Flo heard the doorbell ring downstairs just as she was pulling off her third rejected skirt.
“Shit,” she swore under her breath, casting about for the one that she’d first tried and hated, tossing it away somewhere.
She heard her mum open the door and the muffled sounds of conversation coming from the doorstep.
“I’ll be down in a minute!”
Spotting the dark blue floral pattern sticking out from under her dirty towel, she frantically whipped it out. She swung her legs through the waistband and hitched them up, tucking in her white and blue striped t-shirt. One final glance in the mirror convinced her she looked like a sailor from a low-budget performance of HMS Pinafore, but it was too late to change now. She shoved her feet into a pair of worn-in trainers, grabbed her sunglasses off the top of her dresser and ran downstairs.
“Here she is,” said her mum, still standing talking in the doorway. “Grace and I were just catching up. I didn’t realise this thing you’re going to in the park is a dance festival.”
“Yeah, well…” Flo didn’t know what to say to this, so she stepped past her mum and looked at the visitor on the doorstep. “Hey Grace, how’s it going?”
“Fine thanks.” She smiled and remained waiting patiently.
Flo stepped outside to join her friend. “See you later,” she called back to her mum as they walked down the garden path out onto the street. They took a right towards Brockwell Park.
“You didn’t tell your mum that you were going with me, did you?” Grace asked.
“I don’t think I mentioned it, why?”
“She was being nice, but I could tell she was a bit surprised to see me. And a bit miffed too, maybe.”
“Yeah.” Grace turned her head to shoot a look at Flo.
“Well, you might be right,” Flo said, trying to avoid her eye, only causing Grace to start laughing. “After all, the last memory she has of you was like three years ago on GCSE result night when you threw up all over our bathroom.”
This sent Grace into hysterics; bringing her hands to her face and stopping in her tracks. “I didn’t?! I don’t remember that night at all!”
Flo watched, smiling, as Grace got herself under control.
Once her brief spasm was complete, Grace stood up straight and looked at Flo properly for the first time. “You look cute!” she said.
Flo tucked her hair behind her ear, “thanks.” In fact she was regretting the choice of clothing even more since seeing Grace’s extremely short denim cutoffs, with a plain white t-shirt tucked in tightly to accentuate her full bosom. When she looked down she saw that Grace was wearing unlaced hiking boots, which gave curve to her powerful legs. Her own sporty footwear, while comfortable, only made her skinny legs look all the more childish.
“I’m so glad you’re coming with us!” Grace said, dragging Flo in for a quick hug, before coupling her arm in hers and resuming their walk towards the park. “I never thought you’d say yes.”
“Who else is coming?”
“Neil and Jen, a couple I know from college.”
“You’re at college?”
“Yeah, getting a diploma. When I got back from Aus Mum said I had to do ‘something useful’ if I wanted to live with her”
“How’s that going?”
“It’s alright. Not like uni though. I bet you have loads of fun there, miles away from home, going out whenever you want.”
“It’s not quite like that…”
“Maybe not for you.” Grace picked up the pace, dragging Flo along by their conjoined elbow. “Come on, they’re probably already waiting for us.”
They rounded the corner onto Dulwich Road, bringing them up against the perimeter of Brockwell Park. Ahead on the pavement they could see several other sets of colourfully dressed young people, showing plenty of skin, chugging beers and Breezers, heading in the same direction.
“There they are!” Grace announced when they got close to the gate, unhooking from Flo and dashing forward to catch the female friend in a hug.
“Finally, you slag!” said the girl, who Flo noticed was wearing even shorter cutoffs and flip-flops, which exposed her tattooed feet.
“Oh fuck off, we’re here aren’t we?” Grace fired back, as she moved over to the guy friend, giving him a quick hug too. “This is Flo,” she gave a wave towards Flo, who put her hand up in silent, awkward greeting. “This is Jen and Neil,” she added, not looking back at Flo.
“Come on then, let’s go,” Neil said. “I finished my last can ten minutes ago and I’m getting parched.”
Inside the park gate they were immediately up against the walls of the festival enclosure itself. They could see, hear and smell the festivities from within; stages and tents peaking up beyond the barrier, a rumbling mesh of music and the fragrance of dozens of spliffs alight in the immediate vicinity. Grace and Jen’s excitement immediately picked up, and they pranced on ahead of Flo and Neil, bouncing on the balls of their feet with the inchoate bass thud flying through the air. Flo walked behind with Neil, in silence.
At the entrance to the festival, they all grouped together again and joined the short line.
“Got everything?” Grace asked Neil quietly.
“Yeah, Jen’s carrying our stuff.”
“In me bra,” Jen said with a sly smile, pulling her bra cups up a little and ensuring their security.
Flo didn’t know precisely what they were talking about, but she knew enough to keep quiet. Even though she wasn’t carrying, she still felt her heart rate rising as each of them in turn was patted down and had their bags checked by security.
All four of them passed through the barrier in less than a minute. Flo looked around at the others for some kind of expression of relief at passing through clean, but it was a non-issue. Grace and Jen were just holding hands and looking over to where a large mass had collected in front of the main outdoor stage.
“Let’s go dance!” Jen said, appealing to her boyfriend.
Neil was scanning the setting in front of them. “Where’s the bar? That’s not the line is it?” He pointed to a long file of bodies that seemed to traverse the whole breadth of the festival.
“That’s the line to get bar tokens; don’t you remember from last year?” Jen said. “We’ve gotta buy some of those first before we can get booze.”
“Fuck me, I thought they’d have realised that ridiculous system is a complete waste of fucking time,” Neil said, making off in the direction of where it seemed the end of the line might be. Dancing would have to wait.
Flo felt Grace come up from behind and link elbows, forming a line of three with Jen on her other arm, all following behind Neil.
“This is going to be so much fun!” Grace said as she guided the conjoined trio through the masses of people, determined to stay together despite its manoeuvrable impracticalities. “I can’t wait to have a good dance. Hope there’s some nice men out there.” She seemed to already be auditioning boys as they passed, flashing glances over her sunglass and a few fluttering smiles.
When they stopped at the end of the queue for bar tokens, Flo took a look around. The view of the main stage was now blocked off by the circle of large trees that was the centre point of the festival. To their left were a couple of large trapeze-style tents, outside of which several drained-looking people seemed to be swaying about or cradling each other. Looking through the entrance of the nearest tent, Flo could see mostly black, with lights pulsating in the dimness. Milling all around them was exposed skin of all shades, shapes and attractiveness. The crowd’s general lack of inhibitions regarding their appearance made Flo start to feel a little better about her own pale skin and flat chest.
“Oi, you want some face paint?” Flo turned to see Jen holding up a set of neon tubes and a brush.
“Alright then,” she said, stepping nearer and presenting her cheek.
“It should be quite easy, since you’re not wearing any make up.” Jen got to work, without consulting Flo about the design.
“Where’d you guys go on your date last night?” Grace enquired.
“We went for a well posh meal in Brixton Village, didn’t we?” Jen paused her painting and looked over at her boyfriend.
“What? Yeah,” Neil said. “Oi can you give me one of the wraps out of your bra? This line is taking a fucking age.”
Jen obediently plucked something out of her top and passed it underhandedly to Neil.
“I thought a festival like this would more likely happen in Brixton than Herne Hill,” Flo said.
Jen gave her a quizzical look. “But the park’s here, in Herne Hill.”
Flo blushed. “I know that! I mean because Brixton has such a history of music. You know, with the Academy and whatever…”
“Remember when we used to go to the Academy?” Grace said to Flo. “I remember seeing, like, Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday.”
“Yeah of course!” Flo said. “I remember we used to get there early so we could be down front. We’d get so squished and sweaty. Wow that was like, four years ago?”
“I just wanted to scream at the singers that I loved them. If I’d had these then,” Grace cupped and pushed up her breasts, “then I definitely would’ve flashed them.” Both Grace and Flo burst into laughter at this.
“Oi! Hold still,” said Jen. “I’m almost finished.”
“Oh my god!” Grace said, bringing her hands up to her face in shock.
Both Jen and Flo looked at her. “What?”
“I can’t believe you’ve drawn a massive cock on her face!”
“What?!” said Flo, taking a quick step away from Jen while both the other girls started bristling with laughter. “What have you done!?”
“What’s going on?” Neil interrupted, returning to Earth after his bump.
“Look at the massive cock on Flo’s face!” Grace said through the laughter.
Flo’s hands quickly shot up to cover her cheeks, “Noooooo! I have to wash it off, now!” She turned around and started marching off in a random direction, but didn’t get far before she felt someone pulling her back.
“Stop! Stop! I’m just fucking with you,” said Grace, still bubbling with small currents of laughter. “There’s no cock on your face.”
“Really?” she asked, tentatively dropping her hands from her cheeks.
“Really!” Grace said, pulling Flo back to the line. “Jen’s not that evil, are you?”
“No! Not today, at least,” Jen said. “It actually looks really good! Look, let me take a picture of the two of you.”
Jen took the picture and showed them. Grace had her arm around Flo with a tongue-out-peace-sign pose, while Flo’s face was pulled down in a tight pout, but sure enough it was decorated with luminous lines and stars - no phalluses in sight.
“How much are we buying?” Neil said, as they were nearing the front of the line.
“At least six each, yeah?” Jen said, looking at Grace.
“Sounds about right.”
“I’m not sure I need six,” Flo said. “I might just drink water.”
Grace looked at her. “Just buy six and if you don’t need them then we’ll pay you back.”
Flo wasn’t entirely assured by this, but she bought six anyway. She met the others at the exit from the line.
“Finally!” Neil said, and started striding off in search of the actual bar.
Since they couldn’t see the bar from where they were, they made their way into the circle of trees in the middle of the festival. Inside, the leafy surroundings dulled the sounds of the festival, creating a little green haven. They picked their way across, weaving amongst circles of stoned strangers sitting on the grass and logs, and emerged on the other side of the festival. They saw the bar – and the huge line protruding from it.
“Oooooh, fuck me! Not another one!” Neil said.
Jen smiled. “Don’t worry babe, we’ve got this covered. You wait here. Vodka coke yeah? Come on girls.”
She led the way, with Grace keeping pace and Flo just behind. They walked straight up to near the front of the line and observed the people there.
“Let’s go for these lads,” Jen said, and she and Grace immediately approached a foursome of boys who were nearing the front of the line.
Flo hung back, unsure. She watched as the two girls walked up, chests first, and struck up a conversation in no time. After a few words were exchanged, with no small amount of giggling from Grace and Jen, she saw them pass some of their tokens to them, with muted instructions. While they waited for the guys to get their drinks, Grace looked back to Flo and waved her to come and join in. Flo was rooted to the spot and just shook her head.
Grace and Jen received their drinks from the lads, giving them a couple of smiles and blown kisses, before returning to Flo.
“What’s up Flo? Don’t you wanna drink?” Grace said.
“Wait, you didn’t get anything?” Jen said. “Why not?”
Flo spluttered a little. “Well I think I’m just gonna drink water anyway, and I’m not thirsty yet so it doesn’t matter.”
“Go on, you’ve gotta drink if you wanna have fun!” said Grace, smiling encouragingly. “Just go ask someone – look that lad there is on his own.” She was pointing to a young guy in the line who was grinding his teeth and staring into the middle distance.
“No I don’t think so.” Flo said. “I don’t want to.”
“Fuck sake,” Jen said, downing her drink in one. “Gimme a couple of your tokens.”
Feebly, Flo handed over a couple of the small red plastic discs. She then watched as Jen went up to the guy, with Grace following just for fun. A couple of minutes later they returned; Jen holding a couple more drinks. She handed one to Flo and kept one for herself. “Thanks,” Flo said, taking a small sip.
“Right, time to dance!! Where’s my man?”
They returned to Neil, handed him his drink and immediately made their way towards one of the dark tents Flo had noticed earlier.
As they approached the entrance to the tent, they could feel the bass thump from within, physically striking their bodies like tiny gusts. Inside the lights glided over a mass of bodies, throbbing as one with the beats.
“Oh mate, this is gonna be proper!” Neil said, as they started to weave their way into the crowd.
They reached a dense thicket of bodies, pressed in close to the DJ. They’d have to push to get further. “Wait a second babe,” Jen said over the din, grabbing Neil. “Let’s have a little toke so we can go wild.” She pulled a ziploc bag from her bra, unrolled it and pulled one of the joints within. She put it in her mouth and lit it, soon puffing and nodding along in time with the music. Neil and Grace also seemed to be naturally swaying, bobbing and stepping along to the ruckus coming from the front, waiting for the joint to come to them.
Flo was unsure exactly how her body should be moving, so she just nodded along and swayed a little. She was more interested in the people all around. The mass of uniformly bouncing bodies ahead of them was glistening under the lights, their skin covered by a thin sheen of sweat. Towards the back were some less transfixed people, stumbling about and laughing, trying to talk to their friends through the techno barrier. There was even one guy sitting on the ground, leaning against one of the tent’s support poles, eyes closed – either passed out or in some kind of extreme decibel meditation.
Someone nudged Flo’s shoulder, and she turned to find Grace holding the hot smokey spliff right in her face. Flo’s instinct was to refuse, but she knew it would only cause more scoffing and condescending from her friends, so she took it and put it in her mouth. With Grace watching closely, she tentatively inhaled, feeling the smoke creep down her throat. Suddenly it seized and she coughed violently, dropping her drink and sending the joint flying out of her mouth onto the dark floor.
“Oh shit, grab that!” Grace shouted to Jen, who had also been watching with glee. She started patting Flo on the back. “There you go, you gotta cough to get off! Ain’t you ever smoked one before?”
Flo, still recovering from her coughing fit, just shook her head.
“A year at uni and you’ve never smoked a zoot? Bloody hell. Oi Jen pass that back over here.” She received the spliff and took a quick puff, then offered it to Flo again, who vehemently tried to wave it off. “Go on, you hardly smoked anything, just take it slowly this time.”
Flo felt a bit lightheaded and lacked the strength to stand her ground, so she allowed Grace to put the joint between her lips and inhaled, very slowly this time. As soon as she started to feel the irritation in her throat again she stopped and gave it back to Grace.
“Not so bad, huh?” Grace said, taking a couple of quick final puffs and chucking it on the ground. “Let’s go forward.” She started off, pushing her way into the bodies to get nearer the stage, Jen and Neil in tow.
Flat footed, Flo was starting to feel spaced out, and her head felt like it was swelling and contracting in time with the deep bass throb. She looked for Grace, but she wasn’t there. She was gone. Frantically, she scrabbled through bodies, slipping by due to her thinness and the slickness of the sweaty skin pressing in around her.
She drove her way through several rows of people, until she could make no more progress. She was surrounded on all sides, and couldn’t move without stroking an arm, thigh or buttock. Looking at the faces of the encroaching dancers, all she saw were eyes, glowing under the stage lights. Some were rolling back in their heads, while others were big and bright, with saucer-like irises. The glistening whites swayed all around her, while the dark centres darted towards her, away and back again – none of them familiar. Flo started to try to twist her body and neck around in the tight space to see where Grace had got to. She could barely see beyond the thick knot of heads and limbs that were swaying and pumping all about.
Flo’s jerking around caught the attention of a man in a sweat-soaked shirt who was standing just to the side of her. “Having a good one?” he asked.
“I can’t see my friends.”
“Yeah, I bloody love Rødhåd,” said the guy. “Trust a German to bring proper hard core pitch-black techno to the park on a Saturday afternoon.” Suddenly the beat dropped again, heavily, vaulting the sound into new levels of noise and sending the man into spasms of fist pumping, foot stomping, eye rolling joy. Women on either side jerked their waists spasmodically, knocking Flo around like a buoy on a rough sea.
Regaining her balance, Flo turned and pushed back past the man. Her intention was to head back to where it was less densely crowded, so she might be able to see Grace. After wearing herself out pushing through endless people, Flo realised the crowd wasn’t thinning. She got up on tip toes and strained to look around and get her bearings. There seemed to be endless heads and arms and chests in every direction. She tried to look beyond them and she saw one of the exits from the tent, and the large rain drops teeming down it. Everyone had rushed into the tent to escape the downpour, and now Flo was trapped in the midst of a damp, humid, writhing mob.
She had the urge to scream out for Grace, or anyone, to find her and drag her to happiness. She tried to shout, but her mouth was totally dry. Worse than dry; it seemed as though her tongue had become an arid plane, the cheeks and gums enclosing it were compressed sand, and the stream of her throat seemed to have been drained centuries ago. This sudden incapacitation bewildered Flo. All she could think of was reaching those drops of rain and allowing moisture back into her life. Determined, she put her head down and struck out in the direction of the nearest exit, propelling herself through arms and abs with no regard for the people behind them.
Finally, she clawed her way clear of the crowd, out into the spitting rain. She held her arms wide, feeling the freedom of the outside air and the cooling summer downpour. She opened her mouth wide to quench herself, but the mere drops weren’t enough to revitalise her dusty gob. Her mouth tipped to the heavens, she floundered about trying to gather more moisture, but to no avail. The glorious escape of outdoors had quickly worn off, and now she was just standing in the rain, still parched.
Flo heard some giggling coming from her right. She looked over to see a group of boys, huddled under one of the nearby trees, passing around a large bottle of water and watching her. Flo, unfazed by their amusement, walked over to them and squatted down in their circle. “Can I have some?” she managed to croak, indicating the bottle.
The boys laughed. One of them grabbed the water off his friend and passed it over. “You look like you need it.”
Flo took it, wordlessly, tipped it back and started glugging unguardedly. After a few good slugs she brought it back down. “Tastes funny,” she said.
“Yeah we put quite a lot in,” the guy who’d handed it to her said.
Without stopping to comprehend this statement, Flo tipped the bottle back again and resumed gulping.
“Whoa! Easy!” said the guy. “We’re all sharing that.”
After a final mouthful, she pulled the bottle from her lips, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and passed it back to the man with a smile. “Sorry. Thanks.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s a party,” the guy said, smiling warmly back. “Why don’t you sit with me?” He moved up a bit on his log, revealing a spot for Flo.
The relief at finding some water, and the happiness at no longer being alone, gave Flo a nice buzz, and she accepted the guy’s offer. Once in place next to the man, she took a proper look around the circle at the others, as they went on discussing something or other she didn’t follow. There were five of them, and they were all wearing a similar white shirt with a badge and collar.
“Are you guys a team?” Flo said, interrupting whatever they’d been talking about.
“A team?” said one of the guys across the circle, with a slight smirk.
“You’re all wearing the same shirt.”
This made all around the circle start to laugh, leaving Flo nonplussed. She waited for an explanation.
“We’re wearing England shirts,” the smirking guy said to her. “You know, England football team? It’s the first match of the Euros tonight.”
“I see. So you’re just fans. Not players.”
The chuckling continued from all around the circle. The guy on the log next to her leaned in, “you’re funny.”
Flo hadn’t intended to be funny, but she took the complement nonetheless. The boys continued chatting, and she tuned out. She started to think about Grace and where she’d got to, whether she should go back into the tent and look for her. But it felt good here. The rain had stopped, she had fresh air, and she was off her feet. The heat of the guy next to her was pleasant, and she snuggled her bum into the cracks of the log. She felt warmth and softness in her back. This nice, smooth feeling wriggled its way down her spine, into her lower back, under her waistband, and around her posterior. Flo was giving into this feeling, welcoming it, luxuriating in it, until she felt a slight scratch. Her head turned quickly, and she was shocked to realise that the guy on the log next to her had his arm around her. She twisted further and realised that his arm was running down her lower back and his hand was in her skirt! His subtle caresses had been the source of all the sudden inexplicable physical pleasure. It took Flo a moment, but as soon as she understood she was being sneakily fondled she sprang onto her feet, straight into a branch above her head. “Agh!”
This spasm of movement caused conversation to cease and all eyes shot to her, rubbing her head vigorously.
“What did you do to her?”
“How much did you give her?”
“She’s alright, aren’t you?” The guy who’d had his hands in her pants was now standing next to her, looking at her fondly. Flo looked back, clueless. Then, with no forethought, she turned on her heel and ran.
She ran straight through the green haven of trees, now clear of bodies after the rain. She flew between tree trunks out onto the lawn. Without breaking her stride she thrust her way straight through the drinks token line. Ahead she could see the exit, and she made straight for it.
“Flo! Flo!” She could hear someone shouting from behind her but she didn’t stop. They probably just wanted her to go back so they could laugh at her some more. Maybe she wasn’t even the Flo they wanted. Maybe ‘flo’ was the name of another kind of drug she was clueless about. She kept running, wildly, glancing off of people walking in the other direction, but not stopping or apologising for anything. She ran past security, through the barriers, across the grass, through the park gate, and onto the pavement outside.
There she stopped and caught her breath. She looked at the world around her, elated to be free of all the mindless, mannerless, inhibitionless people back in the festival enclosure and amongst old, bored, sane people again. Her eyes darted about, but landed upon a piece of street art high up on a wall across the road, and stayed there transfixed. It was a face, split into ribbons, with four sets of eyes, and two lopsided smiles. Flo couldn’t fathom it, but couldn’t look away.
She heard running footsteps clomping up behind her, and turned just as Grace came to a halt next to her, out of breath. “You… crazy… bitch…” she said, between pants.
Flo waited for Grace to catch her breath, continuing to study at the freaky face across the road, which stared back at her, four times over.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Grace asked when she’d pulled herself together. “I’ve been looking for you for ages. I was wandering around, then I saw you battering ram your way through a bunch of people and peg it out the gate!”
“What is that?” Flo said, still looking at the bizarre face on the wall across the street.
“Some street art. Why are you out here?”
“But what does it mean?”
“I dunno! It probably just means the artist took a lot of acid!”
“I don’t get it!” Flo choked.
“I don’t get it! I don’t get anything!!” Flo started sobbing. “I can’t dance to this music, I don’t understand ‘pitch-black techno’, I can’t smoke any drugs, I can’t talk to any boys. I can’t be here!!”
Grace hurriedly put her arm around Flo’s shoulders. “Whoa, calm down. Come on, let’s sit.” She guided her whimpering friend across the street and parked her in a seat outside a kebab shop. “Starving. You want anything?” she asked Flo, who shook her head.
Flo remained quietly moping in the seat while Grace went in and ordered. People passing couldn’t help take a good look at her colourfully bedraggled appearance, but passed by without comment.
A couple of minutes later Grace returned with a box stuffed with chips and meat, and a couple of cokes. She placed them on the table and sat down opposite Flo. “Here, eat some of these chips, I know you must be starving. I’ve got munchies like crazy.”
Flo wiped tears from her puffed eyes. Her face paint was now completely smeared, giving her cheeks a rainbow hue. “Why did you come after me?”
“Because we came together. I didn’t want to lose you!”
“What about Neil and Jen?”
“They were with me, but then they got in a fight because Neil was jealous or something. I couldn’t stand their whining so I left them to themselves and came to look for you.”
“But why? You were having fun and I ruined it!”
“It wasn’t fun without you,” Grace said, earnestly looking Flo in the eye.
“Me? But I’m not… that’s not me… I can’t believe you even invited me in the first place. I don’t fit in there.”
“What does that mean? There’s no way to fit in at a festival. You’ve just got to have fun; that’s the only way to fit in.”
“But I don’t know how to have fun. I can’t drink, I can’t smoke –“
“It doesn’t matter what you’ve drunk or smoked or taken.”
“But you told me I had to drink to have fun!”
Grace sighed and pursed her lips. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I was just excited and I know for me alcohol is fun. But I shouldn’t have made you. The most important thing is to just be yourself and have fun however you like.”
Flo sniffled, but her tears had run dry. “But I’m not fun like any of those people in there.”
Grace scowled slightly at her friend. “Those people in there!? Who even are they? I know you, Florence Daniel, and I know you’re fun.”
“How do you know? We’ve hardly seen each other for three years.”
“I know. Trust me. Who else could’ve written ‘Brixton Bitches’ or ‘Five Foot Fart Cloud’ with me?”
A sudden smile and laugh cracked out of Flo’s miserable features. “That’s true… But I only could’ve done that with you egging me on.”
“I needed you too! I think that’s why your mum hates me now. I corrupted her precious girl.”
“She doesn’t hate you. I think she’s a bit scared of you. You’re not afraid to swear and say whatever in front of anyone, anywhere. Remember school talent night?”
“The most rigged competition of all time.”
“Right! Even though we finished last, I was proud to be in your band. We expressed ourselves. We showed we were different. We were becoming adults. Our parents weren’t ready.”
“True,” Grace said, pondering. “It wasn’t long after that I decided to quit school and travel.”
“And Fungus Cannon was no more.”
“Yeah…” Grace said, slightly downcast. “I’m sorry. I guess I never apologised then.”
“You didn’t have to!” She reached for her friend’s hand on the table. “You were being you. You travelled. You became an individual!”
“Fat lot of good it did me. Now I’m back home with my mum and going to college for some poxy diploma.”
“It’s temporary. You’ve got so much experience. You’re going to make it somehow Grace, I know it.”
“But I’m not smart, like you. I could never go to uni.”
“What does that matter? You said earlier the best way to fit in is to have fun. That was actually a really smart point, if you think about it. I think it’s true in everything in life – and you’re the most outgoing, fun person I know!”
Grace let out a small, self-effacing laugh. “Thanks. But I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. I’ve been back in Herne Hill for 6 months and I’ve barely left it except to go to college.”
Flo sighed. “I’ve hardly been anywhere, either, aside from lecture halls. I feel like I’m wasting my youth.”
They stayed silent for a minute, eating and thinking. Then Flo spoke up: “Why don’t we go somewhere, now?”
“What, right now?”
“Yeah. The train station’s right there,” Flo said, pointing over to where a busker was playing guitar on a flowerpot outside a red brick building.
Grace smiled. “I guess we could. I told my mum I’d be out late anyway. Where would we go?”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Flo, smiling and standing up. “Let’s just get on the next train. Let’s get lost.”
Grace smiled and stood. “Alright then, partner.”
Arm in arm they started off towards the station.