Marty liked jeans. Erica didn’t.
‘You’re a catalogue writer from Pontefract, knobby,’ Erica said. ‘Not John Wayne.’ She didn’t smile.
Marty played mock-wounded anyway. ‘But they frame my man-packet.’ She looked away. De-woked boonies idiot, he sank lower on his barstool.
Erica wore vintage, choice selects from army surplus, Diesel, All Saints. He kept a quiet tally at work. That evening she was in a shirt dress, soft white, her legs still tanned from a break in Portaventura before she started the job. A thin leather strap with little white flowers circled her ankle. A loose, German navy, double-breasted jacket hung from the little hook beneath the bar. She wore her auburn hair short, carefully mussed. Catalogue classic: ‘just out of bed but still gorgeous.’
Marty kept looking at her legs, the anklet erotic as lingerie. He wondered about her underwear. Wondered if it was all right to wonder. He was thirty two, maybe ten years older than her.
Kanye West sang ‘Everything I Am.’
‘Jesus,’ Marty said, ‘talking of knobbies.’
‘I like him.’
He didn’t believe her.
Her fingers tapped the bartop, nails bitten right down. She hadn’t touched her Valencian orange gin fizz. He’d almost finished his.

Some Gym Beef in a tight, white short-sleeved shirt – probably Topman – silver tracksuit bottoms and a fake tan swanned past. He was six inches taller than Marty. Hair: shaved sides, quiff top. His shoulder brushed Marty’s.
He blew a kiss for Erica.
‘How tough can any man be who plucks his eyebrows?’ Marty said.
She shrugged, then relented. ‘Think he back, crack and sacks?’ She put her hand before her mouth in a mock Ooh, though she directed it to the mirror behind the bar.
Marty leaned in a little closer. Changed his mind, leaned away.
The music jumped twenty decibels. A spotlight hit a glitterball. Light-flecks scanned Erica’s face.
‘I’m just so loving this place,’ Marty shouted, just a bit louder than he needed to.
Erica looked around, forehead creased. He followed her gaze. Chrome and black leather, mirrors.
‘Sorry,’ she said, absently. Her nail-bitten fingers tap tap tapped. If this was all she had to give him, why had she agreed to a drink?
‘I suppose glitter’s always an option,’ he said.
And for the first time, it seemed, she looked at him properly.
‘Cool jacket,’ she said.

Harry Whitehead is the author of the novel A Cannibal Spirit (Penguin) and numerous short stories and works of non-fiction. He teaches writing at the University of Leicester. Before that, he worked in film and TV. Find him on

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