Jane woke up with her mouth wide open and her hand in a bad position. For a few seconds, she had no idea where she was. She could smell the duvet cover and she knew it wasn't the smell of her own one. Her eyes slid over the bed to the unfamiliar wall paper which was something to do with birds and trees. Nearby, a wooden blind she didn't recognise hung over a window that framed a strange view of a tiny, nondescript gard-
She was at Paula's house. She was at Paula's house for the second time in her life. But this was the first time in her life that she'd stayed over.
And then, with a rush of body science that hurt her chest, Jane remembered what she'd done the night before. She pulled herself over to the side of the bed and draped her head over the edge of it to look underneath.
There they were. All the things. From the bathroom. Unopened. Unused. Un-hers. They'd been under the bed all night. Jane looked at them with pride and fear. There was a bottle with cream in it, three bars of posh soap in over the top wrappers, a pink sponge that hadn't been touched and some perfume still in its box. They were all perfectly perfect. But also, they were weird because they were so unlike the kinds of things that were kept in the bathroom at her own house. Oh my God, they were so fucking pretty that she hated them a bit. The words, tasteless and tacky sounded in her head in Mum's voice.
Jane breathed in with her nose. Under the bed, she could smell a too strong, too sweet, Paula-ish scent. She wanted to rip all the things open and touch them and have them on her. She knew how they would feel; waxy and fruity; thick and gloopy. She wanted to get under the bed and bury her face into them; to chew on them in a never-ending gobstopper way. But she knew that she wouldn't go that far. It was almost enough to just have them there. It was almost enough.
Jane heard Dad and Paula downstairs. Paula was laughing at a joke she didn't get. Dad was laughing at a joke he didn't find funny. Jane thought about Dad and Paula sleeping in the same bed and got a pang in her spine. She thought about yesterday. About how she had made a fuss and caused a scene. About how she had run away to Diane's house when Dad had told her they were going to Paula's for the night. About how she had told Diane to call Mum and how Diane had said, Jane, Mum's on holiday, darling. About how Dad had come to Diane's to get her and how he'd promised she didn't have to go to Paula's house but how they'd ended up there anyway and about how she couldn't remember how this had happened.
Jane thought about all of that for a bit.
Her nightie was all twisted up around her legs and her bum was out and it was getting cold. She thought that she wanted some toast or some cereal. She thought that she wanted to get dressed or go for a walk. She heard sounds from below. A radio. A cup on a table. A clearing of a throat.
Jane sat up in the bed and looked at the door. At first, she was looking at the door. But after a while, she was staring at the door. She wasn't thinking about anything, really. She knew what she was going to do. She'd already decided. So the staring at the door wasn't Jane coming up with a plan and organising the logistics. It was just Jane waiting.
Paula's bedroom was really big. There were flowers on the curtains and cuddly toys on the bed and a silky thing hanging on the door. There was also a photograph of Paula and Dad on the bedside table. In the photograph, they were laughing. Jane wondered who had taken the photograph but she couldn't think of anyone.
Jane stood still for absolutely ages.
Jane was holding the unopened bottle of cream from the bathroom.
Jane started to feel sick-ish.
Outside, there was a scream which made a noise come out of Jane's mouth without her wanting one to. The scream wasn't a real scream. It was more of a yelp. The yelp was made by a grown up. The grown up was telling a child off for running into the road without looking. This whole thing lasted for about ten seconds, which is actually quite a long time, especially when you've been standing still for absolutely ages.
Jane's hands had become a bit hot. The bottle of cream from the bathroom was starting to feel heavy and Jane had begun to lose her grip on it a little bit because of sweat and the passing of time. She walked over to Paula's dressing table which was big and white and very mirrored.
Jane looked at her own face in the mirror. Then, she put the bottle of cream down and pulled her nightie really tight against herself with both of her hands. She looked at the shape of her body in the mirror. As she did this, she didn't decide anything. She just looked. With one hand still clutching her nightie against her, she opened one of Paula's dresser drawers which was filled with knickers and bras and other things with straps and clasps that Jane didn't understand. She put her hand inside and had a feel. Everything was smooth and thin and wispy and light. Jane could feel that The Moment was about to happen. It was one of those times when people say, it's now or never.
Jane didn't know this but she was holding her breath. She reached for the bottle of cream with a shaky hand and snapped it open. She turned the bottle on its head and held it over the drawer of underwear and started squeezing. She squeezed for a long time. She did all of this without breathing any breaths or thinking any thoughts. Those things would come later.
After lunch, it was time for Jane to go back to Mum's house. Being in the car with Dad was Jane's favourite thing about Dad. She liked watching him doing the driving and she liked the music he listened to. Recently, the seat belt in the passenger seat had started to smell like a mixture of Paula and cigarettes. As Dad was driving too fast down all the country roads, Jane looked out the window, as usual, and pretended to be a different person, as usual. She was making up a story about how she lived in a flat in London and got a bus to school (but not a school bus, a public bus) and she was getting to a really good bit in the story about the kind of bedroom she'd have in the flat when she was interrupted by Dad, who said,
I think we need to have a little chat, don't you?