7. Seven


“That was one hell of a pee,” says Michael as I sit down. 

He’s still here. Part of me was hoping he wouldn’t be.

“You sound impressed,” I say.

“I am actually.”

Becky, Evelyn and Lauren are now talking across the 

table to some other girls from our year who I don’t really 

know. Lucas smiles briefly at me. Rita’s laughing and 

smiling, mainly at Lauren. They’re discussing a girl we 

used to know who moved to Truham for sixth form 

because she said that she “preferred boys to girls” and now 

she’s organising parties where everyone takes acid and rolls around on the floor.

“So you’re gay?” I ask.

He blinks. “Wow. This is quite a big deal to you guys.”

It’s not a big deal. I don’t really care at all.

“Do you find boys attractive?” I ask, with a shrug. “Or 

girls? That’s one way to check. If you’re not sure.”

He raises his eyebrows. “You think I’m not sure?”

I shrug again. I don’t care. I do not care.

“Everyone’s attractive, to be honest,” he continues. 

“Even if it’s just something small, like some people have 

really beautiful hands. I don’t know. I’m a little bit in 

love with everyone I meet, but I think that’s normal.”

“So you’re bisexual.”

He smiles and leans forward. “You love all these words, 

don’t you? Gay, bisexual, attractive, unattractive—”

“No,” I interrupt. “No, I hate them.”

“Then why label people?”

I tilt my head. “Because that’s life. Without organisation, 

we descend into chaos.”

Staring amusedly, he stretches back again into the chair. 

I can’t believe I just used the word ‘descend’.

“Well, if you care so much, what are you?” he asks.


“What are you? Gay, straight, all-around horny, what?”

“Er, straight?”

“And are you sure that you’re straight? Have you liked

a boy before?”

I actually haven’t. Ever. This is because I have a very 

low opinion of most people.

I look down. “All right then. I’ll let you know if I fall 

in love with a girl any time soon.”

Michael’s eyes twinkle, but he doesn’t comment. I hope 

I haven’t come across as a homophobe.

“Are you going to remember what you came to tell 

me?” I ask.

He strokes his sharply parted hair. “Maybe. Maybe 

tomorrow. We’ll see.”

Soon after that everyone declares that they’re leaving. 

I accidentally spent £16, so Lucas insists on giving me 

the extra pound, which I guess is pretty nice of him. Once 

we’re all standing outside the restaurant, he starts chatting 

earnestly with Evelyn. Most of the people here are heading 

to Lauren’s house for a big sleepover thing or whatever. 

They’re all going to get drunk and stuff even though 

it’s a Tuesday. Becky explains that she didn’t invite me 

because she knew that I definitely wouldn’t want to come 

(it’s funny because it’s true), and Ben Hope overhears her 

and gives me this kind of pitying look. Becky smiles at 

him, the pair momentarily united in feeling sorry for me. 

I decide that I’m going to walk home. Michael decides

that he’s coming with me and I don’t really know how 

to stop him so I guess this is happening.

We have been moving in silence through the high 

street. It’s all Victorian and brown and the cobblestone 

road is sort of curved like we’re in the bottom of a trench. 

A man in a suit hurries past, and he’s asking someone on 

the phone, “Do you feel anything yet?” 

I ask Michael why he’s walking home with me.

“Because I live this way. The world does not revolve 

around you, Victoria Spring.” He’s being sarcastic, but I 

still feel kind of put out.

“Victoria.” I shudder.


“Please don’t call me Victoria.”

“Why’s that?”

“It makes me think of Queen Victoria. The one who 

wore black all her life because her husband died. And 

‘Victoria Spring’ sounds like a brand of bottled water.” 

Wind is picking up around us.

“I don’t like my name either,” he says.

I instantly think of all the people I dislike named Michael. 

Michael Bublé, Michael McIntyre, Michael Jackson.

“Michael means ‘who resembles God’,” he says, “and 

I think that if God could choose to resemble any human 


He stops then, right in the street, looking at me, just 

looking, through the pane of his glasses, through the blue 

and green, through depths and expanses, bleeding one 

billion incomprehensible thoughts.

“...he wouldn’t choose me.”

We continue to walk.

Imagine if I had been given some Biblical name like 

Abigail or Charity or, I don’t know, Eve, for God’s sake. 

I’m very critical of religion and it probably means that 

I’m going to hell, if it even exists, which, let’s be honest, 

it probably doesn’t. That doesn’t bother me very much 

because whatever happens in hell can’t be much worse 

than what happens here.

“Well,” I say, “I support the Labour Party, but people 

call me Tori. Like the Tories. If that makes you feel any 


He doesn’t say anything, but I’m too busy looking at 

the pale brown cobblestones to see if he’s looking at me. 

After a few moments: “You support the Labour Party?”

I realise then that I’m freezing. I’d forgotten it was the 

middle of winter and raining and all I’ve got is this shirt 

and jumper and thin jeans. I regret not calling Mum, but 

I hate bothering her because she always does this sighing 

thing where she’s all like “no, no, it’s perfectly fine, I’m 

not bothered”, but I can tell that she is most definitely 


Silence and a faint smell of Indian takeaway continue 

all the way up the high street and then we take a right on 

to the main town road where the three-storey houses are. 

My house is one of these. Two girls walk past in gargantuan

heels and dresses so tight that their skin is spilling out, and 

one of them says to the other, “Wait, who the fuck is Lewis 

Carroll?” and in my imagination I pull a gun out of my 

pocket, shoot them both and then shoot myself.

I stop when I get to my house. It’s darker than the 

others because the lamp post closest to it is not working.

“This is where I live,” I say and start to walk off.

“Wait, wait, wait,” he says. I turn back round. “Can I 

ask you something?”

I cannot resist a sarcastic comment. “You just did, but 

please continue.”

“Can we really not be friends?”

He sounds like an eight-year-old girl trying to win back 

her best friend after she accidentally insulted her new school 

shoes and got herself disinvited from her birthday party.

He’s wearing only a T-shirt and jeans too. 

“How are you not freezing?” I say.

“Please, Tori. Why don’t you want to be friends with 

me?” It’s like he’s desperate. 

“Why do you want to be friends with me?” I shake my 

head. “We’re not in the same year. We’re not similar in 

any way whatsoever. I literally do not understand why 

you even care about—” I stop then, because I was about 

to say “me”, but I realised midway through that that would 

be a truly horrific sentence.

He looks down. “I don’t think that... I understand... 


I’m just standing there, staring.

“You know, it’s said that extreme communism and 

extreme capitalism are actually very similar,” he says.

“Are you high?” I say.

He shakes his head and laughs. “I remember what I 

was going to tell you, you know,” he says.

“You do?”

“I remembered it the whole time. I just didn’t want 

everyone to hear it because it’s not their business.”

“Then why did you come and find me at a busy 

restaurant? Why not just find me at school?”

For a second, he genuinely seems to be offended. “Don’t 

you think I’ve tried?” He laughs. “You’re like a ghost!” 

It takes a lot of willpower not to just turn round and


“I just wanted to tell you that I’d seen you before.”

Jesus Christ. He already told me that.

“You told me that yesterd—”

“No, not at Higgs. I saw you when you came to look 

round Truham. Last year. It was me who took you round 

the school.”

The revelation blossoms. I remember exactly now. 

Michael Holden had shown me attentively round 

Truham when I was deciding whether to go there for 

sixth form. He’d asked me what A levels I wanted to 

do, and whether I liked Higgs very much, and whether 

I had any hobbies, and whether I cared much about 

sports. In fact, everything he’d said had been utterly 


“But...” It’s impossible. “But you were so... normal.”

He shrugs and smiles and the raindrops on his face 

almost make him seem as if he’s crying. “There’s a time 

and a place for being normal. For most people, normal is 

their default setting. But for some, like you and me, normal 

is something we have to bring out, like putting on a suit 

for a posh dinner.”

What, now he’s being profound?


“Why did you need to tell me this? Why did you need 

to track me down? Why was it that important?”

He shrugs again. “It wasn’t, I guess. But I wanted you 

to know. And when I want to do something I usually do 


I stare at him. Nick and Charlie were right. He’s absolutely 


He holds up a hand and sends me a slight wave.

“See you soon, Tori Spring.”

And then he wanders away. I’m left standing under the 

broken lamp post in my black jumper and the rain, 

wondering whether I’m feeling anything yet and realising 

that it’s all very funny because it’s all very true.

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