Rose Farren is a runaway. A refugee, if you like. She's a handful of painful memories tied together with a rucksack and a worn-out hoodie. She's been travelling for a year all around England, and planning to move onto Ireland to find the best chance of escape and maybe finding her father again. Does she have time to think of love during all this? Pssh, no. That is, until Jamie turns up...


1. Rose




I wonder if they ever think about me.

Really, really think about me. Not with sympathy, not with a sad sigh or a shake of the head. Not with a murmur of, ‘that poor Farren girl. What a pity no one knew what was happening before it was too late.’

I wonder if they’ve caught the people responsible for this. Then I think of course not. They were the sort of people who would smile sweetly for school photographs but would be twisting your arm behind their backs. No one ever suspected them.

My name is Rose Farren. I am fourteen years old. Or is it fifteen? I am a runaway. A refugee, if you like. Homeless; a wanderer, never quite sticking to one place. I bet that sounds exciting, doesn’t it? The reality isn’t.

As I crouch down underneath the bridge, warming my hands with the small sputtering fire, I wonder these things.

“All right, Blondie?”

My head snaps up and to the side. The voice comes from my right. My right eye was blinded when I was very young, and the bullies made it a habit to shove me from that side so I didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. I sigh as I recognise who it is. A boy with dark, tousled hair sits down to my left side so I can see him. “What do you want?”

“Hey, good to see you too.” The boy rolls his eyes. “I just wanted to check if you were all right.”

The boy has been stalking- if that’s the right word- me for several days now. He is from the small town houses surrounding the bridge, I think. He found me three days ago. He is one of those bad boys that got roped into helping out the police in exchange for not being sent to a juvenile delinquent centre. That’s what he told me, anyway. He knows I’m a runaway by now, and he has all my hiding spots sussed. Sometimes I wonder why he hasn’t told the police where I am, or even why I haven’t moved on before he gets a chance to.

Perhaps I just like this bridge.

The boy is quite loud and obnoxious, but he has an easy confidence and loping stride that makes me think he isn’t all bad- he’s charismatic, that’s for sure. He has tousled dark brown hair that is always pushing its way over his eyebrows and into his bright blue eyes, and he comically blows it out of the way whenever it gets irritating. He always wears loosely tied Converse, and the first night he found me he was wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. Last night and tonight, though, he is wearing school uniform- one I don’t recognise. It has a dark green and yellow tie with a green blazer, white shirt and grey trousers. Ah, the joys of uniform- I had almost forgotten it.

“I’m fine, thanks.” I reply curtly, blowing on my hands to keep them warm.

“Oh, here, I thought you might be cold.” He said, digging a hand into his blazer pockets and pulling out a pair of gloves. Fingerless, yes, but still gloves. I reach out and snatch them before he has a chance to take them away again. “Thanks.” I mutter, pulling them on.

“Sorry that they’re fingerless, I couldn’t find any others. Have you been eating?”

“Like a king.” I respond sarcastically, rubbing my hands together. My palms have started to warm up, but my fingers are still like blocks of ice.

“I mean it.”

“Are you saying I’m not being serious?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

 I laugh harshly. “I don’t see how you care. You don’t even know my name.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. What is it?”

“Like I’ll tell you.”

“Listen, Blondie, I know that you’re a runaway, okay? I know you’re from somewhere in Northern Ireland because of the accent, and I honestly have no idea how the hell you got from there to here, but I’m just trying to look out for you, okay?”

I stand up and stamp out the fire, pulling my bag over my shoulders and scrambling out from beneath the grey bridge covered with graffiti. “So you can hand me over to the police when the time comes?” I ask, hearing his footsteps behind me. He sighs. “Look, you’re blind in one eye. You’re only about fifteen. Blondie, listen to me.

He catches my arm, and that’s the final straw. I spin around and backhand him across the face. “Do not touch me.” I hiss.

He massages his jaw while watching me warily. I can see that I’ve changed in his eyes from being a lonely refugee to a wild cat, someone not to be messed with. I turn and walk off again, but he still follows. “You’re hard to shake off.” I remark.

“People liken me to a golden retriever puppy at times.” He replies and I can hear the grin in his voice.

“What, over-eager, happy, slightly annoying?”


 “Well, you’re definitely that.”

He chuckles, a warm sound. “Anyway, Blondie, when’s the last time you had a decent meal?”

Whatever bond we had formed in the last few minutes shatters. “Is that any of your business?”


“No, so shut up.”

The boy giggles- it was his reaction to everything, apparently. “Okay, at least tell me your name.”

I consider the question for a moment. On one hand, the boy seems harmless enough. He hasn’t tried to take advantage of me, which would be easy under a deserted bridge at night, and he hasn’t told the police- yet. On the other hand, he’s a bit too easygoing and laid-back for comfort. And I had made it my policy to not tell anyone my name- my real one, anyway. It was actually quite fun, making up names as I wandered between cities- wait, that was it. That was my new persona.

“Wander.” I decide. “My name is Wander.”

The boy bursts out laughing. “God, what sort of parents did you have?”

I set my jaw and turn again, walking away.

“Hey, Blondie- Wander- get back here. I was kidding.” He says, setting after me at a trot.

“If I turned around and punched you in the face right now, then said I was kidding, would you believe me?” I demand tersely.


I shake my head and walk on, cursing underneath my breath. He makes a move as if to catch my arm, then thinks better of it. “Wander, do you want to come back to my house?” He asks sincerely.

“Are you trying to chat me up?” I ask bitterly, and then shake my head. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Jamie.” He replies. “Not as extravagant as yours. And you’re coming to my house.”

I don’t object as he grabs my arm and drags me away.




“So, Wandering,” Jamie begins. We are sitting in his summerhouse, which is shaped like a pentagon and has a glass door. The stove inside is blazing, and I make sure to keep close to it, letting the warmth fill me up. “This is cosy, isn’t it?”

“You’re still trying to chat me up. Do you have any food?” I ask abruptly. He doesn’t seem surprised by my rudeness.

“Two seconds.” He said, and disappears out of the door. I take time to look around. I’m sitting on one of the cushions on the floor, facing the stove. Wooden benches that seem uncomfortable line the walls. Posters of rock bands plaster the walls, and where some of them are ripped, you can see through to posters of football stars that Jamie must have admired when he was younger. I recognise some of the bands; but none of the football players.

“Loaf of bread, butter and a chocolate bar. I said to my mum that I was hungry.” Jamie explains as he enters, tossing me the food. “Oh and here.” He slips out of his checkered hoodie. “Give me your one.”

“I’m only wearing a thin white top underneath this; I don’t want you to die from hormonal overload.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine.” He says, chuckling. I unzip my dark blue hoodie and take his one, striped with neon colours. It won’t exactly help with camouflage, but it’s a nice gesture and I want to accept it. I can always spray paint over the colours later. Besides, it’s warm and smells of strawberries.

“Very manly.” I grin. “The strawberry smell, I mean.” I tear open the packet encasing the sliced loaf and begin eating ravenously.

“It’s mum’s washing up powder. And take time to butter that, you eat like an animal.” He says, sitting down beside me on the cushions, so close our feet are touching.

“Oh, shut up.” I say through a mouthful of bread, swallowing with difficulty. “And you can eat the chocolate, sweet food isn’t good for my stomach after so long without it.”

“Good enough.” He says, taking the purple packet and opening it, biting into the sweet within. He is sitting slightly to my right and I can’t see him.

“Could you move a bit?” I ask, taking a bite from the butter.

He looks at me in disgust. “Why? And that is sickening, by the way.”

“It’s all fat, right? I need some.” I say, poking my stomach. “I’m a rake. And don’t ask why, just move.”

He nods in understanding. “Ah. You’re blind in that eye, right?”

“Oh, well done.” I say, one of my eyes rolling. The right one stays, ultimately, in place.

“Did anyone ever tell you sarcasm wasn’t nice?” He asks, shifting so he’s sitting directly in front of me, our outstretched feet touching.

“I’m not exactly the strongest person in the world; so the way I dealt with bullies was being sarcastic and using big words. That normally confused them enough for me to run away.” I explain, finishing the butter and starting on the ham.

Jamie nodded. “Ah. I’ve never been bullied, but I guess that would work.”

Of course he hasn’t. He’s tall, lanky, and has dark blonde hair that falls in his grey eyes. He’s smooth and kind and funny. I don’t mean to sound whiny- even though that’s what I’m probably coming across as- but he has it all, and I didn’t. Still haven’t, really. My greasy blonde hair sticks closely to my head by a mixture of grime and sweat. My clothes are ripped, and not in a trendy way. One of my eyes is a dull green, and the other one is brightly coloured. I’m pretty sure I stink. I sound whiny again, so let’s focus on the good parts of me- my sensibility, my skin- two years on the run and not one spot- and also my constant desire to survive.

“Yeah, you don’t look like the sort of guy.” I say, my voice muffled by the rest of the butter. I swallow the greasy mixture quickly. “Do you have any fruit?” I ask.

“Why? Ah, right, vitamins and all that crap.” Jamie shakes his hair from his eyes and stands up, grabbing the empty wrappers.  “I’ll be back in a minute, Wander.” He says, looking amused yet again as he said my name.

I stuck my middle finger up at him. He turned to leave to get more food.

“Hey, um... Jamie?”

He turns. “Eh?”

“Thanks. For the food.” I pause. “For the hoodie, too.”

He grins, a proper smile that makes his whole face light up. “No problem, Wand.”                                                                     

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