I look over at Henry leaning back on the bedhead on his
brother’s side of the bed. He’s frowning at a Sudoku puzzle.
I don’t know why he likes them but he always has, even
when he was small. Back then it was find-a-words but by the
time we were at Varley it was Sudoku. He bites down on the
pencil and his eyes pinch more.
I peer over at it and point to one of the empty squares.
“Seven.” I tell him before he brushes my hand away with
“I don’t want your help.”
I frown at him. “Rude.”
“It is rude,” he nods. “Your professed and fucking flagrant
disinterest in the art of Sudoku—”
“It’s hardly an art.” I tell him and he ignores me.
“— is rude,” he keeps going. “Because you’re annoyingly
good at it.”
I roll my eyes at him and bury my nose in Vogue again.
He grumbles a little bit, says something about being a
savant and that I really should have applied myself more in
maths at school and I ignore him.
I flash him a picture of a dress I don’t fancy. “They made
that out of twill! How weird.”
Henry’s face pulls sarcastically. “So weird.”
“It’s summertime. That’s a winter fabric.” I remind him
and he gives his puzzle a look instead of me.
Then the front door slams and Henry and I catch eyes.
“Parksy?” BJ calls for me.
I like it when he calls me that — it makes me feel fifteen.
That’s what he’d call me when we were in school, when we
were together before. It sort of just showed up again after
we got engaged.
“In here!” I call back to him as I dive out of the bed.
“Quick!” I yell, straightening the duvet out, waving my hands
like mad at Henry. “Quick! Get out—!”
Henry tugs his corner straight and flings his Sudoku book
to the other side of the room — unfortunately it hits his
brother square in the face as he walks into our bedroom.
I laugh breezily and lean awkwardly against our custom
Savoir Winston & Nº4v bed that I had them make in cream
“Hi!” I give him my brightest smile.
BJ’s eyes pinch.
Christian pokes his head in through the door and looks
from me to Henry, then starts laughing as he sidles up next
Beej nods his head at us. “You two in bed?”
“No.” I shake my head emphatically.
Henry shakes his head with a dismissive shrug.
“No,” My head keeps shaking. “You told us to stop doing
that and we definitely did truly listen.”
Henry nods along.
“And though it goes without saying, Henry definitely
didn’t eat a sandwich on your side of the bed because—” I
toss Henry a look and say through clenched teeth, “—that
would be crazy and would have given it away if there was
anything to give away — which there isn’t — but if you were
to say, hypothetically feel something crumb-adjacent, I
think it would just be from a mouse or — um — something.”
BJ shoves his hands through his hand and groans.
“Why won’t you sit in the fucking living room?” He looks
between us, annoyed. “It looks sick.”
Beej designed it and he’s very proud.
“It does.” Henry nods again.
And actually, it does, he’s right.
Christian leans against the door frame, peering between
all of us, amused.
“AD did a piece on it—” BJ reminds us.
Which is true also. Architectural Digest did do a YouTube
walkthrough of it — though the timing of which is
considered controversial amongst the Box Set though, and
at the mention of it, Christian pulls a face.
“It was a touch insensitive timing-wise on their behalf.
All things considered.”
I flick him a look because BJ’s not just very proud of the
living room, he’s admittedly rather oddly proud of it. The
sort of pride one might imagine you’d possess for — I don’t
know — birthing a child? — So yes, it’s a tad odd but I don’t
much care for anyone being disparaging towards any of his
endeavours, even the ones I don’t quite follow.
“All things considered,” I give Beej a reassuring look and
I float over to him, wrapping his arms around me. “I love it.
You did an amazing job.”
My fiancé lifts an eyebrow. “But…?”
And I say nothing! I press my lips together demurely, not
wanting to crush the boy I love most in all the world because
he did do an excellent job. It really (truly) does look
incredible. Mid-Century Modern, light and warm, it’s just—
“It’s a bit angular out there, man.” He gives his brother a
shrug and Beej rolls his eyes, muttering under his breath.
“And like, it’s hard to get a grip on that love seat—”
“That is true—” I nod.
“It’s a Hans J. Wegner FH 1935!” BJ looks between us,
incredulous. “It’s a £37,000 bench.”
“Yeah—” Christian shrugs unhelpfully. “Can’t really put a
price on comfort though, can you?”
“But clearly you can put one on discomfort, ey Beej?”
Henry tosses his brother a wink and BJ flicks me an
I stare up at BJ with big, sorry eyes.
“You do sort of just... slip off. You know that—” I tell him,
eyebrows up. “We tried to have sex on there and I just slid
right off it, like a penguin on ice.”
His eyebrow goes up.
“We found a way to make it work.”
I shake my head a little. “No, we didn’t, we just had sex
on the floor.”
BJ thinks back to the moment and then a little smile rolls
over his face as more of the details come back to him. We’re
the best at sex, he and I.
“Oh yeah.” He locks eyes with me and from behind us
Christian smacks me in the arm as he walks further into
our room. “Nice... Floor sex — didn’t think you had it in you,
BJ gives me a little wink.
Henry stretches his arms up over his head and sits back
down on our bed. Beej picks up Henry’s Sudoku and pelts it
over at him.
“Stop hanging out in our bed!”
Henry shakes his head.
“Oh, we can’t.” He says, sounding sorry.
BJ’s eyebrows go up. “Why’s that?”
“Too comfy.” Henry rolls around just to annoy him.
“Actually, can I get one of these in my room?”
“How many fucking times, man—” BJ gives his brother a
look. “You don’t have a room here.”
“Well—” I jostle my head around, undecided.
“Kind of do.” Henry says.
Christian’s not around their place so much anymore. I’m
not sure why. I don’t even know if I could in good conscience
any longer call it ‘their place’. And once upon a time, I think
that would have been fine — welcome even — but now
Henry, who generally loves to be alone, loves it much, much
less these days.
So even if he ‘doesn’t have a room here’ because his
brother doesn’t want to live with his brother, he actually
does have a room here.
Christian lays down next to him for a few seconds then
props himself up, looking over at us. “Woah, bro, this is cosy
I scramble back onto the bed, sitting in the middle of it.
“Isn’t it?” I beam at them.
Christian nods slowly, basking in the comfort.
“Way cosier in here than out there—”
BJ breathes loudly out his nose and then lays down on
the bed too, picking up a shitty magazine and flipping
I know I shouldn’t even bother having them, but we’re
always in them and I like to know what people are saying
I look around our bedroom — white walls, giant white
bed like a cloud, big, billowy white curtains... I love having
an ‘our bedroom’ with him. We’ve never had one, not in all
the years we were together.
In school we, of course, had our respective dorms and
we’d sneak into one another’s as much as physically
possible. On weekends we’d stay at one of our parent’s
houses together in either of our respective rooms. We’ve
shared each other’s rooms and beds infinity times over the
course of our lives but we’ve never had one that’s just ours,
in a bed we’ve never shared with other people, in a room
that every night we both fall asleep in next to each other,
and every morning I wake up and he’s beside me. Our room
could be a cardboard box and I’d love it if he was in it.
No, I wouldn’t, that was a lie and I was absolutely being
hyperbolic but you see my point, yes?
BJ did our whole entire house, picked every single piece
of art and furniture. I didn’t have the— I couldn’t at the time,
you know? It wasn’t too long after what happened, and I just
couldn’t. The only thing I picked in the whole flat was our
bed and our mattress, and it’s not a competition and even if
it was, I’d want him to win it, but our bed definitely is the
most comfortable place in our entire home.
I wriggle down the giant cloud we’re all nestled upon and
over towards my fiancé, rolling in towards him, batting my
eyes so he likes me again.
His face pinches suspiciously. “Don’t you point those
things at me.”
I shrug innocently. “Well I’d point them at our sofa but
they’d just slip right off.”
BJ suppresses a laugh, shaking his head as he flips the
And then I see it.
London Lovers is the title of the “article” (and I do mean
that in the loosest possible way) and it’s a few photos of us
and other people like us, being romantic and cutesy around
London. Suki Waterhouse and Robert Pattinson. Rachel
McAdams and her husband. Jamie Dornan and Amelia.
“Oh no,” I gasp as I smack my finger down on the photo
of me and him in the magazine.
It’s a paparazzi shot. Me on his lap, his chin on my
shoulder, both of us reading what’s really a menu but rather
unfortunately looks like a leather-bound book.
“What?” Beej glances over, pressing his mouth into my
arm “We look fine.”
“No—” I sigh, forlorn. “No, we look like the kind of couple
who would tag one another in their Instagram biographies.”
“Oh, fuck—” BJ starts to laugh. “We do a bit.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Henry asks peering over
curiously and I can’t help but smile at the sweetness of him.
He’s so pure and ever-green and ready to love someone
properly (and please rest assured when that happens I will
be confiscating his phone, locking him out of his Instagram
and making sure all biographies remain undisgusting).
Christian throws him an off look.
“Everything.” He huffs, much less pure and much less
evergreen because he has loved someone properly and
where has it gotten him?
Daisy’s still gone. Not a word for three months now. It’s
hard to tell how he’s coping with that. He’s not how he used
to be, he’s not working out how much he misses her with
alcohol and other girls, but he also doesn’t even know if
they’re together anymore? Because they just left. Daisy and
Julian. They left and then nothing. Not a word from either of
them since. Not even when—
I shake my head at myself.
I don’t want to think about that.
Henry’s phone chimes. He pulls it from his pocket and
looks down at it. A familiar look rolls over his face — sort of
pained, sort of frustrated — he breathes out his nose before
putting his phone away.
Taura. That’s his Taura face now.
That’s taken a nosedive too.
Taurs finally picked Henry, did you know? That was hard
for Jonah — but it was also too late for Henry.
Because it just so happened that she picked Henry
around the same time that Jonah really sort of checked out
anyway. That’s not entirely Jonah’s fault, I don’t think. Their
mum is still in that coma, and whatever their family
business is (and I’m not asking) I know Jonah’s been
working a lot more since everything happened with
But what Jonah’s business did do was plant a tiny seed of
doubt inside Henry. He couldn’t trust that her choice was a
It was, I think. I think she chose Henry genuinely.
I do think she may have left it a minute too long though.
I glance back at the photo of Beej and I, and sigh.
“I suppose we just must endeavour to be less adorable in
public.” I tell him rather firmly.
“Or—” Henry snaps his fingers at me, his pensive
moment gone, all the sadness I saw on him a second ago
packed away somewhere distant. “You could just give your
democratisation of luxury speech loudly in public and I
promise they’ll stop adoring you.”
I put my nose in the air. “I wouldn’t bet on that.”
BJ tosses his brother a glance. “I would.”
Christian laughs and BJ kisses the top of my head as he
keeps flipping through the magazine. A few pages and then
suddenly, BJ jerks it away from me as he closes it.
I frown over at him.
“What is it?”
“Just a stupid article.” BJ shrugs, moving the magazine
away from me.
“Oh.” I purse my lips. “Well, let me see it.”
BJ scrunches his face up, then shakes his head.
BJ passes it over my head to Christian.
“What does it say?” I ask as I reach for it, but Christian
holds it out of my reach.
“Nothing,” Christian shrugs. “It’s dumb.”
Then he tosses it to Henry, which was stupid because I
have absolutely zero qualms about tackling Henry, so I
lunge towards him and he flings it back to BJ as I do, who
jumps off the bed and hides it behind his back.
I scramble up after him—
“BJ, this isn’t funny — let me see.”
He lifts a gentle eyebrow.
“Do you trust me?”
“Yes.” I say, automatically.
He offers me a hopeful shrug. “Then trust that you don’t
want to see it.”
I look from him to his brother and his best friend.
“Have you done something?”
“No.” He shakes his head and maybe if I wasn’t being such
a bulldog about all this I’d have seen how that hurt him a
little, but I don’t.
I hold my hand out in front of me waiting for him to hand
He licks his bottom lip and sighs big as he drops it into
“THE SECRET LIFE OF BRIDGET PARKS” is what the page
reads in big block letters.
My mouth falls open a little and my stomach drops to its
They didn’t care about Bridget when she was alive, that’s
the awful truth of it. Because she didn’t want them to. She
lived a life that was so spectacularly unassuming and so
regular, the only times you’d see her in the papers is when
she was with me or our parents. She despises celebrity.
Despised, I mean. She could have been like me if she liked —
she could have been whatever she wanted. She just found
none of it fulfilling. And none of it is, it’s all meaningless. Her
whole life she avoided it and then in her death, they came
for her anyway.
I glare down at it and my blood goes hot. It’s a series of
photos of my sister from various times in her life, ranging
from when she was at Varley to recently. They’re all strange
and out of context.
There’s one where she’s lying down pretending to be
passed out in the middle of a pile of bottles. It’s from her
Instagram. She was fully sober, the caption read: “Who am
I? @jonahhemmes”. There’s another photo also from her
Instagram where she’s leaning down, chin in hand on our
kitchen bench at Holland Park, BJ grinning away next to her
with lines of what looks like cocaine in front of her, but the
photo is cropped. In real life, unseen in the picture
displayed, is Marsaili, eyes mid-roll. Also unseen are the
ingredients scattered around from all the baking Bridget
was actually doing. BJ and I had walked into the kitchen and
somehow, cocaine had come up, and Bridge asked him if it
hurt your nose to do it, and he arranged little bumps of icing
sugar for her and they did them together.
There’s a photo of her and a boy she’s kissing in a corner,
I don’t know his name but I remember the night. It wasn’t
secretive. She wasn’t hiding this from anyone. A few more
like those, all moments that were completely normal life
moments which someone’s trying now to pervert for a story
and I hate them for it.
Bridget’s Instagram, by the way, is and always has been
private. She only has about 300 followers. So someone she
loves and trusts is betraying that trust she gave them for a
I swallow down the lump I feel rising in my throat and
ignore the heavy looks resting upon me from all the boys I
“I’m fine.” I tell them, flashing them a quick smile even
though none of them asked.
Henry nods big like he believes me and BJ touches my
“Want to go for dinner?”
“I’m starved.” Christian says, trying to move the moment
I nod quickly then stand.
“I’ll just be a minute.” Another quick smile from me
before I push up from our bed and walk through our giant
walk-in wardrobe and through to our ensuite.
I stand at the vanity, grip it tight as I feel my heart clench.
I breathe out my nose as measured as I can and stare at my
reflection, waiting for her to arrive.
It takes about a minute but then I see her. She’s always
wearing what she was the night I last saw her. Rainbow
crystal-embellished striped cardigan from Miu Miu and the
Rag and Bone knit ribbed bike shorts with the black Oh Yeah
slides from Ugg.
“Dinner?” My sister would say. “Really?” And I’d ignore
her, push my hair behind my ears, lift my chin a little bit. I’d
stare at her brown eyes defiantly like I have most days of
our lives til she left it.
“Is this a thing again?” She’d ask and I’d roll my eyes
because she can’t roll hers and I miss them.
“I’m fine.” I’d say even though that wasn’t what she
would have asked and she’d give me a look.
“You’re in a bathroom talking to your dead sister.” She’d
tell me and I’d stare at her with hurt in my eyes because
Bridget is notorious for not pulling punches and
occasionally getting carried away and I think we can all
agree that dying on me was a skosh too far.
She wouldn’t care though.
“What?” She’d shrug anyway, push her hair back behind
her shoulders and cross her arms over her chest. “You are.”
“You good?” Beej asks standing in the frame of the
bathroom door, watching me with cautious eyes.
“Yes,” I nod quickly. “Grand.”
“Ready to go?” He asks, holding out the 1995 vintage
Chanel CC diamond-quilted round vanity bag in black to me.
I look down at myself. Floral-print crepe dress from Saint
Laurent and the Tanya Litkovska women’s silk knotted
headband in green on my head.
“Do I look fine?”
He walks towards me and puts his hand on my waist.
I look back at myself, touch my acromion bone and press
my tongue into my top lip.
“Are we dri—” I bunch up a bit. Swallow. “—taking a car
“Walking, Parks.” He tells me gently as he comes behind
me, slipping his arms around my waist and looking at me
through the mirror.
I nod quickly. I can’t say I’m much for cars these days.
Unavoidable of course, on certain occasions. And on those
occasions, I have a driver. These days I sort of have two. A
regular driver and Eliana. Who’s not technically a driver, but
she does drive a lot. She’s a personal assistant. Jonah said I
was dropping too many balls, so he’s paid her salary for a
year as an ‘early birthday present’, is what we tell people,
but actually, he told me it was a ‘your sister died’ present.
Admittedly, neither Ballentine liked that too much, but I
thought it was okay because I get it… Jonah and Christian
have for a while now, been members of a terrible, exclusive
club; one which — against my will — I’ve joined now also.
That was thoughtful of him, don’t you think? She’s from
Brazil. She’s fairly quiet and I wouldn’t say she’s overly
organised, but she drives me everywhere and she sort of
always seems to be around to help if I need it, which is nice.
“Are there many downstairs?” I ask BJ with a bit of a
“No more than normal.” BJ shrugs. “Ellie said there’s five
or six down there at the minute.”
I nod before looking at myself in the mirror again.
Fascination for BJ and I has been at an all-time high since
the engagement and then Bridget. It feels rather invasive at
“Just a dinner with me and the boys.” BJ nudges me with
My eyes pinch at my reflection.
“I don’t want them to call me mismatched again.”
His head tilts. “That was a week after your sister had
died, Parks. An animal wrote that one.” A dark look rolls
over his face. “No human could have done it.”
He slips his hand in mine and pulls me out of the
bathroom and into the wardrobe, he pushes me down onto
the 19th Century French Carved and Giltwood Upholstered
Bench that he picked — it divides my side of the wardrobe
from his — then he goes to my shoe shelf.
Bottega Veneta’s quilted open-toe mules in parakeet
green is what he brings me. Well-picked.
I give him a tired smile and he gives me one back.
He drops to his knees and slips one on each foot, then
stays down there so we’re eye level.
He puts his nose against mine.
“We can stay in.” He tells me.
I shrug. “Whatever you like.”
“Let’s get a bite then.”
He brushes his lips over mine and climbs to his feet,
pulling me up with him.
Henry and Christian are waiting by the front door when
we walk out.
My best friend gives me a smile that I think is meant to
make me feel brave but sort of just makes me feel sad.
Everyone moves around me these days like I’m made of
glass. Like one wrong look and I’ll shatter. Little do they
know that I’m in a constant state of shattering.
A mosaic of cracks and agony.
Henry hands me my white SS 1993 Runway sunglasses
We step into the elevator.
“Shades on.” BJ says and we all suit up.
He looks down at me. “Ready?”
I nod, sort of. He slips his hand into mine and — ding! —
the doors open.
As soon as we step into the foyer the cameras start
flashing from outside.
The boys form a little triangle around me: BJ at the front,
Henry to my right, Christian to my left.
They yell our names, mine in particular.
“When’s the wedding?”, “Who will you wear?”, “Have you
spoken to Paili Blythe?”, “Will you honour your sister at the
wedding—” one starts to ask but Christian breaks away
from the triangle to grab him by the neck of his shirt and
shove him back into the wall behind him.
“Fuck off.” My old friend spits at the reporter before he
jogs after us and falls back in line.
I give him a tiny, grateful smile and he gives me a little
They follow us the whole way to Zuaya on Kensington
High Street and it’s a fairly accurate example of how it feels
to be alive right now.
Yelled at and watched, invaded upon and never left
alone, but somehow completely, entirely alone all at once.
Which isn’t a commentary on BJ or Henry or Christian, or
anyone even — it’s just a strange, new frontier that I’ve
found myself on. It’s where I live now.
All alone in my mind, just wandering further and further
into the dark that is the absence of her.
Magnolia Parks: Into the Dark is out February 13th.