I found her outside, alone, leaning against the wall and smoking a cigarette. The kitchen door shut behind me and I opened my mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the sound of a young girl vomiting. Her friend – Tanya? Tonya? Tara? – is hunched over on the floor, almost invisible beneath the window sill. The kitchen light illuminates the splatters of sick on the patio, and as Tanya-Tonya-Tara leans forward to hurl again, the light falls on her hair – black with red streaks – and she manages to direct her next spew into the flowerbed.
I ask if her friend is OK. She asks me what I think. We both laugh and she squats down to rub Tanya-Tonya-Tara’s back. A strand of hair falls down over her shoulder and dangles dangerously above a small puke-puddle. She stops rubbing Tanya-Tonya-Tara’s back to tuck it back behind her ears. She asks me if I’d mind getting some water from the kitchen, so I open the door, throwing some light onto the patio; Tanya-Tonya-Tara looks up at me, black eye shadow streaming down her face and purple-red lips coated in a fine film of frothy saliva. Her eyes are out of focus, she doesn’t seem to register my presence, and burps in my direction. I step into the kitchen and search the cupboards for a glass. First try, above the sink, just like mum. I am about to go back outside but pause by the fridge –
Tanya-Tonya-Tara cradles the glass with both hands and takes a sip. She slumps back against the wall and stares into the distance, her eyes closed. Finally we are alone. I offer a can of Fosters and she takes it. I open my own and for a second we say nothing, our silence threatens to drown out the music coming from the living room, she breaks it by asking if I want a cigarette. I clear my throat and nod. She takes them out of her jacket pocket and offers me the pack. I notice there is one hand-rolled cigarette floating against the tightly packed Marlboros and my fingers hesitate slightly. She senses the pause and asks if I want a joint instead. I hear myself saying ‘sure’ and the knot in my stomach tightens even more.
We walk down a small path towards the shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s been raining all week so the grass is damp and muddy, I take care not to scuff my trainers and hop between paving slab islands laid into the lawn, but she doesn’t care; she seems to miss the slabs on purpose. There’s a small bench next to the shed made of curved iron arms and cold, wet wooden slats. She sits down and puts the thin end of the joint between her lips. I sit down next to her, I can feel the wet wood soaking through my jeans. It makes me uncomfortable. She doesn’t seem to mind. The fat end of the cigarette puffs out a whisper of smoke as she lights it; the smoke is fragrant, floral, but also sticky and coarse. I watch intently how she inhales – a drag, a pause, her nostrils flare as she breathes in again – and she watches me watch her. My stomach is now churning with nerves. I wonder if it’s obvious it’s my first time.