A fictional story from the weekend. Same time, same characters, different place, come back every week. Catch up here.
I get a call from Jack as I’m stepping off the train on my way back from yoga. He’s got that runaway laughter in his voice and I know immediately that he hasn’t been to bed yet. In that laughter there’s a sparkling, reckless confidence, a triumph of the weekend – he’s been balls-deep inside the night and now he’s come out again, swaggering along the slackline of the morning.
“Yo, where are you babe?”
“Just about to walk in my door,” I say, pressing my card against the contactless pad and walking out of the station. I always tell him a sort of rounded-up truth, ‘cause it’s hard enough to keep his attention – he needs the plotline, not the detail, I heard him say once. But I should have noticed he had his prankster voice on.
“Na you’re not. I can’t see you!” There’s canned laughter in the background, a steady bass. He’s in a car.
My step quickens – probably my heartbeat too, if I was conscious of it. I know they’re there, outside my house, and it’s magnetic, the way I glide towards them, towards the thrill.
As I turn the corner, I slow down to a casual stroll and look up at the sky with what I imagine is an unscouted model smile – I mean, you never know who could be in the car. But I can’t see them and it unnerves me. There’s a couple dusty cars, the homeless guy with the scorched bald head. Scatty pigeons doing the morning rounds outside Chicken Cottage.
“There you are! Love the leggings.”
Underneath a massive black puffer jacket, I’m wearing grey leggings previously owned by my mum. They’re slightly too big – sorry Mum – and they sag around the bum. They are distinctly unloveable.
“Where are you Jack?” I ask without a question mark. I smile even wider, like I’m finding the whole thing just as entertaining as they are.
“Turn up the music,” he says to someone else, and the bass, previously contained in my ear, spills out into reality. Down the road, near the entrance to my block, and behind a Ford Transit van, there’s an outline of white I hadn’t made out in the sunlight. It’s Risky’s Audi.
Risky is Jack’s shifty younger cousin. It isn’t fair to say he’s the bad apple of the family, ‘cause Jack isn’t exactly the sweetest of the bunch – but Risky can sometimes leave more of a sour taste in your mouth. We love him regardless, but if he wasn’t already your mate you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a cunt – and you probably wouldn’t trust him around your little sister. I think his real name is Freddy. But it could also be Michael.
They pull up next to me before I even get to my gate. Risky’s driving and Jack’s next to him in the front, left arm hung out the window, watch flashing in the sun.
“Let’s fucking go, princess!” His eyes are raring, and there’s that circus grin, like a teenager who’s just been laid.
Jack looks at me like I’ve asked him where his money’s buried and turns to the backseat. “Jay, open the door.”
Behind the tinted window, I can make out Jay in the backseat – blank-faced, giving nothing away – and behind him a giddy Maya too, waving a bottle of tequila with no lid. The bottle’s half empty and I know she’s probably responsible for most of it. She pulls down her shades – narrow, lime-green, sparkling – and gives me a wink.
“Come on, help me drink this. The boys are being pansies.”
Jack rolls his eyes. “Yeah yeah – Jay, I said open the door. And give me a bump.”
It’s barely an invitation – Jack’s not even looking at me – and I don’t have to think about it.
I call Lacey as soon as I’m in the car.
“Na, I can’t be arsed. I’m DJing later. And I’m still in bed.”
“Babe! I’m still in my leggings.”
“You went to yoga?”
“I went to yoga.”
“Even after all that red?
“Even after all that red.”
“Fuck. That’s impressive, man.”
“I know right. Please Lace! Maya’s got tequila.”
“Who you with?”
“Erm, Maya, obviously. Risky – we’re in his car – erm, Jack, Jay.”
“The white one?”
“Mate, are you coming or not? Obviously the white one.”
It’s just the right amount of push-and-pull, and I hear the sound of her gulping back her tea. It’ll be Pukka’s mint-matcha-green – “detoxifying” – and in her favourite Hello Kitty mug, with the tidemark around the rim, stubborn and unbleachable, like Lace herself. I hear the last gulp. A long, am-dram sigh. I can almost hear her looking over herself in the mirror, working out if she needs to actually wash her hair or if Batiste will cover it.
“For fuck’s sake. Pick me up in 15.”
And here we are, forty-five minutes later, in the forest. Looking around, I realise I’ve been to this one before – just maybe in the dark. To be clear, it’s not really a forest – not a stretch of actual woodland, just a scrapyard of trees left in the blank spaces of industrial development that miraculously continue to breathe.
A bit of green, some shadows, some cracked brown glass – that’s what makes it a “forest party”. There are, of course, bigger, actual raves held in bigger, actual forests. But these are always on the outskirts of London – or at least, on the outskirts of the inner-city – and to attend them requires a degree of forward-thinking we clearly do not possess.
But yeah. This little clearing is enough of a forest for us. A generator. People. I look down at the forest floor. The forest floor = a thousand half-smoked cigarettes crushed into dead leaves, cracked plastic cups, NOS canisters glinting like bullets in the winter sun. The misleading shine of empty baggies, open-faced wraps.
Somewhere overhead I can hear the overground skimming past us, oblivious.
The music’s reached a kind of afternoon plateau already – when the transitions are seamless and it just feels like one, long, minimal swan-song – and people aren’t really dancing anymore, just mindlessly two-stepping, pissed-up and primal. It’s a strange part of the night to be thrown into, sober as still water and still, if I’m being smug, somewhat centered from yoga this morning. I’ve forgotten the intention I set at the beginning of the class though, and this gnaws at me. What kind of person am I?
I don’t even attempt to answer this question. Instead I look over at Lace dancing. She’s killing it, the only girl properly moving, a streak of iridescence in a crowd of the energetically beige. The Rosalía-red adidas tracksuit helps. Only Lace could wear a tracksuit to a rave – “whad’you mean, ‘what am I wearing?’” she’d spat at Jack when we picked her up, “It’s like minus seven degrees outside you prick” – and still look dressed for a music video.
A group of guys are watching her dance, too. A boy band of rich kids – it’s all in the stance – and one of them’s got some intention. I can tell by the way he’s fingering his Gucci belt – he thinks it makes him look cool. Jack and Risky look on nearby, swigging Courvoisier from the bottle.
I turn to Jay. He’s managed to cut six neat lines on the surface of his iPhone, standing up and using only his fist to lean on, which is pretty impressive, even for him. I look for Maya to point this out but can only gasp when I see the state of her.
“Ohmygod, Maya come here. You need fixing. ”
At some point this weekend – I’m gonna go with about 9pm on Friday night – she’s spun her hair into these cute little Gwen Stefani twists and carefully curled her baby hairs into those slick little whirls down the side of her face like we used to do at school. But here we are on Sunday afternoon, the twists have fallen out and the gel’s come unstuck from her face, so she’s left with what I can only describe as lightning bolts sticking out from both sides. It’s not really a look, and I’m halfway through fixing it when –
“Naaaaaa, what did you just say?”
I spin around. Lacey’s stopped dancing and the energy has shifted. Something’s happened.
I nudge Maya and we walk over. Lacey’s kissing her pearly-white teeth and her face is screwed up tight. This is gonna be good.
“You know what the problem with that is?”
“No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me honey.” He seems to think she’s being flirtatious.
“To start with, I’m not your fucking honey.”
The kid looks up quicktime. Like Daddy’s just told him he’s cancelled his allowance. He seals his baggie with a flourish, and tucks his silver spoon – you couldn’t make this shit up – back underneath his T‑shirt.
Later I will find out that after Lacey accepted an offering from said silver spoon, Gucci Belt put his hand on her waist and casually called her his “little coke whore”. Now, though, I know only that Risky looks desperate to knock him out.
But Lacey’s not just going to hand it over; she wants to make a scene. It’s the DJ thing – she’s dealt with too much of this over the years. And the being female thing. That too.
“And I’m not your fucking coke whore.”
“Sure, but –”
“I’m not anyone’s, to be honest.”
“Well of course, but –”
And here Gucci Belt kind of stutters, like he’s about to explain the nuanced meaning of the phrase.
“You better get your silver spoon and your shitty coke out of my face, Nicholas.”
“My name’s Nick, actually –”
“Yeah and my name’s Lacey Fucking Jackson, but that’s not what you called me either was it?”
Maya’s got Record-mode up on Instagram.
“Come on darling, you know what I meant. Obviously you know what I meant.”
“I don’t think I know what you meant, bro.” Jack says “bro” real slow, real emphatic.
Nick looks up, grateful to have a man to talk to. “Come on, mate. I was just joking around,” he says, looking over Lacey as if for the first time. “Is she your girlfriend, mate?”
Lacey’s stood in front of him, eyeing the spoon.
Now he gives Jack an imploring, almost pained look: reaching out, man to man, to dismiss all this pettiness.
Risky gives Jack a look that says, please can I just knock him out? Jay’s taken his hands out of his pockets. But secretly Jack hates a fight, ‘cause he knows it’s what people expect of him. So he’s a bit more considered when it comes to these things.
He gives dear Nick a slap.
A punch would have been predictable – acceptable, even – but a slap is a different level of disrespect, and it’s pretty delicious to watch.
Nicholas is outraged. The left side of his face is a stinging pink, like a bare bottom, and his mates are all speaking loudly at the same time without saying anything at all.
Lacey pulls up his chin with a long, silver nail and makes him look her in the eye as though he is a shamed child.
“You’re lucky ya’know. I woulda slapped you a lot harder than that. Mate.”
And – again! – Nicholas looks over her shoulder, over at Jack. But Jack’s just looking at Lacey, now. Over to you.
“Get out of here, man.”
Disgraced, he shuffles away.
It’s probably time for us to leave too. Risky looks antsy now, all pumped up with nowhere to go, and he can be pretty erratic when he’s charged. Jay looks bored, as per.
Lacey’s got a pout on. “You didn’t need to slap him, Jack.”
“Lace that was barely a slap. I touch my little brother like that. He deserved it anyway – as if I was gonna let him get away with that.”
Lacey can’t help but smile. She turns to show him, but he’s already started making his way out of the forest, brandy trailing behind him. We’re leaving.
“Na but did you hear this geezer a minute ago trying to chirps me about the spoon? He goes to me, that little stone is amethyst you know – so I was like ah, sick, that’s my birthstone, and he goes, ah, really, me too – and that’s when I knew he was a cunt because he definitely wasn’t a Pisces. The fucking cheek of it!”
I laugh, and laugh. I can’t stop laughing all the way to the car.
But it’s on our way back to Jack’s that I remember the intention I set this morning, struggling to keep my eyes open on the yoga mat: Be grateful.
Grateful, for this lot? How could I not be?