Authors: Laura Barnard
Tequila & Tea Bags
Published in 2014 by FeedARead.com Publishing
Copyright © Laura Barnard.
The author has asserted their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
This book is dedicated to my daughter Betty. I love you with all of my heart.
I wake up and try to open my eyes. My eyelashes are sticking together from the previous night’s mascara, thus reminding me I’m not following my new skincare regime. I peer around the room as my stomach grumbles, wondering if I’ve got a cereal bar I can eat. Making tea seems like far too much effort right now. The lurid green walls aligned with posters of naked women tell me I’m not home. I sit up and soon realise I
am naked. The duvet is dirty and crisp to the touch, as if it hasn’t been washed in years. It smells of cheesy feet and cans of lager. Eugh!
In the words of Britney Spears,
oops I’ve done it again
. Well done, Rose. I jump out of bed, sudden panic racing through my veins. Where is he? I pull last night’s green mini dress on as I draw back the curtains, hoping it will give me an idea of my location. Only a brick wall greets me. Where the hell am I? What if I’ve been abducted? The last thing I remember is Janey and I getting into the new club in town. Then…nothing. Shit. Don’t panic.
I grab my bag and sling it over my shoulder, choosing to carry my shoes. It’ll make it easier to sneak out. I stand by the door, my heart thumping, and I take a deep breath. As long as I act confident I’ll be just fine. I slowly pull it open, making myself jump with the large screech it sends out. Pull yourself together, Rose.
I walk through a narrow grey corridor and follow the sounds of raucous laughter. My stomach bubbles with fear. What if it’s Russian gangsters? What if I’m now a sex slave? I’ll do anything for a kebab when I’m drunk. Maybe I went too far. When I round the corner I spot three guys sitting around, and eating what looks like cold pizza. Luckily, they don’t seem Russian. Well, there’s no Russian vodka on the table and they’re not wearing furry hats. That’s all I know about Russian people.
‘Morning,’ the one with brown eyes and dyed blonde hair says to me.
‘Hi,’ I say, kicking myself as my voice trembles. Act confident, God damn it. ‘Thanks for last night, but I’ve got to go.’
I look around at the other faces. One of them is actually gorgeous. Black hair and green eyes. Yum. The other has light brown hair and grey eyes. He seems a bit shorter, but still good looking. At least I haven’t lost my taste.
I smile and head for the door.
‘You can’t go without saying goodbye to Barry,’ the one with brown hair says with a sly smile.
I begrudgingly turn slowly around to look at the other two. Crap. Which one is Barry? I feel sweat forming on my forehead as I look from face to face, wishing one of them would help me. I smile weakly, pure, hot humiliation spreading over my body. Why am I such a drunken slut?
‘Were you going to leave without saying goodbye?’ a deep voice says from behind me.
I swivel round to face a man of about five foot six, who is at least twenty stone. His face is sweaty, as if just standing up is too much effort for him.
‘Yeah, Baz,’ shouts the brown haired one with a grin.
is Barry. Dear God, what is wrong with me?
‘Um…I’m just in a real rush.’ I smile apologetically, trying to keep the revulsion from my face.
Get the hell out of here, Rose!
‘Come here and give me a kiss.’
Before I have time to pull away in disgust, his big pudgy hands grab my face and pull me in, crushing his fat lips against mine. They taste of salt and vinegar crisps.
. I yank my head away before he dares stick his tongue in.
As I walk the last few steps towards my house I notice Mum’s car in the drive. Great. More drama. I unlock the door and creep into the hallway, cursing as my dirty feet leave marks on the beige carpet. This whole house is beige. My parents are beige. Boring and
The idea of being stuck here with them on a Friday night is enough to send shivers down my spine. Even worse than the idea of spending it with Barry.
‘Rose?’ she calls out from the beige sitting room.
I sigh, already agitated. ‘I’m going to bed, Mum,’ I shout, annoyed by her already. She’s so bloody whiny!
‘Come here, please,’ Dad shouts, his voice stern.
Shit. He’s here.
I huff loudly as I drag myself in, now deliberately dragging my feet on the carpet in an attempt to stain it. Their faces are strained. Dad’s glasses are on the edge of his nose, his greying hair uncharacteristically ruffled. Mum’s face is tear-stained, and she hasn’t bothered to clear the mascara from under her eyes. How bloody dramatic.
‘We’ve had enough of this,’ dad says, his face the colour of a post-box. Calm down, old dude, you’ll give yourself a heart attack.
God, they’re dull as dishwater.
for having a life,’ I snort. ‘Maybe you should try it sometime.’ I lean on one hip in an attempt to show defiance.
‘You can’t keep doing this to your mother.’ He points to her as if I don’t know who she is.
She sniffs dramatically. God forbid my poor tragic mother has to do anything but watch her pathetic soaps. Jesus, they treat me like a teenager. Is it any wonder I stay out as much as possible?
‘I’m twenty-three,’ I spit out. ‘I can do what I want.’
He takes a deep breath. ‘We’ve enabled you to live this lifestyle long enough. No more. We’ve decided it’s time for a change,’ he declares, pushing his glasses up his nose.
Here we go again. Another lecture about being responsible.
‘You’re going to live with your cousin Elsie in Yorkshire.’
As we drive through the leafy village, passing the sign for Belmont Leaf, I look at the small, old brick houses. They all have pastel coloured front doors and perfectly trimmed bushes, as if they’re done with nail scissors. And it’s so quiet! All I can hear is the gravel under the car. It’s unnerving. I feel like I’m driving into Midsummer Murders, and we all know how that normally ends. I look out of the window and wonder which house is Elsie’s. I haven’t seen her since I was seven, and even then I remember her as a bore. Too scared to jump off the garden shed roof. What a pussy. I might have broken my arm, but at least I was up for an adventure.
‘Here we are,’ Dad says, pulling in, a strained smile on his face.
I don’t know why he’s acting upset. This should be the happiest day of his life. Getting rid of me. I’ve only ever been an inconvenience.
I shift in my seat so that I can get a good view. This house is even smaller than the others, with only one small window next to the front door. The door is painted a pastel green and a gold bird knocker hangs from it. Along the picket fence are little signs; ‘Welcome to our Home’ and ‘Smile, it’s catching.’ Oh God, what kind of person has Elsie grown into? A hippie? I could have asked Mum and Dad on the drive down, but I was too busy sulking. Mature of me.
Suddenly the door swings open and a small woman about the same age as me comes running out, her arms wide.
‘Welcome!’ she screeches, her wide set blue eyes nearly bursting out of her chubby heart shaped face.
I stand out of the car and try to take her all in. She’s got bobbed brown hair which seems to fall in crazy, untamed waves. Hasn’t she heard of a straightener? She’s wearing a high collared peach dress that falls just below the knee and what seems like no makeup, apart from some Vaseline on her lips. Is this chick a librarian? She’s dressed at least twenty years older than she is.
‘Rose!’ she cries with such alarm I jolt. ‘You look so different! What is with the pink streaks,
She is clearly not the type of girl that goes about saying ‘girlfriend’. It sounds so unnatural coming from her. Especially with her accent. I actually cringe on her behalf.
‘Hi,’ I say reservedly. ‘Are you Elsie?’
‘Of course, silly!’ she giggles. ‘Or should I say
!’ She grabs me and forces me into a bear hug. She clearly has no boundaries when it comes to personal space.
‘I like your necklace,’ I smirk, looking at her pearls. I’m so tempted to crack a joke about who in this village gave her the pearl necklace that is around her neck, but I have a feeling it would be lost on her. She seems naïve.
I was right.
Before I can protest, she’s pulling at my arm, dragging me into the house. Dear God, this chick’s excitable. She’s giving me a headache. She’s stronger than she looks. The sitting room is tiny, about the size of an average box room back home. It’s got a small two-seater sofa shoved against one wall and a TV against the other. I suppose that’s all you need. Our sitting room at home has four large sofas in it and a table and chairs. Not that we ever use them.
The walls are painted a mellow yet warm green and she has pictures all over the place. Most of them are of a grey cat with massive green eyes. How weird. There’s one taken a few years ago with my Auntie Susan. It must be five years since she’s died from a sudden heart attack. One thing catches my eye immediately, and I suddenly question how it wasn’t the first thing I saw. A large crucifix hanging from the wall. We’re not a religious family.
‘Try to make yourself as comfortable as possible!’ she bellows, as she struggles up the stairs with my suitcases.
I’m not going to bother unpacking them. As soon as my parents go then I’m off. She must have some money around here somewhere. I just need to get to it, book my tickets, and then I’ll be off to Mexico to be a club rep with Janey. Seeing her leave without me was heart breaking. It really will be as easy as that.
When I wake up the next morning the chirping birds seem to be mocking me.
I want to shout. So I couldn’t escape last night. But my God, she never leaves me alone! She’s constantly checking up on me; asking me if I’m okay, do I want a drink. She even offered to tuck me in last night! My own mother isn’t this courteous.
I jump and pull the covers over my face in fear. I turn towards the door, sure she must have burst in, but she’s not there. I’m hearing this through the paper thin wall. Is she talking to me?
‘Morning birds! Morning clear skies! What a beautiful God given morning!’
Oh my God, she’s actually talking to things. I’m living with a nutter.
She’s clearly lost hers.
The door swings open to reveal her in unflattering beige flannel pyjamas. ‘Morning, Rose,’ she beams, bursting through the door, making me jump back in fear. I make sure the purple gingham duvet is covering me. Especially as I sleep naked.
‘We’ve got an action packed day ahead of us!’ She grabs the curtains and pulls them back, letting the autumn sun in. Ugh, she is so annoying.
I give her a fake smile. ‘Thanks, but I actually planned to chill out today. You know, get used to my new surroundings.’ I stretch to emphasize my intentions.
‘Don’t be boring, Rose!’ she exclaims. ‘Today we’re going to do some charity work at the local care home.’
work? Is she
‘Jesus Christ!’ I snort. ‘You won’t find me wiping other people’s arses. What are you, a nun or something?’ I chuckle at the idea.
She smiles, but this time it’s tight and her body is stiff. ‘Actually, I
training to be a nun. Now I’ll meet you downstairs in five minutes, and I’m not taking no for an answer.’ She turns and pulls the door closed behind her.
What the fuck?
‘Oh, and Rose?’ she says, sticking her head back in while my mind is still reeling.
‘Y-Yes?’ I stammer, still in shock. A fucking
‘Please don’t use the Lord’s name in vain. Thanks.’
Its official – Elsie’s a nutcase.
I hear her bound down the stairs, already singing ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’. What the hell is wrong with her? I’m now afraid for my well-being. What if she stabs me in the night with her crucifix because she thinks I’m a sinner?
I swing my legs out of the bed and stretch my arms above my head. It’s going to be hard to fake enthusiasm.
What the hell was that? I look around, trying to work out where the sound came from. Did I imagine it? Is this house leaking some sort of crazy gas?
Is it the wall? I look at it, trying to decide if I should walk closer. I’m a little scared. What if the room’s haunted? It
an old house.
Okay, this time I know it’s the wall. My headboard actually shook. Is the neighbour…having sex? My eyes light up at the idea. We must have young next door neighbours. God, I hope he’s a fitty that I can drool over.
I press my ear to the wall and press my hand over my other ear, trying to suppress a giggle. I can hear muffled voiced.
‘Will! I! Am!’ she shrieks.
‘Oh, Fergie,’ a male voice coos on another bang. ‘Oh, Fergie!’
‘That’s it,’ she screeches, her voice getting louder. ‘Mix your milk with my coco puffs!’
‘Dirty bit!’ he shouts as a final loud thud hits the wall, ending their session.
Did I really just hear that? Are my neighbours Fergie and Will. I. Am. from the Black Eyed Peas? Do they have a hidden country retreat in the UK that no one knows about? But then, I thought Fergie was married. And their voices did have Leeds accents. Are they…ew, are they role playing? That’s so bloody random. I laugh to myself, covering my mouth so they can't hear me. What pervy little neighbours I have! At least someone’s getting some around here.
By the time Elsie’s old Cotra pulls up outside the vast grey building, she’s told me her life story. She likes to talk; it’s exhausting. She turned to God after Auntie Susan passed away, feeling there was no one else she could count on.
doesn’t she have any friends? From there it seems they’ve brainwashed her into thinking she needs to ‘do God’s work’, and she claims one night an angel visited her, telling her she must dedicate her life to helping others, that it was God’s plan. Sounds like too many Sambuca’s to me.
From there she’s somehow in training at her local church. It sounds like slavery to me. I’ve never trusted religion; all that stuff about heaven and hell. It always sounds like they’re threatening you, and I swear half the people attending church are only there because they’re terrified they’ll be struck down otherwise. And an angel visiting you? All a bit too far-fetched for me. I’d probably believe aliens before that.
‘This is it,’ she announces fondly, staring up at it through the windscreen.
I look up at the building, with its crumbling plaster and chipped window frames. This can’t be the nursing home she was telling me about. Old people can’t live here; they’d die of pneumonia.
‘Obviously it would be a lot smarter if they had more funding,’ she says, noticing my looks of despair, ‘but it's council run and they’re low on donations lately.’
Low? I’d be surprised if they’ve had
She practically skips out of the car. I trudge along after her begrudgingly. We walk into the building to meet a stark grey hallway, the lino clicking under my biker boot heels. This place looks more like a morgue. There’s an old wooden desk left unattended, which I’m guessing is their version of reception, although there isn’t a computer in sight. Don’t tell me they rely on pen and paper? This is like stepping back in time!
‘Come on,’ she smiles, tugging on my arm like an excited child. ‘I’ll introduce you t’ residents.’
I allow her to tug me into what seems like a large sitting room, the carpet containing so many flowers I feel dizzy. Immediately the smell of urine hits me, followed by the smell of dust mites. I look around to see a crowd of old people sitting on high backed chairs that look extremely uncomfortable. Some are sleeping with their mouths wide open, dribble falling out of their mouths, while some others are chatting amongst themselves or reading magazines with magnifying glasses. One by one they stop what they’re doing and turn to stare at me.
It’s like a horror film.
‘Ey up everybody,’ Elsie sings. ‘I’d like to introduce you to my cousin, Rose.’
They look me up and down disapprovingly for a moment before going back to doing their previous activities. Well, that was friendly. Not.
‘Aren’t they lovely?’ she coos, as if she is looking at a nursery of new born babies.
‘Yeah,’ I laugh, before realising she’s not joking. ‘So are they dying or what?’
A small crowd of old men turn with fear on their faces.
‘Sssshhh!’ Elsie whispers. ‘No, they’re not dying.’ She turns back to the men. ‘No one is dying,’ she clarifies with a smile.
‘So what do you
me to do?’ They’re all so gross looking. I hope she doesn’t expect me to touch them.
‘Well, our events coordinator has left, so could I leave you to entertain them?’ She widens her eyes innocently.
‘Entertain them?’ I gulp. ‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Just that,’ she smiles while backing out of the door. Why is she so eager to leave?
‘But, Elsie…wait!’ I shriek, attempting to run after her.
She’s out of the door before I get a chance to stop her. Fuck. I turn round to see old people with expectation on their faces. What the hell am I going to do? Some even put down their magazines.
‘Well?’ says a grey haired elderly lady. She’s got a neck like a turkey. ‘What are you going to do to entertain us?’
‘Err…..’ Think Rose, think. ‘Tap dance?’ I suggest, completely out of ideas. I
cannot think of one sensible idea.
‘She sounds like the Queen,’ one of them giggles.
I feel like the new girl at school.
‘Yes, do some tap dancing!’ a lady with brown hair in perfect rolled coifs says, clapping excitedly.
‘Don’t be silly, Betty!’ the grey haired woman snaps. ‘She’s not going to tap dance.’
The way she spits it back to this Betty makes me suddenly furious. How dare she speak to her like that? It's just mean. It’s like an elderly version of Mean Girls.
‘She might,’ Betty retorts, crossing her arms. ‘Mighten you, love?’ She looks up at me and winks. The sparkle in her eye makes me giggle. I bet she was trouble sixty years ago.
Before I know it I’m tap dancing. Not that I’ve ever tap danced in my life, but I’m banging my heels on the floor and doing jazz hands.
‘See, Ethel?’ Betty says in triumph. ‘What did I tell you?’
‘Now, now ladies,’ a man with grey hair and half of his face drooped says. Is he having a stroke? Should I call someone?
‘Well,’ I blow some hair out of my face, ‘now that’s over, what now?’
‘How about our soaps?’
Well, this is easy. There I was thinking this looking after old people lark would be a nightmare, but here I am sitting on a chair painting my toenails. They all seem to be glued to the TV while they watch repeats of Coronation Street and something called Doctors. Anyone would think they weren’t allowed to watch TV or something. It’s hilarious. I can see why Elsie likes volunteering here. It’s a breeze.
I’m just wondering whether I should give my nails another coat when the door clicks open. Must be Elsie checking in. She’ll be so impressed with me. I look up to find a tall guy in his late twenties with olive skin and shaggy brown hair, looking furious.
‘What the hell is this?’ he asks the room, his fists clenched at his sides.
Peggy jumps up and switches off the TV. They all look guiltily back at him, as if they are children caught in the biscuit tin.
is this dude? And why is he so angry?
‘Well?’ he demands. ‘Where the hell is Elsie?’
He looks over and finds me. I shrink into my seat and try to swallow down the panic. He glares at me unapologetically. His hair is cut short at the back and sides, but the top layers are jaggedly cut, giving it lots of texture and height. His glare is terrifying though. I kinda wish I wasn’t barefoot at the moment.
‘Oh…um… She left me in charge,’ I mumble. Why the hell do I sound scared of him? I don’t want this guy to think he’s affecting me at all. Arrogant prick.
?’ he asks, irritated, his pale green eyes alive with hatred.
‘I’m Rose.’ I jump up and hop over to him, still with my toenail separators in. I put my hand out for him to shake, but he just stares back at me in disgust. Alright mate, they’re toenail separators. Chill out.
‘Jesus,’ he breathes out, pinching the bridge of his nose. ‘Since the incentive programme we’re getting in all sorts,’ he says quietly, but not quietly enough for me to not hear. ‘Elsie isn’t supposed to leave volunteers on their own. She knows that.’
‘No!’ I jump, scared he’ll tell Elsie off. ‘I’m her cousin….so she probably thought….I was responsible.’
Come to think of it, Elsie is kind of nuts to think that of me. The whole reason I’m up here is because I apparently can't be trusted.
‘Well, she was clearly wrong,’ he says, pointing at the TV.
I stare back disgruntled. ‘Sorry, but are we looking at the same thing? That
a TV we’re looking at, right? Not a crack den?’
He stares back with complete contempt in his pale green eyes. I feel the iciness of it touch my soul. ‘TV is
a suitable activity. You’re supposed to be doing things to stimulate the resident’s minds and bodies.’
Jesus, what kind of prison is he running here?
‘She didn’t mean any harm,’ Betty says, standing up. ‘I suggested it and I’m NOT sorry.’
What a spunky old bird. I
‘Of course you suggested it,’ he says, sighing heavily. ‘Who else?’ he mutters sarcastically, rolling his eyes.
‘So who are you?’ I ask, folding my arms and resting on one hip in what I hope is an aggressive gesture.
‘I’m William,’ he says with no hand held out. ‘Friends call me Will.’ He studies my face and seems to be taking in my choice of hair colour. ‘You can call me William.’
I retract, my mouth dropping over, completely shocked by his rudeness. And he hasn’t even looked at my boobs. What a freak. I am
used to this kind of reaction from men.
‘If you’re here for this incentive thing, you can kiss goodbye any chance of me signing off your time sheet.’