CHAPTER 2 of my FanFic is finally here!!
(N.B.: unchanged Chapter 1 is here)
When it came to love, I had experienced the equivalent of a Disney World rollercoaster: thrilling ups and terrifying downs. I had met the love of my life whilst studying at university and we’d been well on our way to forever when he had passed away in a horrific accident. Understandably I was shattered, but not just because of the death of my soul mate. The accident had also taken my family and friends, leaving me with nothing but the clothes on my back and the car been sitting in as the event unfolded, me watching from afar as my world caved in.
Given the accident’s magnitude, I struggled to cope with both the loss of my loved ones and the resultant media interest; I had wanted to do nothing but run. I’d lost everything. Sure, I had received “compensation”, more than any individual would ever need, but that meant nothing without something, some place, someone to spend it on. At the time I was frantic: I couldn’t stay where I was but I didn’t know where to turn. Every avenue required me to fly. I had always feared flying but I had never had a good reason to be scared. Now I did. The pain, the terror, the anger, the despair; the looks of sadness on the faces of people I didn’t know. People who didn’t know me. I couldn’t take it. In the end, an act of terrifying desperation had pushed me towards my fear and within a week I was halfway across the world.
But that was three years ago now. The years I’d spent as a girlfriend, sister and daughter were past me; now, I was single, alone, orphaned. Free. I didn’t need anyone else. I had countless friends, both close and far, which included the group I was currently waiting on in the beer garden. This group in particular were my favourite. They hated to admit it, for they all thought themselves to be in with a chance, but they were brothers to me. One of them had pounced on me the second I landed in the UK: he had just farewelled a foreign associate and was on his way back to the car park when, unsure of where I was or what I was doing, I had accidentally bumped into him. How I missed him, I’ll never know: he was 6’4” with curly black hair and a build akin to that of Thor, Norse God of Thunder. He had taken one look at my terrified face and guided me straight to the nearest bar. He had asked me my name, my drink and my accommodation plans. “Erin, whiskey, none.” I’d said. “Well, I can change that.” Despite being a stranger, I hadn’t been scared of him – I could read him easily and his concern was obvious. He was a lot older than me, perhaps early forties, and he had reminded me of a colleague from back home. He’d said his name was Patsy. I’d laughed at him until I realised that he wasn’t joking. “That better be short for Patrick or else I wish to have some stern words with your father!” He had laughed boisterously in response, eyes dancing with delight. “Good luck, m’lady, for my father is Erin, too, and he thinks it’s a BOY’S name!” He then lifted his drink towards me and winked. “Just wait until you meet my brother, Daphne!”
We had spent an hour at the bar before Patsy initiated our departure: his brother Daphne had a terrace house near Cambridge with a spare room. Daphne was a bit wild and always had friends around but they were a tight-knit group who worked hard and played harder. The only catch was that I would have to put up with the car talk. I told Patsy that I would spend the night and see how I fared. I’d thank them by cooking them dinner. My only catch? They had to let me watch the rugby game that I knew would be televised tonight. “Deal!” Patsy replied before pulling his phone out of his pocket. “Hold on to your whiskers, boys!” he had bellowed down the phone. “We’re about to throw a kitten into an alley full of tomcats!”
Patsy had driven me to his brother’s place, giddy with delight as he ran up the stairs to the entrance. “DAPHNE!” He’d yelled through the solid black door. After some heavy bounding footsteps, the door had flown open with a bang. Before me had stood a giant of a man with a mass of bright red curls. My shock was obvious and he had responded with a wicked grin. “Daphne!” He announced, gesturing dramatically to his broad chest. “Pleased to make your acquaintance!” I’d looked at Patsy and then back to Daphne, speechless. Daphne had just shrugged, “Dad called me it once when I fucked up on the rugby field. No-one has ever picked on me for it!” Fair call, I’d decided; I wasn’t about to argue! I’d then been ushered inside and introduced to a brawny group of men who were both intrigued and concerned for their new housemate; their “Kitten”. The name still stood today.
In the three years since we’d met, the boys had become my family. They looked out for me in the same way that my partner had, that my brother had, that my father had. I didn’t need anyone else. But I did want someone else. The boys knew it, for I’d mentioned it in passing not long after arriving. They had been doubly fascinated and disheartened, instantly aware that they could never compete. So, they’d spent the last three years picking on me for it, mostly to help me fight off overpowering bachelors at race meets. “Sorry, guys!” they would cry proudly. “Her heart lies with a man more gentlemanly than you!” They knew that there was one man I wouldn’t – couldn’t - say no to. Just one. Only one, I thought again, my mind jolting sharply back to reality. The one sitting next to me.
James was always on my back about women. “You can have whoever you want, mate!” he’d say. “Play the field, Tom! Test the waters! Put some extra custard in your pudding!” He was right. Ever since the release of Thor, I’d had women and men throwing themselves at me. I was extremely flattered by the attention but at the same time it was frustrating. How can you trust that they want you for who you are and not what you do? What you have access to? James didn’t see it this way; for him, fame meant women and women meant pleasure. “It’s the carnal objective of man!” he would boast when I dared challenge his ways.
At first, James was persistently curious about how I fared. After every trip I’d get the same message, as if he had it saved as a template: “Hey Tom! Envious, mate! Got any new stories to share?” Over time, however, James had realised that I would never give him the reply he wanted. Sure, I would flirt a bit while I was out and about but I never took it any further than that. My fandom had grown rapidly and at one point I had felt like a dog infested with fleas: no matter how much I shook them off, they would just keep coming back. After a while James’ interest in my potential achievements had dwindled and the messages of envy had been replaced with a simple, “So…?” My answer was always the same; “Disappointing.” his standard reply. But now with my birthday coming up, James was at it again.
For the past three weeks, James had called me every day about going out. I was home for a few months, currently on holidays and soon to be filming in London. James was using my stability as leverage. “You can find one to settle down with, mate!” I knew his heart was in the right place but I didn’t trust his methods. We’d been friends since university and whilst we were as close as brothers, when it came to women we were a very different breed. The places he wanted to go were not the places I’d expect to meet the woman of my dreams. Plus, I wasn’t interested in just any girl. Especially not since nine weeks ago – yes, I was counting – when I’d seen Pantheon Racing’s Loki driver for the first time.
I had been sitting in the airport lounge waiting for my flight when the kid in the seat next to me opened his iPad to YouTube. He selected a video. A few short seconds later, a black car popped up, neon green eyes piercing the camera lens. Loki. “Hey, it’s you!” the kid had said, looking up at me. “Your car!” The kid was mesmerised. Deciding to play along, I quickly leant over to him. “Shhh! Don’t give up my secret!” The kid had nodded, astonished brown eyes peering up at me. “Let’s watch together!” The clip was short – sections from a film, it seemed – but it was enough. The car, a Mazda RX7 drift car, was modeled on Loki, Norse God of Mischief. The colour scheme was black and green and it had gold horns running up the C-pillars, each tapering to a sharp point on the boot line. Intimidatingly fearsome, it made my stomach drop to my feet. The car was sliding easily across darkened bitumen, defying gravity as it encircled another car and continued straight up the track. From inside the car we saw a gloved hand, first resting gently on the gear stick and then moving confidently to the wheel as the world outside blurred in a spin. Then, a hazy view from the outside of the car: the aerial camera couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t sure how they’d filmed this but it was excellent. Power-sliding through corners, the car was agile, fast, purposeful; the driver, clever. Very clever. The car slid to a stop in the middle of the track and the driver’s door opened. And then I saw her. Well, I didn’t actually. I mean, I saw ‘the driver’. I never saw their face, for the full-body racing uniform possessed battle-ready Loki paneling from the helmet to the boots. But I knew instantly that it was a woman. The video showed her stepping from the car, unaware of the camera trained on her. Smoke billowed from behind her as she turned slightly towards where the camera stood. Leaning gently on the driver’s door, she raised her head in recognition. With a flash, the word “Loki” burst into the frame, glowing wildly as it hovered across the car’s piercing neon gaze. My heart pounded in my chest. The driver never removed her helmet, but I knew instantly that I wanted her.
The kid had looked up at me and I realised that I’d made a sound. “Do you know her?” he had asked. “Of course,” I lied, “She’s one of the many forms of Loki, Norse God of Mischief!” I had looked back down at the clip, its final credit ending on a glittering logo: Loki @ Pantheon Racing. In a daze I almost didn’t hear my flight announcement. I ruffled the hair of my companion as I got up to leave. “Bye, Loki!’ the boy had grinned at me. Loki. Loki at Pantheon Racing, I had thought as I shook the boy’s hand and turned to make my way to the gate. I spent my entire flight picturing the woman, what I remembered of her at least, and upon arriving home the first thing I did was turn on the computer to search Google. It didn’t take me long to find her, but despite finding a brief stat sheet on the Pantheon Racing website where she was noted as the most successful female drift racer in the UK in the last three years, “intelligent, predicting and observant in her art”, relief still did not come. Every image I came across was ‘Loki’ dressed in her racing gear, helmet on, except for one tiny picture of her wearing a kitten mask. At the time I had tried in vain to enlarge the picture but to no avail; I had spent the past nine weeks continuing my search but I had still come up with nothing. My Loki was elusive, herself a Goddess of Mischief.
I hadn’t yet told James about my quest, despite knowing that he would go to the ends of the Earth to help me fulfill my “carnal objective”. As I stood at the bar of my local pub, I laughed aloud - James was right. Until now, I had felt no urge like the one James kept describing. Now, however, I understood. Perhaps, however, too late.
James was on a mission: knowing that I would be around for a while and that James would continue to pester me, I had agreed to let him set me up with a woman of his choosing. My only clause was that she had to be refined. “What the hell does ‘refined’ mean?” James had asked. “Elegant. Classy. Worthy.” I had replied. I knew this would make his life difficult as his preferred haunts rarely contained such women; at least now we would get to visit pubs and cafes over nightclubs and dungeons. Like today, when we were at my local. It was a small, cosy pub with a great atmosphere and a tidy beer garden out the back. The drinks were well-priced and they showed the rugby on the big screen. If James was unsuccessful in his quest to find me a lady friend here, at least I would be comfortable.
The barman presented me with my drink and I thanked him with a smile. James was nowhere to be seen, presumably on the lookout for a taker. Suddenly he appeared at my side, his grin as wide as that of the Cheshire Cat. “BIN-GO.” He stated smugly as he tugged on my arm, pulling me towards the exit. “Wait a minute!” I stopped and pulled out of his grasp. “Talk to me first.”
“She’s refined.” He looked me straight in the eye as he said it. There was a long pause. “And…?” I asked. “You only said she had to be refined.” He stared back at me, his eyes challenging. He wasn’t about to give in. “Name.” I asked; surely he would give me that much. James thought about it for a second and then slung his arm around my shoulder. “Her name is Erin and I bet – I BET, NEVER TO BOTHER YOU AGAIN ON THIS – that she is The One.” He guided me towards the back of the pub and into the bright sunshine of the beer garden. Pulling my sunglasses off my head and over my eyes, I let James lead me towards the back of the garden where a long wooden table ran along the wall. The table was empty except for one person: a woman, sitting at the far end of the table on my right, peering intently at a laptop. Her pale skin glowed in the bright sunshine, her long auburn hair sitting in waves about her shoulders. Dark purple sunglasses shielded her eyes. She shifted in her seat and frowned, her left hand reaching back to pull her hair up off her neck; she flicked it softly and it floated over her shoulder, reaching down to her waist. She was wearing a navy form-fitting sleeveless dress, belted at the waist, and a matching military coat hung neatly on the back of her chair. Refined indeed, James, I thought wryly; the man had hit the jackpot. Before I could take any more in, James spoke.
“Hi again!” James’ voice startled her and she jumped a little in her seat, frown deepening. “I know, you’re working, so we’ll go with the quick introduction!” Her frown deepened further still, but I was mesmerised: she was beautiful. “Erin, this is my friend, Tom. Tom – Erin, Erin – Tom.” Erin smiled quickly but didn’t look up from her screen. She was reading something. Without looking up, she replied courteously and with a familiar accent. Australian. “Hi Tom! I’m sorry I’m not very sociable at the moment but I’ve got a lot of work to get done before the rugby starts.” She continued looking at the screen. Whatever she was reading was captivating her. She was polite, driven. Beautiful. And she liked rugby. My heart fluttered suspiciously. She was entrancing. The more she ignored me, the more I wanted to break her concentration; at the same time, the more I was content to play along, if only to keep James quiet.
“Oh, no need to apologise!” I started. “We wont intrude, we’re just looking for a safe place to hide.” Erin frowned again but didn’t look up from the screen. I walked around the left hand end of the table, aiming to sit along the wall a safe distance from the bet I was increasingly craving to win. James disagreed. With a sharp shove, he guided to the seat right next to Erin. Not wanting to appear apprehensive, I sat next to her. Her bare leg rested near mine, smooth and toned. She must have sensed my gaze as she gently tugged her dress down over her knees, long fingers pausing on her dress. No rings. I looked up at her face, taking in her dewy skin and pink glossy lips. She wore silver drop earrings and a solid necklace, a Celtic charm hanging gently against her décolleté. Her head was still lowered towards the computer screen but I sensed that she was looking at me, her dark sunglasses hiding her expression.
All at once that feeling came back. My heart pounded and my stomach slid into my shoes. That same feeling conjured by Loki from Pantheon Racing. I tried to ignore it but failed. As I gazed at her for what felt like minutes but I know to be mere seconds, realisation set in. For nine weeks I’d been searching. Now she was here. Despite never seeing her face, in my heart I knew it was her: Loki. Here, in front of me, my goddess. Erin, the image I had requested of refinery and elegance, was Loki. My Goddess of Mischief was elusive no more.