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Friday, October 02, 2009

The Kids of Haven [3]

The Kids of Haven: Part 3

Life Term: Growing Up

"Mummy can you find out?"

Life is a time tunnel that sucks you mercilessly along. When I look at my face in the mirror, it's not me looking back any more. It's the passage of time. I'm all grown up.

What is it about the past that cripples me inside? I watch my memories like I watch my children play on the shore; a mixture of pleasure and anxiety. My youngest waves a book at me.

"Mummy? Can you find out for me please? I want the next one!"

I smile at him, as his black, curly locks fall across his chubby face. Along with his father, he is the only reader in the family. I love all my children, but for some reason this last little one helps to keep me sane.

I nod half-heartedly, for I'm still locked in my past, with those kids of Haven. It's an eerily magical place, like everyone's past I guess, where we come this way to sit and think and take in the beauty or the horror.

Or whatever we happened to leave behind.

I'm in the Time Tunnel. Maxine's band was already on stage, but Maxine was nowhere to be found. I found her in the toilets, trying to resuscitate Nicola.

Nicky, our beautiful Nicky, was lying on the floor, her face covered in vomit and blood. I must have frozen, as Maxine waved at me hysterically.

"Get the fuck over here! What took you so fucking long?"

"I- I- what happened?"

"She just happened to trip and fall into her own puke. What do you think happened?"

I ran over to help pick her up, but when I saw Maxine's drug paraphernalia set up by the sinks, I guessed what had really happened.

"Maxine, tell me you didn't give her-"

"Justshutthefuckup!" she panted. I could see she was trying hard not to cry. "Help me get her up. We have to get her walking!"

She was right. I knew there was a lot of questions I needed answers to, but right now we had to help Nicola. We hauled her up over to the sinks, and poured cold water over her face. Her skinny frame was so heavy, we were almost out of breath by the time we reached the shiny black counter.

I felt it was useless. I knocked Maxine's drug things to the floor. Suddenly, I began to scream at Nicky. I became the Little Red Wolf they had nicknamed me. "Nicola! Nicky! Wake up Nicky! You hear me! Just - Wake - The - Fuck - Up!"

Even Maxine looked shocked at the intensity. "Hey, you go girl."

I silenced her with a look. "Go get help. Get the boys. Call an ambulance."

A small groan came from Nicola.

Maxine hesitated for a split second. She knew it would mean the police, but it only took her a split second to decide Nicola's life meant more than her own skin, and ran up the stairs to get to Phil and Tom. As I watched her run helplessly, and I turned back to shake Nicola and scream some more, I felt that in some small part she had redeemed herself.

"L-Leyla? That you?"

"Nicky, please open your eyes."

"D-don't blame Maxy... I want- don't-"

"Shush. Don't try to speak right now. Just focus on staying with me Nicky. Don't go to sleep!"

I splashed some more cold water on her face. I even thought about dunking her head in the toilet and pulling the damned chain.

"L-Leya- I'm sorry-"

I realised I was crying. It must have been the relief. "It's okay Nicky." I held her thin frame, and she seemed lighter. I began to relax.

"D-don't blame Maxy..."

That was all she said when Tom came barging in to help, all throughout the ambulance journey, and even as we held on to her in the hospital's shiny corridors.

Everything seemed shiny to me. I looked around at Tom.

"Where is Maxine?" I asked, realising her absence as we waited outside Nicky's cubicle.

Tom looked at me with those beautiful, haunting eyes of his, and placed his hands on my shoulders. "Don't be too hard on her, Leyla. She has her problems, you don't know how bad..."

"So where is she?"

"She went on stage to perform. She'll be here after."

I felt Maxine's redemption just burst like a soap bubble. "She went on to sing? While Nicky is fighting for her life because of her?"

"Not because of me, Little Red Wolf."

I turned around, and tried to sniff at Maxine's usual dramatic entrance. A Misfits biker jacket hung lazily across her shoulders; an unlit cigarette doing the pogo on the corner of her lips. With a look at me, she said, "Have I missed anything?"

I sniffed at her again. "We missed you, Maxine."

"Don't blame me for this, Leyla."

"So, you're saying that a girl who never took drugs in her life, just decided to snort up tonight to celebrate your gig?"

"No, I'm saying if you're looking to blame someone, blaming me is the wrong door. Open door number two."

"And what's behind door number two, Maxine?"

"Her father."

"Her father?" I had given a little gasp, but somehow knew immediately that Maxine was telling the truth.

"You seen those bruises on her? Yeah, from the way you just looked, I know you've seen them."

Visions of Nicola's father from when I had met him a few days after our first weekend together at our lodgings suddenly resurfaced into my conciousness with more clarity. His domineering manner as he gave the boys hard handshakes and ribbed Phil's shake for being a soft touch in a loud booming voice, all took on a darker meaning.

There had been something else I hadn't like about him, too; a sneering look of the eyes that would constantly silence Nicola's Oompah, and yet I'd just assumed the seventies hippie generation must have skipped over him.

Maxine seemed to read my thoughts. "Yeah. Her father."

"How can you be so sure?"

Maxine looked at me for a moment. "She told me."

"She never told me."

"Nicky didn't want you to know."

"Why for goodness sake?"

"Because you're perfect, Leyla! You shine your beam full strength and no one else can be seen."

A hand went instinctively to my chest. "Is that what Nicky really thinks of me?"

"Be happy. You saved her life. Just hope it was worth savin-"

Instinctively my hand had risen up and struck Maxine across her face. We both recoiled back.

Maxine didn't bother to touch her face, but it gleamed red at me. So did her eyes. "That was a mean strike, Leyla. You could give Nicky's dad lessons."

Tom strode in between us, then, placing a hand on our shoulders. "Stop this right now you two. They're gonna throw us out if you two start like cats out to claw each other."

Maxine shrugged his hand away with a look of disgust. "Yeah, and you'd just love that wouldn't you Tom? Your two girls fighting it out, so you can imagine it's over you."

I took a step back, also feeling uncomfortable. "What do you mean?"

"You need to dim your light now and again Leyla, and take a look around you. Tom and me were an item before you came along."

"That's a lie," Tom said, but something inside me told me that Maxine was telling the truth again. But this was one home truth too many, not when we didn't know whether Nicky was really going to live or die.

I could feel the colour literally draining away from my face. "I didn't know." But I had guessed it. I had sensed it.

"Yeah. Of course you didn't, because it doesn't fit into your fucking fairytale version of what we really are. Kids of fucking Haven! Kids fucked up more like. I'm a drug addict, Nicky's an anorexic who's been abused by her father for years, Tom's a two-timing bastard and Phil is so much in the closet that he's probably found the way to fucking - fucking -" Tears ran down her face, as she screamed on at me, "What are those books Phil always reads?"

Phil appeared from behind her to speak in that soft, gentle way I had come to love so much. He looked at me when he spoke, and somehow I felt that this was one thing Maxine had gotten wrong. "Narnia, Maxy. It's Narnia. Now can you please be quiet?"

The doctor materialised from between the cubicle's curtains. "Will you all please keep quiet? Who are you all anyway?"

I jutted my chin out, and stared hard at the frowning man dressed in green and white. Maxine turned her death-ray glare at him. The boys crowded around us.

A stranger had just intruded into our pack and we had all become synchronised suddenly.

"We're her family," we all said in unison.

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