On an uncharacteristically hot night in 1984 - a year that has long since passed into memory for all concerned - a teenager unwittingly started a fire that could not be extinguished. A butterfly effect if you will. Not everything we do in life results in a butterfly effect but this particular incident did. It doesn't take a lot of work to start a fire. Not really. The tiniest of sparks are usually sufficient if the surrounding environment is dry and responsive enough to the sparks need to clone itself.
It began with a girl called Yvonne. She was fifteen, going on sixteen, ("going on twenty-five" as her father would say when she was out of earshot) and far too popular at school for her own good. Even she had lost track of the number of broken-hearts she had left in her wake. None of it was intentional. She was simply looking for a substitute for her father. He worked away from home for months at a time but when he was home she loved him very much. Thus, when he was gone, it left an over-sized male shaped hole that she needed to fill. At fifteen, maybe sixteen at best, one single boy was never good enough to fill that hole and so Yvonne used as many boys as she needed to. She was blissfully unaware that this is what she was doing but it was not really so different to the boys she went around with who were using her just as much in return. These emotional crutches are everywhere. It's hard to see them when you're in the eye of an adolescent hurricane but later, if you are of a mind to look, they are all too obvious.
Brunette, pretty, fun and criminally intelligent, Yvonne and an assortment of close friends decided that what the end of the school year needed to complete it with a bang was a party. Not an organised party at a club, not a party outdoors where damage would have its limitations. She wanted a house-party and was in the very best of positions to throw exactly that as her mother had decided to join her father for one of his shorter trips before the school holiday began in earnest.
Thus, with a house to herself and a host of friends as equally intent on proving exactly how popular they were, word began to jump uncontrollably from mouth to sticky mouth. If you could get high enough into the sky, you would have been able to see exactly how out of control it had gotten and how fast. Within the hour, it was the most talked about event in the school. For every person that had been invited, you could add four others until there was nobody left in the school who wasn't going - aside from the girl who lived in a caravan who nobody spoke to under any circumstances. Some of the more confident amongst this crowd, had even gone so far as to invite some of the teachers.
Some of the teachers even said they might stop by.
And so it was that unpopular kids, ethnic kids and outcast kids found themselves - for the first time ever - belonging to something. They didn't know what that something was - they just knew it was 'something' and that was good enough.
As Yvonne lay in bed the night before the party - which was a Thursday, with the party scheduled for the Friday because that always sounds like a great day of the week to throw a party on - she made plans for the catering, who she could ask to buy booze and what music she would play.
In her head, Duran Duran would be followed by Spandau Ballet with perhaps a little disco music to really get things going at the beginning of the evening. Like both of her parents, she would drink just enough alcohol to take the edge off and then, sometime around midnight, everybody would go home leaving her and a few close friends who would be staying over, with the warm, fuzzy glow of success.
Her head was so full of exactly how the party would pan out, that it had no room to take on board the role the butterflies would play and the butterflies were already making their own plans. Alcohol was being bought or stolen in quantities that would shame international aid in anticipation of the royal event. For these butterflies, catering was not even on the menu. The catering had been replaced with dope, LSD and magic mushrooms.
If you were sensitive to such things, you could smell the trouble in the air and yet, as we all know, teenagers have an inbuilt filter in their psyche that turns this sensitivity sensor off. Over thousands of years of evolution, this has grown to enable valuable lessons to be taught. In current popular psychological teachings, it is known as The Learning Curve.
The first 'guests' began to arrive just after seven. How an illegitimate party had managed to keep to an undisclosed schedule was magical - but that's not say the party hadn't begun in other places. There were isolated incidents of kids getting home from school and, afraid to steal drink from their parents, had fuelled up from bottles on the spot. Some thirty minutes later, they were out of the game. Sick in the street, sick in the park, passed out in their bedrooms. This at least kept some of the numbers down but not enough to make a marked difference in the larger scheme of things.
A member of the elite was putting the finishing touches to Yvonne's hair when the first of them turned up.
- You were NOT invited!
- I fucking was! Cooper invited me.
- Who the fuck is Cooper? I don't even know anybody called Cooper!
Yvonne turned to the elite squad who were standing behind her.
- Do any of you guys know who this Cooper is? Does this person even exist?
Yvonne lived her entire life on a short fuse such as this. You really needed an access all areas pass to the inner sanctum to reap the full benefit of exactly how this could - and would - eventually manifest. Most, if not all, of the boys that were left blowing in the wind with broken hearts had seen it and over time, grew to be quite appreciative that they had actually gotten out alive.
- Cooper? I've never heard of him or her or it, now fuck off.
The door slammed and shook the whole house. It was a good introduction to the house of what was still to come.
Yvonne opened the windows in the lounge and put on the second Duran Duran album. She had been a fan since they had all started school together, and was well known for having a thing for Nick Rhodes. She put it on loud enough for everybody to know where the party was, even though everybody she had actually invited already knew where she lived.
This was her first mistake.
Now everybody that didn't know where she lived also knew where the party was - and they were more than prepared to suffer a little Duran Duran in the spirit of the adventure.
It got out of control fast.
Even with her feisty attitude towards the world, there was no controlling the people that were soon turning up. There were guys from the football team (which she was more than happy with even thought they hadn't been asked), there were the girls she hated (which she was more than irate about and made her feelings known but still couldn't make them all leave) and when the heavy metal kids showed up with a portable tape deck that was made of sterner stuff than Yvonne's turntable, the control issue still didn’t register with her. Even every single member of the chess club turned up - all three of them - but nobody really noticed and they contented themselves with scanning the bookshelves they found in the lounge.
Interestingly, in the morning, Yvonne would find gaping wounds in the once tightly packed collections on the shelves.
Kids kept showing up - even kids that weren't in her school - but for the most part she had to roll with the punches as everybody was having a reasonably good, if not great, well-behaved time. That was until she found some of the guys from the football team in the kitchen with some of the heavy metal kids. She instantly knew something bad was going on as they never mixed. She was barely in time to rescue the cat from the microwave, but not in time to rumble the flask that contained the cooked magic mushrooms being filtered into any and every opened can or bottle they could find… and then she found Nathan - the boy she really liked, but had never been out with - lying naked in an empty bath with one of her girls from the inner sanctum.
- I thought you were my best friend! Best friends don't do that to each other!
There was no reply from the best friend, who was both too busy and too drunk to give a damn what Yvonne thought anymore. Through bleached blonde hair stuck to her face, she could barely even manage to look up and see who was causing the buzzing noise inside her head.
When Yvonne's parents came home early, they had a pretty good idea of what was going on. It took them twice as long to drive down the street as they tried their best to avoid the bodies either lying in the road or wandering around on it. Her mother held her hands up over her mouth, barely able to contain the horror she knew was coming. Her father on the other hand, was made of different stuff and had been to a few wild parties himself as a kid and didn't think there was anything going on here that he couldn't handle once he had put in a call to the police.
As they drove past their once beautiful garden, a kid on a motorbike pulled his back wheel into a skid and churned up the lawn enough to kick up some grass onto the windscreen and bonnet of the car.
There was also a horse in the garden.
They didn't own a horse, so that was actually quite worrying. Maybe the party was more out of control than he had first thought. He pulled the car into the drive, told his wife to go and stay with their nearest neighbour and he would come fetch her when it was safe to return home.
Yvonne's father marched into the kitchen and asked everyone he met where his daughter was, but nobody seemed to know a thing. Some of them didn't even know who she was. He eventually found her crying at the dining room table by herself with a bottle of Martini in front of her. He shook her shoulder to get her attention.
- Help me get these people out of here, Vonny.
- I'm sorry Daddy...
- It doesn't matter. I don't want to talk about it now. Let's just tell everybody it's time to go home.
With that he left her to it and in the hallway, picked up the telephone and dialled the number for the local police. He was about to announce himself and tell the operator on the line what had happened and ask for a couple of cars to come help him get what was close to the entire population of the local school out of his house, when a kid who was almost as tall as he was appeared at his side.
- Don't call the police old man. That's not the way to do it.
- This is my house, boy - you mind who you're...
And that was about all he had time to say before the tall kid punched him squarely in the side of the face. Hard.
The tall kid, knowing what was good for him in very swift hindsight, decided he would be one of those who should leave quietly and voluntarily. Sirens were already sounding in the distance - the result of a call from Yvonne's mother from her temporary refuge.
Those who were not as high as the trees also made a swift exit. Some, who were not so lucky, stayed exactly were they where because they couldn’t remember their own names or indeed, where they lived.
Yvonne's mother came home when the police arrived and, too shocked to even cry at the state of her house, filled the kettle with water and tried to make as many mugs of coffee as humanly possible - which was the extent of all she was ever able to do in a crisis.
Yvonne's father sat on the stairs, nursing the side of his head which felt like it had a railway spike driven into it.
Yvonne sat on the step below crying her heart out sobbing about how sorry she was.
Her father just wanted her to go away.
Meanwhile, in what remained of the lounge, the stylus on the record deck had beached itself in a groove that insisted they could 'call it paradise' over and over and over…