They said let’s go to Calverly for the afternoon, check out our old haunt. We’ll hang out just like we used to. So, we drove out of the hustle, bustle, toil and trouble of Leeds city centre, through the inbetweeny suburbs, into the countryside and the little village which we loved, Cara in the driver’s seat just like always (it had become a habit even when we weren’t drinking) and Ed Sheeran blasting out from the speakers because we were proud that we’d loved him before the fastest-ever-chart-topping-über-best-selling album had attracted all the bandwagon passengers. We got coffees in the little café at the bottom of the hill and sat in the park opposite, in front of our favourite of the hundreds of flowerbeds.
We all chatted as though everything was normal – but of course it wasn’t just like the good old days anymore. Because Cara had a baby now, and Hollie hadn’t been home once since she fell in love with her prestigious drama school, and Johnny was depressed but wouldn’t talk about it, and we all knew that he wasn’t coping at Cambridge.
Of course we all knew, because we’d always known when something was wrong, ever since he’d burst into tears on his first day at high school and we’d huddled around and let him into our exclusive little circle. But no one had the balls to say anything now, because no one had really been around lately to look out for one another like we used to. We weren’t the Famous Five anymore – more like the Just-About-Managing-To-Look-Like-We’re-Getting-Through-Since-We’re-Not-Five-Anymore Four.
Because even Cara’s baby and Hollie’s prestigious drama school and Johnny’s three A*s didn’t fill the gap that Michael had left. We had two more Ed Sheeran albums to listen to, but I think we’d all rather have played Plus on repeat and had Michael to shout along with us than put up with the plastered smiles, mouthing the words to Perfect whilst praying that the flimsy padlock on the rickety floodgates wouldn’t burst under the pressure of the swelling river of tears, which always seemed to be taking a beating from lashing hail and filling with pouring rain. We had the £3,000 which we’d raised for the leukaemia charity, and the funny little notes he’d left to each of us, and the blankets and blankets of condolence cards, and a cup of tea with Michael’s mum whenever we wanted it, and the piles of flowers which seemed to be refreshed hourly around his little plot, the same size as his hospital bed, and the heaps of I’m Sorrys and It Must Be Awfuls and Just Let It Outs and Let Me Give You A Hugs and the Dears and the Sweeties and the Poor Kids, but we still couldn’t even see the bottom of the great big pit which everyone was throwing things into to try and fill up. We had each other, and we had Calverly, we had our favourite café, and the hundreds and hundreds of flower beds in the little park at the bottom of the hill, but when we added everything up and divided by four, we just couldn’t make it equal a Michael.