by Lilla Orly
Music blaring, voices humming, smoke filling the air; I squeezed through the crowded flat searching for at least a square meter of free space. In the dim lighting, the great huddle of dancing people appeared to be a great behemoth moving as one to the sound of the music. I was quite literally swallowed by the beast that surrounded me, until I reached the wall and found a door that was unlocked. I slipped inside and rested my head against the wall, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Do you mind?!” A voice erupted from the gloom. Suddenly a light switched on and I realized I was accompanied by a couple in what appeared to be a very tight closet.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this room was…um…occupied,” I said, only briefly making eye contact before fleeing the scene.
Once more in the swaying throng of people, I began to feel claustrophobic. Faces began to blur, and my lungs seemed to fill with smoke. I stumbled through the crowd, absentmindedly apologizing for stepping on toes and bumping into backs. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder guiding me to a doorway. Before I understood what was going on, I was standing outside, with the brisk November air nipping at my cheeks.
“There’s far too many people in there, don’t you agree?” I hadn’t even noticed the boy standing next to me. This must have been my savior.
“Yeah, I don’t do well in crowds,” I responded, slightly embarrassed.
“You didn’t take any of those pills that were handed around, did you? They may be staggering for the mind and soul, but they’re really rubbish for the body.”
“I prefer not to meddle with anything like that,” I replied.
“Ah, I see, well it’s for the best,” he said, putting a cigarette between his lips and striking a match to light it. He must have seen the skeptical look I had given him because he said, “I never mentioned that I did not like to meddle with such things.”
He smiled and winked at me before taking a long drag of his cigarette. I took this opportunity to really observe my ‘knight in shining armor.’ I mean this quite literally as he towered above me sporting dark pants, a white shirt and an incredibly bedazzled jacket. On anyone else it would have looked ridiculous, but he gave off such a strong sense of assurance, it just appeared to fit.
“I like your jacket,” I mumbled, not only as a compliment but also as a little thanks for his kind actions.
“Thank you,” he gave me an understanding look before continuing, “it doesn’t actually belong to me. I borrowed it from a lady friend of mine but took quite a liking to it; very groovy don’t you think?”
“Very,” I nodded. “I’m sorry I forgot to ask earlier, but what’s your name?”
“Well since I’ve moved here I’ve taken a liking to the name Freddie, so you can call me Freddie. What’s yours?”
“It’s Lilla,” I answered, “Where did you move here from?”
“As am I, love. Would you believe that I was born with the name Farrokh?”
“Haha, Freddie suits you better,” I responded.
“I agree,” he said, smiling and taking another drag of his cigarette.
“So,” I said, wanting to keep the conversation going. There was something about Freddie’s character, something that made it seem like every word that passed his lips was incredibly important and must not be missed. “Do you work here?”
“I’m in Uni,” he replied, dropping the stub that remained of his cigarette and stepping on it. “I’m studying art at Isleworth.”
“Art, that sounds interesting.”
“It’s all fairly pretentious if you ask me,” Freddie said.
“If it’s so pretentious why do you study it?”
“Well, art itself is a beautiful thing, but the study of it is incredibly hollow. It’s practically exploitation of the craft! We either sit around discussing what the artist’s intentions were when creating a piece, or try to create something artistic of our own. Of course half of the people there don’t have a single creative bloody bone in their body. They’re simply too lazy or too stupid to study anything else.”
“And are you a member of the oh so clever half?”
“Well of course I’m clever!” he said loudly, raising his arms and tilting his chin towards the sky, “But how can I create if I haven’t yet lived? I need to feel, I need to explore, I need to become before I can create.”
“I can tell that you study art,” I said sarcastically.
“Yes, well if I was interested in physics or something useful perhaps I would study it. In all honesty I wish I could make a living off of things I love doing. That way I could spend every day at the races and every night at the opera!” he said. He stared at me intently for a moment before asking, “How old are you, anyway?”
“Sixteen,” I said grimacing.
“And all alone at such a mature, adult party?” he asked in a mock-surprise voice, and shaking his finger in disapproval.
“Well I wasn’t alone. I came with friends but they all dumped me after they found more ‘interesting’ people to hang out with.”
“Those don’t sound like real friends.”
“Well they’re the realest friends I’ve got. Sometimes I feel like I’m alone, as though I’m the only one who knows the real me.”
“Listen,” Freddie said in a whisper, moving closer to me, “Can I tell you a secret?”
“Sure,” I answered, slightly nervous.
“No one really knows the real me, and I don’t think they ever will.”
At that moment the door burst open and two people came stumbling out of the house, followed by the stench of alcohol. The pair seemed to be laughing hysterically at some inside joke.
“There’s my Killer Queen!” Freddie cried and tossed an arm around the short blonde girl who was accompanied by a tall, built man. “Lilla, this is my friend Sarah, and this here’s my boyfriend Kenneth. Sarah and Kenneth, meet Lilla!”
It took a moment for the two of them to stop laughing before looking at me. Once they did, a look of horror fell across both their faces. They were the couple I had interrupted in the closet.
“Boyfriend?” I asked, stunned. I had just seen him and Sarah locked in a passionate embrace not twenty minutes ago.
“Yes, we’re in this crazy little thing called love,” Freddie said, smiling to Kenneth. He returned the smile weakly and pointed his eyes to the ground at once. We stood in silence for several seconds before Sarah burst out, “Freddie, darling! Would you be so kind as to play us a song on the piano?”
The words tumbled out at an incredibly high speed. Without waiting for a response, she ushered Freddie and Kenneth into the house before grabbing my arm and hissing, “Listen kid, you didn’t see anything in that closet. It’s your word against ours.”
I was furious, but quite helpless as Sarah glared into my face and dug her long, red fingernails deeper into my forearm.
“Whatever you say your highness,” I spat.
“Good,” she said and pulled me into the house after her. We quickly found Freddie and Kenneth next to a piano that stood in the corner of the room.“Lilla and I were just having a chat girl to girl! Isn’t that right?” I shot Sarah a look to kill.
“Right, what shall I play?” asked Freddie, sitting down before the black and white keys.
“I really like that one catchy song on the radio…” Sarah began.
“None of that radio ga ga,” Freddie said, shaking his head and waving his hand to dismiss the idea.
“Alright well, you’re the King, Freddie,” Kenneth said, laughing.
“No, my love. I’m the Queen,” Freddie stated. And so he played.