Flash fiction: Piper

She’s tired of her own voice, the irregular click of her heels on the ground, her laugh, which sounds braying to her now, and her breathless, anxious sobbing.

More than anything she’s tired of fucking sobbing.

She’d like to be gracious – elegant, even – in her sadness: all weak smiles and silent weeping, but her anger demands otherwise. Her anger demands she gets drunk every Saturday and rants about him in the street. Not only did he dump her; the fallout has seen her refused entry to three different nightclubs.

Even her friends are sick of it.

‘I’ve booked a spa weekend,’ Emma tells her. ‘In the highlands. You deserve a break.’

She knows an intervention when she sees one.

The hotel is quiet, just as Em promised. The average age is perhaps forty years their senior. And it’s nice, really it is, but neither massage, nor hours in the jacuzzi, nor the wine at dinner can stop his goodbye from playing on loop in her head.

It stops when the entertainment starts.

The ‘entertainment’ is a solo piper. A solo piper who distracts her not only with the godawful noise he’s making, but with his epic legs and twinkly blue eyes. For the first time in maybe a month she stops wondering if she’ll be alone forever and wonders instead what’s under that pleated tartan.

He plays on, and on, and on. The grannies love it. Or maybe they love a man in a kilt. Hard to say.

She marvels at how, in spite of the racket he’s making, this man is causing her to grow wet and twitchy. At one point, he starts a new song (she thinks – it’s hard to tell), and catches her eye across the room.

Once upon a time, she’d have said the most awkward thing that could happen with a guy you liked was catching his eye when he looked up from giving you head. Now she sees that this is untrue: it’s far more awkward to make eye contact with a sexy bagpiper mid-blow.

Emma knows, she can tell – her desires and emotions have always been transparent – and when the ‘music’ finally ends and everybody – piper included – makes their way to the bar, she makes herself scarce.

He packs the damn windbag away, and makes a beeline for her. ‘Can I buy you a drink?’ he asks. ‘I mean, I’m sorry, I know that’s unprofessional, but I promise it’s not something I do every time I play here. As – ‘ he gestures at a group of old ladies playing cards, ‘ – you can probably tell.’

‘I believe you,’ she says. ‘Gin and slim, please.’

They drink in companionable silence, companionable at least until her mind fails to catch up with her mouth and she says ‘Well, this is a little more peaceful, isn’t it?’

For a moment, he’s speechless. As if he can’t believe she had the nerve to say that. To be honest, neither can she.

‘You’re not a fan, then?’

She shakes her head. ‘Er … no.’

‘You didn’t even like that last tune?’

She makes air quotes with her fingers, hoping it comes across flirty, not bitchy: “Tune…”

‘Hey!’ he protests, ‘It’s a tune! And you didn’t answer my question. I thought you might have enjoyed that one.’

‘Why?’ she asks, curious now. She has no idea where this is going.

He grins a wicked grin; adjusts his sporran. He leans in, so the grannies can’t hear him. ‘”Cock o’ the north,” it’s called,’ he says, the grin widening. ‘I’ve heard it said it’s the one I do best.’

Her grin mirrors his. She looks around urgently for Emma. She needs to persuade her to sleep in the bath.

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