Page 31 of Just One Night

‘What did you really want to do?’ Sylvie had asked him.

‘Paint,’ he had told her simply.

Sylvie’s discovery that he was taking drugs had saddened but not particularly shocked her. They were, after all, a feature of university life, although she herself had stayed clear of them.

It had been David who had persuaded her to attend the rave party where he had introduced her to Wayne. She had guessed that Wayne was his supplier but had naively assumed then that Wayne was no more than a generous-minded individual who had the contacts to supply his friends with drugs, and that it was they who pressured him into obtaining them for them rather than the other way around. Without directly saying so, Wayne had implied that they were two of a kind, individuals who stood out from the crowd. His street-wise sophistication had reminded her in some odd way of Ran. Perhaps because, like Ran, Wayne was older than her and the friends she’d mixed with. She had listened half enviously when he had told her of his plans to spend the summer with a group of eco-warriors, travelling the country.

Sylvie had always been idealistic, and Wayne’s description of the way the group were dedicated to preventing the destruction of the countryside by greedy power barons had increased her sense of comradeship with him and with the group he was joining.

Just as importantly, Wayne had seemed to understand the problems she was having in convincing her mother that she was now an adult.

‘She’s such a snob,’ she had told Wayne ruefully, wrinkling her nose.

‘She wouldn’t much approve of me, then,’ he had countered, and although she had shaken her head Sylvie had been forced to admit that he was right. She had confided to Wayne how uncomfortable it often made her feel that she should be so privileged. Alex gave her an allowance and her mother was constantly visiting her and fussing over whether or not she was eating properly and wearing the right kind of clothes. Her mother had never wanted her to go to university. She had bemoaned the fact that girls like Sylvie no longer had the opportunity to ‘come out’ properly, as she had done as a girl. Alex had been the driving force behind her moving off to university. Time, he said, for her to grow and find out about herself.

It had not been long after her disclosure that she received an allowance that Wayne had asked to borrow money from her. Of course she had given it to him. He was a friend...

And then, after she had given Wayne the money he had asked for, she had discovered that she needed to buy some new course books, and that stupidly she had not realised that she had an advance rent bill due for the small flat she lived in.

She had had to telephone Alex to ask him for an advance on her forthcoming allowance. She had felt uncomfortable about doing so, but after a small pause, when she had stammeringly explained that she had loaned some money to a friend, he had said quietly that she could leave the matter with him.

Naively she had assumed that that meant that he would send her a cheque, and suddenly she’d had more important things to worry about than money. David, her friend, was dead. He had collapsed at a rave party and been rushed into hospital, but it had been too late to save him.

His family had taken him home to bury him and they had also made it plain that they did not want any of his university friends to attend his funeral.

‘They blame us for what happened to him,’ one of his other friends told Sylvie angrily. ‘They’re the ones who are at fault. He never wanted to come here...’

Sylvie was too upset to make any comment when Wayne asked for another loan, and he was moody and sharp-tempered with her, mocking her upbringing and taunting her with her naiveté and innocence.

That hurt Sylvie but she said nothing. She knew that he would soon be leaving the city to join the eco-warriors, who were beginning to drift away from the site of their recent defeat over a large motorway extension and to make their way south to meet up with another group, who were trying to persuade the Government to give permission for some land previously owned by the Army to be opened to the general public.

To Sylvie it sounded a good cause.

‘Come with us,’ Wayne suggested, and then he laughed sneeringly as he added, ‘But no, of course you won’t... Mummy wouldn’t like it, would she?’

Sylvie said nothing. She was still too numbed by David’s death. University life, which at first had seemed to promise so much freedom...which she had hoped would be the passage which would carry her effortlessly into womanhood and Ran’s love...was proving to be far more painful and difficult than she had envisaged.

She had lost weight and hope, and now her work was beginning to suffer too.

The weather was hot and sticky, with the threat of thunder forever present in the air. They needed a good storm, Sylvie reflected early one evening as she returned to her small flat. She wasn’t hungry, and the prospect of an evening spent over her books didn’t appeal in the least. She missed David and their discussions and she missed Ran even more.