The Punk and the Princess
The train was leaking on the day that I met Chris. I had been watching the moisture gathering from the air-
conditioning unit on the ceiling. Each drip fell to pool on the carpeted floor between my sensible shoes,
between my aching feet. My body was shivering with cold, but it was a small commiseration when considering
the infamous Gold Coast heat that awaited me outside.
That day, I was too exhausted to feign attractiveness. I had not even changed out of my work clothes. The
Subway logo paid homage to the things that just didn’t concern me anymore. It was four p.m, I was going
home. Who would notice if I had lettuce in my hair? Who would care?
The air-conditioning system had my full attention, until I noticed a presence beside me.
"You got a light?"
I think my mouth actually fell open the first time I saw her. Her hair was matchstick-red, short to expose each
of her bejewelled ears. Piercings glittered at me from her eyebrows, her lips, her nose and the small indent
above her upper lip. Clutched between her teeth was an unlit cigarette.
I nodded mutely and dug around in my bag for a lighter. I wasn’t a smoker in those days but I carried one
Click. Suck. The red-haired angel blew a halo of smoke. "Thanks. I'm Chris,” she said. Her voice was husky
from the chemicals that lined the tubes of her throat.
"I'm Jodie." My own voice came out a whisper. I could hardly believe that this girl was speaking to me. It felt
surreal. Cancerous clouds wafted above our heads, getting lost somewhere near the leak. A nearby
passenger narrowed her eyes at us and indicated to the No Smoking sign fixed upon the wall. A nervous thrill
stirred inside me; never before had I been so close to a person so blatantly breaking the rules. I liked it.
So Chris and I began to talk. As she smoked beside me, we conversed about religion and the government.
We talked about education, illness, rebellion and submission to popular ideals. Things which my peers showed
no interest in. Things which mattered. She raised her middle finger to anybody whose stare lingered on her
for more than a few seconds. At one point, she passed the cigarette to me, and without just a moment’s
hesitation, I accepted it. The harshness of the toxins in my lungs made me feel dangerous.
And as suddenly as she had appeared, Chris uttered a profanity and jumped off the train. Ticket inspectors
were heading into our carriage and the cigarette butt was still burning on the floor. Nobody said a word.
* * *
I thought of her as I walked home that afternoon. Christina. Christina the punk. She told me that
addressing her by her full name was punishable by death and I believed her. That day, there was an intangible
feeling of something changing in my life, of an event biding its time until it would be analysed years later, when
I'd look back and scream, "There! That moment! That's when it fucked up!"
* * *
The train became our ritual. Every Saturday morning, she would be in the same carriage with something to
show me. Chris stole everything she owned. She said that she didn't want to be just another consumer. I
reminded her several times that purchasing and consuming were two different things. Even if she refrained
from giving the companies her cash, she was still reinforcing the social importance of “owning stuff.” At these
times, she would smile in a strange way and pat my head, calling me her “Dear Little Jodie.” I found it
patronising but oddly pleasing.
She'd ask me to try pot with her, or to come to a party with her and her violent friends. I was more scared of
how they would react to me than how I would feel about them. So it became just us two, content in each
other's company. To my mother's horror she slept over every other weekend. Chris's radical image was a
contrast to my straight-laced, well-mannered friends of the past, but I think she was secretly pleased that I
had found someone with whom to share my thoughts, the ones she couldn't pretend to understand.
Chris and I would raid the liquor cabinet and drink vodka in my bedroom, listening to Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and
Sleater-Kinney. “Music to fuck to,” she’d wink. All the while she hinted at some deep river of unhappiness
lying dormant underneath her tough exterior but I never pried and she never confided.
"Oh Jo, this is love, better than those fucking record industry cunts can define it," she told me once as I
brought her a coffee for her hangover. I said nothing; I was scared of what would happen if I opened my
mouth. She inhaled chemicals to escape what she had no control over, what she wouldn't tell me no matter
how drunk we were. I stayed in school and pretended not to care that she was my only friend, that nobody
had even grazed against me in a way that mattered for so long. Then one night, she asked me to run away
It never even occurred to me to say no.
* * *
The train that we caught out of town was the same one on which we met, but the irony was lost in the thrill of
the moment. After the first few hours, however, the novelty of leaving home died. My cash bought us a
cheap motel room and a few joints.
Marijuana. Choking on the sweet smoke and sitting on our dirty mattress, I tried to clear my mind like she'd
told me to. "Are you scared?" I asked her as she took a hit.
"Not even close." Her eyelids lowered. "Just roll with it. Hey... we'll look out for each other," she said,
speaking slowly. Or was she? "We're going to be so happy together, Jodie!"
I hardly knew what she was saying. My thoughts were becoming too loud inside my head and my skin was
numb, so I made my way to the bathroom. I took off my clothes and lay in the bathtub, cocooned within the
dark ring of other people’s filth. I don't know how long I was there before Chris walked in to use the toilet. "I
cannot feel the difference between the air and the water," I whispered. My voice sounded foreign, sad and
profound all at once. I liked the feel of the words in my mouth.
Chris laughed at me as she took another drag and pulled her tartan pants up. "That's because there’s no
water in the tub, you loser."
For some reason this was insanely funny. Laughter echoed in my ears, as I sat in the empty bath,
acknowledging the cold beneath my bare skin. Chris sank to the floor beside me in a fit of uncharacteristic
giggles, and this made the situation even funnier. But the laughter stopped when she leant forward, eyes
closed, for the kiss.
Her cold lip ring barely brushed my mouth when I pushed her away. "Chris! What the hell!"
She laughed again, with a hint of uncertainty. "Jodie... come on... it’s okay. You’re allowed to do this."
I leant over the edge of the tub and grabbed my clothes, dressing hurriedly and avoiding eye contact. My
hands were shaking.
"I mean, I know you never said you felt the same way, but.." she stopped, looking as confused as I felt. I had
put as much distance as I could between us in the small room. Suddenly her fist slammed into the wall. "You
didn't have to, damn it!"
"Jesus, Chris!" I cried at the violent sound. She looked at me with narrowed eyes. Her eyeliner had smudged
and created dark sinister shadows beneath her lashes.
"I can't handle this," I murmured suddenly, walking out of the room.
I heard the sound of her heavy boots stumbling after me.
"You know what?! Fuck you!" she screamed, half-stoned and all angry. "Just piss off home, Princess, if
you're too delicate for this."
I kept my back to her, forcing myself not to cry. I was still in a state of confusion, my brain racing to make
sense of the situation. This is happening. This is happening. I could still feel her lips on mine.
"Chris..." There was a long silence and a flicker of fear ignited in my clouded mind. I could hear nothing but a
faint buzz. "Christina? Are you still there?"
"Don't you ever call me that!" Her words seemed to come from far away but there was no mistaking the rage
and pain in her voice.
I didn't want to give her the satisfaction of hurting me, but I knew that I had hurt her. Wordlessly, I collected
my belongings and left the motel room.
"Jodie, wait, come back," she mumbled after me from the doorway. I didn't look back.
* * *
My mother hadn't noticed my absence and I collapsed into bed. Despite my exhaustion, I was wide awake.
The marijuana had worn off almost completely but something large and frightening was emerging in my chest.
Something unwelcome, something I wasn't prepared for was glowing its way from my chest to my throat and
spilling hot tears from underneath my eyelids. I knew that if I didn't act upon it, if I denied these feelings to
myself, I would lose that warmth forever.
But I chose to do nothing. I don't catch the train anymore.
Australian-born Stephanie Davies now resides in Guildford, UK. Her inspiration, Lewis Carroll, is
buried somewhere outside. Stephanie writes fiction and poetry reflective of her eighteen short
years in this world. She hopes to learn the tricks of the trade when university begins in September.