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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Kids of Haven [1]

The Kids of Haven: Part 1

First Term: Coming Home

There were five of us in Haven. It was like a club, something we called ourselves after we decided it was the necessary thing to do. It seemed silly, of course, we were far too old for such things.

It was our first year at university, all of us living the luxury that first independence affords, away from home and in a different city. But we all decided pretty quick after meeting it had been some kind of cosmic karma that had made all five of us choose that house to live in for our first year, instead of halls.

Tom and Phil, friends from before, had both taken the two rooms on the first floor, while Nicola and Maxine had each rented one of the small rooms right at the top, to be close to the bathroom. I had been the last to enter the shared accommodation, and had asked for the single room on the ground floor, surprised to find it was the only one left.

"That must be a sign," my sister had puffed, helping me lug my few effects through the narrow door of the old, large Victorian house. Our landlord Mr Khan had only modernised it with the basic essentials, but I had liked the house immediately. The floorboards under the thin carpets had creaked a warm welcome as we walked in.

The first time I saw Nicola was two minutes after I had entered the house. She came charging down the stairs in polka dot underwear, with a towel wrapped around her head, demanding in a strong Birmingham accent: "Are you Leyla?"

"Yes," I replied, looking slightly confused.

Out shot another question, "Are you Turkish?"

"Yes," I replied again.

She lifted her head to the top of the stairs, to two boys standing on the first floor landing. "Oompah! See what I told you! She is Turkish! Pay up boys!"

My sister gave me a pitying look as she threw my stuff on the bed, but I smiled at her reassuringly. With her thin frame and large character, I had warmed to Nicola straight away. She pocketed the money the boys threw down at her into her bra. From the money that floated down, it looked like she had won a large bet.

"You're the first one to ever guess that," I said, curious as to how she had found out. "How did you know?"

"The surname on your letters, I recognised it," she said, pointing at a pile of my forwarded correspondence from the university on the floor by the front door.

"You know Turkish?"

She shook her head, grinning. "Only how to say 'Give us a kiss boys!' I go to Bodrum every year for my summer hols. I've got some Turkish music we can listen to in my room later if you like."

I nodded my head, finally understanding. "Well, I'm actually only half Turkish, on my father's side. My mother is Italian."

"Wow," came an Irish voice from one of the boys on the landing. "So that's where you get your looks from."

"Wahey girl!" Nicola gave a high pitched squeal and came over to peer into my bedroom. "Looks like you bagged one of them already. Have you got a top I could borrow?"

"Sure, in the black suitcase. And what's the name of the bagged one?" I asked coyly, peering up at the boys.

"My name is Tom, and this is my friend Phil," came the Irish lilt, from the boy I was hoping it would be; tall, with dark hair and rosy cheeks speckled with light freckles, and the greenest of eyes. I liked Tom straight away, too.

"I love the Irish accent," I said, as he came down the steps slowly and in an old-fashioned manner reached to kiss my hand.

"Well then, we're off to a good start," he replied. We stared at each other for a moment, before my sister and Tom's friend Phil started to cough loudly behind our respective backs.

"Do you think we should leave them alone?" Phil asked in a broad English accent, while my sister just shrugged and made for the door.

"Seeing as we have some nice sturdy boys here, do you possibly think they could hoard in the rest of your stuff Lemon?"

I gave a groan and winced at my sister's mentioning of my pet family name. Nicola peered around from my bedroom door, with my favourite top on and her damp hair towel hanging around its shoulders. "Lemon? Why on earth do they call you Lemon? You don't look like the bitter variety to me."

Tom broke in, "If I get a taste, I'll let you know Nicky."

It was the turn of all three of us girls to groan then. Before I could say anything, Nicola gave a shake of her long, shaggy blonde hair and a loud "Oompah-pah!" that would quickly become her trademark. "Tom, Tom, Tom, you need to be a lot better looking than you are to get away with that remark!" She wagged a finger at him, blue eyes sparkling with humour, before disappearing into my bedroom again.

Tom shrugged off our reactions with a killer smile, his green eyes staring unflinchingly at me. "Can you blame a boy for trying?"

"Not so hard that you make us feel like we need to post a guard outside her door Tom me lad," reverberated Nicola's reply from my bedroom.

"Maybe I don't want a guard," I said quietly, to which Nicola popped her head around the door again.

"Oompah! It looks like this term just got interesting!"

Suddenly a huge yawn erupted from the top of the stairs. "Just what the effing hell is all this racket? Don't you all know I've got band practice in a couple of hours?"

Nicola smiled at me in explanation of the girl that had appeared on the first floor landing, standing above us with a furrowed forehead and a hand pushing through wiry hair: "That's Maxine, our resident vampire and rock chick. She has a band and she's always grumpy before a gig."

"Welcome darling," Maxine purred, "just stuff a sock or something in Nicky's mouth will you so I can get forty winks?"

"Hello!" My sister called in a frustrated voice from the front hall doorway. "Anyone remember me? Do you possibly think I could get some help bringing in Lemon's stuff please?"

I turned around with as much posture as I could muster, "Will you please stop calling me Lemon!"

Maxine took a step back. "Lemon?"

Nicola waved a hand for her to go back to bed. "We'll find out later. Go rest that voice of yours."

I gave a groan. "No more Lemon, please!"

My sister tried to hide a widening grin. "I call you whatever you want, just let's unload you quick! I want to start making headway for home!"

Nicola's voice rang out again in command. "You heard her boys. Chop, chop!"

As I watched the boys run out to get the rest of my stuff, and listened to Nicola bustling busily around in my luggage while Maxine traipsed sleepily back up the stairs, the strangest feeling crept up on me. My first day here, and I felt I'd come home.

Main | Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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