So, my first attempt at moving out of home was completely scuppered, and I’d humbly moved “back home” again. Except “back home” was now somewhere else entirely. Mum and Nathan had decided to relocate to a bigger place, because even with me gone it was still a tight squeeze for mum, Nathan and Lauren in Nathan’s tetchy apartment. And it turns out they had no intention of doing anything by halves. The ENORMOUS house we collectively moved to, back in the fancy suburb of Ascot, went on for hours.
I was in a bedroom at one end of the house, with the other three bedrooms at the other end of the L-shaped structure, and I’m pretty sure if my sister and I both woke up at 7am and started immediately walking to the kitchen in the centre of the house, it’d be 7:15 before we’d make eye contact.
Okay that might be an exaggeration. But what I’m saying is it was a big house.
It was the perfect situation for someone who had to come running home with their tail between their legs, having initially failed at going it alone. I had space all to myself so I could still explore my growing sense of adulthood, and I didn’t feel like I was stepping on anyone’s toes by asking to be taken back in. (Did I mention it was a big house? I’d need a compass, a short-wave radio and six hours just to find someone’s toes to step on.)
Living in a big house meant it was easy to host a party. My first ever party. Well, technically my third party, but the first one where I had more than eight friends to invite, thanks to the family unit that was the Tops! staff. But this wasn’t just any old party, this was my Y2K PARTY. Yes, providing this story with a delicious timestamp is the fact that my friends and I watched the year 2000 tick over in this house.
It still wasn’t a balls-to-the-wall shindig like I know some of my contemporaries would have held. I was still a slamming goodie-two-shoes. It was, for all intents and purposes, a pretty mild and quiet affair. But I remember that party to this day because I still consider it an honour that so many people decided to choose my house to see in the year 2000. A New Year’s Eve is not really that big a deal, but Y2K was a once in a lifetime thing. The passing of a millennium* (yes, pedants, I know, that wasn’t until 2001, shut up, everyone hates you). Plus, there was the whole threat of the world ending.
Turns out it was all fine. Were we just the tiniest bit disappointed we didn’t end up in the middle of an apocalypse? A little. Had we already kind of started assembling the hierarchy of the Lord of the Flies/Z for Zachariah/Tomorrow When the War Began-style society we would surely have been the only people left alive to start? Kind of. I mean, I had very little to offer: I wasn’t much of a hunter, I was too lazy to gather, and goodness knows I’d have been as useless as a chocolate teapot in the civilisation-rebuilding breeding program. But it was MY HOUSE. Surely they’d need someone to vacuum?)
It was rare that my mother, sister and I all did something together as a group. The age difference and gender difference and our general family complications meant we were rarely a cohesive unit when it came to activities. Off the top of my head I can only remember three things we have intentionally done together, “family” style: watched Ren & Stimpy in the 1990s, watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 2000s, and watched Archer in the last couple of years. What? We like TV.
But there was one thing we all did together while living in Upper Lancaster Road that really helped us bond: we experimented with hardcore drugs.
Well. Not hardcore.
And not drugs.
But it was definitely an experiment. With a substance that left us with a three day hangover.
It was lavender oil.
Let me explain. For whatever reason, not a single one of us was sleeping well. I usually slept like it was my job: it took me fifteen seconds to fall asleep, and I’d be out for a solid seven hours. But at this time it was not happening. I honestly cannot remember what it was that was keeping us all awake, but if I were forced to give a reason I would guess it was probably Nathan’s constant scrabbling at the door to get let in and out? (That was a short joke. He was very short.)
I can’t remember if it was a segment of a lifestyle show, or an article in a magazine, that suggested lavender oil as a remedy for troubled sleep. Let’s say it was a lifestyle show. Let’s say specifically it was Better Homes and Gardens, because it’s funnier if I can say my “drug” history is all Noni Hazlehurst’s fault.
So, Noni says that a few drops of lavender oil on the underside of one’s pillow will result in a beautiful, solid, restful night’s sleep.
“That’s so stupid,” I say.
“That’s so stupid,” Mum says.
“You’re so stupid,” Lauren says. “Also that lavender thing. But mostly you.” (She was thirteen.)
So we all agreed it was stupid and should be immediately forgotten. However, Noni’s time on Play School when I was very young had given her surrogate mother status in my mind (along with Claire Huxtable and Elyse Keaton), so I was compelled to do as she instructed. Plus, Mum was never one to shy away from trying something new, and Lauren hated being left out of stuff, so in the end we all decided we would do it. If for no other reason than to prove just how stupid it was. What did we have to lose? Besides three soon-to-be-ruined pillowcases?
We got some oil, we put three drops on each of our pillows, flipped them over, and went to bed.
SIXTEEN MILLION YEARS LATER, I opened one eye. It’s all I had the strength for. My body was made of molasses. Where was I? Who was I? Did I even have a body? Was I, in fact, just a muddled cloud of consciousness and one half-opened eye, floating in a pool of molasses? No, I could definitely sense a second eye. It slowly opened. Were the eyes attached to anything? Like a head? I had no way of knowing. A distant memory of limbs flickered in the distance. Arms. I definitely had arms. Did I still have arms? IF THERE ARE ANY ARMS STILL ATTACHED TO THIS MOLASSES CLOUD, DO SOMETHING…NOW.
I flailed. An arm flew up. My own knuckle smacked into my cheek. Okay, so I definitely had two eyes, an arm, a cheek and at least one knuckle.
After what felt like an hour, I was in a sitting position on the edge of my bed. I looked at my clock radio: sixteen hours had passed since I had pressed my face against a cotton sack filled with lavender-soaked foam. Okay, so not quite sixteen million years, but close.
I staggered out of my room towards the kitchen. I heard the undignified clang of another door being flung open. And then another. A few minutes later my sister appeared in the kitchen; her long hair so violently tousled she looked like a tumbleweed with an angry face. Behind her was mum, looking like the “before” photo of a Medusa makeover.
“What just happened?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you just spend two thirds of a day as a corpse as well?”
“Was it the lavender?”
“How can it have been the lavender?”
“Did you accidentally buy a bottle of heroin?”
“HOW CAN IT HAVE BEEN THE LAVENDER?”
“Did we all wake up at the same time?”
“Was this a hypnotism thing?”
“Have we been body-snatched?”
“OH GOD WE HAVE TO THROW AWAY THOSE PILLOWS OR WE’LL DIE.”
I can’t actually remember who said what in that conversation. It’s still a blur. But we boiled all our sheets and pillowcases and bought new pillows and immediately looked up our nearest Aromatherapies Anonymous. Turns out no such place exists.
Which actually is good, because it means I have no one to answer to on those really difficult days when, just for a quick hit, I sniff a bottle of fabric softener.