The Look of Love by David George Richards by David George Richards - Read Online

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Summary

Five girls, Louise, Chrissy, Jo, Angela and Victoria start their first year at Manchester Metropolitan University together. Most of them are friends from school, while one is new to the group.

Louise is shy and introverted, mainly because of her sexuality, which in the past has caused her both ridicule and pain. She has got to know the other girls, but hides her sexuality, scared of ‘coming out,’ but yearning for the soul-mate she lacks.

Chrissy, Jo and Angela are avid night-clubbers, but where Jo is only interested in fun and boys, Chrissy has dreams of better things. Beautiful, smart, and with a wicked reply to any chat-up line, she also yearns for the perfect soul-mate. But for Chrissy it must be a rich soul-mate, one who can buy her all her dreams.

Victoria is loud, uninhibited, and always at the centre of attention, the life and soul of any party. But Victoria also hides a darker side. She is not just an extrovert, but an utter exhibitionist bent on self destruction. She lives to the extreme, and often dangerously so.

On Friday night the girls hit the cafe bars and night clubs of Manchester. It is an eventful night out, a night out that will lead to romance, the fulfilment of young dreams, and for one of them, murder...

Published: David George Richards on
ISBN: 9781465746221
List price: $2.99
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The Look of Love - David George Richards

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playing.

Chapter One

Wednesday

Manchester Metropolitan University was a new start for Louise, a new beginning. She had even moved out of her parent’s house. They didn’t put up much resistance. Her mother and father both loved her very much, even though they knew about her sexuality. Louise was sure that they didn’t really understand how she felt, but they did their best, and they had accepted it. In a way she thought that her father was relieved. He often joked that at least he didn’t have to worry about her being made pregnant by some hairy git of a boy.

Her parents had helped her set up home in a flat in Sale in south Manchester. It was quite big, really. Three self contained rooms on the top floor. At the top of the stairs the front door opened directly onto her lounge, inside there was only a small alcove to hang up her hats and coats. The lounge itself was quite large. She had carefully arranged a sofa and chairs around the fireplace, their focus being the fire and the television. There was a dining table and four chairs, and various cupboards and shelf units. On one side of the lounge were two windows overlooking the road outside, and at the back was a kitchen area with a cooker, fridge and a washer. On the other side of the lounge were the doors to two bedrooms and a bathroom. Both bedrooms were nice and roomy, and the bathroom had enough space for a bath and shower.

She and her mother had spent ages rearranging and buying more furniture, and her father had done most of the decorating and painting. Now everything was just how Louise wanted it. It was home, and it was all hers. At first she was really happy, but then she began to feel lonely. It was that same familiar feeling. Her environment had changed, but her dreams and her yearning hadn’t.

It was Wednesday, and she was on her way to the University. She had got off the tram in St Peter’s Square and was now walking down Oxford Street. Like usual her mind drifted to thoughts of companionship and her continued lack of success.

Louise was sure that she was pretty, a bit plain maybe, but still pretty. She certainly wasn’t ugly. She paused to glance at her reflection in the glass window of the Box Office of the Palace Theatre. Louise was nineteen, five-foot-three, with shoulder length light brown hair and brown eyes. She had a slim, but shapely figure that was clearly visible in the jeans and tee-shirt she wore. So why couldn’t she find anyone to love? Why couldn’t she find someone to love her? What she wanted wasn’t so unusual was it? Other people found partners. There were lots of beautiful women and handsome men all around, and they all seemed to manage all right, they all found one another.

And it wasn’t as if she hadn’t had any admirers, so she couldn’t be that bad. But they were always admirers that she didn’t want and had turned away. And whenever that happened she would often wonder if she was being too fussy. But why should she accept the advances of someone she didn’t like just because they made them? She had to be happy, too, didn’t she? It was only fair, wasn’t it? So why couldn’t she find somebody that she did like? Someone who she could love as well as being loved by? But Louise already knew the answer to that question.

Louise’s problem was twofold: Firstly, she had a particular kind of companion in mind, and secondly, she was rather timid. If a situation did occur, she would hesitate, and it would be gone. And then she would play it over in her mind for days and days afterwards.

Life wasn’t fair.

By the time Louise reached the University, she was feeling really depressed. It was still the first year, and she had already made plenty of friends among the other students on her course. She had also quickly found out that none of them even remotely felt the same way she did. And so far, she hadn’t found anyone she fancied either.

Louise retrieved her bag from her locker and went to her next class.

She was the first to reach the classroom this afternoon, and had already arranged her books, notes and pens on the desk neatly in front of her by the time the rest of the class started to come in. She looked around at her class mates. They were a mixed bunch on the Degree course on Computer Graphics. There was Benjamin and Joshua who were both from Ghana, Jo and Chrissy who were both mad on boys and going to night clubs, and who both came from the same school, Mark, James, Nikki, Susan, and Jonathan who Louise didn’t know very well, but were all very nice and polite, Jason, Anthony and Gavin, who was the joker in the class, always quick to make comments and cause general uproar, Paul, Sarah, Dawn, Rebecca and Angela.

Her closest friend was Angela. There wasn’t anything going on between them, they were just friends. Angela had also been at school with Jo and Chrissy, and the three of them often went out clubbing together. Angela would try and persuade Louise to go with them, but so far Louise had declined.

Louise waved at Angela as she came in, and Angela hurried to sit next to her. Angela was the same age and height as Louise, she also had the same brown eyes, but her brown hair was shorter and curly. She dumped her rucksack down on the desk and began pulling all her books out. As she spread them over the desk, she knocked Louise’s carefully arranged books all out of place.

You’ll never guess! she said hurriedly and excitedly.

Guess what? Louise replied without thinking as she tried to return her books into some semblance of order.

Tori Canyon’s turned up!

Louise was confused rather than enlightened by the name. Tori who?

Tori Canyon!

Louise turned to stare at Angela with raised eyebrows. What are you babbling on about? Have you, Jo and Chrissy been smoking funny cigarettes in the lunch hour again?

No, we haven’t! Angela looked slightly hurt. Then she smiled and nudged Louise. Well, not this lunch time, anyway!

As Angela laughed, Louise demanded, Well who, or what, is Tori Canyon?

Angela turned and pointed. Her!

Louise looked round to see another girl she hadn’t seen before coming into the classroom. She was fairly tall, with tangled long blonde hair. She wore a pair of torn jeans with several holes in them, and a greyish looking sweat shirt that hung down over one shoulder. Her face was quite striking. She had a narrow jaw line with high cheekbones, and her nose and green eyes were perfect. She was definitely beautiful, but her expression and general demeanour was sullen. She walked into the classroom as if it was an execution cell. She kept her hands in her pockets as she dumped herself down at the back of the class and sat back, gazing around. Almost immediately, her feet began moving back and forth nervously under the desk.

As Louise stared at her in fascination, the girl saw her looking at her and immediately tilted her head to one side, crossed her eyes and made a face. Louise looked away in embarrassment.

Angela giggled. She’s a laugh, isn’t she? she whispered to Louise. She went to the same school as me, Jo and Chrissy, but I haven’t seen her since we left. If you think Jo and Chrissy are nutters, wait ‘til you meet her!

Louise peeped around again as the lecturer came in and the class started. She saw the look of recognition on the girl’s face when Jo and Chrissy also looked round at her and waved. The sullen expression briefly left her face, allowing her beauty to show through as she sat forward over the desk and mouthed, See you after, at her two old friends.

Gavin also saw the mouthed words and stuck his hand up. Me too! he said eagerly.

The girl merely held up her middle finger and scowled at him.

Gavin pouted, and turned away pretending to cry.

The lecturer looked up at them both and said, Quiet! We’ve got a lot of work to get through this afternoon, so let’s get on with it. You… he paused briefly to glance down at his class list, …Victoria Kenyon, now that you’ve finally decided to turn up, you better get yourself sorted out. If you can’t catch up on the work you’ve missed, you’ll be referred. Got it?

Victoria looked even more sullen. Yes, she said, and after a long pause, Sir.

Then you had better find something to make notes with, hadn’t you?

The lecturer turned away and put his first transparency on the overhead projector. He had just started to talk when, before Louise knew what was happening, Angela reached over and grabbed a pen from her neat pile, tore some sheets of A4 paper from her pad, and quickly turned and reached out with them to Victoria.

As soon as Victoria saw Angela, her eyebrows went up and she whispered, You, too? What is this, a bloody class reunion?

Sort of! Here, take these and get your head down!

Thanks, Angela. I’ll pay you back later.

Angela shook her head and pointed at Louise. Not me, her, she said.

Louise looked round, expecting to receive some abusive comment after her earlier stares, but was surprised when Victoria almost smiled and said, Thanks. All Louise could do was smile back.

The lecture went on almost as usual after that. Gavin kept everyone awake by passing some silly comments like he always did, some of which were aimed at Victoria. She looked bored throughout, and her only retort was to stick her tongue out at him.

Louise did her best to concentrate, watching the lecturer and taking notes without really listening. She was getting that familiar feeling again, that feeling of urgency and the need to do something, say something, anything, so long as the moment didn’t pass with some effort on her part. But the moment wasn’t now, and her fear was that, like usual, she would miss it when it came.

Chapter Two

Introductions

Victoria was already with Jo and Chrissy, the three of them making plans for Friday night, when Angela introduced her to Louise after the lecture. Louise felt even more uneasy standing so close to her. She needed to say something memorable, but like usual she couldn’t think of anything.

I’ll pay you back, Victoria said to her, stuffing the notes she had taken under her arm and handing Louise back her pen. I’ve got all my stuff in the halls of residence where I’m staying.

It’s alright, was all Louise managed to say. Even Victoria’s voice was attractive. It’s only some paper.

Yeah, but I’ve got to catch up, so I needed them today.

Jo quickly butted in, pulling Victoria away. Where have you been, Tori? Why didn’t you turn up on the first day? she asked.

I was busy doing other things. I wouldn’t have come today, but the registrar told me I had to start attending classes or flunk out.

Don’t you want your degree? Jo then asked her. You got three A’s, and you finished top of our year. It would be silly not to do a degree after all that.

Victoria shrugged. That’s why I’m here.

Are you still with Zach? Chrissy wanted to know.

Sometimes, was the almost too casual reply.

Then Angela remarked, I thought you’d dumped him. It would be about time.

Victoria shrugged again, but didn’t reply.

Louise stood by, watching but not really listening as the four of them went back to talking about going out in the evening. It was the first time Louise had been so close to Jo and Chrissy, and she took the opportunity to have a longer look at them. Jo was quite slim with long, light brown hair and brown eyes, while Chrissy was a bit shapelier, and she was the tallest. She had brown eyes and her jet black hair was held up with a plastic clip. Louise had noticed that she always kept her hair up like that. Both Chrissy and Jo were dressed in the usual baggy tee-shirts and jeans. They were both very pretty, but in the end, it was Victoria that Louise couldn’t take her eyes off.

Even though she looked generally scruffy, Victoria was still quite remarkable. Her green eyes sparkled. In fact, all her features were so exquisite; her face could only be described as angelic. Her blonde hair was very long, reaching down to the small of her back. It was very shaggy and slightly matted in places, with lots of loose ends. Her sweat-shirt still hung over one shoulder and Louise stared at Victoria’s exposed neck and collar bone, admiring her smooth skin. She could see the strap of her bra over her shoulder, and as she looked down at the many holes in the sweat-shirt, she could just make out the edge of the white bra through one of them.

As she chatted with her friends, Victoria stood with her hands crammed into her pockets, pushing her jeans down slightly over her hips. Louise could just see her navel and a narrow band of skin under the tattered hem of her sweat-shirt. Louise kept her eyes on that bare skin, contemplating how beautiful Victoria’s body was. It was then that a light bulb went off in her head and she suddenly looked up at Victoria’s face and announced, You can borrow my notes if you like.

Her voice had been slightly too loud, and her remark had nothing to do with the current conversation, so there was a slight pause as Victoria and the other three girls all stared at her. Louise kept going. Now that she had started she wasn’t going to give up, no matter how embarrassed she might feel. If you want to catch up, like you said, you can borrow my notes. I’ve been to every class; I haven’t missed a single one.

Okay, Victoria replied. I’ll see you in the Library tomorrow, about ten. Is that alright?

Louise nodded. Yes, I’ll be there.

Okay.

Victoria moved off, still chatting to Jo and Chrissy. Louise was left with Angela. She breathed out slowly, surprised and excited by her own audacity. For once in her life she had acted instead of being frozen to the spot. She felt marvellous.

Angela smiled at her. We’re going out for a drink Friday night. Pub then club. Come with us Louise, it’ll be a great laugh. She nudged Louise as she spoke. You haven’t seen Tori until you’ve seen her strutting her stuff on a dance floor! She’ll cause havoc! Come on, what do you say? Or is there really something that exciting on telly?

Louise stared at Angela for a moment, and with sudden determination, she said, Alright, I will!

They smiled at one another, and linked arms as they walked down the corridor together. As they walked along, Louise asked, Tell me, Angela, why do you call her Tori Canyon? It doesn’t sound very nice.

It was Jo that gave her that nickname when we were at school. I think it was the name of some ship that sank years ago off the coast down south somewhere. It was a tanker that spilled its oil and caused a big disaster. So what with her name being similar and everything, it seemed to fit.

Everything?

Well, you saw what Tori’s like. She was the same at school. Always brainy and together when it comes to work, but everything else, including commonsense, and she’s a complete wreck!

Louise felt elated. For the first time in her life she had actually done something. She had seen somebody she liked, and actually spoken to them. Of course, she had to thank Angela for the introduction. If she hadn’t gone to school with Victoria it might not have worked out so well. But it couldn’t be better. Not only was she going to see Victoria in class, but she had already arranged to meet her on her own in the library tomorrow. And on Friday night she would be going out with her! Louise felt marvellous! It was like she was a different person.

Her change in mood must have been more obvious than even she could tell, because no sooner had she got back to her flat than her neighbour from the floor below came up to visit.

Louise opened the door when she heard the knock and said, brightly, Hello, Rosie, how are you today?

Gosh! What a change! Rosanna Williams replied in amazement as she followed Louise into her flat. I thought I heard you pottering about and humming to yourself. I said to Dave, that can’t be Louise, she sounds too happy! Dave suggested you had been replaced by a seed pod during the night. So what’s happened? Have you won the lottery?

No! Much better than that! Louise closed the door and added, Do you want a cup of tea?

Only if it’s accompanied by a good old chin wag!

I think I can manage that! Come on! Louise led the way into the kitchen. And while Louise put the kettle on, Rosanna sat down at the kitchen table.

Rosanna and David Williams had been in the flat below since before Louise had moved in. Rosanna had liked Louise as soon as she saw her, and had quickly taken her under her wing. Louise had liked both Rosanna and David, and got on well with them. And when she told them about her sexual preferences, it hadn’t made the slightest bit of difference.

Rosanna was thirty years old and four-foot-eleven at a stretch. Her husband was thirty-five and almost a foot taller. She worked part time in a nursery while David travelled around from building site to building site for the construction company he worked for. Because of David’s job, they often moved around the country, never managing to put permanent roots down in any one place. This was the longest they had gone without moving for quite awhile. Louise would miss them terribly if they left.

Rosanna watched Louise intently as she made the tea and started to chat about her day. She had never seen her looking so happy and animated. There had to be only one reason for this change. As soon as they were both sat down at the kitchen table together, tea in hand, Rosanna spoke up.

You’ve met someone, haven’t you? she asked, suddenly. Come on! Who is it? Out with it!

God! Talk about cutting to the chase! Louise said in surprise. You don’t waste any time, do you?

Not when it comes to good gossip! Rosanna replied. Who is she then?

Her name’s Victoria. Victoria Kenyon.

So what’s she like?

It was like opening the flood gates. Once Louise started talking, she couldn’t stop. Oh, she’s beautiful, Rosie! Really beautiful! She’s tall, and blonde. And she’s got beautiful green eyes. At first I thought she wouldn’t like me, but she was so nice and friendly! Not at all the way had she first looked. She’s even on the same course as me! You have to see her, Rosie! I like her lots! You’ll like her too, I’m sure you will!

Then Rosanna asked, But is it serious?

Louise immediately looked deflated and sat back and hugged her mug of tea. Well, I don’t know yet…

Does she feel the same way you do? Rosanna pressed.

Rosie! Give me a chance! I only met her today!

Rosanna held up her finger. Exactly! But I know you! You’ll already be happily living together in your own mind, even though you’ve only just met her! Why do you do this to yourself, Louise? It’s not the first time!

I know! I know! Louise admitted with a sheepish grin. Whenever she did find someone she liked, it always started with a tremendous high like this only to end in the depths of depression once more when it didn’t work out. I can’t help it, Rosie. It’s not often that I meet someone I like, and when I do, I know I go off at the deep end. Yes, I am being premature, and I do hardly know her. And when I see her again tomorrow, it might all fizzle out. But at least for today, I’m happy, and excited. You can’t begrudge me that.

No, not so long as your eyes are open. I’ve seen you upset for long enough, Louise, it’s about time you were happy. Any longer before a smile and your face would have cracked. But I don’t want to see you let down again, either. I hope this girl is what you want her to be, but until you know for sure, come down off the ceiling, okay?

Louise sighed. Okay, she replied.

Chapter Three

Thursday

Louise was in the Library well before ten o’clock. But it was only when she got there that she realised that she and Victoria hadn’t said exactly where they were going to meet in the Library, only that they would meet inside. She panicked straight away, and went around the whole Library twice to check that Victoria wasn’t already there, waiting for her. She wasn’t.

Satisfied at last that Victoria hadn’t arrived yet, Louise settled herself down at a vacant table opposite the busy entrance. She unpacked all her files from her bag, and waited.

Half an hour went by, and there was still no sign of Victoria. As each minute had passed, Louise had become more and more anxious, until, finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore, and had to have another quick look around the Library just to make sure that they hadn’t missed one another by some strange fluke. But no, Victoria definitely wasn’t here. Louise went back to her place by the entrance and slumped down in her chair again. Almost immediately she began to fear that Victoria might have come in while she was looking around the Library for her. Now she hated herself for getting up to look around, while at the same time, she fought the urge to do exactly the same thing all over again.

Finally, when an hour had gone by, Louise reluctantly gave up. She had almost finished packing her things away when she heard someone say, Not too late, am I?

Louise turned to find Victoria standing right behind her, a rucksack slung over her shoulder. No, I…I thought you weren’t coming, that’s all. Louise couldn’t think of anything else to say. For some strange reason, she was sure she could smell something sickly sweet. Chocolate, maybe?

I’ll have to find my watch, but I just can’t remember where I left it, Victoria was saying. She had instinctively put her hand over her bare wrist and was looking around as if searching for a clock. She saw one on the far wall and sighed. It was ten minutes passed eleven. I never get anywhere on time. She turned back to Louise. Look, if you’ve got somewhere to go, you go. But I’d still like to borrow your notes if you don’t mind. I can give them back to you tomorrow.

Louise had been looking closely at Victoria while she was speaking. She still wore the same battered looking jeans and sweat-shirt that she had worn the day before. No, I don’t mind, you can still borrow them, she managed to reply. And I don’t have to go anywhere, so I can talk you through any of my notes that you don’t understand.

Fine! But lets go and sit somewhere away from this busy gangway. Victoria suddenly grabbed a surprised Louise and quickly led her to a different spot in the Library. Louise had to hastily grab her bag and last file as she was dragged away.

Victoria picked a much quieter spot well away from the entrance. It was near an open window down a dead end aisle between two rows of bookshelves. She emptied the contents of her rucksack on to the table and then dumped herself down on the chair. Louise sat next to her and unpacked in a much more sedate fashion. By the time she had finished, Victoria was already waiting, pen in hand.

Right, pick a subject! she announced.

Louise passed across one of her files. Wouldn’t it be easier to just photocopy it? she asked.

Nah! This way I’ll remember it as I write it, and I won’t have to read it again later. Victoria was already writing as she spoke.

Do you have a photographic memory?

Something like that. But I only remember everything if I understand it.

I wish I was that clever.

It’s not clever, it’s just a knack. Victoria slid the file back towards Louise and asked, What’s that mean?

They spent the next two hours together like that. Victoria writing away and occasionally asking questions, and Louise answering them as best she could. Most of the time they sat in silence and Louise just watched Victoria. She watched the way Victoria seemed to concentrate so hard as she was writing, and the way she brushed her hair out of the way every so often, or at the way she swung her feet as she sat cross-legged, leaning on the table. Louise liked watching Victoria.

Then, in the middle of scribbling away, Victoria suddenly stopped, stood up, and leaned across Louise to close the window. It’s freezing in here, she muttered.

For a brief, few seconds, Victoria was very close, and as she stretched up to reach the catch on the window, her sweat-shirt rode up, and Louise found herself staring at her stomach. The sweet smell she had detected earlier was much stronger, and as Victoria sat down again, Louise couldn’t help asking, What’s that smell?

Ice-cream sundae sort of smell? Victoria suggested.

Louise nodded.

Victoria made a face. I knew it wouldn’t wash out! Chrissy sprayed me with one of those vanilla body sprays in Boots yesterday. Now I stink like a kiddie’s sweet shop! I could have bloody killed her!

It’s probably still on your clothes, Louise said, and reached out to hesitantly pull on Victoria’s sweat-shirt. Anyway, I like vanilla, she added.

It just makes me think of eating. Victoria suddenly stood up again. That reminds me, she said as she quickly climbed on to her chair and stared across the Library. She began to wobble dangerously as she tried to stand on the tips of her toes on the chair, and Louise quickly stood up and grabbed her around the waist.

Careful! Louise exclaimed in a genuinely worried tone. What are you doing?

Just checking the time! Victoria said with a cheeky grin as she climbed down from the chair. It’s time for lunch!

Louise realised that Victoria had been looking at the clock on the far wall. She glanced at her watch. They had a lecture in the afternoon, and it was already after one. Yes, it was time for lunch. You could have asked me, you know, she said pointing at her watch. It would have been a lot safer.

Ah! But not as much fun! Come on! I’ll buy you a burger!

Victoria smiled at Louise again as she began to stuff her things back into her rucksack. Louise smiled back and began to pack her own books and files away. She was becoming very fond of that smile. It was the way Victoria pursed her lips and stared at you, her eyes and whole face presenting such a cheeky and mischievous expression. Yes, it was very endearing, that smile, and it made Louise’s heart ache.

McDonald’s was only a short walk down Oxford Street, and even though Louise was sure that they would be late for the afternoon lecture, she went without hesitation. Victoria chatted all the way, mainly because Louise kept asking her leading questions.

How long have you known Chrissy and Jo, then?

Oh, I’ve known Jo since the second year at school, Victoria replied. But me and Chrissy grew up together; we’ve always been close friends. I got to know Angie a bit later. We were all quite close at school, but it was always Chrissy who would get me out of trouble whenever I messed up.

Are you always getting into trouble?

Yeah! Victoria smiled mischievously. It’s another knack I’ve got!

By the time they reached McDonald’s, Louise had found out that Victoria was three months younger than her, that her mother still lived in Stretford where Victoria was born, that her father was dead, and that she hadn’t been home for eight months.

Why ever not? Louise asked in surprise.

We don’t get on any more. Victoria’s expression was sullen as she answered, very much like when Louise had first seen her. Louise was wise enough to recognise the warning, and decided not to press her on the subject any further.

She was thinking of something else to talk about when she