The Marmite Story

Spending time with Marmite was like getting a sugar rush. One smile of hers would inject me with enough of a high to last me for hours.

I was an adrenaline junkie and she was my regular fix. Wherever she went I followed, revelling in the sensation being with her gave me. Her energy was infectious, her laughing face the most beautiful thing in the world.

I fucking loved that girl.

We went out into Nottingham one late summer afternoon, when the slabs of stone in Market Square were bathed in the warm glow of the descending sun. We danced in the middle of the square, heads buzzing from the bottles of cheap Alco pops we'd downed, quick enough to have an effect but slow enough so it wouldn't make us sick.

Marmite caught me and pulled me towards her, so we were dancing with our arms wrapped around each other and our bodies pressed together.

I slid my fingers in her thick thatch of short brown hair above the nape of her neck and breathed in her smell; her scent of stale sweat, expensive salon-brand shampoo and conditioner and cigarette smoke. She always said she'd quit but I knew she still smoked with Regan and some of the others when I wasn't there. I didn't mind.

It felt like the Square was a stadium and there was a spotlight fixed on us. I knew everybody was watching as we danced to invisible music and we got one or two jeering shouts of,

"Lesbians!"

Whenever this happened, I felt Marmite's smile spread across her face lowered over my shoulder.

"I love you," she whispered.

"Love you too," I murmured, grinning.

A shadow was stealing over the Square as a grey cloud advanced across the sky, illuminated by the bright sunshine behind it.

"Now, now ladies," a police officer had stopped beside us. "I don't really think here's the time or the place for this."

Marmite's wiry body stiffened in my arms as she slowly pulled away from me enough so we could look directly into each other's eyes. Then, we both turned our heads to stare at the police officer.

"Come on now," he said, clearly not amused.

"Why?" Marmite asked. "We're having fun."

"Come on now," he said again.

Marmite took my chin and turned my face back towards hers and she pressed a kiss upon my lips. Then, we turned and ran out the Square, hand in hand, still buzzing.

It began to rain, although it was still bright sunshine. It made the raindrops sparkle like diamonds as they fell, glittering to the pavements. Magic.

We were laughing and then Marmite was spinning, arms thrown up into the air and head tilted back, her mouth open so the diamonds splashed on her tongue.

I did the same, bumping into a shopper as I did so who was wrestling with an umbrella. I twirled round, dizziness swamping my head but I didn't care. I was with Marmite, the whole world was beautiful.

We walked home, taking the route over the river, through the Meadows.

As we walked down an avenue of trees, council houses to our left and right in the rich blush of a summer evening, Marmite put an arm round my shoulders. We were both walking rather awkwardly, as if we were struggling with how to put one foot in front of the other. I was coming off the manic high and now entering a euphoric stage where I felt drowsy yet perfectly contented.

"Love you," Marmite whispered in my ear as we swayed across the road.

"Love you too," I said back.

A lot of people didn't like Marmite. The stuck-up teachers at school thought she was a loose-cannon, wild and gave the school a bad reputation when she sneaked off on a school trip to Stratford to see Twelfth Night and was found to have clambered over three rows of seats to canoodle with a boy from another school halfway through the performance.

The bitchy girls at school thought she was a childish slut and an attention seeker.

They just didn't understand her the way I understood my Marmite.

My mother didn't like her either, but my Dad did.

"I think she's a bad influence on you," my mum said one evening.

"Lay off, Becca," my dad said to her. "I think Marmite's cool."

My mum snorted derisively, "Marmite! Why does she have such a silly nickname?"

"Because she is marmite," I said with a small smile as I remembered the first time I'd met Marmite and she'd said to me, "You either love me, or you hate me."

Because of my mum's attitude, Marmite only came round to mine when she knew my mum wasn't in.

She was at mine and we were having a pillow fight. I tipped up and landed on top of the bed and she clambered up beside me and straddled me. I abandoned my pillow, raised my arms to shield my face from the barrage of blows.

"Give up!" I yelled.

She tossed the pillow aside, grabbed my wrists and forced them down either side of my head.

"I win," she said.

"I know," I said.

She kissed me again, our noses pressed together. Her tongue pried my clenched lips apart and protruded into my mouth.

"Fuck, Marm," I laughed, turning my head away.

She sat back on top of me, releasing my hands, and laughed too.

Marmite didn't always laugh though. She cried a lot. She cut herself too.

She had a boyfriend called Trey, who was tall with a lip ring. He made her cry a lot.

We went to a party one night and Marmite disappeared. When I found her, she was sitting in the conservatory, with the blackness of the night pressing against the windows. Her face was streaked with tears, old mascara and eyeliner had dried like blood around her eyes.

She was holding a match with one hand and kept lowering the palm of her other hand over the small yellow flame, jerking it away slightly each time she felt the sharp intensity of the heat.

"What are you doing?" I asked stupidly.

"I'm trying to burn myself," she said.

I took the match off her. I was out my fucking mind on some pot Fiona had bought with her, so I just stubbed out the match out on top of a pile of Good Housekeeping magazines on top of the coffee table.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," she cried." I don't know what I'm fucking going to do."

I climbed onto the sofa beside her, tucking my legs underneath me. I put my arms around her and pulled her head down so it rested on my chest. I shushed her while she cried and pawed helplessly at my neck and shoulder, as if trying to find some purchase. She'd hacked up her wrist real bad with a razor blade so it now looked sick and made me want to hurl.

I cried too. But not as much as Marmite. When I cried, it was because I'd been drinking. I drunk so much I really would up-chuck. Marmite swore I ripped my stomach lining one night, but I wasn't sure whether she was lying or not because otherwise, shouldn't I have been in hospital?

She got angry at me for drinking and told me over and over again I'd wreck my liver and die like her grandmother had from liver disease. I would laugh and say unconvincingly, "Nah… that won't happen."

The summer was over. There were no longer diamonds in the sky.

My head of year summoned me into her office just before October half term and asked me probing questions about Marmite, saying her parents were concerned about her mental health.

Why were they worried? I thought. Marmite's beautiful.

Marmite was beautiful. She was still beautiful, even though her wrists were now so fucked up she always had to wear long-sleeves. It was only when she cried that she wasn't beautiful. Then, when the snot was running out her nose and was covering her lips and when her eyes were all mental and blood-shot, she was ugly.

I told the head of year Marmite was fine.

Marmite punched me that week. I found her in the girl's loos, skirt hiked up to her waist and brutally sawing at her thigh with the serrated edge of one of the canteen's knives. This time, I wasn't stoned. I screamed at her though, asking what she was bloody doing.

"Hurting," she replied simply.

I grabbed the knife off her and chucked it across the room. It fell with a clatter to the cracked red tiles of the floor.

"I hate you!" I screamed. "Why do you always have to do this?"

She punched me, her knuckles colliding with my cheekbone. I stood back in shock.

"Fuck you," I said in a low, tremulous voice, and walked out.

Marmite said sorry and we made it up. I couldn't go a day without her. I needed her.

Marmite had split up with Trey and I was glad, he was mental. She started going out with an eighteen year old, called Rob. I liked him; he was cool and had a car. He took me and Marmite out for a spin with his mate Ollie. I liked Ollie too. I liked Ollie so much that when Rob and Marmite got out the car and went for a walk on the edge of this wood, I let Ollie kiss me.

Ollie and I were seeing each other for two weeks when I let him sleep with me. That fucked up my head. It all went wrong. I felt dirty and contaminated and I wouldn't even let Marmite touch me.

I never wanted to see Ollie again and I deleted his number and told Marmite it was over. I didn't tell her why though. But one day two weeks later she caught me crying outside the science block, and I told her.

She said that I shouldn't have slept with Ollie if I wasn't ready. But that just made me cry even harder. So then she put her arms round my neck and called me a princess. She said Ollie wasn't worth it.

She said she knew a mate who could get us fake ID for fifteen quid. I paid up and got an ID card saying I was eighteen. To cheer me up, we went out with the ID to Nottingham again. It was the best fucking night of my life.

We got totally pissed and she told me again she loved me. She said this while we were dancing in the middle of a club. I told her that if she loved me, she needed to stop cutting herself, and she promised she would.

I didn't like waking up the morning after nights out, except when I slept over with Marmite or she stayed over at mine. We didn't bother pulling out the sofa bed; she would just sleep next to me. As I struggled back into consciousness the next morning, it would always be to find her leg twined around mine or her lying, a dead weight, on my arm.

She was still seeing Rob and I met a really nice guy called Eric.

Eric was fantastic. He was fun and cool and didn't ever ask to sleep with me. He said that if I wasn't ready, that was OK. And anyway, he said, he just enjoyed spending time with me. He was seventeen and I didn't meet him clubbing with Marmite, I met him at school.

He was in lower sixth and they got a Spring Ball. He asked me to go to the ball with him. Marmite had just split up from Rob and she came to, as one of Eric's mate's date.

Eric and I had a fight though in the middle of the dance floor.

"All you ever talk about is Marmite!" he said. "Can't we just have a normal relationship between the two of us which doesn't involve her?"

So I stormed off in my high heels and when I came back, he was dancing with someone else. So I left. Marmite caught up with me outside of school. I was crying.

"Cut it out," Marmite said. "You'll fuck up all your make up."

So we went to the play park and sat on the swings in our prom dresses while Marmite smoothed her hand over my hair and I cried on her shoulder.

We started to swing and didn't stop, kicking our shoes off into the darkness and laughing. She went to the local shop and bought some beer, they gave her such a weird look as she went in, wearing a fluorescent orange ball gown.

We drank it in the park and she told me that I could do way better than Eric. We started walking along the top of the monkey bars with our skirts hitched up to our knees. Later on, we fell over each other searching for our shoes lying in the long grass, giggling.

"I love you," I said.

"Love you too," she said.

A few weeks later and we were out in Loughborough. We went to a club called Rain and when we saw Eric and two of his mates, I wanted to leave.

"No," said Marmite fiercely, "I'm going to sort him."

I didn't hang around to watch; I went and hid in the loos, skulking around the corners of the cubicles, staring at my reflection in the mirror. I wondered when I'd started coating my eyes so heavily in black kohl and mascara that they looked like two hollows in my skull.

After half an hour, I came out. I expected to see Marmite still yelling at Eric, but she wasn't. She had her arms round Eric's neck and was kissing him.

I went up to her and demanded to know what the fuck she was doing.

She broke away and started saying sorry but I didn't want to know. I ran out of the club, pushing past everyone and heard her shouting after me to come back. She followed me, out down the high street. We stopped by the sock man and I was suddenly yelling myself hoarse at her.

I called her a bitch, a slag, a slut, a whore, a hoe, the village bike… the list went on.

She started to cry too. She put her hands over her face and said she hadn't meant to, that it had just happened.

"No," I said, "It doesn't just happen, Marmite!"

"Come back!" she cried as I began to walk away.

"No!" I said.

"Please, I can't do this without you!"

I didn't look back. I walked away.

I fucking hated that girl.

We didn't see or speak to each other for the rest of term and all over the summer holidays. Mum went mental at me because I'd done shit in my school exams.

I was depressed and locked myself up in my room most of the time. I didn't eat. When I did eat, I sometimes felt so shit that I made myself throw up, trying to get the bad feeling out of me.

Marmite tried to call but I refused to take them and in the end, she gave up. Then one night, she withheld her number when she rang. I guessed it was her but I picked up anyway.

She said she'd fucked up her wrist again, that there was blood everywhere but she didn't know what to do. She also said she'd done a really bad thing.

"Please," she sobbed, "I don't know what to do."

I hung up.

When I went back to school in September, the school counselor called me into her office.

"I'm so sorry to have to tell you this, but Beatrice is dead."

I didn't know who she was talking about at first. Then, I realized that she meant Marmite.

She said Marmite had taken a belt buckle and hung herself two nights ago in her bedroom. She said that the post mortem had revealed she had recently had an abortion – which I hadn't known anything about.

My little Marmite had been cut open and had her baby hacked out of her by a butcher posing as a doctor.

I didn't cry again. I sat very still while the counselor gently asked me how I was feeling.

I opened my mouth and said I wanted her to come back.

When the counselor said that wouldn't happen, I said very calmly that I was going to throw myself off of a roof and then I could be with Marmite.

I got up to leave the room to do just that and she rose with me. She got to the door first and said that I'd just had a shock and that I ought to sit down while she telephoned my parents. I stared at her blankly, as Marmite and I had done to the police officer in Market Square.

"Bring her back," I said quietly.

She smiled at me pitying and shook her head.

They put me in a hospital a few weeks later because I wouldn't eat and I kept collapsing.

Now I have to go back to school and to my exams and Marmite won't be there.

Marmite, "Love me or hate me."

Well, I hated that girl. Still love her though.

And the rain hasn't looked like diamonds ever since she went away.