I wasn’t sure if I should goth up or goth down for this ‘meet and greet’ thing. I desperately wanted friends, but I didn’t want anyone to make friends with me because they thought I was normal. They’d only dump me later, anyway.

In the end I went mid-goth: yes to the eyeliner, no to the lipstick, and a collar with polite little stubby spikes rather than actual nails. I spent about an hour calculating my outfit, allowing myself EITHER velvet OR lace but NOT PVC, when I should have been unpacking in case anybody wanted to see my room.

Or, y’know, actually having the attitude that my clothes proclaimed and not caring what anyone thought. Though I was pretty sure even Dracula, Dream of the Endless and Marilyn Manson cared about making friends in Freshers’ Week.

Well, maybe not Dream. Death would, though.

I had trouble finding the hall, and it was already full when I arrived, milling bodies with that school-ish echo of raised voices. Squash and biscuits were being passed around by third-year students in gowns (so mature, so weary, such an air of having had sex.) I hovered until one took pity on me and steered me into a conversation.

The first few minutes were terrifying, then it all started to blur. Name, subject, A-Levels. Children’s television. Somebody be fascinated by me, somebody be my soul mate, somebody engage me in sparkling banter like in all the stories.

I needn’t have worried about my outfit. I wasn’t at all the weirdest-looking person there. One girl was weaving through the crowd in a Christmas sweater with a plaid skirt and tinsel in her hair. It was barely October.

I noticed a bit of a commotion following her. It turned out that the carrier bag on her arm contained candy canes, and she was giving them out.

‘Merry Christmas!’ she said, handing me one with an excited smile. Hooray, somebody as batshit insane as me. Though in a very, very different way.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘It’s come nice and early this year.’

She laughed. I thought for a moment that she had the mythical laugh like tinkling bells, and then I saw she actually had tiny bells as well as tinsel in her hair. ‘You know the song, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day?’

‘Um, yeah?’

‘I decided to stop wishing and actually make that happen.’

‘Oh. Cool.’ I’d spent last Christmas wearing a black Santa hat that said BAH HUMBUG. But I was impressed by her fearless extremeness. She could be in Bizarre magazine. ‘What’s your name?’


Oh no. Oh no no no. ‘Um, is that your real name or did you change it to be more Christmassy?’

‘Changed it. What’s yours?’

Well, this was it. She’d probably either squeal with glee and adopt me as her new best friend, or bark with laughter and never speak to me again. I wasn’t comfortable with either possibility.

‘Well, funnily enough, I changed my name too.’

‘What to?’


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