Kris O’Rourke is an English teacher and writer based in Stirling. Kris grew up in Plains, near Airdrie, and has a degree in Scottish Literature from The University of Glasgow. He writes fiction and songs, and plays guitar for the Coatbridge based band Pale Fire. The band’s eponymous debut won accolades from the Sunday Herald and airplay on BBC 6 Music. Pale Fire will release their second album, Husbands, in the Spring of 2020. Kris is currently working on a novel titled Satellites.

The party is over. Teddy and I are drinking in the kitchen to stave off the shakes; he has a guitar. He is playing all the greats: Dylan and Townes Van Zandt and Warren Zevon. Suzanne disappeared some time ago.

I try to focus on the song that Teddy is playing: Rex’s Blue’s, one of Townes’ best, maybe even his greatest song. There is a ring of dried spittle round Teddy’s mouth and his voice cracks, but his playing is strong and clear. He thumbs the bass note on the big E, keeping a steady bed of rhythm for his picking, which is fluent, intuitive; baroque. When he finishes the song I clap listlessly. He fiddles with the guitar for a while, stretching its ancient strings to find another tuning he likes.

He rests his head on the body and murmurs disapproval at the condition it has been kept in. Teddy sold all his guitars years ago, but sometimes he will find a music shop that will take pity on him and allow him in to pass an afternoon; the staff are suspicious, but once they hear him play they allow him to stay.

Suzanne told me that he was a prodigy. He won competitions. He was kicked out of the best boarding schools. Before his parents disowned him Teddy would pick Suzanne up from school every day in a different car.

She says that Teddy’s problem is that he grew up with everything.

Teddy looks at me and pauses and asks me if I am OK: You’re sweating my man; it’s lashing off you.

Sweat lashing: I taught him that.

I am sweating profusely. For because I am a junkie.

He wheezes his consumptive laugh.

Sometimes when we are high, Suzanne moves her head from Teddy’s shoulder onto mine and asks me to tell her a story. I make up other lives for us.

Teddy a famous vagabond musician, like Django Reinhardt; mercurial, enigmatic. Suzanne his muse. She listens to my stories of them in France and Italy, in vintage cars. At the end of my stories she always murmurs, what about you, I want you to be with us too.

Suzanne always nods off before I can respond.

Teddy says that we can get good money for selling the guitar. He says it would cost over a thousand pounds brand new. The rich children will not miss it. When we finish their single malts we will find Suzanne and leave with lots of their things to sell. We were invited to their party because they thought that we would have drugs. The party a sea of pastel polo shirts, collars turned up. Splinter parties in every room. Rugby teams playing drinking games. Deep techno. Blonde girls wearing pearls.

A sum of money disappeared and we were asked to leave but Teddy managed to intercept the guitar being passed around the kitchen. Once he started playing the theft was forgotten.

I went through the house taking note of what could be stolen. Teddy knows these type of people; he grew up with them, he went to the same boarding schools and skiing trips to the South of France. He knows their language.

I find Suzanne on her side. A speech bubble of vomit dribbling from her mouth. I check that she is still breathing and roll her over, away from the vomit and into the recovery position, the way the care home taught us.

I bend down and smell her skin. I smooth a strand of hair away from her face. She is wearing girl’s jeans; still they are too big for her.

Her face is clammy. I look up and see Teddy, standing in the doorway smoking. His eyes meet mine. I am shuddering.

He looks at me and he nods because he sees me for who I really am. ●

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