I guess the first lie was to myself. I never said it out loud. I’d just seethe and watch his new girlfriend dance. She’s always looking at people with this pout when she twists her body into S shapes while we’re listening to Danny’s old vinyls. I look at the floor, wondering if he could see how stupid she looked, but he doesn’t seem to notice, even when she flips the record over, flicking ciggy ash all over the place. I can’t figure out the expression on her face when she does this. Whether she’s dumb or just doesn’t care.
Danny elbows my ribs and says my face is one of those that shows everything. I will him to read what I’m thinking now, but she plonks on his lap, squashing me into the corner of his smelly couch and smothers his grin with her pink gloss.
I smoke on the balcony and watch the beach. Danny’s apartment is small with rising damp and this smell we can’t get out no matter how much incense we burn. But he’s the first one of us with his own apartment and it faces the beach. Not the nice bit. Not up on the rise of the hill or the sandy stretch that goes on further down the Peninsula. The water is murky and shallow here, blocked by brush for miles. In the winter you can press your face against the cold glass, listen to those waves, and pretend you’re anywhere.
I only touch his albums on the rim: I like to balance them between my palms. The needle never scratches when I place it down. Danny used to notice stuff like that but now he lets people smoke inside. I point out the singed holes that pepper the carpet but he just grins and blinks the way he does when he’s hungover.
Never thought I’d end up having the party house.
I remember last year when we went for a smoke in the Year 11 dunnies when he opened the pack and the smokes were gone. In their place was a note and he scrunched it up into a ball and wouldn’t say what it said. I went back later and it was still there. It was about me and I sat down on the toilet seat lid and read it. I put my head between my legs after and the smell of toilet cleaner made me puke right there on the floor.
I wonder if he remembers now. I want to punch him in his puffy face.
When was the last time you picked up your fucking camera?
But I don’t say it. I don’t say anything. I step over passed-out strangers on the lounge floor and walk into town where there’s a 24-hour Maccas. I pick him up a hash brown. I hate McDonalds. It’s the smell. It gets in your clothes. But I still bring him that small brown bag, all sweaty from the grease at the bottom.
On the last good day we walk down to the beach.
It’s raining lightly and we’re both hunched up because our jackets are too thin. The water is that pissed-off-looking green and we pick our way through the junk and tufts of spiky grass and sit in the dunes.
We play “that’s your husband, that’s your wife” for a while but it gets boring because no-one’s around except for one couple walking their dog over to the pier.
Danny grabs my hand and tells me he’s gonna read my fortune and I pretend that my heart doesn’t start doing stupid flips in my chest.
His fingers are warm and smooth and he says the same about mine.
I shake my head.
They feel all clammy and corpsy.
He grins and turns my hand over.
Ah. This is your fame line. With words like “corpsy” you’ll be bigger than Stephen King.
But I’m grinning too. He’s the only one I’ve told how many horror novels I have stashed under my bed.
He presses his thumb right into the middle of my palm, and makes a dip.
I’m serious, Cat, you’ll get out.
I realise this is the first time he has ever said you instead of we.
At his sister’s 21st, we snuck a six-pack into the bathroom and locked ourselves in. We climbed into the bathtub and every time someone hammered on the door I yelled out I had my period.
Danny told me he was going to be a photographer. That he was going to travel. That his old man could go to hell.
I told him that I had no idea what I wanted to do. How sick I was of everyone telling me how great I was going to be. The first one in our family to go to uni.
I remember asking him about the note and how at first he didn’t want to talk about it. How it was just deadshits at our school and not to worry about it. I remember the ugly handwriting scrawled in Bic.
Cat Adams will blow you for $10 and swallow for $20.
Does everyone think that I do that?
He looked at the tiles above my head.
We’re gonna get out, Cat.
That was the first time he said it. When a sob slipped out from behind my stubby he pinched my hand in the bathtub so tight his nail dug in and made a little scar in the middle of my palm.
I look down now and he’s stroking my palm.
I look out at the waves and see that the dog has dived off the pier. It’s scrabbling alongside, swimming with its nose pointed up while the owners call down. The wind snatches their voices and I can’t tell if they’re worried or amused.
What’re you gonna do?
His nail stops in the exact spot where the scar is. I know without looking down. Without looking away from the dog. I think I can hear the owners calling out a name like Gerald.
It’s my mistake too.
I nod and wonder who calls a dog Gerald. It looks like Gerald isn’t moving anymore and the guy’s taking off his jacket. We watch without saying anything, as the guy splashes into the water and the woman lets out this little scream. We watch without moving as he duck-dives.
I look at Danny and wonder if it shows on my face. He looks different too, shiny, and I wonder why neither of us feels like we should go down and stand by the woman clutching her elbows, or at least stand up and cheer the guy on. Maybe it’s the masks. Then the man is back on the beach and the woman is hugging and kissing them both and they’re suddenly laughing as the dog lets out this giant sneeze.
Danny smiles and says how weird and I nod.
I take my hand out of his and look at my scar.
I tell him I’m happy for him and it’s the first lie out loud between us and it doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.
Then I tell him that I’m going overseas and he stares at Gerald shaking the water off his fur.
I’m happy for you, Cat.
After the second lie it just gets easier.