Love Lies - By Adele Parks



‘Do I smell, Mark?’


‘You’d tell me if I did, right?’

‘I would.’

‘Is my hairline receding?’


‘You’re sure I’m not going bald?’


‘Do you think I’ll lose my teeth?’

‘Only if someone punches you.’

‘My nan got gum disease.’

‘We’ve got great dentists. Scott, you are coming down and this is just another one of your irrational worry sessions. We can waste a lot of time doing this, mate.’

‘Mark, do you think I’ll end up broke? You know, blow it all.’

‘No, we’ve sorted out your finances. You’re never going to suffer from poverty – other than poverty of spirit. No matter how many TVs you throw out of hotel windows.’

1. Fern

I have taken a bullet. I live an ordinary life. I’ve almost accepted it. Almost.

I ought to clarify I don’t always go around thinking big, profound thoughts like that. Quite a lot of the time I amuse my brain cells by thinking about which movie star is shagging which other movie star (and do they have better sex than us mere mortals), or whether I can get away with not washing my hair if I’m inventive enough with my up-do (thus securing an extra thirty minutes in bed in the morning). My idea of deep is wondering whether organic food is worth the huge price tag or whether it’s all just a ghastly marketing con. But today I am twenty-nine years, eleven months and three weeks old. I can no longer keep the big thoughts at bay.

Let me clarify, when I say ordinary, I mean normal, average, run of the mill, commonplace. Mundane. Clear?

I know, I know. I should be grateful. Ordinary has its up-side. I could be some human mutant with skin stretchy enough to be able to wrap my lower lip over the top of my head, or an über-fertile woman prone to giving birth to sextuplets and now be a proud mother of thirty-six indistinguishable, media-loving brats or someone who really does train-spot. Then my life would be considerably worse than the one I am leading, but even knowing this is not as much comfort as it should be.

I live my ordinary life with Adam. My boyfriend of four years. I hesitate to refer to him as my partner because that would suggest some sort of equality or responsibility in the relationship and, frankly, both things are notably lacking. I organize the paying of all the bills (although he does cough up his share when prompted). I buy groceries, cook, clean, remember the birthdays of his family members, buy wedding gifts for our friends, arrange travel and accommodation if we ever do manage to grab a weekend away, I even put the pizza delivery people’s number on speed dial. Adam alphabetically arranges his CDs and vinyls in neat rows, all the way along our sitting-room shelves.

Yes, we do share a flat. A two-bedroom flat in Clapham. Not the posh bit of Clapham, sadly. The bit where the neighbours think old pee-stained mattresses and settees, spurting their cheap foam innards, are acceptable alternatives to rose bushes in the front garden. Despite sharing a flat, I also hesitate to refer to Adam as my live-in lover because that would suggest an element of passion and that’s notably lacking too, of late. Our relationship is more prose than poetry. It wasn’t always that way.

We used to be wild about each other. We used to swing from chandeliers, or as good as. There was a time when we couldn’t keep our hands off one another. Which led to some, er, shall we say interesting situations. I’m not trying to brag. I just want to paint a fair picture. We are certified members of the mile-high club and we have made love under canvas, in a swimming-pool and once in a botanic garden (Kew). We made love frequently and in many, many different ways; slowly and carefully, fast and needy. In the past we often came at the same time. Now, it’s unusual if we both are in the room at the same time.

I used to think we were going somewhere. It looks like we’ve arrived. This is my stop. I have to get off the train and take a long hard look at the station. It’s not one with hanging baskets full of cascading begonia and there isn’t one of those lovely large clocks with Roman numerals. There’s nothing romantic or pretty about my station at all. My station is littered with discarded polystyrene cups and spotted with blobs of chewing-gum.

Frankly, it’s depressing.

We don’t own our flat. We don’t