EXTRACT FROM MIRROR, MIRROR
Eight weeks ago… The sun was rising as we were coming home, our arms interlinked, feet dragging, the heat of summer building in the air. Rose’s head was on my shoulder, her arm around my waist. I can remember the feel of it exactly, her hip and the mismatched rhythm of it bumping against mine, her skin on my skin, warm and soft.
It was just before five; the early light fierce and golden, making every dirty street gleam like new. We’d seen this sunrise a lot on our way home after long nights out, making each moment together last until we closed our eyes. Right up until that night, life had finally felt golden, like it belonged to us and we to it, filling every second with something new, something that felt like it mattered. But that night was different. My eyes ached, my mouth was dry, my heart pounded. We didn’t want to go home, but what could we do? There was nowhere else to go.
‘Why now?’ Rose said. ‘Everything was good, man. She was good, happy. So why now?’
‘It’s not the first time, is it?’ Leo said. ‘That’s why the pigs don’t care. She’s done it before. Money, backpack full of food from the fridge, her guitar. Disappear for a couple of weeks. It’s her M.O.’
‘But not since Mirror, Mirror,’ Rose said. ‘Not since us, right? Before she was into all that cutting and shit, and running off. But not since the band. She was… we were all good. Better than good.’
She looked at me to back her up and I had to agree, everything had changed in the last year for all of us. Before the band, we were all lost in our own way, and then somehow we happened. And together we were strong, and cool and rock hard and in-your-face awesome. We all thought Naomi was in that place too, that she didn’t need to run away any more. Until last night.
That night, we were out all night, all over town.
Every place we ever went to with her, we went to again without her.
The places we told our parents about, the places we didn’t.
The clubs we should have been too young to get into, hot and stinking of sweat and hormones, battling our way through a heaving mass of dancers, trying to catch a glimpse of her.
We slunk in the shadows, in alleys down the back of pubs where you could score, talking in low voices to nervous kids with shadows for eyes, who offered bags of skunk. That night we said no.
We visited places behind unmarked doors where you have to know someone to get in. Dark basement rooms, where people still smoked inside until the air was thick with it, and the music was so loud it made your ears ring, your chest vibrate and the floor jump to the beat under your feet.
We went to all of those places, and everywhere else. The park on the estate where we go to muck around. The riverside, alien and overlooked by millionaire apartment blocks. Vauxhall Bridge, our bridge, the one we’ve walked across so often, shouting to make ourselves heard over the traffic, that it feels kind of like a mate, kind of like a witness.
Finally, we went to that empty betting shop with the broken door and a mattress in the back, where some kids go when they want a place to be alone. Some kids, but never me because one of the things I really hate is being alone.
Hour after hour of that night went by, and we were sure with every moment that passed we’d find her, that she was pulling one of her stunts, the kind of thing she did when she was hurting and needed to be noticed. We were sure our best friend and band mate, Naomi, would be somewhere in a place that only we knew. She would be waiting for us to find her.