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After almost a year apart, 19 year old Tara receives a voicemail from an old friend and lover, and decides to meet with them again. Throughout the journey, she relives the memories of them together through music. But what will happen when they finally meet again?

*please note that the cover and name aren't final*


2. 1.

Strange, isn’t it?

Words generated from fingers on a screen can carry so much meaning. Our generation is so constantly criticised for our inability to connect, when every second we’re connected. Not just to Wifi hotspots or to Facebook, but to friends. Family. Lovers.

At our finger tips, we have not just letters, but also photographs. Memories. Moments of time documented via pixels, forever. Our heads aren’t in the clouds, but everything else is. Not just our apps, but our conversations. Our details. Prized among the Snapchat selfies and lazy day playlists. Our heads aren’t in the clouds, because we’re looking at our phones.

Some people paint, or write, or create, in hopes they’ll be remembered. Our Facebook statuses, and our tweets, and our Youtube videos, are our way of ensuring we’re not forgotten. Ensuring we won’t be another name on a head stone in some grave yard. It’s a way of saying ‘we were here’. Not just to one person, but the world also. It all starts with a phone camera. An app. A text. A phone in hand, and nothing but good intentions as we tap out our meaning.


Yet despite this, I’m letting the phone ring. I make no move to answer it, but instead deny it. Try to block out the repetitive notes. Refuse to acknowledge the presence, forget, move on. But I can’t.

See, it’s not the call itself I want to forget. It’s the number. The vibration of the phone in my hands lasts longer than it should. 45 seconds last a long time when you’re battling with yourself. Do I answer, or do I not? Do I watch, or do nothing at all? The 11 digits find their way into my skull, teasing, reminding. They’re an itch I can’t scratch.

It’s too late by the time I finally move my fingers. The answer button fades away, replaced by the home screen. The number does too, but not from my head. Then I see the notification.

New voicemail.

Without thinking, I tap it. Placing my phone on the table, I rest my head in my hands as the message plays.

1 new voicemail.

At 8:37am.

​"Hey. It's Lauren. Look, I know I'm the last person you want to talk to, and I don't blame you. But... I'm coming home today. Arrived at Heathrow yesterday. You're probably not listening by this point, but I was wondering... well, if you wanted to meet up. To talk. Yeah... I'll be in Kerridge later today. Hopefully see you there? Until then, I guess. Bye."

It's funny what a year can do to you. Your memory of a person can fade so much that when they come back, they're practically a stranger. You forget what they sound like - the pitch of their voice, how they punctuate sentences with a click of the tongue. What they meant to you. I play the message a second time. Then a third. I debate a fourth, but I've already memorised it. I didn't want or need to, but here it is. As if the memories weren't enough. It adds insult to injury.

I sit there for a good fifteen minutes after she stopped speaking again. I'm replaying each moment we shared, like a film in my head. The actors all know their lines, rehearsed and perfected. Everything is there. Even the ending. There are more questions than answers - what pains me is that she is the only one who can supply those answers. 

I think of her smile, and the way that her lips would crack open into giggles, then laughter. I think of her driving, one arm hanging lazily out of the window as we drove down the motorway at night. In this moment, I think only of her. How can you forget a flower, even if it becomes a weed? An unpleasant thought?

I check my phone for the time. 8:52. If I go now, I could make it in time for the next train. So I get up, gather my things, and begin walking to the train station. The sun leaks like liquid over the blocks of flats, a wake up call for business men, mums, dads, the sober, the hungover, the one night stands, the young, the old. Time to face the day, go back to the world outside the window. Repeat the 9 to 5, fulfill the daily cycle. It feels like I'm on auto pilot, movement without thought.

Each street takes no time at all as I pass by the houses. Wide eyed kids are hypnotised by their television screens. They don't know the state of the country, let alone the world. They don't know about the terrorism occuring as they watch Cbeebies. Just what's for tea. Cats perch on the garden walls, still as a statue as they size up the pedestrians. They're always there, even in the amber glow of streetlamps. They're guardians. 

Teenagers are already congregating on street corners and in the alleyways, kicking empty cans around as they empty their own. Rockstar, Monster, they'll take whatever. Nobody outruns the rap music, the people telling it like it is, as their messages echo through Beats headphones and the bones of those who pass. Their tracksuits are their uniform. It's a sign of belonging. 

You can't escape the filth. It's always there, like the dirt under your finger nails. Even a place like this has its filth. Everywhere does. No matter where you go, you'll always end up running into it again like an old friend you lost contact with, but not by accident. Everyone is trying to escape it, but some settle for it. If you can't beat them, join them.

The streets are filling up now, people following their routines. They're like robots. Programmed to carry out each action with military precision. Most are headed in the same direction as me, so it comes as no surprise that there's already a crowd when I get there. Buggies and backpacks, suits and tracksuits. All eyes are glued to either the departures board or the track in front of them. Who'd want to look anywhere else?

I can already predict how cramped it'll be in the first train, so I sit this one out. Unless I want to spend the entire journey with half my spine digging into a pole, then I'd better. Once it comes, they're like pigeons. They flock to it, follow it, wait patiently for something to happen. I'm tempted to chuck some seed at them to see if they peck it off the ground. I wouldn't put it past some of them. 

The train is full within a matter of seconds, passengers pressed against the metal doors. I don't feel sorry for them, but I wonder where they're going. If they're in the same boat as me. We all have our own stories, with chapters and characters and beginnings and ends. If we're lucky, we feature in other stories too. Do I feature in theirs, or am I just background? The thought occupies me long enough for the next train to arrive. It's far emptier, so finding a seat is no challenge. Once I'm sat, I pull my headphones out of my pocket. They're inevitably tangled. It's the cherry on the out of date cake.

As I plug them in to the headphone jack and place both buds in my ears, all sound is subdued. I don't bother listening to the speaker, because I've heard it all before. We all know the stops, or we wouldn't be here. I press shuffle as the train begins to pull away from the platform, half-watching as the town slowly grows smaller. Let the thoughts consume, occupy the space in my head. 

And so, the journey begins

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