Caroline Feather

A Boyfriend for Hogmanay

Yesterday Danielle wanted him. Today she doesn’t. Yesterday Nico was his son. Today he’s some other loser’s problem. It’s New Year’s Eve. Hogmanay, the Scotch call it. OK, Candy, he thinks as he logs himself off, be careful what you wish for.

Bounds aboard the National Express with just a second to spare and scans the coach for the least friendly-looking travelling companion. Packs his rucksack overhead and settles down. Reads her teasing text. HI DANNY, BOYFRIEND FOR HOGMANAY.

Comes to with a jolt, starving, and rereads her teasing text. HI DANNY, BOYFRIEND FOR HOGMANAY.

Someone new nudges him awake. “It’s cancelled, you know, son.”

“What’s cancelled?”

“The street party. My daughter’s just phoned me.”

Shrugs. Not that fussed about two old poofs from the Eighties. Rings Candy. Her mobile’s dead so he tries the other number. The message is like a taunt. We’re not home, we’re not home, leave a message on the phone.

…Leave a message on the…


A voice that could easily be her mother’s. Gives him perfunctory directions. Disembarks the coach with wobbly legs and enters something resembling Basra. It’s smoky and noisy and teems with every shape and size of human being, jolting off in different directions, jostling, jeering. Everyone’s pissed, except him. Everyone’s copped off already, except him. No one seems lost. Like him.

Taxis speed past with their lights off. Doesn’t mind the walk—he’s a fit lad, a trained killer. Trudges past a couple of old school strip bars that promise him go-go girls galore. No cash to waste, not on tired old tits like that. The bouncers eye him suspiciously. They can never tell whether he’s a squaddie or a psycho.

There are about ten folks in the kitchen, all huddled round the open window, even though it’s brass monkeys, smoking fags and joints.

“Danny.” He introduces himself.

No one asks how he knows Candy. Settles down, with a Jack Daniels and Coke, beside a group of wasted girls and a totally unconscious guy. One of them, a slutty looking ginger bird, is hoovering up a fat line of coke off the top of a bin. She winks over at him. There are kids’ toys neatly stacked in the corner, drawings on the fridge. After another drink, he offers his cigs around. Greedy wasters almost clean him out.

“It’s a non-smoking house.” This big chick glares at him. Thinks she must be the one he spoke to on the phone.

“Everyone else is smoking,” he says.

“By the window.”

Shuffles over and gets passed a long, scraggy reefer by a guy whose crazy eyes go in opposite directions. Chances it. The slutty one’s still chopping this damp-looking coke. Been a while. She winks at him again and wags a rolled up fiver.

“Generous to a fault, you Jocks,” he says, and takes a long sniff.

Stands up and rubs his nose. “Anyone seen Candy?”

Big Chick and Slutty look knowingly at one another, but nobody says a word.

Candy falls through the open door, bumping her head, hard, against a kitchen cabinet. She bears a very weak resemblance to the photo she posted on the website.

CandyCan69. He laughs. She can barely stand. She giggles, focuses on him for a second and sways in his direction. He catches her by the elbows to keep her upright.

“It’s Danny—Boyfriend for Hogmanay,” he whispers, but all she does is giggle again. A skinny guy, just as out of it as she is, creeps around the door, tucking his shirt into his trousers.

Fireworks cascade hysterically down the back of the Castle. Everyone’s in a back bedroom, watching through the grubby window. Grabs a hold of Candy and sticks his tongue in her mouth. She tastes strongly of cigarettes and vaguely of sick. When he lets go, she slumps down on the bed. He sits on her thigh by accident. She yelps. Big Chick is suddenly beside him.

“She’s in no fit state,” she says, and puts a protective arm around Candy.

“What’s it to you, you big dyke?”

It goes very quiet. Slutty stops chopping lines. The unconscious guy is now awake and staring at him through eyes like slits. Big Chick stands up.

“I think you should leave,” she says.

“I think you should find some other muff to dive.”

It’s like he can’t control what he’s saying. He would never speak to Danielle, or any other woman he knows, like this.

Skinny Boy is stronger than he looks, but it still takes three of them to manhandle him down the stairs. He yells every kind of obscenity known to man, and some he just makes up right there and then. “Prick-teasing-dykey-bitch-faced-c—”

They slam the door behind him and a wreath falls off onto the back steps. He picks it up and starts pulling at it, trying to rip it apart. The holly savages his hands. He starts kicking at the bins and ranting. Staggers across the small lawn, thinking that it’s probably time to call it a day, find the bus station, camp there for a few hours until he can get back on the National Express. Then he sees it, a big conch shell, like the kind you pick up on a beach when you’re a kid, and lug all the way home. One day your Mum gets sick of dusting it and bins it without telling you. He aims high, holds his aim, and just before he hurls it right through the window, he sees a little pale face looking down at him. Her pyjamas are pink and her curls are blonde, like her mum’s. She notices him noticing her and waves.

He drops the shell, turns on his heel and lets himself out of the gate.