We packed our bags and that was it. We were off on a trail laid out beneath our own wondering feet.

“We’ll have no money for food or petrol, but I’ve got shit tonnes of booze and fags and I stole some of my brother’s weed.”

That was all it took to convince me. I pinched a couple essentials from my Mum’s kitchen cupboard and she stole the keys to her Dad’s camper van and we set off that same night. I wasn’t sure where it was exactly that she was taking me, yet I still filled with excitement as we crossed the border out of our town, and again when we arrived at Luton Airport. I’d never been to Luton before; that was already a bonus.

I felt my stomach fall through the ground when I saw the size of the plane we were flying on. She surprised me at the gates; two tickets to Amsterdam. They were supposed to be her elder sisters; she was going to fly out with her fiancée tonight, after the wedding, but Cher didn’t take kindly to rudeness from her siblings. Being the youngest of the three, she felt responsible for humbling her brother and sister.

She’d spent the day at the reception mostly. She was late to the funeral – as she usually was – as she was late getting up and out of bed. She lives just right around the corner from my Mum’s place, in a studio flat. Cher couldn’t stand being at home; I really don’t understand, as I really like my Mum.

Her parents had come and go for the last few years. They owned the house and, after they separated, both disappeared to buy new separate houses; her mother in the Czech Republic, and her Father in New Orleans. As a result, they left the house to the kids, so none of them would have to move.

At that time her brother was pushing nineteen, but he hadn’t made it into work yet. Cher’s Dad used to say that if he didn’t have a job by the end of the summer (after he turned eighteen) he would be shipped off to the army without a second thought; but he was far too caught up in his own business then to attend to his children.

Her sister was seventeen at the time, and Cher was only nine. She’d been practically raised by them, yet she despised them greatly. She grew to be independent from a very early age, which I think may be what offset her mental health. By Twelve years of age, she could’ve run the house herself, bar paying the bills.

Ten years later and her brother still sits smoking weed on the couch with his mates for days at a time, playing Fifa and the like, and her sister is married and she’s moving her husband in and his little girl into Cher’s old room. The door hasn’t been opened in nearly a year.

She couldn’t take the change; I could sense it. I think that’s why she decided to leave.

I knew before we even left, that she didn’t plan on coming back. Cher was a deep thinker and as cunning as anyone, but I could read her like a book. She could never lie to me, even when we were young. Like the time she decided to piss in my paddling pool but she didn’t realise it was empty to she blamed it on the next door neighbours kid. He was only Two and a half.

We landed in Dam just after midnight, and Cher dragged me down the red light district before we even found a proper parking space. She just dumped the van at the side of the road. I think she just needed a good fuck that night.

Cher was weird; don’t get me wrong, I love her, but as a best friend, she’s the type to only get you into trouble. I’d always be the one cleaning up after her; but this scared me. This was something else. She had a plan and I didn’t know what the fuck it was, but it creeped me out to high hell. She skipped down the strip as if she was on her way to a comfortable grave.

I watched her disappear into the night, and then turned back to check the van. Somebody was sniffing around it, but when I looked back to shout for Cher, she was taking some cash from an older gent, and lead him up some back stairs and into a place called “Rouge”. I turned back and ran over to the van.

As I approached it, the guys around all scattered and I could see that they had stolen the keys and all our money. I wanted to cry.

I plonked myself down on the pavement beside and stared up at the sign: “Rouge”. A part of me wanted to die that night, but I chose life. I chose to live wild and free. I chose to be like Cher. I chose to walk up those back stairs, and I could never change that.

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