Birthday Party – Laura Wake

Extract from Birthday Party

From a novel in-progress.


Violet needed a rest, and wanted to smoke a cigarette without struggling with Maria, so she passed her over to Carol.  The other girls gathered round, including Joanne who started elaborately playing boo behind her hands.

            Ricky bent down and said in Violet’s ear, “You coming then?”

            “Hey,” she said to the group of girls, “are you alright with her for two minutes, I’m just going to the toilet.”

            Violet followed Ricky upstairs into a bathroom.  The bath was stained, and the front panels were crooked as if they’d been taken off recently.  The mould-spotted shower curtain sagged where its hooks had been torn out.  Ricky started chopping out lines next to the sink.  The bathroom smelled damp, like the reptile corridor, and Violet wondered if he gave the reptiles baths in here. 

Ricky had cut four lines.  He passed her a rolled up note, and Violet did two of them.  They were lumpier than she would have liked and would probably make her nose bleed a bit, but as she sniffed she felt her head clear with the first little uplifting flutters, and knew that her and Maria’s first day on the Isle of Wight was going to be a good one.  They would find somewhere to stay and could spend the rest of the day on the beach, maybe take Maria’s new books. 

            Violet smiled, “Thanks,” she said. 

            Ricky picked a little white rock out of his nose and licked it off.  He moved towards Violet and pushed his fingers down the front of her jeans, pulling her towards him.  Violet realised he was going to kiss her, and backed into the door.  Because his hands were hooked into her jeans, he went with her, and she was pushed up against some hanging towels. 

            “Gross,” she thought as his lips pressed against hers, and his tongue shoved its way into her mouth.  He tasted of beer and chemicals.  Violet wanted to avoid a fight, and get back to Maria as quickly as possible.  She kissed him back.  She thought of the naff tattoos, and cringed as he pulled down her jeans.

            He fucked her against the door, while she held on round his neck.  Violet was surprised how long he was able to hold her, before moving to the floor.  He had sex in a hard, jerky sort of way, with his head to one side, and Violet noticed wiry muscles straining in his arms as he pushed into her.  She wondered what they would look like speeded up, and she thought of Woody Woodpecker huh huh hu hah huh!  Her head felt light, bubbly almost; something about the sordid bathroom made her feel relieved. 

Someone banged on the door.

“Come back later!” he shouted.

Violet heard voices and laughter outside the door, then more banging.  Ricky stopped, and shouted, “Fuck off!”

“Share the wealth,” a voice said from behind the door, and Violet

wondered if they meant her or the cocaine.  They started hammering the door.

Ricky got off her and pulled up his shorts, “Fuck’s sake,” he said. 

Violet’s jeans were around one ankle, and she still had a boot on.  The other was standing up by the bath.  She dressed quickly. 

Ricky opened the door and let in two of the guys Violet had seen in the kitchen.  They grinned at her, and then headed for Ricky, who’d already got the wrap out, and was bent over the sink.

            “One more here for you,” Ricky said to Violet.

            She paused by the door, then joined them at the sink, and did the small line he’d laid out for her. 

The two men were watching Ricky, waiting.

            “I’ll see you later,” she said.

            Ricky sniffed, “Stick around,” he said, “party’s only just started.”

            She shut the door behind her, and heard laughter and a cheer erupting inside. 

Violet went downstairs quickly.  She didn’t think she’d been more than ten minutes, but her awareness of time felt warped by her quickening heartbeats.  She wanted to get out of here, and go to the beach with Maria. 

When she reached the garden, Maria wasn’t there.  The music was still thumping.  The fresh air hit her, and she felt high and awake.  She couldn’t see Carol or Joanne.  There were two little girls left in the garden, sitting cross-legged in the mud.  She listened for Maria’s cries, but could only hear the banging of the music.

            She ran into the reptile corridor.  One sofa had emptied a bit, but the people with the bong were still passing it round, their heads lolling about, not keeping up with the music. 

Violet tried to shout over the music, “Hey, has anyone seen a baby?”

            A hippy girl wearing flowery dungarees looked up and gave her a slow smile.  Violet climbed up onto the other sofa, reached over the spider tanks and pulled some wires out of the back of the speakers.  The music stopped.

            “Have any of you seen Ricky’s sister, she’s looking after my baby?”

            A fat man in huge torn jeans, pushed passed her and began reassembling the speakers. 

            “Who are you?” someone said, and the people with the bong started giggling.  Violet bit her lip, and tried to think how long she’d been gone.  It couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes.

            The girl in the dungarees tapped Violet’s arm, “Carol, and her friends just left…didn’t see a baby though.”

            Violet didn’t know whether to run out the front door, ask Ricky, or check the house.  She needed to calm down.  She remembered there was another room off the kitchen, and went there.  She pushed open the door; there were about six people standing with their backs to her.  Music was playing, something folky, and the people were muttering and giggling. 

She pushed through the crowd, and saw Maria sitting in the middle of the room.  She was sitting up by herself.  In a loose circle around her, a huge python was slowly circling.  Violet felt her insides jolt, and froze.  The snake was huge; at its fattest part, it was easily as wide as Violet.  Three coils of snake circulated the baby.  Maria wobbled, reaching for the moving patterns. 

There was a man sitting cross-legged on the floor near the python.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Violet said.

            He looked up and Violet recognised the fuzzy dreadlock guy. 

            “Hey,” he said, “chill out… it’s Ethel, man, she’s friendly.”

            Violet heard a burst of slow giggles behind her. 

            “It’s a fucking snake!” she shouted.  She lurched forwards, but someone grabbed her shoulders and held her back.  Her shout startled Maria, who flinched, tipped over, then began a loud, racking cry.

            The dreadlock man continued, “Wait, just watch… your baby was laying on her a minute ago, Ethel gave her a ride round…I’ll put her back on” 

“So fucking cool,” someone said. 

            Violet felt a tightening in her brain.  She looked for something to smash the snake’s head in with. 

In the far corner of the room she saw the couple from the boat, Paul was laughing, his arm around Charlotte.  Charlotte was watching Violet through her fringe. Violet thought she saw Charlotte mouth, “Don’t.” 

Violet shuddered and pulled away from the person holding her shoulders.  She stepped over the thick patterned skin, and grabbed Maria. 

Someone started to boo. 

Violet held Maria tight and kicked the dreadlock guy as hard as she could under the chin.  She heard a jangle of beads, as his head snapped backwards dislodging the oversized hat.

“You fucking freaks,” she said, and ran out through the corridor.  She thought about pushing over the reptile tanks, but confused shouts were starting up behind her, so she opened the front door, and started to towards the car park.