*I can't sleep tonight

Everybody saying everything's alright

Still I can't close my eyes

I'm seeing a tunnel at the end of all these lights

Sunny days...

Sunny days? You must be joking! It was another pissing down day in York in February with a distinct lack of generous foreign tourists outside the Yorvic Viking centre. A bedraggled local school party waited their turn for entry, two dozen damp twelve year olds with no interest in history, swapping playstation cheats and giggling over the busker singing Travis outside the Body Shop. God, I bloody hated kids. If the little bastard with the spiky hair flicked a chewing gum wrapper at me one more time I was going to tear out a throat, my own, failing getting my hands on his.

Where have you gone?

I get the strangest feeling you belong

Why does it always rain on me?

Is it because I lied when I was seventeen...

'Been a while since you were seventeen mister, I bet you came here with the first Vikings.' The row of youngsters dissolved once more into hilarity.

I ignored the smart mouthed little sod and sang on, nodding appreciation as a hand reached from beneath a dripping umbrella to drop a coin in my box. Okay, I was no teenager, and the face that had stared back at me from the bathroom mirror this morning bore the look of someone who had endured a bloody hard paper round, but really, at twenty seven, I wasn't that far passed from youth's burgeoning beauty, not in my own mind.

Why does it always rain on me?

Even when the sun is shining

I can't avoid the lightning...

That was true, one way and another; in recent times I'd been struck more times than a cow on a fell side. Funny how some songs seemed to meld so well to your mood, I was a great advocate of mood music, and Travis, bless them, suited my current mood very well.

I'm being held up by invisible men

Still life on a shelf when

I got my mind on something else

Sunny days Where have you gone...

Good question, where had they gone, in fact had there ever really been any? Sunny days were as much in the mind as the atmosphere, and in my mind it had been dark for weeks, months, sod it, let's go all out here, years, centuries in fact, only, that was going a bit far, being a bit hyperbolic, as a certain educated someone would say. Let's just say I'd been a bit pissed off for a while. Okay, okay, I'd been pissed off big time for at least a week and my mind was definitely on something else, in fact a few something elses.

I get the strangest feeling you belong

Why does it always rain on me?

Is it because I lied when I was seventeen...

Probably, when I thought about it. I had lied when I was seventeen. In fact I'd lied constantly since the day I was born, okay, okay, hyperbole in action again there, I couldn't actually speak when I was born, it's hard to lie when you don't have the language for it, but you get the picture. Yes, I strummed the soggy strings of my guitar, and sang into the rain with self-pitying vigour, my whole life had been a lie. For example my mam and dad thought I was a vicar in a small parish just outside of York, when in fact I hadn't been to church since Christmas Eve 2002, and that was only to get out of the cold after being evicted from my flat for not paying the rent. I didn't think news of my mythical religious calling would ever be a problem. I was lying to make my parents proud of me and to stop them worrying, my mam had always worried a lot about my daydreaming ways. My dad worried too, he worried that I'd end up in prison as a shiftless criminal. Living, as they did, a Spartan life in the Outer Hebrides, with no intention of leaving them in order to visit the son who had nobly chosen to guide the heathen along the path of the Lord, it seemed reasonable to assume that the lie would go undetected. I made sure my letters home to them were appropriately clerical in tone and left it at that. Then fate had played a dirty hand, and for some reason they'd given in to the lure of modern living and had a telephone installed. I shuddered, still slightly traumatised by the unexpected phone call, though not as traumatised as someone else I could mention.

I can't stand myself...

That was also true. I couldn't stand myself, couldn't stand the fact that at my age I was still no closer to knowing what I DID want for a career. I just hadn't had the right breaks; nothing seemed to suit my unique talents. I'd been forced out of my last job as assistant manager in a big hotel when artistic differences with the manager had become unbearable. Hence, here I was busking to try and make enough to pay for the place I was currently dossing in.

Why does it always rain on me?

Even when the sun is shining

I can't avoid the lightning

Oh, where did the blue skies go?

And why is it raining so...

Because God hated me that's why, it was bloody obvious. As if to prove the point a cyclist rode by sending sprays of dirty rainwater from his wheels right up into my face causing the row of school kids to crack up even further. I could feel self-pity start to work its way up to my tear ducts. Still, I kept singing in the rain.

It's so cold

I can't sleep tonight

Everybody saying everything's alright...

Trouble was, no one was saying it was alright, no one, and it wasn't right, somebody OUGHT to be saying everything's alright, and I knew who that certain somebody was, and they weren't, and it wasn't right. I was actually cold and I couldn't remember the last time I'd slept well, well, I could, but I'm not in the mood for admitting it. In actual fact I hadn't slept at all for three nights. Sleeping rough in a tent in February is no fun at all, and I was lonely, a few words exchanged with passing strangers meant nothing when you burned to share the words in your mind, the emotions in your heart with someone who understood, who shared then completely, who agreed with them and who drank the same brand of philosophical beer. My tear ducts gave up their burden to mingle with the raindrops pouring down my face. That bloke knew what he was talking about, whatsisname, you know the one I mean, the one that said life was short, ugly and brutish, or am I thinking of my first boyfriend, Hobbes, that was him, the philosopher not my first boyfriend, anyway, he was right. Life just isn't fair.

Oh, where did the blue skies go?

And why is it raining so?

It's so cold

Why does it always rain on me?

Why does it always rain...

I finished the song letting the last poignant chords trickle into the rain. A sharp sting on the end of my nose indicated that the rolled up foil from a chewing gum wrapper flicked from the end of a plastic souvenir ruler from The Castle Museum, had finally found its target. The straggling line of pre-adolescent fiends collapsed into cackling hysteria. Rain soaked self-pity and depression gave way to pure insensible rage. I crossed the pavement from the Body Shop to the Viking Centre like a gazelle on speed, intent on separating the perpetrators life force from his physical shell.

'Now then,' a firm voice spoke in my ear, 'that's hardly appropriate behaviour is it? He's only a child and strangling a minor is actually illegal.'

The hands that went with the person intercepted my own hands, preventing their attempts to wrap themselves around the throat of the hellish schoolboy.

I glared resentfully at the kid's teacher snarling. 'Evil little sods like him should be kept behind bars never mind classroom walls, bloody nuisances!'

A pair of steel grey eyes met mine without flinching, 'I would prefer you to moderate your language around impressionable youngsters. You're an adult who ought to know better.'

My temper suddenly subsided, yeah okay, he was only a kid and I was a grown up who ought to know better, though better than what I wasn't sure. I'd been twelve once, probably, though my childhood suddenly seemed so distant, as to be part of some half forgotten dream. Shaking the teacher's large hand loose, I gripped my guitar and headed for the semi protective Perspex awning of Fenwick's department store. Sitting on the cold ground I sang another Travis track, Driftwood, more for myself than the hope of any monetary recompense...you're driftwood floating on the water, breaking into pieces, pieces, pieces...

'That's it, this has gone far enough.'

I didn't bother glancing up as a shadow fell across my guitar. I spoke casually through a mouthful of rain.

'Should you really be leaving those evil little horrors unattended, they might take hostages or something?'

'They're more than adequately supervised. Get up Aaron.'

I ignored him, strumming gently and humming.

'Now!'

There was a certain teacherish tone in his voice which, to my annoyance I automatically responded to. Getting to my feet I glared into 'sirs' steel grey eyes. 'Look, 'teach,' I didn't realise you'd be here today with your bunch of juvenile criminals, otherwise I would have arranged to be elsewhere.'

'You knew exactly where I'd be. I told you last evening and this morning before I left for work, so, unless you've gone stone deaf without bothering to inform me of the fact, that little statement boils down to another one of your lies supported by the fact that wherever I've been today, so have you. Your itinerary of annoyance ends here, count it as a success, I'm annoyed. You look like shit. Have you eaten this morning?'

'Yes,' I lied. I'd been too narked to eat actually even though I was ravenous. Narked that he'd breezed casually into my tent for the third morning running dropping a kiss on my head before breezing off to work. It had struck me that he wasn't taking my living rough protest very seriously at all. Maybe if I starved to death in the bargain he'd take more notice.

'Did you have some of the bran flakes and toast I left out for you?'

'Yes...ow!' I yelped as his hand shot out and stung the side of my hip.

'Funny, because I didn't actually leave any out, so that was another fib on your part.'

'That wasn't fair, a trick question.' I scowled, 'and shouldn't you be toddling on back to your class? They'll be missing you, not, and wondering where you are.'

'I'm having a coffee break.' He briskly grabbed my hand, 'and so are you.'

'I don't want coffee thank you,' I hung back on my heels as he attempted to lead me into Fenwick's. 'I have work to do, songs to sing, pennies to earn to pay the cost of my humble abode.'

'You'll be singing in a minute, only it'll be in a key you won't like if you don't sort out your attitude. I warn you Aaron, if need be I'll tan you right here and now.'

I actually doubted very much that he'd tan me in public, but I decided it was probably best not to really put him to the test. I'd been testing him all week and I suspected that exam stress might be setting in and anyway, the rain was turning to sleet and I was freezing and coffee in Fenwick's posh coffee shop would be nice, especially if it came with something sweet and chocolate smothered. 'Okay, I'll permit you to buy me a coffee. I could do with something to heat me up.'

He smiled warmly, at least his mouth did. Funnily enough it did nothing to heat the metallic glint in his eyes.

'I'll give you something to heat you up Aaron, you can be sure of that.'

'Hey,' I did a double take as we stepped off the escalator and he steered me to the left of the towel department, instead off to the right, where the coffee shop was located. 'Coffee shop's the other way.'

'I know where the coffee shop is Aaron.' His hand tightened around mine, 'we just need to visit the bathroom first.'

'I'm fine. You go ahead and I'll grab us a good table.'

'All in good time Aaron, all in good time. I want to sort something out first.'

'I don't think we should be in here Graham.' I sensed some stirrings of nervousness as I was ushered into the spacious facility. 'We're not disabled,' my nervousness increased as he locked the door behind us and began to unbutton his coat. 'What if a queue of wheelchair users forms outside? We might get into bother with the management.'

'I doubt that will happen. I had a good look around as we came in, I didn't see so much as a person with a walking stick, let alone a wheelchair. Anyway, with the prices they charge in here for towels, I suspect that customers are few and far between.' He calmly removed his coat and hung it on the back of the door before turning his attentions to my jacket, which having only a single button took a mere second to undo. Methodical to the last, he hung it neatly over his own. Turning the cold-water tap on full force he then flushed the toilet and closing the lid sat down on it, pulling me towards him.

'Graham!' My voice came out in a panicked falsetto, 'what are you doing?' It was a bloody stupid question; it was obvious what he was doing. He was unbuckling the belt on my jeans, that's what he was doing. 'We're in a shop, not an aeroplane, I doubt that having sex in a third floor public convenience qualifies us for membership of the mile high club.'

'Button your lip Aaron. I don't want to hear another word from you,' his deft fingers, having finished with the buckle, now reached for the waistband on my jeans, 'I'm going to do all the talking necessary and you're going to listen, is that clear?'

I was too busy trying to hang onto my jeans to answer, to no avail. I gave a squeak of alarm as they ended up around my knees, and I ended up over Graham's knees. Shit, this was not looking good. His left arm tightened about my waist lifting me slightly as he pulled down my underpants to join my jeans, my buttocks clenched, embarrassed at being naked in a disabled toilet facility. My mouth, the bloody big traitorous bugger insisted on disobeying all instructions to remain silent. 'Graham, please, can't we talk about this over coffee? I'm sorry for following your school outing to the Castle museum this morning and then here. I'm sorry for singing that Travis song you hate fifteen times. I'm...' my feet flew up towards my backside as a monumental smack landed bang in the centre of my buttocks.

'I told you to be quiet.' Graham's voice was suddenly very, very serious. 'You've been pushing at my limits all week, congratulations, you've finally breached them. I am not putting up with this tantrum for a second longer. Ignoring it has apparently done no good, it ends here and now.'

Deeply conscious of where we were, I resolved to remain quiet, biting my lip, as his hand began to smack my bare bottom in a steady rhythm, left cheek, right cheek. The sound of flesh contacting flesh sounded horrifically amplified in the spacious cubicle and the running tap seemingly did little to muffle the sounds. I gasped out, sotto voce, 'please Graham, someone will hear, at least flush the loo again and put the hand dryer on.' Sotto voce deserted me as his hand speeded up rapidly, covering the lower curves of my buttocks with blistering spanks. I howled trying to reach a protective hand behind myself.

'Not another word Aaron,' he caught my flailing hand and held it against the small of my back, 'not one. I'm going to talk and for once you're going to listen properly. It was bad enough that I answered a phone call from the parents you told me were dead this week, but it was even worse to discover that they thought you were a vicar, married with three children. I meant what I said, you are going to tell your parents the truth about us, and what you do for a living, and you're going to apologise and beg forgiveness for your deception. In fact, my sweet little Billy Liar, from now on, truth is the only thing you're going to tell.'

The painful heat in my bottom intensified and I tried desperately to wriggle off his lap, but he simply hauled me even further across it so that my toes left the floor and I took more weight on my hands. His own hand rose and fell relentlessly across my backside, while his voice did the same above my squirming pain drenched posterior.

'And, as I've already said, you are also going to telephone the manager of the hotel to apologise sincerely for your behaviour on Monday and ask for another chance. He had every right to say that those multi slashed jeans and the fcuk t-shirt you were wearing were not suitable attire for work. Telling him he looked like he shopped at scout jumble sales before storming out in a huff wasn't acceptable behaviour, and he's right, you do owe him an apology. You had a real flair for that job Aaron, and it's time you made an effort to stick at something. You're capable of so much more than this.'

'Sorry, I'm really sorry Graham. I know I've behaved stupidly, but if you just let this all blow over, I'll never do anything like it again.' My promise cut no ice and he kept right on spanking, even though I don't think there was a single spot on my bottom and upper thighs that hadn't been thoroughly punished.

'This isn't going to blow over, I'm not letting it blow over. You can protest all you like, but you're going to face the consequences of your actions this time.'

'I don't know why I do these things, I really don't.' The pain reached critical levels and I finally gave way to tears that rained piteously onto the toilet floor, as he trounced my poor arse.

'You do them because you want to Aaron, because you want approval on easy terms, without having to do anything to back it up and it's easier than taking responsibility for your actions.' He stopped spanking at this point, using his hand to rub soothing circles on my sore flesh, 'and you do them because you quite simply enjoy winding people up, it's become a habit and it's going to stop.'

His voice remained stern as he eased me to my feet and helped return my below the waist apparel to its rightful place. 'When I come home this afternoon,' he wiped my eyes with a piece of toilet tissue. 'I expect to find that you've taken down that silly igloo tent in the sitting room and taken it back to the shop for a credit refund. I'm having no more of 'I'm moving out of our bedroom until I get my own way.' You'll do as you're told. I have absolutely no interest in how embarrassed you'll feel, you're going to make amends and you're going to do it today. If I arrive home to a fresh set of excuses as to why you couldn't comply with my wishes, I'll take up where I left off here, only, it will be with a paddle and not my hand. Is that very clear Aaron?' He re-buckled my belt and fixed me with his grey eyes.

'Yes Graham,' I nodded miserably, my hands creeping behind me to rub at my burning arse cheeks that were hot enough to qualify as hand dryers in their own right.

'Good.' He cupped my chin in his hands and kissed me gently on the lips, 'you can't expect everything to be suddenly miraculously alright, it won't be right until you put it right. I love you, but I will not let you romanticise your actions. I will not let you persist in the fantasies you weave in order to gain the approval you think you don't have. You have things you need to address and you're going to do so, end of story. Now, rinse your face and let's go get that coffee.'

Averting my eyes from the interested gaze of the queue of wheelchair users outside the disabled toilet, I clung tightly to Graham's hand as we walked to the coffee shop, muttering, 'I hope you're going to give that horrible little chewing gum wrapper flicker some serious detention.'

'His fate is my concern, not yours, let's just say that weather wise his forecast is stormy and leave it at that.'

 

Fabian Black

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