My story, Ms Holmes, is on sale now! However, if you’re not sure it’s for you, then why not check out this sneaky peek at the first chapter!
Once Upon a Time…
It had been SH’s idea to go back to Manchester.
Studying in Bangor meant dropping in on family and friends was very easy – our home town in England being only a 2-hour train journey away – and feeling drained by my own dissertation, I was well up for the trip.
Our train journey was quiet. After a few cautious words of polite talk, SH had put her headphones on and sporadically napped. I took to reading and enjoying the scenery. I’m old fashioned that way.
In the moments when SH was awake, we made plans for our arrival back at our old stomping ground. It was decided that we would do our own thing on this first day back and meet up in the evening for drinks. Arriving at Piccadilly station, she went one way and I went mine. I did offer her a blow up mattress at Mum’s as I was concerned about her staying in her flat by herself. However, she declined saying she had to ‘see someone about a horse’. I let her go, hoping that she would be okay.
Later that evening, I was at home with Mum, watching Big Brother highlights and full of food.
‘It just seems daft that she wouldn’t want to stay with us,’ Mum tutted in the ad break. ‘Little Ms. Holmes. She thinks she’s so street-smart. Honestly, the amount of hair I’ve pulled out over her.’
Although to the untrained ear, my mother’s tone was of annoyance, the truth was far from it. Mum was just as concerned about SH’s whereabouts as I. Having been there for her on many occasion during our teens, Mum had come to think of SH as a daughter.
‘SH just needs some time I think, Mum,’ I said. ‘As frustrating as she’s admittedly being.’
‘Johnny, do you remember that time she turned up at our door in the middle of the night?’ Mum sighed, ‘Little ten-year-old, no shoes on her feet. Oh, that mother of hers. Always fighting with her son…’
The accidental mention of SH’s brother brought Mum to silence. Ford, a community police officer in the Manchester constabulary, had been killed on duty a few months previously and SH had been refusing to address the situation ever since. Her concentration at university had dissipated. The amateur dramatics she had enjoyed so fondly in the first two years of her degree had come second to her constant disappearances during the week and returning reeking of booze. It was clear to me that she was on a crash course into oblivion.
She reached out for my hand and squeezed it. Mum was like SH in some ways and I know, even if she’d be the last to admit it, that Ford’s death had affected her. It was then that I got the call from SH.
Answering, I was met with noise and static; the sounds of Manchester in full swing on a Saturday night. Obviously SH had butt-dialled me. Realising that she would not be able to hear my queries of where she was, I decided that perhaps waiting for her to come to us was a terrible idea, and certainly wasn’t going to afford me any rest. A few moments deliberation allowed me to realise where SH was. Catching the 86, I made my way into town and towards Diogenes; the nightclub which was rumoured, as many of the clubs of Manchester were at that time, to be under the ownership of nefarious types usually not seen outside of a Guy Ritchie movie.
The exterior of the club throbbed to the music within. I was more accustomed to a pint and a fag down the Via Fossa, and felt fatally underdressed next to the white Rastafarians and black goths that joined me in the queue. Making my way to the front and handing over a fiver, I finally made my way in. Whatever noise I heard from outside was nothing to the cacophony that assaulted me entering the main dance room. Incessant chatter and flirting fought for attention over the ear-splitting wailing and gnashing of teeth that soundtracked the evening. It was as if the club had a rule that banned silence altogether.
I quickly scanned the room and my eyes fell upon SH in the middle of the dancefloor, her light brown skin turned blue under the club’s lights. Under any other circumstances, the sight of her 6-foot frame staggering in a pretence of dancing amongst the mini-moshers would have been enough for a laugh. However, now of course, the picture was beyond mockery. Unlit fag in mouth, swaying in time to a song that was only in her head, SH held one fist in the air whilst carrying a bottle of beer in the other hand.
As an only child, I would never understand the loss of a sibling. And yet, to this very day I will always think of my life long friend’s tragic pantomime of fun that night as a perfect encapsulation of the myriad emotions that were squatting in her mind.
At that moment, a large skinhead began to make advances towards her. He sidled up, thrusting his hips into her back side. When her total indifference failed to ward him off, it was the bottle she failed to bring down on his head that tipped him over the edge. He began to jostle and push SH. Due to what my husband would now call my ‘idiotic white knight streak’, I pushed my way through the crowd to offer assistance.
‘—king bitch,’ I heard him cry.
‘Do you want some?’ SH responded as I wrapped my arms around her waist. ‘I know bartitsu mate. I’ll Keanu Reeves your arse.’
‘She’s had a bit to drink,’ I offered as way of explanation.
‘She’s pilling off her tits.’
‘Tits!’ SH laughed. ‘Hear that, John! Can’t even come up with a suitable comeback that doesn’t boil me down to my base assets. Typical bloody apes!’
SH tried to break free of my grip and launch herself at the man. Before I lost my grip, I too felt a pair of arms around me as SH and I were lifted off the dancefloor by a bouncer and out of the club.
Several moments later, we were sat on the curb outside the Diogenes, sharing a cigarette. SH’s head bobbed up and down as if agreeing with a point I was yet to make.
‘That helpful was it?’ I asked, exhaling deeply.
‘Your Mum’s roast dinner okay?’ she slurred.
‘Your Mum’s roast dinner. There’s a splash of gravy on your left shirt cuff. As you constantly tell me, you can’t cook to save your life. And seeing as we’re back in Manchester, literally the only other person who would be cooking for you is your mother. Now equally you could have been out for a meal with any – belch – any number of the lovely boys on your Nokia. However, Mummy knows best doesn’t she?’
‘Don’t play your tricks now,’ I blushed. ‘Just tell me what the hell was going on in there.’
The response: ‘I have to go somewhere, yeah?’
‘I dunno.’ She lit another cigarette. ‘Just got to get away for a bit.’
‘Look your brother is—‘
‘Just listen to me,’ she sighed. ‘I’m off. My mind is rebelling at all this stagnation, yeah?’
Dumbfounded by her attitude, I found myself stationary as SH lifted herself of the curb and began to clomp away in her heavy boots.
‘Where… Where are you going?’ I managed to stutter. ‘What about uni?’
‘Bollocks to it,’ she shouted over her shoulder. ‘There’s a big bloody world out there, John. See you in a couple of months.’
You can pick up a copy today from: