Joe has written several stories across different genres. Most of these have been published in magazines, for example, Thriller UK Magazine, or in anthologies such as the Bluechrome 2003 Anthology. From time to time short stories will be posted here and any feedback is welcomed.
Listen, let me tell you how it happened, ‘cos you know, sometimes people say things and stuff gets all twisted up. Jenny always was a bit crazy, a bit strange a few people said, but she was my girl, always has been, whatever anyone’s told you. Yeah, we’d had a row, but that was nothing. Everyone has rows, don’t they? Thing is, that was all sorted. I went round to her Nan’s place and we were okay. She was back to herself, said she wanted to talk to me. She was the one who said we should go up to the roof and I thought okay, hot night and everything, it’ll be cooler on top of the block. Lots of people go up there, it’s only six floors up, so you don’t get too dizzy or anything. Mind you, you got to be careful what you run into on top of the estates. Check it out before you get too close. You can’t be sure something ain’t happening that you don’t want to be involved in. But where Jenny’s Nan lives, that’s usually all right, you know, it’s usually quiet. I’ve been up there sometimes on my own, just for the quiet.
So we’re sitting up there on the roof, right in the middle, backs against one of those big stone blocks they’ve got up there and she’s holding my hand and we’re just talking about things, the people we know and how we shouldn’t row and all that and then she starts up again about the same stuff as always. ‘Can’t we get out of here? We could get out of London, the two of us, go live by the sea somewhere’. She hates living on the estates, but I’ve told her a hundred times, we can’t just leave. She was thinking we’d go and claim the benefits somewhere else, but it ain’t that easy. You know, I’m looking for a job and everything, I can’t just up and go. I’ve got my connections and people trying to help me here and you can’t just chuck it all for a change of scenery.
Then she goes all quiet and she says, ‘Are we always going to be together?’
I don’t know what to say to that.
I know she wants me to say, ‘yeah, always’, but this time I didn’t say it. I didn’t want to hurt her or anything, but I just couldn’t say it. So I just said that always is a hell of a long time and we’re both young and laughed it off.
But she looked at me. Just sat there looking at me. It was a bit spooky really. Then she says what do I mean by that, so I say that, you know, maybe she’d meet someone else she’d like better than me and she jumped straight in and said, no, that wouldn’t happen and then I said, well what about Billy and that was a real stupid thing to say, ‘cos that was what the first argument had been about. Bill said she’d been coming on to him in the pub and I should never have believed him, ‘cos he’s a liar through and through, but he said it and I asked her and we rowed.
But not this time. Now she just looked at me again, kind of sad and I felt bad for bringing this up, so I said I was sorry and Bill was always pissed and didn’t know what was going on anyway, everyone knows he drinks like a fish, so you couldn’t really believe anything he said even when he wasn’t lying outright. And she said, ‘well, why did you then?’
So I told her that I didn’t believe him now, but she had to admit that in the past, when she’d been doing the drug stuff and got out of her head a bit, she’d done some pretty dumb things. ‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘but not like that.’
But she wouldn’t look at me and I thought for a second that maybe I should have believed Billy, until I realised she was beginning to chill and I asked her what she’d taken and she said nothing, only a couple of downers ‘cos she’d been uptight about us and everything. I asked her how many was a couple and she showed me the packet, there must’ve been eight or nine left in there and I took them off her, I didn’t want her to have them and she didn’t complain or anything, so I reckoned I was doing the right thing and that’s how I came to be carrying them. They’re not really mine.
Then we had the silence again with Jen just looking at the sky, which I got to say was real clear. It was also real quiet suddenly. Not silent, I mean you could hear things in the distance, but it was things on their own, you know. Someone coughing, and a TV from one of the flats coming on, and there was a car off in the distance starting up and driving away. Everything was clear and Jenny said, ‘Can you see those stars? They’re so bright.’
And then she told me that some of those stars were dead, they didn’t exist anymore, but we were still seeing the light from them, light that they’d sent out years before. She thought that was the saddest thing, these stars throwing out light and then dying, leaving something behind them that one day would just fade away and no-one would notice. I asked her how she knew all this and she said, ‘I know lots of stuff like this, stuff no-one else wants to know’, said she collected it all, all the stuff no-one else wanted. What, like me I said, as a joke, but she didn’t think it was funny and suddenly she was crying, real quiet, so quiet that I didn’t even know it for a minute.
So I put my arm round her and said everything would be all right, but I didn’t really know why she was crying, I mean, it was only a joke, right? And she sat there for a while and then pushed me away and said it wasn’t going to be all right and didn’t I ever want to get out of here, didn’t I want to do something, anything, but not here, not with the same people going nowhere? And I got to tell you, man, she scared me a little, ‘cos suddenly she jumped up and started talking fast, like she was crazy, all about wanting to do something different, something special and I wanted to calm her down, so I said, sure, we’ll do something, we got time, we’re not much more than kids, we can do anything, we can go anywhere, whatever you want, Jen, whatever you want.
‘I want to fly away,’ she said. I thought she meant try something new, go somewhere new like she’d said, but she was talking crazy still, said she wanted to jump up and re-light those dead stars up there, started whirling around on the roof and then danced right over to the edge. There’s that two foot wall there all around the roof, so as you can’t just slip off and she jumped up on it like it was round a front garden and started walking, no, sort of skipping along it and now I’m really scared and I tried to talk calm, but I’m thinking she’s out of her head on something and my voice is really loud when I call to her to come down.
And she turns to me and smiles the biggest smile I’ve seen from her in weeks and she says: ‘it’s okay, we’re going to fly together, just like you said’.
Then she sort of half turned away from me. I thought, no, she’s going to jump, God, she’s going to jump and I ran over to her and grabbed her arm and yes, maybe from below, it could’ve looked like we was fighting, but I swear, God I swear, I was trying to pull her back, but she kind of slipped and I couldn’t hold her, I had her arm for a second, I could feel her arm over the edge, but I couldn’t hold her, it was too much and I heard her land. Man, I heard her land.
She just wanted to get out of here, away from all this. But it can’t happen that easy. Not for people like us. Not from here.
Can I go now? I’ve told you what happened. Can I go now?
© JR Oct 2002