Laura picked up a box from the high shelf in the cupboard. Carefully, she brought it down. Lucy got her thinking about Julie, and she remembered the diaries written when she was a teenager. She would hide them in the back of her chest of drawers, along with a packet of menthol cigarettes and a small bottle of vodka.
It helped her sleep.
There were only three diaries in all, and they had ended abruptly. About the time Julie had gone halfway across the country to study law at Durham University. They had intended to keep in contact but drifted apart when they both started dating.
Eventually the phone calls dried up to nothing.
She picked up the first, glittery diary, and opened the first page. Laura Whitman – aged 17. So much written in such a short amount of time. Now, she didn’t know what purpose a diary served, apart from reminding yourself of the pain you were in, but Julie always brought out the worst and the best in her. At least they were happy reminders of her teenage years.
‘I’m going outside for a smoke,’ Julie said, as they opened the last of the boxes.
‘I’ll see you in a bit. I don’t smoke,’ Laura said.
‘You haven’t even tried one, blimey, I had my first cigarette when I was fourteen.’
‘What do they taste like?’
‘Don’t know really, but you would like smoking I reckon, and they help, when being at home is a bit much.’
‘I would love to try one, but won’t Mrs Carmichael tell my father.’
‘We’re due a break, and I normally go in the alleyway, just behind the church. Nobody will see you there. We can have a proper chat without the grown-ups getting in the way.’
Laura looked to her watch – they were always allowed half an hour to go and get something to eat and drink. Since someone spilled juice all down a table full of clothes, she didn’t like anyone eating near them, so encouraged them to go outside.
‘Okay, but what about the smell?’ Laura whispered.
‘I smoke Menthol, and I always carry around these.’ Julie picked out a packet of mints and put them on the table. ‘Nobody has caught me yet. Excuse me, Mrs Carmichael, me and Laura are going for our half hour break.’
‘Half an hour girls, you do know there will be a rush soon.’
‘Course, we won’t be long.’
Julie grabbed Laura’s hand and led her outside. They darted down the side of the church and made their way to the alley. Julie leant against a large, industrial sized bin. A very grumpy looking cat jumped from his position and rushed after an extremely lucky mouse.
A packet of cigarettes, removed from her jacket pocket, she handed Laura one to try.
Hesitantly, Laura took one, let Julie light it. She puffed like a steam train, but nothing was happening.
‘You got to take in a breath Laura, like this.’
Rings of smoke drifted across the alley like a red Indian’s signal. ‘Now you try.’
With a deep breath, her brow furrowed, Laura inhaled her first nicotine hit, and coughed a little.
‘Take it easy, not so quick.’
After a few tries, and a whole lot of laughing, Laura managed to smoke a whole cigarette without coughing. Julie was right, they did take away some of the pressure from home. Sometimes her mum managed to give her some money, as payment for her chores, and the following Sunday, Laura brought her own cigarettes.