Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Robin Thompson

The Birthday Party

Cathie’s body would heal, of course. But her being was as broken as the boy on the beach. Anyone accept the blame?
Darren, only five years younger, was from a different world. Born in prison, the son of her older sister Michelle. Part-time prostitute, full-time drunkard, odd-time junkie. Failed and forgotten, Michelle had no reason to protect her offspring from all the low-life role models who were her customers. So Darren was taken into care. Fostered to opportunists. Abused. He learned from bitter experience the wisdom of the street.
Cathie moved out of Bohemia into the Old Town. She was smart, a trainee manager for a sports superstore run by a millionaire football club chairman who fancied her. He put her on a training course.
“What can YOU do about it? Don’t wait for others to act. LEARNED HELPLESSNESS . . . fight it! Don’t let them believe the world’s against them!” She thought of her nephew, weeks from his 18th birthday and operating in that world of no-hopers. ‘Let’s get positive’, she thought.
She booked a seafront pub and a mobile disco, and put £200 behind the bar. She brought her friend Marion. They danced, and dragged family and Darren’s friends onto the floor. The beer, the wine and the Happy Hour spirits were flowing into a toast for a great future. Darren smiled at her with the look of a young man who had been locked away too long. She felt a surge of hope, that he could face adventures on a different battlefield where rules don’t get routinely broken because they are set by others.
When Marion dropped them off, Cathie felt happytipsy – but Darren still wanted the Carlsberg Specials to continue, and he was affectionate in his insistence.
“You’ve been the only one, Cathie, the only one who didn’t just fucking hate me.”
“You know I really care about you, Darren.”
He held her and kissed her on the lips. He wasn’t aggressive, just hamfisted . . . she pushed him gently away and laughed.
But the Darren of an hour ago was gone. He was pushing hard. She held him back. He pushed harder. He was, in the trauma of all lost children, seeking a physical contact he had never known with a kind of behaviour all too familiar to him.
She was down and he was on top of her and he was inside her mouth and her body and her soul. He had been here a hundred times before with other female forms: A relentless, mindless cycle of dark energy.
And then stillness. Timeless. Empty. Numb. The underworld had climbed onto Cathie’s hearthrug and taken back her young nephew.
Darren stood up. He stared down at her, crumpled on the floor. He crept away. His wallet lay open on the floor. His Armani belt lay twisted round the empty cans.
The policeman from the coroner’s office was courteous and kind. Darren’s body on the beach. No-one else involved.
Darren’s story – the legally, morally and socially acceptable version of it – was told at the inquest and reported in the Observer: BIRTHDAY BOY’S SUICIDE.
Who to blame? Conceived in a void, ensnared by the gatekeepers of society in the womb, delivered into the custody of jailers and living out his years of aspiration with the also-rans, he ended his short stay in this world as a statistic on the top of another short legal document.
Cathie’s body would heal, of course.

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