Down By The Stile, Through The Stream...

Gwen is the popular girl in her year. The stunning one. The intelligent one. The one everyone wants to be. The one who gets invited to all the parties. The one who is down to Earth, modern, and real.

Luke is her little brother. Described as strange, crazy and odd, he lives his life in the shadows, talking to no-one, keeping his head down, avoiding any association with Gwen. Because he knows something that no-one else knows.

Down by the stile, through the stream...

No-one would ever know.
No-one should ever know.
Everyone thinks he is crazy. His own sister thinks that he's crazy.

Until she finds herself immersed in the world that he lives in...


1. Sticks and Stones


'Good morning beautiful;) Happy Birthday. Meet me outside the gates as soon as you get to school, I want first kisses with my baby girl!'

My phone buzzed insistently in my pocket, receiving yet another birthday text, this time from my boyfriend, Aaron. I read it with a smile, remembering that I had the coolest guy from the year above in the palm of my hand - and pretty much all the rest of them, as well. It wasn't that I was manipulative, or even that flirtatious; I was just Gwen Radford, the girl everyone wanted to be. 

Don't get me wrong, I hadn't always been popular - in fact, at primary school I was far from it - but as soon as my legs and chest grew and I learnt a few more social skills, I was top of everyone's party list. Don't ask me how, or why. That's just the way it was. 

"Do you ever stop texting, socialite?!" Teased my Dad, sliding me some toast with Nutella as I sat down at the breakfast table. I smirked. 

"When people stop texting me, I'll stop texting them!" 

Dad threw his hands up jokily. I was only vaguely aware of my little brother Luke entering the room, head down. 

"Ooooh, is it lonely up there on your high horse?!" He said. Me and Dad always had this kind of banter. We'd always got on, much better than either of us did with Luke. Luke was just... in his own world all the time. 

"40 different people have texted me already, and I've only been up an hour!" I bragged without realising. Luke sat down across the table, looking up at me underneath his dark, flicked, long fringe that made him look too morbid and strange. He was a different one, my little brother. Just Year 7 and he'd already earnt a name for himself as the class freak. It sounds awful, but I didn't usually like us to be associated. He had the power in him to pull my reputation crashing down, and that had taken a lot of work to build up in the first place.

"You are so full of yourself." He muttered. 

"At least I don't skulk around like somebody's just died." I spat back. 

"Watch out Gwen, don't get too close to the radiator, plastic like you melts." 

Dad suddenly interfered, pushing a bowl of cereal across the table. 

"Luke, please, not on your sister's birthday. God, the both of you are always at each other."

I narrowed my eyes and stared daggers at my little brother. He gave me an equally dark stare back through his deep blue eyes and held it... and if looks could kill. 

Dad tried to lift the awkward silence over breakfast several times, but nothing helped the fact that me and Luke were slipping further and further away from one another - we were two different clashing personalities altogether. Luke was just like Mum supposedly, and I was like Dad. People said that when we were both younger we used to play together all the time and shared everything, but somehow I don't believe them. I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me Luke was adopted. 

But then, there's Mum... 

"Do you want your presents now or later, Gwen?" Dad interrupted my thoughts. 

"Uh... later." I muttered, checking my phone nonchalantly. I didn't really care, I just wanted to get to school, to where I felt more at home than in my actual house. I stood up and walked slowly towards the door, tapping a text to my best friend Beth, shrugging on my bag. 

"See you." I turned around to wave before I reached the door, but before I could leave, Luke's voice stopped me in my tracks.

"How long should I wait before I can leave the house too, Gwen? Long enough so that I'm far, far away from you and you don't have to be seen with me or have anything to do with me? Is that enough?!" 

I closed my eyes in desperation. Why was he bringing this up now? It wasn't my fault that he was a loser. I shouldn't be blamed for his mistakes. 

"Give it a rest, Luke..." I groaned. 

"Just making sure, wouldn't want to ruin Little Miss Fake's birthday now, would I?" His sarcastic drawl pierced my heart. I felt my eyes stinging, almost as if they were welling up. 

"I'm not fake." My voice was barely a whisper as we stood facing one another like some shoot-out in a wild west movie. That one stung. It was surprising how much more words hurt when they came from your own family.  

"Oh, you're not fake? So why is it that you spend hours on your hair and makeup every morning, Gwen? Why is it that you hang around with girls that you don't even like, you have a boyfriend that you don't even love, you say things you don't even mean and you think that anyone not like you is weird, or strange, or freakish? Huh?!" 

I bit the insides of my cheeks to stop myself from crying and walked away, out of the door, down the road and away. Words didn't usually hurt me. Sticks and stones, right? But this... I felt like someone had come and kicked me multiple times in my stomach, and hard. Nothing like this normally affected me. I could just smile, move on, shoot back an awesome comeback and have everyone back me up. But this time was different. This time, everything that Luke had said... somewhere deep down, I knew that it was perfectly true. 



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