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Candid Photographs

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Music thumps, a slow, thready beat. Something Guinevere Haynes can feel in the middle of her chest. The area is dark and there’s multiple laser lights shining on the walls and ceiling. Many, many people surround her. Probably too many for this warehouse.

 

“Vera!”

 

This isn’t comfortable in the slightest. She knows her parents wouldn’t be able to deal with it. Her mother would have her face buried in her mobile, reading various articles about fire codes and what could go wrong in a place like this. Gwen thinks about picking up her hands to put over her ears. She’s starting to get a headache.

 

“Vera.” The man she has been fancying since meeting him a couple of weeks prior gently puts his hand on her arm. He grins a dazzling smile, his hair glowing in the UV blacklight, “didn’t you hear me?” 

 

“Uh, no. Sorry.” Gwen shakes her head, knowing full well she just hasn’t really gotten used to the nickname and didn’t realize he was using it for her. “I thought you said we were going to a friend’s house.”

 

George Westwood-Adkins sighs heavily, “we are. This is exactly Dallas’s home...right there.” Geo points up toward a podium far above everyone else where there’s a young woman holding the cup of her large headphones up to her ear as the other touches a turntable in front of her. “Dallas’s haven...her world. We’re just a couple of dolls.” He grins broadly, “want something to drink?”

 

This is a major sensory overload. All of it. Gwen isn’t even quite sure what he’s saying, “I uh...I don’t-”

 

“I’ll get you something.” Geo holds her hand, gently pulling her behind him as he walks through areas of people. He finally decides to keep her in one of the smaller rooms, the VIP area. He leans over the bar, saying something into the barkeep’s ear instead of yelling so she knows what to make, Geo motions to a round table with his friends. “Come, there’s people I want you to meet.”

 

A young person with a septum piercing and light blue hair sits oddly behind the table, their black lipstick causes their white smile to appear more pronounced, “Geography, you didn’t tell us you were bringing a friend.”

 

“Yes, this is Vera. Vera, this is Slush and Emerald.” Geo responds, sliding in the booth of the rounded table behind Guinevere, almost as if trapping her into the seated area.

 

Gwen nods slowly, “Uh, it’s actually Guinevere, but-”

 

“But, dearie, Vera sounds much more interesting.” Slush, the person she had instantly noticed before, leans forward, a knee pulled up against their chest. “Geography is doing you a favor. Just bask in it.” They lift their head, noticing the barkeep with four drinks on her serving tray, gently settling them in front of each of the people at the table. “This cursed swill again, Nance?”

 

“Fuck off, Slush.” The barkeep, Nancy, smirks a little at them before giving a quick glance around the table, “now, if anyone needs anything else, leave me the fuck alone.”

 

Guinevere basks in the glory of all of these interesting people. Completely different from what she’d usually gravitate toward or find friends with. When the friend of her friend’s brother had taken notice of her, he never asked any questions, just assumed she was at least in college. She looks at the drink in front of her, glowing neon pink in the UV blacklight. Her first drink. This was something she promised to do with her Nan, not here, not now. “Is this alcoholic?” The simple question causes the table to burst into guffaws, causing her to blush. Luckily, embarrassment isn’t something easily detected under blacklights.

 

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Slush furrows their brow.

 

“It’s something called Flamingo’s Destiny. Whatever the fuck that means.” Geo laughs a little to himself, shaking his head, “Nancy’s a bloody Einstein when it comes to the art of a cocktail. She could give me lighter fluid and I’d probably drink it.”

 

Slush knowingly smiles to himself, like he knows why Geo is so trusting of the woman, “You aren’t exactly making your case.”

 

Guinevere decides to ignore the drink for the moment, glancing over at the other young woman sitting at the table. She seems in a daze, unblinking, unmoving. “Is she okay?”

 

“She’s usually bezzie mates with Molly, but today she went with Uncle Sid.” Slush glances over toward the young woman, snapping their fingers a few times in front of her face only for her to be slightly responsive with a quick blink, but otherwise returning to her mellow state. Slush smiles gently toward Guinevere, “what about you? You seem...rather pink, if I’m being honest.”

 

The teenager furrows her brow, trying to decipher his words, but finding it difficult. “Pink?” Guinevere feels Geo wrap his arm around her shoulders, as if attempting to calm her.

 

Slush nods a little before looking over to Geo again, “Geography, why would you bring a bloody child in here?”

 

“She’s the same age as Em. She’s fine.” Geo shakes his head, turning his head to press a kiss near Guinevere’s ear. In all actuality, he had never asked Guinevere for her age, he only assumed that she was old enough to be here. “She’s perfect and you’re not making her feel very welcome.”

 

“Okay. Welcome wagon inbound.” Slush nods, reaching their hand over to gently guide Guinevere to look them in the eye. “What will it be, Pinky?” When the young woman peers at him with confusion, he sighs heavily, “what do you want to feel?”

 

“Oh, I’m fine.” Guinevere shakes her head, “thank you for asking.”

 

Slush begins to laugh again, “Well, allow me, then.” They begin to slip their hand into their pocket, thinking of what would be best to help the girl feel at one with the space around her. They pull out a small bag of white powder and a pocket mirror, setting them both onto the table with a razor blade.

 

Gwen’s eyes widen a little when she notices what Slush is doing, she quickly glances to Geo, “I’m sorry, but I’m not feeling very well. Could you please take me home?”

 

“I can, but we just got here.” Geo looks over to her, “and I think you’re only a tad anxious because this is a new, unfamiliar place. Which...is totally understandable, but just give it a try, Vera. Live a little.”

 

“I-I don’t do drugs.” Gwen shakes her head, looking at him as if searching his face for some sort of consolation, “this isn’t...”

 

“Darling, drugs are only what people who don’t truly understand call them.” Slush shakes their head, “derived from the coca leaf, cocaine was used as pain relief...akin to a paracetamol. It’s still used today as a topical analgesic.” Slush pours the contents of the small bag onto the mirror, using the razor to meticulously cut the white powder, forming it into very thin lines. “The only reason these substances aren’t still readily available, over the counter to the public, is because the government wanted to make it hard for troops to get a hold of them during the first World War. After the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920, one could still be prescribed marijuana, cocaine, and heroine by a doctor. In fact, that section of the law was never changed...since bloody 1920. Your doctor, today, could treat you with heroin if they believe it to be the best course of treatment for what ails you.”

 

She didn’t know that. Guinevere furrows her brow, “you’re joking...”

 

“Feel free to do a touch of investigation on your mobile. I thoroughly do my research before I put anything into my body...what do you take me for?” Slush gives a knowing smirk, “have you no trust for me, Vera?”

 

“Well...I just met you, so no.” Gwen lifts her head, watching them. When they offer her a rolled up £50 note, she’s hesitant to take it.

 

“Hold one side of your nose and don’t inhale too harshly...not too weak either. You’ll only learn the amount of inhalation you need when you do it.” Slush explains, “I’ll even give you first go. It’s a...privilege. I usually make the new ones go last.”

 

Guinevere doesn’t think, taking the note and doing as told. She sits up again, giving Slush back his money, noticing his smile in the process. “How was that?” She mutters, the immediate pang of guilt easily felt within her.

 

“Proud of you, Pinky.” Slush reaches a hand up, gently running the back of their fingers along the skin of her cheek, “like you’ve been doing this for years.”

 

Feeling her mobile vibrate in her pocket, Gwen reaches her hand down to obtain her mobile and look at the screen before she gives a quick glance to Slush, “sorry, I uh...I need to take this.” She gets up, awkwardly stepping over Geo’s lap and feeling as he gently takes hold of her wrist, “I’ll be right back.”

 

“Do you need me to come with you?” Geo watches her, noticing her eyes starting to dilate, he smirks.

 

“No, I’ll uh...I’ll j-just be right back.” Gwen nods, pulling away from him. She slips out of a side door not far from the room, an emergency exit. Touching Cole’s photo on the screen of her most recent contacts before bringing her mobile to her ear.

 

Cole leans back in his desk chair, “where the hell are you?” He hisses, getting up from the chair to pace in front of his bed. “Nan phoned like, twenty minutes ago because you told your Dad you would be there and you told the Grands that you would be here. I made a person out of pillows and an old pullover to pass off as you to Mum. That’s like...five people we’ve lied to thus far, Gwennie.”

 

“Then we’re fine. If Auntie Char thinks I’m asleep, we’re fine. Everything is fine.” Gwen swallows, feeling her heartbeat quicken. “We’re fine and I’m having a good time. Great time, even. Why are you pissy?” She pauses, “are you jealous?”

 

“What? Of course not.” Cole furrows his brow, “what are you on about?”

 

“You’re jealous because I’m with people you could only imagine being with, having experiences you could only dream of.” Gwen holds her mobile into the air for a moment, “hear that?” She brings it back to her ear, “hear that wondrous music? Bloody angelic, innit?” Gwen closes her eyes a moment, smiling, “beautiful.”

 

“Are you...” Cole tilts his head to the side, “are you on something?”

 

“Let me live, Wolfeboy. You’ll have your turn.” Gwen touches the screen of her mobile, ending the call before she returns to the rest of the party, feeling as if she’s on another plateau. Guinevere can understand why Auntie Elinor fancied the magical white powder. Maybe she does too.