Her voice is smoke. Thick clouds from the throat. Bitter and rolling. Speaks fast but that’s ok. That’s about all that’s ok. Elloluv am Margie. Hands dry thin old. Smells musty. Lonely. That’s why she’s doing it. That’s what I hate about these things. It’s supposed to be for us a nice holiday somewhere warm but really, it’s for everyone else. Won’t stop hearing the camera-click all week. Fancy sittin in the garden? I hate cameras. And then Margie. Dragging me by the hand. Bet she gets called Marg at home. Added the extra syllable for us. Probably decided on the plane over. I’m glad she said outside though. Katie is laughing with James. He speaks young. She’s the only one who got someone young.
There’s a breeze against my cheek. Full of salt fish sand and heat. Nice out ere isn’t it. You don’t come all the way to Mallorca to sit inside! Dunno what they’re all doin’ in there are you glad we’re outside we can go back in if you want. You lead the. You just say what you fancy. I say outside is fine and we walk away from all the other talking. I hear her shuffling about with a chair. Here you are she says putting her hand on my shoulder like sit down. She probably thinks the silence is awkward but it’s not my fault and it’s not silent anyway. The wind flutters the leaves of trees. There are gulls, loud and funny-sounding and a bit farther out the ocean laps against a pebble-beach. More erratic than when it’s over sand. When the water is a smooth swoosh in and out with no interruption. That’s my favourite type beach. Stones get in the way of everything and I normally get called back before I fall. So. Plan for the evening. Dinner and then the party. You excited for the party? I tell her not really and she asks why so I shrug my shoulders and turn my head and we sit quietly. Marg, any chance you guys can come back in now we’re going to do a quick speech go through a few rules and then we can let you all go get ready.
I’ve put your clothes on the bed Marg says as she leaves the bedroom for me to change. Oh, and how old are you now? I answer 16. Hear the door click shut as she goes through to the kitchen. I feel for the jeans and t-shirt my brother Alex said to wear tonight. Good garms he said. I want to look nice. He’s the only one who knows why. You probably think it’s strange but it’s not. Like my mum can hardly smell but she still wears perfume. Asks dad if it’s nice and if she’s put on too much.
Out the bedroom I smell a drink like medicine clean. She swills it round. Jingle ice hits glass as she steps through to the balcony. I follow slow because I haven’t memorised everything yet. You’re looking very handsome there Luke. Out to impress anyone? I shrug and walk towards her. She doesn’t move to help like most would. I’m surprised at this. I know she’s watching and ask if there’s another chair out there. Yes I’ve got one ready for you. We’ve got a while before we need to go down. Glad I didn’t get stuck with a girl to be honest. I had one last time and spent hours doing makeup and straightening hair. So you’re sixteen now hey? I reply yes. Girlfriend? I step out into the heat. The chairs right in front of you by the way. I tell her I know it is. Girlfriend? she repeats. No I say. None of us have girlfriends or boyfriends like it’s not really something that happens. I feel my face burn a bit and ask her if she has a husband because I know she doesn’t. I heard Emily whispering earlier that he’d left her. I’m separated and if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be here in Mallorca so it’s a good thing really. Her voice sounds like it doesn’t quite believe itself. The sun has dropped low because its colder now and the evening bar by the pool has pulled the shutters up. I can hear Katie down there. She’s laughing with James. I think he must be tall muscular because he played volleyball the other day. Would you like a drink? Yes please I say. Another coke? Or something stronger? A bird cries from a nest somewhere above. I’m not allowed to drink I tell her. It’s the holiday rules. And I’m only 16. Well the rules don’t really bother me that much. And it’s hardly like you’re gonna’ get double vision now is it. A joke? An actual joke? I try not to react but I feel a smile working its way to my cheeks. This has never ever happened like everyone’s always so conscious of being nice polite getting good feedback. And anyway you’ve been turning your head towards that Katie girl all day and haven’t said one word so I think you need some Dutch courage. I ask her what that is and she laughs her thick choke laugh. It means the courage you get with a drink. Your nerves disappear. It’s not always a good thing though. I hear her pop a can and pour it into glass. Smells sweet and I can hear the bubblefroth. It’s just coke but there’s vodka here too if you want me to put a bit in. Let me know. James is on karaoke at the bar and Katie is laughing so I say yes. I say it’s a holiday after all because I’ve heard my brother and parents say stuff like that. I can tell that Margie is smiling. I am too. Is it that obvious about Katie I ask? Well I’m quite in tune with stuff like that. I was a psychologist in my younger days you know. And Katie won’t know because you haven’t spoke to her. You have to speak to girls to let them know you like them. And well. Especially girls like Katie. This is nice because it feels like a real conversation. I feel bad for asking about her husband earlier and judging her hands for being elephant old. She passes the glass over and I can smell it straight away. It’s like lemons and science lessons when we made perfume. Lemons? I ask. It’s a flavoured one. I pull it up and the medicine smell becomes stronger. I sip it. Harsh and hot. Feel my throat pull back a bit and my chest go warm. But then I focus on the coke and it’s not as bad. I’d heard mum and dad telling Alex off asking why did he choose vodka not something lighter like beer. Not like they were happy about either but the way they went on about it makes me surprised that this tastes ok. The first bit was strong but now I’m used to it, its nowhere near as bad as that sip I had of Grandad’s whiskey last year when he whispered don’t be a pussy. He’s one of the few who talks to me that way. Margie’s lighter clicks and I hear the fizz as it touches the cigarette. Can I have one? I ask. Erm. Well you shouldn’t. They’re not worth it but if you really want to I won’t stop you. Yes I want one I say. Nobody ever treats me like this so I think why not. Make the most of it. Alex will be shocked when I tell him. Ok but you’re brushing your teeth before we leave. It’s the right way so put this end between your lips. Shall I light it or do you want to? Without letting the cigarette drop, I say I want to and she hands the lighter over. I like the way my voice sounds with the cigarette clenched between my lips. Just press the button down and suck the cig and it’ll light. Yeah you’re close just move in a bit. Don’t be scared it won’t burn your nose. I click the button and hear the flame whoosh up. I can feel the heat and move my hand like she said. I hear the crackle as it lights. I suck in and the taste is sharp. My mouth fills with heat and smoke swirls at my gums and my tongue is rough and I swallow. Cough hard. Cigarette drops out my mouth. My chest spat out. The smoke is burning nose and eyes. Margie laughs and says don’t worry that’s what everyone does first time. I grab the drink from the table and take a big gulp. Easy tiger.
At the party and Margie’s slipped a bit of vodka into my drink again and I know I must be a bit drunk because I can’t smell the lemons or the medicine and my head is fuzzy. There’s a band playing later and Margie says I should ask Katie to dance. I laugh and tell her she’s daft. She tuts. Hmmm I don’t know. I say I promise I’ll speak to Katie cause I have Dutch Courage now. I ask her what James looks like. He’s bald. A little bit overweight. You have nothing to worry about. Just be yourself and don’t worry about James. He’s a nobody. And anyway, I’m almost certain he bats the other way. I spit out a bit of drink because I did not expect that. I ask her if she’s sure and she says she reckons so. Then I ask her about Katie, like what I should say or ask and she tells me that as long as I keep talking and ask questions I’ll be fine. I’m not sure but say we’ll see. I was a psychologist remember. Ask some questions and try not let there be any silence. You’ll be surprised.
The band start playing. Electric. Bass. Drums. Rhythm. And a bad singer. C’mon lets go sit over the other side. Katie and James are by themselves now. I’m not sure I want to but Margie grabs my hand. C’mon soft lad, get a move on. We cross the room and I smell the oaty wheat smell of beer and then a thicker perfume wine. So a few of the helpers have broken the rules then. I wonder if any of my lot have too. I hope not. Katie, mind if Luke sits next to you for a bit? I just wanna have a chat with James. Of course not. Hi Luke. I say Hi Katie and ask if she likes the party and the band and the holiday. It’s been ok but I’d rather be on the beach than stuck in here. I prefer being outside. Do you? I say yes. Say that I like beaches where there are no stones and that I like the sound the waves make as they lap in. My cheeks go hot because this sounds stupid but it doesn’t really matter because it hits me that Katie won’t be able to tell. This feels way funnier than it should and I nearly choke on my drink. What’s wrong Luke? Her voice is drawn in and I feel even worse than when I asked Margie about her husband. I say nothing Katie and it’s silent and Margie said don’t let silence. I’m just a bit. Erm. I was gonna say drunk but then I say I’m a bit nervous. Why are you nervous? And I hear her body shuffle in a bit closer and she smells like coconuts and cream and my mum’s cheek when she kisses me goodbye before she goes out with her friends. We’ve never sat this close before. I’m not nervous actually I say. I’m a bit tipsy. I’ve heard my brother say that. It’s like an ok drunk. I say don’t tell anyone but Margie gave me a drink with vodka in earlier and another one when we got here. Here it is. Can I try it? And she’s closer again. I say yes and hold it up and I feel her move in and hear her sipping the straw. The same straw that I’ve sipped. And then her hand is on me like near my knee. I put the drink back down on the table and Katie hasn’t moved further away. Don’t people normally kiss when they’re drunk? I turn my head to her because she is whispering and I think that this is probably the best ever night that I’ve ever had. We touch our lips together. Hers are gloss wet and like strawberry and fatter than mine. She brushes her lower lip over my own and holds it there. James asks Katie if she’s ok and she snaps that she’s fine and this is almost better than the kiss. Margie steps over and whispers easy tiger and takes the drink and the band are playing the Beatles and I remember what Margie said and even though I don’t know if anyone else is, I ask Katie if she wants to dance. She laughs and says she’d rather stay here. I’m glad because I would too.