By Alisha Prince




By Alisha Prince

Chapter One

Had a SAVAGE holiday with my fam! <3 feeling very blessed and looking forward to catching up with my mains xxx

Grace was having a shit holiday. Not even Mount Etna’s volcanic ashes could flick her Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes away from the Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro (with Infinity-O display, fingerprint sensor, and Bixby vision) during the two weeks she was kidnapped in club class to the delicate and ethereal baroque town in Sicily – as described by Guardian travel editor Zoe Madmarch-Hare, a woman of whom it could never be said did not resemble a maniacal horse with baylayage highlights, pleased as punch with itself having looted Oliver Bonas in an equine revamping of the 2011 Mark Duggan riots.

OMG! I Soooooo love Solomon! she fawned on the Facebook wall of a classmate who was definitely ignoring her more and more since the trip had rendered her out of the noose.  Solomon, a pupil in Grace’s year from Sierra Leone, belonged to a theatre group recently featured on London news, focusing on him, mainly, as the play was about a gender fluid teenager – which ze had decided ze was, two hours before the crew came to film.

“What’s his last name?” Dylan sprung up behind his sister’s shoulder like a hack-in-the-box, holding an imaginary microphone and affecting an Andrew Neil jovial tenacity. “What are his greatest fears? What’s the name of his first pet? Unravel for us some of the interpersonal dynamics which cemented this unbreakable tryst.”

“WTF!” Grace said the actual letters and closed the door on her awkward, ugly, stupid-question-having brother. Her online activity was a delicately maintained political ecosystem and none of his business. It was human Candy Crush and a public display of affection for Solomon was worth three colour bombs on a wrap. Grace had previously thought Sierra Leone was a car and that gender fluid was the KY she’d found in their mum’s dusty knicker drawer. But she knew that proximity to Solomon was a point scorer. He had a definitive package – socially, if not in his trousers.

The cold leather of an armchair startled Dylan’s sun-scorched limbs. “Fam”, “mains”, what a colossal cucklord! Studying her profile picture, he momentarily missed the five-year-old sister who had helped him paint Tippex on snail shells so next time it rained they’d recognise individual characters, good old Snail Winton, his favourite. Eleven years on, Grace had been replaced with a non-prescription spectacled spectre, a zombie bitch, in Abercrombie and Fitch, a hologram floating through the real world to collect data and formulate an online approximation of vigour. Her hair had been straightened so much it could advertise conversion therapy, eyebrows a kabuki actor would tone down, and contouring that would make Tony the Tiger feel like a flat-faced bastard. But creepiest of all, the eyes. The lights were off and the milk had been cancelled.

Dylan felt a prick, of guilt, about his austere assessment when a new notification busy-bodied its way through the nosy net curtains. Grace Curtis likes the page You Were Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy! His top lip snarled back so far you could see his inflamed gums thanks to a crudely constructed toothbrush his mum had bought by the side of the road from a carefree nomad with a small pet monkey and no teeth, but plenty of enterprise – thanks to gap year Gabbys in hemp harem trousers and Sanskrit tattoos wanting selfies with him.

Ping, ping, ping. Half their mutual friends also liked the page. Dylan knew that to sneer about any of this made you a “hater” or “bitter” or, worst of all, “negative”. No one knew exactly when this had happened, but it was around the same time that opinions became rants. Some would call it a sleight of hand by a generation of risk-averse conformists trying to make pumpkin spice blusher the new punk rock. But they’d be haters, too.  Dylan considered speaking his mind for a misguided moment, quickly realising that that also would be considered a rant and so would writing that he acknowledged it would be considered a rant.  This self-reflection looped endlessly with regularly repeating periods of expansion and contraction.

He closed the app, blue and white like bitchy toothpaste. Nurse Ratched with a balloon. The light faded, confronting him with his own face in the tyrannical time thief and Dylan frowned at his reflection. The Bugsy Malone cheek of two summers ago had been evicted and his body was being squatted by Glenda Jackson bones and David Bowie teeth, as if the summer holiday heat had accelerated his incubation and the chrysalis was cracking open to reveal an alien in its own lunchtime.

Dylan took a deep breath, felt sick in his throat, and then coughed, making his eyes water. There was that smell again, tainted, stagnant, prickling the back of his nostrils. He hadn’t even wanted this stupid fucking account. His Dad had created one for him when he was twelve so that he could be involved with a charity motorcycle ride he was planning with some of the other dads, a complete ersatz of the BBC 3 programme a few months earlier: “Three Amigos Magical Mystery Tour!”. The comedians on that show no longer told ironically sexist jokes like they did in their thirties now that they all had daughters. They were doughy with podcasts, beards, cardigans, and autobiographies full of honest self-reflection about their patriarchal privilege. Some had wildly behind-the-times yet cynically opportunistic children’s books with titles like Shamina Wants to be a Mechanic or Michael Wants to Wear a Dress. The series never seemed to end. A primetime Michael Myers.

Three years had lapsed and Dylan had only used Facebook a couple of times. There was more on his page from his parents than from him. Once, in a moment of vulnerability, he’d recorded how bored he was and, to his bewilderment, being five metres away at the time, it invited comments from both his Mum and Dad about how there was a “brill” Joy Division documentary on BBC4. Like a nosebag to a seagull, this prompted other parents to add their two pennies’ worth, a bleak tragedy in which parents impale their offspring with 70s pop knowledge and garrotte them with LOLs. There was something sacrilegiously sorrowful about Generation Xers discussing the Cocteau Twins via emojis. Dylan didn’t write about being bored ever again.

“Dad, why?” Dylan spoke without moving his lips, shifting long, rubbery legs under the mock wood table in the airport departure lounge.

“Just one more!” Dad was positioning a glass of white wine so that he could take a picture of the glass, his children behind the glass and, if he contorted his body and used landscape, an aeroplane through the window.

“Fucksake,” Dylan mumbled through clenched teeth again. His Dad was now lying on the ground as two French girls in skiing gear sniggered and retched at his arse crack escaping the top of his Levis. “Who’s it even for?”

His protestations pissed into the wind as the pointless pictorial essay of Grace narrowing her eyes at Kylie Jenner’s latest tweet, Mum frowning at an angry rant another mum had posted about fly-tipping, and Dylan scowling through a curtain of bony fingers and sun-bleached fringe was pissed into Instagram.

#holiday #children #wine #airport #travel #summer #flight #home #sicily #family #photography #travel #gratitude.

Time crawled on its belly until their people carrier crawled onto Magdalen Road. Dylan had been counting wicker hearts on doors and in windows since the M4. 3038.

The family exited the Twickenham Tanker and walked single file under the Truman Show sky, each looking at their phones. From the back it would have looked like a family in mourning, heads bowed in silent private prayer. The procession was lined with terracotta pots, the pallbearers were two fat, judgemental, bashed-in-the-face-with-frying-pan pedigree cats.

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