“So, Gordon McPherson is throwing a party tonight and I wanna go, mum.” Emily just couldn’t get used to her brother’s constantly changing voice. James Fitch seemed to be growing by the minute, and there was something very amusing about the boy-man voice he had. Too low for a kid but still not an adult’s voice.
Jenna Fitch gave her son a fierce look. “You are not going to Gordon McPherson’s party, James, not on a school night!”
“But mum, everyone’s gonna be there!” The boy argued.
“I don’t care! If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it as well?”
“But it’s not jumping off a bridge, it’s a party!”
“Rob, tell him!”
Rob Fitch rubbed his eyes and let out a tired sigh. “James, you can’t go to the party.”
“It’s important for a boy my age to enforce his social status in social gatherings. In fact, if I don’t branch out now, I’m probably going to end up miserable and socially unequipped for the rest of my life!” James crossed his arms over his chest.
“This is ridiculous, no parties on week days !” Jenna turned to her husband. “Rob, deal with this!”
“Alright son, thirty pull-ups.” He pointed at the pull-up bar in the corridor.
All the while, the only ones silent around the table were Katie and Emily Fitch. Katie was looking at her twin sister, who barely ate two slices of carrot the entire meal.
“This is not fair!” James objected.
“Thirty pull-ups, now-”
"Are you just going to keep staring at the food, or are you actually going to eat it?" Katie's brassy voice echoed through the dining room, rendering it silent. Emily’s gaze was torn from her plate, at which she had been staring for the past thirty minutes. She raised her head to look at her twin sister.
Katie's newest idea of fashion was to dye her hair blonde and dress like some kind of a suburban office employee with three kids.
"I don't know, Katie. You know, because the thought of my dead girlfriend isn't exactly appetising, now is it?" Emily cut in over her mother's words. Jame’s mouth was open wide with astonishment.
"Well I'm tired of this, Em! It's been four months! You're going to get kicked out of your fancy uni in New York, then you'll never find a job, and if you keep starving yourself you'll end up just like her." Seeing as she didn't get anybody's support around the table, Katie cleared her throat and looked into Emily's eyes. "She wouldn't want you to be like this, and it hurts me. It hurts everybody to see you fading away like that."
Emily replied with nothing but a cold look and some fiddling with her food.
"Oh, for fuck's sake!" Katie rolled her eyes and stood up. "I'm done." She threw one last glance at Emily, who still wasn't bothered enough to try and eat, and eventually let out a frustrated groan and left the table. She went upstairs, muttering out loud.
"She doesn't mean to hurt you, you know," Jenna offered Emily a faint smile. She was trying, Emily could give her that, but it was too little too late. Emily returned a smile just as feeble, and left the table to follow her sister. As soon as she left, Jenna let out a silent sob. Rob wrapped his arm around her in a warm hug.
“Don’t think I forgot about you. Pull-ups, go.” Rob looked at his son with a severe expression on his face while hugging his wife.
“Oh, bollocks!” James left the table, and went over the pull-up bar.
“I don’t know what to do,” Jenna sniffled.
"Oh, sweetheart, they'll talk this out. Emily just needs some time, love." He tightened his hug.
"It's just been so long since I've seen her happy," Jenna snuffled quietly, "Like she was with that Naomi girl."
"She'll come around eventually. She has to, she's a Fitch."
"Mind not being such a tit all the time?" Katie grunted when Emily entered the room. Instead of countless posters that used to hang about, there were now elegant pictures and graceful paintings that Emily had brought from New York. She ignored her sister and went for her bed, sparing her a single glance. Katie was packing her clothes.
"You're leaving already?" Emily asked.
"Well, unlike you, I'm trying to get a real career, so I have to leave. Besides, I'm tired of being here and waiting for you to reach a miraculous realisation that you're being an actual moron, because obviously, that's not happening any time soon."
"Oh sorry, I didn't know that making coffee for businessmen counted as a 'real career'."
"Well photography doesn't count as a real career either, so get over yourself!"
"At least I don't have to screw my boss to keep the job!"
"At least I pay my own rent! " Katie’s words cut through Emily like a knife. She had a point .
“Nice one, thanks so much for the support, you cow.”
Katie rolled her eyes at Emily, "For once, Emily, just once, don't fuck everything up! We're all trying to help you, even mum!" She crossed her arms over her chest, regarding her sister with a concerned look on her face. "We care about you, Em, and we just want you to get better."
"Better?" Emily's voice cracked, and she felt the sting of tears in her eyes. She took a deep breath, "If you want me to get better, why don't you invent a time machine so I can go back in time and never leave Naomi's side, can you do that? Do you even have a clue how I’m feeling right now?"
Katie bit the inside of her cheek as a rush of guilt washed over her. "I’m sorry, Em." She tried to hug Emily, but the twin pulled away and shook her head.
"Just leave me alone, Katie." Emily said meekly and left the room.
"Emily!" Katie called after her sister, who was already too far away to hear her.
Emily wiped her tears away while going down the stairs, to no use as after a few moments her eyes were all wet again. She grabbed a coat from the hanger near the front door, trying her best not to be seen by her mother. She headed out, not having any clue as to where she should go. Drowning in a rain of thoughts, she let her feet lead the way.
Although it was summer, sudden gusts of wind sent shivers down Emily’s spine. She walked past streets, buildings, parks and roads, all of which she knew like the back of her hand, to eventually be led to Naomi's old place in Bristol. It hadn't changed much, except for a large pride flag hanging over the front door. The house was sold a while after Emily and Naomi headed off to London and was bought by a young gay couple.
' Must be all the oils in the bedroom, attracting homos and lesbians to our petite piece of heaven, ' Naomi's voice infiltrated Emily's brain. For a second, it almost felt like she was right there beside her, intertwining their fingers and sharing a laugh. She could almost feel it, and she nearly reached out for her – only to remind herself that the love of her life was, in fact, dead.
"Jesus Christ." Emily shut her eyes tightly in an attempt to get rid of the memories that overtook her brain and the shivers they sent up her spine.
She sat there, leaning against a large willow tree in the yard just across Naomi’s house. Being there felt bittersweet. Memories from both being with Naomi and from fighting with her rushed through her head. Stupid sombreros and Garibaldi's, and the aviators Naomi gave her. Tears trailed down her cheeks, and Emily felt absolutely useless. All she could do was sit there and stare at what used to be her life. She felt even more useless as Katie had a point; if she didn't pull her life back together, she'd be kicked out of the university to which she worked so hard to be accepted.
A sudden noise behind her snapped Emily out of her thoughts and back into reality. "Emilio, I think you’ve reached a new low. " She turned around to witness Cook standing there, a big smile on his face. She hopped up on her feet and took a few steps back. "Oh come on, babe, don't be scared, it's just me."
It was Cook, but he looked so… different. He was bigger, and the beard he grew covered his face, giving him a rough apparel. There was a big bruise on his right cheek, and a cut on his brow.
"What the fuck happened to your face, Cook?" She asked. A malicious smile crept upon Cook's lips, making the bruise on his cheeks stretch slightly.
"You like it?" The smile was now a grin.
"God, no!" Emily smirked.
"You sure? Because I heard that them ladies like a man with scars." Cook's voice sounded unbelievably dirty.
"Yeah, well, it probably doesn't work the same with gay ones."
Suddenly, something in the friendly environment was broken. The silence that fell on the two felt heavy. The memory of Naomi Campbell attached additional weight to both Cook and Emily.
He looked up for a few seconds, as if he were examining the clouds, and when he looked back down at Emily, he reached his hand towards her face. His fingers touched her cheeks gently. "Heard from your sister you weren't doing too well, Ems. Want to tell me what's going on?"
Emily sighed and shrugged, once again the tears getting the better of her. Cook wrapped his arms around her in a hug, kissing the top of her forehead.
"I can't believe that she's gone, Cook.” She held onto him, returning the hug. “I need her here so much."
"I know you do, kiddo. I know you do." He let go of Emily, allowing her a few moments to gather herself.
"She was so sick. By the end it got her so tired she couldn’t even try to fight it.”
Cook remained silent. A few seconds passed, followed by a few minutes, and eventually Emily calmed down. It felt rather odd, simply standing there in silence, with Cook of all people. It was always so loud around him. Emily wiped the tears off her face, offering him a weak smile. "Thank you, Cook."
"No problem, muff monkey," he replied, ruffling her hair. It was so strange, like no time had passed. Emily elbowed Cook, who in reply burst with a loud chuckle. They tussled a little, tickling each other, and found their way to the ground. They both sat up, breathing heavily, but feeling a little better.
Cook pulled out a joint and lit it. As he took a drag, something in his expression seemed to change. An idea sprung into his mind. "Hey, Ems, I'm going to this party later tonight, yeah? You should come."
"To a party?" Emily snatched Cook's joint. She inhaled the smoke and returned the joint to him. She couldn’t help but laugh at the very idea of herself in her current state, going out to a party like she was seventeen again. "Do I look like I'm in the mood for partying, Cook?"
"Well, no, but that's exactly why you should come. When’s the last time you went out and saw people and got drunk?"
"I really don't think it’s such a good idea."
"Oh come on, Ems! Don't be such a pussy!"
"No! And besides, how's partying going to help anyway?"
"There's gonna be a ton of shaggable girls at the party."
"I'm not exactly looking for a shag at the moment, Cook, but thanks for the kind offer." Emily's words oozed with sarcasm.
"Suit yourself, kiddo. Look, I just know that if I were you, I'd be all over the fucking city looking for a bit of fun like that, you know what I mean?"
"Well,” Emily said, taking the joint from Cook. “I'm not you. I handled a long-distance relationship with Naomi without shagging half the girls at uni." Emily examined the joint in her hand. The way it looked between her fingers, with the smoke coming out of it. It would look nice as a photograph, she thought, and took a few quick drags before returning it to Cook. "Did you know I haven't smoked one of these in a long time?"
A cheeky smile spread across Cook's face. "Going down the drain already, are we?" He threw the joint away with a smug look. He got up and helped Emily to stand up. "Come to the party, Ems!"
"I'll think about it, Cook, but I don't feel like it," She replied dryly.
"For old time's sake. For me. For her ." He pointed in the direction of the house with the pride flag. "I think she'd like to see you party with me."
"Yeah, right," Emily smiled at Cook as she started pacing away. “I’m sure she’s just counting the minutes with anticipation.”
"Think about all the girls you're missing!" Cook raised his voice so that Emily would hear him.
She laughed, raising her thumbs up in the air as she kept walking. Holding his fists up in a victorious manner, Cook shared one last glance at Naomi's old house. He took a few more moments to take it in.
“I miss you too, you know.” He said quietly before leaving.
After taking a shower, Emily was sitting on her bed with an album full of photographs from her trip to Goa with Naomi. She passed her finger against the pictures, examining them and finding Naomi gazing back at her from the photographs. She was smiling, her blonde hair was messy thanks to the wind, and there was this spark in her eyes. She looked perfectly healthy, like not a thing in the world could put out the fire in her gaze.
Emily must've been too focused on the album to notice her sister enter the room. She quickly took out the picture of Naomi she was looking at from album. She closed it and put it aside, folding the picture and putting it in the front pocket of the bright yellow shorts she was wearing. She moved a little to the side, signalling Katie to sit next to her.
"It's just that I sometimes forget the reason she's not here. Like, how shitty everything was and still is for you right now, and seeing you like this is really hard, Emily!" Katie took Emily's hand in hers and squeezed it. "I'd do anything for you, you know that, right?"
Emily nodded, "Yeah, I know."
"Then help me! Do something! You can't stay like this, Em, and I can't stay here forever, but if I leave you here all by yourself, mum's gonna go all mental!" Somewhere along the sentence, Katie started giggling at the thought of Jenna Fitch desperately trying to help her daughter in every way possible, buzzing around her like a bee. Emily chuckled quietly and looked into her sister's eyes.
"I'm going to get better, I promise." Emily squeezed her twin's hand back reassuringly.
"You better!" The sisters sat in silence for a few seconds, feeling relieved. "I, uh, got to go, Em. My boss invited me to this fancy dinner with other employees tonight."
"S'alright, I can handle myself," Emily offered Katie a smile.
"If you say so." Katie hesitated for a few moments, her eyes studying Emily’s. "I can ask him to do it another night if-"
"No! Kaite, you should go. God knows you could loosen up a little, I mean you've been a real fucking twat lately."
Katie laughed. "Okay, but if anything happens, give me a call!" She got up on from the bed and approached her wardrobe, going through it and pulling out two dresses. One had a leopard print on it, and the other was all black and sparkly and filled with class to the brim. "Which one?"
"The black one. Definitely the black one. I mean, come on," Emily got up on her feet as well, grabbing the leopard print dress and tossing it away. "He's going to be all over you."
“You should come too.” Katie said, all serious all of a sudden.
“What? Are you sure this is a good idea? Isn’t it like an unofficial business meeting?” Emily tried to brush her off.
“I’m absolutely, positively sure.” Katie turned back to the closet, choosing a second dress. This one was a deep burgundy colour, with a fiercely low cut. “Please come with me.”
Emily took a deep breath, but eventually shrugged in defeat. “Fine, I’ll go with you! But only because I don’t want you to go on about how miserable I am all the time.”
Katie smiled at Emily with gratitude and kissed her on the cheek before handing her the dress. “You will look so hot in this dress, Ems. You should really be the one thanking me here.”
Emily giggled, taking the dress and appreciating it for a few moments. “Careful not to lose your boss to me.” She teased, and the two laughed as they started to get ready for the evening.
“Looking good, Katie!” Katie’s boss, a 30-something year old man with a heavily receding hairline, took Katie’s hand as the sisters stepped out of their home, and kissed it.
“Oh, stop it, Bernard.” Katie giggled and put a reassuring hand on Emily’s shoulder. “This is my sister Emily. She’s coming with us tonight.”
Though he definitely looked surprised, Bernard quickly recovered and put a smile on his face. “Wonderful! It’s a pleasure to meet you, Emily. Katie told me much about you.” The man, reached out his hand to her, expecting to plant a kiss on her hand as well, but instead Emily shook his hand formally and smiled.
“Has she now? Good things I hope.” Emily said, amused at the sight of the puzzled man as he recovered from the unexpected handshake. Katie elbowed her sister, mouthing a silent warning. Behave . “Thank you for letting me join in.”
“Thank you for joining us. Shall we go?” Bernard led the two to his car, an impressive Rolls Royce that he clearly cared more about than most things in the world.
“Where was we’re headed?” Katie asked when she sat down in the passenger’s seat. Emily went in the back and sat in the seat behind Katie.
“The Avon Gorge Hotel, it’s this wonderful restaurant with a stunning view over the Clifton Suspension Bridge.” Bernard started the car. “I absolutely love it there, it's magnificent.”
“How’s the deal with Lobo going?”
“It’s going well, actually. I think there’s a good chance we can sign the contract next week, and they can put the advanced payment through.”
“That’s good! Then we can pay the insurance company so they’ll finally bugger off.”
As the two were talking, Emily got lost in her thoughts, shutting them out. She looked at the views from the car window, the features drawn in the dark glass. Building’s reflections twisting and bending. The views in Bristol were so different from what she’d gotten used to in New York. Everything looked different. It should have felt like home, but it didn’t. It felt cold and distant.
She suddenly became very aware of how mature her sister became. Visiting fancy restaurants with her boss on weekdays. Moving back in with her family for a while just to make sure that her sister was doing fine. She was constantly moving towards something. Always pushing onward.
As tears started to form in her eyes, Emily bit the inside of her cheek and looked away from the dark windows. She caught her sister looking at her reassuringly through the rear-view mirror. She offered her a smile, carefully wiping away her tears.
The Avon Gorge was stunning in the evening. As she was drinking her fourth glass of wine, she looked out at the view, leaning against the parapet. She regretted not bringing her camera with her from New York. Had the circumstance been different, had everything been different. Maybe in another world she was spending the evening with Naomi in London, a camera in one hand, the love of her life in the other. The Clifton Bridge was lit up beautifully, a yellow bridge of hope towering over the black waters of the River Avon.
Emily felt a warm hand on her shoulder. “I think you should slow down a bit with the drinking, yeah?” Katie stood next to her.
“Please, Katie, I need this. Trust me.” Emily took a small rose-gold metal container from her handbag. Inside was a rolled joint. She lit it and inhaled deeply.
Katie groaned quietly with annoyance, and turned to look at the bridge as well. After a long moment of silence, Emily offered her the joint. “Whatever, why not.” Katie took it and took a drag. “When you left for New York, it was almost as if you died,” She took another drag from the joint. “Mum and dad were always buzzing around me, asking for help. Mum with her wedding planning service, dad and his new gym. They felt like I was the only one they could count on, so they did.”
Emily looked at her sister through a blurry screen of the high from both the wine and the weed.
“I didn’t want to stay there for so long. I didn’t want to be the perfect daughter. I didn’t want to listen to them going on about how fucked up your choices were and how shitty of a daughter you are. I hated them. Perfect daughter my arse.” Katie sighed in frustration, “ Don’t fucking cry .” She told herself quietly.
Emily hugged Katie. “I’m sorry I fuck everything up.” She said.
“Oh stop feeling sorry, Em!” Katie broke the hug to look her sister in the eyes, holding on to both her shoulders. “Stop crucifying yourself and hating everything, it doesn’t help anyone! Go out there and live, for fuck’s sake!”
“I don’t know how!” Emily tore away from Katie’s grip, and took back the joint. “All I know is how to keep myself fucked up enough so I don’t care too much about everything that’s happened and kill myself.” She took three last drags from the spliff before putting it out, and headed back for the table.
“There she is! We were beginning to worry you don’t want to spend any time with us, Emily.” one of the co-workers, whose name is Arthur, was drunkenly gesturing for Emily to sit down.
“Why is that?” Emily flopped down onto the chair, her body too heavy for her mind.
Arthur smiled cunningly. “You see, I asked your darling sister if I have a chance with you. Like, if I have a chance to fuck you.”
“Shut up, Arthur.” Bernard cut in, shooting him a warning look in his eyes.
“No, no - let me finish,” Arthur’s face looked dangerous, like he was thirsty for chaos. “Because she said no, and so I asked her why.”
“Arthur, please shut up.” It was Katie this time, pleading the drunk man to stop talking.
“She said you were gay.” He was shifting his gaze from Emily to Katie, a satisfied smile smeared across his features.
Emily felt absurdly amused at how her sexuality was still causing such a stir for some people. It was different in New York. Nobody cared about that there, you were just you, doing your own thing, and so were everyone else. Too high to care. Too stressed to give a shit. “So I fancy girls, so what?”
“ So what? So you haven't had the right kind of cock, is what!” Arthur leaned in close to Emily, glaring at her from across the round table.
“Trust me, Arthur, your cock isn’t the magical cock that’s going to turn me straight. I like pussy, I like tits, I like fucking with girls.” Emily drank down her glass of wine, and turned to pour herself another one.
“She also told us about your girlfriend. Or, is she your ex now?”
Emily stood up. “What the fuck did you just say?”
“I said, your sister told us all about how ever since your lezzy girlfriend died, you’ve been quite useless. I’m thinking, maybe you could use some cock!”
Drops of wine flew everywhere when Emily spilled the contents of her glass on Arthur. He immediately got up on his feet as well, towering over Emily. She pushed him with an angry roar. “Don’t you dare talk about her, you sorry little prick!”
Arthur pushed her back, and was about to hit her when Katie stepped in between the two. “Back off, Arthur!”
“Move away, Katie!” Arthur said, rampant and angry, dodging from side to side and trying to get a chance to hit Emily.
“Don’t fucking try to touch my sister!” She said and slapped him across the face.”
“Katie, I think you should take your sister home.” Bernard said, jumping to restrain Arthur quickly, with the help of two other employees who watched the spectacle with wide eyes.
“I’m perfectly capable of that on my own, thank you.” Emily took her handbag and started heading out of the hotel restaurant.
“Wait for me!” Katie called out, running after Emily.
“Oh you’ve got some balls, you know that?” Emily stopped suddenly and turned to face her sister. “What the fuck were you doing talking about my personal life with these people?”
“Fuck you, Katie! Don’t let me ruin your fun night out. Just stay the fuck away from me, you bitch!”
Emily made it to the Suspension Bridge and sat down, her back against large metal poles reaching up for the sky. She felt sick to her stomach, her head spinning and her heart racing. Her mind felt like a large, gooey pool that would stretch to a hundred different directions all at once but never tear.
She looked out at the dark waters of the river. Just like the dark car window, the waters distorted the lights reflecting in them from both banks of the river. Emily reached into her bra and pulled out a folded picture. She unfolded it, and looked at Naomi in the picture. The healthy Naomi. The fiery spark in her eyes setting off an all too familiar feeling within her.
“Why did you have to leave?” She asked, tears turning her carefully applied make-up to an extravagant disaster. She traced the outlines of Naomi’s figure in the picture with her finger, weeping in frustration.
The beeping of her phone caught Emily’s attention, forcing her to look away from the picture. It was Katie. Emily folded the picture and put it back, taking the phone in her hands. Her finger hovered over the screen, a silent debate going on inside her. Before she could make up her mind, the call was over. “ Shit. ” She took a deep breath, and unlocked her phone. She opened her contacts, and tapped on the search bar. Before she knew it, she already typed four letters and started an outgoing call.