PARTY! BY NICOLE CARMICHAEL Issue 5

I was 17, living at home in York, and my parents were going away for the weekend. For the first time in my life, they had trusted me to stay there on my own. Only I hadn’t planned on being alone. It was teenage law that when your parents went away, you threw a party. You’d invite a bunch of school friends, and there’d be a sparse selection of boys, plus some cider, crisps and dancing to tapes. It wasn’t The Great Gatsby. The whole thing would be over by midnight, and you’d hide any evidence of partying at the bottom of the dustbin, open all the windows and get out the Shake n’ Vac. Parents would be none the wiser. Job done.     

   Mum and Dad telling me they were having the carpets cleaned on the Friday they were going away should have been my cue for cancelling Saturday’s bash. But I figured that if everyone took off their shoes, the cream carpet would be fine. We’d all use ashtrays, of course – we weren’t animals for God’s sake. There was nothing to worry about. There wouI was 17, living at home in York, and my parents were going away for the weekend. For the first time in my life, they had trusted me to stay there on my own. Only I hadn’t planned on being alone. It was teenage law that when your parents went away, you threw a party. You’d invite a bunch of school friends, and there’d be a sparse selection of boys, plus some cider, crisps and dancing to tapes. It wasn’t The Great Gatsby. The whole thing would be over by midnight, and you’d hide any evidence of partying at the bottom of the dustbin, open all the windows and get out the Shake n’ Vac. Parents would be none the wiser. Job done.        Mum and Dad telling me they were having the carpets cleaned on the Friday they were going away should have been my cue for cancelling Saturday’s bash. But I figured that if everyone took off their shoes, the cream carpet would be fine. We’d all use ashtrays, of course – we weren’t animals for God’s sake. There was nothing to worry about. There would only be the usual crowd there: we were all good convent girls. Parents’ bedrooms were always off-limits; there was definitely no getting between the sheets.     

   It started off great. We had a disco in the dining room – tricky, seeing as how most of the room was taken up by the piano and the dining table – while in the lounge there was a crowd watching back-to-back videos of The Young Ones. Most people were in the kitchen drinking (sensibly) and smoking (carefully). It was all going to plan. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.     

   Before mobile phones or social media, if you wanted the word to get around about something, you told someone and asked them to pass it on. And let me tell you, it worked. My party was the buzzword that Saturday night. From around 10pm, there was a constant stream of people turning up, many of them pre-loaded after a couple of hours in the pub. The shoes-off policy went out the window and the music was cranked up to its limit. People I vaguely knew by sight were spilling out of every room.     

   Sitting on Mum’s prized Dralon settee, three boys held plastic bags to their heads: innocent me hadn’t realised this was how people sniffed glue. In the kitchen, meanwhile, someone had decided to make jacket potatoes for everyone, by turning our new microwave on its side, emptying a bag of spuds into it, then cramming the door shut. Strangers razed the larder like locusts, no tin of peaches was safe. Even decades old packets of jelly were made up. Would people really be there long enough for it to set?     

   It was carnage. The more my friends and I tried to calm things down and gently suggest that gatecrashers should go home, the louder it got. It was as if the gatecrashers had seen The Young Ones as a training video.     

   I decided to get blind drunk and went and hid in my room.     

   The following morning, all four bedrooms were occupied, mainly by strangers. Curiously, there was a man asleep in the bath who’d had his eyebrows shaved off. All Mum’s candles, neatly displayed purely for decoration, had been burned, and the house looked and smelled like the aftermath of Dante’s inferno.     

   I ran around yelling at people to get out, then spent the rest of the day frantically cleaning from top to bottom. That boy who needed a French polisher in the Yellow Pages advert had nothing on me. Me and my friend Jane threw open all the windows and went from room to room bagging up bottles, cigarette butts, take-away boxes and used condoms, and cleaning up spills and the odd pile of sick. By about 2pm the place was looking reasonably OK and I got ready for Mum and Dad’s return.     

   At 5.30pm they weren’t back, so I thought I’d help calm any potential fury by being at 6pm Mass when they got home. When church was over, I cycled back and found them sitting on the edge of the settee, still in their coats. Mum looked at me coldly. ‘Nicky, get a few things and leave this house immediately. You have betrayed our trust. I have counted 17 cigarette burns and the carpet is filthy. I don’t care where you go, but you no longer live here.’     

   In floods of tears, I ran up to my room and grabbed a change of clothes, then jumped on my bike and cycled down the road to Jane’s house. Her mum said I could stay the night. ‘Tomorrow, though, you’ll have to go. I’m not surprised your mum threw you out.’     

   The next morning I called Mum and asked if I could go back and try and explain. She and Dad – not unreasonably, I now acknowledge – were furious. For several weeks to come, I agreed, I would pay them £10 a week out of my Saturday job earnings. As for pocket money, forget it.   

   Eventually things calmed down. Then one day, around three weeks later, the mum of a school friend dropped round for tea, and Mum offered her a slice of the Christmas cake that had been maturing nicely in the Quality Street tin. Off came the lid …     

   Someone at the party had vomited on the cake, put the lid back on and then returned it to the cupboard. There it had festered like the devil’s icing.     

   Mum could shout extremely loudly when she wanted to.

 

Nicole Carmichael is a journalist and ghostwriter and is currently writing her first novel.

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