Anna Royle treats us with a new, short story…
One Tuesday morning in December, Rachel blundered through the blue fire doors at 8:40am, her black brogues scuffed against the rough grey carpet. She slammed her Le Pliage Longchamp tote dupe onto the desk so hard that her ink-stained Paperchase pencil case and matching pink pukka pad slid out. She didn’t care to pick them up, instead plonked herself on the only free seat and buried her face into the
nylon material. Maria stroked her head and Rachel groaned in gratefulness. When the bell rang, Rachel forced her bloodshot eyes open, and wiped away the wateriness from the bags under them. At break, she sipped at her water bottle like a hamster, careful not take in too much incase it awakened the vodka from the night before. She dozed during Biology, while Georgia kept look-out, and nudged her if Mrs O’Reilly looked up. As they packed up their stuff quickly, Georgia handed Rachel her booklet so she could catch up at home. When questioned about her choice of packed lunch (two bits of dry, white
bread), Rachel explained “I woke up at ten past eight, still in my dress. I had to get changed, take off my makeup, find my water bottle. I just picked up the easiest thing I could think of.” Sophie had brought sandwiches with her despite getting free school meals, so she used her ticket to buy Rachel a curry chip and an orange juice from the canteen.
That Saturday night at twelve forty-five, she rang Georgia in tears.
“What’s wrong Rachel?” Georgia asked. Rachel replied through a series of sobs, “I need…I need you to pick me up…please.” Before Rachel had even explained where she was, Georgia was forcing her fluffy socks into her trainers, tongue folded and heel squashing the back of them. She had put her coat on over her dressing gown and snuck into her car. She found Georgia sitting on the curb of a footpath by a closed kebab shop, her mascara stains illuminated by the streetlight.
“Where’s Adam?” Georgia asked.
“Sshhh… please don’t talk about him right now.” Rachel slurred.
“Who were you out with? Were you out with the guys from your work again? Why did they leave
“No…stop with all the questions.”
“Rachel…did anything happen? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I just wanted to go home. Promise me you won’t tell Adam about this, okay?”
Georgia knew when she said “home” she meant Georgia’s home, not her own. Georgia got her a basin and some water and let her sleep on her side of the bed. They met Maria and Sophie in McDonalds the following morning, as she filled them in over hash browns and McMuffins. Adam and Rachel had been going out for three months. Georgia, Maria and Sophie all knew she didn’t actually like him. She liked that he was able to pick her up from school; she liked that he was Christian and her mum liked him; she liked that his dad got her work experience in the hospital; and
most of all she liked that she got to lose the pressure of her virginity. She would regularly complain that he texted weird, that when they kiss they would bang teeth and he breathes through his mouth
when they’re trying to watch a film. Despite this, Rachel always felt guilty for how she treated him. The girls didn’t understand why she stayed in this cycle. That was until Maria’s 18th birthday party.
Rachel had drank too much, and she wouldn’t tell anyone what she’d taken. But she stuck her head in Maria’s toilet for three hours until the vomit stopped and blood started coming up. She refused to unlock her phone so they could call her mum. At one stage, Sophie attempted to pull Rachel’s arm behind her back and press her thumb into the home button of her phone. Rachel screamed and wrestled free, from then on crossing her arms and keeping her hands under her armpits while saliva
dribbled down her chin onto the toilet seat. As a last resort, Georgia threatened to call Adam, expecting her to give in at this threat, as Georgia had coincidentally forgot to mention to him that Maria’s party was this weekend. Instead, Rachel let her, and within fifteen minutes the doorbell rang. Adam wished Maria a happy birthday and apologised
for not knowing it was today. He didn’t ask Rachel any questions. He rubbed her back and kissed her head and she fell into his arms. The girls’ saw Rachel cry into his neck and he rocked her like she was two feet tall. They left them alone and ten minutes later he helped her into his car.
“Hey Maria, I’m gonna take her to mine. My Dad can check if she’s okay and if not I’ll drive her to A&E. Sorry for this happening on your birthday. I’ll keep yous updated. Have a good one.” Later that night he sent a photo of her tucked up in his bed, giving a thumbs up. She had a hot water bottle and a cup of tea.
Sophie had read something online about broken girls pushing people they love away.
“I’m not broken!” replied Rachel.
“I’m not saying you are. But we all saw how you got on with him at Maria’s. You obviously have feelings for him.” said Sophie
“I was drunk. He was being nice. Unlike all of you.”
“Rachel, you were throwing up blood. What were we meant to do?” added Georgia. Rachel picked at her food.
“If you don’t have feelings for him why don’t you just break up with him? You can’t keep playing him like this.” Maria asked. Rachel didn’t look up.
“Broken.” Sophie mouthed to the others. Rachel hit her in the side with her pencil case. They all laughed