Julie stood in the shadows. ‘You coming?’
Laura leant out of the window. ‘Don’t be so loud, Father is out for the count, but you might wake the neighbours.’
A packet of menthol cigarettes grabbed from her draw, she put her pillows down the middle of the bed, stepped back, and hoped in the dark, it would look like she was sleeping on her side.
‘Come on Loz, it’s freezing down here.’
Like a sloth, slowly, carefully, she jumped on the ledge, reached for the branch, and climbed down. Once on the grass, she looked up to her parent’s window.
Thankfully, they stayed asleep.
Julie was right, it was cold, and there was a touch of frost, already forming on the grass.
‘I didn’t think you would make it.’
‘Neither did I.’
Laura pulled down her black hoodie, so it covered most of her face. She didn’t remove it until she was well away from the street. Their neighbours shouldn’t be up, but Fred, played his war records till the early hours of the morning.
Laura lit the cigarette and took a soft draw in.
‘That’s better, it’s a good job my father had a skin full last night. Even the dead couldn’t wake him.’
‘Don’t worry about him – we have a party to go to.’
‘Will it still be on?’
‘I told you Steve’s parties go on for days.’
‘Will there be drinking?’
‘That’s why his parties are so good, I’ve brought some cider. Do you want some now, get us in the party mood?’
‘Maybe, when we get there.’
Not wanting to admit to her friend that she had no tolerance for alcohol Laura kept quiet. The nearest she got to drinking was a glass of watered-down wine at dinner. Normally, she wasn’t allowed out of her room, but when they had company, her father wanted things to be normal.
When they got to Steve’s flat, on the fifth floor of a high-rise block, Laura held her breath. The lifts were out of order, the smell of urine, as they climbed the stairs, made her feel sick.
‘Hi girls!’ Steve opened the door with a flourish.
‘This is Laura.’
Steve looked Laura up and down. She pulled her arms around her chest.
‘Come on in.’
The rooms were full to bursting. Some young people were dancing. Some lounged on the spare place on the floor and a couple were kissing in the corner of the corridor. Laura thought they might need a room of their own, at the rate they were going.
‘I’ll get a couple of glasses and we’ll have a drink.’
Once the second glass of cheap cider, hit her empty stomach, Laura felt her muscles relax. When a boy asked her to dance, she giggled. She let her arms and legs do their own thing. The music, loud and incoherent, washed over her.
After her third drink, and what looked like a clear liquid, which tasted of nothing, she couldn’t feel the use of her legs. She collapsed on the sofa, like fifty-two pick up. Suddenly there were two of everyone and the room lurched in and out of focus.