Chapter Seventeen


Within a few days all traces of Mandy Cole aka Meth, had vanished from the flat entirely and the place had officially become a bachelor pad, inhabited by three racaus youths who wanted nothing more than to have a good time.

I didn't exactly enjoy the fact that Meth no longer hung about the flat. I'd spent over a week in her company, watching her come and go, make comments here and there and joining in on our drunken fun. So not having her around the place seemed a little wierd at first. And as the three of us made a job of getting as high as we possibly could, I kept expecting her to barge in, all dark make-up and mini-skirt, and lecture us about the dangers of what we were doing.

Jack and Mew felt the oddity of not having her around too. In the first couple of days Mew was quieter than he usually was and went to bed earlier than the rest of us. Jack was the most hyperactive that I'd ever known him to be, organising party after party to celebrate our new freedom, but thankfully everything seemed to even out after the shock of Meth no longer being there died away and by the beginning of September, the month of my eighteenth birthday, numerous people had told us that the three of us acted just like brothers.

And I suppose that was one of the main things that I liked about living in Fernshaw with Jack and Mew. Back in my hometown I'd been the only child in the family and my so-called-friends came and went as they pleased. I'd never really had anybody that I could class as my best friend, nevermind my brother, so having the sudden knowledge that I actually fitted in somewhere was more than enough to push Wikemsburg right out of my mind.

Meth's bedroom became mine when we were sure that she wasn't coming back and after an eventful day of splashing dark blue paint on the walls to cover up the original scarlet, rearranging the furniture to suit my liking and pinning up an assortmant of posters that me and Mew had "borrowed" from one of the music shops in the city centre, I felt like I truly belonged there.

The Kimberly Black who had once sat nervously on the edge of Jack Rydon's sofa and regarded him and Mew with innocent eyes had long gone and all that remained now was Kimberly Black the anarchist, brother to masters Jack and James, and the newest son of Fernshaw.

It was a clear night. Overhead the silvery stars twinkled in the darkness like hundreds of tiny diamonds embedded in a sheet of rich, blue velvet that encompassed the entire world and the half moon, ghostly white and blurred at the edges, hung amongst them.

The September breeze ruffled my hair and I shivered slightly. We were sat on the balcony that led on from the kitchen and, despite the occosional chill of the autumn air, the night was satisfyingly warm for once. Joel and Charlie had made an appearance earlier and were sat with us, Charlie lounged on a green garden chair and looking to be asleep, his curly, red hair blowing about in tangled clumps and Joel, feindishly handsome, perched on the barrier beside me, the two of us brandishing cans of lager. Mew was laying spread eagled on the ground , his eyes closed and his ears savouring the music that thundered from the living room, as he puffed gently on joint of cannabis. And the almighty Jack was sprawled in another garden chair with none other than Ash the Emo Fairy curled around him in a way that made me feel overwhelmingly sick with jelousy.

Ever since Meth had done her disappearing act, Ashley had been coming round to the flat every day, sometimes staying over for three and four nights at a time before going home and all the time that she was there she'd be smothering Jack with kisses, or hugs, or undressing him, or playing with his hair, or giving him a massage . . . And to tell you the truth, it was really starting to piss me off. Not just because I was green with envy, but because she never gave Jack any time to himself. Wherever Rydon went, Benton went, including to bed. And I'm thoroughly glad that I wasn't the one that had to share a bedroom with the two of them, like Mew did. Listening to those two going at it every night like hormone fuelled jet planes was enough to drive anybody insane and I recall several times waking up to find Mew asleep on the sofa where he had retired in order to get away from the sex maniacs.

Joel turned to me, large chocolate eyes glazed and glittering in the moonbeams and I came to realise that he was, indeed, a very beautiful youth. "So where d'ya come from?" he asked, taking a drink from his can. My eyes were suddenly drawn to the underside of his well defined jaw and the way that his Adam's apple bobbed in his tanned throat.

I blinked. "Wikemsburg." I answered, tugging my jacket closer about my chest in order to take my attention away from the innocent grace of the boy beside me. It wasn't exactly the right time to start getting attracted to one of Jack's friends, especially when that particular friend was, to my knowledge, as straight as straight can be.

Joel frowned, his dark brows furrowing together. "Isn't everybody really rich and snobby up there?"

From the puzzled look on his face I came to realise that he was confused about how a kid that fitted in so much in Fernshaw could have ever spent the whole of their life in an upper class town and I nodded. "That's the one. But you know how it is when little places like that don't hold much excitement."

I took a sip of my own can and watched as he threw me a look of acknowledgement. "I was born in Fernshaw, but me an' my mum moved to St Ivory when 'er an' me dad divorced. I lived there for four years an' then I came back. There was always a desire for this place in my veins, God knows why, but it was like I belonged 'ere. I'd 'ave come back earlier but me mum needed the company, ya know." he told me quietly, "I'm livin' wi' me dad now. Should 'ave me own place soon though."

"Yeah. It's not much fun livin' with your parents."

"Well, it's not that bad really. I mean it's not like I'm bringin' girls 'ome every night or anythin'. It's jus' it'd be nice to 'ave me own space sometimes, an' I'm a big fan of the occasional party." A devilish smirk crept up around the corners of his mouth and I found soon myself grinning that very same grin back at him.

Joel fumbled with a pocket in his jeans and brought out a packet of cigarettes and bright yellow lighter. He opened the packet and slipped one of the cigarettes between his lips, then he turned to me. "Cig?"

I shook my head, just like the day that Jack had done the very same thing to me and Joel blinked in surprise. "Ya don't smoke?" he asked in disbelief.

"No." I replied, "Never have."

Again a look of utter surprise crossed his features. "Wow, I don't think I've ever met anybody that lives in Fernshaw an' dunt smoke!" he said, lighting the little white stick, "You've got my respect."

I smiled weakly, remembering the way that my father used to sit in his armchair, watching the t.v and smoking his fags. "Thanks . . ." I whispered.

"'Ow old are you?" Joel asked, tilting his head skyward as he blew out a large plume of grey smoke that rose a few feet before vanishing into the atmosphere around us.

"Seventeen" I answered. "What about you?"

Joel flashed me a quick smile and said, "Guess."

I'd always been pretty good at sizing people up and estimating their age, and for a few moments I looked him over, taking in the way that he was sat with his body slightly turned in my direction, the way that his arms showed the recent signs of a little weight lifting, the way that his grey t-shirt fitted over his shoulders in such a perfect manner, the way that his green tinted jeans had fallen low towards the back and were revealing the waistband of his white boxershorts and the way that his Timberland booted feet were swinging just above the floor of the balcony in a childish fashion, before replying, "I'd say twenty."

Joel chuckled, "Close." he said, taking a drag of his cigarette, "I'm nineteen, twenty next March."

"I'm eighteen in a few days." I told him, "The fourteenth."

"Oh awesome! What're ya plannin'?"

"We're 'avin' a lads night out. You an' Charlie can come if you want."

"We'll be there!" he answered, not bothering to converse with his slumbering friend on the matter and then suddenly his eyes darkened and narrowed. "Dunt that ever piss ya off?" he asked and when I turned to see what he was on about, I realised that he meant Jack and Ash, for now the two of them were wrapped around one another with their tongues down each others throats and I felt an awful twinge of complete jelousy flood through me.

"Yeah." I answered emotionlessly and with that I dropped to my feet and crossed the balcony, stepping over a very sedated Mew, who was still sprawled on the floor like some odd sort of starfish, and made my way through the kitchen into the living room, where The Killers were blasting out "Somebody Told Me" in a way that made the whole flat vibrate.

Everybody has something, from their childhood years, that they find themselves taking far into their lives with them - whether it be a funny quirk in their personality, a strange love for a certain hobbie or a thorough disliking to for a particular type of person. Mine was a fear. And, as you've probably already come to realise, it was a rather childish fear of the dark; a fear that was intensified by those things that I still believed to lurking in the dark.

It had all begun one night at eight o'clock. I was six years old, my mother and father were at the height of their marraige and I'd somehow managed to stay up half an hour past my original bedtime. I was laid on my stomach in front of the fireplace, the soothing heat flickering on my right side as I watched the t.v and hoped that I'd be allowed to stay up a little longer and see the programmes that my parents had always said I was too young to watch.

My mother was curled up on the sofa, her long dark hair framing her face, with a book in one hand and a glass of sparkling red wine in the other - for even back then she enjoyed her drink. And my father was slumped in an armchair with a burning cigarette jutting out of the corner of his mouth, his dark blonde hair slightly unkempt and his dull grey eyes fixed firmly upon the television screen.

The programme that my father was watching was something that I couldn't altogether understand, but carried on blinking at because of the sudden little outbursts of "bloody hell" and "bitch" and the infrequent bit of snogging that kept popping up when I least expected it. I'd just glanced at the old grandfather clock that was hanging on the wall (a present from my grandmother) and been capable of dechipering that it was just after eight, when my mother's soft voice broke all hope of me staying up to watch the adult programmes. "I think it's about time you went to bed, mister. Have you seen the time?!"

I remember faking a look of utter surprise and then staring wide eyed at her as I told her that I wasn't tired yet. She laughed, as all parents laugh when their kid does something they think is cute, and exchanged glances with my father. They usually took it in turns to tuck me into bed and it seemed that that particular night it was my father's turn. "C'mon sprog." he said, standing up and stretching, "let's get you to bed then, before mum has a fit."

I pouted, sitting up and crossing my arms asthough to emphasise that I was sulking. "But I'm not tired."

But my protests were wasted, as he scooped me up into his arms in one graceful movement and carried me out of the living room.

I recall whining, all the way up the stairs to my bedroom, that I wasn't tired and I wanted to stay up late and I recall my father settling me firmly on my bed and throwing the blankets over me as he told me that "mummy" didn't like the idea of me seeing too much adult t.v. And when I thrashed about in a tantrum he simply shook his head and said, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Kimberly."

I frowned, well more like scowled and pouted again, "Why?"

"Because Dicky Dark doesn't like bad boys that don't go to sleep." he answered, pointing a warning finger at me.

"Who's he?" I asked.

My father's face grew more serious and I remember sinking down into my blankets a little further as he answered, "He's the tall, scary man, with the jet black hair and deathly pale skin, that hides in the shadows and gets all the bad little boys that won't go to sleep when their parents tell them to."

Ok. So maybe that particular way of getting a child to go sleep isn't exactly approved of by all parents, but it certainly made me afraid of staying awake longer than I should do and I remember laying in bed for a few minutes after my father had left the room, with the blankets clutched under my chin, staring wildly around the darkness of my bedroom and wondering whether Dicky Dark in the shadows and the Boogey Man in the closet were in business with one another. . .

So it made no wonder that when I went to bed, a few hours after Joel and Charlie had left the flat, I was terrified to awake a while later and find a tall, dark figure standing over me.

I startled and pressed myself as far into the mattress as I could, too scared to move or breath, my heart pounding ferociously against my ribs and my eyes too shocked about what they were seeing to able themselves to blink, until: "Kimberly. Kim, you awake?" The voice wasn't rough and rasping like my expectations and when the moonlight that was leaking through the window hit the figure's hair, I was surprised to see that it was bright pink and not jet black.

The slightly freckled skin came into focus then and I realised that it was Mew that I was staring at and not Dicky Dark himself. Cursing myself, I frowned at him in the gloom. "Yeah, why?" I croaked.

He brushed the hair from his eyes with the back of a hand and I realised that he was clutching a duvet and a pillow. "Those two are goin' at it like a pair a rabbits an' I was jus' wonderin' if it'd be all right fo' me to stay in 'ere the rest a the night."

Not for the first time, I was hugely glad that I had the bathroom between my room and the boys' room. I nodded vaguely, pushing aside an awful shoot of jelousy that ran about my stomach in mocking circles and shuffling deeper into the warmth of my blankets. "Knock ya self out." I told him and closed my eyes again, listening as Mew shuffled about my floor as he created himself a make-shift bed.