Thought Diary: If I painted my eyes black and wore clothes with holes in, would Joe want to kiss me? If so, would I do it? Yes.
The next day while I’m having lunch, Goth girl brings her tray over and takes a seat opposite. She started the day as alternative as she could get with black eye make up and purple lips, black nails and distressed hair – even a little net glove on one hand, but at some point they wore her down. The hair’s now dragged into a ponytail; lips and eyes cleaned off, nails too. I can tell she’s already done a repair job though, with a little hint of purple lips and dead white skin. She doesn’t say anything, just looks up at me from time to time over her pasta.
‘What?’ I say, but she just keeps chewing until my tray is empty and I get up. Then she asks me if I’ve seen Joe.
‘Today I mean,’ she says. ‘Have you seen him today?’
‘No.’ I say, and then realise that I should have. ‘He wasn’t there this morning,’ I tell her, ‘where he normally is.’
‘Yeah,’ she says. ‘He was meant to come out last night and didn’t show. I rung but he didn’t answer.’
I sit back down and we look at each other.
‘I could call round,’ I say, ‘on my way home. What do you think?’
She shrugs. ‘Could do. You know his dad?’
‘You don’t know much do you?’ she says. ‘I thought you were his mate.’
She gets her tray and stands up, so I do the same. ‘I am his mate,’ I tell her just so she knows. ‘If you’re worried, we’ll both go after school. We’ll ring him, and if there’s no answer, we’ll go round. What do you think?’
She nods and goes, as if she doesn’t want to be seen with me and it’s only when she’s left that I realise I have no idea where Joe lives. Some mate I am. I text him as I leave the dining room, and three times under cover of my desk but he doesn’t answer. This morning I just assumed he was staying out of my way, but now I’m wondering.
By the end of the day there’s still no word and Goth Girl’s waiting by the gate. It feels weird walking along with her. She doesn’t say a word or even look at me. I glance at her sideways.
Even under all the black and the sullen expression she’s pretty, I can see that. She makes me look dull. I don’t wear any make-up and I don’t do anything with my hair. Pretty boring, I suppose. Maybe she’s the reason Joe didn’t want to kiss me, but I don’t know her well enough to ask. She appears to have forgotten I’m even here, eating mints and humming a little under her breath. The only other sound is a rustling from inside the bag slung over her shoulder, which strikes her hip with each step. At last, she reaches inside and does something that makes it stop then transforms herself as we go along.
First the ponytail is yanked out and she shakes her head, raking through the hair with her nails until it stands out in a black brush. Next to go is the tie, then the shirt which she stuffs out of sight in her bag and over her spaghetti strap vest goes a huge black top with a hood. We have to stop for the next bit. In the doorway of a closed down shop she shoves her bag at me, pulls off her shoes and tights and swops them for a pair of purple and black leggings and some Doc. Martens.
‘I’m impressed,’ I say, ‘you got all that in your bag. Does it matter that much – you’re only walking home.’
She looks at me as if I’m stupid. Her eyes scan my hair and face as if she can’t quite believe I’m a threat to her. I could easily tell her the truth, but I don’t.
‘Why aren’t you ever out with Joe?’ she says, reading my mind. ‘I see him out lots but never with you,
‘I don’t know.’ I say, and I really don’t. She’s right. ‘I’m not his girlfriend,’ I admit. ‘We’re just mates. I don’t go out much at all really.’
She looks at me and sniffs. ‘Why not? You mean not ever?’
‘Not really, no. I guess I lost touch, over the last few months.’
‘Oh yeah,’ she says. ‘I think I heard. Next time we go somewhere, you have to come. Give me your number.’
Surprised, I look at the mobile she’s tapping my elbow with then take it, and as if this was some sort of bonding ritual, she suddenly opens up.
‘I like Joe,’ she says, ‘but I can’t work him out. I used to see him before he came to our school. I thought he was older - he looks about twenty don’t you think? Well sometimes. Did you ever see his face when it’s bruised? I have twice, but I don’t see him as the fighting sort do you?’
She talks so much I don’t figure she wants an answer. We are quite a way outside town now and she’s still going, when suddenly my phone buzzes and she stops. ‘Is that Joe?’ she says.
‘Stop texting. It’s driving him mad.’
I show it to her and she stares at me like a confused ghost – chalk white in the cold air. ‘He must mean his dad,’ she says. ‘Best not go round then. Let’s go into town instead, unless you want to get home.’
‘I don’t get it,’ I say. ‘Why would texting bother his dad? How would he even know?’
Goth girl looks at me. ‘Don’t you know anything?’ she says.
I shake my head and we walk on, tramping back the way we came. All the time we’re in the shops I’m thinking about Joe and how I don’t know as much about him as this girl, and I know it’s my own fault. She takes me into all the weird shops she likes until, by the time we get out, I’m covered in black eye make-up and purple lips. It looks daft with my uniform but I can’t get it off. Goth girl laughs at me.
‘When we go out,’ she says, ‘you have to come round to mine first. You can’t go looking like you normally do.’
By the time we’ve finished its dark. She takes her phone out to check she has my number and there’s the same message from Joe that I got. Her eyes light up but she pretends it didn’t mean anything and stuffs it back into her big velvet bag.
‘Something’s going on,’ she says. ‘But maybe he’ll be in tomorrow.’ And then she’s gone, tramping away from me along one of the lanes until she’s out of sight. I catch sight of my face in a mirror in an optician’s window. For a moment it doesn’t look like me. The black stuff makes my eyes look bigger but the purple looks like someone punched me. In the end I leave it there, I think it looks okay.