Dreams of teeth like silver knives, like the mouth of some abomination; it spoke with a woman’s voice, and then the morning came.
Sitting up in bed, Jamie Caller gripped the sheets in her fists. She had wanted some good sleep, she had deserved it. People didn’t always get want they wanted or deserved. There was a hollow feeling in her belly. She wasn’t going back on the meds, despite what Dad said. Not this time, not after coming so far on her own. God, she was tired. You weren’t supposed to be tired when you woke up in the morning. It defeated the purpose of sleeping. Jamie groaned and threw back the sheets, climbing from the useless bed. She needed to see her best friend. She needed him more than ever these days.
In the shower she thought of teeth again.
It was cold outside and so she wore her black biker jacket over the hoodie, steeling herself against the harsh December. Before she left the house she pulled on her gloves and stared at the dark-eyed fifteen year old girl in the hallway mirror. The girl was fairly attractive, with a nice figure and an air of purpose, but she looked tired and sad. Nightmares would do that to you.
“Keep it together, Jamie”, she warned herself. She wasn’t going to let dreams be confused with reality this time.
A muted sun glowed faintly behind a grey curtain of sky. Jamie could see her spectral breath in front of her as she wandered the streets of Wells Gate, glancing at the Christmas decorations that the council had put up. Last year’s Christmas without Mum had been awful, despite Dad’s best intentions. She wondered if this year would be any better. At least Stokes would come round for half the day, filling his face with turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce. Then she and Stokes and her dad would lounge around watching new DVDs. Jamie forced a smile and told herself it could have been a lot worse.
Stokes lived on St Xavier’s, a place that was always dotted with graffiti and litter in the stairwells. It was a marked difference from Dad’s big detached house and sometimes she felt guilty about it.
She passed a group of boys smoking something stronger than cigarettes, and they did the usual thing of mentally undressing the white girl, smirking and nudging each other. One of them blew her a kiss that suddenly made her feel uncomfortable and sleazy. They wouldn’t have done that if Stokes was around. All the hip-hop wannabes on the Estate knew him, and cautiously gave him all the space he needed.
Jamie climbed the stairs because the lifts never smelled good, and knocked at the faded blue door. She waited a few moments until an attractive black woman with smiling eyes appeared. She had braids tied back from her face and glasses perched on her head. She grinned at Jamie. “Ah, my favourite poet in the whole world.”
Jamie could have blushed. “Hey, Mrs Stokes, is Marcus in?”
“Sure, he’s still asleep in his room I think.”
She ushered Jamie into the tiny flat. It was totally different inside from what you’d expect. Samantha Stokes kept her home pretty and tidy. There was always a nice atmosphere and Jamie could smell her famous coconut bread wafting from the kitchen.
“I’ll wrap you a few slices to take with you, okay?” said Mrs Stokes, reading Jamie’s mind as usual.
“You’re too good to me, Sam,” Jamie told her.
“One can never be too good,’ she said, tapping the silver cross that hung at her throat.
Jamie knocked on her friend’s bedroom door and walked in without waiting. Stokes was still asleep in his bed, the covers twisted around him. His room was a kind of organised chaos. Loads of books and writing pads and art supplies were dotted around the floor in stacked piles, so she had to tread carefully through that minefield to get to his bed. Jamie didn’t want Stokes to see her feeling sad today. She leapt onto the mattress and landed beside him like a giant cat, quickly licking the side of his face.
“Go away, Santa Clause,” he mumbled.
“I’m not Santa. What would Santa be doing licking your face on a Saturday morning? It’s your brilliant partner in crime.”
He turned over in the bed and squinted at her with a big smile. “Don’t you ever sleep? It’s not even ten o clock yet.”
“Get up and get dressed, big guy.”
Stokes sighed with mock resentment. “I’m kind of naked under here. Turn your back. No peeking this time.”
Jamie turned away as her friend dragged himself from the bed, rummaging around for fresh clothes. She glanced at the posters she saw. Rap musicians mingled with heavy metal bands on his walls, and above his bed was a framed poster for The Sound of Music.
She smirked at his jumbled tastes.
“Okay, partner, let’s do this thing.”
She turned and saw Stokes was now dressed in his Levi’s and an old green sweater. He slung his battered leather jacket over his shoulder and winked at her. He looked a lot older than sixteen, but she could see past the tough-guy image that kept him safe at school. She’d known him for too long. He was feeling sad today too.