That's life.

This is story about a girl, a boy, and the person that stands between them. It's about a brother, a useless aunt and a missing dad. It's about an overworked Mum, a twin and 7 year old that grew up too quickly. But most of all, it's a story about love, in all its forms, and the damage it can do.

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3. Mikey

 

We make our way up the road, sauntering because it’s absolutely boiling. It’s the hottest day of the summer so far, even though the summer holidays end in a week, and when we pass a toddler’s paddling pool in one of the front yards, I’m tempted to jump in it. I can’t believe the holidays had gone so quickly. Soon I’d be back in our awful uniform, sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair and being ordered around by stupid teachers who think they’re better than us. Urg! And worst of all, I’d have to face Mr Lewis, the most evil, unfair teacher ever…

 

‘Mikey, you’re not listening to word I say, are you?’ I snap out of it and realize Poppy is glaring at me. I mean, I love Poppy, I really do, but I honestly couldn’t care less about whether Katie in form 11a was pregnant or not, and if Jack from form 11b is the father, and if not, who she had an affair with.

‘Sorry, what were you saying?’

Poppy rolls her eyes and sighs.

‘Never mind. Anyway, have you heard?’

‘What?’

‘There’s gonna be a new girl starting after the holidays in our year, maybe in our form.’

This is nothing big. There’s always new people starting out, because so many people leave our school. Trust me, if you get on the wrong side of the bullies, you’d be better off leaving.

‘So? That’s nothing new.’

‘Maddie knows her; she met her when this girl used to visit her Granddad here. Now she’s living in her Granddad’s old house with her Aunt. Maddie said she lived up your road.’

‘Wait, do you mean Mr Watson’s old house?’ Poppy shrugs.

‘I guess so…’

Mr Watson died three years ago. I vaguely remember a father and two children, a boy and a girl, visiting him at Christmas and in the summer sometimes.

‘Do you know why she’s living with her Aunt now?’ I ask. Poppy frowns and flips back her long, dark hair.

‘That’s the weird thing. Maddie wouldn’t tell me. Oh well, I guess it’s for her to know and for us to find out!’ She grins at me, and I can see her plotting a plan to find out as much as she can. No secret is ever safe when Poppy’s around.

 

After trudging up what seems like the steepest, longest road in history we reach my house, and I can see Tierney through the window.

‘Do you want to come in for bit?’ I ask her, opening the door. She gets out her phone and her face falls into a scowl when she checks her messages.

‘I wish I could, but Mum’s sent me a million frantic messages asking where I am, so I should probably go home.’

We kiss goodbye, and she calls out ‘Text me!’ as she walks back down the road.

‘I will!’ I call after her, and close the door, smiling. Tierney runs through the corridor and takes my hand.

‘Why do you kiss Poppy all the time?’ she asks, her big green eyes looking up at me from under her long eyelashes.

‘Because she’s my girlfriend, silly!’ I say, walking into the kitchen with her still attached to me. Scarlett’s sitting on a chair, laughing at something on her phone that’s probably not funny, and doesn’t look up as I come in.

‘Kissing’s gross!’ Tierney exclaims, wrinkling her nose. ‘And so are boys!’

‘Oh, thanks!’ I say. Tierney giggles and skips off into the lounge.

‘So.’ My twin says, looking up from her hilarious text and crossing her arms. ‘Have a nice time?' Her voice was cold and sharp.

'What is it?' I say. ‘What have I done?'

She rolled her eyes. 'It's more what you haven't done, to be honest. More the fact that for the last four  days you've been out having a great time and I've been stuck here looking after Tierney.'

'But Mum said she'd be here today, said she'd get back at 11! I swear!' Scarlett just rolled her eyes again.

'Yeah, just like she said she'd get home early yesterday. And the day before. If you haven't noticed, Mikey, she's being totally crap and you haven't exactly been helping much yourself.'

She's got a point. For the last few weeks, Mum has constantly been in work meeting, business trips, you name. Every night there's a scribbled note next to a frozen pizza or ready meal: Darlings, will have to work late again today, dinner's on the counter, love you lots, from Mum xxx

Today is no exception and I start to feel bad.

'I'm sorry, Scarlett. I guess I haven't really noticed, y'know, with Poppy and...' Scarlett's expression softens slightly.

'Don't worry. I guess it's not really your fault. I'm more mad at Mum, to be honest, but she's not exactly here to shout at...' She gives me a grim smile.

There's a small silence, and I'm about to get up and leave the room when Scarlett suddenly grabs me.

 

 D’you reckon she’s finally got a boyfriend?’ I stop in my tracks. Mum? Boyfriend? I don’t why, but for some reason it seems like the weirdest thing ever.

‘You serious? You really think she has?’ Scarlett shrugs.

‘Well, she has been out a lot more recently. I know she has a load of work anyway, but we see even less than we used to. Sort of suspicious, don’t you think?’ She has a point.

‘Yeah, I s’pose. I guess if she has she’ll tell us when she’s ready.’ I blurt out, before leaving the room. I feel hurt and confused. I can't believe Mum would lie to us like that.

 

 It’s not that I don’t think Mum deserves someone who makes her feel special, because she definitely does. After all the crap my so called ‘Dad’ gave her, she could definitely do with some fun. It just seems strange .Ever since they got divorced, Dad’s always been the one off with a new girl half his age each week, being totally unreliable and unpredictable, whereas Mum’s been the one bringing in the money and buying the food. I push it to the back of my mind and go up to my room, which by the way, is tiny.  When we moved here, I had the choice of having a big room with no TV, or a small room with a TV, and at the time having a TV seemed like such a novelty that I chose the small room. Still, it’s kind of cosy, and as I flop on my bed I realize that as far as rooms go, it’s not too bad. I check my phone, and see I have two texts. The first one’s from Tom:

 

U done that maths project yet? I completely forgot about it until today!

 

Wait, what maths project? Oops. The next one’s from Callum:

 

Has Poppy told you about that new girl yet? Wonder if she’ll be fit or not? Anyway, I’m sure she won’t be able to resist the Callum charm ;)

 

I laugh at loud. This is so typically Callum. After replying I flop back onto my bed, deciding to leave the maths project for another few days. Everyone seems to be buzzing about this new girl, but I don’t see what the fuss is all about. I mean, people come and go all the time. Just because Maddie knows her, just because she might have a mysterious life story, it doesn’t mean she’s anything special.

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