My friend’s house wasn’t like my house. My house wasn’t clean, but at least there was colour. Her’s was brown, and brown, and beige. Maybe there were more colours, and I don’t remember any more. In my mind’s eye, everything was brown in the way every council house has a faded brown and red upholstered sofa, with brown detailing which might have been ‘golden’ when the sofa was new, and leather sofa-cushions that deflate the moment you sit on them mimicking the deep sigh the adults release when they finally get to sit. Beige linoleum flooring in the kitchen, with brown rings where the cat bowl was put. Beige walls with scuff marks and posters in frames chipped corners and ring marks. Net curtains you could see in through. Waste of time if you ask me.
But for all the brown, it’s where I liked to be. In her room, on her bed, watching her straighten her long – don’t call it ginger – hair. Freckles on her nose. Blue eyes she’s pop wide to make me laugh. White shirt, untucked. School kilt – yeah we had those even in 2003 – rolled up around the waist like a thick belt. Or a thick belt with studs on, half the studs missing because she played with it. Black eyeliner, only on the bottom waterline of the eye. Mascara. Lipgloss if you were feeling fancy. And the strong smell of hairspray, to keep it straight.
For her birthday she had a sleepover, about six girls crammed into a small living room in front of the television to watch The Ring. Not a good film. But in the dark, girls crept out of their sleeping bags and hid upstairs with her mum, one by one, until it was just she and I left. The girls came back when the film ended, and my mum called to say good night. It scared the crap out of everyone, except me – who could see the caller ID.
It gave us an idea though. We could prank call someone. Anyone. Pick a number at random. So we did. Put in our area code and then six random numbers. No idea who it could be. It was late too, some people didn’t bother answering. Finally, someone did. She put on a voice, we tried not to laugh. They got angry, asked who it was. We laughed out-loud and hung up. Continued with a couple more numbers. Called people we knew, told them our friends fancied them. Or we knew where they lived. Or that their car had been stolen.
Then the first person called us back. Asked to speak to her mum.
We’d forgotten to do that 1471 thing – where you block your number. Her mum went mad. Not just because we’d wound people up late at night, but because we didn’t pay the phone bill. How long had we been doing for? Who knew. We kept pretty quiet after that.
When I went home, my mum asked what we’d gotten up to – and I told her about The Ring and how her phone call had freaked everyone out. She laughed, so I left it there and didn’t tell her about the prank calls. That was kid stuff anyway.