“Artsy Neon,” Slideshow Bruce

“What do you want me to do, Strawberry, kill him?”

Verity lifts her head from resting sideways on her knee and looks at Isla with the perplexed look that is becoming her normal face.

Isla continues, “You sit here talking this shit me to me and expect me to be, like, whatever. You have no idea how you fucking make me feel, you have no idea how excruciating this is for me. Every fucking day.”

Verity goes over to Isla, tries to hold her. Isla pushes her away. In that stuffy bedroom, which they so often fear to leave, the smell of steak crisps and sweaty laundry is as invisible as the sound of cars roaring by at every hour.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” says Verity. “Let’s go out,” she suggests, licking her fingers to wipe her face.

So they go to Pomopomo, the new crafting/club night on the Old Steine. Verity keeps wanting to dance, but Isla keeps falling asleep on a couch in the nipple tassel-making room. All the girls they hang out with from the zine café are in the basement, some talking over the music channels, some eating, saying how they love Drake and Verity thinks, “Me too, I love him, too,” but she feels too shy, too musty to join in with their confident, witty chatter. She tries a few times and all that comes out is a tiny croak.

The stars are shining really bright when they go outside for a cigarette. They hear someone coughing; they hear steps and a spit noise, followed by throat clearing.

“Strawberry?” says Isla. “Is that who I think it is?”

Verity takes Isla’s hand and curls it inside her own. The starlight is shimmering in her eyes watering from the cold.

“No, no, that’s not him,” she says, softly, wearily. “Let’s go back inside?”

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