1. Extract from 'SKINHEAD GIRL - an urban love story':
The figure hesitated. Just a silhouette. Then it stepped forward, into the light and smiled. That warm and broad smile of hers.
"Louise!" I said. Hugely relieved that she was here, outside, and that I wouldn't have to go into the den of skinheads alone.
"You made it, then?", she laughed.
The skies opened up even more as she spoke and the rain tumbled down.
We took a few steps towards one another and then stopped. Both of us unsure what to do. Were we dating? Did we kiss? What should we do? I wasn't surprised by my own hesitation. But from Louise, who had been so confident on Tuesday, it was a bit of a shock.
Suddenly I could hear music. Very loudly. Very clearly. And appropriate music, too. It was skinhead music. The first track of the night. And I even recognised the tune. It was the score from a film, only this was being played to a ska rhythm. 'The Guns of Navarone'.
The disco had obviously just started.
Louise and I took another step towards each other. Hugged briefly. Didn't kiss. Then we separated, and then she stepped towards me again and, despite the rain, she took my hand and we started to dance, dance to the tune being played so loudly and so clearly.
Ska in the car park.
Big boots or not, which we both wore that night, the water very quickly got inside them as we splashed in and through puddles. Wet going everywhere it hadn't already gone.
The track seemed to go on for ages. I think they probably played it twice or mixed in another record or something. And I was almost done for by the time the music paused and a loud cheer broke out inside. Then a voice rumbled away - the DJ, I assumed - and another track started with another big cheer and a lot of shouting.
"You sure you really want to go in?" Louise asked me...
2. Extract from 'Blonde BOY, red LIPSTICK':
The music in the wine bar wasn't loud but there was a small dance floor; old wooden floorboards with a few subtle orange and white lights.
It wasn't the kind of space you could hide in, though. It wasn't empty. But it wasn't crowded either.
So if you did dance, you were very visible.
Alley watched a couple dancing. She said nothing but I could see her opinion of the girl's outfit quite clearly. She leaned across the table a little, fixing me with her dark eyes, and said huskily, "And your arse is much sexier than his, too". Then leaning back, she added brightly, "Let's dance? Us! The next slow track they play. It's just for us!"
"Yes. Definitely", I said, emptying my glass. Although really I was thinking, 'Oh fuck'. I was fine on a bigger dance floor. In a nightclub. Somewhere darker. But this was a bit too intimate for me.
Suddenly there were shrieks and shouts from outside and we turned to see a half-hearted fight in progress between a couple of students - lots of swinging arms and random kicking. And as we watched in fascination, I heard a slow track start. So I started talking about what was happening outside, hoping that Alley wouldn't notice the music.
But of course she'd already noticed.
She always noticed everything. And as soon as I'd finished talking, trying to keep her ideas away from the dance floor, she stood up. "Come on", she said, holding her hand out to me. "Dance with me. Don't be so shy." Shy. She had seen that, too. I wanted to pinch her for that.
I stood up and took her hand. And as I did so, I had a quick fleeting image of the party, a few weeks beforehand, where she had reached for me to dance and someone else had cut in between us and prevented us from dancing together.
Incredibly, that was about to happen again.
Well, almost. But not quite.
The wine bar always played chart music. And as we got to the edge of the dance floor, the slow track ended. It had been too short for us. We had missed it.
"Awww", I said, looking at her. "What a shame".
Those eyes narrowed at me.
But I braved them and took one small step away from the dance floor in any case, heading back to our table.
And then a song by Barbra Streisand came on.
Barbra Streisand. 'Woman in Love'.
I stopped. Turned to Alley. And I knew. I just knew.
Alley's face had lit up.
I couldn't believe it. Not Barbra Streisand. This was fate having a joke. Surely? The song couldn't have been more... more... more gay. Not really.
But once more the hand was there, and held out for me...