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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Kids of Haven [2]

The Kids of Haven: Part 2

Half Term: Starving Hearts

"Home?" Nicola had declared indignantly, as though it were a dirty word. "What do you mean you're going home?"

We were halfway into the first term, and I was planning to spend my week's break with my family. Nicola and I were in my bedroom, getting dressed. Nicola was hardly ever out of my room, or I hers.

"Did we have any other plans?"

"Leyla! I thought we were going to all stay here for the half-term and go and see Maxine?"

"We're going to go and see Maxy tonight Nicky, not for the entire week."

Nicola pouted. "We have to all be there. All of us all week. It's her first proper sign up."

Maxine and her band the Starving Hearts had won a contract at the Times Square nightclub a few days before. It was a huge three storey auditorium, with a connecting tunnel that hung across the city centre like a glass snake writhing in the sky - known locally as the Time Tunnel.

I stopped applying my lipstick to give her a quick frown. "Nicky, I know that. It's been so quiet for the last few days!"

Winning an audition to play in the tunnel section three nights a week with pay had been something to celebrate about, but more importantly they now had a proper place for band practice, rather than outside or in our living room. Maxine constantly complained about the acoustics, but we were always mesmerised by what we heard and supported her at every opportunity. She was a great voice and composed a lot of original songs. Her talent was very obvious, but none of us had been very successful in persuading her of that fact.

"You know what she's like," Nicola continued, reaching over to a small plate of munchies she had prepared, crunching noisily on a slice of carrot and a stick of celery, her dinner for that day. "She'll want to see us there every night."

"Is that all you've eaten today," I asked with genuine concern, intentionally changing the subject.

"Yeah. So, what?"

I poked at her ribcage, which was becoming more and more prominent through her slender frame. "You are the proverbial stick insect. I could blow you out of the room!"

Nicola smiled, looking impressed with herself. "I am thin, aren't I?"

"No Nicky you're not thin, you're too thin. A girl needs some hips at least - Nicola?" I stopped mid sentence as I suddenly saw a few bruise marks on her thighs that I hadn't noticed before.

Nicola, sensing my curiosity, turned away from me and asked quickly, "Oh yeah? Is that what Tom wants then?"

I couldn't help blushing, and hated myself for it. "Tom? Tom who?"

"Oh Puhlease! That's such a sorry attempt at feigning ignorance! Tom who indeed! If he wasn't frightened that his Catholic dragon of a mother would break down our door if she found out, he'd be in here every night!"

"You do know she's threatened to rent the house next door? Protecting Tom's chastity otherwise he'll go to hell. But it's not me she has to protect him from."

"Oompah-pah! Hell is going home when you could stay here! What's at home anyway? Haven's your home, we are your home. So no arguments, you are with us this week, right Little Red Wolf?"

Having gotten rid of my nickname of Lemon, so-called by my family for always being too positive or 'making lemonade out of lemons', my new friends had promptly decided to give me another one.

It had come about on our first night together in the house, when we had all sat around talking until the early hours of the morning, getting to know one another. The topic had eventually touched on our favourite animals.

"Wolves," I said.

There was a stunned silence from my crew of four. Maxine had been strumming her guitar, and stopped mid-pluck. Tom brought his bottle of Bud down from his lips to ask, "Wolves?"

"Wolves," I repeated. "What's wrong with that?"

Tom quickly gulped down his beer. "Nothing. Just not an answer I expected."

Nicola gave me a sly look, quite wolfish in its own way, and said, "Is there something about the wolf in Tom, then?"

Maxine looked at us, to see how I'd respond, but I ignored the comment. "In Turkish and Italian cultures the wolf is revered."

Phil, our personal encyclopedia, butted in, "Let me explain it to them. In mythology a she-wolf suckled the founders of Rome, while a she-wolf named Asena lead the first Turkish tribe from the Ergenekon Plain in Central Asia to freedom."

I looked at Phil with admiration: "The Italian one is well known, but not the Turkish one. That's amazing," I said.

He gave me a broad smile and puffed out his chest. "I know I am."

I grinned back, warming to the theme. "When I was a child, I always rooted for the wolf in fairy tales."

Tom poked me in the arm with his bottle of beer. "Like a Little Red Wolf, huh?"

I stuck my tongue out at him. "Wolves are fiercely protective of their pack and their loved ones. So, why not?"

"Why not, indeed," he smiled.

"I bet he'd love to see you howl, Little Red Wolf," Nicola said cheekily, which made Tom laugh out loud.

Tom's laugh was infectious. He would roll his head back and the laughter would come from somewhere deep inside. As we followed his lead like the children of Hamlin after the pied piper, apart from Maxine who didn't do laughter, I wasn't to realise then how the nickname would stick so quickly after that night, or what it would signify in the months ahead.

Yet, on Maxine's first night at the Time Tunnel, I was about to find out.

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