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Julie was determined to have a good Friday night out on this sultry evening in Liverpool in July, 1984. Cheer herself up a bit. It had been a bugger of a day really. The boss on her back all the time because she kept making mistakes with her typing. Three times He’d thrown it back at her for redoing and intimated not-too-subtly that if she didn’t brighten up she’d be out.

So tonight it was clubbing. The pulsating lights, the throbbing noise, the booze, a little weed perhaps, the escapism. Every sort of intoxication. Wonderful! Everyday worries relegated to the back seat. They wouldn’t entirely go away of course, but they could be ignored for a few happy hours of abandonment. Think about them again next Monday morning. She knew from past experience that it would be sweltering-hot in Slinky’s, so she’d come suitably if sparingly dressed: her green neon tutu that was little more than a bum warmer, purple mesh top, red D-cup bra. No tights (too hot) and just for once no leg warmers, for the same reason.

With a bit of luck, that hunky bloke might be there again. He had been the previous two times, with his mates, spending much of their time ranged along the wall eying up everything female with varying degrees of approval. She’d tried to catch his eye and give him the come-on but wasn’t sure whether he’d taken the hint. He certainly hadn’t approached her, yet, anyway. Perhaps he never would. She knew she was no oil painting really (her only significant feature was her chest, but what advantage was a nice pair of knockers if you hadn’t got the face to go with them?). She hated her red hair (although admittedly it was easy to change; it was currently blonde except at the roots); hated her freckles (made her look like a ten-year-old); hated her thick eyebrows and her wide pudgy nose But she did her best; spent a good hour in her bedsit putting on her face, trying to enhance nature’s sparing legacy. You could only do what you could do. Perhaps the see-through top might do the trick. She’d deliberately slackened off her bra (it was giving virtually no support at all) so that she would bounce as spectacularly as possible when at maximum gyration. She would almost have been tempted to leave it off entirely, but knew she’d never get past the bouncers on the door, who would have denied her entrance but not before having a good ogle first.

Debbie and Sharon were already there, waiting outside, when she arrived tottering on her platforms. Stupid bloody shoes really, but it was what everyone wore, so you had to. Useless for dancing in really, so all you could do was stand there and bob up and down and sway and wave your arms around. Well, it didn’t pretend to be ballroom dancing though, did it? Your feet killed you at the end of the night though. They headed in past the leering bouncers and paid at the kiosk, had a quick check in the Ladies to ensure no repair was needed, left their stuff at the cloakroom and hit the dance floor. It was busy tonight; the floor was crowded already, at the early hour of twenty to ten. What would it be like in a couple of hours’ time? And as she’d predicted, it was sweltering. She could feel rivulets of sweat running down her back already. Thank the Holy Mother she wasn’t wearing any more.

Madonna was going Crazy For You at high decibels as they nudged their way into the bobbing throng. Julie scanned the room. No sign of Mr Good Looking. She felt an irrational stab of disappointment. Still, it was early yet. He was probably still in the pub. Anyway, she needn’t get her hopes up. Even if he did appear, he’d likely be as uninterested as before. Why in Heaven’s name would he fancy her? She resigned herself to ending the night alone. Again.

But then, an hour and a half later, in the middle of Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, suddenly there he was, at the end of the room, by the farthest glitter ball, sitting in the raised purple-painted seating area. She hadn’t been keeping her eyes peeled. But he didn’t seem to be alone. There was a girl with him wearing a tiny pink puffy dress, multi-coloured glass beads and a trowelled-on application of mascara to complement her black perm-curled hair. They seemed to be engaged in earnest conversation. She couldn’t hear what they were saying of course because of the distance and Bruce’s high-octane paean to America. It did look to be a heated discussion though, judging by the mutual gesticulating.

Julie’s supposition seemed to be proved correct when a minute later the girl suddenly slapped Handsome hard in the face, nearly sending him sprawling, came down the staircase and flounced with difficulty through the revellers, heading for the foyer. He watched her departing back for a moment, hand to cheek and mouthing what looked like very creative expletives, and then shrugged theatrically and turned to watch the sweaty carousing throng.

It was then that he spotted her. And to Julie’s astonishment began to thread his way towards their little group. Towards her! As he came close she could take in his features properly for the first time. Quite tall; must be knocking on six foot. Broad shouldered; a bit on the swarthy side. Not unlike Brian Ferry, actually, with straight, as-good-as-black hair, sloe-black slightly piggy eyes and a rather long, somewhat aquiline nose. Julie was gratified to realise that he was only looking at her.

He was the first to speak, or rather shout.

‘Hiya!’

‘Hi!’ Julie shouted back.

He wasn’t so much looking at her as at her front. He seemed deeply fascinated by it, but then it was very mobile. ‘You here alone then Luv!?’

 

Love to like or love to hate?
Do you like to read sympathetic characters, which you can readily empathise with, become involved in their trials and tribulations and root for? Or antipathetic ones: nasty dark people who you eagerly wait to see get their comeuppance? It’s all a matter of taste, I suppose. Whichever turns on the pleasures centres in your particular brain. Most fiction contains a mixture of and good and bad guys of course; there’s usually more of the former in escapist literature such as romance, but often more of the second in the ’edgy,’ social-realistic kind. And with a grey-scale of more complex characters between the two extremes. I think I tend to have more of the sympathetic sort in my books. It’s just a function of my personality, for better or worse. These are the sort of characters I prefer to create, write about and have inhabiting my stories. That’s certainly the case with my latest novel, an emotional story of separately-adopted twins, The One of Us. An exception though is the less-likeable, hapless, inadequate, unable-to-cope, teenage Julie Flanagan, whose careless, drunken, lustful action one Friday night in Liverpool is responsible for the coming into being of the protagonists, Tomos and Wayne. Here is a sample of Julie’s sorry stage-setting tale . . .
 
 
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