My project has changed to a novel (easier for me to remain anonymous/protection of others)
|I always was a good little liar.
We went to afternoon tea liked we’d planned. It was my 22rd birthday, and afternoon tea on The Strand sounded sophisticated enough.
Hannah and Lucy had been preparing their outfits all week. They went to Superdrug in Brixton after lectures to buy new make-up and to find a nail varnish that went with Hannah’s blue cocktail dress.
On Saturday morning, we got dressed up and got the train to Blackfriars station. The gentle rhythm of the train made me sleepy. I closed my eyes. The train was noisy, full of families with young children flooding into central London to take advantage of the sunshine.
‘Happy Birthday, Vi!’ Ethan said. He embraced me. I breathed in his Ralph Lauren fragrance, and the hint of the lavender fabric conditioner Isaac used.
‘Looking as stunning as ever, ladies,’ Isaac said, with a playful grin.
‘Thanks,’ Hannah said. ‘You two aren’t so bad yourself!’
‘It’s a shame we can’t afford The Savoy,’ Ethan said. A doorman, dressed in an olive green tail coat and trousers, welcomed us to The Strand Hotel.
The walls were marble and there was a plush red carpet in the reception area.
Let’s get this shit over with so I can kill myself.
‘Are you alright, Violet?’ Lucy asked. She linked her arm in mine.
‘Yes,’ I said, with a smile. ‘This is lovely.’
The lounge area where afternoon teas were held was busy. There were tourists and friends catching up over scones, before they headed to the matinee at the theatre.
We were offered a selection of teas. I chose Earl grey. The waitress bought over the sandwiches and the scones. The sandwiches were cut into neat triangles, no crusts, a thick layer of butter and a couple of thinly cut slices of cucumber inside. The little cakes, which were bought in on a china cake stand, were delicate works of art. There were cakes with three different layers; chocolate and strawberry and vanilla, a chocolate mousse cake with a chocolate ganache on the top and an elegant white chocolate heart. There was a wide-screen TV attached to the wall showing the football scores. I sipped tea from the delicate teacup, and left a red lipstick mark on the rim.
'Excuse me,' I said. ‘I need to use the ladies.’
I stumbled over a step on the way to the bathroom. I applied some face powder and blusher. I jammed the concealer stick under my eyes and the stick broke. It didn't cover up the bags beneath my eyes, which were various shades of grey and purple. I straightened out my dress. It was cream, with a pattern of pale pink and blue roses all over. I’d bought it for a friend’s wedding the year before. I practiced my smile in the mirror, and wiped off a smudge of red lipstick off my front teeth.
I allowed my face to fall. I felt sick. I wanted to be held. I wanted to run off, go to the bridge and dive off into the Thames, to drown as Virginia Woolf did.
You could go now, Borderline Monster whispered.
‘Why won’t you shut up?’ I thought to myself, gritting my teeth and making a fist.
I won’t, not until all of this is over, the voice said. You have to do it. If not now, then go and end it all once this fake little tea party is over. You smile, but they can see right through it. You’ve turned into your mother, Violet.
I left the bathroom with a heavy heart. I bit my lip, took a couple of deep, slow breaths.
I can’t do this.
'Are you okay?' Lucy asked, when I returned to our seats. We were sitting little armchairs, drinking and eating from a coffee table.
'I'm fine,' I said, smiling. 'I'm just tired, that's all. This is all nice, isn't it?' I spread thick yellow cream onto a scone. It tasted rich and took me back to holidays in Cornwall, where we sat eating take- away afternoon tea out of cardboard boxes on the beach at St Ives. There were signs on the beach warning people about seagulls who would steal their food. We ate with caution, shielding it from the dominant, determined creatures. Amelia ate her scone rapidly.
We sat in silence. Nobody said much or ate much. Everyone looked anxious.
'Happy birthday, Violet,' Lucy said, raising her teacup.
'Happy birthday,' Hannah, Ethan and Isaac echoed.
When we left, Hannah rushed off to a family gathering somewhere else in central London.
‘Are you going to be okay?’ Ethan said. We stood outside the hotel while Isaac and I smoked a cigarette.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘For fuck sake, Ethan, I’m fine. I can look after myself. I wish everyone would stop asking me if I’m okay!’
‘We’re worried about you,’ Lucy said.
‘Well, don’t,’ I said. ‘I’m a big girl. Just because I’m with this home treatment team, doesn’t mean I’m suddenly a fucking child. See you all later.’
I walked to Blackfriar's station on my own, to get the Thameslink train back to Tulse Hill.
I wasn’t okay. I was far from okay.
I was going to put an end to this misery. I was going to complete suicide.