The boots are the first thing she notices: worn brown leather, faded and rubbed at the edges and toes. The frayed hem of his light blue denims covers the tops but she imagines them to be mid-calf length. He looks like a cowboy. Of course there is no other evidence to support this presumption: he isn’t wearing a Stetson, carrying a Colt 45, or showing a desire to rope anything. He probably isn’t even American. But it is his easy attitude, lounging against the bar, beer bottle in hand, surveying the other drinkers: it somehow reminds her of the men in the Westerns her dad used to watch.
He catches her looking at him and stares back, almost daring her to talk. Of course, she can’t resist a dare, even an implied and possibly imaginary one.
For a second there is an awkward silence as he continues his perusal of the room. She won’t let him dismiss her like that.
‘So, you on your own?’
‘Looks like it. How ‘bout you?’ She was right: he is American.
‘Maybe. Maybe not.’
He looks down at her and she notices that his eyes are green. In most people this would have been attractive but in him they look cold. She begins to regret her impulsiveness in approaching him. Then he smiles and the coldness vanishes.
‘It’s one or the other. Either you’re here with your boyfriend or else you’ve been stood up.’ He tilts the bottle to his mouth and takes a drink, all the while watching her face.
‘Actually, I’m not on my own at the moment am I? I’m standing talking to you. Aren’t you going to ask me if I want a drink?’
He gives a small laugh and shakes his head. ‘You got me there, lady. So, what can I get you?’
‘Dry white wine please.’
He orders, handing the barman a folded five-pound note.
‘So, you’re not from here then?’ It was a stupid question but suddenly she doesn’t know what else to say.
‘And how did you work that one out?’ His smile turns into a grin. ‘No, I’m here on business for a couple of days.’
‘What do you do?’
‘If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.’
He shakes his head. ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important. What about you?’
‘Actually I’m an actress, but at the moment I’m, you could say, between jobs.’
‘Been in anything I might have seen?’
She avoids his eyes, looks past him. ‘I doubt it.’
There is silence between them for a minute. In the corner, by the jukebox, a couple are arguing, pointing fingers; the woman of the party gets up and storms out of the door. Behind the bar a glass is dropped; someone swears.
‘You look like you’re in need of a little fun.’
He takes out a Marlboro and turns it over and over in his fingers. ‘On what?’
‘On what you’ve got in mind.’
‘I know where there’s a party.’
She hesitates.‘Oh, I don’t know…’
He shrugs. ‘To tell the truth, sweetheart, it’s all the same to me whether you come or not.’
She tries to look nonchalant but really she’s checking out his body. Under his leather jacket, his tee-shirt moulds against his chest; it’s obvious he works out. Against all the skinny London boys she’s been with he suddenly seems exotic, exciting. She makes her decision.
‘Ok then. Let’s go.’
He takes her by the hand and leads her outside into the night air, finally lighting the cigarette as they walk. The voices fade behind them and there is only the sound of their feet on the pavement. Street lamps flicker and die behind them; a steady rain begins to fall. She doesn’t notice.
They walk down side-streets, past hunched-up terrace houses, until he turns right into a dark lane, the roadway full of potholes and muddy tyre-tracks. She pulls back a little.
‘The party’s down here?’
‘A party for two, sweetheart.’ He throws away the half-smoked Malboro, grips her hand tighter and increases his pace.
She knows she should be afraid but instead excitement starts to grow as the adrenaline floods through her blood. If she screams, kicks him in the balls and fights hard enough she knows she can get away, but she doesn’t want to. She walks a little faster now, keeping pace, almost leading.
At the end of the lane is a deserted building site lit by a solitary street lamp. He heads towards a small shed, takes out a key from his pocket and unlocks the door.
He pushes her inside. Out of the rain it feels warm, the smell of dirt and wood clings to the walls like cheap perfume. Pressing her against the closed door, he kisses her hard, his hands exploring the curve of her breasts, the bones of her hips. He tastes of smoke and beer.
‘Aren’t you afraid?’ .
She shakes her head. ‘Why should I be afraid of a little fun?’
She raises her arms so that he can lift her sweater over her head, dropping it on the floor. His hands move round the back, freeing the bra-hooks, releasing her breasts to his searching mouth and tongue. Then he moves back up, his teeth gently biting the skin of her neck as he fumbles with the belt of his jeans. He smells musky, an animal smell. And she is a bitch on heat. She bites his ear lobe.
He pushes her onto the floor, on top of her discarded clothing. Naked, she shivers half from the cold, half from the thrill. He brushes his fingers across her navel, then stops and takes something shiny, like a blade from his pocket and lays it beside them. With his knees he spreads her legs and then pins her hands above her head. His eyes are cold again, and there is a determined brutality to his movements. Finally her mind begins to scream a warning but there is nothing she can do. She wants to struggle, to fight, but instead she feels paralysed: his eyes hold her still.
‘You’re going to remember this for as long as you live,’ he whispers, lowering his body, sweat slicking his skin like oil in the orange light of the street lamp. She closes her eyes and prays, waiting…
‘Cut!’ She hears the director yell and she knows she will have to do it all again.
Fade to a busy pub on a Saturday night. A girl enters alone and looks around. There is a man at the bar. The boots are the first thing she notices…