October

Its about a teenage girl's life as she goes through trauma, heartbreak and family problems.

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1. Chapter 1

 

I looked down at the path beneath me. Its grey paving was barely visible beneath the crisp golden and red-brown carpet of leaves. I was safe up in the arms of an old horse-chestnut tree on the edge of the park. All the other people here had gone home. The park was deserted, litter chucked carelessly, missing the bins, lay scattered round the park. There were empty cartons that once held takeaways and pizza boxes strewn across the grass. One swing was still swaying slightly in the autumn breeze. The roundabout creaked to a full stop. My lilac woolly scarf was wound loosely round my neck, the ends trailing below the branch I sat on. I huddled deeper into my navy jacket. A gentle wind rustled the leaves on the tree and on the floor.

 

  I stayed sitting in the tree for a long time. When the sky began to turn darker, I slipped down from the branch and started walking round the edge of the park to the alley at the back. I slowly walked down the path and took some short cuts past the ditch, round the back of the high street, through the estate until I reached the tower block. I live a few floors up in Elm Block. Our flat isn’t that bad. It’s quite pokey and it had a bit of mould and damp when we moved in but we’ve done it up and it looks almost like a proper home now. There is a lift to save my feet but it’s broken and has been for ages. I think the council have stopped bothering to fix things around here. They’ve done a lot though. When mum and I first looked at reviews from people who had lived here on the estate agents website, there were lovely things about it that people had said and some wonderful pictures. It turned out that the pictures were from years ago when the flats were first built and there was even a reputation for drug addicts living here. At least they’ve all been carted off to rehab or prison. It’s just stupid, rowdy teenagers that live here now. I know a lot of them from school but I don’t really talk to them. I know how much trouble they cause, no matter how angelic their grannies and mums think they are. I didn’t bother running up the stairs to our flat. It takes a while to get there. At least we’re only on the fourth floor, not the fifteenth. As always, there were a gang of the boys racing down the steps that shoved past me on the way down.

“Oi, watch were you’re going ginger,” one of them shouted and they all laughed at me.

I’m not really ginger. My hair is a kind of red/auburn colour. Most people think I’ve dyed it, though I swear it’s my natural colour. It’s kind of curly too, not frizzy, but curly in a gentle, nice sort of way.

  As I reach the fourth level my mum comes out of our door, rushing down the hall.

“October! Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick!” She threw her arms round me and hugged me tight. “Where were you?” she repeated.

“In the park,” I whispered.

She sighed and looked me in the eye.

“Ok. I’m not saying you can’t go there anymore, just make sure you come home before it gets dark!” she sounded exasperated, if a little annoyed. I realised she had scraped her mousey-blonde highlighted hair back into a pony tail and changed into her pink Lycra leotard and pulled a tracksuit over the top for decency. I hadn’t noticed the time. It was already time for her yoga class and way past my dinner time.

“Go on into the flat. Your dinner’s cold; you might want to bung it in the microwave for a minute. I’m off to the gym now but if there’s anything you need call me. Try to do any homework you have.”

I waved goodbye to mum and turned into the flat. I slipped my jacket of and hung it on the peg and dumped my school bag in the hall. Despite what mum had said my homework remained untouched. I changed into a long-sleeved, deep red t-shirt that clashed with my hair. I pulled on my blue denim jeans and curled up on our brown leather sofa and switched the telly on. Predictably, there was nothing interesting on unless I wanted to watch countless repeats of Friends. I sighed and turned it off again. I walked over to where I had carelessly left my bag. I wasn’t after homework, but the script for the school play. I’ve always loved performing, but since I started Greybridge Secondary I hadn’t had anything to do with stage stuff. Even though I was in year 8, I didn’t have many friends. People referred to me as ‘red-head’ and ‘that quite girl’.  This time, I’d decided to just casually pick up a script for the school play after drama and hope no one would notice. Unfortunately, when someone quiet starts showing interest in things like acting or dancing or singing, everyone notices.

“Look at red-head!” one of them jeered. “She thinks she’s good enough for the school production! She doesn’t even talk!”

“What does she think she’s doing? It’s not as if being in the school play makes you suddenly popular! As if she’d get a part anyway!” Daizy laughed.

Daizy was the most popular girl in year 8. Everyone knew her. She always got the best marks, the best parts in plays and even teachers adored her but no one called her a geek or a suck-up or a teacher’s pet. She had gorgeous dark brown waves cascading down her back and deep brown eyes with l-o-n-g, thick black lashes. Every boy fancied her. Even silly little year 7s and huge year 11s! Every boy except the new boy. On his first day at Greybridge she tried to wind him round her little finger, batting her lashes at him all the time, sticking her chest out. This would work with every other boy. But not with this one. He just sort of shrugged her off and ignored her. Daizy was absolutely furious. Even though you could see she was in a bad mood it was quite amusing watching this boy annoy her. By lunch time she had had enough.

“Ugh. You’re just a stupid immature boy. I don’t care about boys. I like to date men.”

And with that, she flounced off to a table full of Year 9 boys, glaring at me on the way, merely dodging someone carrying a plateful of spag bol to a table. The boy caught me sniggering and grinned at me. Oh, that grin. I think I just about fell in love with him there and then. I just managed to control myself and smiled back. For the rest of the day I day dreamed about this boy. What was his name? When is his birthday? Did he have a girlfriend? Why didn’t he like Daizy? What...

“October Littlewood! Are you paying attention? Translate the last four lines!” Mr Quintana, my Spanish teacher yelled at me.

 

I read through the script and tried remembering a few lines at a time. The play was Grease. I was going to audition for Rizzo. This was okay because I knew Daizy would go for Sandy. Technically, I knew I was better than her but I wasn’t going to dye my hair blonde to get the main part. Daizy would look good with whatever colour hair but I know I wouldn’t suit blonde, plus there are always weird stories about it you use blonde dye wrong you hair will turn green so I’m DEFINITELY not risking that! By the time mum got back from her yoga class I had revised over and learnt most of my lines.

“If only you put that much effort into all your school work,” mum remarked as I bit into an apple from the fruit bowl on the coffee table, still concentrating on the script. “October! You haven’t eaten the dinner I left out for you; quit snacking!” “I’m hungry,” I complained.

“Then eat the food I made for you! This has got to stop October; I’m not letting you go on like this. I slave and labour trying to make life easier for you but no, nothing is ever good enough for you!  You just have to accept that your dad’s gone and we don’t have the money to waste things anymore!” mum cried, violently scraping cold macaroni and cheese into the bin.

I put the script down on the coffee table. “Sorry,” I whispered, a salty fat tear rolled down my cheek.

Then mum hugged me tight. She murmured back into my hair, “I miss him too.”

 

It’s been really hard since dad died. He supported the whole family. He had a great job, earned loads of money. He was always treating me to new clothes, cool shoes and the newest, best mobile phones and music players. Then when he went on his best friend’s stag do, he got really, really drunk and then he tried to drive them back to the hotel - big mistake. Not only did he crash his friend’s car, he got knocked out cold with a broken neck and later had a heart attack at the hospital. That was that. Mum doesn’t earn much money. She only used to work part-time at the local beauty salon. We decided to sell the house to get more money and then found our small, but select little flat. We decorated it in the first month or two of living here. We had to give everything a new coat of paint to freshen things up and strip and re-paste some wallpaper to give it a bit more edge. With some of the money from the house a new kitchen and bathroom were fitted and installed and soon we had the perfect little home. Our living room with the telly and couch has just plain white walls; the kitchen has white walls and white cupboards with a deep red worktop and three red stalls around it; the bathroom has blue tiled walls and a light blue bath and white sink. I have the only bedroom to myself. I told mum that I didn’t mind sharing but she insisted that she sleep on the sofa and that I need my own space for when my friends come round. Not that I have many friends. Only Bridget and Jacky. My bedroom has pale purple walls with a white ceiling and emerald furniture. I have a bunk bed with a desk and a chair/pull-out bed for when Bridget or Jacky sleep over underneath my bed. I also have a built-in wardrobe and the outside of the wardrobe doors are mirrors, which I think is really cool. Next to my wardrobe I have addressing table with a big draw to store all of my notebooks and scripts from plays and music CDs and books and other stuff. Half of my wardrobe has mum’s clothes and shoes in it but she keeps her things like make-up in the bathroom.

  The flat was too far away from the school that I used to go to so I had to change to Greybridge. Jacky goes to Greybridge but Bridget still goes to my old school. They get on really well so I can have them both over in the holidays. Bridget is an orphaned girl, brought up by her posh uncle Frederick and Aunty Julie. They aren’t her real relatives – they’re the couple who adopted her when she was only a few months old. She lives in a huge house on a really posh estate in the next town over. I couldn’t bare living with such strict parents, but Bridget is just thankful for what she has. She’s the kind of person who donates to every charity advert she sees on the telly, not just because she has the money, she really cares so much about starving children and hopeless puppies. She says she has something in common with a lot of them. She feels like she should help them because she was abandoned once; lots of animals are abandoned by their owners, too. B will also go to extreme lengths to help anyone in trouble. Jacky is more loud, wild and altogether more crazy (in a good way of course)! She is always daring, a little cheeky at times but she’s a fun-loving, thrill-seeker, no matter what the situation, Jacky is always guaranteed to make you laugh. She also has a love for animals, so she and Bridget cliqued almost immediately. Jacky is temporarily living in a B&B a few streets away from the flats with her dad. Her mum cleared off when she got depressed after Jacky’s grandpa died. She just packed up and left Jacky and her dad; Jacky just at the young age of 8. They’ve never really had much money, even when Jacky’s mum was around. Jacky lives more at my flat than her room in the B&B, mostly because her dad has to work extra shifts at the shabby, old pub near the town hall to put food and drink on the table for his darling daughter.

   Unfortunately, Bridget’s Aunty and uncle think themselves a cut above everyone else and despise of Jacky and her father. They’ve even started to look down their posh snooty noses at us since dad died. They always wince when they say my name just because they think October is a particularly hideous and name, but I like it. It’s quirky, fun, unusual. It makes me different. Whenever Fred and Julie happen to coincidently bump into Jacky they always call her by her real name; Jacqueline.

 

   Meanwhile, here I was, in the middle of an argument crying into my mother’s shoulder. I do miss dad so much. He was always there for me through thick and thin. He gave me pet names like Pumpkin and Princess. He brought me drinks of water and held my sick bowl when I was ill. He read me stories when I was little, making every person in the book have a different funny voice from a big bear growl to a tiny mouse squeak.

“Life goes on,” mum remarked wisely as if she could see through a tiny peep-hole into my head. “Aren’t Bridget and Jacky supposed to be here?”

“Jacky is doing homework first and B has ballet. Jacky said her dad could walk her over and Fred’s giving B a lift,” I explained.

“Thank God,” mum rolled her eyes. “I could do with not running around to get them tonight and at least it isn’t Bridget’s pompous Aunt Julie dropping her off! ‘Are you sure Bridget can stay the night? Is it entirely safe? I’ve heard terrible stories about this place,’” Mum imitated her. “What does she sound like!? And I don’t care what the bloody tabloids say about this place. They just want to get some money and put other people’s lives in misery. They don’t know what we’ve been through!”

Mum’s getting really angry now, her hands shaking. I took them gently and urged her to calm down. She did as I said and flopped down onto the sofa as the buzzer went. I walked over and pressed the button. “Who is it?”

“It’s me, stupid! Now let us in, it’s freezing down here!” a voice replied back.

I ran over to the French windows, pulled one open and stepped onto the balcony. Two familiar faces were waving up to me. I laughed and quickly ran to press a different button on the machine. A few minutes later Jacky and her now exhausted dad appeared at the door. Jacky flew in whilst her dad dumped all her bags in the hall.

“Hi Tony,” mum jumped up to greet him. He kissed her cheek and mums face flooded pink like a little, giggly schoolgirl.

“How are you?” he asked.

“G-good thanks,” mum stuttered.

Jacky made vomiting signs before giggling a little foolishly herself. Her dad ignored her.

“How about you?” mum managed to say.

“Not bad,” Tony smiled. “All ready to go?”

“Sure.” Mum grabbed her bag and walked out with Jacky’s dad. “Behave!” mum mouthed and me and Jacky.

Bridget arrived a minute later – mum and Tony obviously let her in on the way out.

“Have fun girls,” Fred smiled at us before closing the door behind him.

We did quizzes in magazines and flicked through the fashion pages for an hour or so before doing makeovers and talking about school.

“Hey I know that new boy! He’s in my maths class. His name is Myles. He’s not that clever but really funny,” Jacky burbles on about him. I told them about the moment I had with him in the canteen at lunch.

“Wow! He sounds like he likes you already! You’re so lucky October,” Bridget grins at me. “I’ll never find someone like that,” she dramatically sighs and her face drops.

Jacky whacks her with one of my pillows. “What?” Bridget asks agitatedly.

“We know you’ll be back with Jamie by the end of the week!” I point out.

Jamie is Bridget’s ex-boyfriend. They always argue and break up and then they make up and get back together then they argue and it starts all over again. Like me and Jacky say, B and Jamie make the perfect couple. They’re both rich, have mousy-blonde hair, hazel-blue eyes, are good at sports and love animals.

  Bridget laughs and chucks the pillow back and Jacky. She wasn’t expecting it and toppled straight off my bed. This causes a huge pillow fight until one of the pillows burst and it looked like it was snowing feathers. We then decided that might be enough of a pillow fight for today. We changed into our pyjamas and set up Jacky’s bed on the floor (me and Bridget would sleep top to toe in my double bed). Then we talked more about school and the production of Grease coming up. I told them I was auditioning for Rizzo and they agreed it was a good idea.

“You’ll be brilliant at it too,” Jacky said, calmed down at last. “I’m just gonna help with scenery and put forward a bit of my creativity into the production,” she grinned. “Even if I do say so myself.”

 At this we didn’t laugh, as we all knew how good an artist Jacky was, though some of her ideas were a tiny bit, well... odd.

“I’d audition for Sandy,” Bridget said flicking through the script.

“Yeah, you’re a definite born entertainer,” Jacky commented cheekily.

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