From the outside, the squat was really no different from all the other houses that Janine and Edie had passed as they made their way from the tube station through the North London streets to the address they had been given. Perhaps it was slightly more dilapidated, but in the early evening dusk every house had a general air of dinginess, not improved by the rubbish blown along by the autumn breezes and the battered cars parked badly on the kerbside. But the evident proof that this was where the party was being held came from the thundering sound of drum and bass that echoed down the street and shook the glass in the windowpanes.
Janine and Edie were a little worried that they'd be turned away. After all, they hadn't been invited and they weren't at all sure they'd meet anyone they knew there, but there was no one guarding the partly open front door, so the bottle of cheap white wine that they'd bought (much against Janine's preference for wine with the proper certification of appelation controlée) wasn't actually needed as the all-important entry requirement. They pushed the door open to enter a long wide hallway where many other young people were lined against the peeling wallpaper, drinking from beer cans and passing around joints. Without showing any hesitation, they strode down the hallway beyond the staircase in the middle. Then, now well past anyone who might have seen their arrival, they too leaned against the wall to roll some tobacco in their rizlas and to take in the party at more leisure. The hard, thumping sounds of Dillinja boomed in their stomachs and ears, a tortuous driving beat that made them feel sharp and nasty almost immediately.
"Cool!" exclaimed Edie.
"Ouai. Cool!" echoed Janine. "Ça marche bien. Where's the wine? I want a drink. And I want it now."
"Yeah," agreed Edie. "But, you know, just cool it. See what's going round." She gestured at a large fat seven skinner that was being passed from one toking guest to another. "If that ain't worth waiting for, I don't know what is."
Janine smelt the sweet odour as it wafted around her, the very smell already making her feel a little more languid and relaxed. It was so different in here from the wind-swept, lamplit streets outside, and she knew that after one toke that world would seem as distant as her own distant ville. And then, it was passed to her by a lanky mec with straggling hair over his face and to his collar, wearing a baggy dark brown tee shirt and small tinted steel frame glasses. She had been around enough to know that she didn't really want to taste the saliva that dampened the tip of the roach, so she cupped her fist and breathed deep through the cooling space it contained. It was strong stuff. Not black. Not resin at all. Probably skank. And it hit her instantly: a rush of that familiar taste tingling her cheeks and clicking her brain into gear. Merde! This was going to be a vachement cool gig: she could see that.
When Edie and Janine finally found their way into the dingy kitchen, at the back of the house, where all the alcohol was and where they could drop off the bottle they'd brought with them, what waiting for them was a real disappointment after the quite decent skank. The English really knew rien about alcohol. Their beer was too warm and too weak, and they had absolutely no idea about wine at all. Janine regarded the bottles lined up with growing disdain. Clearly cheapness, not qualité had been uppermost in the mind of whoever had bought all this shit. And not a decent French wine amongst them. Some New World stuff and some German Riesling. But so much beer, mostly in cans, only a few bottles, and most of these were lagers and bitters. Reluctantly, Janine poured a glass of piss-poor Chardonnay into a plastic cup and joined Edie as she floated out of the kitchen on her high-heel pumps with a can of McEwans in one hand and a rollie in the other. All the while, the sound of drum and bass shifted gear into some hard thumping pumping techno, with a wicked rhythm that almost curled up Janine's toes at every fourth emphatic beat.
Edie regarded Janine's expression as she looked disdainfully at the glass of wine she'd poured. She leaned over her friend, put an arm around her long thin neck, ran her fingers through her short raffish dark brown hair, and placed a kiss on her bright red lipsticked lips. Janine smiled back at Edie, whose dyed blonde hair was cut into a kind of bob and contrasted sharply with her dark eyebrows and deep brown eyes. Both girls were very thin and dressed similarly in a strange combination of the utilitarian - boots, baggy jackets and tights - and the fanciful - skirts, necklaces and tee shirts with the most plunging neckline that was legal. The cut of their tops was high enough to let the light catch the studs that shone on their hard, smooth bellies: a perfect compliment to the studs pierced through their labia lips.
"What you need, sweetie," remarked Edie, peppering her face with a multitude of soft kisses, "is something a lot better than Supermarket plonk. And, if I'm not mistaken, I think there might be someone here who can give us both just that."
Janine smiled conspiratorially, as Edie took her metal-bangled wrist in her hand and dragged her out of the kitchen, past the temptations of another roving joint, into the main room where the music was coming from. Merde Alors! These old Victorian houses had such enormous rooms. What use had they ever had for all that space? Now, of course, it made a very satisfactory dance floor, the ancient floorboards still able to support the weight of dozens of thumping feet, belonging to silhouetted figures illuminated by the lights the DJ had brought round for the gig. Behind the turntables and framed by the speaker stacks, the DJ was fumbling around in his boxes for twelve inch discs, while the lead from the pair of headphones attached to his ears looped toward his decks. When he stood up, spinning the vinyl in his fingers before placing it onto the rubber and then dropping the needle into its grooves, he briefly gazed around at the crowd, a broad manic smile on his face, while the techno beats pounded and thundered around him.
Super! That smile was a sign. The faces lit up in the crowd of stomping dancers were even better evidence. Chemical bliss. Even with only a few sips of vin de Kwik-Save, the message of bliss was coming through the Progressive House pulse beats and Janine was already feeling more than ready. But, as usual, it was Edie who was the one to find the source of the wellspring and to partake of its flowing treasures. And in this case, the source was a young guy with hair so short it was almost blue and a capacious jacket with as many pockets as were humanly feasible. Including pockets hidden inside pockets. And then there were the set of pockets on his brown baggy, cotton trousers. Unlike everyone else in the room, he was sitting on a chair by the corner, about as far from the speakers as he could be, only occasionally tapping a foot to the frenetic beats, a smile of deep joy spread over his face, but with eyes as hard and sharp as a pair of knives. As usual, it was Edie, bolder than brass and twice as shiny, who zoomed straight onto this mec while Janine put a toe into the flowing water of driving beats. It was difficult to keep her steps restrained as the music swooped and dived around her, pulsating rhythms thundering into her stomach and pumping up her thighs. A strobe caught her in mid-glide, blue and orange and green against the peeling wallpaper, and then swooped down to catch Edie who was returning with a handful of goodies in little sealed-seam plastic bags.
"It's a bit of mix and match!" Edie yelled into Janine's ear, as she froze in mid-step to pick up the chemical delights. "Got some good stuff. Bit of speed and some Es. A tab if the mood takes you. And here," she tapped a pocket, "I've got some pure grade A skank. And all for not much outlay." She sighed. "These men they'll fucking give everything for a promise of a promise or a glimpse of a glimpse. But there ain't no stopping us now. Dive in for the start of the drip feed."
With that, she opened her mouth and dropped a few pills, not even bothering to check what they were. Janice kissed Edie on the cheek and followed suit, leaving half the stuff for later. This could be a lo-ong night ahead!
A brief peck was not enough. Janine took Edie's face in her hands and pushed it to her lips, her tongue slotted into Edie's mouth, and for a few ecstatic, liquid moments, the two of them kissed fully and slobberily, as the beat pushed up and up into the pit of their stomachs. Finally, building up enough tension to push the two girls apart. And then off with their inappropriately heavy jackets, the plastic bags and rolling tobacco transferred to the huge side-pockets of their trousers, and, then, with a whoop of excitement, the two of them were boogying and stomping and jumping and pumping to the pounding rhythms, two-stepping and jockeying to the shifting beats, sweat erupting from their foreheads and the top of the breasts. And then they communicated with facial expressions twisted and torn to the same shapes as the beats that carried their feet. C'est bonne! C'est sympa! C'est large!
All around them the other figures were immersed in the same warming bath of the four to the floor. Men with their tops thrown off. Girls with the flimsiest of tops. And there (Merci à Dieu!) one girl so taken with the sound that a loose breast had worked itself free of her skimpy top and was bouncing freely with each step and bounce. Janine twisted herself to face this glorious treat, a warm feeling building up from inside and already burning in her crotch. Jazz samples. Vocal samples. Phat beats. Squelching 303s. Twisted, byzantine bass, grinding through beats, scattered and angular in the Drum and Bass, plain and flat through the Hard House, bouncy and joyful over the Progressive House, fucked up and fucking glorious in the most wicked of Break Beats. She was truly lost in music. She was got down and dirty. Sweat cascading into the silver-studded recesses of her navel, and streaming down the outside of her thighs and the inside of her trousers.
Somewhere in the midst of this, the rush hit. And somehow everything was fine. And everyone was beautiful. And given the chance she would be everyone's and anyone's. Even perhaps with a man. And as she swivelled and turned, having long lost sight of Edie as the space around her swelled and shrunk with the patterns of her dancing, she saw in the corner a naked man's buttocks thrusting in and out while two bare thin legs of an equally naked woman were pinioned beneath him. Merde! It was going to be one of those kinds of parties. And why the fuck not? Her crotch ached with the thought of herself and Edie stretched out together, her tight small breasts against Edie's rounder, so warm bosom, hard nipple stroking on hard nipple, a cascade of joy dripping from between her legs. Oh Edie! Je t'aime! Je t'aime le plus grand!
But where was Edie? wondered Janine, spinning around on the axis of her left foot, then bringing her other foot down to complete the spin. Where was her bonne chatte? Ou est tu? Edie was gone. Nowhere. As she swirled, a man's face peered into her, a Christ-like bearded face with a smile of Christian love, and her mind was elsewhere as she pounded the beat with her dancing partner. Until the fade-in to some slower tempo movement slung her suddenly out of the room and into the heaving hallway. But where was Edie?
Janine wandered from room to room. Back to the kitchen where a whole group of men were gathered in black baggy tee shirts, swigging from bottles of beer and discussing politics. And up the stairs, where a couple were stretched: the man's hand inside the woman's blouse and the woman's hand clutching the hard rod in his trouser crotch. From room to room, where others were talking to or cuddling each other. Up another flight of stairs, past a queue by the loo, and three floors up, in this towering North London squat, where the low thumping sounds told her that she'd arrived outside the chill-out room. Tiens! She suddenly realised that she needed to chill out more than anything else. Sweat was plastering her short hair close to her scalp. She needed more skank. Or some charas. Or anything. She pushed open the door, letting out a large cloud of sweet-smelling smoke. A stereo was blaring out from some chill-out CD, and all around her were slumped bodies, and a fortune in dope being passed from hand to hand.
Janine slumped onto the first cushion she could see and took a long, long toke from the joint that was proffered to her. Despite the chemical confusion that tingled her senses, she was immediately jolted by the sensamerilla, and her head fell entirely into synch with the slow deep burning bass of the music. Most of the people around her were slumped in soporific languor, which was creeping up on her, as her unfocussed thoughts drifted with the breathy female vocals and she cast her eyes around her. Not everyone was similarly zonked. There were two or three couples in states of relative undress lost in another rhythm, clothes discarded or pulled down, as they lost themselves to their physical passion.
One couple was particularly engrossed, lying on a mess of cushions and pillows and rugs just by the large uncurtained windows which looked out over the streets, and through which Janine could see the lights shining from the houses opposite, not all, she guessed, as happy as she was that this party was happening. A car drove by lighting up a room that was mostly dimly lit, and allowed Janine a closer look at the couple. The man's prick was visible from the balls to where it was thrusting into a sticky, gooey vagina, which was pumping up and down beneath. Long bare legs tapered to a pair of dark brown boots, while above a hairy arse trailed down long hairy legs to a pair of scuffed trainers. The girl was gasping and swooning as the man pushed into her, grunting from his own exertions. And where was Edie? wondered Janine. What she wouldn't do for a bit of lovemaking herself. Her soul, her heart, her body ached for love. Or at least sex.
Janine looked around at the other people, hoping to see Edie's blonde bob in one or other corner of the vast dimly lit room. She wasn't by the stereo where a guy was shifting through the collection of CDs. She wasn't at the window, where another guy had thrust his head out into the street, no doubt to cool off his drug-fevered brow. She wasn't the girl slumped against the wall fighting off unconsciousness with a half-finished bottle of Stella Artois gripped to her lap. In fact, as Edie discovered with a shock, she was the one who was being fucked just by the window.
This much was made clear, as the two shifted position, the prick briefly disengaged, so that Edie could get on top and squeeze it back into her cunt. And there she was, on top of a mec with black shoulder-length hair and a dark blue tee shirt. She was stripped to only her top, one of her gorgeous breasts loose and hanging free of its cradle, sweat pouring down the back of her neck, and gasping and panting and gasping, and occasionally giving vent to a shriek, as the passion of her love-making gripped her.
Janine was stunned. There was her beloved, with a man she'd never met before; doing to her what she thought was reserved for her alone. She knew every tangled sweaty hair of that pussy. She knew the length and depth of that firm hard clitoris. She knew every serrated nobble of those nipples. She could even taste that vagina in her tongue, the memory so strong and intimate and familiar that it burnt more powerful than the odour of cannabis smoke and nicotine.
Should she intervene? Was that a cool thing to do? She was sure it wasn't. And what was worse, it would not only piss off Edie who had always made clear to her that she swang both ways, but it might invite the unwelcome attention of her male lover. She looked at the prick as it thrust in and out, remembering its long, hard pink length in that brief moment when the two had shifted position. She didn't want any of that, merci. Her few times with some brutish or incompetent man, with all that hairy flesh and sinewy muscle and flabby stomach, had convinced her that there was only one kind of sex meant for her and it wasn't with a man.
The mere thought of it disgusted her so much, that she cast aside the joint she'd received only half a toke ago to the small, dark-eyed man to her side, and plunged herself out of the comforting, relaxing ambience of the chill-out room, back into the merciless corridors of the rest of the house. Only this time, feeling ever so much more lonely and vulnerable. Her Edie! Son Amour! How could she?
She was now directionless and lost. Somehow the dance room no longer seemed inviting. The horrors of the beer-swilling men in the kitchen seemed even less appealing than before. And it wasn't at all obvious what she should be looking for. The chill-out room had seemed perfect, but now it was the one room she most did not want to be in. She dashed up and down the stairs, squeezing past the crowd queued up by the toilets, occasionally pushing open doors to see whether there was anywhere else she could hang out. But it seemed that every bedroom was occupied. And quite clearly there was some vachement hot shit going round. In almost every room, there was some kind of sexual activity. Men and women cuddling. Men and women kissing. Men fucking women. And in one room, the most horrible sight of all, men fucking men. She had seen quite enough penises in her life, and she didn't really want to have to waste much more time on them. Wherever she went, however, the sound of the dance music thundering from the dance room was pumped and piped around the place, so unless she went back to the top floor she was unable to escape the block busting beats that were being laid down by the DJ. He was clearly getting harder and more frantic. Mauro Piccotto, Tony de Vit, pump that pussy. Hard House Heaven. Yeh Eh! Here it Comes. Ohh Yeah! Ça plein pour moi.
But Janine just wasn't in the mood. At last, she gravitated to a point on the landing of the stairs, cigarette dangling from the forefingers of one hand, while other guests wandered up and down the stairs beside her, her other hand pressed against her forehead, lost in thought and reflection, unsure whether to come or to go, to dance or to rest, to wait or to depart. Without her Edie, she was feeling abandoned and through the haze of serotonin, nicotine and dope, unsure just what she should be thinking at all. Her eyes were unfocused, her thoughts were scattered and her cigarette kept going out.
"You got a light?" suddenly asked a kindly voice.
Janine looked up with her box of Swan Vestas pulled out of a large pocket from her trousers. "Bien sûr! Ouai! " she said passing the box toward the proffered Marlboro Lite at whose filtered tip were some gorgeously red lipsticked lips, and a thin face with sparkling light green eyes. Janine was so taken by her eyes and the classically straight nose, that she only belated became aware that here was a girl who had dispensed with the need for hair-care products and had opted instead for a clean shaven skull, where only at this late hour was the stubble starting to show through.
"Hey. You're French or Belgian or something, aren't you?"
"French," corrected Janine, slightly offended that anyone might think she was some kind of Walloon speaker. If her ear had been more attuned to English, she'd have noticed that this girl had a Geordie accent scattered with evidence of her time in London.