Next Saturday we stood on Llantrisant Road, the coolest kids on the planet. Me in my three-buttoned skinhead vest and Wranglers, Janis in her white tee-shirt and purple flares. She had cadged some shades from her sister, who was at art school. The lenses were tinted turquoise. I couldn't see her eyes through them.
Whenever a car went past, Janis held up the little sign she’d made with felt
pens and a bit of card. San Francisco, it said, though we’d already decided
we’d settle for Porthcawl.
A white Anglia pulled up. We piled into the back with our duffle bags. The
girl in the front passenger seat turned round and smiled. Her teeth jutted
out at strange angles, and there was a cold sore at the corner of her mouth.
Her hair straggled over her eyes, and she kept flicking it up with the back of
her hand. She spoke in an American accent.
‘So, you guys are headed for SF? Too bad Jean-Paul and I are only going as
far as Porthcawl. Are you cool with that?’
Janis breathed in through her nose. ‘It’ll do,’ she said.
They dropped us off on the promenade. The girl stroked my hand as I got
out of the car.
‘Remember we’re all children of God,’ she said.
I said I’d be sure to remember that.
Me and Janis shared a toffee apple from the fair. I thought my teeth
were going to fall out of my mouth. We rode on the Ghost Train and the
On the beach we wrapped towels round ourselves to change into our
costumes. Janis had a turquoise bikini to match her sunglasses. I swallowed
She swam a long way out. I straggled after her. I lost sight of her, panicked
and dived under the water to search. I felt a hand round my throat, pushing
me further into the water. When the hand finally let go I wriggled to the surface, coughed and blew snot out through my nose till I could see more clearly. A girl in a turquoise bikini was running across the beach.
I found the spot where we’d left our things. My duffle bag had gone, but
there was a cardboard sign weighted down with pebbles. Gone to
California, it said.
I stood out on the Bridgend Road, waving my thumb at every car that
passed. After an hour a white Anglia pulled up. I said a Hail Mary as I