a town in the north of England there lived a girl. The town was built
of towering stacks and the unrelenting brick of mills and terraces,
the ghosts of prouder days when cotton was King. It was situated in
a steep sided valley, ringed around by grim moorland hills, so that
wherever you went in the town you were forced to climb a street which
was practically perpendicular. It seemed that it was always raining
in Blackrook, though of course it wasnt, and sometimes it was
known for the sun to shine. The girl had many dreams, the greatest of
these was simply escape, and no return.
She was sixteen years old. Im bored, Im so bored.
I wish, I want for something to happen.
She was warned that these were dangerous words. If you wish, it might
happen, they said.
Im not afraid, she declared loudly, deciding there
to write her own temptation to fate, invite life to kick-in, crash start.
I will live and love and laugh, she promised herself. I
will ride the whirlwind (not the number three bus). I shall be brave
and bold and good. No one shall dare call me ordinary or naive.
She wrote a plan for life, in which she had achieved fame and fabulous
fortune by the age of twenty-one, and placed an advertisement in her
local newspaper, The Blackrook Bugle.
Lily K. Randall
Writer, Historian, Philosopher
Adventurer and Investigator
Having issued her declaration to the world, or at least to the world
she knew, the girl awaited the worlds response.
That was me. Lily Kate Randall, Adventuress Extroadinaire.
I dont know what happened to her.
Lily Kate Randall at twenty-two: In my grandmothers bathroom,
the mirrored tiles reflected my image, distorted. I closed my eyes,
rather than look. I rested my palms on the edge of the sink, and my
forehead on the cool tiles.
Rachel. Rachel. Rachel. I repeated, not outloud.
My stomach was bloated,, my head nauseous, spinning. I shouldnt
eat the chocolate, I thought. Not in summer. Ill stop
I drew a breath, drew myself upright, walked back down the steep stairs,
thinking gran should sell up and move into a bungalow. Thinking I would
mention it to my father. In the living room my grandmother sat in her
arm chair by the gas fire. She had been talking about the past, before
I had gone upstairs.
Would you like another cup of tea? She asked.
I shook my head. I dont feel too well.
Its nothing, I said quickly. Gran looked concerned,
and I regretted saying anything. It was nothing. I shouldnt
have eaten the chocolate.
Gran still bought us chocolate and coca-cola, on the off chance we would
call in on our way somewhere. Of her grown up grandchildren, I was her
most regular visitor. She still looked concerned as I gathered my things
Have you got everything? What are you doing now? Maybe you wont
be well enough for Taras party tonight?
Im fine, gran really, I said. I just have to
go and get Bethy from nursery. Ill see you later.
Its going to be very posh. There was a tremor in her
I smiled and hugged her. Youll be the guest of honour.Why
dont you tell me about her?
I was on the street outside grans terraced house. It was a hot
day, early afternoon. The kids in the houses next door were not yet
back from school. Next week they would begin their summer holiday, circling
their pavement territory on bicycles, skateboards and roller blades.
Today was my mothers birthday. It would have been my mothers
birthday. My cousin Tara hadnt thought of that when she arranged
her engagement party. Nobody thought of that as far as I could tell.
Rachel Karen Randall, formerly Eastwood, wife of Charles Randall, and
mother of four, had died aged thirty two, when I was two years old.
I was asleep when my brother returned to the house, in my habitual chair
in the shuttered living room. He woke me by shaking my arm insistently.
Dad back yet?
I was dreaming, I protested.
Dad? David repeated.
He called, he said hed be late at a meeting at the town
hall, I said, focusing, squinting in the filtered sunlight.
What did you dream? My brothers friend Jack looked slightly
embarrassed by his question as I noticed him for the first time. I didnt
consider him worthy of any especial greeting, any more than David. Jack
very often was in our house. He was a trainee Solicitor at a firm in
Manchester. We tended to believe he came around purposefully to be a
living example of How His Children Should Have Been in my fathers frequent
lectures. Presumably, though, Jack did live it up occasionally, and
could be bad, and even a lad, or he would not have been such a good
friend of Davids all these years.
I didnt say what my dream was. David of course, didnt wait
for an answer.
Jacks coming with us to the party tonight.
I nodded, struggling to get up, prevented by the dead weight asleep
across my legs with a book over her head. I had forgotten about my three
year old niece Beth. When I fell asleep while reading her story, she
must have given up on me awaking and gone to sleep herself. The child
was unnaturally well behaved for a member of the Randall family. Pushing
my curled and fizzing legs out from under me, I did not disturb Elizabeth.
She slept soundly on, one whole hand in her mouth, and I was able to
lift her gently and put her down again on the sofa without waking her.
We tiptoed from the front room.
Have you been shopping today, Lil? David can sound fairly
plaintive for a twenty-three year old. He began before we arrived in
the kitchen. There we found our oldest brother Mac had already arrived
home from work. He was drinking beer from the fridge, and David pulled
out cans for himself and Jack.
While the fridge door was open, the distinct lack of food was noted.
I just glared. Everyone knows I hate to be called Lil.
Lily! Youve had the car all day. And its your turn!
Look at the rota.
It was probably true. Irritatingly, I had devised the rota myself in
the hope of inflicting some kind of domesticity on my feckless brothers
and father. It still seemed to be perpetually my turn.
Theres a sit down dinner at the party tonight. Probably
five courses, if we know our cous at all, I defended myself.
Not for hours. And there isnt a single edible thing in the
house. Its embarrassing when, look! We have company.
Where? Oh, Jack. Hey, Jack. Mac said, grinning. Hows
I got out a beer for myself. I didnt think it could make me feel
Cool, Jack was loosening his tie. Ready to party tonight?
Mac shook his head. I havent got a babysitter.
Mac was pretty hopeless, even I had to admit, but difficult to dislike,
although in the last year he had become distinctly unsociable and miserable.
It was one year since Steph had left Mac and their daughter, clearing
their bank accounts and forcing him to move back into the attic of our
fathers house and rebuild his window cleaning business from scratch.
She even took Macs truck - he had to give up his flat to buy a
new one. By the time we had all realised she wasnt going to come
back, we had grown too weary of the subject to blame her.
All of us were a disappointment to our father. With four children, he
had hoped to have a fleet of doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs making
their way in the world. Instead, he had us. Summer reminded me it was
one year since I had graduated, and I really should have done something
by now. I was still living at home, and for a year I had worked two
very part time jobs - one as a waitress, and the other in a book shop
- and filled in the in between times with doing things that didnt
help me much. I had felt stalled so long, I was afraid of moving.
Ill order takeaway Pizza later, Mac said, getting
up from the kitchen table. Wheres Beth?
I told him she was asleep in the living room, and he shambled away to
bring things in from his truck.
David had seated himself on the kitchen counter, and begun to look around
You know, theres something different here. Something different
I waited while he went into his familiar routine. He thinks hes
a comedian, a wide boy. Since he dropped out of a degree in Social Sciences
at Liverpool University, his profession has been undefined, but he has
established himself as the person to see in Blackrook if you want something,
anything at all at a lesser price than it would be through conventional
outlets, and you arent too particular where it came from. He knows
everyone, he has a mobile phone which constantly rings the theme from
Star Wars, he can be very endearing when he wants to be. He got my red
Capri for £300, and it doesnt break down too often.
Youve been cleaning, havent you Lily? Dave accused.
So whats the crisis?
The rota... I began.
No. You only clean like this when theres a crisis, something
else you should be thinking about. Shouldnt you have been at work
You do lunch at Alfs on Fridays dont you?
I considered the dramatic statement, I quit, but dismissed
it as too American.
I decided not to work there anymore last night, I said.
Really? You werent sacked? Dave asked.
He was impressed. I may have been the worst waitress in Blackrook, but
I had got away with it for the last five years. It was the new manager
accosting me in the dry store room which had brought me to breaking
point, but I wasnt going to tell them about that.
Ive decided its time I searched for that graduate
job, I told them.
Dad will be pleased, Dave warned.
Well, dont tell him that. I wouldnt want to raise
his expectations too high.
Jack changed the subject. What are your plans for the night, Lily?
Youll be going to Tara and Ollies party, wont you?
The social event of the year? I grin at him. Oh, I
think so. Although...There is a house party on the Sharne Road, and
it will be difficult for Zoe, Jess and me to abandon the Cav and the
Revidge run on a Friday night...Oh, but I can wear the sweetest dress
I bought in Kendalls sale which is really too good for the Cav...and
how can we resist the lure of all that free champagne? I stopped
and sighed, feeling a little breathless.
Oh, I just dont know which ball to go to, and look, Ive
lost my magic slipper too, whatever is a girl to do? Jack impersonated
me with a camp and unlikely Scottish accent. Youre such
a princess, Lily.
I spent my days scrubbing floors, de-fleaing the cat, looking after
my motherless niece and being nice to horribly rude customers. I did
not feel like a Princess.
Im going to have a shower, I said, and left them to
scavenge for pre-dinner snacks.
In my bedroom, I
called Zoe on my mobile.
Girlfriend, I said, when she answered. We had been overly
influenced by the film Clueless a few years before, and
hadnt abandoned the joke yet.
Hey, Lily. Whats happening?
You still want to come to Taras party?
Yeah. Is that OK?
Oh yeah, of course. Tara knows not to expect the Randalls
without entourage. Besides, Macs not coming, and Ben probably
Great. Ill call Jess.
Cool. Come round here when youre ready - Ive only
just had a shower - but I think well be leaving around eight.
What are you wearing? Zoe always asked this.
I always answered in the same way, with a wail. Jack knocked on my bedroom
door. I opened it, in my dressing gown, hair wet still.
Do you want some Pizza? he asked, holding out the greasy
I shook my head, Im not hungry.
He smiled. Are you OK, Lily?
Yes. I said. Yeah, Im sorry, Im tired.
I fell asleep a minute.
I could hear Beth crying below.
Shes hungry, Jack explained. She doesnt
Oh, I felt guilty. It really was my turn to go shopping.
The only thing that was always in plentiful supply in our house was
alcohol and weed. Not the best for a three year old girl. Ill
come down and find something for her.
I think I saw Mac doing something with frozen fish fingers.
I looked hopeful.
He dropped them in the cat litter tray.
Oh I repeated, sighing, moving out the door. Ill
make her some Readybreak.
Is that good for a growing girl? Jack asked.
I shook my head. Ive stopped growing.
Jack laughed politely at my joke.
She had it for lunch and liked it. I added.
Jack still thought I was joking, and I suddenly wanted to cry.
Its OK, he said. I think Macs going to
take her with him in the truck, and do some shopping. Your Dads
home, he wants to see you.
Hes got taxis booked for eight, so youd better
What time is it? I suddenly panicked.
Quarter to, he had time to say before I shut the door on
Getting ready to
go out was a girl ritual, indispensable. The processes of makeup, creams,
face masks, and clothes, and the numerous orders in which they could
be tackled, always had a calming effect on me. I had to have straight
vodka by my side to be sipped slowly. At its optimum my lifestyle consisted
of recovering from the last party and getting ready for the next one,
although since I left University the necessity of earning some money
had begun to get in the way. But getting ready was a thing to be savoured
- I did not like to do it fast. I finished my makeup and pulled on the
dress, fast-blasting my hair with the Babyliss in an attempt to dry
it, but it was a short jagged cut which was meant to be slightly scruffy
and school-girl cute, so it didnt matter too much. Slipping my
feet into my favourite heels and downing my vodka, I had time for a
last look in the mirror, in which I decided the overall effect wasnt
too bad. Lily, a word please.
My dad got me as soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, and ushered
me into his study. He is an accountant, always wears a suit,always looks
displeased. The study was dark, the one place in the house which never
had any light. The walls were lined by reports and files and history
books I was never allowed to touch as a child. The only photograph was
a large black and white portrait which had belonged to my mother. Mac
told me once how much she hated to be photographed herself. This portrait
had the name of a Liverpool studio at a corner by its wooden frame.
It was of my mothers grandmother, Katherine Jane Ellis, as a girl, with
her family. She was beautiful, with beautiful eyes, and she stared relentlessly
at me then, over my fathers shoulder. He was wearing his dinner
jacket, ready for the evening.
Your brother tells me you have stopped working at that restaurant?
May I ask what you intend to do now?
Ive still got the book shop. I resented the way he
spoke to me, as if I were a child. I always tried to stay out of his
way as much as possible. I added, Ill find something else.
Someone has to look after Beth, remember.
I do remember. But that is hardly your responsibility.
I felt frustrated and angry. Whose responsibility was she, if not her
familys? He took little notice of her, and Mac had to work.
He seemed to read my mind, and continued. I realise Mac has to
earn a living, but so, Lily, do you. Could you afford rent on what you
I knew I didnt have to reply to any of his questions, because
my father was not the kind of person who bothered to wait and listen
to anyones reply when he was intent on making a speech.
Its not that I want you to leave home, Lily. I just feel
its too easy for you to be lazy here. He put his hand on
my shoulder, and tugged slightly at my hair, as if he were fond of me.
It was always a shock when he touched me. He had been a distant father.
Lily, youve always been my brightest hope, he said.
It was true, too. I was the only one of his children who had finished
school and college in one straight run, without dropping out once. Until
then, that was, after all that expensive education. I couldnt
help it, I didnt know what I wanted to do, and I couldnt
make myself get excited about jobs I didnt want to do. Ben was
the only vaguely career minded of us by that point. In a couple of years
time he could be managing a Safeway store.
I repeated the standard reply I always made to these inquisitions and
implorings. I hadnt yet decided what direction I wanted to take
my career in, and until I felt clearer, I didnt want to commit
myself. Dad looked sorrowful.
Well think about it, he said, and stopped tugging at my
hair. He stepped back, and examined me. This is a formal occasion,
you know, Lily. He sighed. I knew that while he would have liked
to have been able to impress the Eastwood-Tempest connection, he was
hoping mainly to get through the night without feeling entirely humiliated
by his family. I think he thought my look was more trashy than elegant,
although it actually wasnt so bad. He probably felt grateful that
the boys could be simply given the money to hire Tuxes.
Ill go and wait outside for the taxis, I said,
making an escape. Zoe and Jess should be here soon.
My father sighed deeply when he heard my partners in crime would also
be joining us.We lived in Wilpshire, in between the town and the Valley.
It was just inside the town boundaries, but only just, far enough away.
It had once been the place where mill owners built their mansions, away
from the masses, and the middle classes had followed to build leafy
avenues out of former farm tracks. The house our father bought just
over two decades ago when the property prices were low for big, drafty
old houses, was called Warren Holt, for reasons unknown. I sat on the
steps, beneath the porch in the warm evening air with the cat. It was
one of a clutch of big, Victorian detached Villas on Knowles Lane.
Originally, the intention had been to renovate, but instead it had simply
been maintained in a habitable state. It had been my mother, I suppose,
who had had the vision and flair for design. My father, always aspirational
and making ample profits in his accountancy firm, would have liked to
have had an elegant home to add to his other status symbols - Mercedes,
Golf Club membership, Rotary Club and town counsellor - but he had given
way in the face of the young people who had swarmed under his roof and
showed no sign of ever leaving, and hidden in his study. He had never
known what his children were really doing when we were growing up, emerging
only occasionally to bawl about homework, and now seemed perpetually
puzzled at his lack of influence over our destinies. When I sat waiting
to go to Taras engagement party, the house was painted a garish
and peeling shade of salmon pink, while the woodwork was an equally
peeling contrasting emerald green. The drive was filled mainly by dilapidated
cars which Mac and Dave bought at knock down prices, did up slightly
and sold on. It was another source of income.Zoe and Jess arrived in
Zoes Beatle, which she squeezed into the drive too, at the same
time as the first taxi. I waved and yelled to my family, before running
to hug them. I hadnt seen them since the weekend before. Zoe,
Jess and I had been friends forever, and while other school friends
had dropped along the way, we three remained a steady triumvirate, kept
in contact mainly through the mobile phone. Zoe, too pretty and attractive
and sweet natured for her own good, wore transparent lengths of blue,
held together somehow by a web of thin straps. Jess, the loudest of
us, had outdone herself by wearing pink. Together, I felt confident,
we could always be impressive, invincible. I led them
towards the taxi.
Theres another on the way, isnt there? I asked
the driver. Well leave Dave and Jack to go with Dad, then.
Is Jack coming too? Jess asked.
I nodded. How was work?
They both pulled faces about their nine to five office slavery. Zoe
had an assistant marketing position at the Head Quarters of a national
removal company, which was bizarrely located in Blackrook. She was saving
to travel the world, and after that she wanted to go into PR. Jess was
commuting into Manchester, temping for an agency, and wasnt saving
How about you?
I told them I had quit the waitressing part of my employment, and for
the rest of the journey I was pressed for the details I wouldnt
tell my family.Tara Eastwood was the daughter of my mothers brother,
Robert Eastwood. A lawyer, he was a big friend of my fathers, and always
has been. Tara was eighteen months older than me, and all our lives
it had been assumed we would be good friends. We both maintained this
lie, although we had little in common, and Tara blatantly looked down
on me. She had the unfailing ability to make me feel defensive and on
edge. She was a trainee accountant for a very big firm in Manchester.
Her ice blonde beauty would attract men, but her personality repelled
them as fast. She irritated and frightened in about equal measures.
My father wished I would be more like her. Organised, tidy minded, focused.
She was about to marry Oliver Tempest, the only son of the Tempest family
who owned the Blackrook brewery of the same name, and half the pubs
in East Lancashire. They were millionaires. I wouldnt suggest
my cousin Tara was cold hearted, she certainly thought she was in love,
but she did have a habit of falling in love in a way which was advantageous
to her status and finances. She had been insistent that her engagement
party be held at an impressive venue.
Kistowe Hall was a castle. There was no point in attempting to describe
it in any other way. The taxi turned into its straight drive which climbed
the distant hill on which the turrets perched. We were dropped inside
the first, outer courtyard, and as we passed through the second inner
gatehouse, we saw dead grouse lying on the stone bench, and all along
the cobbles. I smirked for Taras much mentioned vegetarianism.
There had been a castle there for over a thousand years, and the Kistowe
family had been there almost as long. Theirs was older money than
the Tempests, or any of their guests, could muster. They hired their
great hall out for parties but made few concessions - it was faded,
old worlde charm they sold to the gullible.
Inside we were offered punch, warm and cindery. I had been many times
before. On one visit with school, Sir Bernard de Kistowe had nearly
been in tears when he showed us the room in which his ancestor had lost
most of Merseyside in a game of cards, a year or so before the Industrial
Revolution kicked off. The family fortunes had declined to consist of
just the hall and some of the farms which surrounded it, and a recently
lost seat in the house of lords. I was fond of the way the walls creaked
and the roof leaked.
Tara surged forward to greet us. She was clearly in magnanimous mood.
Hia! Brilliant. Is that a new dress? Very nice. Youve brought
Zoe and Jess, I thought you would. Just a minute, Ollie! Wheres
We let Tara totter away. Zoe and Jess had in fact had invitations in
their own right. Tara had been only a year ahead of us in school, and
she liked to pretend she had more friends than she did.
What, no feather boas? Oliver Tempest put an arm around
me, and another on Zoe. I was relying on you girls to put some
life in this party. He was very good looking, a perfect match
for Tara in so many ways. He always struck me as aloof, but tonight
he was in his charming mode, and about as genuine as a viper. Ill
get you three something stronger, he said, spying our empty glasses,
We were left to stand and talk, while people took photographs before
gothic fire places, coats of arms and the heads of things which had
been shot. I saw my gran was sat down, being talked at by Oliver Tempests
mother and looking anxious, so I went to rescue her.
Have you seen Tara? Gran asked.
Yeah, she said hello. Shes a lot of people to speak to,
I think there s something she wants to ask you.
I could hear my father had arrived. Of course, shell be
honoured, he was saying to Uncle Robert and Tara. The group came
towards us, Dave hugging gran, who exclaimed she thought he had grown
since the last time she saw him.
I want you to be my bridesmaid, Tara said to me. I clearly
wasnt being asked if I would like to be or not. I struggled for
words, as Ollie passed me a glass of wine. I gulped gratefully.
Isnt that wonderful? My father beamed.
Its so nice, when youre cousins and such good friends
too. I almost suspected my Aunt Barbara of sniffing back tears.
I could see that Taras younger sister Caren was sniggering at
me, delighted that she would not be suffering alone. There was no means
Thank you! Tara gushed, throwing her arms around my neck.
She squealed, Im so excited, youll have to come round
for a dress fitting and shopping soon, well make whole days of
it, Ill get time off work.
Tara was at her most dangerous when she was friendly, sugary sweet.
I knew from experience there was usually poison in the pill somewhere.
Someone had asked her what she had in mind for the dresses. Well,
I want something quite modern... she began.
Jess pulled me forcibly back from the group by the straps of my dress.
What if she puts you all in one of her tweak dresses?
She hissed in my ear. I maintained a fixed smile, and tried to edge
further from the group. Tara was famous for wearing tiny strapless tube
dresses which she simply couldnt carry off, physically or stylistically.
By the end of the night when she was drunk, her initial lady-like tweaks
to make sure it stayed up, had turned into energetic wrenching at the
top, causing the hem line to shoot higher, and the strapless bra to
become a visible line around her waist. I grinned at the memory.
I was pulled back into the group by Tara. Lily! Youve brought
Jack! She exclaimed. I noticed at that point that Jack was infact,
stood quite close to me.
Well, he came with us, I said.
Tara smiled. Dont you think she looks nice? she demanded.
Dont you think shell look nice in pink? Shes
going to be my bridesmaid. There was another squeal.
Youre not looking bad yourself Tar, he said. So
whens this wedding of yours?
September fifteenth, at one pm, at Saint Saviours,
Tara replied, with sudden precision. Are you coming?
If you invite me. You dont believe in long engagements do
Oh, you know, Tara said, giggling falsely and turning back
I wont miss the chance of seeing Lily in pink, Jack
said to me. Wasnt there a song about that?
It was about a pig, I said.
I overheard Aunt Barbara talking loudly to Mrs Tempest. Well,
itll be so good to have someone so dark, in contrast to Tara.
Lilys skin is quite...dour, so itll off set Tara to advantage,
shell be golden and glowing and radiant... There were more
She means you have olive skin, Jack said, leading me away.
No, shes not at all like her mother, is she? Aunt
Barbaras voice boomed.
I want a drink, I said. Wheres Zoe and Jess?
I need a drink, another drink.
There was a gong for dinner.Welcome to my ancestral home!
At the top table, Uncle Robert began his speech with an expansive sweep
of his arms. Laughter roared from the half of the hall which was Eastwood
connected, while the snootier Tempests looked dubious. Many of them
liked to claim ancestors themselves, and did not see the joke. When
our father stood up, as Taras godfather, to tell some endearing
childhood anecdotes, Dave and I decided to make a trip to the bar to
get more wine.
Was Tara ever endearing? I asked.
When she wanted something, Dave said, who disliked her intensely.
Do you think Dad would be able to remember any anecdotes about
When we returned Uncle Robert was up again, clearly drunk, and seemingly
And may I say, how lovely her mother looks tonight? Cue,
Ahhh, sounds from the audience. In blue and gold, like the credit
card it was bought on... More raucous laughter from half the guests.
Mr Tempest stood up, deciding it was time his side of the family asserted
some decorum on events. He said the right things about how well suited
the couple were, how proud of his son he was, and how happy he was to
welcome Tara into the family. He looked anything but happy. The waiters
who Zoe, Jess and I had spent much of the meal rating out of ten purely
on the basis of cuteness (not a bad night, a definite average of around
eight), had brought around glasses of champagne, and the toasts passed
Ollie and Tara...As superficial and self obsessed as each other,
was the gist of what was said on our table.Acquiring more drinks in
the room where the bar was, I was waylaid by Laura Kegan.
I hear youre to be a bridesmaid, Lily, she began.
Yeah, I think so. Ive never been a bridesmaid before so
it could be fun, I said.
Laura didnt listen to my attempt at a conversation, and I thought
I would be able to get away. I wasnt so lucky. She clearly had
something more particular she wanted to say. Laura was a Blackrook town
counsellor, had once been mayor, and chaired various charities. She
was the kind of woman who remained thin at all costs, and wore two piece
outfits in colours like Coral and Aqua. She wasnt a person it
was easy to say no to, certainly her husband Ron had never tried. She
had taken time out of her campaign to bully and charm slightly tipsy
local business men into sponsoring her latest pet charity, to talk to
So what are you up to now, Lily? she asked.
It was a question I dreaded, even from people I liked. I was immediately
on my guard, because I knew she would have my fathers version
of what I was doing already. They had been having an affair for years,
and they thought nobody knew.
I work at Cherubs book shop, I said. Ive
had to look after Beth a lot, too.
You know, Laura continued, as if she had only just thought
of it. You know, if you wanted some office experience, if that
would help, Im sure I could find an opening for you. The town
halls difficult, as its all equal opportunities, but...
Oh no, I cant type, not at all, really, I said, flustered
and angry. I thought I hated my father. Thanks, I added
ungraciously, before really making good my escape, bolting towards my
gran, who felt tired and was about to leave.Later, while Zoe seduced
one of the waiters, Jess and I watched Oliver around Taras parents.
Being just too charming. He didnt try as hard as Tara did, he
just had natural self assurance that the world should be his orbit by
right. There was no doubt he was the star of this show, the golden boy
eclipsing Tara easily, who was dancing with her only long suffering
girl friend to the bands cover version of Whams Club
Hes attractive - in a dangerous sort of way. Jess
I nodded, distractedly.
You can tell just by looking at him he has a big, fast, expensive
I pulled a face. You really fancy him?
Yeah...I bet hed be really dominant in bed.
Ugh, Jess had a habit of suggesting images I didnt
want to think about.
Youre such a little puritan on the sly, Lily, accused
Jessica. I just laughed. Jess got more curious. For all your random
pulling, you always seem to hold out for England, dont you?
I just smiled enigmatically - I hoped.
I mean do you ever have sex? Jess asked.
Lets have another drink. Champagne darling? We moved
towards the bar.
Youre not going to answer me, are you?
You never do get confessional, do you?
However drunk I get you?
Damn it, Lily, what sort of friend are you?
One whos going to introduce you to Mr. Sleaze 2001, because
however misguided you are, Ill always help you make your own mistakes,
and then let you cry all over me when it goes wrong.
Ha! Its you who always end up crying.
Not anymore. Youre looking at the all new, strong of character,
Lily Kate Randall. Im going to grow up and be brave from now on.
You are brave. Youll still cry. Youll just never tell
I laughed. It was becoming a habit. Come on, I said. I found
that I was staring at Ollie.
What? Oh, come on, I repeated, leading the way to the dance
floor. I figured if you couldnt beat
Tara, you may as well join her, and Ollie could wait.
I could never
trust a man who inherits a brewery of perfect bitter and chooses to
drink fizzy American lager.
It was Jack who sidled next to where I sat, on a bar stool, towards
the end of the night. He was buying Budweiser. The party, judging by
the sounds from the hall, was still kicking. Im buying the
doomed man a drink. Do you want one?
I shook my head and nodded to the bottle my left hand was resting protectively
on. I have champagne.
Jack grinned, and in a moment he was back again.
I nodded, and wordlessly and with great concentration slid my champagne
bottle along the bar and proffered it towards him.
No thanks, I have my Tempests
I poured more champagne into my own glass.
So where did you get your supply from? Jack asked. It
seems to have flowed more freely for you than it did for me.
I laughed. Jess and I saw the waiters putting the spare boxes
of Champagne down at the back of the hall, so we started stealing them.
We had a system. I hoiked out the bottle, and passed it on. Jess can
pull out corks with her teeth.
Shes an impressive girl, Jack said. Speaking
of whom, where has the rest of your trio gone?
Zoe...found the waiter...Mr nine and a half...and Jess...is...somewhere
with a guest. He might be related to me. I dont know. He might
be my brother...
Jack laughed. Really, thats funny. He likes her you know.
Jess fancies Ollie, I declared.
Really. What do you think of him?
Hes evil. And slimy, and sleazy, and con...condescending
I suppose youre going to tell me he has a kind of dangerous
Dont worry, Jack, I patted his arm. Thats
not a thing youll ever suffer from.
You dont think Id cut it as mad, bad, and dangerous
No. Youve never struck me as dangerous. You dont scare
No? I might surprise you.
Ruin my illusions about the nice boy next door? My laugh
was shaky. I was feeling hot and faint and flying way too high. Lets
get some fresh air.
We went outside into the courtyard and made our way to the parapet,
to look away down the valley, hung over by the starry sky. There were
the first spots of rain. He kissed me first, almost too gently, stooping
to touch my neck. We both moved so that our lips brushed, and held,
and moved in closer for the kiss. I wondered how long I could hold it
for, before I would have to speak, before I would have to breathe. Because
what do you say to your life long friend and sparring partner who youve
just kissed? Who has just been kissing you back extraordinarily well?
Is this supposed to be surprising? Because you kiss just like
a nice boy.
He ran a hand through my hair, stroked my cheek. Do you want me
I took a breath and shook my head. I feel sick.
How romantic, he said.
Why do boys always pretend its about romance?
Lets walk, he said as footsteps and voices approached from
the door, and the rain got heavier. We found ourselves beneath a gatehouse
bridge, and the rain was like a curtain, shielding us from view. I realised
it was easier not to talk, to lean back against the curving stone arch
and let him kiss me, let it last longer, not break the spell, so for
longer I would have strong arms around me and his whole attention mine,
and for so much longer I would be safe without any realness to spoil
it. Later, many more people approached, and the taxis were arriving.
Jack and I got in a car with my brother and father, and conversation
was all wedding.
Tara says shes planning to have you dressed in orange polka-dot
tulle, David laughed, and so did Jack.
You do realise this plan to have you as her bridesmaid is just
a way of getting revenge on you for burning her Barbie at the stake
when you were seven? My brother continued. I dont
know why youre going along with it.
Tara and Lily have always been very good friends, our father
said. Its a great honour to be asked.
I didnt say a thing, and didnt look at anyone either. I
pressed my cheek against the steamed up window and concentrated on the
passing tarmac. When we dropped Jack off at his house I said goodbye
and the taxi went on. I was too tired and only wanted to sleep.
© Jayne Sharratt 2001
work is the sole copyright of Jayne Sharratt and forms the first chapter
of her soon to be completed novel Life
in a Northern Town. If you like it and are a legimate agent
or publisher, contact us at Hackwriters to read more of the manuscript
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