Rae swayed in place, letting a particularly thick and juicy remix of The Gorillaz tune “Feel Good, Inc.” wash over her. It was hot and the air was like a wall of men’s cologne and cheap booze. Her boots were stuck to the floor, held in place by a spilt drink from who knows when. She snapped her eyes open, not even aware they were shut, at the electric touch that pushed a drink gently into her hand. Finn gave her a little smile and took his place next to her on the sidelines.
She smiled back and stared at the sweaty men, dancing feverishly to the gorgeous riffs, amplified with a fat sexy bass. Archie was lost in the crowd and Rae had decided to hold back a bit and check in with Finn.
He’d been stopping at her flat for a week and they’d hardly seen one another. Except in my dreams, she thought wryly. He’d started work at Radio1 the day after his arrival and his evenings were occupied with after work drinks and getting-to-know-you networking events.
Rae had an extra spring in her step at work. Finishing articles before deadline, putting together spreadsheets of shows and album releases with an awkward flip whenever she came across something she thought Finn might enjoy.
Every thought she had of Finn was pushed out with the sensibility she clung to. He’s your high school sweetheart. You are worlds away from all that. It’s not going to happen. This had been her mantra, but it was bloody useless for when he invaded her dreams.
This was their first proper night out as roomies. Archie had convinced everyone that they needed at night at The Kitten Heel, a little underground Gay bar in walking distance from their flat, tucked away on a side street behind St. Pancras. You wouldn’t know it was there if you hadn’t already been. Archie went for the social scene, but Rae went for the DJs. Some of the most fantastic new club bangers were coming out of little DIY outfits like The Kitten, and Rae just couldn’t resist the dancing.
Rae took a sip of her drink, almost forgetting Finn was standing right beside her.
“So is this your first, er, gay bar?”
“No. I booked shows all over. All sorts.”
Rae nodded her head awkwardly. She was trying to play it cool, like he had no effect on her. But she felt 16 all over again. Hot and bothered. Worried her hands looked stupid. She’d overcome a lot in the last decade, and her self-esteem issues were something she’d really fought. She re-oriented her body and tried to hold herself up high. Gone were the days when she tried to make herself seem smaller or tried to deflect attention. She was wearing a mini-dress with a poncy little collar and a maroon cardigan jumper. Her bright leggings and boots pulled her look together – Indie rock diva.
She turned to ask Finn about his job when Archie exploded from the mass of writhing bodies, clad in a Day-Glo bright hoodie and trousers a bit to tight for regular wear.
“Alright, Rae-Rae? Finn? Why aren’t you fannies dancin’?” shouted Archie over the blaring sound system.
Rae gestured to her drink. “Fuelin’ up, love.”
Archie and Finn continued to yell at each other jovially while Rae surveyed the crowd. To her absolute horror, Tom appeared. He caught her gaze and made his way over.
“Mayday, mayday” Rae hissed, eyes wide in horror. Finn and Archie snapped at her. “Don’t look, but bloody Tom is heading our way.”
Finn looked at Rae. “Is Tom that twat…?”
“Hiya Tom!” Rae said, overloud and overfriendly.
“Hello Rae. Archie.” Tom looked at both of them with a smugly.
A remix of the latest Nine Inch Nails started and there was a renewed fervor in the crowd. But the four of them just stood in tense silence. Archie took Finn’s drink from his hand and didn’t even try to hide the massive swig.
Tom studied Archie’s face and then he suddenly noticed Finn. He raised an eyebrow in interest. “Are you gonna introduce me, then?” He was bouncing along to the music. Rae couldn’t help but remember Archie’s slinky barb, and forced down a chortle.
“He’s our mate from back home,” interjected Rae. She wanted to keep the interaction brief.
“I didn’t expect you to be out on a Friday night, Archie.”
“I dunno. I expected you to be studyin’ or summat. Not out with the hag and some chavvy git from up North.”
Rae felt Finn’s body tense beside her. He looked at Rae and she shook her head. Apparently his propensity for violence isn’t something he’s aged out of.
“Listen, mate. Kindly fuck off, will ya? We’re just lookin’ for a quiet night.” spat Finn.
It all happened in a split second. Finn took the glass out of Archie’s hand and grabbed Rae’s out of hers. He placed them on the bar and shunted them both out onto the dance floor.
Rae was relieved and a bit turned on by the feeling of his hand at the small of her back, pushing her with insistence into the throng and then pulling her close. The three of them looked at Tom, who was for once without anything to say, and burst out laughing.
They danced hard that night. It felt like old times. Rae couldn’t stop staring at Finn, who moved with much more reckless abandon then he had when they were younger. It was still clear he was the straightest bloke there, but his heart was in it. They shared some flaming shots (B-52s) and nearly pissed their pans when Archie managed to singe an eyebrow. They shut the club down, dragging their asses out the door and stumbling down Pentonville Road back home.
At Archie’s insistence, they stopped for Kebabs and a debrief at the corner by their flat. Rae chewed her falafel thoughtfully as Finn rested his head on the filthy table.
“I am so fucked,” Archie moaned from the table. He stumbled up from the table and made his way towards the loo in the back.
“That was brilliant what you did back there. Tom’s a wanker. Always makin’ Archie feel like he wasn’t up to snuff. Not one of the cool kids. It’s pathetic.”
Finn smiled and propped his head up on his hands.
“What about you then?” he said.
“What about me?” Her stomach flipped. She wasn’t sure if it was the falafel, the liquor, or the way his eyes seemed to appraise her.
He mumbled to her, his gaze boring into her own. “You’re bloody gorgeous. And you know it.”
Rae just stared at him. He leaned in towards her. She could smell the alcohol and cigarette smoke on his breath. Lips tantalizingly close to hers. “And I really, really dig that you know it.”
He leaned back and turned to see Archie return from the loo.
Once they’d laid waste to their late night snack, they dragged their bodies up and out the door.
Rae was silent the remainder of the walk home. What the fuck was that supposed to mean? And I really, really dig that you know it? She knew he’d just ended a long term relationship. All their interactions up to now had seemed generally platonic and friendly. She wasn’t used to a Finn Nelson that could spit game. She was used to shy Finn. Bad-with-words Finn. It wasn’t like he was exactly a chatterbox nowadays, but there was something there. She took a deep breath. You are a grown arse woman, Rachel Finn. And you will not let yourself be dragged back into anything you don’t need.
Finn held open the door as they headed upstairs, following behind her. They all pooled in front of the door as Archie fumbled with his keys and she could have sworn she felt his hand graze her ass. She turned to look at him and he looked at her, a confused smirk playing on his lips.
Fuck what I need, she thought. It’s time to get something I want.