Camilla Garcia. Like the cherry ice cream. She took me into the bathroom and shaved off my eyebrows. She dyed my hair grey-green and gave herself chestnut highlights. Peaches and cream. She exfoliated her skin every day until it was pink.
On Camilla’s thirteenth birthday Jennifer Kirkby twirled a baton squealing like a pig on the kitchen table in front of twenty guests. Camilla handed her a blue tumbler full of nail varnish remover. “You must be working up a sweat Jenny, have some Ribena.” Camilla stared at Jennifer’s pink pants while she vomited in the garden onto her shiny stick. After Jenny had gone home, wrapped in towels with stomach acid on her meringue dress, Camilla sang a Whitney Houston song and her mum had cried. I only hated Camilla sometimes and she always convinced me that I loved her again. She’d pinch me and lick her teeth.
We chewed on our pink nails and fidgeted with our party dresses while we waited to see what Mr. Garcia had sent. Camilla said his suits were made out of silk and that he wore patent shoes that he tap, tap, tapped. Or Thump-thump-thumped. We never heard them. Some Christmas Eve he let her get drunk with her cousin Daisy. They danced on the table to a jukebox, in his pub that had marble pillars and barmaids that wore tight t-shirts, somewhere near
We thought there might be an explosion of pink or the booming horn of her new silver convertible. But instead she coyly propped up a pearlescent frame next to the chocolate birthday cake. Girls scratched each other to see the snow white pony who stared out of the frame with huge muddy eyes.
Camilla talked about Mr. Garcia every day and even more on the Monday that came after the third Sunday of every month. Those Sundays were spent at Madame Tussauds’ and on day trips to
I had been Camilla’s best friend for three years. Big fat rain drops hit the kitchen window like seagull shits. They hit, splat and then explode, bang. Every morning she opened the door and said nothing, just rolled her eyes as if she hadn’t been expecting me.
“Hi Marie,” I shouted around the door frame.
Camilla stood with her foot stretched onto the banister looking past my shoulder at the rain. She pulled at the end of her sock dreamily and slipped a finger in between her largest toes. Then hopped into the smoke shouting “Mum! Mummeee!”
Marie’s feet were resting on the coffee table. She was blinking her eyes at a fuzzy video of a Christmas party.
A thick towelling band held Marie’s frayed black curls, the tips of her fingers wrapped around a wide glass, and a short cigarette smouldering from the heavy sleeve of her grey dressing gown. She didn’t look over, just kept her wet eyes on a man in a brown suit with a wide collar. He smiled at the camera and twisted down to the floor holding the hands of a little girl with dark curls. She lifted off the ground as he span her around and the pink of her skirts swirled. Balanced on his hip like a trophy he kissed her fat cheek winking at the camera. The child stretched her lip sticked mouth and showed all her little round teeth.
Camilla perched on the sofa arm, peering through the smoke.
“Mmmm. Isn’t your dress lovely? Pretty in pink.” Marie laughed softly.
“Who’s that I’m with? Who’s that man?”
Camilla waved her arm at the TV, the diamonds in her rings glistened.
“How d’you mean love?”
Marie smiled and smoke drifted through her parted lips. Camilla sighed and skidded up to the TV in her long white socks. She pushed an emerald fingerprint onto the man’s forehead.
“Is it Uncle Jeff?”
The tape finished and the man’s long yellow incisors flickered on the screen. Marie pushed at her leg and laughed. Camilla laughed too but her face was blank. The three of us looked at the screen in silence.
Mike strolled through the hallway, running his hand through his fluffy ginger hair and adjusting his penis in his tight trousers. He drove buses and we hated him.
“Whassamatter? Who the fuck is that babe?”
Camilla ignored him and started to tell me “Uncle Jeff’s in property. He’s had six wives and his last one, she was a super model..” She reached for the magazine rack but Marie pulled herself up from the faux mohair cushions and pushed her hand away.
“That?” Marie pointed at the screen. “That’s only her fucking father!”
The wide glass slipped off the table leaving dark red liquid to pool on the floor.
Camilla’s dad disappeared and was replaced by fuzzy dancing dots.
“Fucking, fuck it,” Marie’s slippers slapped out of the room and she swung down the corridor into the bathroom where she would probably stay all day. Camilla said that her mother would paint her toes and curl her hair all day if it meant she would look perfect.
“I was just winding her up. I knew it was him.”
Her eyes flickered. She stood on tip toes and held my shoulder, her breath carried a strand of my hair.
“Gareth fancies you,” she whispered.
My face went hot and she giggled.
“But he fancies me more.”
When we got on the bus that day she winked and swung her hair over her shoulder. I winked too but she said I
did it with the wrong eye and that meant I was lezzer.
“Don’t worry,” she said and dipped her hand into her crocodile bag.
“Look at what my dad got me.”
She paused for effect and then snapped open an oval pink box. I looked at the fleshy plastic roof with thin metal
hooks that sat lopsided on a pile of cotton wool.
“Yuck! What is it?”
“A retainer. Durrrr!”
She rolled her neat green eyes at me for the second time that day and arranged the metal branches.
“It coshed shix hundred quid”
A light spray left her mouth she smiled broadly. Tiny bits of metal gleamed aluminum between her little teeth.
When we walked across the field after school she said that having a brace was gross but having a retainer was
okay. Jessica Palmer had a brace and she had snogged Spotty Phil who had his face all bandaged up when we
next saw him. We chewed on Hubba Bubba and looked through the thick bars at the boys playing football.
Camilla tapped her ruby rings and scrapped her fingers along the metal.
“Isn’t David Sloane just the fittest? Just look at his thighs.”
She cocked her head thoughtfully.
“I love muscles.”
I looked at the amount of leg that was showing between his football socks and Puma shorts. It was white with
soft black hairs.
“I thought you said he was rank?”
“Nahhh Alice. I’ve been in love with him for like two months now. Jess told me he’d been talking about these to
all the boys.”
She pulled her bra straps which made the padding move up and down under her school t-shirt.
“Once my dad was so desperate he had to pick one up off the floor. A butt like.”
“Ewww. Didn’t it have germs all over it?”
“That’s what it’s like when you are addicted
Camilla had taken me into a hut behind the long school playing fields and made me smoke ten cigarettes when we
were twelve. She blew a smoke ring and told me how cool I’d look.
“Couldn’t he have just bought some?”
She pushed her hair behind her diamond studded ears.
“That was that time he left all his credit cards at home. It was terrible apparently his bird… Hold this.”
Make-up case, maths book, hair brush.
“Oh my God. There it is.”
She held the little pink box and sighed with relief. Her face was flushed as she opened it, her painted fingers
lifting pieces of damp cotton wool. But it was an empty oyster shell. Missing the pearly pink retainer.
We walked back past David Sloane who was still playing football. His white thighs had turned red and mottled.
We got down on our knees and parted the weeds where we had climbed through the gap in the red gate. By the
bins we looked under crisp packets and burger wrappers. I hoped she would wash it before she put it back in
her mouth. Three times we walked around the field. That was more than on cross country in P.E. Finally she
flung the pink case against a tree where in burst open, little clouds of cotton wool spraying into the mud. Tears
spilled down her cheeks while her fat fingers pulled at strands of grass and crumbled clumps of mud.
“Can’t your dad just buy you a new one?”
I touched the polyester of her t-shirt. She was hiccupping.
“It…. It… cost six hundred pounds! He can’t just buy me a new one.”
“But he’s got loads of money Camilla. I’m sure he won’t mind.”
“NO! He…my dad gave it to me. And now it’s lost.”
She hid her face in her hands leaving a streak of mud on her powdered cheek. Slowly we walked back along the
field looking at the sheet of dark grey sky. David Sloane had gone home in his dad’s Volvo Estate over an hour
ago. We kicked the heads off dandelions until they gave way to Tesco’s car park and then we kicked at bottle
tops instead. Camilla didn’t want to go in so we lay under the blossom tree at the end of her road until it was
While the sky turned black I thought about that birthday party, the one where Jennifer Kirkby had retched into
the plant pots. I felt Jennifer’s hot breath in my ear telling me that someone had unclipped the imitation pearl
frame and seen neat rows of newspaper print letters. “Liar, liar pants on fire.” I imagined Camilla cutting her
birthday pony out of the paper and pasting him neatly behind the glass, her eyes wet. I could see the girls, their
mouths sticky with cake and sweets but sour with anticipation, as they lifted the small chipboard square. They
exploded out through the yellow hallway of Marie’s council house and down the road to tell the world the truth
about Mr. Garcia and the pony Camilla never rode.