Polly had always loved Regent Street. Didn’t care about the acrid aftertaste of the air, or the smell of burnt coffee, or the way people would shove her out of their path. She just loved the street.
Mia – not so much. But she did love the way that Polly’s face lit up as she walked beneath the Christmas lights. So she’d sit in the foyer of the university and wait for Polly to finish strolling up and down in the brisk winter air.
They’d met there, after all. Bumped into each other outside the uni and worked their way through a pack of cigarettes, eighteen and not really able to afford a smoking habit but keeping it up as a way to meet new people. By the end of the day Polly was dragging Mia along the street by the hand, the two tangled up in each other like first loves always are in the beginning.
That first year was all giddy smiles and frozen cheeks and the two of them squealing while Mia got a tattoo of a piece of poetry Polly had pointed out to her. ‘Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern’ ran around her upper arm. It was the most beautiful way of being called a freak they’d ever heard, and they’d both sit and stare at it for hours, drinking hot chocolates and occasionally staring at each other like they’d never seen anything more beautiful in their lives.
Mia would stumble along after Polly forever, she thought.
Of course, things get in the way – Polly took a year out, couldn’t handle the stress; Mia went abroad, to Spain and Germany and Sweden and wherever she could as part of her degree. They didn’t mean to fall apart, they just ended, torn apart by outside pressures and data roaming charges and distance. They simply lost touch. And when Mia got back from her travels, she sat in the lobby of their uni, looking out of the window, waiting to surprise Polly.
But Polly was already sharing cigarettes with someone else.