“Spice Girls Reunion”

Toby’s daughter Cheryl was seven when the Spice Girls broke into the charts with Wannabe. Up in her bedroom, whose walls were plastered with posters of the eponymous five, he could hear her singing along,
Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah…
One day he spied through the doorjamb and saw her miming into the mirror, being Baby – his beautiful baby, seven inches taller in the pink and white glittery wedge shoes he and his wife Imogen had bought for her. It was 1996, he had a good job, expendable income, a four-bedroom suburban semi in Gretna. Cheryl was their only child, they wanted more but Imogen discovered she couldn’t have them. So Cheryl was everything, she was their world.
“The Spice Girls are touring,” said Imogen, one evening over dinner.
“I know where you’re going with this,” he said.
“Yea. I thought we could get her tickets for Christmas.”
And so they did, and in February 1997 they all three travelled by train to London, Cheryl dressed in those big shoes, short pink skirt and white top. She refused to wear a coat and in the end they gave in, like they gave in to her wearing make-up for the event. She’d come downstairs plastered in the stuff, raided from Imogen’s bedroom drawer, and at first Imogen had said she must wipe it all off, then caved in so long as she could re-apply it. She was older than her years, and this “gig” was the first of a long line well into the Naughties which reflected her growing tastes, growing years and growing apart from them. Suede, The Verve, Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Nirvana…
At the age of fourteen she had her first boyfriend, a Glaswegian called Neil. They were resistant to Cheryl going on nights out in the big city. There were rows, but they knew eventually they’d have to let go, a thing they deeply regretted. And would go on regretting for the rest of their lives, because at the age of fifteen she took ecstacy and died.
Naturally they were devastated, heartbroken, and so was Neil, who blamed himself because they’d both taken the drug and he lived. They told him not to blame himself, not to be guilty, it wasn’t his fault, Cheryl was her own person, she made her choices. But deep down, if Toby were honest with himself, he really did blame him.  In fact he hated him and never wanted to see his face again.
But, they say, life goes on, and it’s true. Imogen and Toby would never forget their beautiful baby, for years they’d keep her bedroom the way it was, Spice Girls posters given way to Siouxsie, Kurt Cobain… Every day for months on end they’d visit her grave, put down fresh flowers, talk to her epitaph. Some days they’d argue about what kind of flowers. They argued over lots of little things, but would realise in time that the arguments were not about the flowers, they were not about little things, they were about the slow disintegration of their marriage…
Now, in 2018, Toby is alone in a cheap and cramped bedsit, living his life, cooking, sleeping, everything, in a room and world of nothing much. But of course he has his memories. Today he turns on his laptop and sees the Spice Girls are reuniting minus Posh and going on tour. He thinks back to those days when his beautiful baby was spied dancing and miming into the mirror, hair brush for a microphone. And he wishes he could reach in to that moment and touch her, dance with her, sing along to the music, take her to the reunion. Yo, that’s what he wants, what he really really wants.

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