Messages from 1986

Alicia Aitken

‘Susan woz ‘ere ’86 Xx’ is drawn in faded green marker across the naked wall. The summer of 1986 mum let us have a small party before the lounge was redecorated. It was a big deal; the lounge had not been touched since we were toddlers and it had been the main topic of conversation at the dinner table for the past few months.

We opened all the windows and doors on that summer’s evening to let the cool breeze through, the room busy with our friends excitedly discussing what to write and draw on the bare walls and floorboards, friendships being bound forever in bold marker pens.

‘Simon & Susan 4eva’ written in red on the floor with a love heart around it. You broke up with poor Simon three weeks later, it wasn’t meant to be but that evening you were love’s young dream.

Another twenty years on and the room is being redecorated again except this time walls are being knocked through, Mum and Dad have decided to change the layout of the downstairs. I slowly walk around the room, my footsteps are loud and my stifled giggle at a crude drawing echoes. It feels so empty, the warmth and laughter are no longer in residence. I read all the messages from our youth, reminiscing that night as if it were only yesterday. Mum and Dad sat with the neighbours next door while we danced and sang our hearts out. We were so full of life and energy, everything in front of us.

I was starting college that September and you were going to university and leaving home. It would be the last party you and me ever attended together. You never did see the finished lounge.

‘Derek is the hottest’ scribbled in dark blue marker behind the door. Remember him? I had the biggest crush on Derek, you spent the evening trying to get us to dance together. I was too shy.

December 1986, Christmas break. Our house went into overdrive. We would all be together for the holidays. Mum bought all your favourite food, she had missed you so much, we all had. The house had seemed quieter and lonelier without you. You were late. I was watching one of the Christmas films, laying stretched out on the new soft plush carpet. It still faintly smelled new and I kept wondering how
much longer you would be.

That dreaded knock on the door from the two policemen standing in the light flurry of snow. Mum’s uncontrollable sobbing, Dad’s silent grief. The other driver in the car crash survived but you didn’t.

I often think back to that summer’s party of 1986. Ah, there it is, scrawled in black marker just how I remember ‘Susan & Annie sisters and besties foreva & eva’. I take a photo so I can carry it around with me, look at it when I think of you, our last party. I say goodbye to the vacant room and the memories etched on the walls that are to be no more.

Alicia Aitken lives in Essex, UK and is an avid reader, paddle boarder and traveller. Alicia loves to write short stories and is currently working on her first novel. You can follow Alicia on twitter @aliciaaitken01.

*Photo by Darwin Vegher. 

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