Disclaimer: "My Mad Fat Diary" belongs to Rae Earl and E4; "Heart of Gold" belongs to Neil Young. I'm just a fan and am making no money from this.
This was written post-episode 4 and originally posted on my tumblr.
Kester called her name and she paused, turning at the door. He tossed her a small rectangle wrapped in newspaper. She fumbled the box before getting a good hold on it and allowed herself a small smile of triumph.
It was quickly replaced by confusion. "What's this?" She frowned from the package to the therapist.
He nodded at the package. "See for yourself."
She pulled away the paper from what turned out to be a cassette tape. There was a list of songs on the paper insert; Kester's Old Man Music was scrawled on the label on the tape itself. Rae laughed. She looked up from the tape to say, "I thought you weren't supposed to give presents to your patients."
"It's not a present," he said, sticking his hands in his pockets. "It's…music education."
"Right, I need education. From you, of all people."
"You need some history. Some context. If you understand what happened in the past, you can appreciate the present better."
Rae narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "It sounds like you're talking about music but meaning life."
"Aren't they nearly the same for you?" She couldn't very well deny that, to her displeasure.
"Well, thanks." She waved the tape vaguely and went to leave again, and again his voice stopped her. She sighed.
"Er, Rae? Don't read anything into any of the lyrics. No hidden messages here." He chuckled, a bit uncomfortably.
"I think I've a ways to go before we stoop to hypnosis," she agreed, and left before he could stop her again.
She didn't want to be, but Rae was curious about the tape. What kind of music did Kester like? What kind did he think she needed to know about? Her mum wasn't home, and nor was Karim, now that he was unlikely to be sent back to Tunisia, but Rae went into her room anyway. She needed a place where she could devote herself to listening, and nowhere else would do. She closed the door and slipped the tape into her stereo. Then, flinging herself on the bed, she settled down for a listen.
She had to admit that Kester didn't have completely crap taste. It was all stuff from the 1970s, but there was no disco, thank the Lord. There was a bit of Bowie, some Springsteen—she snorted at the very idea of being born to run—the Who and Led Zeppelin. Nothing really original, but nothing that offended her musical taste, either. Even before the end of the tape she gave him full marks for effort, and 7 of 10 overall. Maybe even 7 and a half.
There was still one more song, though. As the tape spooled through the machine it became clear to Rae that even if Kester hadn't meant there to be a message, one had slipped through anyway. She lay back on her bed and stared at the ceiling as she listened. Her thoughts drifted to her friends as Neil Young sang.
I want to live, I want to give
I've been a miner for a heart of gold
You didn't have to do much looking to see that Izzy had a heart of gold. It was right there in her smile, for the whole world to see. But because of that it would be easy to hurt her and she'd not want to show it.
Izzy was the exception to the rule. Everyone else, you had to look deeper and try harder to see their goodness. Tix and Danny were the prime examples, being in hospital and all. Rae knew how everyone dismissed people who were "mental" without ever giving them a chance, because they were damaged and beyond fixing. Somehow being broken didn't make the gold show through as clearly as it should have done. She thought of Tix, who said there was nothing she didn't like about Rae, and Danny, who'd tried to help her out the best way he knew how. For all that Danny gave really shit relationship advice and Tix had proper freak-outs, they were worth fixing.
For all the bollocks he constantly talked, loud and crass, Chop was a good sort. If he sometimes annoyed Rae it wasn't because he was trying to; even showing up three hours early and calling her that stupid nickname were done in fun. He may have been a boy and therefore had his head up his arse, but he was never mean-spirited. He'd never laughed at her, not really, not the way others had, and Rae briefly wished there was some way she could thank him for that without actually having to talk about it.
Archie was easy. Archie was clever and lovely and kind. Archie had wanted to fancy her. One day Archie would find a bloke who deserved him, who saw what he was really like (a bit of a pervert, to be honest) and loved him in spite of his looks, not because of them.
Maybe if she hadn't known the young Chloe, the one who'd tied ribbons in her hair and taken her hand, Rae wouldn't be friends with her now. It was hard to see the good in her now when the memory of her friend walking out the door and leaving her alone was so fresh. Rae felt the bubble of resentment deep inside, remembering Chloe trying to humiliate her for some reason and skinny, pretty Chloe whinging about how hard it was to have people stare at her. Rae pulled a pillow tight to her chest and tried to push away the bad memories. Somewhere deep inside Chloe there had to be the girl Rae had once admired. Somewhere there had to be a reason Rae kept letting her in. At the very least Rae had to believe that there was good, even if it was buried deep, inside Chloe.
And Finn. Rae smiled and rolled onto her side, still clutching the pillow. She'd already said it all before about Finn, hadn't she? That she'd thought he was rude and self-absorbed while at the same time being fantastically sexy, and she'd been wrong (though not about the sex-god part, of course). He was protective in a massively attractive way, and he loved his gran, and he'd put a song on the tape just to tease her, smiling as he did, and then said he was sorry she didn't go to Knebworth. He'd actually apologised for being—acting like a dick. She couldn't much fault him for his behaviour, since hers hadn't been much better, especially at the party. Rae groaned thinking of the times she'd pushed him away, then smiled thinking of the times she hadn't. He liked talking to her, and that wasn't far from liking her.
What was there to like, though? Kester had asked if there was anything she liked about herself, and she hadn't come up with anything. But the gang had let her in, despite Chloe's warnings about how exclusive they were, so there had to be something. It wasn't just so they could have someone handy to take the piss out of; they'd passed up way too many choice opportunities for that. Chop had told the other lads that she was funny and Izzy had never questioned that Archie liked her. Archie and Chloe trusted her with their secrets. Finn laid next to her and told her about his grandmother. Why did they do all that? What did they see in her that made them treat her that way?
Maybe they were right. Maybe there was something in her worth liking, maybe even worth loving. Maybe if she let them, they'd help her dig it out.
They were all sat in the back garden at twilight, drinks in hand. Rae's mum and Karim were out having dinner, and she'd asked permission to have a few friends round. Rae thought her mother was probably so shocked she'd actually asked nicely that she couldn't say no. Archie had gone in to get some more music, and when he came out again he held a stack of CDs in one hand and a single tape in the other.
"What's this?" he asked, showing her the tape. "'Kester's Old Man Music'?"
Rae scrambled to come up with an answer as Chloe watched her. She nearly sighed with relief when Izzy asked, "That's your uncle, isn't it? And he made you a tape? How sweet!"
"Yeah. He said it was to help broaden my musical horizons." Rae rolled her eyes as the others laughed. "As if I need help."
"Anything good on it?" Finn asked. He wasn't smiling, exactly, but he definitely wasn't not smiling. Rae hid a smile of her own and shrugged casually.
"'S not too bad. Mostly classic rock, from the '70s, like."
"Shall we have a listen?"
"Yeah, put it on, Archie," Chop said. "And another beer for me, while you're up and about."
"Not too loud, though," Rae added, nervousness beginning to creep through her. There is nothing so nerve-wracking as having your friends judge your music.
It turned out that Kester's tunes were just right for the occasion: not too mellow and not too energetic, either. The lads nodded their heads to the bass on one song; Chloe and Izzy leapt up to dance to another. Before Rae knew it the stars were spinning lazily overhead as they all sprawled on the grass. Soon the tape would reach the end, and when the others heard "Heart of Gold" they'd all somehow know all the things she'd thought, about them and herself. She sat up, ready to go stop the stereo, when a hand on hers stopped her and everything else in the world as well. She looked down at the two hands on the dark grass, and then at the boy who owned the other one.
"Hey. Where are you going?" Finn asked quietly. His hand was warm on hers, and his eyes searched her face in the dark. She wondered what he was looking for and what he saw.
Rae swallowed thickly and managed to mumble, "I was just going to change the tape. It's almost the end." In the background there was a hiss of white noise before the last song started.
He smiled up at her, all lips begging to be kissed and soft eyes. "It's not over yet. Let it go." His fingers slid up to around her wrist and he tugged gently, until all she could do was lie back again, convinced by the feeling of his skin against hers. And when she was settled near him his hand moved one more time—not to break contact as she'd feared, but to curl his fingers around her hand. Rae bit her lip and, hesitantly, bent her own fingers around Finn's.
You keep me searching for a heart of gold