You touch my lover...

The only thing worse than a chauvinistic pig of a squint-eyed dickbrain is a gang of the bastards.

Hayden is a sweet guy. If you're holding your breath for the "but" you'll turn blue, because his flaws were part of his overall charm for me. I'm sure you know the type- soft mop of sandy-brown hair, deep brown eyes, clothes that always bordered on geeky-casual, and that general attitude of affable easy-going that I always adore in a guy. It was this, and the fact that he was the best kisser this side of anywhere, that had cemented my relationship with him. Once best friends, his general considerateness and the ease we had in talking to one another had allowed our relationship to grow like a bottlebrush- slow, steady, and tough as all hell under pressure.

So, it came as a surprise to nobody but outsiders when we started dating, and even less of a surprise when we seemed set to last, maybe (hopefully) for the rest of our lives, despite the fact that everyone still calls us "the odd couple".

I suppose I should explain a little. There's a really good reason why people double-take whenever I walk past, and trust me it's not my dazzling good looks.

Quite the opposite in fact.

You see, when I was about seven, I had the misfortune to be caught in an explosion when my dickhead of a neighbour decided to set off a backyard bomb against our common fence, about the same time that my younger sister and I were playing unawares in the sandpit a mere two metres away. Fate was kind to Vanessa- she decided that she was thirsty and ran over to where my Mum was pulling weeds on the other side of the house perhaps thirty seconds before the blast.

As it was, the explosion wasn't huge or particularly loud- I suffered no loss to my hearing, and the most damage to any of the nearby houses was a broken window from a flying piece of fencepost. Unfortunately, some of that fencepost decided to embed itself in my face, and I later learned that I had been very lucky that the splinter that took my left eye didn't pierce into my brain and kill me.

Actually, I learnt that fact at the trial, because Dickhead Pyro Neighbour decided to dispute the fact that he owed me damages and medical bills.

Bad move. If there's anything that will sway a judge and jury, it's a cute little girl with an oversized dolly and an eyepatch, and when our lawyer showed a brief slideshow of before and after shots of me playing at the beach, then me lying in a hospital bed with my ragdoll Belinda, well...

Suffice to say, the neighbour who shalt always be referred to as "the Dickhead" wished he'd taken the first offer.

So my parents were able to pay off their mortgage about ten years earlier than they had thought possible, with enough set aside for my sisters (I had two, Vanessa and Emily, who had been 18 months at the time of my accident,) and I to go to university when we got older without having to apply for a thousand scholarships.

The only things I lost were some of my depth perception, half my sight, and the ability to look innocuous- I was called "Pirate" and "Cyclops" throughout most of my schooling, and though this began maliciously, by primary school I had managed to change the tone behind it to either fear, respect (grudging or sponataneous), or (around my friends) light amusement. This was achieved, much to my parents' chagrin, mostly through strategic playground brawls, which I, thanks to my babysitting Uncle Istvan giving me self-defence lessons on the sly, had a tendency of winning rather decisively.

What? It was more fun than watching him play video games!

It also gave me the ability to instantly gain the attention of any adult in the vicinity- the number of times I was asked by unwary substitute teachers to remove my eyepatch when I went to highschool was frankly hilarious. I suppose the fact that I decorated the bloody things with rhinestones and coloured pieces of fabric didn't really help, but suffice to say, after seeing my war wound, the subbies never asked me again. Most didn't have the courage to look me in (my functioning) eye either, and one poor woman actually had to rush out of the room to "get some fresh air".

Lady, we all saw the colour of your face when you came back. I've seen more healthy colouring on vampires with gangrene.

In a manner of speaking.

I didn't think it looked that bad, but then I suppose I got used to it. My best friend Abel didn't see the big deal either, but then he'd known me since before the accident.

By the time I turned 17, I was well and truly used to the usual reactions to my patch. First came surprise, next came morbid curiousity, and if the morbid curiousity was fulfilled, generally disgust or pity was soon to follow, with or without stupid puns involving eyes and sight to make the more insecure feel better about themselves.

Sometimes if their reaction annoyed me, I provided a top ten list of the bad jokes myself, and they would usually be embarrassed enough to leave.

So imagine my utter shock when I met Hayden, a guy who didn't even seem to notice the bloody thing.

At first I thought he might just be short-sighted. But then about three months after we had both been introduced at my friend Katarna's 18th, when asked directly about it by my cousin Jesse, he made a random comment about how he liked my leather stamp patch the best, because it looked the most comfortable.

My reaction to that at the time was "...Huh."

My sisters have declared that this moment marked the turnaround in our relationship, but really, it was the time I decided to help him out with a problem of his and the amount of time we spent together as a consequence that caused me, Sonya "Pirate" Kalasnikoff with my ironic penchant for bandannas and Hayden "Otis" Farrier to become the "...whatever you've been smoking, I seriously want some, no seriously... they just can't be going out!" couple of our little community of Banksia Creek.

And I suppose I can kinda understand where they were coming from. Years of being judged according to a trait that I neither liked nor could help had caused me to become what my friends termed "abrasive" and my less than friendly acquaintances termed "fucking nasty" when provoked, not to mention fairly reserved around people I didn't know.

Hayden, on the other hand, was one of those guys who was genuinely popular. Not in that godawful status seeking Hollywood bad teen movie way, it was just... impossible to dislike him really. Not that I generally go looking for flaws in people, but to be honest, Hayden's only real flaw as such was a habit of dressing like a total mother's boy at times, which was very funny to anyone who actually knew his mother, a woman who would much prefer her sons to wear army fatigues and leather jackets than what my Gran used to call "a nice, sensible button-down shirt".

But then, Mrs. Olivia Farrier was the realistic version of what Rosie the Riveter from those old WWII posters would have looked like after 20 years plus of slaving over smelting irons and blowtorches. A handsome enough lady, but tough as nails, and biceps that would make your average he-man green with envy.

Or white with terror. Take your pick.

As the son of the resident heavy machinery repairer, if guys are supposed to marry girls who remind them of their mothers (if you believe the talking head shrinks), then I suppose it wasn't really that surprising that Hayden liked me, a female (I resent the term "girl" when applied to any female over 15, and "woman" sounds too old) who took my tomboy phase into adulthood.

The fact that I was a blackbelt in Tae-kwon-do (courtesy of my favourite Uncle Istvan of course,) and played the drums with an energetic passion that baffled my concert pianist/violist younger sisters can't have hurt either.

Hayden explained to me once (after three cans of bourbon and cola) that the dress-sense had originally been an unconventional form of teen rebellion, that had blossomed into a style that he soon found too comfortable to change.

Well, seeing as my dress-sense was a mixture of jeans, an absurdly large range of obnoxiously colourful tops with or without slogans and a different eyepatch cover for every day of the month, I figured that I couldn't really talk.

Before Hayden, I had never really dated. Sure, plenty of guys had asked me out as a dare, and I had even shocked a few by taking them up on their offers and then, having had an awesome time making a fool of myself and them, making them see the light, then dumping them in a spectacularly public fashion... but I had never really met anyone I felt serious about, or who seemed to feel seriously about me.

So I had been completely flabberghasted when Hayden first asked me out. I had gotten so used to the idea of always having plenty of guys who were friends, but never a boy to call my own, that I had been half-seriously wondering if I should experiment with lesbianism when Hayden, after much beating around the bush, (this tendency being his only other flaw of sorts,) asked me to go with him to see a live African drumming concert, and then left me with a kiss goodnight that nearly made me drop from the combination of surprise and his wonderful technique.

When I finally managed to get my seratonin levels low enough for coherent thought in the wake of that mind-blow of a kiss, I'd demanded to know who'd taught him to kiss like that. He'd been startled, but he'd eventually blurted out the name of some girl he'd dated for a month or so when he had been living with his father in the city.

As soon as I wrangled her contact details from him, I sent her a massive box of chocolates, and a note of thanks. We're good Instant Messenger mates now.

Sorry, what was that? Oh, what problem was it that I helped Hayden with? Oh, well it was simple really. Hold your horses, I'll get to it in a minute.

As I mentioned before, up until about half-way through year 11, Hayden had gone to school in Sydney, first making the commute with his Dad when he drove to work as a High School Industrial Tech teacher, and then later living about sixty percent of the time at his maternal Grandma's house (apparently her daughter was her spitting image attitude-wise) so that he could do rowing as a sport. Seeing as practices were at six in the morning, it would have been ridiculous for him to make the one and a half hour (assuming there was no traffic,) commute every morning just to train, so the arrangement worked out pretty well... right up until the point where Grandma Justine (as she'd always insisted she be called,) turned out to be developing senile dementia, and so had to be put in a home.

This, coupled with the fact that his father had just managed to wrangle a transfer to Wattle Heights High, the school that all us Banksians attended 20 km away in the next town, was enough for Hayden to decide to move out here, location somewhat south of Whoop Whoop. Apparently his school over Sydney way had been your classic rich-snob place, and he had been heartily sick of listening to his "friends" comparing Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari, as well as whether Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur were the best places to go for pirated DVDs when on overseas holiday. His father drove the stereotypical ute, and none of his family had left Australia since their ancestors hit soil, so Hayden had never really had a heap in common with his classmates, despite having friends all over the place due to both his inexhaustible cheerfulness and his involvement in both the rowing programme and a rockband called "Milos and Otis".

Which brings me to the problem that Hayden wanted my help with.

Hayden was a bass guitar player.

Trouble was, now that the rest of his band (Milo Gorming and Milo Hardy, their parents muct have hated them,) were left back in Syd, poor Otis had no one to play with.

Which was the main reason why he decided, upon the instigation of our mutual friend Vince Paul, to approach me upon that fateful Friday afternoon.

I had had an absolute bitch of a day that day. I'd got to school barely on time due to my bomb breaking down in the middle of nowhere, (yes they let me drive, checking blindspots is a bitch, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with my remaining eye,) had the sub demand that I remove my patch (lime green with crystalline beads) because it was "distracting" (not as distracting as my gorgeous scar, let me tell you. The stupid prick let me put it back on after I let him have a glimpse of my sightless orb), had some random junior address me as "Summers" (from the Xman, duh,) and last but definitely not least, at lunch I discovered simultaneously that my lunch had been left on the bench at home, and I was flat broke.

So it was, that when this cute guy came strolling up to where I was sitting hunched moodily at the edge of my group of friends, I really wasn't in the mood for any human interaction.

"Hi," he said, smiling nervously.

Flicking my long razored fringe away from my face to reveal my, as aforementioned, fairly loud eyepatch, I glared up at him.

"What?"

His eyes widened a little when he saw my face, and I assumed that he, like most people, was shocked by my patch.

"Look, if you're gonna just sit there and stare, then you can push off, 'kay? You wanna gawk, you can drive down to the zoo."

Looking instantly contrite, he hastily apologised, but I waved him off with a grunt of annoyance.

"Don't worry, I'm used to it. It's not everyday that you get to meet a gorgeous underwear model like myself," I said, daring him to comment. The strangest expression crossed his face, but he wisely decided to let that one slide. Later, I wondered at that. The guy was biting his lip now, and obviously slightly nervous, so I decided to put him out of his misery.

"So, you going to leave or sit down? Because if it's all the same to you, I'd rather you didn't just hang there like a lost dog."

To my amazement, and the amazement of my friends, (who having had long experience with me in this kind of mood, had decided to let me deal with the newcomer,) Cute Guy actually laughed at that.

"What?"

Sitting down on the vacant spot across from me, he grinned, looking me in the eye as he said, "Long story. You got time?"

I rolled my eye.

"Just give me the abridged version. This isn't a Russian winter."

His grin widened, if possible, and I noticed that he had a chipped tooth on the top left of his jaw.

The abridged version of his abridged version of events was that back in Syd, he'd been part of a band with two guys named Milo. No one was particularly sure who had been the one to start calling Hayden "Otis", but it had stuck, much to Hayden's mixed amusement and annoyance.

It was at this point that my interest was piqued. Obviously someone had mentioned to him the band that I was chief decision-maker of, if only because I was the best at getting people to sit down, shut up, and listen to my point of view. An excellent skill to have when dealing with people who had gig-worthy venues, let me tell you. We were "Frogmouth" and we mostly did covers of whatever was decent and popular, as well as a couple of originals that various band members had managed to flesh out until they were actually worthy of a discerning audience.

"So what do you play?" I asked, hoping that he wouldn't say something awkward like "banjo" or "piano accordion", and yet half-expecting it.

The way he was dressed, he probably played harmonica.

From the laughter in his expression, I got the feeling that he was guessing my thoughts. "I can play practically anything guitar-shaped, but I prefer bass."

"Can you read music?" Whilst not always necessary, generally an ability to read music was a good indicator of some musical intelligence.

"Yeah, of course." He almost sounded insulted.

"Can you improv worth a damn?" By this point I had decided to listen to what he could do anyway, but this would be a decent measure of how precious he was about his abilities. There were few things more irritating than a wannabe with big opinions of their own ability, no matter how good they were.

"The last time I auditioned, they just said 'okay'."

I shrugged. "Well if you're any good, then yeah, we could use you. Samuel can barely play bass anyway- he's a much better singer."

Deciding in my typical form to strike whilst the iron was hot, I stood up then, yanking at Cute Guy's sleeve. As I shepherded, (okay, dragged,) him towards the music room with its old beaten-up P.A. System and similarly outdated instruments, I realised that I hadn't got Cute Guy's name.

"Who are you again?"

He grinned again, and I wondered what was so entertaining about being asked your name.

"Hayden Farrier. But like I said before, friends call me Otis."

Why did he want to share names with a fictional dog? I shrugged internally, deciding that this guy was a few bats short of a belfry.

I had no idea.

So anyway, Hayden picks up the beaten-up, old donated bass guitar, and plucks a couple of strings.

Winces.

"Wow, when was the last time anyone tuned this thing?" he asked, immediately beginning to fiddle with the machine heads (that's tuning pegs for you non-musical folk).

I shrugged. "I think Year 9 just finished using this room. Chances are that it at least started today in tune. Luckily they didn't snap any strings today- that's always a bitch."

Hayden nodded thoughtfully, muttering something about preferring his own, but that this old "basher" would have to do.

Having watched him spend the last five minutes or so fiddling around, I was on the edge of losing my patience and demanding that he hurried up already and showed me what he could do. Unless he was all talk.

Just as I opened my mouth to demand as much, Hayden looked up at me, gave me one of those knowing grins, as if to say, "I know exactly what you're thinking", and then began to play.

He was awesome.

I don't mean awesome like that sarcastic, "'what you been doing?' 'sleeping' 'awesome'".

God no.

No, Hayden was almost as good a bass player as he was a kisser, that is to say, knee-collapsingly jaw-on-the-floor-inducing levels of awesome.

As in, holymotherofbasslineswhothehellisthisguy?!

After he finished, there was this amazing silence. The one thing that I've always loved about playing a really heart-stoppingly good piece is that moment, those last few seconds between the crash of an ending and the audience collectively realising that "Oh, right, they've finished... that was fucking AWESOME!"

Yeah, it was one of those silences.

Whoa okay. Suddenly I understood what whoever Hayden had last auditioned for had mean.

Hayden broke the silence then, by laughing awkwardly, then asking, "So, am I good enough to be in Frogmouth?"

I blinked. Frogmouth? Oh yeah, that's what my band's called. And this guy, who has just completely blown me and everyone in the vicinity away, is asking to be in it in that awkward tone.

I breathed out, still floored, then said weakly, "Yeah, you'll do." At the sight of Hayden's slightly wary look, I burst out laughing.

"Are you kidding me?" I chuckled, "Seriously man, if my bandmates were here, then they'd be begging you on bended knee."

"She's not joking," said Jesse, speaking for the rest of the band, who must've heard through the school's amazingly efficient grapevine (hey, we're from the bush, what do you expect?) about this impromptu audition.

One delirious victory-dance later, during which there was much shaking of hands and slapping of backs, and I couldn't have denied Hayden membership even if I wanted to.

Seeing as I wasn't deaf, blind or stupid, I didn't see that this would be a problem.

I'm sure that by now, you are wondering what I meant by my first sentence about "chauvinistic pigs of squint-eyed dickbrains".

How on Earth could that sentence have any linkage to Sweetheart Hayden of Kiss and Bass Fame?

You really want to know?

Well, I suppose it was the main reason I began to write this account.

You have to keep it to yourself though- if anyone found out that it was me, then forget paddles, I'd be up shitcreek without a boat, tied upside-down to a floating log.

Somehow I don't reckon pulling Belinda the Ragdoll out of storage would impress the jury this time.

It was after a particularly late gig. Hayden and I had known each other for maybe eighteen months, and we had been dating for about a fortnight. We were very much in the deliciously awkward honeymoon kinda phase, as although we knew one another fairly well by this point, equilibrium between the two of us as a couple was still being established.

The fact that school had just finished, and we were currently being driven mad by the month or so wait for our HSC results was just an added bonus.

Anyway, so Frogmouth had played for a screamingly enthusiastic audience until about half-past one, and having packed all the gear, including my drums into the back of Jesse and Abel's joint-owned panel van, Hayden and I had elected to make our own way home by walking to my Uncle Istvan's place on the outskirts of the town we had played in that night. The plan was to either crash at his place, or borrow Vannie's car (he never owned a van, sadly enough,) to drive home.

We'd been walking for maybe 15 minutes in near-darkness, listening with an earphone each to some old '80s band on Hayden's Ipod, but otherwise trudging along in comfortable silence. It was about this point in time that I heard a wolf-whistle.

I turned instinctively at the noise, and saw a gang of four guys, wearing what they obviously thought was "badass" gear, try-hard skater shoes and black and yellow tracksuits emblazoned with names of American cities on all.

Within a few seconds, they had surrounded us in a loose circle.

Lovely.

Still listening to the guitar line on the Ipod, I paused, Hayden doing likewise, gripping my hand slightly, trying to reassure me.

The funny part was, I was much more worried about him.

After a few seconds silence, Hayden, being Hayden, decided to try the friendly approach.

"Hey guys, nice night, isn't it?"

The one to my left, a coolly handsome blonde with a large rhinestone in his ear, snickered maliciously, but it was the guy to my right who spoke, a guy who, despite the summer heat, was wearing a leather jacket covered in patches.

"Here's the deal. You hand over the Ipod, any cash you have on you, and your mobile phones, and we can keep this night nice for all of us. We get your belongings, and you and your girlfriend get to walk away unhurt."

Definite try-hard, I thought, and though I was attempting to keep my expression blank, he must have seen some of my contempt, because he leered at me.

He was a little shocked when I pretended to leer a little right back.

I felt Hayden try to let go of my hand so that he could go through with their demands, but I grabbed his wrist and smiled at him, before turning to Try-hard.

"Now, now boys, I'm sure we can come to some sort of deal here. How about..." I surreptitiously stepped into a stance, "you boys fuck off, and we don't call the police."

"Big words from a little girl." Try-hard was probably a foot taller than me, and used it to his advantage as he suddenly loomed over me.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I decided to warn them. It was probably futile, but I figured I'd give them one last chance.

"This is your last chance, boys. Back off now, and no one gets hurt. You touch me, or my lover, and you will not be happy with the consequences."

The look Try-hard gave me made me feel greasy all over, and it was in disgust that I shivered when he leaned in close and breathed into my ear obscenities that made my skin crawl. He finished in a louder voice, winking over at his cronies, "I never fucked a one-eyed chick before. Maybe that'd teach her a few manners, what'd'ya say, boys?"

It was at that moment of distraction that I struck, kneeing Try-hard in the groin with as much power as I could muster.

Bullseye.

Tryhard crumpled with a stricken gasp of "you bitch!" before I broke his nose with a repeat of the same move.

Stupid git.

Shoving their leader to the ground, I spun, and growled, standing in my favourite sparring pose, positioning myself so I could watch the cronies, who were still surrounding a completely gob-smacked Hayden.

They were pretty shocked too, and so I decided to act while they were still unbalanced.

I took a menacing step forward, and that was my first mistake.

"How about you guys take this opportunity to get lost, hey? That sound alright to you?" My voice was deliberately condescending, and had their leader not grabbed my ankle at that second, things would have gone a lot smoother.

Apparently he was tougher than he looked.

Damn.

I turned and jerked myself out of his grip, kicking his hand as I wrenched away, but as I did that, the cronies decided to grab Hayden.

Fuck.

This wasn't good.

To prevent any more ankle grabbing, I kicked my previous opponent in the head. He went out like a light, but not before I saw one of the cronies hit a struggling Hayden in the jaw.

Swiftly, I moved behind him, and kicked him in the head.

He dropped to the ground, swearing, and that was when blondie, the guy with the earring I had observed earlier, decided to pull out a knife.

Definitely. Not. My. Day.

Now was not the time for hesitation. I leapt.

The thing about your average tough is that he'll rely on superior size and numbers to beat you. Their arsenal is almost completely composed of false-confidence and scare-tactics.

Since a significant proportion of them have come from abusive households, it's the only way they know how to function... which might inspire sympathy in some touchy-feely social worker, but I can't say it's ever cut any ice with me.

So your life is shit. Whose isn't? Learn to deal with it.

Now, I know a real lady would step back and try to rise above the situation, to avoid conflict.

But where's the fun in that?

Where was I?

Oh yeah, kicking butt.

Literally.

So anyway, Blondie pulls out a knife, which I kick out of his hand, before kicking him in the hip in a slightly mis-aimed attempt to throw him off balance.

He does the easy thing, and drops to avoid the massive bruise I'm trying to leave on him, but to my immediate glee, he falls back into the shins of the taller of the two holding Hayden. Taller Guy stumbles, loses his grip on Hayden, who immediately uses the inertia of his latest struggle to shove his entire body weight into Shorter Guy, a guy who appears to have a filthy mop implanted onto his scalp. Either that, or he has wicked-bad dreadlocks.

Meh, I preferred the first theory.

Anyway, Mop Head hits the dirt, pulling Hayden down with him, but only really accomplishing making himself Hayden's cushion. The air is audibly knocked out of Mop Head, but Hayden leaps to his feet.

"Run for it!" He yells, but apart from moving in the direction of escape, he doesn't follow his own advice of exiting stage left.

As it is, at this point, running would have been fine in my books, had it not been for the fact that Blondie and Taller-but-as-yet-relatively-generic Tough picked this exact moment to rush me simultaneously.

If I hadn't been a little preoccupied at the time, I might have been annoyed.

As it was, a glass bottle chose that instant in time to fly through the air in a trajectory that narrowly missed my head, nonetheless giving the Tough-previously-with-no-distinguishing-features a bloody nose. Blinded by the instantaneous tears that such a blow causes, Bloody Nose stumbled into Blondie, and so with a well-placed shove, I was able to send both of them over again.

I cast a look over to where Hayden was anxiously standing, another old bottle ready to throw.

Leaping over groaning forms, I landed about a metre from him.

Grinned at him.

"Okay, now let's RUN!"

We took off, bolting down the street, then shot around the corner, missing a group of road workers just finishing their shift by some miracle of the god of dramatic getaways.

Okay, so maybe Hayden nearly tripped over the dilapidated foam esky they had, and I might have kicked over someone's empty thermos, but still, it was a relatively smooth getaway, particularly as Uncle Istvan's place was only a half-block away.

Suffice to say, that by the time the trolls chasing us got past the (by that point fairly irritated) road workers, Hayden and I were safely inside the hallway of my Uncle's house, laughing the delirious laugh of people who have just escaped injury.

It was as we leaned against the dusty drywall, giggling helplessly at the sounds of Uncle Istvan getting up to see what the racket was, when Hayden turned to me and grinned that adorable grin of his.

"So this is what Jesse meant about not needing to kick my arse if I upset you."

I cocked my head at him, allowing the razored tips of my fringe descend over my patch, inwardly hoping that I hadn't scared him off, whilst outwardly wearing my favourite sardonic smile.

In one smooth motion, Hayden leant in closer to me, tentatively resting his hand against my cheek, studying my features with the same intense look he got when he tuned his favourite bass guitar.

I looked him straight in the eye and bared my teeth a little.

"No one touches my lover but me. Think you can roll with that?"

Apparently taken aback a little, Hayden ducked his head and laughed again at that.

Still snickering, he grinned at me, stroking the skin beneath my earlobe with his thumb and looking me so deep in the eye I swear he could see my soul.

"Yeah, I reckon I'll survive."

And with that he proceeded to snog the life out of me, and probably would have continued for at least a good ten minutes, had it not been for the sudden intrusion of my Uncle Istvan stumbling almost on top of us as he came out to investigate the disturbance.

"Um... can you kids not practice your babymaking skills in my hallway? And what's with the noise? Some of us have to work in the morning," he groaned with a yawn.

Heh, oops.