Saturday 24 June 2023

'Behind blue eyes' by Sarah Royston


I have two friends, Brenda and Barbara. We love dressing up. In summer we go in the garden. Sometimes Maxie comes to play. She’s really cool with super-long blonde hair and pink earrings and a tutu. I’m not allowed to try it on. At Christmas we get new clothes and take turns wearing the sparkly ballgown.


There’s shouting downstairs. Then we get presents, even though it’s not Christmas. Shiny purses and jumpsuits. Riding gear – as if we could straddle a horse. Shoes that soon get lost. A new girl arrives, Jasmine. Her dark hair is longer than Maxie’s. We move house, but go back to the old place at weekends. In the kerfuffle, Barbara disappears. Brenda keeps smiling, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.


We wear mini-dresses and dance to Madonna. OK, mostly we just lean on the walls. A guy turns up. He stands around stiffly, always wearing the same tuxedo. Then suddenly, everything is about him. He dates each of us in turn. His mouth gets a raw look from kissing. One time he’s with Jasmine when Maxie comes over. She throws a fit, saying boys only like blondes. The tuxedo gets ripped in the row. It’s months since I went outside.


Maxie shows up in a state – hair hacked short and streaked with red. She’s got all her stuff in carrier bags, says she’s staying for good. I finally try on her tutu. It’s not that great. My skin is firm and smooth as ever, but my hair is tangled. The velcro on the ballgowns is clogged with fluff. We have one shoe between us. It’s dark most of the time. We lie quietly together on the pile of clothes. In the dimness, Brenda smiles. Sometimes I wish I could shut my eyes.

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