True Things About Me

A Novel

Deborah Kay Davies

Faber and Faber, Inc.

TRUE THINGS ABOUT ME (Chapte One)I go underground

I PRESSED THE buzzer for the next claimant. This old woman started telling me about her neighbour. As she spoke she kept tapping the glass barrier between us. That girl is on the game, she said, living off immoral earnings. It’s disgusting. Someone ought to come round and investigate. I suggested she get in touch with the police. She pursed her lips and made a spitty sound. Probably half the police force are involved, she said, I wouldn’t be surprised. Boys coming and going at all hours. And not only boys. Men too. Men old enough to be her granddad. She stood back and pointed with her thumb to her chest. I have seen men my age going in there.

I tried to take control of the interview, but she wasn’t going to be put off. I could see a man with curly blond hair sitting behind and to the left of her. He had his arms crossed and his eyes closed. She leaned forward. And another thing, she said, there’s always a lot of commotion; she’s forever revving the engine of her fancy car outside my window, slamming doors, living like she doesn’t have a care in the world. It shouldn’t be allowed.

Every time the old woman banged the window she called me miss. I let her go on a bit while I looked over her shoulder at the other people waiting. I could see the guy was reading the paper now. Broad shoulders. His legs were long, stretched out in front of him, clad in faded, nicely tight jeans. I said to the woman, You leave this with me, we’ll check it out, and scribbled down the address. She gave me a look. Thank you now, I said. I have to see the next claimant, and pressed my buzzer.

He sat down and leaned back in the chair. Name? I said, and wrote it down. I read his paperwork. He’d just come out of prison. Nothing serious, he said, and stretched. Just having a laugh with an articulated lorry and a lamp post. He settled back in the seat and grinned. I grinned back. I don’t know why. It wasn’t at all appropriate. Address? I said. He leaned near the barrier. Why d’you want to know? he said, his breath briefly etching an oval on the glass. I told him I was just doing my job. Nothing personal. Pity, he said. I leafed through his papers and picked up my pen. Married or single? I said. Single. Very, he said, and laid his hands palm down on the surface. Good hands, nice nails and what could have been a wedding ring.

I looked up from the forms. He winked. I told him he would have to wait about a week while someone processed his claim. No probs, he said. Is it your lunch-time soon? His shirt was open at the neck. His throat was kissable. No, I said, tidying up, I don’t have time for lunch. Pity, he said again, and stood up. Everyone should have a break. You look as if you could do with a long one. I could feel myself starting to blush. I made a fuss of gathering up his paperwork. I couldn’t bring myself to look up again. I pressed my buzzer and waited. Then he wasn’t there.

Alison and I worked late. It was getting dark as we left the building, the air slightly chilly still. He was standing opposite the entrance. There’s that man, I said to Alison. He was walking towards us. Which man? she said, peering around. Suddenly he was right in front of us. Hi, he said to me, ignoring her. Coming? Alison stood still and looked from him to me. Bye, I said and shrugged my shoulders. Alison held onto my arm. What about the film? she said quietly. He took hold of my hand and pulled me gently. I just went. Alison called out, Are you sure you’re all right? I tried to answer but we were walking too fast, we were too far away, already going underground.

TRUE THINGS ABOUT ME Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Kay Davies