Authors: C. J. Skuse
No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence . . . the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled with other families I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was.
For my mum, Jen Skuse
âAlone, bad. Friend, good.'
The Bride of Frankenstein
The Girl in the Graveyard
t had been the worst night in the history of the world ever ever ever. A giant mistake, a BFG meets Hagrid kind of big mistake. I shouldn't have even gone to the freshers' party, full stop, let alone done what I did there. Ugh. The smell was making me feel sick. Every now and again as I walked along the dark streets from college it would hit me and for a split second I'd wonder where it was coming from. And then I'd remember. It was coming from me.
I wanted to be by myself, so I took a short cut through the graveyard, still sobbing my heart out. My sobbing had been the only sound in the world until I rounded the corner of the church and heard a different one. A scraping sound.
Scrape. Scrape. Huff. Scrape. Huff. Scrape. Huff. Scrape, scrape, scrape.
I tried to ignore it at first, what with it being ten o'clock at night â prime time for old men dragging chains and floating women in wedding dresses. But it kept on.
Scrape. Scrape. Huff. Scrape. Scrape. Huff. Huff. Scrape. Scrape.
that?' I shouted. It wasn't like me to be so stroppy but on this occasion, I did have the right. After all, I was dripping with the poo of a thousand cows. I went to investigate, picking my way through the grass. And then, I saw a figure. There, by the wall. A figure digging.
I went a bit further along the path where it was shaded from the moonlight, desperately trying to turn on some carrot-fuelled ability to see in the dark. I saw a girl digging.
A girl my age, digging.
She was wearing a hooded jacket and was partly hidden by the overhanging willow tree, but it was definitely a girl and that was definitely what she was doing. Digging.
I thought I ought to tell her I was there, so I didn't scare her.
She snapped her head around. âWhat?'
I gulped. âHi?'
A headlight, like the kind miners wear, was strapped to her forehead and when she looked at me it shone into my eyes.
âWhat are you doing here?' she barked.
âI . . . what? Nothing,' I said, shielding myself from the glare. I said it like
was the one who should feel guilty. âI'm
walking home. What are you doing?'
She didn't answer, just lowered her headlight and kept on digging. I noticed a Marks & Spencer's cool bag beside her on the grass.
Scrape. Huff. Scrape. Huff.
âWhy are you doing that?' I asked her. âDo you work here or something?'
âToo many questions and I don't want to answer any of them,' the girl huffed. She sounded posh. And intelligent. Intelliposh, I guessed.
Scrape. Huff. Scrape.
âI'll tell,' I threatened, not very threateningly though. I actually just wanted to watch what she was doing, thinking maybe at some point I'd see a body, but I folded my arms to look like I meant business, because that's what you should do when you find someone doing something they're not supposed to. Though it was pretty difficult to look like you meant business when you literally looked and smelled like crap. âYou're breaking a law. Probably.'
The girl stuck her shovel into the dirt so it stood up straight. She shone her headlight at me again. âAnd who are you, the church warden?'
âYou have a vested interest in this particular plot?'
âNo, I . . .'
âYou're the town sheriff? This town ain't big enough for the both of us?'
She turned down her headlight so I could actually open my eyes. âThen what does it matter what I'm doing?'
I stepped closer. âI don't know. Because it does. It's weird.'
She stood with a foot perched on her shovel, her gloved hands neatly folded on top. âAnd walking through a graveyard at night dressed as excrement
Oh, she had noticed. Of course she had noticed. â
have an excuse,' I said. âI've been to the freshers' party at college.'
âFigures,' she said. âSome halfwit tried to hand me a flyer for that in the cafeteria on Wednesday lunchtime.' She went back to digging.
âYou've started Hoydon College too?' I said.
âYes,' she puffed. âI'm assuming you were forced to engage in one of the many . . . hilarious initiation ceremonies they like to put on for new students, just to see who's the most . . . desperate to win friends.'
âThey made me do it,' I said, slapping my soaking wet dress at the sides. My eyes stung and there was a pain in my throat as I remembered what I had just done. âThey were all cheering and chanting and I felt so alive.'
âI heard of one initiation rite called the Eat, Drink and Be Merry,' the girl interrupted. âI believe it involves eating something disgusting, drinking something disgusting and jumping in something disgusting, usually a paddling pool full of â'
âPoo,' I finished.
âHmm. Apparently only the most desperate of “losers” will actually do it.' The pain in my throat gave way to floods of so many tears. I never knew I had so much water in me. âI take it you were crowned this year's Queen Loser.'
Their words kept circling inside my brain like a whirlpool of diarrhoea.
Camille will do it. You'll do it, won't you? Go on, eat it!
Come on, Camille, eat it. Go on, drink it down, drink it all!
Down it, down it, down it, down it! Wahey, she downed it all!
Shove her in. Go on, Camille. Look at the state of her!
Stupid dares. Stupid A levels. Stupid friends. I actually big fat hated them all, and I didn't big fat hate anything usually. Except hard-boiled eggs. And people who were mean to animals. And velvet.
âI thought they'd think I was cool.'
âI presume you were trying to impress some boy.'
I nodded. âDamian. He's in our Sociology class. He's awesome. It was him doing the handbrake turns on the hockey pitch on the first day of term. And he can jump the train tracks in a Tesco trolley. He's just the best.'
âThe best at what precisely?' said the girl. âI think you should wake up and smell what you're covered in.'
I wiped my nose on the back of my pooey hand. âI saw him, Damian, when I was in the paddling pool. Stupid arm around Tamsin Double-Barrelled. Someone else was filming it for YouTube. Even Damian had his phone out. And I lost my cherry scrunchie. I loved that cherry scrunchie. It matched my new dress.'
âI wouldn't expect anything less from that halfwit,' I
heard her mumble.
âNo, Damian's different. He's not a halfwit.'
âHmm, because only brain surgeons try to jump train tracks in a shopping trolley. This would be Damian de Jagger, I'm surmising?'