Everything rested on the shoulders of two people. If they failed, then all of them would have to empty the flat, return to the homes of their parents with low spirits. It would be like starting all over again, and none of them wanted that. It would have been down to three of them, but Jade had injured her ankle the week before, ruining her chances of entering the competition.
Now, she sat between Sapphire and Melody, the three staring from their seats to the park. It was fairly new, just under a year old, and for its first year anniversary the Copter Skate Competition was taking place there.
First place would win a prize of £2,000. Second would get £1,000 and third £500. They had been eager to enter, even more eager to win. Even the lowest cash prize would be enough to keep them in the flat just one month longer.
Sapphire's breath caught as they announced the next competitor.
All three turned their attention to Scarlet, as she appeared at the top of the biggest ramp, board in hand. Her black hair, streaks of red either side of her head and tips dyed the same colour, framed a face full of concentration. She had made it through the first few rounds, and a good run now would ensure her a place in the semi-final.
"Come on, Scarlet," Sapphire whispered, as Scarlet raised her head.
Her eyes roamed over the crowd, landing on the three girls. She smiled, dipped her head, and began her run.
She dropped the board, and a split second later was flying on it, down the ramp. Sapphire cheered as Jade remained silent. She'd spotted something in her friend's face that the other two hadn't seen.
Jade had seen the pressure lurking there.
And it was always for her to tell when Scarlet felt under pressure.
She knew from experience that even the smallest mistake could cost Scarlet the whole competition. If there was the tiniest problem, Scarlet could become fixated on it.
"Keep focus, girl," she muttered, feeling Sapphire's hand on her shoulder.
They watched as Scarlet flawlessly oiled up onto a metal railing. The grinding of the wheels against the railing filled their ears. Over one thousand pairs of eyes were locked on her, and more were constantly arriving, sliding into the seats around the largest skate park in the UK. Currently, they were cheering, as Scarlet leapt from the bar and twisted her body, heading towards the half pipe.
Something flickered across her face.
Jade remembered standing in the hospital, her arms around Scarlet's shoulders as she tried to tell her her older brother would be all right. She just hoped Scarlet wasn't thinking about the same thing.
He had been showing off, had gone over the edge of a half pipe and ended up unconscious for three days. He had been close to breaking every bone in his body, and Jade swore the only reason Scarlet didn't lose it was because of her then-boyfriend. Seeing the way he had handled the situation, had handled Scarlet, stopped Jade from really hating him when things had ended between the pair.
Scarlet's brother hadn't been on a board since.
It had taken Scarlet three months and a ton of encouragement from Rivers, Jade and her boyfriend before she got back on hers.
She could still remember the look on Scarlet's face when her boyfriend had stood in front of her, holding the board out. "Come on, cariad. This is killing you – got to get back on the horse some point, right?"
"Didn't miss much, did I?"
The girls shifted to allow Jason to sit next to them. His hair was as naturally dark as Scarlet's, but she dyed hers to hide the brown. Some strands of his hair were grey, streaks of it weaving through his thick, otherwise almost black hair.
Those who didn't know any better often thought the siblings were twins. They shared the same big round blue eyes, bright and, for those who knew either one or the other well, easy to see the emotions of either sibling through them. Both were great at keeping a straight face, but neither could play Poker with their friends as their eyes would give away when they were bluffing.
Jade gestured down to the ramp, where Scarlet was now coming back down from a perfectly executed 360.
Scarlet dropped into the bowl.
"She really is my sister, you know?" Jason leapt to his feet, cheering and punching his fist into the air as Scarlet reappeared, flying above the bowl as she grabbed the end of her board, bent her knees and brought the board – still attached to her feet – closer to her body.
Melody and Sapphire were on their feet, too.
"Scar! Scar! Scar!" they chanted, making Jade think of hyenas.
She knew before it happened that it was going to go wrong. Time slowed to a crawl, and she was unable to do anything as Scarlet's foot slowly reached down and pushed off the floor. She flew out of the bowl once more but this time, as she bent her knees, the board slipped from her feet. Jade saw her friend's eyes widen, before the board crashed to the ground. Scarlet followed, hitting her leg on the edge before she slid down the bowl itself.
The crowd let out a collective groan. Jade felt Jason stiffen beside her. Suddenly he stood and, before she could say anything, he was gone.
A couple of medics ran in from the edge of the park, sliding down into the bowl. Sapphire grabbed Jade's hand as she sank into her seat, while Melody just starred, pale and shaking as she whispered, "Please be okay," under her breath, again and again.
Jade's eyes fell on the figures waiting to compete. It was easy enough to spot him, his arms across his chest, face betraying none of the emotions she knew he must be feeling, green spikes rising up from an otherwise bald head.
Sapphire squeezed her hand, hard.
A medic appeared from the ladder set into the side of the bowl. Scarlet climbed up just behind, the medic helping to pull her out. The other joined them, and the two medics supported her as she limped to the edge. Jade, Sapphire and Melody cheered loudly, along with the rest of the crowd. As she was taken off, Rivers approached the top of the first ramp. His face was now tense, as he gripped his own board.
This time, Melody cheered the loudest, cupping her hands around her mouth.
The medics lowered Scarlet onto a bench. She slipped off her right shoe – half of a pair of Vans – and stared at Rivers, as the medic began to examine the foot and heel.
Jade scratched her own foot as she dragged her gaze up to stare at Rivers.
He took a deep breath before dropping.
It was stupid, really, pinning their hopes of keeping the flat on a competition. But they had no alternative. The tattoo parlour Jade worked at barely made enough to keep her on, the record shop where Scarlet had met Rivers was closing and there was just no room on the high street for the music shop that had employed Sapphire for three years.
Melody was screaming, telling any strangers who would listen, "That's my boyfriend!" The smile on her face stretched from ear to ear, as Rivers practically sailed through the course. Relief washed across Scarlet's face as Jade wondered if Melody's voice would damage her hearing beyond repair.
The crowd went wild as Rivers finished.
Once he reached Scarlet, he scooped her up and carried her towards the small building outside the skate park, both of them grinning, sure that Rivers had scooped the top prize.
X X X
"How the bloody hell did that prick score higher than you?"
Sapphire darted forward, opening the door of the flat. Jade and Rivers followed, Scarlet between them with her arms around their shoulders.
"I just don't get it," she growled. "One, he's an arsehole."
"You know it's not judged on personality, right?" Jade muttered, as they stepped into the flat itself, Sapphire holding the door open.
"Two, you were practically flying, Rivers! He wasn't! He was shit!"
"Let it go, Scar." Rivers sighed, as Scarlet let go of him and fell onto the sofa. "It's over. How's your ankle?"
Jade moved to the kitchenette, grabbed a few bottles of beer and headed back. Scarlet visibly relaxed as she grabbed the bottle of Stella.
"Third, though?" she said, shaking her head as Rivers reached out and opened another bottle. "Just third? You deserved second at least."
Rivers shrugged. "Least it keeps us here for another month."
Sapphire sank into the single armchair, while Jade gestured for Scarlet to shift over.
"So, sprained ankle...how bad is it?" Sapphire asked, before taking a swig of her own Stella.
"Could have been worse. Did Jase turn up?"
"Yeah." Jade ignored Sapphire's look, knowing she wouldn't be able to lie to her friend. "Yeah, but he left just...when you finished."
Scarlet nodded, her face remaining emotionless. But her eyes, as ever, gave her away. Jade spotted it instantly; the flash of hurt, anger and sadness. "Okay." She turned her head away, staring at the TV instead. "Put a film on?"
The other three eyed her, but said nothing. Instead, Rivers just switched on the television, telling the girls they could pick something to watch.
X X X
"Why didn't you stick around?" Scarlet leant against the doorway of the office, staring in at her brother, sat at the desk. Boards hung on the wall behind him, along with posters and photographs, showing various skate companies and skaters.
She had watched him struggle to get the business off the ground, had been there when he realised he could afford to open the small skate park, taking over a warehouse in their hometown. It wasn't big enough to host competitions, but it was decent enough for the local kids. It got them away from residential areas and neighbours who complained about the noise at eight in the evening.
He shrugged, barely even glancing up from the file in front of him.
"Jason! You could have stuck around! You missed Rivers!"
He dipped his head further. "Didn't see Nick there."
"Nick was busy." She stepped forward, dropping into the chair facing him. "He had work. You were there, you didn't stay."
He lifted his head, and she was surprised at the pain in his eyes.
"Anything could have happened to you." His voice was quiet, hushed, as if he was scared to speak any louder. "You could have been really, really hurt, Scarlet."
"But I wasn't." She wriggled her ankle. "Just sprained it, can't run or skate or even play for a few days, that's all. It's fine, Jase. I'm fine. And me skating never bother you before. Well, except when you realised I'd show you up."
"Yeah, but..." Again, his head fell. "I don't want to lose you, too. I can't, Scar. I can't deal with all that again."
She reached across the table, grabbing his hands before he could pull them away. Feeling her touch, he looked up, and she found herself staring into eyes exactly like hers, eyes exactly like their father's.
"I'm not going anywhere, Jason. Promise. I'm going to be right here, okay? Well, until the band makes it and we move to New York. Even then I'm taking you with me."
"Really?" He raised an eyebrow, and she couldn't help but grin at the way his forehead scrunched up with the movement.
"Yeah. Can't expect you to survive on your own for more than a week."
He rolled his eyes and she let go of his hands, leaning back. "I can look after myself you know." His shoulders slumped as he sank down in the chair. "You don't need me anymore, do you?"
"Doesn't matter. We're stuck with each other, always will be." She stood, yanking her t-shirt down as she did so. "Just...stick around next time, yeah?"
"Sure. Oh, Scar...you seen this?"
He reached into his drawer, pulling out the latest issue of Shadow magazine. She used to buy every copy, until the constant coverage of the lead singer she'd rather forget made her stop buying.
She knew, secretly, it was more jealously than anything. Why did they manage to get the front page when she, Rivers, Jade and Sapphire worked just as hard and could barely break out of the city they called home?
But the band had disbanded just over a year ago. She had gone to the funeral, Jade and Sapphire either side. They had slipped in, staying in the back and listening to the speeches about losing a great talent, a great friend.
At the flat, she had cried all night, for letting the collapse of her relationship affect her friendship with the others.
After the band disbanded, she had phoned the Irish guitarist, determined to no longer let the past ruin her friendships.
Now, her stomach twisted as she stared at the cover of the magazine.