Christmas Eve in the Black Bull is fucking mental, yeah? It’s like every fucker in town has decided to go out for the night and chosen the scummiest backstreet pub they can find to get pissed up in. The place is absolutely fucking heaving, standing room only. Just as well me and Dave got here early and bagged ourselves some seats in the corner, otherwise we’d be squashed up among them. We’ve got our feet up on some chairs opposite our table so we can save them for when Shaz and Dave’s mates get here. We get a few funny looks from people standing nearby, but nobody says anything. They might be pissed up, but they’re not fucking daft, yeah?
Dave’s got his arms stretched out either side of him, resting on the back of the padded bench, tapping his fingers to the blaring Christmas music playing. It’s not a band I’ve ever heard before, but they seem okay. They’re a bit like the shouty skinhead bands Dave likes, except it’s a bird singing and she’s going on about snowmen and bollocks like that instead of kicking someone’s head in at a football match. I’ve heard some of the songs before, I think they were originally done by dead people from the olden days, yeah? A few people nearby are shouting along in that tuneless way drunks do, waving their pints around and spilling half the contents down their reindeer jumpers. Me, I’m not at that stage yet, I’ve only had three pints of Guinness the whole fucking night, so I just wiggle my feet on the chair in time to the music.
“Who’s this then?” I yell at Dave between songs.
“Vice Squad,” he yells back. “They’re an old punk band, my dad used to like them. It was him who got me into Oi when I were a kid.”
“Yeah? So did they just do Christmas songs then?”
“Nah, they did all sorts. I’ll download you a few mp3s, if you like them I’ll get you everything else they did.”
Dave’s like that, he can get anything you want for free off his computer. Films, music, games for your phone, whatever you want. Fuck knows how he does it, I’ve never really been that interested in computers. We had them at school, but I could never get the hang of them. I bet Dave was some sort of fucking whizz-kid with them.
“Fucking Shaz is taking her time getting here,” I yell, looking at the clock on my phone.
Dave shrugs and leans forward to pick up his lager. I put my phone away and shuffle myself upright on the bench, drop my feet to the floor. Some chancer standing nearby eyes up the vacant stool, so I glare at him to make sure he doesn’t get any ideas about pinching it. He looks away, suitably traumatised, and I nod to myself in satisfaction.
“I’m going for a piss,” I yell in Dave’s ear. “Make sure no cunt pinches my seat.”
Dave nods and raises a thumb, smiles at me in that lopsided way of his, then feels my arse as I climb over his legs. There’s a brick wall of drunken people between me and the bogs, and it takes fucking ages to shove my way through them, so I’m nearly pissing myself by the time I get there. Luckily there’s a spare cubicle so I dive into it and drop my knickers, then plonk my arse on the seat just in time. I kick the door closed with my foot and take out my phone, then turn on the camera and check my face. The bruises from my last fight are healing up quite well, so I should be good as new in a few more weeks. I switch off the camera and phone Shaz, ask her where the fuck she is. I can hear drunken singing in the background, so it’s obvious she’s not on her way here like she says she is. I tell her to fucking hurry up then, and put the phone away.
Back in the bar, this bloke in a Santa hat with a sprig of mistletoe sticking out of it stretches out his arms at me. “Bleuraaaaargh!” he says, or something like that, and lurches toward me for a Christmas kiss. I smile and duck under his arms, then skirt round him while he staggers forward into the space I just left. He spins round, looking confused. “Iss fuckern Crissmess, hen,” he says, pointing at the mistletoe. “Iss the fuckern law.” I give him two fingers and another smile, then fight my way back to Dave.
“About fucking time,” Dave says. “I thought you’d fucked off or something.”
“Nah,” I say, and bend down to give him a quick snog. He tastes of cheese and onion crisps, and it makes me feel a bit hungry. I break away and sit down, then drain the rest of my Guinness. “You getting the drinks in then, or what?”
“Fucking hell Abby, I got the last round in.”
“Yeah well, that makes you more experienced then doesn’t it? Besides, it’s what a fucking gentleman would do, isn’t it?”
He grins at me and raises his eyebrows. “What, you think I’m a gentleman then?”
“Meh!” I say with a shrug, and he shuffles away into the crowd.
I suppose he is really, despite his rough as fuck outward appearance. Not in the traditional sense, like some fucking toff in a suit and tie or whatever, but he’s definitely a gentle man. With me, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fighter just like me, not some sort of fucking flower-loving softy. But he has his gentle side too, yeah? And he’s not bothered if other blokes see it either. Most blokes I’ve been with act all macho when their mates are around, and treat me like some sort of fucking tart. Dave’s not like that, he’s different. I can’t really explain it properly, it’s just the way he is I guess.
I look up when I hear someone yelling my name. It’s Shaz, standing by the door with Steve and Josh either side of her, holding her up with her arms draped over their shoulders. They’re her boyfriends, yeah? Typical fucking Shaz, she has to go one better than me and have two of them. They’re also Dave’s mates, and they’re both skinheads, just like him. Fuck knows what they get up to together, whether they take turns to fuck her or just take an end each or whatever, but they seem happy enough with the arrangement.
Shaz looks well and truly pissed up the way she staggers toward me, all three of them lurching to one side and bumping into people, spilling their drinks. Someone spins round yelling at them, then goes all shy and quiet when the two skinheads glare at him. They seem to have that effect on people, I don’t know why. It’s the same with Dave, I think it might be the clothes they wear or something. It’s like people are afraid of them, yeah? But that’s just fucking daft, they’re just normal blokes. If you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Still, it seems to work to their advantage too, because people just clear a space for them when they see them coming. Like fucking what’s-his-name from The Bible, the geezer who split the sea in half so his mates could walk through it.
Steve and Josh lower Shaz onto the bench next to me, then sit down on the two stools we saved for them. Shaz slumps against me. “Merry fucking humbug Abby,” she says, breathing Pernod fumes in my face. “And a happy new whatsit, yeah?” She puts a hand over one eye and peers across the table at Josh. “Get the fucking drinks in, then. What you waiting for, a fucking message from the queen or something?”
Josh stands up and stretches out his braces. I notice he’s got a twig of mistletoe sticking out of his crotch. Classy. I bet the bloke at the toilets wishes he’d thought of that.
Steve clasps his hands behind his head and grins at me. “All right, Abby?” he says. “How’s the cage fighting going?”
“Yeah, not too bad,” I say. “It pays the fucking bills anyway.”
Which is true. Since I lost my job the fights have been my only means of income, yeah? Well except for the little bit extra I make with Shaz now and again, when the opportunity arises. But I haven’t told Dave about that yet. Not because I don’t think he would approve, he’d probably think it was funny as fuck. I just haven’t got round to telling him yet.
“Steve, you cunt,” Dave says when he gets back with a tray of drinks. He puts them down on the table one at a time, then slurps up the spillages from the tray. He’s got three pints of Guinness for me, and four pints of lager for himself. He swears at Steve when he grabs one, but doesn’t object when he takes a swig.
“What’s all these for?” I ask, picking up one of the pints of Guinness.
“Thought it’d save time going to the bar later.”
Good thinking. You see he’s not just gentle, my Dave, he’s fucking clever too. How lucky am I to have a bloke like that?
* * *
At chucking out time the streets are packed with people full of Christmas spirits, Christmas lager, Christmas whatever-gets-you-hammered. A gang of howling banshees stagger toward us in skimpy low-cut tops and mini-skirts, their high heels clattering on the vomit-soaked pavement. One points at Josh’s mistletoe and laughs, then gets down on her knees and slobbers over his crotch while he just stands there grinning down at her. I clench my fists and look at Shaz, sure she’ll want to steam in and batter the tart for messing with one of her boyfriends, and ready to help out if the others decide to join in. But Shaz is busy leaning over and puking into the gutter, and doesn’t notice the assault on Josh’s chastity. Steve is stood behind her, holding her hair out of the way so it doesn’t get splattered with spew. Which is kind of a sweet thing to do, yeah? The sort of thing Dave would do for me if I had long hair like Shaz.
The banshees shuffle on, laughing and screeching at each other. A police car drives by slowly, and they all pull up their tops and wobble their tits at it. I can see the coppers inside smirking through the windscreen as they approach us. Dave glares at them as the car passes, then hacks up and spits into the road after it. Shaz straightens up, a line of bile dribbling down her chin. She wipes it away with the back of her hand and smiles at me.
“I fucking needed that,” she says, while Steve gropes her tits from behind. She spins in his arms and grabs his arse, clamps her mouth onto his.
“Oi, what about me?” Josh asks.
Steve and Shaz break apart slightly to make room for him, and he buries his face in Shaz’s tits, squashed between them as Steve and Shaz go back to sucking each other’s mouths. I shake my head and sigh. Dave looks at me and shrugs, then moves toward me for a smooch of his own. I back up into a shop doorway, pulling Dave by his braces, so we won’t get jostled by passing drunks. It stinks of piss and vomit, as I expected, but at least it’s a bit more private. I’ve certainly been fingered in places a lot less romantic than this.
It’s not long before we get interrupted by people shouting insults out in the street – fucking cunt, you wanker, come on then you bastards, things like that. At first we ignore it, it’s not as if it’s something unusual. People slagging each other off is just one of the Christmas traditions, yeah? Like decorating trees with tinsel and giving people you don’t like crappy presents. But then the insults get a bit more personal and we realise who they are aimed at.
“You fucking baldy-headed cunts, call yourselves the fucking master race?”
Dave pulls his hand out of my knickers and spins round, steps out of the shop doorway with his fists clenched. “Fucking hell, another of the Nazi cunts,” someone yells. “Let’s fucking do the bastards.” I rearrange my clothing and join Dave out on the pavement.
There’s a bunch of middle-aged blokes waddling toward us in Santa hats, all beer guts and bravado. There’s seven of them, and they’re all driving fat fists into fat palms and grinning at each other like obese giant dwarfs who’ve just gang-banged Snow White. I catch Shaz’s eye and smile. She smiles back and cracks her knuckles, first one hand, then the other. Dave, Steve and Josh line up before us like guardians protecting their princesses from an onslaught of barbarians. The Santas stop in the middle of the road and start up with their taunts again.
“Come on then, let’s fucking have it,” one says, beckoning with his fingers.
“We’re going to fuck you up, real bad,” another says, “just like we did with Hitler.”
“Yeah,” a third says, nodding his head so vigorously the white bobble on the end of his Santa hat smacks him in the face.
Dave, Steve and Josh just stand there looking at them, fists clenched, waiting for them to make a move. Shaz sighs. “For fuck’s sake,” she says, “what is this, a fucking internet flame war or something? Just get on with it, you fat bastards, or fuck off out of it.”
“You fucking slag,” one of the Santas yells, and rushes forward.
Steve and Josh both run forward to meet him. Josh gets there first and his fist disappears into Santa’s blubbery stomach. Santa crumbles to his knees with an oof and Steve boots him in the face and sends him sprawling onto his back. The other Santas all roar and make a beeline for Josh, he being the shortest of the three skinheads they want to fuck up, and therefore the easiest-looking target. Dave wades in and kicks one up the arse, then spins round and smacks another in the mouth just as he’s raising a fist to him.
Two Santas have got Josh held between them while a third sneers into his face, yelling something about Germany losing two world wars and one world cup. Fuck knows what that’s got to do with anything, but Dave and Steve are both too busy with their own fights to see what’s happening with Josh. Time to get out the big guns, yeah?
I look for Shaz, but she’s already on her way. She snatches the Santa hats off the two fat blokes holding Josh, then grabs their hair and bangs their heads together. Josh kicks the other Santa in the bollocks mid-rant before he even realises what’s happening. He bends over, clutching himself, and gets a knee in the face. I rush in to help Shaz with the two fat bastards when they turn toward her with their fists raised. Their fists hang there in the air as they stare at her, as if they don’t know what to do with them.
Big fucking mistake, yeah?
I take one out with a quick jab of my fingers into his neck, followed by a punch to the chin that clacks his teeth together and sends blood spurting as he staggers backwards. Shaz knees hers in the bollocks, then drags him face down onto the tarmac by his hair. She kneels down on his back, then frisks his pockets and pulls out a wallet. He groans, so she punches him in the ear a few times until he shuts up, then stuffs his empty wallet into his mouth. She grins at me and waves a wad of cash, then gives me half and pockets the rest.
I look at Dave as I put the money away, inexplicably worried he might have seen what we just did. I’m not ashamed of it, it’s just what we do now and again to make a bit of extra cash, yeah? But like I said, I haven’t got round to telling him yet and I don’t want him to find out this way. I needn’t have worried though, Dave’s too busy sticking the boot into one of the Santas rolling around in the road to notice what we’re up to. I look around to see what the other Santas are doing, but they all seem to have legged it, so I wander over to Dave.
“You okay?” Dave asks when he sees me. He stops kicking the Santa and walks over to me, a concerned look on his face.
I shrug. “Yeah, why?”
“Sorry you had to see that.”
“Don’t be fucking daft. You were defending me and Shaz’s honour, that’s all. It’s made me horny as fuck.”
Dave grins. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Now come on, before the fucking coppers get here. I don’t want to spend Christmas in a fucking cell.”
* * *
I lean over the edge of the multi-story car park wall and look down at the town centre below. There’s fights all over the place as festivities continue without us, police and ambulance sirens wailing as they rush to each fresh incident. Coppers bash heads open while paramedics stitch them back together again and send them on to their next battle. So this is Christmas, yeah? That most fucking magical time of the year. Peace and good will to all men, except for whoever gets in your fucking way.
I snuggle up to Dave’s chest, because it’s fucking freezing up here. He puts his arm around me and draws me close, I listen to his heart beating and wonder when he’s going to make his move. I hope he doesn’t expect me to strip off up here, I don’t think I’d be able to stop my teeth from chattering if he does. Shaz is already moaning away somewhere to my left, on her hands and knees with her arse in the air. You’d think Dave would have taken the hint by now, but he seems happy enough just watching the fights down below.
A church bell somewhere starts ringing, calling people in for midnight mass. I wonder if they have many fights in churches these days. If anyone even still goes to church. I haven’t been since I was about five years old, and even then I thought it was boring as fuck.
“Happy birthday Jesus, you fucking hippy bastard!” Dave shouts. His voice echoes off nearby tower blocks.
The fighting in the town centre seems to stop all at once, as if someone’s thrown a switch or something. Then there’s sporadic drunken outbursts of that fucking Slade song coming from all directions. So here it is, merry fucking Christmas, yeah? Dave shrugs his arm off my shoulder and walks away a few steps. I get this rage of jealousy when I think he might be ogling Shaz’s arse, or getting ideas about joining in with Steve and Josh. I don’t know why, it just comes over me sometimes. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the way it is, yeah? But he’s not even looking in their direction, he’s facing the other way, fiddling with his jeans. Probably going to have a piss or something, and he’s too shy to do it with me watching.
“You ready for your present yet?” he says, and spins round with his arms stretched out like Jesus on his stick. He’s got his cock out, pointing it at me. But that’s not what makes me smile. He’s got a bit of ribbon tied round the middle of it, in a neat bow. Fuck knows where that’s come from or where he learnt how to tie bows like that.
“Yeah,” I say, and walk over to meet him. I kneel down and unwrap my present, give it a bit of a squeeze. “But this had better not be the only thing you’ve got me for Christmas or you’re in some serious fucking shit.”
Happy fucking Christmas, yeah?
Abby and friends also feature in my book Bare Knuckle Bitch.
Originally published at http://www.punx.co.uk in 2013.