Feathers and Cigarettes

Feathers and Cigarettes first appeared in Feathers and Cigarettes and Other Stories, Fish Publishing 2003. It was adapted in 2013 as the short film "Lashes", directed by Christine Sherwood.

I couldn’t go and Sarah Griffiths told me the next day that she’d seen Jason with some other girl at the Feathers and when I phoned him up, he was all like, I was never, and so I told him Sarah had seen him and he just said, it was nothing, chill, and I told him he was a bastard and that was it I’d had enough of his shit and he was all, don’t be like that girl, and I was like, whatever, and hung up.

I phoned Sarah back and she was like, babes I’m sorry, he’s such a wanker, and she said, let’s go out, but I didn’t feel like it and I didn’t have any money anyway and so she said, her parents were out so I could come round hers, but her brother might be there. I said okay and I told her I’d be there in half an hour.

I put on my tracksuit top from French Connection and my denim skirt from Miss Sixty and I pulled my hair back and did my eyes with Rimmel Planet Sparkle and my lips with Coffee Shimmer Exaggerate Hydra Colour just in case Jason or his mates saw me so I’d tell them I didn’t need his shit any more and he could just fuck off and I was better off without him.

I took a fiver from mum and dad’s drawer and I told my sister I was going out and she was watching something on cable and she said where are you going, and I was like, none of your business, and she said, it is my business, and I said, it’s nothing to do with you, and she said, fuck off then, you look like a slapper, and I said no one would even look at you with all your spots, and she called me a cunt and I said, at least I’ve got one, and I shut the door as hard as I could on my way out.

Sarah lives about five minutes from me so on the way I went to get some cigarettes from the pakishop on the corner and the woman inside looked at me funny when I said, ten Silk Cut and I stared at her like what are you looking at bitch and I just said again, ten Silk Cut, alright, then she turned and got me the cigarettes and I paid for them and walked out the shop. Some people never trust anything and that really pisses me off.

I smoked one on the way. I stopped round the corner from Sarah’s house and sat on a wall and looked at the sky above the tower blocks and I thought I’m glad I don’t live in one of them, that we’ve got a proper flat in a decent mansion block. The clouds were moving across the sky really fast and as I looked up at the tower blocks it felt like they were moving towards me, and that they were going to fall over. I finished my cigarette and flicked it into the street.

Sarah lives on an estate in this house with its own garden and everything. I rang on the doorbell and she came down wearing her DKNY top and Diesel jeans and her gold Nikes that Darren bought her. She looked at me and gave me a hug and said, he’s a wanker babes and I laughed and I cried a bit and she did too and I said fuck him, but I was glad she gave me that hug because it made me feel a lot better. We went upstairs to her room even though her brother was out and she put on the Groove Armada CD which always reminds me of when we went to Spain for the first time. Sarah’s got loads of good stuff in her room. It’s all right for her. Her dad’s loaded. He’s got a business in Thailand doing tours or something on boats and he’s always going out there and bringing back stuff for Sarah, CDs and DVDs and duty free and that. I like going round to her place because she’s always got something new but at the same time it makes me feel bad for my mum who can’t always afford stuff like that now that it’s just the three of us.

We sat there for a bit and talked about school and Mrs Brett who’s making us do this test on Monday and then Sarah mentioned Darren and I didn’t really want to talk about Darren because she’s always so loved up about him, it’s like nothing he does is ever wrong or anything and it makes me sick sometimes, it really does. It’s not like I’m jealous because Darren’s a really nice bloke and everything, but it was just that I’d just broken up with Jason, and I didn’t want to hear it then, you know?

Then her mobile rang and I knew it was Darren because of the special ring she’s got just for him, which is that song Whitney Houston did that was in that film with Kevin Costner, anyway so it was Darren calling and she answered it like hellooo, and then sat there talking to him and laughing on the phone, mostly just listening to him and laughing and talking like I wasn’t event there and I was waiting for her to hang up and after a few minutes I was like, am I even here, because she wasn’t going to hang up, so I said really loudly I’m going to get a glass of water or something do you want anything and she just shook her head and laughed at something he’d said.

I couldn’t believe she was doing this, I mean, I’d gone over there she’d asked me over because I was upset and everything and the first time some fucking bloke calls she’s all like, hi, and let’s talk for ages and stuff. So I went downstairs and into the kitchen and got a glass and poured myself some water and drank it as I looked about the kitchen, opening drawers, seeing what I could find. Usually there’s some money but there wasn’t this time so I went to the fridge and I opened it and there were some sausages on a plate covered in Clingfilm, all wrinkled and fatty and I took one and ate it. I’m trying to be a vegetarian at the moment but I was hungry.

There were three other sausages on the plate but instead of eating them I took them out of the fridge and looked around the kitchen. There was a pair of old shoes in one corner so I dropped the sausages in one of the shoes and shook them around for a bit. Then I put the sausages back on the plate, covered them back up with Clingfilm, and put the whole lot back in the fridge.

I went back upstairs and even before I got to Sarah’s room I could hear her laughing and I knew she was still on the phone. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I’d been down there like ten minutes I reckoned and she was still fucking talking or whatever to Darren. I thought about saying something to her but I was standing next to her brother’s room so I decided to go in and have a look instead. One time I went in with Sarah and we found this pile of porn mags in a box in his cupboard underneath all these old board games and I thought it might be a laugh to see if they were still there.

His room was all dark and smelled disgusting, like feet or something, all sweaty and fucking horrible. The curtains were drawn but I could see he had all these pictures on the wall of like Jordan and Kylie and one of the ones from Hollyoaks, mostly pictures out of magazines and most of them were like naked or whatever.

His walls were dark blue and he had a dark blue duvet and there were white stains on the covers and I went up to one of them and ran my finger along one and it was dry and crusty. His hi-fi was off but the display was on, like he’d just been in there or something and I thought I’d better see what I could find and get out before Sarah got off the phone if she ever would.

I went to his drawer and he just had loads of shit in it, like pens and screwdrivers and bits of watches and old headphones and some condoms and just shit really and I tried to find some money but all I could find was some banknotes from some country I’d never even heard of. So I shut the drawer and went to his cupboard and there were all these old clothes lying on the floor. And I found the box underneath these boxes of Cluedo and Pictionary and Monopoly and I lifted open the lid being careful not to knock off the games and there weren’t any magazines in it at all, just some more clothes, a shirt and some jeans. I thought there might be something under the clothes so I pulled out the shirt and that’s when I saw there were these brown marks all over it and I knew they were blood because it was the same colour my old knickers go when I’m on and I wondered why he kept this shirt in here all messed up like that and Sarah hadn’t ever told me anything about him being in a fight or getting cut up or anything and then I saw this case at the bottom of the box. It was like a glasses case, kind of hard and stuff on the outside so I put the shirt back in the box and took out the case and opened it and inside there was all rolled up what looked like about about twenty notes and it looked like they were mostly fifties. And under the money there were all these little folded up bits of paper and I knew they were wraps and there was about twenty of them but I didn’t know what was in them but I figured it had to be coke or speed.  My heart was beating really fast and I looked around and thought fucking hell and I took a fifty and one of the wraps and stuffed them in my pocket then I put the rest back in the case and the case under the clothes and the clothes in the box and the box under the games and the games and the rest in the cupboard which I shut. Then I looked around just to see if there was anything I’d moved that I hadn’t moved back and I stood there and looked at the girls on the wall and turned and walked out the door leaving it shut behind me.

Sarah was still on the phone in the room and this time she was talking really quietly and she wasn’t laughing anymore and she was smoothing back her hair behind her ears and I knew they’d had an argument because that’s what she always does when she’s had an argument with Darren, talk really quiet like that and smooth her hair back. And I thought for fuck’s sake and I sat there and looked at her for a minute and said are you going to be long and she just looked at me really pissed off and went back to Darren and her smoothing hair and I said I’m going to the loo and I took my purse and left her there talking quietly into the phone.

In the loo I put the seat down and got out the wrap and put it on the seat and knelt down and carefully unfolded the paper that had been carefully folded up, like it was like the love notes we used to pass around in class, all folded in little triangles so that they folded in on themselves and were all shut up tight. When I opened it up there was this little heap of white powder and I dabbed a bit on my little finger like they do in the movies and tasted it and I knew it was coke. And smiling I got my bank card out of my purse and scooped a little off and put it on the loo seat and made it into a line. I’ve only done coke once because it’s really expensive and normally all we can afford to get is speed and it’s usually all lumpy but this was really fine, all chopped up already. Then I rolled up the fifty and put one end in my nose and holding back my hair did half the line then switched sides and did the other half as well. Then I dabbed off the bits left with my finger and licked the card and put it back into my purse. I folded the wrap back up and put that into my purse as well between a book of stamps and this little card my mum gave me one time which has this story on it about someone walking through the sand and they leave some footprints behind and God carries them and there’s only one path or something, I can’t remember now, but it was a story I always liked. Then I had a quick wee before I flushed the loo and looked into the mirror and sniffed and rubbed my nose and the lights were really shiny and bright and made my highlights look really good and I smiled and looked at my teeth and then I took a deep breath and turned the light out and opened the door and walked out into the hallway.

Sarah was sitting on the bed and the music was off and she was looking all upset and I said hello and you took your time and she said it’s not my fault and I said you could have told him you’d call back and she said I think we’ve broken up alright and I just laughed and she said why the fuck are you laughing I’m not joking and I said you haven’t fucking broken up you always do this and all you want is the attention just because I’m the one who’s broken up and she said it’s fucking not that and I said whatever I’m going and she said what do you mean you’re going and I said I’m going and I stood up and grabbed my jacket and she said I can’t believe you’re going and I said well I am and I laughed again and I walked out the door and down the stairs and as I opened the front door I heard her saying I fucked Jason if you want to know everyone’s fucked him as well you bitch and I didn’t bother to shut the door behind me.

And I walked down the road and it was starting to get dark and it was a bit misty and the street lights were hardly there at all and I smiled again and I thought I didn’t want to go home and so I just went for a walk. I stopped at the takeaway and got some chips and I thought about paying for them with my fifty but in the end I just gave him a pound coin because I didn’t want to waste it in a chip shop, I thought I’d go up to town and use it in Top Shop or Mango or something instead in one go. I ate my chips and walked for a bit and then I realised I was in Jason’s road and I walked down the road and there was no-one else about and his lights were on so I looked around and found a pile of bricks in another driveway under a sheet and I took the brick and I held it rough in my hand and then I threw it at his window and almost before I heard it smash I was running running down the street the other way, away from his house and I didn’t stop running till I’d got to the common and was sure no-one had seen me and then I stopped running and walked home the rest of the way. 

When I got home the flat was dark and everyone was out and I turned on the lights and put the telly on and I sat in the kitchen by myself and I thought about doing some more of the coke but I didn’t feel like it anymore. I made a cup of tea and I thought for a bit about Jason and Sarah and I cried for a bit and my hands were shaking and I felt a bit sick and so I left the tea and got a glass of water instead and then I went up to my room.  I took off my clothes and I put on a t-shirt and I got under the duvet and I could feel my heart beating inside and my mouth was really dry and I lay there for a while and I thought about my mum and I started to think about my dad and then I must have fallen asleep because I don’t remember anything else.

I walked by Jason’s house the next day and there was a big board up in the window where they’d covered it up and his father was outside sweeping up some glass on the patio outside the window. I watched him for a bit and then I felt bad about the night before and so I went up to him and said alright Mr Buckley and he looked up and nodded at me. Then I was all like what happened and he looked at me again and then he said someone threw a brick through the window last night and did I know anything about it.

And I said no but it might have been Sarah Griffiths who did it because when I was with her yesterday she took loads of drugs, her brothers drugs that she stole from his room, and she wanted to go over to Jason’s house and fuck it up because of what she said he’d done to her and I said she was mad and I left and that was the last time I saw her but don’t tell her I told him and I was only telling him that because I liked him and because of Jason, even though things weren’t perfect between us now. And Jason’s dad said thank you for telling me and he was sorry to hear about me and Jason but he was sure we’d work it out and he had to finish tidying this mess up right now but it was good to see me again.

And I walked off down the road and I turned around I saw him go in the house and I smiled to myself because I remembered I still had the fifty to spend and most of the coke as well and in the end yesterday wasn’t so bad after all.