My friend Joe had accidentally killed someone again. The first incident resulted in the death of a little girl, and he’d received only a caution. This time it was a teenager; part of a renowned gang of brothers, and although the law still weren’t after him, the gang were.
For days they drove around his house in their fancy-ass purple convertible. However, as a law-abiding gang they never attempted anything murderous, but they were enough to make Joe terrified to leave the house.
They often glimpsed me in the upstairs windows, but I wasn’t afraid of them. Au contraire, we actually got on really well. I was trying to persuade Joe to turn himself in and they were happy to let me try. Joe, however, was just shrugging off my words. He was grateful for the company, but not for my advice.
He paced about the house in an utter state. As I followed him around, I examined the decorations I’d put up for him over the years; with each visit I’d added to the duvet mural pinned up on his wall. This duvet was so enormous that it extended the width of the house. It began in the master bedroom, where I had intricately decorated and coloured in the quilted squares, and through into the spare room, where I’d balanced it over a wooden frame and made him a cute lil’ tent.
I started adding to the colourful wall above the stairs, where I had previously drawn an ABC of animals and objects. I began to write subtle messages throughout the grids in chalks and charcoals to make him feel guilty. Things like, “H for he was just a boy,” and, “T for think about his poor family.” When he saw what I was doing, his eyes filled with tears. He grabbed me by the wrist and led me to the front room.
“Look, see?” Joe gestured to a masquerade mask lodged firmly into the wall. Next to it he had scribbled ‘JON DAMM.’ He looked at me pleadingly, as if waiting for my confirmation that this display was suitable repentance. But it didn’t fix anything. In fact, it added to his problems; his landlord would go mental at the wall damage.
I shook my head at him and returned to the spare room, where the tent section of the duvet had fallen. I tried to fix it, but it just kept falling, until I accidentally yanked it too hard and the pinned part came off. This was not what I needed. Not after witnessing the accident firsthand and having to deal with my friend’s guilt. I walked into Joe’s bedroom and realised in that short space of time he’d reorganised his furniture. The room was incredibly tidy, but where he’d newly positioned the bed, I could no longer put my duvet art up. More frustration.
I looked around his room. Everything was pristine; the only mess was a small pile of trinkets on the bedside table, hiding a used train ticket to a place called Kenfrew. The date was quite recent. I knew it was a woman.
The house was quiet. It seemed he’d snuck out. I looked out the window to see if the gang were still there, and saw the ginger-haired family in the garden of the house opposite. Two young girls and their thirty-something dad were hiding behind a wall in their swimming gear. Their younger sister was running towards them with a water pistol, but they were all far better armed. She didn’t stand a chance. She was pummelled by three strong, separate jets of water, and they all fell about laughing. I felt alone.
I decided to try and find Joe. As I reached town I saw him enter a restaurant. I followed without really seeing what kind of place it was. From the cuisine and décor I assumed it to be Turkish; the cubes of soft, creamy dessert I saw on everyone’s tables looked insanely good. They were served on big silver platters and round, ornate dishes by fancy waiters, and placed on rich red or purple tablecloths. The restaurant was absolutely massive, and after a couple of minutes I found Joe on a long table in the middle. Not only him, but my parents too. And my High School best friend and his family. Even some of my work colleagues. Some of the gang members were there too, seemingly unaware of Joe’s presence.
“What the hell?” I aimed the exclamation at my parents in particular. “Where was my invite?” Nobody answered. This entire restaurant looked kitted out for an extravagant party, like every table knew each other. What had I missed?
There was a spare seat at the head of the table near my mum and I asked if I could fill it, but nobody answered. They all just looked away from me awkwardly. I perched on it anyway, and could tell everyone was annoyed at my presence. Why though? I was the sole person that tied this group of people together! It was like they had all outgrown me. I reached across the table and picked up a fancy looking cereal bar from amongst the desserts; I wasn’t brave enough to take those without permission. I ate the bar out of spite, but I couldn’t really taste it.
“Mum, why wasn’t I invited?” I whispered quietly. She pointedly continued to ignore me. Her friends came over to our table with their prosecco glasses and glamorous dresses and smiled warmly at me.
“Hiya Claire, you alright?”
I’d not seen them in years. In normal circumstances I’d have gotten up and hugged them, but in this one I just said, “Yeah thanks… Actually no, I’m not alright. You’ve all had a fancy dinner without me. You know how much I like fancy dinners.” Their smiles vanished and they started ignoring me too.
Someone in a suit that I didn’t recognise stood up to give a speech. Sinking into my chair a little more, I’d never felt so out of place amongst my friends and family. I wasn’t sure what upset me more; their blatant dislike for my company, or the fact that the fuckers had eaten a whole 3-course meal without me.