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1985: A Pair of Brown Eyes

Through my fug of fiery dreams, Stig was banging a bottle

against my head. Wincing, I opened my eyes, then put a

shaking hand to my fevered brow. It wasn’t drums, it was a

migraine. Slowly, I sat up and faced the worst hangover I’d

ever had. I then recalled that Hermione had taught us a way

of doing tequila slammers, using speed for salt and Clandew

for lemonade. I was drenched with pissy sweat, my mouth

tasted like tea and coffee in the same cup, and my stomach

growled and bubbled. My larynx was so bruised I could

barely swallow, and the back of my head was tenderised.

Despite my condition, I snorted a laugh.

It was a grey dawn morning and I was perched on the very

edge of a bed in an unfamiliar bedroom. Rugs and heavy

metal posters covered the walls. Hermione lay next to me,

mouth open, hair askance, Becky next to her, a rough blanket

over their fully clothed bodies. Tony, who had either fallen

out of the bed or been pushed, was lying on the floor on

Becky’s side; the bed was shallow, two old mattresses welded

by mildew. Tony’s arm was pushed up under the blanket and

over Becky. I suspected he was feigning sleep – his mouth

was open and he was snoring. Dying for a pee and a drink I

lay back down, wondering if I’d held Hermione at all. She

was close to me and sleepily opened her eyes as I peered in.

I could see myself in her eyes and wondered if she could see

herself in mine. She frowned as if trying to recognise me and

something hurt.

“Hi,” I whispered, conscious of my awful breath.


“Thanks for letting us stay.”

Something changed in her eyes and she relaxed.

“Any time.”

“Stig’s a monster, isn’t he? How do you know him?”

“I don’t. Becky met him at Glastonbury. I said he was a

tosser. He scares Daithi.”

“Your boyfriend?”

Damned alarm in my voice. Hermione smiled. “No. Me

little brother.”

Scared by the sensation of relief that flooded through me, I

changed the subject.

“He burnt the bus out, didn’t he? Aren’t you worried he’ll

come back? I mean – when we’re gone?”

Hermione smiled at something private. “Not particularly.

Anyway, I heard he nicked your mate’s coach ticket back to


Tony leapt to his feet and rushed to the window. I knew it

– he’d been listening all along.

“Oh, shit! How am I going to get home? Me Mum’ll kill


Tony rushed out of the room, slamming the door. I smiled

at Hermione; she smiled back. I shivered and without a word

she gave me one of her dirty old t-shirts, which I put on; my

protector, my guiding light in this great darkness. Then she

rolled over and hugged Becky for warmth.

My head pounded louder than ever and I felt sick. I was

dying for a piss, starving hungry, and my mouth was so dry it

was impossible to swallow. I was also broke, stranded and in

love, so like a faithful dog I lay down on the floor beneath

Hermione’s side of the bed and went back to sleep. For the

first time in months sleep didn’t terrify me; nor did waking.


*This is an extract of “Fire Horses” by M L Piggott.

“Fire Horses”: synopsis and quotes

“Fire Horses”: buy it here


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