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Wherever You Will Go Chapters 4-6

by bexy89


My next three chapters :) again, constructive criticism welcome as well as reviews in general. This is only my first draft after all!

Chapter Four

Hitting Rock Bottom

After my dad died, I didn’t cope very well. I refused to speak to anyone. I shut myself off from the world. I would still go to school but I found myself getting into trouble, something I had never done before because I was always a “model student.” My grades slipped and eventually my group of friends began to shrink. I didn’t care. I didn’t need them anyway.

One afternoon I was stood outside the Principal’s office when Adam walked past. He did a double-take when he saw me.

“Zoe? What are you doing standing outside here?” he looked fairly shocked that his seemingly well behaved sister was in trouble.

“I punched Alice Leighton in the face.”

Adam stared at me, dumbfounded.

“You punched someone? Why the hell did you do that?”

“She was pissing me off. Going on about her dad who was getting her a Tiffany bracelet for her 15th birthday. Like anyone gives a damn anyway. Then she gave me this look as if she knew she was getting to me and started speaking louder about all the things her dad does and how great he is. She deserved it.” I shrugged.

“Zo, just ignore people like that. They just want to get a reaction out of you. You could get suspended for this.”

But I was past caring. At least if I was suspended I could stay at home and not come back to this hell-hole and spend my day around people like Alice Leighton. Adam shook his head and walked off down the corridor. I figured he was just feeling high and mighty because he was in his last year and thought he owned the place. He was pretty popular really. He played football and always had a group of girls following him around like lost puppies. I was jealous of him. Jealous that three years since dad died, he had moved on and was able to cope with it all. And I was left behind, skipping classes and punching people.

The door to the office opened. Principal Murray called me in. I dragged my feet as I made my way into the office and sat down in the plastic chair in front of his desk. I’d never been in here before. It was a small room with a large maple coloured desk. There were certificates hung up around the walls, a calendar was pinned to a notice board behind him sporting a bold black ‘March 1987’ across the top. It had a picture of the sea with a yacht in the distance in front of a setting sun. I fixed my eyes on it as he spoke.

“Miss Ryan, I believe you’ve been causing some trouble?” He had a heavy, almost solemn voice. He always sounded like he was mourning someone. He had a thick neck and a shiny face topped with a mop of silvery hair and was forever pushing his glasses up his nose. I continued to stare at the calendar but I nodded.

“Would you like to tell me why?”

I shook my head.

“Zoe, physically assaulting a fellow student is a serious matter. You are old enough to know better. Miss Leighton has had to be rushed to the ER. They think her nose might be broken.”

I had to stop myself from saying “Good.”

“I cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour from anyone. I know you have had a rough few years but that is no excuse.”

“So suspend me then.” I butted in.

“I’m sure you would like that. However, I am not going to be suspending you at this time. I will, instead, be sending you to the school counsellor every afternoon for an hour during lunch period. That is not negotiable. I have spoken with your mother and she agrees that is the best course of action. You will start tomorrow afternoon. When the lunch bell goes, you will head straight to her office, do you understand?”

Still watching the calendar I reply “Yes.”

That evening I sat at the dinner table, playing with the food on my plate. Adam and my mom ate in silence. It was like being back in that first year after we lost dad, when nobody spoke and if we did, it wasn’t about him. It was as if he had simply vanished. If it hadn’t been for the pictures of him around the house, I might not have even believed he ever existed. Just then my mom broke the silence.

“So you’re going to see the counsellor tomorrow, Zoe? That’ll be good for you.”

I looked at her like she had slapped me across the face.

“Yeah, it’ll be great. Telling my innermost emotions to a complete stranger who also happens to be a complete hippy freak.”

“What has gotten into you, Zoe? I don’t know who you are anymore. I just...” She paused, sighed, and then continued eating. I got up and walked out of the kitchen. I heard her shout me but I continued onto my room and threw myself face first onto my bed. I reached under my pillow and pulled out the small silver gilded frame with a picture of my dad in it wearing his fireman’s uniform.

“How could you?” I whispered. “How could you leave us?”

In frustration, I threw the frame down onto the floor. Immediately I sat up and picked it back up. The glass was broken in two. Ironic to the way I felt every day. I slipped the photograph out and kissed it as tears began to fall down my face.

“I’m sorry, daddy.” I sobbed.

The counselling sessions were a bore. The school counsellor or “Call me Rae” was even more boring. Sat in her kaftans with her bangles and rings on every finger. Her office smelt strongly of lavender from the incense she burnt and she had trinkets lined up on her desk, little ornaments and jewelled boxes. I refrained from telling her that this wasn’t the sixties anymore.

She asked me stupid questions like “How did your dad dying make you feel?” and “And do you still think about him?” Always stating the obvious; “You’re obviously not coping well with his death.” Well yes, that’s why I’m being forced to sit in this room and listen to all your crap.

After one session which had finished ten minutes early, I made my way to the front doors when I bumped into two guys. I recognised them from my math class. Troublemakers if I ever knew any.

“Hey, you’re the one who punched Alice, right?” The taller of the two stopped and asked.

“Yeah, might be.” I muttered in response.

“Awesome. What’s your name?”

“Zoe Ryan.”

“Cool, I’m Matt and this is Liam.”

“Hey Zoe” the smaller one spoke now. “You should come and meet up with us after school. You seem pretty cool.”

Alarm bells rang full-belt in my head. It just made me feel more defiant so I agreed. Three-thirty outside the gates.

There were four of them waiting there. I felt a little anxious because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. My brain screamed at me to walk straight past them, head down. But ignoring what my brain tells me was becoming a habit these days.

“Hey, it’s Zoe.” Said Matt, the tall guy I had met in the corridor. He smelt of stale cigarette smoke. He walked over to me and took hold of my shoulder.

“Everyone, this is Zoe. Punched that irritating Leighton kid. Zoe, this is Liam, you already met him. And this is Kelly and Jack.”

Kelly and Jack were leaning against the railings smoking. They nodded in unison.

“We’re going down to the skate park. You coming?”

I hesitated for a minute, knowing my mom would worry if I wasn’t home on time. I saw Adam walking through the gate.

“Adam! Tell mom I’ll be late tonight.” I yelled to him then walked off with the group before he had a chance to reply.

Down at the park, they passed around the cigarettes. Offering me one, I took it although I had no idea how to smoke. I watched them each light up and how they did it then acted casually as if I’d been smoking all my life when they lit mine. I coughed a little and they all laughed. I felt so stupid. Even more reason for me to try and fit in. Then I realised this wasn’t a tobacco cigarette. It was cannabis.

I stumbled through the door with my schoolbag and walked to the kitchen and began opening cupboards.

“And where have you been? You’re two hours late.” My mom was standing in the doorway, tapping her foot on the tiled floor.

“Out with friends.” I replied, grabbing a bag of chips and opening them, diving into them. I was starving.

“Well you missed dinner.” She stopped for a second and sniffed the air.

“Have you been smoking drugs?”

“No.” I said through a mouthful of food.

“Zoe Ryan, you have been smoking drugs. You reek of it. What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

“I’m just out having a life, mom. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

She stared into my eyes but it was as if she didn’t know me, I was some stranger that had walked into her house and raided her cupboards. Mind you, she was right. She didn’t know me. Not anymore.

She walked away, unable to look at me any longer. She disappeared into the lounge and I heard my brother ask her what was wrong. Then I heard her cry. The old Zoe would have felt a pang of guilt, ran in and hugged her and apologised for acting like an idiot. The new Zoe threw the empty packet into the trash, walked upstairs and closed her bedroom door.

As I hung out with those guys more, the worse I became. But I was oblivious to it. I thought they were great. My old friends were so dull in comparison. They never smoked, they’d never tried drugs. Jack’s mom was never home so we used his house to hang out in. Kelly and I became quite close. Not really in the way that I was close to my other friends, we were kind of forced together being the girls of the group.

Kelly was quite a big girl with pink streaks in her black hair which hung down her face. She always wore clothes that were way too tight and had her lip and nose pierced with small hoops. She was quite pretty though; she would have been even prettier had she not spent the last two years of her life smoking cannabis and drinking vodka straight from the bottle.

The guys all looked the same as each other. Apart from their hair. Jack and Liam had short, spiked hair while Matt had long hair, like Kelly’s. But all had the same piercings in their lip and ears and wore the same baggy khaki pants, boots and army jackets. Of course, I had to fit in too.

I stripped my wardrobe of the pinks and purples, of the dresses and skirts. I used my allowance to buy black clothes which I would customise with badges and pins. I cut my long blonde hair into a short bob. I visited a piercing shop belonging to Matt’s Uncle and he pierced my lip. My mom almost had a heart attack.

“It’s just a phase” she would mutter to herself every time she saw me clomping through the house in my DM’s, fluffing my hair with gel.

I looked the part and I acted the part. I bunked off school and missed my counselling sessions. I was forever in the Principal’s office. My mom was tearing her hair out over me and Adam was trying to keep the peace. I would stay out until gone ten, sitting in Jack’s house drinking Jack Daniels and smoking. I thought I was great, nobody could touch me now. Not with friends like these. Nobody would dare make fun of me not having a dad. And the best thing of all, when I was high or drunk or both, I didn’t even think about him. I didn’t think about how much I missed him, how much I hurt. I was free.

The night before the four year anniversary of my dad’s death, I drank and smoked more than I had done before. I was determined that I wouldn’t feel the way I felt on this night every year. Jack and Liam were passed out on the couch. Kelly had gone home. Matt and I were sat together on the other couch.

“Do you want some of this?” He took a plastic pouch out of his pocket and held it out to me. It had a white powder in it.

“What is it?”

“Crack. We can smoke it I guess. Or we can sniff it.”

“Where did you get it?” I felt a bit uneasy about harder drugs.

“Just someone I know. Do you want some?”

“Yeah, ok then.”

He poured the contents of the bag onto the table then, using his ID card, made it into four small lines. It was like something out of a movie as he rolled up a dollar and held it to his nostril.

I watched as two of the lines disappeared. Then he handed the dollar to me. And I took in the last two lines. The room span and I felt sick. I was sweating and Matt’s face was a blur. Then I passed out.

I woke up an hour or so later clutching my head, which was pounding. I looked at Matt, who was slumped beside me. I grabbed my bag and left.

The house was quiet when I got in. I crept upstairs and straight into the bathroom where I was violently sick. I finally managed to prise myself from the toilet bowl and saw Adam standing in the bathroom doorway. He shook his head and looked at me in a way that I’ll never forget. It was pure and utter disgust.

That would usually be enough for anyone to realise this was not the path to go down and you needed to quit while you were ahead. But not for me. It was beginning to give me too much of a buzz.

Matt and I started dating. I say dating, we never went on dates. We would just meet up when all the others did. Instead of going for meals we would take drugs. Instead of going for romantic walks we would run down alleys to hide from police.

My mom wasn’t speaking to me anymore. This was fine by me. Adam had given up trying to talk some sense into me. I was out on my own. And I loved it. I didn’t care if this lifestyle finished me off because I wasn’t afraid of dying.

“Imagine what your father would say if he could see what you’ve turned into.” People used to say to me.

“Yeah, well he can’t can he?” I would reply.

A few months before graduation, I was expelled from school. I had been caught in possession of cannabis on the premises and was kicked out straight away. They threatened to tell the police but my mom begged them not to, that expelling me was enough. I didn’t thank her for it. But I was glad she did it.

Subsequently things went from bad to worse. Now I wasn’t being dragged down by school, I could do whatever I wanted. I moved out of my mom’s and into Jack’s with the others, we shared a bedroom although his mom’s room was usually free too. I would meet Trey, the local dealer and be the donkey for the others, giving him all our clubbed-together cash in exchange for gear that I would then take back to the house.

Then one night, a month before my seventeenth birthday, Jack insisted we go to one of his friend’s parties. We trekked a mile across town to a run-down shack. Most of the windows were boarded up. There was music playing inside. When we got in, we saw groups of men and a couple of women. The women looked terrible, drawn faces and dark eyes. The men were a little older than us. A group of three of them were jeering at one of the girls as she walked past. The girl ignored them and as she went by she caught my eye. It frightened me.

“You girls go and socialise. We need to go and chat with Trey.” said Matt.

Kelly and I sat on a couch and began knocking back shots of vodka. The men were dotted all around the room and every so often, one would glare over at us for a moment and then carry on talking.

“These guys are weird.” Kelly whispered to me. I nodded in agreement.

That was one of the few moments where I wish I could have seen just a little into the future. Because then I may have been able to save myself. And Kelly.

Chapter Five

From death comes new life

I must have fallen asleep for a while because the phone woke me. It was seven in the morning and Bobby was still fast asleep. I kissed his head and got out of bed slowly trying not to wake him and picked up the phone in my bedroom.

“Hi, Mrs Bolton? It’s Janice Lacey, the school secretary. I’m just ringing to tell you the school is closed today.”

“Oh... right. Thank you.”

“Ok, thanks Mrs Bolton. Bye.” And she hung up.

I ran the tap for a glass of water. I walked past the fridge to see a picture that Bobby had drawn at kindergarten. It was a mismatch of blues, reds and greens. Underneath, his teacher had written ‘daddy.’ I reached out to touch it gently.

“Mommy, can I have a drink?” Bobby was sitting at the table, rubbing his eyes. I hadn’t even noticed him come in.

I wondered if he remembered. If he had assumed it was a dream and that his dad would be coming home today. I had no idea how a boy so young would interpret loss. I passed him a glass of milk and he looked into my eyes, which were red and swollen.

“When will you stop crying?” he asked me. I forced a smile to reassure him.

“There, look. I’ve stopped.” He wasn’t convinced but drank his milk anyway.

Then all of a sudden, a searing pain shot across my stomach. It took my breath away. I had been feeling a little niggly all night but I’d not had any pains as bad as this one. My bump tightened. Then it stopped as suddenly as it had come on. I stood up to try and walk it off. And my waters broke.

“Shit.” I muttered under my breath. Bobby looked terrified.

“It’s ok Bobby, it just means that your baby sister is ready to come.”

I walked to the phone and just about managed to pick it up when another cramp made me double over in pain. I clutched at my stomach and tried to breathe deeply. Bobby came over to me tentatively, not knowing quite what to do. Silently, he took hold of my hand and held it, stroking the top of it with his other hand. Another pain came and went; then another; then another. I dropped the phone on the floor.

“Bobby, I need you to do me a favour. Pick up the phone and dial 911. Tell them mommy needs an ambulance...” another pain came before I finished my sentence.

He picked up the phone and dialled the number. I started to panic, thinking that after yesterday, emergency services might be impossible to get through to. Then I felt the urge to push and I tried fighting it off. I couldn’t do it, not yet.

“Hi. My mommy needs an ambulance. She’s having a baby.”

He looked at me.

“What’s our address, mommy?”

I breathed out the address between pains. I was gripping the arm of the sofa tightly. When Bobby had finished on the phone, he came back to me and held my hand. I was on the floor now. I needed Lee here too. He should be here, I thought. Then I realised I couldn’t hold out any longer. I had to push.

“Sweetie? You know daddy told you that you had to be a brave boy? Well, you need to be brave now. I need you to help me out until the paramedics get here, ok?” He looked at me wide-eyed but nodded.

“I need you to go and get me some towels from the bathroom and then you need to come back and hold my hand.”

He raced upstairs as fast as his little legs could carry him and came down with armfuls of towels. He laid them under my nightdress for me then sat beside me with his tiny hand in mine, like a loyal pet. He kissed my cheek which was wet with sweat and tears. Then the doorbell rang and he let the paramedics in.

“Ok, let’s see how far along we are here.” said the female paramedic. She was quite short with long brown hair tied back into a loose plait. She asked my name so I told her she nodded and told me just to keep breathing.

I remember when I was pregnant with Bobby that it seemed like a really dumb thing to say, telling someone to keep breathing. That was until I was giving birth to him and for some reason, I kept holding my breath and I realised it wasn’t such a strange thing to say after all.

I began pushing as hard as I could. The female paramedic down one end, Bobby up by my head and a male paramedic fiddling about in his bag for equipment.

“Ok Zoe, you’re doing really well. Just a couple more pushes and the baby will be out.” So I pushed.

Three pushes later, out she came. They put her onto my chest straight away, blood and all. I didn’t care. She was perfect. But it was such a bittersweet moment. As I looked at her I knew I should be feeling nothing but joy. But I also felt sadness. That her daddy wasn’t here to see her. I began crying but stopped myself suddenly; I didn’t want to cry in front of these strangers.

“Can my son help you cut her cord?” I asked.

“Of course he can.” And I watched as Bobby held scissors and cut as the woman held the clamp. He looked so proud of himself. He stared at his sister a little uneasy until I beckoned him over. He touched her tiny fingers with his and smiled.

“Is somebody going to be a proud daddy?” The paramedic asked, nodding towards our last family portrait on the wall. I welled up.

“He’s... not here anymore. We lost him yesterday. But I’m sure he’ll be proud from Heaven.”

She put her hand on mine.

“I’m so sorry. I lost my brother. He was one of the policemen.” I admired her courage that she was able to go back to work the very next day after such a tragedy. I suppose if everyone who had lost someone took a day off, there would be nobody around at all. The male paramedic began clearing up the towels and putting them in bags.

“I didn’t tell you my name, I just realised. It’s Ruthie.” The paramedic smiled. And then the strangest but nicest thing happened. We cried together. Me on the floor holding my new baby; my little boy by my side and her, Ruthie, on my other side.

Finally we both straightened up. Ruthie wiped her eyes and I focused back on my baby.

“Does she have a name?” asked Ruthie, checking I didn’t need any stitches and cleaning me up a bit.

“Abigail. Abigail Lee.” I replied. I looked down at her tiny face. I could already tell she was a Bolton. I had hoped she would look like me but now I couldn’t be more grateful that she looked like her daddy.

“Right, we should take you to the hospital to get you both checked over properly.” She helped her colleague pack the things away.

“That was a quick one then. Were you quick with your little boy?”

“One hour and twenty minutes with Bobby.” I told her.

“You were only just under an hour with this one. Setting a new record I think!” Ruthie smiled and handed me a pink fleece blanket to wrap Abigail in. They helped me to the ambulance; Bobby was beside himself with excitement at being able to ride in it.

We got to the hospital which was actually pretty eerily quiet. They weighed Abigail. She was 6lbs 7oz, not bad for a baby born three weeks early. They did all of her checks and then all of mine. Bobby insisted he be checked too so the midwife listened to his chest with a stethoscope.

After being discharged, I went to the desk and asked about Ruthie. I told them I wanted to thank her and I left my number with them so she could call me. I had to loan a car seat from the ward to fit into a taxi as I hadn’t brought mine in the rush. We finally got home around four o clock that afternoon. And it was just me, Bobby and baby Abigail.

I called everyone I could think of while Abigail napped in her bassinette in the lounge. My mom was beside herself as was my brother. I called my friend Leah who I knew from where I used to work before I had Bobby and left her a message on her answer phone. I dialled Lee’s cell phone number without thinking. I was about to put the phone down when I heard the voicemail message. It was his voice. My heart stopped. I hadn’t even thought about calling his phone to listen to him. It was a simple message. But it was him. Proof that he once was.

“Hi, this is Lee Bolton’s phone. I’m busy right now but leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

I rang it a further five times. Then Abigail woke. Bobby was lying on the couch watching TV. I realised that I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to grieve on my own this time. I had two babies to look after. I took a deep breath and picked Abigail up. She looked at me with striking blue eyes; the only part of her that was from me. Everything else was Lee. She stopped crying and I held her to my shoulder and sat myself in the armchair.

I was at a loss. I didn’t know where to start. Everything had happened so fast I hadn’t had time to think at all. First Lee, then Abigail. It dawned on me that although I had lived here for the best part of seven years, I didn’t really have anyone. Not here in New York anyway. I had plenty of people in California, my home state. I used to have a tonne of friends here, work colleagues mainly and some mothers I had met at playgroups when Bobby was tiny. But we grew apart, living away on the island and all being on different paths. The girls from my old work were career women, not parents. And the parents I knew eventually stopped going to the baby groups and we simply lost touch. I had Leah, but I rarely got time to see her other than when Lee would look after Bobby for the evening and we went out for dinner. I hadn’t spoken to her in a few weeks actually...

We only had one set of mutual friends, Kevin and Alison. We were very close but they moved out to Nebraska where Alison used to live so they could start a family. We’d had some friends in Florida who we used to visit a lot before Bobby came along but I’d not seen them in years.

The phone woke me back to reality again. I considered taking it off the hook as it had just been constantly ringing the last two days and I just wanted some peace. But I answered it anyway.

“Hi there, is that Zoe?” said a soft female voice.

“Yes, it is.” I answered.

“Oh good, it’s Ruthie. The paramedic” she added in case I had somehow forgotten.

“Oh, yes. Hi Ruthie, thanks for calling me back. I just wanted to say thank you for today.”

“No problem it’s just my job though. No need to thank me.”

“I know. But after yesterday I just thought, well, I thought that the fact you were able to go to work was really admirable. Helping people even though you felt like you needed help yourself.”

“Well I think it’s admirable you were able to push out a baby under the circumstances!”

I smiled although obviously, she couldn’t see me.

“I hope this isn’t too forward of me, I apologise now if it is. But my family are all over in California and I don’t know anyone else who is going through this. I could really do with a shoulder to cry on and I was just going to ask that if you’re not busy that maybe one day this week you might want to call round for coffee?” I cringed as I heard myself say it, imagining her thinking I was a total weirdo.

“That would be lovely, Zoe. I understand what you mean. I could do with a good chat about it all. I haven’t even really given myself time to think how I feel about it.”

I relaxed a little, knowing that she felt the same as I did.

“And besides” she added “How can that be too forward? I’ve seen your bits, remember.” And we both laughed.

I felt like it was a betrayal to laugh so I stopped myself and so did Ruthie. Perhaps she thought so too.

“Well, just let me know when you’re free anyway.” I told her.

“How’s tomorrow morning? I’m not in work until two so I can come around at say, eleven?”

“Sure, I’ll see you then.” We said our goodbyes and hung up.

Chapter Six

The cracks that lead to tragedy

We were always going to parties. Well, some may call them parties. It became part of the lifestyle. Every weekend the five of us would make our way to yet another run-down house on the outskirts of town. The same people would always be there and it would be the same routine every time. The first time it happened, Kelly and I were unsure as to what was going on. But after watching people bustling about the room it didn’t take us long to work it out.

The boys were hiring us out as prostitutes to pay for our rent. The worst part was we just accepted it.

The first night, as we sat on the couch and watched the other girls taking men out of the room I felt a sense of disbelief that this is what my life had come to. But I figured that the boys were doing us a favour. How else would we be able to pay for food, alcohol, drugs? Jack’s mom had apparently disappeared and wasn’t paying the rent so if we wanted to keep a roof over our heads we had to do something.

A man in his late twenties approached me as I stood up to go to the kitchen. He was about six feet tall, unkempt hair and stubble and he stank of beer.

“Alright sweetheart?” he ginned at me manically.

I tried to brush past him but he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back. I could feel his breath on my neck as he leant down to whisper something in my ear. As he did so I turned my head away from him and saw Matt walk in. For a second I thought he might come over and help me but instead he winked and walked away. I knew what I had to do.

Have you ever done something that you were so ashamed of that you can’t even bring yourself to look in the mirror? Scared of what you might see looking back at you, a person you never wanted to be?

I stood in the bathroom and splashed my face with water from the sickly green porcelain basin. There was a small mirrored cabinet in front of me. Before I had chance to see my reflection, I punched the glass so it shattered. Wrapping my bleeding knuckles in a towel, I went downstairs, knocking into the man I had just been with, who was pulling his jacket back on. I walked downstairs, grabbed the nearest bottle of vodka and drank.

I’d like to say I learnt from that mistake, but I didn’t. Every Friday and Saturday night I would go back and do the same thing and every time I would feel sick and humiliated. Kelly and I didn’t speak about it to each other. Instead we would just give each other a sideward glance, as if silently supporting one another.

We made a fair bit of money, enough to pay the rent at least. Luckily the house was a small and neglected one and so it wasn’t expensive to keep. But sometimes I would lie awake at night in my make-shift bed and wonder what had happened to my morals.

I managed to numb myself with alcohol. I drank before and I drank after to wash away the guilt I felt. Kelly on the other hand wasn’t coping well at all, I could tell by the sadness that radiated from her eyes. So I decided we should talk.

“Kelly?” I walked towards her as she sat on the floor, her back against the leg of the couch. She looked at me with a forlorn look and grunted in reply.

“Can we talk?”

She looked back to the floor but then gestured for me to sit beside her. I didn’t need to say anymore, she began spilling out everything she had been keeping locked up.

“I don’t know if I can do it anymore, Zoe. I know this was my choice and I appreciate everything that the boys have done for me all these years but it’s just all too much. Those guys at the parties, they make me feel sick. I can’t bear to look at myself and see what I’ve become, which is a drug-taking whore. When I was little, all I wanted to do was dance. But I was always a little overweight and whenever I tried to join dance clubs, all the girls laughed at me and made me feel crap. I realised then that the one thing in the whole world that I dreamed of doing for the rest of my life was never going to happen.

I dieted, tried every single one you can imagine. But no matter what I did, the weight stayed. In the end I gave in and began comfort eating, I was bullied and got sick of it so started to hit back. Quite literally. And that’s when the guys took me under their wing. Without them I would be a nobody. I’d just be the fat girl with no friends and an unhealthy obsession with fried chicken.” She let out a small chuckle.

“But I didn’t expect this. I just wanted to be a somebody. And I was for a while. But now I’m a nobody again, except this time I’m a nobody with no family. My mom is so ashamed of me that she refuses to acknowledge I even exist. I called to her house yesterday. I saw her in the kitchen through the window and she heard me knock. She even came to the door but when she saw it was me, she walked away without even opening it. I have nothing left to live for.”

She paused to wipe her eyes, streaking eyeliner down her cheeks.

“That’s not true. You have us.”

She shook her head.

“No, I have you. Look what the boys are doing to us. Making us sleep with perverts so they can get wasted. They sit in the kitchen drinking, smoking, laughing with their friends while we’re upstairs, guys breathing stale alcohol breath all over us while we close our eyes and count down the minutes until it’ll all be over. I used to think they were my friends, that they saw me as a friend. But they don’t. We’re just money making machines to them now, Zoe. But we’re trapped because we have nowhere else to go.”

She began sobbing and threw her head into her hands. I put an arm around her. There was nothing I could say. Because she was right.

Over the next few months, we tried to stick together as much as possible, especially at the parties. We had noticed that some of the other girls there had taken to walking around in two’s as for some reason men only seemed to approach you if you were on your own. One night, we had been split up and Kelly had been taken upstairs and I was sat alone on the couch waiting for the inevitable. A man walked towards me so I stood up, wanting to cut the small talk and just get things over and done with. But he sat down.

He was quite a handsome looking man, or would have been when he was a little younger. He was probably in his mid-thirties with huge green eyes. He had a soft smile and I was cautious of him, wondering if I was being lured into a false sense of security. He patted the seat next to him so I sat down too.

“I’m Carl.” He smiled.

“Zoe.” I replied.

He shuffled awkwardly in his seat then asked me if we could go upstairs. I sighed to myself and mentally kicked myself for thinking he wanted anything else. But when we got up to one of the three bedrooms, he didn’t touch me. He didn’t come near me. He stood for a moment taking in the room around him. It was a ghastly brown colour. Brown carpet, brown walls and a large brown wardrobe. There was a double bed on one side of the room with flower patterned sheets. Then he turned to face me.

“So, what’s a pretty girl like yourself doing in a dump like this?” he asked.

I shrugged. After all, I wasn’t so sure myself.

“Money.” I replied.

He nodded to himself.

“I’m going to give you a bit of money. But I don’t want anything from you. Except perhaps maybe a chat?”

I was a bit taken aback but I agreed and we sat on the edge of the bed. He told me he had been a successful surgeon but he had been struck off after sleeping with a number of his patients. He was thirty nine and he had had a wife and two young boys before his affairs came out two years ago. Since then he has been working at a garage serving customers and his family had left him. He rarely saw his sons. He lived in a one bed apartment alone and spent his nights either lying in bed thinking about how much of a mess he had made of his life or he would come to places like this for some company.

I felt sorry for him as he talked about his passion for medicine and the obvious hard work he had put in to become a surgeon, although I didn’t understand half of what he was saying. He had had it all; a loving wife; two healthy sons; a dream job... Yet he gave it all up for a few nights with women that he felt nothing for.

I told him about my dad and how I had been trouble at school, got into drugs and been expelled. And that was how I had come to be here. Simply because I could no longer control my life.

“You know what, Zoe? You are still so young. You have your entire life ahead of you. Don’t waste it.” He looked at me with genuinely pleading eyes. I lowered my head.

“I haven’t got a choice.” I muttered.

I became quite friendly with Carl. He was one of the good guys and they were a rarity around here. He wasn’t always at the houses we went to but when he was he would rescue me for a couple of hours just so we could talk about things. I introduced him to Kelly and when I wasn’t with him I told him to keep her company. It was like a rota; he would stay with me for the first hour or two while Kelly was with other guys then he would go and see Kelly for the last couple of hours before we left so I could take over from her.

It was coming up to Christmas and the atmosphere in Jack’s house was intense. The relationships between me and Kelly and the boys were on shaky ground and nobody was really talking.

“Kel, the guy from last night, you know, the one with the shaved head? He said if you keep doing that thing he likes, he might give you a few extra dollars next time.” Matt laughed and the others laughed with him. Kelly ran out of the room.

“Jerk.” I hissed at him as I ran after her.

She was sat on the stairs, crying. I comforted her.

“Ignore him. He’s just being a bastard.”

“I want to get out of here. Come with me?” she looked up from her hands. I had never seen someone look so desperately sad.

“Where would we go?”

“Anywhere but here.”

“Maybe we should wait until we next see Carl? Maybe he could help us?” I suggested.

She nodded.

“Yeah. Just keep me away from them in the meantime” and she pointed towards the lounge where the boys were still laughing and joking.

But the next day, she came running in clutching a flyer in her hand. She had a smile spread across her usually miserable face.

“What is it?” I asked, looking up from my book.

“A youth worker! The community centre is looking for a youth worker to help out at weekends. For the troubled kids, y’know? Just to talk to them, plan activities. They even hold dance lessons. This is it Zoe! My turning point!” She barely took a breath.

“Wow Kel, you should go for it! It sounds great. Plus you get to dance. It might not be your dream but it’s not far off.”

“I’m going down there now. I don’t know if I’m what they’re looking for but hopefully they’ll see I’m passionate about it plus I have the background experience. Oh my God. This could be my ticket out of here.” She grabbed me and hugged me. I was really happy for her but a selfish part of me realised that with her gone, it would just be me.

Without another word, she took off to the community centre to speak to them about applying. I went back to my book with a strange mixed feeling of elation and resentment. I guess I would just have to keep on waiting for my way out.

Kelly came back a couple of hours later. I was asleep in the armchair and was woken by her slamming the front door and running upstairs. I stretched and went up after her and knocked on the bedroom door to see if she was ok. I got no answer so I let myself in to see her lying face down on the mattress on the floor.

“Are you ok? Did you go to ask about the job?” I reached my hand out and touched her shoulder. She turned round, her eyes red.

“I went. They asked to interview me there and then. So I was totally unprepared. I screwed up, I was bumbling like an idiot, I looked like I knew nothing, I was just chewing on my fingernails and saying yes to everything. The woman kept looking at me like I was doing it for a joke or something.”

“Well, what did she say when you’d finished?”

“Thanks for your time. We’ll be in touch to let you know.”

“Well, that doesn’t mean you’ve blown it.”

“I could tell by the tone of her voice that she had no intention of getting back to me. She asked about my background and stupidly I told her everything. I tried to backtrack, saying I wanted a fresh start but it was too late. That was the only thing I had left.” She sobbed.

“Of course it’s not. There’ll be other jobs.” I rubbed her shoulder affectionately. She shook her head.

“No. This was the one. It was a sign. That flyer just hanging there on the lamppost outside the house just as I was talking about leaving here once and for all. And now I’ve messed it up.”

I didn’t know what else to say to her. I wasn’t very good at dealing with my own emotions so I certainly wasn’t very good at dealing with other peoples.

“Do you want me to get you anything?” I asked.

“No thanks. I just want to be left alone.”

I nodded and made my way downstairs. I grabbed my jacket, pulled on my boots and walked down the street to the community centre.

It wasn’t the nicest place in the world. It was a fairly shabby building surrounded by a barbed wire fence. I went inside to the reception desk where a blonde woman with her hair tightly in a bun and horn-rimmed glasses sat sifting through piles of papers.

“Excuse me.” I coughed to get her attention.

She looked up at me over her glasses.

“Can I help you?” she asked, putting the sheets back onto the desk in front of her.

“I was just wondering if you could help me. My friend came in earlier about the youth worker position. She had an interview but she’s upset that it didn’t go well. Is there any chance you could give her another one for when she is more prepared?”

“Unfortunately there have been a lot of applicants so we don’t have the time to give out second interviews. Your friend will be notified within a few days as to whether or not she has been successful. Sorry.” She tucked a stray wisp of hair back behind her ear with her long pink nails. She looked completely out of place in a centre for troubled kids.

“But please, she really wants this. She’s had a really rough few years and...”

“I’m sorry but we simply don’t have the time.”

I gave in.

“Ok. Well, thanks anyway.” I sighed and walked out.

When I got back to the house it was eerily quiet. The boys were all out and Kelly was locked in the bedroom. I was about to go and see how she was but I decided against it, knowing from experience that when I was truly upset, I preferred being left alone.

A few hours passed and I had fallen asleep again. I woke up and looked at the time. It was almost six o clock and the boys would be home soon so I needed my wits about me. I went upstairs to the bathroom and suddenly realised that the bedroom was quiet. I assumed Kelly had fallen asleep so I knocked on the door quietly then gently pushed it open.

She was lying on the bed facing away from me. I crept in to let her know what time it was and that the boys would all be home soon. I whispered her name a few times and she didn’t answer. I touched her arm to shake her and it was ice cold. I turned her towards me and was hit by the stench of vomit. I held my breath and peered over to her side and saw a large pot of pills lying beside her. Only there were no pills in sight.

Panicking, I started to shake her, shouting her name in the hope she was just drugged up and had passed out. I didn’t know first aid so I didn’t know how to help her. Or if she could even be helped. Shaking, I reached for her wrist and pressed my fingers to it. Nothing. I tried again, thinking maybe I hadn’t done it right first time but again I felt nothing. I tried her other wrist, both sides of her neck. Then I realised she wasn’t breathing. I screamed.

Just then, I heard footsteps pounding up the stairs towards the bedroom. All three boys were back and had heard me scream. They came in to find me sat on the floor holding Kelly’s hand sobbing and shaking uncontrollably.

Jack ran over and started shaking her.

“Is she dead?” he asked me. I couldn’t answer.

“Is she dead?!” he yelled again. This time I nodded.

Liam and Matt came over and stood frozen in shock. Jack picked up the pill-pot.

“Someone call an ambulance. Now!” he shouted and Liam ran to the house across the road to use their phone.

“What happened?” he asked, looking at me with teary eyes.

“I... I don’t know. She was upset earlier about a job interview but... I didn’t think...” I could barely speak. I couldn’t believe what was happening. We hadn’t been all that close but I still felt numb. And I also felt guilty. Guilty that I hadn’t insisted on staying with her.

A few moments later I heard the sirens and two paramedics came rushing up to the room. We were told to stay out and Matt held me tight as we watched them try and revive Kelly but it was no use. She was gone.

We sat on the couch as she was carried out, covered, on a stretcher. None of us said a word. The police showed up and questioned us. Lucky for us, we had no drugs in the house at the time other than the painkiller medication that Kelly had taken. After the police had taken statements and left, the house was quiet again. Nobody spoke. Deep down, we all knew that that could have, and one day might be, one of us.

Three days later, it was my turn to check the mailbox. I trudged wearily down the pavement half-asleep and grabbed the contents. Junk mail, flyers, take-away menus. And one handwritten letter addressed to Kelly. I took it inside and lay it on the table. I didn’t want to open it; after all, it wasn’t mine to open. But Kelly wasn’t here.

I ripped open the seal and pulled out a white sheet of A4 paper, neatly hand-written in blue ink.

“Dear Miss Kelly Lowe,

I am writing in regards to your recent interview at Sun House Community Centre. I was moved by your story of your troubled background and I believe that the children here could benefit from being in the care of people like you, who have similar experiences to themselves. I was refreshed to hear that you wanted this job in order to make a new life for yourself and that is what this place is all about; making a fresh start. So it is with great pleasure that I accept your application and offer you the position of a community youth worker. Please telephone me on the number below to clarify this and so we can negotiate training hours. We look forward to having you aboard our team!

Janet Pickham.

She had got the job after all.

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12 Reviews

Points: 1313
Reviews: 12

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Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:14 pm
bexy89 says...



Thank you again :) don't worry about being nit-picky, it's very much needed if I want to refine everything down to the tiniest detail. I really do need to work on my American syntax though, force of habit I suppose!

Becki




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134 Reviews

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Reviews: 134

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Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:40 pm
sarebear wrote a review...



Hi Bexy,

Here for another review! So here goes...

Firstly: I think you might want to up the rating from 12+, this has some, er, mature content. :P

Chapter 4:

After my dad died, I didn’t cope very well. I refused to speak to anyone. I shut myself off from the world. I would still go to school but I found myself getting into trouble, something I had never done before because I was always a “model student.” My grades slipped and eventually my group of friends began to shrink. I didn’t care. I didn’t need them anyway.
This is fine, but seems somewhat dispassionate. Where are the emotions? It's mostly about telling in this paragraph, but it would be better to show. So instead of saying "I was cold", you could say "I shivered. Same idea here.

“Zoe? What are you doing standing outside here?” he looked #FF0000 ">fairly shocked that his seemingly well behaved sister was in trouble.


“Zoe, physically assaulting a fellow student is a serious matter. You are old enough to know better. Miss Leighton has had to be rushed to the ER. They think her nose might be broken.”
Don't say ER, say emergency room. That's how people talk. Also (and I do this all the time), He seems very stiff--and while he is supposed to be a little formal, it would be good if you could de-robotify him. He is a person, after all.

In frustration, I threw the frame down onto the floor. Immediately I sat up and picked it back up. The glass was broken in two. Ironic to the way I felt every day. I slipped the photograph out and kissed it as tears began to fall down my face.
“I’m sorry, daddy.” I sobbed.

A little cliche...

The counselling sessions were a bore. The school counsellor or “Call me Rae” was even more boring. Sat in her kaftans with her bangles and rings on every finger. Her office smelt strongly of lavender from the incense she burnt and she had trinkets lined up on her desk, little ornaments and jewelled boxes. I refrained from telling her that this wasn’t the sixties anymore.
This should be "counseling" and "counselor", and "jeweled". Also, the third sentence is incomplete, unless that was your intention. However, if it was, I'm not sure why as it is a totally different style from the rest.

Well yes, that’s why I’m being forced to sit in this room and listen to all your crap.
This should be italicized or quoted or something.

“We’re going down to the skate park. You coming?”
Be careful with the cliches here. A gang of smoking kids who nod in unison? That would be fine, but make sure you ALSO give them some human qualities--a bright side to make them seem believable.

Down at the park, they passed around the cigarettes. Offering me one, I took it although I had no idea how to smoke.
Again, these two sentences read unusual. Maybe put a comma between the "cigarettes" and "offering" instead of a period.

Then I realised this wasn’t a tobacco cigarette. It was cannabis.
Your character is American, and in America we call cannabis "marijuana".

“Have you been smoking drugs?”
In addition, you wouldn't say "smoking drugs". Either "doing drugs" or "smoking pot/marijuana/weed/etc."

I watched as two of the lines disappeared. Then he handed the dollar to me. And I took in the last two lines. The room span and I felt sick. I was sweating and Matt’s face was a blur. Then I passed out.
"The room span" should be "the room spun."

That would usually be enough for anyone to realise this was not the path to go down and you needed to quit while you were ahead. But not for me. It was beginning to give me too much of a buzz.
Using "you" is awkward here, disrupts the flow or your narrative.

Overall, nice chapter, nice cliffhanger at the end. Just those few little nitpicks.

Chapter 5:

“Hi, Mrs Bolton? It’s Janice Lacey, the school secretary. I’m just ringing to tell you the school is closed today.”
In America, we would call this "calling", not "ringing".

“He’s... not here anymore. We lost him yesterday. But I’m sure he’ll be proud from Heaven.”
Yesterday??? I'm afraid you've lost me now.

We got to the hospital which was actually pretty eerily quiet.
You could just say "We got to the hospital, which was eerily quiet."

I used to have a tonne of friends here, work colleagues mainly and some mothers I had met at playgroups when Bobby was tiny.
"Tonne", in the States, should be "ton".

“No problem it’s just my job though. No need to thank me.”
Add a comma or a period between "problem" and "it's".

I liked this chapter. A nice, bright spot where it was really, really needed.

Chapter 6:

“Alright sweetheart?” he ginned at me manically.
Do you mean "grinned"?

Have you ever done something that you were so ashamed of that you can’t even bring yourself to look in the mirror? Scared of what you might see looking back at you, a person you never wanted to be?
Again with the use of second person. I'd eliminate it, if I were you. :D get it?

Since then he has been working at a garage serving customers and his family had left him.
You're in the past tense. So, this should say "since then he had..."

She had got the job after all.
should be "she had gotten".

This is chilling.

Overall, again, I am really enjoying reading this. Keep going. And I'm sorry if my reviews are on the picky side, but I'm still reading more, so that means something (I really like your book).

I hope that this review is helpful to you!

Keep writing
Sarebear





You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind