The jubilee line train pulls into the platform and Daisy’s mind is submerged in a single puddle of thought: This train is going too slow. If I jump, it won’t kill me. Daisy is not suicidal; she’s just had a tough evening.
Daisy takes an empty seat. She gets out a small sequined bag and dismounts the toolkit across her lap. There’s a lot that needs fixing. Evening old teardrops have streaked through her Lancôme foundation, her top lids are puffy, her bottom lids are saggy. She attacks the culprit areas; the miserable blotches of crimson, the pink speckles of embarrassment. The evening flashes by, her mum’s stern eyes, her dad’s awkward smile that was meant to reassure but just made everything worse. It was patronizing and above all a pathetic display of fatherliness, the way he echoed her mother. Hollow as if he didn’t really mean it, like the ghost of a parrot. Independence. Maturity. Self-sufficiency. Daisy felt as if her parents were giving her up for adoption. We’ve had enough of you now bugger off. Cutting her off from the family funds. They might as well chuck her in a scrap heap. What was she going to live off?
With a make-up brush Daisy flicked a tear off her cheek. No more. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about them. They didn’t deserve her as a daughter. In her twenty-four years of life she had never stepped out of line. She had never come home with a baby, a needle hanging out of her eyeball or a mafia member for a boyfriend. Tonight of all nights, they had decided to throw this at her, this “temporary cutting off” as they described it. They knew how excited she was about the concert and they had tried to ruin it. With a defiant sweep of Chanel Noir she collected herself. Her parents would not ruin this night. She would not let them. Other devilish influences had already attempted to stop tonight from happening but Daisy had overcome them one by one. First, there was that article in the Daily Mail that said Take Five were breaking up before their comeback tour. That was a lie, they had an argument in the studio, Johnny threatened to set the studio alight but they forgave him and worked it out. Take Five did not break up. Then there was her agent, who told her she had an audition tonight but Daisy convinced him that she was too beautiful to play the part of a schoolgirl selling tomato sauce and he let her off. Then there was Izzie. The big Fall Out: colossal, messy, an emotional catfight that spread across the internet like a spilled glass of pinot noir. Whatever. No more bad thoughts. Daisy had burned Izzie’s ticket in a beautifully dramatic scene in her parent’s Devonshire country home.
Was she still allowed to go there? Would her parents actually expect their own daughter to pay for a night or two in her family home away from home? Stormy clouds of worry filled her head. She brushed them away with a bronze hue across her forehead. She checked the results in the compact mirror. She looked better.
North Greenwich. Daisy got off and felt herself in unison with all the excitable women who were heading for the same venue, a place where fashionable men with gladiator chests would fill their hearts with music and lyrics about stars, dancing and love making. Daisy lost herself in the crowd until the sound of a baby broke her spell. The red-faced toddler was clearly protesting such proximity of human bodies and it jolted Daisy’s mind into her first proper memory of Take Five. She was seven years old. The memory involved her au pair from Sweden. Emma was pretty, with ice blonde hair and round bouncy breasts that made Daisy’s father lower his newspaper when she walked into the dining room. The only reason Emma had decided to become an au pair was so she could reside in London and be a step closer to meeting the members of her favourite boy band: Take Five. She was obsessed; she plastered her little white walls with photos, autographs and newspaper clippings. She attended every court case the band members were involved in. From Timothy’s drug trial to Johnny’s custody battle with ex wife Nadia. One night, Daisy was supposed to be taken to a roller disco birthday party but Emma had secretly taken her to a Take Five concert. It was a small venue, the band hadn’t hit their late nineties peak. Walking through the town centre Emma’s fingers intertwined with Daisy’s and formed a tight sweaty knot. During the bus journey she had repeatedly urged Daisy not to tell her parents and Daisy agreed. Daisy liked Emma. She enjoyed watching her pretty blue eyes roll from side to side whenever her mum told her she hadn’t cleaned the kitchen properly. Having to keep a secret for Emma made her feel proud and responsible; it was a shared rebellion against her parents.
Once at the theatre Emma untangled their hands to collect the tickets. At that point of momentary abandonment Daisy spotted shiny pink clouds of cotton in the corner of her eye: candy floss. She had never been allowed to eat it. A few weeks ago in Thorpe Park her mother denounced the treat, waving her scrawny fingers: “it’s so bad for your teeth darling”. Her mother wasn’t there now. It was her chance to be like all the other kids with pink smiles and sticky fingertips. She walked to the vendor like a naïve teen entranced by a cult leader; her eyes spiraled along the pink wheel. She waited patiently for Emma to catch up with her to purchase the treat but as she turned round she was met by a whack across the cheek.
“Don’t ever do that again!”
Daisy’s lip curled over and began to quiver.
“You can’t just run off like that, stupid girl”
Her cheek glowed a traffic light red.
“You cause me a lot of trouble!”
Daisy was too stunned to reply and before she could stroke the sore spot on her face Emma was dragging her across the floor and into the auditorium. Daisy spent the entire support act in silence as Emma glared down at her in between frantic phone calls to her friends who were scattered around the audience. Daisy promised herself she was going to tell her mum about what happened and get Emma shipped back to Sweden as soon as possible but once Take Five came a sweet melody soothed her sore cheek and something inside her changed,
Sparkle for me, open your eye-eees and sparkle for me
Babe it’s your time, don’t wait in line
Just sparkle for me
Their up tempo beats dispelled the dark cotton clouds in Daisy’s head. She looked at Emma; the effect was the same. Her face lit up, a glittery tear made its way down her cheek, her hands were piled one on top of the other on her chest. Daisy copied her stance and climbed up on her chair. It took Emma a while to notice but when she did she looked down and nodded in approval. Daisy was forgiven.
“Miss we need to check your bag”
“Oh right, of course”
Back in 2012, Daisy opened her bag for the security man as she took in the vastness of the O2. Seeing Take Five in such a small venue had been a real novelty. They were huge now, massive superstars. She had seen them on their way up, all thanks to Emma. She never told her parents about their secret trip. In fact, there would be many more but unfortunately Emma was fired after a year. Copious amounts of pornography were found on the family computer and Emma seemed the to be the prime suspect. Daisy wondered where Emma was now. Perhaps she was here? Perhaps she had managed to wangle her way backstage? Suddenly she felt less alone and imagined her au pair waiting somewhere just like her. Daisy stood still in front of the usher and piled one hand on top of the other and rested them on her chest, waiting for the arena door to open.