her. I felt her wrap her legs tightly around my waist and ass and hold me tightly to her.
It wasn’t long as I began to feel my orgasm building and I began to go hell for leather. Sure enough I ejaculated and let out a series of lustful grunts, groans and moans. At the same time Eva let out several sobbing cries and shuddered. I felt her pussy contract around my meat and this drew another moan from me. Holding her close to me I stroked her neck with my fingers breathing heavily. We didn’t say anything as we sat there cradling each other in our arms.
I awoke at 5 in the morning as the sun was beginning to crest in the sky. Goosebumps littered my body as the chill air assaulted it. Clad only in my boxer shorts I sat on the window sill and lit a cigarette staring out at the crimson sunrise. As I sat there smoking I glanced over at the bed where Eva was fast asleep. Through the gloom of the early morning light she looked so peaceful lying there her hair draped to one side on the pillow, several strands resting on her face. Stubbing out my cigarette I tip-toed across to the bed and carefully slipped between the sheets. With the tips of my fingers I stroked the hair off her cheek. She muttered a little and placed her hand on my chest. I slipped my arm around her waist and drew her closer too me. She let out a little sigh and I felt her warm breath on my chest. I kissed her cheek lightly and as I started to drift off to sleep, the ghost of a smile on my lips, the lines of the Billie Holliday song ‘I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm’ flitted through my mind;
‘My heart’s on fire
The flame grows higher
So I will weather the storm
Why do I care how much it may storm
I’ve got my love to keep me warm’
Never had truer words been said…………..