It was around this time last year, the dark time of the year when the hours had fallen from the clocks and the last leaves had fallen from the trees.
It was this time last year that my friend Suzy met the Devil.
A night like any other – a few too many drinks, too late for the last tube. She took the bus. She sat upstairs at the front, feeling reckless. Everyone knows the safest place on the night bus is downstairs, by the driver. But she sat upstairs. Upstairs at the front and then, he came and sat next to her. The Devil sat next to my friend Suzy one Thursday evening on the N3 to Crystal Palace.
She told me about it the next day, breathlessly, her eyes a little too shiny. She said she blamed herself, she said that at Hallowe’en she’d got pissed on cheap cider, alone in her flat and wished for a lover. She lay in the bath, eating an apple and wished for a lover. And now look. Now look what had happened. The Devil had heard her calling, and he had come to her.
Don’t be ridiculous Suzy, I told her. I’d never heard such a stupid thing. How can you say he’s the Devil? How would you know?
So she told me.
Firstly, when he sat beside her and looked at her she knew she would do anything he said. Power rolled off him in waves.
Secondly, he spoke Italian and Suzy believed that the Devil would probably speak Latin, but that Latin might look a bit odd in South London, in 2010, so he’d chosen the next best thing.
Thirdly, when she looked more closely she saw the twinkling in his eyes was actually twin pools of hellfire.
Fourthly, when he kissed her, his tongue was quick and darting like a snake’s and she was excited and afraid in similar measure. Deliciously afraid.
And if it had been summer, she said, she would have gotten off the bus and gone in to the park with him. And if it had been summer, she said, she wouldn’t have been wearing tights, and the ground wouldn’t have been cold and wet and if it had been summer, she said, she would have let him fuck her right there.
And if he were ugly, I said, he would have been a rapist. Suzy how could you, what a dangerous thing to do, getting off with a man you met on the bus, for God’s sake! Thank god it wasn’t summer.
And Suzy said no, no, if only it had been summer. If only it had been. I could have given him what he wanted and it would all be over now. She hadn’t given him what he wanted so badly. She had disobeyed him. All he got was her phone number, and he wanted so much more.
The next day he called her. And the next. And the next. And he sent her messages. Message after message. She showed me one. Amore, it read, bella, come and see me. I want to see you. It’ll be nice.
So see him, I said, he sounds keen. You wished for a lover didn’t you?
And she said that I didn’t understand. From the minute she’d seen his missed call she knew, she was quite sure, that he wanted to kill her. That he meant to call her to his house, soak her in alcohol and pretty words and then use those hands of his – for she was sure it would be his hands and not a weapon – use those strong hands of his to silence her. She also knew, with the same certainty, that now he had called her, she had to go. Suzy had crossed the Devil and Suzy would have to pay.
And when I said, when I suggested that all she had to do was leave it, ignore his calls, his texts, block his number, she laughed at me, a hollow laugh. As though I’d told a junkie to just lay off the H for the rest of their lives. He’s the Devil, she said, don’t you see? I’m his now. I have to do whatever he says. I’ll have to go, eventually, I can’t escape.
Suzy for heaven’s sake, I said, you met some sleazy Iti on the bus – do you have to be so frigging melodramatic? See him, don’t see him, I don’t care. Get over yourself.
Early December. The snow came.
She sent me a text. ‘Going to Gipsy Hill to get some Bolognese. Thought I should let someone know.’
And my friend Suzy was