It was just an ordinary Friday night – at least, I thought it was.
Friday evenings were never ordinary. There was always some drama, waiting to happen. There was always a party on a Friday evening – and nearly all of them ended in some catastrophe.
This particular Friday, I was sat at the dining room table with my parents.
I’m an only child. I guess I’m pretty spoilt because of it. My dad’s a manager of some big company, and he’s always got someone over for some reason or other. This Friday, however, it was just us. Even Rita, our maid, wasn’t here – Mum had rather generously given her the night off and she’d wasted no time in glamming herself up and going out to the clubs.
It was strange, just the three of us. Normally we never sit down and eat together like a family. Dad’s always in his study, Mum’s always on the phone to her friends, and I’m never at home.
I didn’t even plan on being home that night, but Mum insisted, saying it would do us good to ‘eat like a family’.
‘Isn’t this lovely?’ she said now, as she pushed her plate away. I’d finished mine ages ago; I’d only picked half-heartedly at the meal, which was burnt badly from Mum’s careless cooking. Dad, being a quick eater, had finished a while ago too.
Without Rita, Mum stared at the plates, as if lost as to what to do.
Sighing, I scraped my chair back and piled the empty plates on top of eachother. Mum smiled at me.
‘You’re a good girl, Veronica,’ she said.
I smiled back sweetly but insincerely. I just wanted to get on Mum’s good side so she’d agree to let me go to the party. It was Rick Harlow’s. His parties were always intense, and I didn’t want to miss out.
My parents and I rarely talked. In all honesty, I couldn’t stand them. Dad was too serious, and Mum wasn’t serious enough.
Dad was a man in his fifties, although he looked much younger. He was thin and had black hair, greying in his sideburns. He always had thick-rimmed glasses perched on his long, pointy nose.
Mum was the opposite of him. She was blonde and curvy, always wearing revealing outfits, even at her age. She wasn’t motherly. I don’t think she has a maternal bone in her entire body. She’s loud and rude and embarrasses Dad something rotten at his fancy business dos. I know because I heard them arguing a lot about it. She likes a drink. She likes to spend money.
They’re irreconcilably mismatched, but I think divorce seems like too much of a hassle to them. Dad’s too busy with work to file for one, and Mum relies on Dad financially so she won’t file for one.
I know I’m a mistake. I don’t know why Mum kept me. I’m pretty certain she didn’t know she was pregnant until it was too late. Dad doesn’t seem to hold affection for anyone, and Mum just treats me as if I’m another maid, like Rita.
I’m sixteen. I’m a mix between my mum and my dad. I have my father’s dark hair, although mine is a lighter shade of brown. I have my mother’s bright, icy blue eyes. I’m thin and tall, like my dad, but tanned, like my mum.
Anyway, I was trying to sweeten up Mum. It seemed to work, but she had a glass of wine in her hand, so I don’t know if it was really me who was having this positive effect on her.
I knew Dad would forbid me from attending Rick’s party. He’d ask me if I had homework. But Mum, being a party animal herself, would be easily won over by the idea.
I waited until Dad excused himself, claiming he had ‘business to attend to’. Then I sat myself beside Mum.
‘Mum,’ I said, in my sweetest voice. ‘My friend, Rick…’
‘Is he your boyfriend?’ Mum asked immediately. She sounded more like a gossiping friend rather than a concerned parent.
‘No, he’s just a friend,’ I convinced her. ‘Anyway, he’s having this party tonight, and I’ve been invited…’
‘A party? Well, are you going to it?’
Like I said – easy to win round.
‘Well – if that’s okay with you,’ I mumbled shyly.
Mum laughed. ‘Of course that’s fine with me, sweetheart!’ she cried. She shook her glass of wine, staring at it thoughtfully. ‘I’m not a killjoy – unlike some people I could mention.’
I knew she was talking about Dad. She gets all funny about him sometimes – but then she buys another handbag or three, and she’s fine with him.
Dad had been particularly boring this evening. All he’d moaned about was how many people he’d ‘let go’ from work in the past month.
‘Sixteen!’ he’d exclaimed. ‘Sixteen employees, gone.’ He shook his head in disbelief, even though he’d done the firing himself.
Mum and I had feigned interest, making all the right noises in all the right places, but really, we hadn’t cared. As long as Mum had money, she was okay. As long as Dad didn’t start badgering me with questions about my social life, I was fine.
Now, I was about to leave the room, when Mum tapped her cheek pointedly. ‘Veronica!’ she called, in sickeningly teasing voice.
I grinned insincerely at her, pecking her cheek lightly.
‘Have fun, darling,’ she whispered, before gulping back the glass of wine in one go.
‘I will,’ I assured her, before leaving the room to go and get ready.
I dressed up glamorously, wearing nothing but black. I wore a tiny black dress which just skimmed my knees, and high, black heels. I tied my hair back into a scruffy bun, and staggered out of the door.
Before long, I was getting as tipsy as my mum. A party wasn’t a party if it didn’t include three things – alcohol, loud music, and lots of people.
People I hadn’t even seen before in my life were flocking to Rick’s party. Rick was pretty popular. I couldn’t help but feel bitter about it, but admire him too.
I was popular at school. A lot of the girls looked up to me. A lot of the boys liked me. I liked the attention I received – it made me feel good about myself.
The party was getting slightly out of hand, even for Rick’s parties. People were collapsed on the floor. My best friend, Faye, was practically choking on her own vomit as I held her hair back in the bathroom.
I didn’t like the responsibility of parties. Not even the influence of drink can make you forget the consequences of a party. It wasn’t just holding a friend’s hair back while they puked. It was worrying if these people passed out would ever wake up. Even in my own drunken state of mind, I worried.
When I asked Faye if she wanted to go home, I hoped she’d say yes. Instead, she shook her head firmly, insisting, ‘I have to get back to Paulo.’
I don’t know who Paulo was. One of Rick’s foreign friends, maybe. I think she’d kissed him and wanted to kiss him again. I felt sorry for the guy without even knowing him.
I wobbled out of the bathroom, stumbled down the stairs and opened the door for some fresh air.
Even outside, the music was way too loud for my liking. I bent down, taking a few deep breaths. Rick’s parties were intense, alright.
I slammed the door shut, deciding enough was enough. I slipped out of my heels happily, and made my way as best I could down the street. I laughed blissfully as the pebbles crunched under my feet. Sometimes being drunk was good.
Eventually, I was approached by someone who took hold of my arm. I turned and faced them.
He was much older than me. I remembered him from somewhere, but couldn’t place where. I was too drunk to dwell on the feelings of déjà vu. He had short, black hair, quite thick, without a grey in sight. However, he had a few lines on his forehead. His nose was long and curved slightly at the end. His eyes were dark and shone mysteriously, sat beneath eyebrows which pointed down evilly.
He smiled at me. Creases formed around his eyes as he did so.
‘Come on, Veronica,’ he said. ‘Your parents want you home.’
If I was sober, I’d have shrugged him away and fled back to Rick’s house. I would have known my parents wouldn’t have cared that much to send someone out looking for me. Mum would be passed out on the sofa, drunk, and Dad would be slaving away over his work. They wouldn’t send someone out to find me.
But I wasn’t sober. I was drunk, and foolishly believed that this man was speaking the truth. I let him guide me down the path. His grip was firm on my arm. He didn’t talk much. Whenever I glanced at him his eyes were narrowed on the path ahead determinedly.
Eventually, after we’d been walking a while, I grew tired, and was crawling on the floor.
‘Come on,’ he ordered, not unkindly. ‘We need to get you home.’
‘Don’ wanna,’ I mumbled. ‘Wanna sleep.’
‘You can sleep when we get there,’ he said.
But it was too late now. His words blurred into silence. I was in that surreal existence between being asleep and awake. I vaguely remember him hoisting me up. I don’t know how he carried me, for soon every sight darkened and every noise became muffled.
I was asleep.