Chapter 5: Haunt
My mother has many qualities both good and bad but her main one is being able to shriek my name up three floors in the same ear piercing, glass shattering tone that she has been using for as long as I can remember. I get up and open my window to the smell of grass being cut and the sound of the waves lapping against the cliffs.
I've just come out of the shower and I was checking my Facebook but of course, my mum has other plans. I change and run downstairs. The table is covered in leaflets, flyers and posters, all with my mum's fake smiling face on the front. My mum is campaigning to re-elected as the local councillor and her campaign is going crap. I sometimes wonder if that's why she sent me so far faraway; because otherwise I might ruin her chances by being so badly behaved. It's my best theory yet.
"Are you going to work?"
I nod. I despise my job. That was the first summer I was moved from working as a kitchen porter to being a waiter out front. It is not how I intended to spend my holidays but my mum, being one of the powerful women in town, always finds me a job. She'd very good at bullying local hotels and restaurants into making me KP (wash dishes) or as of this summer, work front of house for them for 3.29 an hour, 6 days a week. It's honestly a load of crap but I'd rather be washing dishes then be badgered at home. It's somewhere different every summer and every summer, the place I end up is always crap.
"You need to ask Sid for Saturday night off. I'm having a few people round for drinks."
By that, she means like 30 posh friends. I wait for her to finish her sentence.
"Well, you need to be there. The Jessop-Hutchinson's are going to be there-"
We've known the Jessop Hutchisons since we were tiny and they live in the old manse, which is a beautiful redbrick building, in the grounds of St Oswald's church with its fading walls and crumbling graveyard. The church faces east while the graveyard stretches out west behind it and it's at the end of this graveyard that my dad decided would be good land for him to build what he assumed would be a house where his children could happily raised and he could grow old with his new wife. Well look how that turned out.
"And you need to be there to talk to them. Eleanor is thinking of coming into Sixthform at St Richmond's College and she wants to hear all about it." My mum continues to chatter.
What a load of crap. I know Eleanor hates me. We are not on speaking terms.
"Ok yeah, whatever."
I start to make my way out the door.
"Well, send Mr Leighton best wishes."
Mr Leighton is one of the few people in this town who doesn't completely hate my mums guts.
"You tell me this everyday Mum, and everyday he replies the same thing.
"Tell your mother she is a wonderful women, but she is still banned from my pub."
My sister Emmy looks up from her coconut milk mocha. I know, gross right?
"Why were you banned from Mr Leighton's pub?"
"It's a long story."
That basically means either she hit someone or told them to be grateful for the wonderful changes she has made to this town. And then probably hit them. My mum can get quite violent when she wants to be. Question her bin policies and whack, that's her point made.
"Did you hit someone?"
My mum death stares her. I decide this is a good time to leave. I head down the path, across the road and to the Elysium café bistro and bar. I make my way through the masses of tourists; hordes of spade brandishing, anorak wearing tourists with their maps and roof boxes and mini boden clad children who always thought us local kids were two weird and alien to play with. I'll never forget though, the excitement of crabbing for hours, despite only catching one. Trying to play cricket and rounders in the garden in the drizzle, the smell of barbeque smoke. The over lapping of the sea. The taste of sausages and burnt marshmallows cooked on an illegal home made bonfire on the beach. The back ground noise of Wimbledon as I strung CDS together to put on the roof to keep away the seagulls (this was an annual ritual, it's never worked). The feel of warm grass or sand under my toes. It's the part of Filey I took with me but in return, I left something behind. I haven't worked out what it is but I've been missing it ever since I woke up one day last year and the leaves were gold and with the tourists, summer had gone too. I wonder how old you have to be before summer looses it's magic.
I turn around and Guy, who works front of house, is sitting in the alleyway next to the staffroom door, smoking a cigarette.
"I'm not bad at all. And yourself?"
He nods. I've told everyone my name is TJ so nobody knows who I truly am.
"Good thanks. Oh by the way, the chefs are in a foul mood." he adds.
"Someone sent through an order for two steaks and the order said they wanted them medium well but they actually wanted them medium rare. So yeah, shit went down." Guy continues. "Oh by the way, I got you your cigarettes."
"Oh my god. Cheers Man. Thank you."
"It's no problem. Being 16 sucks cause you can't buy anything."
That was a tiny lie that I'm worried is going to escalate. He passes me a lighter and It's such a relief to be able to smoke again. That's one of the only things I like about this job.
"What time are you finishing today?" I ask
"You're so lucky. I hope Sid won't keep me too late. There's a group of us going out tonight to Bacc's and I don't want to bail on them."
"That's fair enough." I say, stubbing out my cigarette and he does the same. Baccs is short for Baccus, the one night club in Scarborough. That's all there is do around here. And people wonder why I hate this place.
I go in and it's small, dimly lit and full of locals who I now have to deal with. I won't go into detail about being trained out front but it's a whole other experience from being sworn at by chefs and having pots and pans thrown at me. They love making fun of me because I'm super posh, apparently. When the service goes to pot, of course, this gets ten times worse. While the chefs are all very verbal, the other staff out front are deadly silent and cold. There are two girls who have come home from uni for the summer and just gossip and talk about their eyebrows. Lisa and Terry. The two older ones are talking about the cocktails they plan on making down the other end of the bar. I try and make myself useful.
Nobody must know who I really am. The girl who beckoned me over has dyed blond hair tied up in a messy bun but the blond is slowly fading into brown which is my eyes, is not a good look. Lisa. That's what she's called. But it's Terry who wants me.
"What do you think of my new perfume?"
Terry has thick dark hair drawn up into a ponytail and her eyebrows were so high up and drawn in that she looked in a constant state of surprise. She shoves her wrist in my face.
It smells like every other girls perfume I've ever smelt.
"It has pheromones in it makes me more attractive."
They're both looking at me with a real sense of expectation.
"You know what a pheromone is, right?"
They both giggle.
"Of course I..."
"Of course you do."
Terry winks at Lisa.
"Girls, girls, leave TJ be."
Sid comes stomping through.
"Terry, go and start setting up the bottom tables for dinner. Lisa, there's a lot of cutlery that needs doing." He nods in the direction of the kitchen and she wanders off.
I clean, empty and polish about five trays of glasses. It's a pretty dull afternoon for a warm afternoon in July and you think they'd be more tourists. The afternoon slides into a warm summer evening to the soundtrack of the clatter of cutlery and the clinking of glasses as the warm smell of coffee mingled with the overpowering smell of frying. Sid, my boss appears eventually and I need to catch him before he disappears off to get Saturday off.
"Can I finish at 8 tonight?.”
Sid looks up at me. He's always reminded me of a badger; stout, black hair with a dyed white streak and a habit of working into the night. All I know about him is that he is fond of beer, has married twice and is a great support of Filey FC. Honestly, I don't quite know how he has managed to endure a lifetime in this town, serving the same locals and dealing with my mother's petty policies. In this town, I suppose, he is someone, he's made something of himself and yet, he is someone I would never aspire to be.
I sigh. There are about five people standing around Sid, trying to see the next Rota he has just been typing up and I don't want them to know that my mum is n fact, the most hated women in this godforsaken town.
"All of you, go back to work You'll see the rota when it's finished."
"My mum is organising something and apparently, I have to be there."
"If I don't, is she going to ring me up and yell at me down the phone until I let you off?"
"Well, she might tell you that your bistro/bar/café doesn't fit within the councils health and safety regulations about seagulls or outside litter or something like that."
"And would she yell at me down the phone?"
I nod. He laughs again.
"Ok. You can finish at 8. Is that alright?"
"And if she doesn't, well she take all those regulations and shove them up her uptight-"
He turns around and is called away.
On Saturday night, amongst the masses of tourists that come flooding in, I see one face that makes me almost drop my glass. Of all people to come in. Of all people.
"TJ, can you make me a black coffee with hot milk on the side and a Cappuccino for table 15? I've just got to seat these people" Sid asks. I start to heat up the milk and I see Ivy out of the corner of my eye.
"TJ." Adam clicks his fingers at me. "Focus." Adam is very cold and sharp and I think he holds it against Sid for never promoting him. I switch my gaze back and sure enough, it's about to overflow. I swear under my breath. Making coffee is harder than it looks.
"That's not a cappuccino. "Adam looks at my coffee. "For fucks sake. It's closer to a weird flat white. Well for gods sake, don't just stand there. Take the other coffee and come back for this one."
I do as he says as he remakes the cappuccino.
"Have you checked on all the tables?"
All apart from one. But he doesn't need to know that.
"Here, take this."
As he hands it to me, someone taps him on the shoulder.
"Adam, can I have a word?" Lisa asks and they disappear. It turns out that someone has bought all the staff a round of drinks and Lisa, who is working on bar tonight, doesn't know who is old enough to have one. 7:40. 20 minutes to go.
Sid makes an entrance and joins the kerfuffle about drinks. I seem to be the only one actually doing anything. The bell goes for food. More people come in, looking for a table. Sid breaks everyone up and they go rushing about their business, more stressed than before.
"TJ." Adam clicks his fingers again. "Can you go and check on table 5?"
"Well, are you busy?"
Adam snaps around. He hates it when people talk back to him.
"You want the honest truth? They're well posh, you're well posh and I hate posh people."
That's the worst reason I've ever heard.
I go over and everyone in her family makes eye contact with me apart from her. Eventually she looks up at me and something flashes across her eyes. This is the first time I've ever met someone from St Richmond's in the outside world and it really creeps me out. I hate it when my two worlds crossover. It's also because I'm a much cooler person at school than I am here.
"Everything ok for you?"
Her parents nod. I leave them to it. There is only one word I can use to describe the look in her eyes. Fear. Pure fear. But I can't hurt her here. Out of school I am completely powerless. And that was a pretty terrifying feeling.
"Ok TJ, you can go." Sid says, joining me next to the coffee machine.
"Wait, what, can I really?"
"Sure. We've got enough people on and besides, you've got somewhere you have to be don't you?"
"Well before you go, come down to the bar. We've prepared you something."
I sign out and sit at the bar, waiting for my special drink.
"Here we go."
It's some sort of cocktail.
"What the fuck is this? And why am I drinking this? I'm only 16."
"Shhh, just drink." Sid says, pushing the concoction towards me.
"What is it?"
"Cucumber, watermelon syrup, Jägermeister, amongst other things."
They're all pressuring me to drink it. I think Sid is doing this to spite my mum and to be honest, I'm on his side.
I take a sip and they all encourage me to keep going. I've never had anything so strong. I've never even tried alcohol. I feel it completely go to my head. The room begins to spin and I feel like I really have to steady myself otherwise I'm going to fall off the chair or say something stupid.
The taste of Jägermeister burns the back of my mouth and when I stand up, the room spins. I have to steady myself by holding onto the bar.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Nat, the reason I'm telling you this is because it made me realise how powerless I was outside of school. And this was something I should have remembered.
I leave out of the staffroom door, the room still swaying and I go down towards the promenade because the Elysium café bistro and bar is right on the seafront The central town of Filey is actually on a hill that is significantly higher than the row of houses on the sea front and from the front, it looks like two layers of buildings on top of each other . The only thing between them is a thick belt of trees. I lean against the railings and decide to light a cigarette to steady myself. Then I look out across the beach, with the Filey Brigg peninsula encircling the bay on the left and The Flamborough headland trapping us in on the right. Beyond that is the horizon and the endless turmoil of the feral nature of the sea against the forced rigidness of man.
"This sea Gecko. It will never leave you. You know that. No matter where you go, it will come back to haunt you. Can't you feel it? The singin' of the waves. The taste of salt. The grainy sand under your toes. The calling of the seagulls circling in the wind. It haunts me even now and I live here.
I remember I paused the level on the PlayStation, on that cold December day, all those years ago and replied:
"El, that's because it's your home."
He turns around and puts down the PlayStation controller.
"No, this is our home Gecko and our homes always haunt us."
I didn't think anything of his rambling then. I just told him to the restart the level on the PlayStation and to stop being a bairn pot. Now I look back, he was right.
"You know, at £10, 000 a term, I was hoping he would have done more by now... " I hear my mother say loudly.
Emmy sent me a text warning me about how awful my mum's drinks party was going to be and oh my god, she's so right. It's god awful. I've never so many people in loafers standing around talking about going to the Olympics and the economy and breeding and boarding schools. I'm also struggling to see straight and my head is swimming, which is not helping. Emmy and I are standing by the table with the nibbles and Pimms for the guests while Mum and her friend Mrs Jessop Hutchison, bitch and boast.
"Some teenagers just take a while to adjust. My Hector fitted in straight away though..." Mrs Jessop Hutchinson, replies.
"I suppose you're right-"
"Well some schools are better than others for this kind of thing." Mrs JH (Jessop-Hutchinson) interrupts in her teachery way. She is headmistress of Filey Primary school and likes to think of herself as not somebody to be messed with. "I only paid £9000 for Hector to go away and he had a hell of a time. He was in the first teams for rugby, hockey and cricket you know. And he sang in the choir. Very good dancer, my Hector. Very good indeed"
My mother with her divorce, an ill daughter and hedonistic son, has nothing to boast about.
" I suppose it's about who they spend time with and what the people are like. " Mrs Jessop Hutchinson continues, pursing her lips. She has a very pinched in, thin face with lots of black in hair always tied up in a scary up do and is as thin and angular as a rake. There's a long silence.
"Some of these places accept any old people but St Richmond is for the most elite teenagers that there is. I think your Eleanor would love it there." My mother says, sounding like the true snob she is. Mrs JH laughs and snorts. My mum pretends she doesn't notice.
"Well I think QM is just right for Eleanor-" (Queen Margaret's school in York, for all you commoners, jokes, I was kidding, jeez Nat, I was only joking.) "But she seems think it will give her a more rounded education to spend Sixthform in a mixed school. I mean, Hector was fine at Uppingham. He's got an offer from Bath to study finance and accounting because although he got five offers including offer from Bristol, Exeter and Bath, it wasn't academically ...stretching enough." God she's really setting him up. Mrs JH takes a sip of her gin and slim. "You see, after the Oxbridge exams didn't go to plan, he needed somewhere he could reach his full potential. Still, a prediction of four A's should be enough despite the fact in year 12 he got a U in-"
"Mum, I am here." Hector says loudly. I didn't even realise he was standing anyway near us. He rolls his eyes. I've always been a bit young to talk to Hector but I suddenly feel really sorry for him. If he doesn't get into Bath, then his mum has set him up for a huge fall. I'm suddenly aware that the age gap between Hector and I isn't as big as I thought and he is the not the grumpy silent teenager I remember him to be.
Emmy, Hector and I share a look. The unspoken rule of drink parties for people our age; the young must talk to the young.
Emmy looks at Hector:
"So, four A's huh? That's impressive."
"Oh fuck off. Like that's going to happen."
"So why accounting and finance?" I ask, trying to ask sober. I feel everything swaying slightly and I have to be really careful about how much I talk or if I stagger when I walk.
"To get out of Filey I suppose." Hector replies after a moment, taking off his beanie and running a hand through his slicked back hair. "If I do get the grades, I'll probably drop out after a few months and reapply to art school."
"You're going to do what, dear brother?"
Eleanor joins our gathering and I shift from one foot to the other, avoiding her gaze. We are not on speaking terms. Hector stays silent.
"That will surely give Mum something great to boast about, considering you are the favourite."
Hector pulls himself together.
"You and your grudges Eleanor. At least I'm giving her something to boast about."
"But why would she want to boast about shit?"
There's a really tense moment. I look Emmy , signalling that we should step in and do something. And by that, I mean she does something.
"At least your mum has something to boast about." Emmy say and I join her laughing nervously.
"Well, I'm gonna get out of here. And Ben, try not to sway or stagger. You're giving yourself away."
With that, he leaves us and Eleanor goes to get nibble and doesn't come back.
And then there were two.
"Are you alright?" Emmy asks me. I nod and stare into my glass of lemonade. I can still taste Jägermeister. She knows I've been drinking. She just knows. She gives me the I'll-cover-for-you look.
"Benedict! How charming!"
I turn around and Mr JH is striding towards me.
"Long time no see eh?" he says as he clasps my hand and shakes it firmly.
"Tell me, how is boarding school working out for you? Wait, neither of you have a drink. Eleanor! Get these two charming young people a drink. What would you like? Something soft I imagine, I know how your mother is about alcohol."
He brays loudly with laughter and we nervous laugh in return. I don't know why Eleanor's doing it, considering we're the hosts and it's our house.
"Eleanor, bring two lemonades."
She skulks off.
"So Benedict, how is boarding school working out for you? It must be a real change from good old Filey eh?"
Hmmmm...not really. Still claustrophobic, small and like a fish bowl.
"Yes I suppose. But it's fantastic, it really is."
"And I can imagine there is a lot to keep you busy and out of trouble!"
He laughs again. Hmmm...again, not so sure.
"Yes there's all sorts. We just had a tennis tournament and..."
"Ginger, here is your lemonade." Eleanor says grudgingly as she hands it over.
"And you're now working at..."
"Ah, charming place. Well. Kind of. Is it still Sid Leighton still running it?"
" Thought so. I mean, not my kind of people who go in there. Too...what's the word..."
"Common. You don't have to say it out loud dad, everyone know that's what you're thinking ."
Mr JH is ignoring her and turns to talk to Emmy instead.
"Emmy, tell me , how is going with THRIVE?"
Well obviously I wasn't interesting enough.
"What's THRIVE?" Eleanor asks.
"The charity who give my sister gardening therapy. Your mum recommended them."
"Of course she did. So I must say Ginger, it's been a very long time. You're not looking too bad though, I must say."
"Are you going to drink that Pimms?"
She hands it to me. I really shouldn't drink it. Everything is swimming as it is. I down it.
"Oh Ginger, are you trying to get drunk? What an actual badass."
"Well aren't you?"
"My parents would kill me and I think yours would too."
I just say that to keep up the sober charade.
"Do you really care what they think? Come on, you're 15."
We move to loiter next to the drinks table and down a glass each.
"You're supposed to have it one part alcohol, 2 parts lemonade but I think my parents have it the other way around." I say.
The alcohol swirls in my head. I think Eleanor still views me as some spotty kid because she keeps calling me Ginger and I have to be someone more than that. I have to prove I've become somebody.
"Oh my god. He's here."
"My boyfriend. I don't know how to dump him. Why the fuck did your mum invite him?"
"To be with you I guess."
He's a drippy looking guy. Built like a string bean and with lots of floppy hair. He's also wearing a cardigan which lists him very high up on my sissy list. I see him introduce himself to my sister. Well that will be a match made in heaven.
"He's the son of my mum's best friend, who is also Lord Lieutenant for Yorkshire. If I dump him, everyone will flip a lid.
Jeez. Practically royalty. An even better match for my sister.
"And he goes to Eton." Eleanor adds.
God. He should marry my sister, like, tomorrow, they're so well suited.
"Oh jeez, his parent's are here too. Fuck."
The Lord Lieutenant for Yorkshire is a small, stout man with a beautiful women at least 20 years younger hanging on his arm.
"His Dad is called Hugo, and that's his third wife Olga. She Latvian or something."
"But do you like him?"
"Despise him. He moans all the time."
"Then why are you with him?"
"To keep them happy. The happier I keep them, the higher chance I have of getting out of this fucking town."
She looks up at me and we have a moment of mutual understanding.
"Let's get out of here then."
I follow her around to the back of the house and we go in the backdoor of my house and through and into the kitchen. The whole table is covered with the remains of bowls of crisps, cocktail sausages, canapés and olives. There are half eaten bowls of organic houmous, dips of mayonnaise and crayfish (Waitrose finest) and empty glasses. There is also booze sitting on the table.
"Oh my god, why does your mum have Peach Schnapps?"
"Your dad brought it. He made your mum a peach Bellini cocktail earlier ."
This is my chance to prove that I'm somebody a million miles better than who I was.
"I think we should drink the whole lot."
"Oh look at you Ginger MJ, the true rebel. Come on, let's go."
We take the drink and the crisps and go and sit on the cliffs and out of sight.
We take sips between us until I chug straight from the bottle and she giggles loudly and ruffles my hair. I'm suddenly aware of how close we are. I feel an urge swell deep within me. I put an arm around her.
"I've missed you Ellie."
"You're just drunk."
"No, I'm serious."
I kiss her gently. Well I think about it. But before I can get close, she suddenly slaps me around the face.
"Woah, what was that for?"
"You owe me an apology Ben Middleton Jones."
My face begins to sting. She jumps up.
"That's the only reason I got you drunk! The only reason I suggested bringing that drasted peach schnapps and giving you Pimms! Christ!"
"But for what?"
"You know what. I won't let you near me until I get this apology from you. It's all your fault."
That was about Eleanor's only quality that made her different from the rest; she loved holding grudges and blaming people.
Eleanor's cardigan wearing boyfriend finds us.
"There you are sweety, I've been looking for you everywhere."
"He tried to kiss me." She mutters. The traitor. I suppose this is her revenge for me not apologising.
"How could you? She's my girlfriend! You know that!"
His whinging is doing my head in. I suddenly wonder if he's going to hit me. It looks more like he's going to burst into tears.
"You want to fight?"
He backs off.
"Well do you?"
Of all people, Emmy intervenes.
"STOP IT! ALL OF YOU! You're making such a scene! Ben, apologise!
I grab Eleanor and shove her towards her stupid boyfriend.
"Take your fucking girlfriend. I've got better things to do."
I start to make my way home and light a cigarette.
"I love her you know. More than you'll ever know! You'll never have her!"
Trust me, he can have her. I turn around and stub out my cigarette.
"Oh won't I? Trust me, she won't be with you for long."
"Oh she will."
"You're just a spoilt brat. And a nobody. At least my parents are someone. At least I'm someone. At least I'll be remembered."
That makes me stop dead. Something surges within me. A wave rises. Nobody tells me who I am and what I'll be remembered for. Nobody.
"At least I'm enough of man to able to do this."
In the midst of being about to punch him, something else gurgles within me. The hell of an evening I've had flash before me. I've served Ivy and realised how powerless I am in Filey, had a Jägermeister cocktail, had two glasses of pimms. I helped Eleanor drink half a bottle of peach schnapps and then in due course, been slapped around the face by the same girl, a girl who until today I wasn't on speaking terms with and yet I've known for 12 years.
"Benedict, there you are. "
Oh god. Of course my mother is here. And with Hugo and Olga. This could not be any worse. I back off from Larry and straighten up to shake Hugo's hand. Well if I'm going to look like a complete idiot, I might as well do it in style.
"This is Hugo Davidson -Wicker von Miechstazal III, Lord Lieutenant for Yorkshire and his wife Olga."
It gurgles. I put my hand out to shake his. It gurgles again. Larry keeps trying to get Hugo's attention and Hugo swats him away. I bet Larry is going to tell him about my true nature. I feel myself start to sweat and get all hot. First on my hands then on my forehead. I hear Elliot's voice in my head . Nothing like a nice clammy handshake to get things going Gecko.
"Nice to meet you-" I say. It can feel the gurgling beginning to rise.
I put out my hand and it stops gurgling only to rise up as a wave. A wave of alcohol induced vomit. It lands mainly on Olga's silk playsuit but also on Larry's cardigan and Hugo's Italian shoes
Well that's me never allowed back in Filey high society ever again. This evening was an example of why I should never drink. There is a dead silence. It isn't so much a huge continual wave of vomit, more like a wave and then coughing the rest up. My mother is shocked speechless. And with everyone watching, I light a cigarette.
"It's been a pleasure meeting you all. A true pleasure. Particulary you Hugo-"
I cough up vomit.
"Over and out."
I leave them there and I storm out. I plug myself into my IPod and the first song that comes on is 'Haunt' by Bastille. I go around the other side of the house and when I can walk any further, I fall over and into the grass. I light a cigarette and smoke it slowly. The oceans we carry within us, we are incapable of controlling the damage they can do. It's depths go beyond anything we can imagine. I smoke another cigarette and the ocean rages against the cliffs. The last thing I remember thinking before I passed out was that I don't know what's worse, being forced to leave a place or being forced to come back.