Chapter 38: Breaking The Habit

“So, did you write that letter?” Amber wants to know when I get on the bus the next morning.

“Not yet,” I say. “Anyway, I think I need to do something bigger.”

“Like what?”

I shrug again.

Then I notice the nitwits. They’re pointing at me and Amber and although it’s impossible to make out what they’re babbling about, it’s obvious that as usual they’re keen to demonstrate how offensive they find us. Without looking back, Amber raises her hand and stretches out her middle finger. The babbling gets louder and I can feel the tension as the boys get more rattled. Then I hear Mos. He’s not speaking half as loudly as the others, but his voice cuts through the racket anyway.

“Chill,” he says, and, to my relief, everyone does.

Including me. Which is weird. And so the day at school feels just like a day at school. It’s as if Ben Chester’s death winded me. I’ve been struggling to move from second to second, but today things are more normal. Such is the power of school. The routine of it is crushingly strong. Even when Dad died, the same was true. When you’re following your daily timetable, it can feel like everything is as it should be. And that’s how it feels now.

Not that I’m saying that being at school is a good experience.

Amber, Lia, Chloe and I spend the whole of our breaktime queuing in the canteen for a snack then get in trouble when we’re late for Spanish.

“It’s not our fault,” Lia says, and even though it’s true that only the most maniacal of dictators could remain cross with Lia for more than half a second, we happen to have exactly such a maniacal dictator as a Spanish teacher.

Everyone calls him Franco and so do I, even though I don’t really know who Franco is.

“En Español!” Franco commands us when we try to tell him why we’re late in English.

But our Spanish is not good enough, so we give up and go to our seats. I pass Mos and he sticks his tongue out at me. Weirdo.

At lunch, my friends and I sit in our usual spot. Chloe is the last to sit down and for a moment she stays standing, looking down at all of us.

“Is it me or are the three of you even more gorgeous than you were yesterday?”

We raise our eyebrows and laugh.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not just you,” Amber says, through a mouthful of pasta. “I’m definitely getting hotter every minute.”

We laugh again. I feel centred. This is where I belong. I can’t imagine my life without any of these three people. I wonder how Faint December are getting through each day. Without Ben, it must be like there’s a hole in the fabric of their existence. Turning to their singer, to their friend, must be instinct for the other band members and yet now they have to go through the process of breaking the habit of relying on one of their closest allies. When they look for Ben, all they’ll find is an empty space. Living with a Ben-shaped tear in my life is going to be hard enough. Imagine if it was Amber, Lia or Chloe that suddenly went missing. For the band, Ben Chester was their Amber. Their Lia. Their Chloe.

“Hey, you still with us, Daisy Buchanan?”

Amber’s always supplementing my first name with the surname of a more famous Daisy.

“Don’t you be sad,” she says sympathetically.

“I’m not sad,” I smile. “I’ve just never seen such –”

I pause dramatically in the way I imagine Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan would have paused…

“ – such beautiful girls before.”

When I get home, I’m more set than ever on doing something to acknowledge how important Faint December are to me. I do actually write a letter and I do actually feel better for laying my feelings out on a piece of paper, but as predicted, it’s not enough.

I need to do more.

But what?

I flick through Faint December’s social media pages. ‘Miss you so much,’ says one boy in London. ‘Want u 2 know that u helped me,’ writes a girl in Hampshire. I scroll down: ‘Faint December 4ever’, ‘Ben Chester my 1 tru light in the darkness’, ‘u live on in my heart’. Then there are the messages referencing the memorial show: ‘Wish I could be in Hollywood’, ‘I’ll be singing as loud as I can – hope you’ll hear me in Hollywood’, ‘Anyone want to give me a lift to the States?’, ‘if only FD could do a show like this in the UK.’ I take my eyes off the screen and sit back in my chair.

If only FD could do a show like this in the UK.

Now that would be special. It couldn’t happen, though. The gig in Hollywood is a one-off tribute, almost like a funeral service. It’s not something the band are going to take on tour. I understand that. But what if I put on our own version of the same event in England? Okay, maybe not quite the same. I couldn’t get Faint December to play. But I could get all the Faint December fans into a place together. It’s obvious there are others who feel like me, who would do anything to be in Hollywood. To see the band perform, yes. But as importantly, to be with people who miss Ben, who felt that he spoke for them. To be with people who want to share their appreciation of him. I’m excited. I could put on some kind of concert. I could do that. Couldn’t I?

My brain is racing by the time I get into bed and I know I’m not going to be able to sleep. I buzz with unformed ideas. I imagine a venue decorated with multi-coloured lights and crowds of people squeezed together. I see Amber’s face on more than one of the people there. There are lots of Lias and Chloes too. There is music booming from huge speakers and people dancing and jumping, hands joined together, all smiling at one another. This is the vision I have. This is something I can create. This is something I can do.

Go back to chapter 1 of Faint December.

Chapter image by Liz Cahillane.