Cynthia

I sit in the darkness and wonder if at last I’ve disappeared. I can just about see my hand in front of my face but that doesn’t mean much. Since when has my physical self had anything to do with the real me? I can’t remember the last time I looked in a mirror and, yeah, I’m here but that doesn’t mean I’m here.

These are the thoughts swirling through my head when Ella clumps into the room. I don’t need to see her – I know the sound of her ‘fuck everything’ walk as well as I know the sound of her voice. She pulls back the curtains that cover the garden doors and sunlight zaps laser-like into the room.

I have not disappeared. Not yet. I can tell by the way Ella’s looking at me, one hand on her hip, her head tipped to one side in a way that’s half inquisitive but probably also half irked.

I close my eyes.

“I can still see you,” Ella says.

Like I’m four-years-old. I open my eyes.

“What time is it?”

“Late.”

I stare at Ella. She’s most gorgeous girl I’ve ever met. Her long, blonde hair is literally glimmering in the sunshine.

“Where’s Little Jo?”

It’s not like her to leave me down here on my own this far into the day; she doesn’t like the thought of me zombifying in her basement.

“Her and Big Jo left in the middle of the night.”

Of course they did. Some people still have normal lives and do normal things like go on summer holidays.

“I’m making you a cup of coffee,” Ella says, like that might fix me.

She stomps over to the kitchen area, pulls out some cups and opens some jars. She does all that stuff the only way she can – as noisily as possible. Even the kettle seems to boil more loudly than usual when Ella’s anywhere near it.

I drink the coffee but it only makes me feel gloopier. If a minute ago I felt like I was stuck in the mud, now I feel like I’m sinking in it and maybe now I really am disappearing. I’m being pulled underground. The demons that have been coming for me are yanking at my ankles and my brain is spinning in a way that means I can’t fight back. Or maybe I just don’t want to.

“Hey, honey.”

I hear Ella calling me as if from miles away. Then she’s next to me and my head’s on her shoulder. I’m crying.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.”

She starts stroking my hair and although mostly I feel dead, her touch reminds me that I’m not. She doesn’t say anything else because sure it’s true that Ella can make a racket but she can also be quiet.

I feel the darkness in me, flapping around as if it’s trying to take on an animate form. I’m scared. I’ve been scared for a long time. Ella keeps stroking my hair and I wipe away my tears and stop crying. Then, when we’ve been silent for long enough, she starts to sing and it’s not that she hasn’t got a nice voice – she has – but I can’t help but laugh.

I could take you to the beach,” she starts.

And at first she’s doing this whispery, Marilyn Monroe voice but of course the volume increases pretty quickly.

“I could get you Gucci.”

I sit up but we’re still only inches apart.

“But you’ll never meet my family.”

Ella’s in full flow now. She’s doing her best Kim Petras impression and I can’t help but be dazzled. If I could somehow bottle the essence of this moment, I’d put it in a medicine and make it available for free. Mix my best friend together with Kim Petras’ music and you’ve got the most powerful anti-depressant in the world.

Start N-N-N-N-Nineteen from chapter 1.