Chapter 1:

Under Grey Skies No More

John and Yoko

My flight is not until three in the afternoon.

Today is Wednesday. I said

good bye to the rest of my family in Sutton as if I am leaving for good. My mum cried as if I already have a bloody tattoo of the Japanese sun on my body.

Big families are the best but always the most dramatic.

My dad wants me to bring his fixed blade double edge hunting knife. I contemplated for two minutes until I finally said no.

My sisters Ella and Ada are moving in at my flat here at Croydon while I’m away. Also because I need someone to blame if my library caught fire or something.

Granny Maise said I should send her postcards. She can’t see anymore. But I definitely will buy those postcards. My little brother Alex gave me £50 to make sure I don’t forget to buy the biggest All Might action figure I can find. He’s eleven, and he’s saving money like a real ace. Although, I know that All Might will be more expensive than fifty pounds. But anything for this little man.

I’m only at Sutton once a month. But I’ll surely miss all of them.

Three months. Just three months until I go to Oxford. I don’t want to go really. I don’t think I’ll bode well with the university life.  I write on my own terms. I don’t like anyone prying on those terms, specially if they are professors whose religion can be described in three words: Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats. 

I grabbed my jacket. It’s 4:25 in the morning. Before the lights are put rest, I jogged to that spot. A red bench under a victorian lamppost. My red bench. My lamppost. No matter how long I’ve been doing this strict routine, I only always get excited. I took out my ballpoint pen and my notebook and began writing.

“I heard you are leaving today.”

I clasped my notebook shut. Intruder.

No. It’s Océane. Ada must have told her.

“Good morning. Do you remember that we met here. Just like this. I was writing. Gritting my teeth a little bit. Creative energy surging through my veins. Then you sat beside and said hi. A full mental block. I never thought I’ll write again.”

“Liar. You will never not write. Even if it kills me.”

“Now, now slow down. It’s too early for dark thoughts, love.”

Océane sat down beside me. She rested her head on my shoulder which feels weightless but at the same time, she has put a lot of weight on me because I know I must protect her at all cost. A heavy feather.

“Nothing here is good enough for you.”

“Sounds like poetry. You’ve been doing any writing, love?”

“I am serious. Why can’t we be normal?”

“Normal is vanilla.”

“Whatever. Japan huh?”

“Just three months, love. Hey, you enjoyed One Piece, right?”

She straightened up, looked at me in the eye. In broad daylight, which isn’t as broad daylight if you’re in a tropical country, Océane’s eyes are the waters of Birling Gap. In the dark, they’re decommissioned lighthouses.

“It’ll be nice to watch it with you if you’re not a hundred percent busy all the time. For a poet, you can pretty coldーーーlove.”

She stood. The sound of her boots on the pavement alerted me. I know I should ask her to stop walking away. I can take her to Japan with me. Vanilla. I can’t. Vanilla. What she said is supposed to sting like a bloody bee, but I already know this to be true. But anyone can be cold.

I looked around. The sky is becoming a violent shade of grey and orange. Instead of a poem, I wrote Océane a letter.

I’ll mail it on my way to the airport.

I’ll see the Birling gap again. Maybe it’s alright to not be alone all the time. Maybe it’s not vanilla.

Joe Gold