Letterbox

He recognised her even though her hair was different.

He could still remember the clinical, chemical, tart smell from the peroxide on her skin. It hadn't left her for weeks, made him wince and salivate every time his face was near her throat, on the weekend she had dyed it, the baby-white colour.

For a moment he stood there, staring at her back through the window of the Fish and Chip Shop, and considered fleeing. Things had changed here. He had expected this walk home from the Train Station to be nice, spitting his cigarette breath on the pavement and remembering, breeze warming through his muscles, fingers trailing over the spray-painted relics on the walls; good and familiar.

It wasn't like that. Three years and everything had changed. This had been the one good, familiar thing he had seen so far; Trev ordering something in a Chippy.

She turned around then, a grey paper bag with a soggy spattering of grease over it, under her arm. He hurriedly threw himself to the right and leaned against the wall, fag smoke curling eerily into the sour, reddish air. The door swung open and Trev stepped out, and he noticed that she still wore her cherry Docs.

He had a pair of black brogues that made the nail of his little toe dig in and scratch.

"Trev?"

Trev glanced up from the bag of chips, in which she had torn a hole. The steam waved up at bended around her face. A frown puckered her forehead.

"What the – Pukes?"

Pukey nodded once, a little confused by her reaction. Nothing ever seemed to surprise her, not even a daisy chain through her letterbox, or her name still glistening in slices on his forearm; Trev's happiness was always calculated, conscious, voluntary. He smiled loosely.

"Yeah. 'Ello."

She took a step towards him, her cloudy, translucent eyes flitting over his face, his body. She laughed. One hand, thin and yet thick, full of little bones like in a bird's wing, swooped out and then smacked on top of his head. She ground her knuckles into the crown of his head and sniggered, her lungs and nose audibly clotted with tar and snot.

"What's all this then?" she chortled, fingers scraping up a fistful of mousy hair and pulling sharply.

"Its hair, Trev, what the fuck – fucking – get off!" He pleaded through wheezes of laughter, attempting to pluck her fingers out of his hair. "Get off me now or I'm gu'na bloody twat you, I swear!"

She slapped his ear and then stepped back again, grin splitting her face. She smelt like her Turkish cigarettes and Mentos mints, and that powdery, floral perfume that dried sweetly in her sweat.

"When'd you get hair, Puke? Wow."

"I jus' grew it out after a bit," he shrugged. "Dad said I'd look more 'employable' and all that."

"Oh, right."

She narrowed her eyes and leaned back on her heels, and she looked sunken and small in her Fred Perry jacket, as if the world had grown too big for her.

"How – have y'been alright?"

He knew this was a stupid question – she looked fresh from retching up into a toilet bowl – but he had to ask it anyway.

"Yeah, yeah," said Trev. She ripped open the fatty, sagging packaging, her fingers scrabbling inside. The chips were covered in a layer of that disgusting, gloopy curry sauce she loved so much. She stuffed a chip into her mouth and smeared the yellow sauce over her chin with the back of her hand.

"You?"

Her eyes were foggy, he noticed then, something was wrong.

"Yeah, yeah," said Pukey. "What about everyone else, like, Woody and Kel and that?"

Trev shrugged and then turned away to walk back up the street, and he followed her. Somehow he knew it all better now, the row of shops, and the grass verge with its rotten dandelions and daisies, the park silhouetted in black sticks on the red sky, the blocks of council flats with their windows tiny, glinting happy orange like Christmas lights.

"You mean how's Milk?" she asked softly, through a gobful of curry sauce goo. Pukey didn't speak. "Is that what you meant?"

"I jus' wanna know 'ow everyone is Trev, for fuck's sake," he sighed. Trev swallowed, her throat constricting visibly, that smooth pink-white flesh he liked to nip at so much growing taut.

A small silence followed, his shoes clocking against the pavement, the paper rustling, exhaling smoke. It was so much like the old days: he remembered walking her home on the night they had first tried to fuck (his shirt for a blanket, her jeans knotted at her ankles) and buying her chips with his left over johnny money.

"Well, you never stuck around to find out, did you?"

He would have thought, of all people, she might have understood. She liked – too much, he thought, sometimes – to forgive and forget. Trev was always the first to dab a wound with a Kleenex, and marvelled the way the warm blood bloomed, flowered, on the white paper.

"I couldn't stick around."

Her mouth twisted painfully as she spoke, elation and revulsion in her face.

"Why?"

She stopped walking, stood there thin and minuscule in that jacket, and then gestured to him slowly, voice trembling and raising an octave.

"I mean, what's all that? A shirt and tie, Pukes! What happened to you? Who told you to wear that?"

Pukey gritted his teeth and barked, "It's a shirt and tie, Trev, y'jumped up cow, just calm down!"

She shook her head and chuckled faintly, closing her eyes. "You pissed off, and got a job, and you won't understand anything anymore. You won't want to hear."

He snapped, "And why d'you think that?"

Again, there was another pause, the traffic hissing by coolly, heat and anger dark in her cheeks. She bit off the end of another chip, licked her lips quickly, strange and reptilian, before glaring at him boldly.

"I'm not a pussy like you, Pukes, I stuck around."

He had nothing to reply, and so he gulped down the bad taste of copper, of gold, of metal, in his mouth. There was another stretch of silence.

"Combo's in prison. Milky's fine and everyone is fine now. Things are getting better. We're all getting better," she said quietly, and then took in a deep, shuddering breath. "What are you doing here, Pukey?"

"I come to see my Mum," he replied, and the shirt he brought in a Hammersmith tailors' felt like cardboard, too rough and well ironed, all wrong. "And you, I wanted to see everyone again."

Immediately she asked, "Why?"

"I'm moving there, ain't I, with my Dad? I'm working in his motor dealers', helping him sell. We're doin' well, Trev – you sell one or two a day and you're laughin'. It's too good to jus' let go of, y'know what I mean? Dad says you hafta sink or swim in the world, and I'm gu'na swim," he explained, and Trev heard the mechanics in his tone – the same careful, automated voice he had used when reciting Combo's 'inspiring' theoretic bullshit a few years ago. "So I wanted to say bye."

It was typical, she thought, of Pukey to return just as the glue was setting, or the skin healing. The last thing they needed was another ghost, dirty water.

"Don't bother," she snarled. "If you're not staying, don't bother. Too much has happened, Pukey, you chose not to be here – so piss back off to your Daddy again."

She looked young and he couldn't shout.

"What happened here?"

"I said piss off, Pukes, we don't want you messing anything up."

"I won't –"

As always he would throw his fists around or say the wrong things, Trev knew him well, possibly even better now. Pukey liked to leave fingerprints on glass, she remembered, and now she worried those fingerprints that quickly became bruises on her inner thighs and shoulders.

In sight was the house where that man had died, Trev's stomach felt as heavy as his hand on her throat, as heavy Lol's hammer. The fear crawled her spine again, shrivelled her lips, greyed her eyes.

"Yes you will," she said, and she turned to walk away.

"What happened?"

Trev continued to walk.

"Hold up, I said – Trev – I said hold up!"

She paused for a moment, and turned to find him right behind her, awkward in his gentleman's suit and not hers. Someone, she knew, had told him to do this, because he was far too easily swayed, shaped, changed. She had crafted him into something nice a while ago; but now he felt a cold, dead clay in her hand.

"Like I said, things have changed," she insisted, her voice muted, floating in the foggy sunset, in her eyes.

She remembered the feeling of his tongue in her mouth, warm, dehydrated from his cigarettes, grainy like a cat's. Somehow it would have been right to kiss him, but she could not.

"What has, you?"

Trev did not answer him.

"Me?" he stuttered. "I know I'm wearin' a suit, Trev, but I'm still the – I ain't – I haven't changed or nothin'."

"Everything's changed."

Pukey sighed heavily, his breath mingling with the steam, and glanced up at the red sky before speaking.

"I know I went away and that, but I ain't fuckin' leavin' until you tell me what's been goin' on. I've only been here ten minutes and I already know you're not right."

"This is the worst time to be here," she shook her head, holding up her free hand, pleading.

"Hold up."

His hand jolted out and rubbed over the bruised skin of her shoulder. His touch was medicinal: cool water over a burn, a damp cloth on a bruise or sting, a Kleenex on a weeping wound.


A/N: This Is England '86 had to be one of the best pieces of television I'd seen in ages. However, though it was intentional, I'd been left with such a sadness, a bad taste, after Trev's rape and I had to heal it somehow. Enter Trev/Pukey! :D

I've no idea why Pukey is now an aspiring businessman, but I'd been thinking of reasons he might not have been in '86 (damn you, Skins and other things! xD) and finally decided he had a Father that sold cars in Hammersmith. He just seemed to be such an easily influenced guy, a bit thick, really, poor dear. :P

This probably isn't my best, as always it's been poorly proof read and written on large amounts of caffeine... but thanks for reading, and please let me know whatcha think!