Excerpt from Chapter Four: Pet Shop Boys – “Love Comes Quickly”
Just as the train lurched forward, a tall young man with scarlet spiked hair and a blue tinted rat-tail jumped into the car and slid into the open seat across from Kate. Finding that his black-canvas backpack, covered in flags and patches promoting various European cities, ales and bands, was too large to fit under the seat, he stood and turned to store it in the overhead rack. Kate fixated on the change of scenery. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the red plaid pants, fit snuggly with a black leather buckle at the hip. Slung just above was a black belt covered with rows of silver spikes, accenting his black oil-skin eighteen-hole Doc Martens. He stashed a black leather jacket studded with safety pins on top of his bag on the upper shelf.
As he turned to sit down, Kate caught a peek of blond chest hair beneath the unbuttoned neck of his white frilled shirt. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing toned forearms that were reddened by too much sun. With some difficulty, Kate tore her gaze from him to avoid being caught gawking. Trying to occupy herself with the diverging tracks outside her window, she felt his stare. She looked in the windowpane to peek at his reflection. Even through the smudged glass, she saw his electric blue eyes. He was looking directly at her. Kate’s neck involuntarily turned in his direction. Hoping he had looked away in time to miss her school girl behavior, she instead met his magnetic orbs.
He pointed to her shoulder and his full lips parted. Kate’s heart pumped so ferociously that his words were drowned in her throbbing ears. She would be mortified to admit she hadn’t heard and tried to guess what he might have said, hoping it wasn’t in French. Fortunately, her brain began functioning again and she realized he was pointing to the pin she wore. Kate made it herself, using a brass medal she found at a resale shop near her apartment. She had removed the star-shaped medallion from its original frayed strap and affixed it to a red plaid ribbon. The pattern matched the young stranger’s pants exactly, down to the narrow yellow and blue stripes running through the plaid. She smiled and meekly said, “Thank you,” hoping she was answering a compliment and not making a fool of herself so early in the journey.
Kate’s flushed face could be attributed to the heat, which was rising as sunrays flooded the crowded car. One of the chattering Frenchmen clicked his window down, allowing the hot city air to seep into the compartment. The smell of diesel, spewed by the throttling engine car, compounded with the heavy perfume in the compartment. Kate and her young neighbor opened their windows, venting the pungent odors as the train accelerated past a blur of gray buildings. They each opened a book and began reading as the streets of Paris streamed by unnoticed. She was reading Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, while he read Less than Zero. Kate desperately searched her brain for something clever to say to engage him. She remembered that her roommate Michelle was reading the bestseller but hadn’t paid attention to the plot synopsis. Kate decided against mentioning Michelle’s opinion that Andrew McCarthy would be totally hot in the movie version. She decided instead to silently return to the novel’s protagonist and his adventures across the Channel. The elderly man resumed his nap and soon his snoring muffled the clacking of the train on its tracks and the chattering of the Parisian parrots. The two young people looked up from their books and shared a smile.