Let’s begin at the end shall we? Not that it’s particularly impressive. Many books and films begin at the end, Wuthering Heights, To Kill A Mockingbird, Forest Gump. It’s as common as Ugg Boots really. I feel like starting at the beginning now just to be different. No the end will do.
The scene is a 16 year old girl’s bedroom. The time is 11:30 pm. The walls are smothered with posters of One Direction and Ryan Gosling. There is a strong theme of pink from the marshmallow dressing gown on the back of the door, the fuchsia laptop poised on the desk, the sheets and duvet the colour of a young girls blush. A blue dress lies crumpled on the floor surrounded by shards of glass from a Heineken bottle. Muffled R’n’B music and the smell of marijuana waft into the room and circle round the girl on the bed. She is completely still. Anyone would presume she was sleeping if not for the streak of red slithering down from her hairline. The dead girl is me. Yes I realise I’m employing another clichéd narrative device. Get over it.
“You’ve been invited to Chloe Jones’s birthday party. How exciting! When were you going to tell me?” said my mother fluttering the invite in front of me as if it was an acceptance letter to Cambridge University.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to go.” I lied. I had actually decided not to go but I added the indecision to appease her.
“Oh you have to! You’ll have so much fun!” I wouldn’t. “We’ll go out later and buy you a lovely new dress,” she beamed picking up the hemline of her cardigan and spinning around girlishly. My mother was the perfect mother for all girls of 16. She actively encouraged drinking, shopping and boys. I would probably have never tasted alcohol if she hadn’t forced a glass of champagne down my gullet last New Year’s. It seemed to be her lifelong mission to make me cool and now she had her hooks into the party I knew I’d not hear the end of it until I went.
Shopping for a dress was more painful than a bikini line wax – not that I’d ever had one but I’d heard reports. We must have looked in over 50 shops and tried on almost identical dresses in each. None of them were ‘quite right’ according to my mother. The black one in Topshop was too slutty, the black one in New Look was not slutty enough, the black one in River Island was too chavvy and the black one in Jane Norman made my bum look elephantine – tact had never been my Mother’s strong point. Tired and hungry we trudged into French Connection hoping for a miracle. That miracle came in the form of a little blue dress. As I looked at my reflection in the changing room mirror even I had to admit I looked pretty good. The dress plumped up my golf ball breasts and clung tightly yet tastefully to my pear shape. I gave a little spin and my mother let out a little cry. Her eyes filled with proud tears. “You look beautiful Sophie.” All those straight A reports and piano recitals had never produced a single drop yet draping myself in an overpriced bit of material had reduced her to sobs.
Now I had the ‘perfect’ dress I had all the time in the world to become increasingly anxious about the party. Chloe Jones was the 4th most popular girl in our year. I was surprised to even get invited as the only time I can ever recall fraternising with her was in Geography class where she once asked me if I had any gum. Chloe was more of the lipstick and Channing Tatum sort, I was more of the chapstick and Ernest Hemmingway kind of girl. My friends – if you can even call them that – were all profusely jealous of my golden ticket to Cooldom.
“Why would she invite you? I’m in her hockey team and I didn’t get an invite,” moaned my friend Abbie.
“You can like be our spy Sophie and like tell us all the gossip like!” Said my other friend Bea. I could always tell when she was excited because the amount of ‘likes’ in her sentences would increase exponentially. For all her silliness Bea’s suggestion of spying wasn’t entirely unattractive. I could be like – it’s rubbed off on me – an undercover journalist collecting juicy scraps of scandal from the celebrities of our school. Maybe it would be kind of fun I thought. Wrong.
The night of the party was soon upon me. My Mother had cooked my favourite, Toad in a Hole, or in more accurate terms, cremated sausages balanced on soggy batter. My usual healthy appetite had been replaced with vanity and I only ate a few bites so that I wouldn’t look too bloated in the little blue dress. My Mother wholly approved. Perhaps if I’d have known it was to be my last I would have eaten the lot. As I descended the stairs my Mother began to well up again – the silly woman – and my Father joked, “You’ve forgotten your trousers Soph!” He winked at me, enjoying playing the strict, disapproving Father role. My Mother gave me an air kiss and then waved me off into my awaiting chariot our ancient Austin Allegro. After three goes on the ignition – perhaps our faithful car was trying to save me – my Father got the old girl running and we began our journey to Chloe’s house.
“I haven’t heard you mention this Chloe before. Is she one of your friends?” My Father asked feigning interest in my life. He wouldn’t even know the names of my actual friends so I thought it best just to say she was. He started humming ‘Love me do’ by the Beatles. I remembered when I was little how we’d belt out the entire Please Please Me Album on long journeys driving my Mother mad. A time when I was still his sweet little girl before I had become infected with teenage cynicism. His humming surprised me as he was not usually one for sentimentality, neither was I. Even so as we drew up outside Chloe’s mansion I held onto him tighter than a pair of jeans after Christmas.
“Hey hey hey. What’s wrong Soph?” He cooed, his hand hovering above my hair not quite sure if he should stroke it or not.
“Nothing.” I dusted myself down and got out of the car. “Pick me up at 11:30 Dad.”
“Yes Maam! I can come a little later if you want.”
“No thanks 11:30 will be fine.”
As I watched him drive away a strange tightness developed in my throat and my eyes began to sting. I heard my Mother’s voice in my head “You’ll smudge your mascara.” I blinked and the sensation had gone.
The house was humongous. There were three sports cars parked on the drive way plus a mini the colour of a frothy Frappuccino from Costa. Chloe’s I presumed. She didn’t answer the door after my third time of ringing the bell. A boy or man did. I’d seen him somewhere before but I wasn’t sure exactly where. His sculptured beard told me that he didn’t go to our school. His shoulders were brood and strained against his white T-Shirt. I suppose he’d be what most girls considered ‘fit’. I’d never been keen on beards they reminded me of mould growing on a year old slab of butter. We stood uncomfortably for a few seconds. I smiled weakly he chewed gum with his mouth open. After what seemed like an eternity he turned around and walked back into the house leaving the door ajar. I presumed this meant come in.
The interior of the house was even more impressive than the exterior. They had a proper spiral staircase as in the ones you see in the American chick-flick movies. I imagined Chloe sauntering down them in a full length lavender ball gown, both her parents damp with tears. As if on cue Chloe appeared at the top of the staircase but instead of gracefully descending she drunkenly stumbled, spilling her beer all over herself.
“Whoopsie.” She said to me when she’d finally reached the bottom. It was still early yet already her peroxide hair had escaped from its hold giving her the look of a cavewoman. Maybe that was in. One of her bra straps was hanging down her arm. If I’d have actually been friends with her I may have pointed it out. Before I even had a chance to wish her a happy birthday and maybe find out why in the world she’d invited me she was off, calling for a boy named “Dan the man.” I looked at my watch. Three more hours to go. And how did I fill those last three hours? By getting absolutely wasted.
After the fourth time of being told “To lighten up and grab a bear” I took on the ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ mentality. It didn’t take much. Only three cans of Magners which smelt a bit like a baby nappies and tasted only marginally better. After my first can I was already feeling slightly looser, words would spout out of my mouth without the permission of my brain and I started to find everything amusing. A boy’s pathetic attempt at chatting up a girl. Hilarious. A girl’s drunken attempt at reapplying her lipstick. Hilarious. A boy throwing up all over my feet. Hilarious but smelly.
“Oh no!” Cried one of Chloe’s friends upon seeing the mess – Chloe was comatose on the couch, her open mouth perfect target practise for scrunched up sweet wrappers. “Your poor shoes!” I’m pretty sure they lacked the autonomy to care. “Come, I’ll help you clean them.”
Chloe’s friend, who was called Maddie, took me under her wing. She was one of those nurturing drunks and as I was one of those spaced out where-the-hell-am-I drunks I was grateful. She took me upstairs to the bathroom to wash me off.
“Are you having a good time? It’s such a great party! Chloe always knows how to throw a legendary one.” Chloe’s unconscious body splayed on the couch revealing her pink thong sprang to mind. But as she was kindly showering my tightless feet I thought it only polite to agree.
“There are so many hot boys too! Not just the lame ones in our year but University boys!” She chucked my tights into the bin.
“Who’s that boy with the white t-shirt?” I slurred not immediately occurring to me that 90% of the boys were wearing white t-shirts. Amazingly Maddie knew who I meant. Maybe alcohol gives you psychic abilities.
“That’s Justin Ramsey. He’s a friend of Chloe’s brother who goes to Cardiff University. Gorgeous isn’t he!” I nodded a bit too enthusiastically. My head started to feel lighter than helium and the liquid in my stomach began to churn.
“Are you OK? You look a little green?”
“Fine. Is there anywhere I can lay down for just a moment?”
Maddie, forever the Florence Nightingale, guided me down the corridor into a room which from the overwhelming pinkness I guessed to be Chloe’s.
“Chloe won’t mind if you lie down here for a while. Just don’t vom on her bed.” Maddie kindly moved the bin within retching reach for me. Then she left and I was alone. I looked at Chloe’s alarm clock 11:01. Still 29 minutes till my father was due. I thought about how my mother would be thrilled I’d had a bit too much to drink and would plague me with endless questions. The very thought made my eyes heavy and I fell asleep, the muffled sound of R.Kelly’s ‘Bump and Grind’ my lullaby. I awoke to the sound of the door opening.
“Maddie?” I croaked. It was the boy or man in the white t-shirt. He was holding a half-finished bottle of Heineken and had a look in his eye which resembled the look a lion gives his prey – after a few pints of beer. I squeaked a hello what else could I do? He didn’t speak. Instead he spat his gum across the room and rushed at me, grabbing the hemline of my little blue dress.
You know the end. I don’t need to go into details. I don’t remember much of it anyway apart from the blackening thud as the bottle came down on my head. I think he just meant to knock me out. Once he’d realised what he’d done he bolted out of the house, jumped into his car and crashed on his way home, killed instantly. Justice, everyone would say. It didn’t matter to me whether he lived or died. You get less bitter when you’re dead. The whole school talked about the incident for months. Chloe was traumatised it had happened in her room and Maddie felt awful for not staying with me. My friends Abbie and Bea never accepted an invitation to a ‘cool’ party for the rest of their lives. My mother wept into the little blue dress and my father played The Beatles on repeat every single day in the car. It was tragic.
I lied. I didn’t die. I didn’t even go to the party. As if I would have ever been invited. The only words Chloe ever said to me were “do you have some gum?” Hardly BFFs. My Mum didn’t take me shopping and she didn’t cry at the sight of me in my little blue dress. I didn’t hug my Dad as he dropped me off and I didn’t get vomit sprayed over my shoes. I wasn’t cared for by Maddie and I wasn’t raped and murdered by Justin Ramsey. I made it all up. It’s just a story. Bet you weren’t expecting that!