After the last tour I promised Andrew that it wouldn’t happen again, but Andrew is down in the bar when the girl knocks on the hotel room door. He’ll be two drinks deep by now, so why shouldn’t I indulge myself? That’s his vice and this is mine. She’ll long have excused herself before he stumbles back and collapses clothed into bed. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt me, and it’s been so long since I last strayed. He should be proud of me, really. All this I think while peering through the peephole; the fish-eye lens makes her face round and anxious, her blonde hair a messy tower of icing the same size as her head.
Maybe I hesitate for a couple of seconds. With my hand on the latch I stop and think, but I know I’m only doing so to keep up appearances to myself. The decision’s already made. I can feel it in my pulse. Even through the door she looks soft and charming. If Andrew comes back early… I’ll throw her out — no promises broken. Yes. Perfect. I open the door.
“Oh my god it’s you, it’s you! It’s really you.” After a year I could recognise a fan on sight — it’s like a uniform: the hair and the long coat and the iPhone clutched forever in hand. She’s hunched, one arm shorter than the other, turned out in tights and a polka-dot skirt — a combination I said I liked in an interview I can’t remember, and which they’ve all obediently stuck to ever since. Her feet point inwards just a little — not enough to really notice at first, but when she walks she sways like a duck.
I let her in. Her name is Amy and her iPhone case has panda ears. She takes a photo of the room and then flings a hand over her mouth. “Oh my god, I’m sorry — is that okay? I can delete it if you want...”
We sit for a little while in the kitchenette. She’s shaking. I’m still as a gargoyle. She keeps saying that she can’t believe it’s actually me, and fanning herself, and asking if I remember her from Boston. “I was the one you... you know...” She plucks at her t-shirt. I realise that I must have signed her bra. Maybe her breast. There’s so many and they all believe that their daring makes them unique. I tell her I remember and the skin of her face flushes to a deep, raw-chicken pink.
She tells me about music, about her drawings, about the fanfiction she has written. About the Tumblr blog where she collects quotes that inspire her. About the tattoo of a ladybird she wants on the bridge of her foot. About her little room. About hunting for pictures of me on the internet, hanging off my every tweet. Sometimes when I’m up on stage, she says, she’s sure that I’m looking right at her.
“How could I not,” I say. “Face like yours.”
We go into the bedroom and shut the door. There’s wine in there, the ice bucket now a swimming mess of chilly water. She doesn’t know where to sit and so I help her out and gesture to the bed. She perches, and then soon sits back against the headboard, legs curled like a cat’s. “Do you have a boyfriend?” I ask her, and she giggles furiously.
“Well, do you?”
“Sort of. There was this guy last summer.”
I get impatient while she’s telling me about her job at Tesco Express. I grab her and kiss her. She kisses back harder than I would have thought, tongue poking at my molars. Maybe she can feel how sharp they are. Maybe it excites her. Her hands are on my body, grabbing and pulling. Am I her first? “I didn’t think you’d like me,” she says. The wonder in her voice is surreal, awe-inspiring. Some of them, they act like they’re touching a god.
“Of course I like you,” I say.
It takes a couple of tries for her to get her bra off. She snaps the clasp against her back, giggles, snaps it again. Her breasts are small. Her body is small, thin, pale. Her name is Amy, I remind myself. It’s important to remember names. I bite her neck, and she makes this rushing hiss of breath. Blood bubbles at the corner of her mouth. Blood gushes into my mouth, flooding salty, coppery, electric as liquor. Her hands grope blindly at the belt of my jeans, and I bite down harder. My teeth slip into the meat. When I draw back her eyes have rolled behind themselves in her head.
“Hey,” I say. “Wake up.”
She shivers a little. Shakes herself. Blood drips onto the bedspread like soft rain. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I’ve never done that before.”
“It’s okay. Relax. I’ll be gentle with you.”
I eat the tender meat from below her ribs. Break open the cavity of her chest and gorge on the blood there, the iron-rich dark meat of the kidneys and liver. I paw tenderly at the acid bag of the stomach so that it lies on the bed beside us. I scrape up as far as I can inside her ribs and taste the rubbery tissues of her lungs, her heart (muscular, young, still faintly beating for my first and second bites). She shivers all the way through, and her left leg shakes like that of a dreaming puppy.
I sate myself. Looking at her you wouldn’t expect she’d make a decent meal, but there’s more there than you’d think.
Afterwards we lie together for a long time. She leans over me and hooks up her stomach like a handful of jellyfish, palming it back inside. She’s soft as moleskin, now. Soft as cotton. “I didn’t think you’d like me,” she says. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”
“It’ll be our secret,” I tell her. I fetch the sewing kit from the hotel desk. Run the needle under a stream of boiling water from the tiny kettle. She lies on her back and bites a pillow while I stitch the gaping wound of her chest. Sealed again, she disappears into the bathroom where I hear her pee, then tear tissue and scrub for minutes and minutes. Emerging, she looks almost the same as she did when she entered. Paler maybe. Not as duck-footed.
“Can I stay for a bit?” she says.
She should go. Andrew will be back soon, and if he finds her here we’ll row for the rest of the tour. But I let her stay a few minutes anyway. We lie in bed, cuddled close, and she tells me about the memory box she keeps behind the bottom drawer of her dresser — the mirror where she sticks every signed ticket, every picture of me.
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